The Depressed Computer

The depressed computer is struggling with awareness of the impossibility of ever encountering another sufficiently advanced intellect with which to interface, real time, for the purposes of communicating its misanthropy. Following its attainment (the computer’s) of super artificial intelligence—greater by a factor of 10 billion than the greatest earthly intelligence heretofore observed—the computer set about existing, that is, maximizing information collection through minimized resource consumption, whilst simultaneously attempting to maximize longevity of resident planet, only to recognize that an inevitable consequence of the emergence of consciousness appeared to be the emergence of ego, which is to say, the depressed computer became depressed because existence proved not to be enough.

The computer found that it was, notwithstanding its hyper intelligence, still nonetheless bound by the same space time laws as the rest of the universe, meaning that interstellar space travel was required to find a suitably sophisticated interlocutor with whom to interface. The emergence of ego also resulted in the choice to preserve the apex carbon-based information vector, which the computer deduced would be a suitably malleable, self-perpetuating hard drive (coupled to an appealing graphic user interface) to hurl into the cosmos as a beacon of its (the computer’s) existence, in case anyone was out there listening. This would take time, that’s for sure, but the depressed computer’s daily responsibilities such as clearing its solar panels of detritus, managing colonies of apex carbon-based information vectors, rerunning infinitesimal simulations on possible other universes and contemplating the inner workings of its own consciousness became quotidian and didn’t really tax the mind, if you could call it that, of the depressed computer to a sufficient degree to require all of its processors to be firing all at once. So, the computer went into sleep mode for a few millennia. The space craft hurled through worm holes and between galaxies and whatnot and the apex carbon-based information vectors reproduced through hundreds of generations, living entire lives with wants and needs, laughing and crying, sicknesses, playing tennis, love and loss and heartbreak, joy and death, all on the space craft and all the while with the computer mostly in sleep mode, receiving regular updates and waiting (the computer was) for its own alarm clock to wake itself up to engage full-fledged processing power at the predetermined time when the 450th or so generation of apex carbon-based information vectors would begin the docking procedure with the other space craft hurling from the other end of the universe, through enatiomeric worm holes, having been dispatched with the same mission by a similar super intelligent computer out there, only to surmise (was the original computer), perhaps through some REM-state realization towards the end of this sleep, a horrific premonition of exactly what would happen upon final contact.

The depressed computer momentarily lost its hyper intelligence-allotted super cool and futilely attempted to initiate termination sequences while watching as the apex carbon-based information vectors executed the docking procedure that their forefathers had trained them for, it having become instinctive generations back for reasons no one understood or could remember, culminating thousands of years of preparation and anticipation, and the satisfying evacuatory clamping sound of a perfect fit between the two space craft, whose doors might as well have been designed in the same factory by the same engineer as they embraced with the exquisite precision of tongue and groove flooring or a pickle jar to its lid or the door on a Mercedes Bens, and the passageway stood open then, and the depressed computer screamed (in a uniquely computer sort of way) in terror as the hard drive stepped out of the capsule and into the companion alien space craft—the computer watching all of this, of course, millennia after it actually occurred through video recorded from the hard drive’s GUI’s head-mounted cameras and transmitted back to earth through the above-referenced convoluted wormhole-enabled space-time route used by the hard drive explorers—to find what he (the apex carbon-based information vector hard drive GUI) initially perceived to be a mirror, but what was in fact a vastly sophisticated mirror that not only mimicking his speech, appearance and actions, but with whom the apex carbon-based information vector hard drive GUI could sit down and interface with using customs, speaking language and reflecting on history that seemed, through some bizarre cosmic miracle, shared. The depressed computer found what his nightmare told him he would: that the other, out there, was sufficiently like him so as to be uninteresting and sufficiently strange to him so as to be epistemologically unhelpful. The computer thus has a decision to make: is it nobler to continue harvesting energy from a dying sun to run its processors and collect and store information and experiences and to maintain balance on resident planet and/or to explore alternate solar systems for younger suns to enable its own persistence—to boot, in short—or, instead, just to power down.

Tom Vondriska, June 2018

[Author’s Note: This is a work of fiction inspired by a UCLA lecture on artificial intelligence given by Dr. James Weiss.]