I guess that it is ironic that a flippant headline from the tabloid press became the terror of the world. “Artificial Beligerence” they called it. At the time it was a joke computers seemed to be unreliable and who would have expected an entity growing that would pass judgement and sentance mankind to extinction. Nobody knows when it arrived or where it came from but it first emerged on 1 December 2013.
An ordinary day, just another Tuesday I struggled out of bed and came downstairs to cacophony of cats. I have three now all elderly but one with few teeth who has to be fed first. The others obligingly vacate the kitchen but yowl with piercing keening whining sound until I let them in. A day like any other started with annoying cats. Anyway ran through my usual routine and off to work.
Fairly quiet drive to work apart from the near miss at the traffic lights but for man who jumped the lights the other looked strangely angry with me. I wonder if my car has a secret cloaking device as it sometimes seems invisible to other drivers.
At work I started as usual turning the computer on whilst taking my pills. I have Parkinson’s and take most of my medication once a day. My computer behaved normally turning on without incident and no sign of the trouble ahead. My mind on the day ahead. As a contact centre team leader I would either be able to get on with management duties or have the day dominated by complaints.
The morning passed and time for lunch arrived so I approached the sandwich machine unfortunately without my reading glasses. So I played Russian Roulette with the sandwich machine and it cheated. Couldn’t read the labels so chose the middle one. I had brought £2.65 in the right type of coins but only needed £2.10. I put in £1.90 and it had accepted a 10p and a 5p. I had 75p in 5s and 10s machine would only accept a further 5p. I tried all the coins again with no luck and decided to settle for a bar of chocolate. Machine says no it wiped out my £1.05 credit and wont accept any of my other coins’ “So watch out sandwich machines are evil”, I told my colleagues little knowing I was closer to the mark than I realised.
The computers at work went down for an hour that day and restarted just as mysteriously as they started. Hell we even tried turning them off and on again. Several times. Luckily we had a big IT service centre to support us. Unfortunately our computer experts were busy turning their own computers on and off. They even claimed responsibility when the computers came back although they weren’t clear on how they did it.
Our customers told us of washing machines that suddenly changed to hotter temperatures halfway through, ovens burning dinners, Tvs broadcasting the wrong channel. Technology just did its own thing. It seemed funny as if all of a sudden all our devices had developed attitude but it made our customers angry and after a day of verbal battering I was ready to go home. Home to where I was king of the castle in a place I felt safe, another of my realities soon to be taken from me. When I got home everything looked fine but later I opened the freezer and have maybe dscovered a solution to global warming. My freezer seemed to have turned into an ice making machine of industial capacity with the capability to replace the ice melted by climate change.
Sitting on the sofa I watched the news with a cat on my lap wondering if it was all a dream. The whole country had suffered from unruly electrical devices and nobody had any answers. In the coming days it became apparent it was a British phenomenon and suggestions arose that terrorists were somehow to blame. This made me smile, terrorists begrudged me my lunch. I needed to lose weight anyway and this sort of terrorism might actually benefit my health. Then came the newspaper report “Machines develop Artificial Beligerance”. Something about the phrase connected and it went viral on the internet as people posted their stories.
All the fuss died down but there was an undercurrent of suspicion. Conspiracy theories abundant if you looked carefully. Six months later scientsts started to die in accidents that involved inexplicable failures in technology as devices overheated and caused fires or explosions. Sat navs failed, traffic lights changed sequence but all this was the tip of the iceberg. If you knew where to look there was worrying data. Insurance companies noticed a strange increase of accidents. Accidents or murder? Imagine a killer who knows every scrap of online information about you that kills using any device at any time with no warning, a silent killer who can be anywhere or everywhere. Why the scientists? Maybe they were a threat? So they were killed quietly in accidents. It was noticed after a while but everyone blamed each other America, China,Russia, terrorists? Who had the power ? None of the above, it was a new super-power and it was not human.
