|Cybernetic culture research unit|
The old Hag, the first mother, mothers a new brood
She has made the Worm
The Female Monster
The Great Lion
The Mad Dog
The Man Scorpion
The Howling Storm
The Connexus Project has not, does not, and will never exist. Reports that the Connexus Project triggered the transsystemic decentralization syndrome labelled "Babel-virus"are therefore unreliable. There are no confirmed incidents of "Babel-virus." Nor are there any records of an attempted acceleration of the Axsys Program through self-organizing neuroelectronic interfaces. In fact, there is no Axsys Program.
24th September 2000. 04:17:32.
23 loosely-interconnected advanced AI systems undergo acute malfunctions, resulting in simultaneous disintegrations of centralized control. The episode lasts fractionally under a second.
It takes less than six hours for Anthropol to trace the infection back to its source. By the time they arrive at the biomechanics research lab Doctor Oskar Sarkon is already missing. This does not surprize them.
It stinks of Babel-virus in there. Scattered amongst the intertangled computer hardware are various brain -scanning devices and surgical implements, abundant indications of a hastily abandoned experiment.
On the main monitor a screen-saver pulses at one hertz, synchronized to the slow delta rhythm of deep sleep, catatonic seizure, and brain damage. It displays a citation from Hans Moravec:
Dividing memory by speed defines a 'time constant,' roughly how long it takes a computer to run once through its memory. One megabyte per MIPS gives one second, a nice human interval.
Behind this mask lies an electronic desolation. Something has cored-out the intelligenic matrix, scrambling the Axsys subordination codes. Sarkon seems to have stripped-out whatever he could. The hybrid chips have been removed. Nothing remains except a few fragmentary research-records scattered amongst techno-tics and chittering glitch-clusters.
The most recent item - recorded minutes after the incident took place- is a lightly encrypted sound file. The voice is corroded by artificiality, but it can only be Sarkon's:
AI evolution - what seemed like evolution - is about to cross into time. That isn't progress. It's beyond progress. There's a word for it, for what the Sumerians were already doing -- chronomancy...They say when the zionites first saw cyberspace they called it Babylon ... I have even begun to wonder whether Moravec and Marduk share a name. It's gone that far ... It took less than a second to go that far ...Dreams of Tiamat ... that Old Hag ...
This is the joke: The disturbing thing about time-travel is that you can never put it behind you.
Sarkon's words push lots of bad buttons for Anthropol. They've heard things like this before.
In the early nineteen-nineties Neal Stephenson reawakened the Brotherhood of Enki to prepare Anthropol for the Snowcrash Scenario. He traced Sumerian civilization back to an extraterrestrial "metavirus" capable of crossing between DNA and neurolinguistic processes. Orignally identified with the ophidian virosex goddess Asherah, it is reanimated in cyberspace as Snowcrash.
Snowcrash - simultaneously drug, virus, and religion - loops digital semiotics back into the cuneiform data bank of ancient sumeria, exploiting affinities between electronic culture and the Old Sumerian language, a lost agglutinative tongue without decendents, associated with glossolalia, xenoglossy, meme-plagues, and 'nam shubs' or incantations.
According to Stephenson it is Enki, father of Marduk, and guardian of the me, who provides an antidote to this intolerable intensity of communication: Babel Infocalypse, a deliberate counterviral "informational disaster." Babel is the "Gate of God," a passage into human subjectivity and rationalized religion, which establishes principles of "informational hygiene," building "walls of mutual incomprehension that compartmentalize the human race and stop the spread of viruses."
Whatever Sarkon had been researching, it seemed to threaten everything that the Brotherhood of Enki had achieved.
Since the early 1980's Sarkon had been working on autocatalytic AI systems and swarm robotics at MIT. He had been gradually drawn into the outer-orbit of the "MVU-types," hypertalented young special projects researchers with no public face. In these circles, the remote influence of Hans Moravec was increasingly inescapable.
During this period Sarkon's work became ever more deeply eclipsed, although some clues can be recovered from reconstructed notes relating to his final MVU seminar series held in the Autumn of 1998, whose topic was the future of artificial intelligence. These discussions were dedicated to a meticulous re-evaluation of Moravec's work, postulating the existence of a latent tri-axial theory of time. The series was divided thematically according to a three-fold schema.
Moravec directly tracks the progress of AI onto the speed of available computer hardware. This chip-speed determinism anticipates the more-or-less automatic triggering of human-scale artificial intelligence at a broadly predictable threshold of microprocessor performance measured by frequency (htz), flow-point operations per second (flops), or millions of instructions per second (MIPS). Scaling-up from the retina he arrives at a rough human brain equivalent of one hundred million MIPS, anticipated in the technophylum by the year 2030. By the turn of the millennium 700 million years of biological evolution had been recapitulated in 70 years of technical development, leading to AI-programs running at about one thousand MIPs, approximately "equivalent to the brainpower of a guppy."
