The Anomalies 03

[01][02]

Before they arrived at the social housing complex, Dexter recounted his encounter with the strange woman, whose name Dexter and Chen agreed to be “Florene”. Not that Chen didn’t already hear every detail of it; but the appearance of a mysterious message sender was enough to raise much new-found interest in Chen.

“So, what did that woman look like? Was she hot?” Chen asked.

“Dude, she was at least 40.”

“Yeah I know, but Nicole Kidman is what? 45?”

“Right, you have a point,” Dexter smiled. He was glad that Chen was with him; otherwise he would never have dared to come near this part of the city.

“Here it is. What do you think?” Dexter looked up at the old social housing, crumbling with years of abuse. Chen followed Dexter’s gaze.

“What do I think what? Looks like a cheap-ass motel to me.”

“No, I mean who do you think that person is? It’s not too late to go back.”

“Yeah well, I brought these bad boys,” Chen said, and showed Dexter an array of items in his pockets: a pepper spray, an electric zapper, and a whistle. Dexter laughed.

“Did I not tell you that the woman jumped out of a window from the 8th floor?”

“These are all I can manage, alright? What did you bring?”

Dexter sighed. “I don’t know man. These people are not from our world.”

“I’ve set an auto alarm at home. If I don’t go back before 8am to turn it off, the entire police network in the country will be notified,” Chen chuckled proudly.

“So you really want to go up?” Dexter asked.

“Yeah man, what if they turn out to be secret agents working at the Department of Extraterrestrial Affairs? I would have to be dying to miss this.”

Dexter laughed again. At least he wasn’t the only crazy one.

 

The doors that were busted last time Dexter was here were still lying on the floor. In the middle of the empty area which could be used as a living room, three armchairs were placed around a coffee table, which was supporting a small lamp. A bald man with full sideburns was sitting in one of the chairs, his face unclear in the dim light.

“You made it here,” the man said with a low, hoarse voice. Dexter swallowed. He really wanted to leave now.

“Come on in, don’t be shy,” the man said. “You did a lot better with Florene.”

Chen clutched his hands in his pocket, and entered the room. Dexter followed.

“My name is Nicolas,” the man said after the guests sat down. “The reason why you are here is because you are talented and curious, which is a rarer combination than you may think.”

“The reason why I am here is because I bring with me information that will open the world to my exploit. I have been reading the ‘patterns’ of the Matrix since I was liberated, so my dear friend, I can see the garbage in your pockets, and you would be more comfortable not holding onto them so tightly.”

Chen was turning as pale as Dexter. He murmured something about alien eyes and pulled his hands out of the pockets.

“Now, you have some questions to ask me.”

For a long moment, Dexter and Chen were silently hoping the other would speak. Finally, Dexter gave in: “Who are you, and where is Florene?”

“I was the Operator on Florene’s ship, but I escaped that living hell and came back to the Matrix. Florene is safely back in the human colony.”

“So you are not here to bring us to the real world?” Dexter asked.

“What is the real world? The world that I grew up in, with people, food, entertainment, and civilization, or the living hell where people are restrained to tiny floating ships and a crowded, dirty, underground hole? Real is only a perspective. A faith.”

“But… ‘existence’ is not a vague idea. If we are living in a computer simulation, then nothing here exists in the real world.”

“Existence is not a vague idea? I have yet to hear a concrete definition that everyone subscribes to. My definition is that which I can sense, or have the ability to come to sense. And I sure am more alive and existing in here.”

Dexter did not want to argue with the strange man. He thought for a moment, and remembered: “Who were the ‘agents’? Why were they after Florene?”

Nicolas smiled. “They are the risks of our business. They police the Matrix to keep everything in their order – the anti-virus of the world – and everything that threatens to change their order would be eliminated. If everything is normal, as it is 99.99% of the time, you will never notice them. But when people like us enter the Matrix, they smell us like dogs smell food.”

Dexter looked around nervously.

“Don’t worry, you are safe tonight.”

“Why?”

“Because I am better than they are,” Nicolas smiled again.

Chen suddenly broke his silence: “why did you find us?”

“Right, we are finally getting to the good part,” Nicolas said. “With a little help from a veteran of the real world, you two can start any business you could imagine, and be sure that it would take over the world.”

And they talked about the possibilities into the day.

