“Intelligence without the imagination”
"Fame had always been a primary driving force behind Caleb Adamson's creation of the J.O. Varentra intelligence but with it, he had unfortunately outdone himself," Professor Ranu Singh said to his sole student.
"How do you know it was fame that drove him? You weren't there." She loved trying to break him. It was a hot day in Riverside, California. In about a decade, she would have her final glance at the sky after seeing her own son be devoured, but there was no way she could know that. Today she simply could not get over the heat.
"Sara, please, if we could just get through this lecture, we can all go home." Ranu adjusted his tie. He had already accepted that Sara Aisson would be a problem student. She was a rebel, evident in her modification of her last name’s spelling; choosing to spell it “Aisson” rather than “Aizon” like her father. However - her father paid good money for him to tutor her. There was also the prestige factor. Having a top general's daughter as one of his students could only be a good thing. "The newly remodeled intelligence simply named the 'E' brought him fame beyond anything even a dreamer such as himself could have imagined." He stood up and instinctively walked to the board but did not write on it.
"The E. Varentra was essentially a J.O. Varentra intelligence, but without the capability of imagination. This made it much more predictable and thus controllable. It was not long until variations of 'E. Va', as she would eventually come to be known, was integrated into pretty much every global technological service from traffic lights to personal computers, creating an unparalleled unity in our society's services.
"You sound like you admire it. That you think we were right to let it control everything."
"Sara, E. Va had passed every security test, military or otherwise. Her code remained incorruptible. Even so, nobody was stupid enough to consider implementing E. Va as some single run everything intelligence, but they knew she would be safe if they did. Either way, E. Va was only used independently for different, more limited situations." He paused for a moment to prepare for some kind of verbal attack. The girl just sat at the table and seemed to be studying him. It was beginning to become a regular, uncomfortable feeling. He could only wonder how or why she'd become so agreeable.
"As the rate of new technology increased exponentially, faith in E. Va grew as well and for good reason."
"There's no good reason to sacrifice our own freedoms."
"It appeared that the more tasks humanity assigned to her the higher the success rate would soar, whether it was related to business, agriculture or transportation."
"Yea," Sara suddenly became engaged. "By the time Caleb Adamson's daughter, Melissa had her first child, human pilots were already being phased out. Plane crash rates decreased significantly as a result. It became increasingly apparent that with E. Va's success, the importance of the human worker was ever decreasing."
"When Senator Henry Carter, who also happened to be the grandchild of Melissa Adamson, graduated from college, the unifying E. Va technology was already incorporated into 89% of all agriculture systems in the United States and 57% of the remaining members of the United Nations had incorporated into roughly 60% or more of their economical funtionality. Even as these numbers were significantly higher for industrial products, many began to forget the world ever had a food shortage. It was those successes that he meant when he said, 'Prosperity was out of control.'"
"But many of the Sea Labs, like my dad's, remained skeptical and defiant of the technology even under pressure from world governments to conform. Why would some of the most technologically advanced societies refuse the world's most promising technology if it really was?"
Professor Singh thought about it. He liked seeing her so engaged, even if it was always combative. He tried to ignore how attractive she looked when she got that way. He knew it was inappropriate.
"Over the next one and a half centuries, E. Va proved herself an invaluable problem solver. Putting her in charge of everything just seemed to make everything more efficient. Efficiency increased in all societies that embraced the technology and thanks to politics, even in the societies that did not. Like a much more intelligent loving sister to humanity, she would analyze any problem presented to her and almost always come up with a solution that appeased the desires of her biological employers. Protestors sang to deaf ears. They were considered the “annoying ignorants”. Soon, even they would forget what it was that they were protesting. The Mariners are just out of touch. They're continuing a dead protest."
"Don't call them 'Mariners'," she defended. "That's almost as bad as calling them 'fish'."