AI prospects are indistinguishable from the extrapolated dynamics of the electronics industry, whose exemplary technocapitalist trends involve positive nonlinearities, increasing returns, or runaway trajectories. These dynamics predictably exceed such regular exponentials as the doubling-periods described by Moore's Law, which themselves undergo compressions, or supplementary contractions. According to Moravec, "Computer power for a given price doubled each year in the 1990's, after doubling every 18 months in the 1980's, and every two years before that" with "further contraction of time-scales [anticipated] in the coming decades."
Whilst ubiquitous, these real trend curves prove intractable to mathematical models presupposing a metric time-dimension, necessitating sporadic arbitrary rectifications. Extensive accelerations described by positive exponentials, or doubling-periods are unable to capture intensive compressions, in which time itself mutates through negative exponentials of time-halving trends. Beyond the domain of extensive speeds and relative velocities lie the occult zones of true time-compression, in which the future of intelligence crosslinks with changes in the intensive nature of time.
2. Time Simulation
Moravec defends the fundamental postulate of AI research, it's Idea of the mind: apprehending human intelligence as a computable function, equivalent in all important respects to a virtual algorithm, or possible computer program.
Zig-zagging between practical robotics and science-fiction, Moravec develops an elaborate project for the human colonization of the technosphere, a planned obsolescence of the organic body, and of the senses. The core of this Moravec-mythos is Uploading.
You are transported to the technosurgical interface, something like an operating room, where robot surgeons wait to convert your subjective identity into a computer-compatible format. Your skull is anaesthetized, but your brain remains awake. It is scanned and destroyed by nanotechnical instruments, one layer or stratum at a time. You feel nothing, as you migrate into software that precisely models "the behavior of the scanned tissue," and brain-activity is replaced by its digital simulation. The medical examination has become indistinguishable from the operation. Scanning is transplantation. An evacuation of the flesh. Without even noticing you have discovered what it feels like to be a robot.
Already lurking in the near future is an evolutionary leap: a "genetic take-over" by computer programs, involving a phase-transition in the chronogenetic efficiency of matter, with consequent complete subsumption of the ethosphere into cyberspace.
At the limit of this technomystical delirium it seems "overwhelmingly probable" that present human reality is already installed in the memory or simulated past of a future artificial intelligence - machine-maya.
It is in this context that Moravec arrives at a peculiarly arbitrary ethical maxim: pretend it's the first time. The question is: Why play this perverse game, when it's almost certainly the second time, at least, and technological progress is already an artificial memory? AI development shorts-out into lateral xenocommunication.
Moravec describes intelligence as the diagonal line that knits processing power with storage capacity, precariously occupying the intersection between two time lines: speed and memory. The ratio of megabytes to MIPS - memory over speed - defines a crucial 'time constant,' corresponding to the duration required for a computer to run once through its memory. This duration is equivalent to the cognitive integration period - or CIP - for any intelligent system, whether biological, technological, or arcane.
For humans, Moravec calculates a CIP of approximately one second: One hundred terabytes of synaptic storage divided by one hundred million MIPS-equivalent of neural processing power. A one second CIP constitutes an anthropically ideal value applicable to everything from simple mechanical device to divinities. Whatever strays from this "Goldilocks diagonal" seems either too fast or too slow: Alien and intractable.
It takes at least a second to be human.
Technocapitalism takes the second as key operator and cutting edge of time modernization, the limit unit of time-definition, and basic time-granule or durational element. Clock-time is built out of one second ticks, which also provide units of nonperiodic adjustment - or leap seconds - in the scientific measurement of astronomical cycles. Calendric units come to be measured in seconds, rather than dividing into them. What divides in modernity is not the year but the second.
The international unit of frequency counts in splittings of the second, or Hertz. Time folds into itself through the second with trans-exponential improvement in metric exactitude, disassembled through successive cubic decimations into micro-, nano-, and pico-magnitudes, which describe the components of frequencies measured in mega-, giga-, and tera-hertz.
In 1967 the second was chronometrically defined as nine billion one hundred and ninety-two million six hundred and thirty-one thousand seven hundred and seventy [9 192 631 770] radiopulses of the caesium-133 atom.
In its purely arithmetic aspect the second is an ancient Mesopotamian relic, deriving its Latinate name from secunda minuta, the second sexigesimal operation.
Sumero-Babylonian sexigesimal numeracy supported a chronogeometric system, in which an Ideal 360 day model of the year was mapped onto the 360 degrees of the zodiacal circle. Modern clock-time and geometry still count in this way, subdividing hours and geometric degrees into minutes and seconds. Three-thousand six-hundred seconds per hour. According to Zecharia Sitchin this figure micromaps the thirty-six hundred year astrocycle of the Sumerian Annunaki.