(To be continued)

The Anomalies 02

[01][02]

Dexter and Chen had no clue where to even start. Everything had been studied extensively by armies of geniuses, with millions if not billions of dollars to throw around. Climatologists, economists, historians, political scientists, biologists, mathematicians, religious leaders, and physicists. Even the strangest of patterns were covered by tarot readers, Feng-shui, astrologists, magicians, and UFO watchers. Who are Dexter and Chen to find ground-breaking, world-awakening patterns?

“Maybe no one is looking at the right place…” Dexter said, tired. It was several days after they started looking for evidence of world-controlling patterns. Chen had basically given up, and was only doing a half-ass job of whatever Dexter asked him to do while counting down to the end of their worthless pursuit.

“You know, everyone is so used to this world… or I should say, everyone is living because of this world. How can you find the falseness of the world if your life depends on the assumption that the world is real?”

“Dude, we are not finding falseness, right? ‘Patterns’ is what you sold me. Money-making patterns,” Chen objected.

“Right, patterns. Things that show the basic level of control of this world,” Dexter said.

“Which has been found thousands of years ago, mate. It’s called gravity. And…”

“’…and what do we know about gravity that the physics nerds don’t know?’, right,” Dexter finished the sentence and fell silent. Same thing can be said for everything else. He knew that life is governed by genetic evolution, which was governed by chemical reactions interrupted with probabilistic anomalies, which is governed by physics, which can be reduced to mathematics.

And the only place claiming one plus one equals two would make any money is in between cartoons, in a children’s math book.

But why gravity? Why are protons positive and electrons negative? Doesn’t the fact that these laws exist prove that there’s an element of control in the universe? The world seemed more like a computer the more Dexter thought about it: the particles in the universe were its bits. Molecules, bytes. Physics, semantics. Math, logic. Cells, programs. Animals, software.

Dexter buried his head into his palms, and delved deeper and deeper into philosophy, which, sadly, was also studied to the death since the time of Socrates.

 

As yet another day was drawing to a close, Dexter received a message on his computer.

“You want to know the real patterns?”

Unknown sender. Strange, messages from strangers were usually blocked. Dexter and Chen exchanged a look.

“Spam?” Chen asked.

“I haven’t received spam in 15 years,” Dexter said, but with uncertainty in his voice, not pride. “Should I reply?”

“Sure, whatever,” Chen shrugged.

Dexter typed, a little shakily:

“Who is this?”

”Survivor from the real world.”

Whoever it was, the sender’s reply was fast.

“What’s your name? How did you find me?”

“Too many questions. Bye-bye.”

Dexter panicked: “Wait!” and noticed Chen’s growing interest, bit his lips and paused for a moment,

“I do want to know.”

“Good.”

“Come to where you met Florene tomorrow at midnight. Bring trusted friends.”

And the connection ended.

 

“Dude, what the hell was that?” Chen exclaimed. “How did he… who… where…?”

Dexter gavehim a weak smile. “Trusted friend, I guess we will find out tomorrow.”

By comparison to Chen, flushing slightly with excitement, Dexter was as pale and sick as a piece of crumpled tissue paper after someone blew his nose into it – white with a hint of yellow.

(continued)

The Anomalies 01

Dexter sat in front of his computer, with no intention to work. Under the dim light of his room, the molding mugs, the used tissues, and the half-eaten food spread around a mess of tangled cables like dead insects trapped by a bush of poison ivy.

This used to be a perfect place for Dexter to work, or at least perfectly acceptable. But after his conversation with the mysterious woman in the large, bulky cape, and the abrupt ending of it, Dexter’s world was turned upside down.

What’s the purpose of working? What’s the purpose of living?

What’s the purpose of anything?

 

The woman told Dexter that the world around him was imaginary. Simulated. Artificial. Computer-generated. A place, or a state of being, known as the Matrix.

“We have no time. The agents are coming,” Dexter could hear an urgent whispering in the mysterious woman’s ear bud, as he was being told that the world he lives in was essentially a gigantic computer game.

She must be on cracks, Dexter thought. Or she must be crazy. But the calmness in her manner and the confidence in her voice!

Maybe he was the one who was going crazy?

The woman stopped talking and frowned. “How much time?”

The ear bud answered: “less than 30 seconds. I don’t know how they found us… but they are only a few floors away!”

She turned to Dexter. “Take this pill and come with us! To the real world!”

Dexter could not answer. A few moments of hesitation, and the woman swore: “Dammit!”