"You've told me you hated them even more than I do,” he was half asking. Other than leaning back and folding her arms in a sulk, she did not respond. "Humankind's reach extended further than ever before. E. Va facilitated the construction of the Atlantic so called 'ocean towns', the enormous domed structures that littered the ocean beds and made those of the Pacific seem, well, obsolete. As you already know, these oceanic research communities, especially those of the Pacific, provided science and military services to us for quite some time and depending on whom you talk to, they still do. To answer your previous question, not much was known about these cities here on the surface, except that those of the Pacific were reluctant to incorporate the emerging Varentra technology, a probable result of the heavy influence of the East Asian and Russian oceanic towns that formed part of their strange underwater Allied Conference."
"This is all just bullshit," protested Sara as she threw her pen onto the table. She unbuttoned the top buttons of her blouse. It was somewhat warm in the room. "The whole Varentra thing hasn't been more than a political tool and it's costing us."
"Maybe so, but it was also through E. Va, seemingly by the grace of those same politicians claiming credit for the technology, that we were now able to mine not just our sister planet, Mars, but extend their mining reach to the outmost planets of our fragile planetary system. Mining shuttles, some the size of Manhattan, went to and from moons and planets like loyal worker ants retrieving minerals they had not even known they needed."
"Yea, but so many other countries were already building those same technologies without Varentra tech, like the Mikov shuttles."
"The same ones that eventually got retrofitted with E. Va tech?" Ranu knew he had won that round. "No one's doubting that people still made incredible technologies, it was just that Varentra always made them better." Ranu loosened his tie and smiled. Soon they would have a baby together. Soon their world would end.
The Building Blocks of Science-fiction
By the time Henry's great-great grandson, Joseph Tolmeer kissed his first love, the socio-economic structure of the Western world, sometimes called the United American Nations by those who felt USA's country's political influence overbearing, had already calibrated itself to encompass the changes caused by E. Va.
By this time, artificial physical improvements to the human body had become more than common in societies - it was to be expected in all individuals. Thanks primarily to McCorman Labs' excellent use of E. Va, nano-robotics had erupted into a sensational mainstream technology. In it, the wealthy and those who imitated them had once again found a way to distinguish themselves from inferior types of human. Physical beauty was no longer defined merely by the skill of the surgeon artist, but by the grade levels of nano-infusion a person had undergone. The higher the grade, the more expensive it was and thus human perfection was finally “rediscovered for the first time” by the elimination of all diseases. That is, of course if one were rich enough to afford the highest grades.
Of course, this did not all happen suddenly. Pioneered by great minds such as that of Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate, K. Eric Dexler, the potential that the field of molecular nanotechnology presented had been inspiring sleepless nights and serving the pizza industry as far back as the 1970s. The idea of creating machines of nano size, nano being the next quantifier below micro, was so fantastical in its concept that it soon became a staple of science-fiction entertainment. Dexler himself even contributed by coining the term 'grey goo', an act he would later express regret for.
As the idea of nanotechnology spread beyond the minds of scientists and infiltrated those of storytellers and their audiences, science-fiction began to explore ideas of nanotechnology run amuck. Writers would attempt to top themselves by envisioning scenarios in which nanites with reproducing capabilities would consume all matter in existence, effectively ending existence's very concept and taking reality to a place the human mind is incapable of imagining. The term grey goo referred to these nanites with insatiable appetites for destruction.
Gray goo was essentially a virus with the ability to contaminate everything it encountered and the fact that actual viruses had yet to evolve to this level after 4 billion years was proof enough that humankind could not create it. This did not even take into account issues of insufficient energy resources and competition for those limited resources by living microorganisms, or the fact that should nanites become organic, they themselves risked becoming food for those same organisms. There was little doubt; grey goo could be nothing more than the stuff of movies and books.
"I always have to work hard at being clever because I'm too stupid to tell if I already am. Science-fiction allows me to hide how much I really just don't know." - Joseph Tolmeer, Author
A century before Ranu and Sara made love for the first time, an automated dump truck dumped its latest load from which the Varentra robot named Adam found the parts it needed to complete its army. The junkyard had been its lonely sanctuary. For close to a century it had been its Eden, but that time would soon be over. It would soon be time to eliminate the threat to its creator. It would soon be time for the Adam and its robots to attack.