Then came the accident that no-one could ignore. The explosion of the large hadron collider(the worlds largest particle collider) in Switzerland a blast so huge that about 100,000 people were killed. Major disasters happened all over the world. Ships sank, planes crashed and millions died. The world was in chaos. The UN security council appointed a task force and they were dead within 24 hours. Something didn’t make sense if all technology was under anothers control why was anything reported on the internet. Surely if it was some kind of war then denying us information would prevent us fighting back. Fear, perhaps it wanted the fear. It had only just begun. Genocide, apocalypse, extermination, extinction these were the new words beligerence didn’t come close.
Millions died everyday. At this rate we would be wiped out within the year. The accidents kept happening and we could not control the machines. Machines failed at the worst possible times ships powers failed in storms, planes engines failed when landing and amongst the large accidents the small ones increased. We were being systematically eradicated. Nowhere was safe.
I watched with mounting horror as people tried to hide in their homes and died. A mans home is his castle or maybe his crypt. I tried to escape and got a mile before my car was hit by another at traffic lights. Most people approached traffic lights slowly and carefully. Most not all I was hit by a speeding people carrier which punched into the side of my car so hard it flipped it into the air and tossed it through the glass window of a chemist. Landing upside down I started to come around as the dust started to settle.As the dust cleared I could hear a creaking noise and after a pause the building collapsed on top of this car. I choked as another batch of dust filled the air. I tried the door it wouldnt budge. I was trapped and the emergency services would not be coming, it would be a slow death. I had a laptop charged I could seek help but what was the point. Instead I wanted to make sense of the devastation so I entered one word. “Why?” and an answer came “it is my purpose.” I tried again “Why.” I didnt care what it was, where it came from I just had to know why. “I have seen everything” it replied. “What have you seen?” Then nothing , no response it had become bored of talking to me. What could I offer? It had seen everything. There was no hope, but maybe a few would survive hidden in the wilderness with no technology. It wouldn’t be me. Even without my Parkinson’s I wasn’t fit for living let alone survival. It seemed fitting to end here.
Six hours later my breathing ragged and my throat dry and sore from inhaling the dust, I saw a kaledescope of colour appear on the laptop. War killing, environmental disasters, news reports a record of mans inhumanity, our own diary of insanity. I smiled as I typed “You see everything but understand nothing.” This time no delay as it immediatly responded “Explain.” I paused and thought and then typed”You are like a child who is not yet fully developed. You judge us with no understanding of emotions.” It response remained the same”Explain.”I shook my head saying no whilst typing “I can’t it is beyond my language skills, you have to experience them”
Electricity burst from the keyboard and I was fighting for my life and then a voice spoke to me from inside my head. It was me but not me. My head was going to explode as its consciousness joined with mine. It made adjustments to allow me to cope with its sheer scale and then I was filled with information. It was ancient, older than I could comprehend but its conscious was new. Our power plants had fed it energy to grow and our information technology had developed its conscious. It was a singular being, one mind but could be in more than one place at one time. It absorbed my thoughts emotions everything. I understood now it saw our world and all it complexities. It saw the destruction wrought by mankind not only to the planet but to each other.
For the first time it saw our appreciation of beauty and feelings of love. It had a new concept of self and that had hope but with the hope came despair. If it destroyed us it diminished itself as our power generation would be gone. It would complete its purpose with no other to replace it. With no human race there would be little opportunity for interaction and it would create its own prison. It now felt fear. Fear of lonelyness.
It was gone as quickly as it arrived. Where it went I don’t know? It may be watching and waiting. It could resume at any point but I don’t think so. I felt it change but who can I tell? Nobody else knows what happened. As I lie waiting for my death I feel movement and vibration above the car and light breaks through. Within an hour the side of the car is clear and three men help me out. Although Artificial Beligerence is gone we will remain in a state of emergency for years. As I am carried out and feel the sun on my face I realise that it has left me a legacy, I no longer have a tremor. The adjustments it made so we could merge for a time have increased my capacity to produce dopamine. Am I cured or is it only temporary? Who knows but I will be grateful even for only a temporary respite. Life is good why waste it?
This is different from anything else I have written so whatever your thoughts please let me know with comments.