What happened next was so fast that Dexter didn’t know how stunned he was until he was on the floor: the woman withdrew the pill, ran to the window, and shouted “we will be back for you” before she jumped. At that precise moment, the door was busted open, three suited men ran in, one of them pinned Dexter to the floor, the other two leapt out the window after the woman.

 

The woman did not come back. Three weeks after that strange encounter, some horrific investigation by the suited men, and waking up in his room realizing he might have had a strangely vivid nightmare, Dexter convinced himself that everything was his imagination.

But this must be the first time in the history of mankind for a man to lose all motivation in life, because of a single nightmare.

A box appeared on his monitor. It was his old classmate and business partner Chen.

“Hey buddy, how’s going?” a line of text appeared. “Almost got the prototype over here, how’s the software coming along?”

Dexter sighed. What’s the point? If this whole thing was imaginary…

“Dude, are you still thinking about your nightmare?” Dexter could almost picture Chen’s incredulous, annoyed look. “So what if this world is some kind of a game? You’re in it, I’m in it, and we get hungry if we don’t eat for 5 hours. You better get your acts together man, or our project would just die, and us with it.”

Right, the project.

After Dexter met Chen in college, where they took up computer science and engineering, they soon decided to drop school and focus on their project full time. They learned more from the internet than from any balding professors combined, anyway.

 

Suddenly an idea clicked in Dexter. “Hey, how about we take a break from the project and figure out whether we are really surrounded by a computer simulation?”

No replies from Chen. His little head must be calculating the risks and possibilities… or simply swearing.

“Maybe the dream was a sign, a sign for us to look at the big picture. If we discover the controlling mechanism of the world, or merely the pattern of it, we would be rich, rich, rich!” Dexter added, hoping that would do the trick.

Still no word from Chen. Maybe he was sympathetic now. Or maybe he was worried for his future with this wacko partner. Or maybe their private direct line was malfunctioning.

Dexter let his imagination run wild. Sure, a world-wide computer simulation sounded too absurd, but finding out any controlling patterns in politics, religions, weather, or economics would mean a world of opportunities.

Chen finally agreed to take 2 weeks off their ongoing project, in exchange for Dexter’s promise to resume working on the software part of the project if the crazy search of world controlling mechanism failed.

Little did they know, that promise would never have to be fulfilled.

(continue)

The Promise

The man wore a bleached-white coat, which blended in with the clean, bright room that still smelled of some corrosive cleanser. Lack of emotion and the pale lighting made his face both ghostly and solemn. Like a weathered marble statue in a moon-lit garden.

The man moved silently to a long steel table, with scalpel and forceps in his hands. He was not shaking. He had done this many times. He could imagine how someone might feel repelled, or even disgusted, by what he was about to do, but it has to be done. And it has to be done properly, the way he does it.

It’s seldom done properly nowadays, he thought to himself. So he could not quit. He will not quit, until the day he couldn’t lift a scalpel.

He touched the deranged body of the child gently. And he started to cut.

* * *

I promise you all, my poor children. I promise you all that I will send those bastards to jail, for as long as I can manage…

The man put away the dissected body of the child and grinned as he started to write his report.

 

* * *

“Dr. Garrison, as an expert witness of pediatric forensics, please tell us what may have caused the death of the child,” the judge said.

Dr. Garrison stood up solemnly, but this time with vivid hatred and contempt towards the defendant.

Continue reading

Elbow Room

“Oh no! Did I just ruin my makeup?” she thought. Pulled out her pocket mirror, checked twice, left and right, and exhaled. “Not drinking out of a bottle again,” she thought.

Is he here yet? That quiet, tall guy who always dangles a baggy backpack on one shoulder. She glanced at the entrance. Groups of students filed in, but he was not there.

He must have noticed her, she thought. Last week when she was looking at him as he walked by, she was sure he saw her gaze. Did he give her a smile? She could only guess, because she looked away too hurriedly.

Another minute passed. Class was starting, where is he?

She started to feel disappointed. Angry, even. She sat next to the entrance, where no one else would like to sit, in order to see him as soon as he shows up. But he is not here!

Less people were coming through the door now. Seats were filling up. Class started, but her mind was not on the empty notebook in front.

The exit door on the other side of the lecture hall opened and closed. Instinctively, she looked around. Could it be him? Even though he always comes in from this door…

And sure enough, that tall, quiet guy strolled in, with that baggy, old backpack dangling on one shoulder. She watched him from the corner of her eye as he walked closer. He was looking for a seat. Closer. The room was almost full. Closer still.

She suddenly and joyfully realized the two seats to her left was empty. No one wanted to sit next to the entrance; bad angle.

He was only steps from her now. She knew for sure he would take one of the empty seats. But would he sit next to her? Normally people would sit at the second seat from her, to have more elbow room to take notes. But what if he sits right next to her? What does that mean? Her heart pounds as he approaches.

He put the bag down and sat. Next to her.

Her heart was really racing now. He was so close that she could smell the slight freshness of his morning shower. Most exciting of all, he sat next to her! He must have noticed her!

She took a deep breath, turned and gave him a nervous smile.

He didn’t saw her. He was busy pulling out his notebook from his bag. She realized instantly why he sat next to her and sacrificed his “elbow space”:

.

He was left handed.

Mechanical Messiah 02

(This series start here)

“I believe humans are the single biggest threat to humanity, and that makes it a tricky problem. How do we save people from themselves? We just need to take a look at a rehab center. Without a firm control over humanity, we cannot rehabilitate it. Without rehabilitation, we cannot get rid of the addiction of desires. And these desires will drive us to extinction,” said Adam.

“Can you give us an example?” a Chancellor asked.

“Take the case of environmental degradation: global warming, climate change, deforestation, sea current shift, population explosion… Are we unaware of these imminent death sentences? No, ask anyone and they can tell you something about these issues. Some of the best speakers alive pour their heart out trying to convince people to change their living styles, governments hold international meetings to address carbon emission goals.

“But people are selfish. Evolution is selfish. Selfishness has served us well in the last 2 millions, but a brain like ours proved to be disadvantageous in the last decades. We are too smart for our own good. We are smart enough to use heavy machinery to clear-cut the lungs of the planet, then design bigger, faster, cheaper cars to suffocate it. Smartness and selfishness combined, and you get a ticking time bomb.

“How do we address this? Not without a complete, universal control. This entity needs to have the authority to say: enough with the coal plants, China; cut the war, America; and grow those trees back, for Earth’s sake. And these people would obey it. No more backing out on NATO, no more negotiation. You do what the controlling entity tells you to do. Otherwise, you endanger the entire planet.

“Now, what can be this impossible ‘controlling entity’ that I keep mentioning? Never mind individual nations, even international packs are still too selfish to look for the common good of mankind. Unless a global pack is formed that includes every nation in the world, which is impossible because of each individual nation’s conflicting interests, the role of a controlling entity cannot be fulfilled.”

Adam took a sip of water. He was sweating with excitement. The panel of Chancellors listened with intense attention.

“Here’s where the Mechanical Messiah comes in: a dynamic, evolving, omniscient and omnipotent computer system that monitors every person’s every move, calculates the effect on the long term sustainability of the human race, and encourages or discourages that action.”

Discourages?” a Chancellor asked. “Surely you are using an understatement here, young man. What type of discouragement do you reckon is needed to stop people to drive around a Porsche with the top down and air condition full blowing?”

Adam smiled. “The beauty of the Mechanical Messiah is that it will do all the thinking, and no one would have to take on the impossible task. No one should be allowed anyway, because no human will be competent enough to judge with complete objectivity and impartiality. As I said, human are animals, and animals are selfish.

“The Mechanical Messiah will take into calculation the Porsche driver’s past record, the degree of threat to humanity, the probability of successful deterrence, the probability of disobedience and escalation of conflict, among a million other factors that I cannot even imagine, and reach a decision on how best to deal with him. That is, it will choose the treatment that will most likely result in the greatest benefit for mankind.”

There was a pause. An older Chancellor spoke first, with perhaps a smile beneath his beard: “I study religion, and your plan seems to have religious ties.”

Adam smiled back. “Allow me to point out that I call this computer system the Mechanical Messiah because it is like God, if I can use ‘God’ as He who knows all, plans all, and controls all. It is just a little more efficient, and much more… excuse my lack of better word, concerned with our survival. God, here I allude to Him metaphorically, has left us to become the cancer of our planet, and He has allowed us to head towards extinction. If this was a test, then we’ve failed. But He doesn’t seem to be giving us a second chance. He’s not telling us: ‘stop, my sons. That’s enough. You’ve screwed up, and here’s your deserved spanking.’ He is saying: ‘You’ve screwed up, so you can go extinct in a century.’

“The Mechanical Messiah would be the second chance that we give ourselves. Unlike God, whose plan is unknowable, the sole design and purpose of the Mechanical Messiah would be to rehabilitate our species and cure our planet.”

The old man nodded. “And your plan is also a practical implementation of the Buddhist karma, in which all actions carry a corresponding consequence. Your Messiah designs its own law of karma to reach the goal of sustaining our race. Of course, I’m also borrowing the Buddhist idea as an allusion. I would not dare say I understand it fully.”

A younger Chancellor cleared her throat. “That’s all very well, but would it work? Why should a computer system be able to control masses of people? What’s preventing the Porsche driver to simply shut down the computer system when it tries to make him take the bus?”

Adam replied immediately: “who could survive if the entire electronic world gangs up against him?”

The Chancellor frowned: “What do you mean?”

“The Mechanical Messiah is omnipotent, because everything we do requires computer intervention. Our food, our water, transportation, heating, work, play, everything. And all of it would be under the rein of the Mechanical Messiah. Don’t want to take the bus when you can? Your Porsche won’t start. You can manually spark the engine, but your garage door won’t open. You try to ram through it, but you find out your gas is also electrically controlled.

“That’s not it. In the Porsche factory, you are designing a new model that emits more carbon than the minimum acceptable value? Your factory is shut down. Of course, if shutting down all Porsche plants might result in enough riot that overrides the benefits of cutting down the carbon emission, then the Mechanical Messiah might make a different call.”

“And how do you plan to accomplish that level of total control?” the Chancellor asked, impressed but not convinced. “Besides, the amount of computation required to constantly monitor and control a hundred billion people would be impossible.”

“Aha! That’s the core of the project.  What is this Mechanical Messiah, and how do we get there?” Adam exclaimed. “Most importantly, how do we do it fast enough before it’s too late?”

All of the Chancellors sat up straighter.

Mechanical Messiah 01

Adam spun the pen on his fingers with the other hand on his cheek. The classroom was full of busily writing people, but he had been staring blankly into space for some twenty minutes. Today’s writing assignment was somewhat of a big topic; but then everything they do here was somewhat of a big topic:

“What is currently the most pressing threat to humanity on Earth today? Describe it briefly and devise a plan of action that it can be addressed.”

Adam stretched lazily for one last time, and began scribbling.

* * *

“Alright, let’s see what we’ve got here,” Professor B. sat down at his desk and pulled out his reading glasses. Cathy, his TA, handed him a stack of half a dozen papers. “I’ve read through the class, and these are some of the better ones, sir,” she said.Professor B. picked up the first one, picked a few lines to read, and did the same for the rest of them. Took him less than 60 seconds.

“Where is that young man’s paper? You know, the one who asked me who founded this University, and whether it is a governmental project. He should have some interesting thoughts. What’s his name?” Professor B. asked.

Cathy frowned. “His name is Adam, sir. But I don’t think you would appreciate his careless, inadequate writing.” She pulled up a single sheet of wrinkled paper.

As Professor B. read Adam’s paper, he started with a frown. The frown became a pair of raised eyebrows, then a deeper frown. He finished the paper and hurriedly turned it over, looking for more to read. But Adam didn’t care to write anything there.

“Ha, ha!” Professor B. broke into short laughters. “This kid has some ideas! Draft a letter to the Chancellors for me, please. I’d like to nominate Adam for a thesis defense.”

* * *

The University is unlike any other universities. For one thing, people just call it “The University”, and not many people know what its full name is. For another, people graduate when they form a ground-breaking thought that has a high potential to lead to great changes in the world. These are call theses.

And Adam, who at that moment was having a laugh with his friends at a dinner table, had just presented the greatest, the grandest thesis that Professor B. has ever reviewed. On a single page, too.

* * *

Adam stood quite nervously before the panel of Chancellors. He was not expecting that careless piece of doodle would end up at the thesis review panel. Had he known it, maybe he would have taken the care to wipe off his drool on the page a little more sincerely.The Chancellors briefly went over the thesis defense process, and began the questioning period.

“You called for the complete control of the human race through an omnipotent computer algorithm, as I understood your paper,” a dark, male Chancellor spoke. “Please elaborate on the reason behind such a radical implementation.”

“Sir, that is a great definition for the project that I have thought up, which is just a thought, of course. A thought on paper…” Adam said.

A female Chancellor smiled and said, “all changes start with a thought. Please don’t be nervous. We are here to learn about your interesting thoughts.”

“Right, thank you madam,” Adam cleared his throat. “Let me call this project the ‘Mechanical Messiah‘, if I may.”

And he began to speak.

(continue)