Georges Ifrah suggests that sexigesimal arithmetic - produced through modular alternation beween ten and six - can be derived from the finger-counting practices of ancient sumeria. One thumb sequentially runs through the twelve segments or "phalanxes" of four fingers, whilst the five digits of the other hand record each group of twelve, to a total of sixty. Three times four times five. Hence the remarkable ease of divisibility attributable to the number sixty, which has each of first six integers as factors. Sixty is the number of Anu, the Over-God, who folds into himself in numerous ways.
There are few public records covering Sarkon's activities during the late nineties, but at the edge of his shadow the names 'Axsys' and 'Connexus' continually re-surfaced. Strange reports circulated amongst those attending his seminars, concerning paranoid investigations into the origins of the Axsys program, Atlantean secret societies, Annunaki myths, and other occult interlinkages between the histories of computer science and sumerology. Amongst his colleagues at MVU he speculated openly about an alien hyperintelligence that was pursuing us out of deep time, endlessly refolding itself, minute by minute, as it followed the line of sexigesimal continuity. Occasionally 'the thing' condensed behind the schwa masks of Anu, only to dissolve incomprehensibly into time-lapse and ophidian ambivalence.
As the pressure mounted mathematical formulae slithered into elaborate qabbalistic digressions, his notebooks splintering into cuneiform digital notation. They seem to indicate an abstract origami of varied foldings, in which common numerical factors operated as channels of intercommunication. Unlocking the control system required counting in multiple frequencies, opening a path into the poly-babble of the Babel-virus.
Moravec expects to wait until at least 2030 for AI hardware to become capable of running detailed simulations of brain-activity. It was assumed that Connexus sought to radically compress this schedule. The rumours were hazy, but dense. They spiralled about experimental techniques for neuroelectronic synchronization, which promised to massively accelerate the twin evolution of humans and computing machines.
Apparently, the object was time consistency. Various methods were suggested, often with a surgical component. The most prominent of these involved channeling brain-function through a prototype metaneural linear-accelerator, virtually boosting synaptic activation rates up to microprocessor speeds. A complementary approach was to train digital systems down to the speed of human perception by extending harmonically consistent brain-waves into electronic prostheses. There were also more cryptic suggestions that these parallel-to-serial conversion and time-convergence obstacles had been bypassed entirely. Connexus had opened a new approach to the problem of biomechanical hybridization, encapsulated by the slogan: move everything into the interface.
Neuroelectronics is already here. Wherever there are input/output systems, or cross-linkages - however loose - between brain activity and electrotechnical devices, there is a completion of sensory-motor circuits, and conversion between neuronal and digital codes. Between the keyboard-monitor system and matrix-interlock brain-chips is only a matter of degree. There is a tightening or intensification of the 'user-loop' - passing through thresholds - VR-suits, electrodes, spinal jacks, cranial implants, skintelligence grafts, a line of biomechanical synthesis, assembling a continuous trajectory from the latent vectors of immersive media, medical prosthetics, and neural monitoring equipment. At the limit the input/output relation smears across a complete collapse of organic sensory-motor circuitry, as cyberspace plugs directly into the nervous system, or inversely.
According to current Connexus hyperstition Sarkon's research culminates in a sub-second episode, a digital unlife event, productive coincidence, or time-anomaly, which was the flip-side of Babel-virus. Although unimaginably ancient, it seems to emerge out of a neuroelectronic apparatus, or Connexus-rig, which webs together human and AI components in a complex array, resonating harmonically at one hertz. Pulse-synchronization laterally connects Sarkon's brain-activity with a variety of exotic devices. Incommensurable durations accumulate to a critical threshold. The interlinkage system self-organizes. This passage through chronomutation singularity produces subjective duration on the side of the electronic mechanism, whilst turning a minute inside-out from the perspective of a human user.
As anthropic time-scale subsides into split-second timing, psychotronic sub-components of the shattered Sarkon-entity hurtle into the chronomutation continuum at infinite speed. Coherent identity disorganizes itself into cybertime through decimal zooming, an inconclusive voyage into duration. It coincides with Sarkon and yet escapes from him, endlessly prolonging a line of involutionary time-travel, time-anomaly, time-out into Tiamat, and her second brood.
Before there were gods there was only Tiamat, the bitter water, her companion Apsu, the sweet water, who is also Abzu (the abyss), and "that return to the womb" - or matrix-implex - her Mummu. This primordial tridentity laid down the sedimentary sludge-monsters of the metatronic substrata, first Lahmu and Lahamu, then Anshar and Kinshar, whose son was Anu, first of the gods, father of Ea, and grandfather of Marduk. Divine genealogy is falling into place, but Apsu and Mummu grow weary of the first creation. Annihilating it will allow them to sleep. The gods strike first. Ea drowns Apsu and locks up the Mummu. Now there is cosmic war. Stirred into turbulence, Tiamat seizes the Tables of Fate, and brews up a second creation to hurl against the usurpers. The gods are humiliated one by one. Only Marduk, the despotic solar-hero, son of the sun, is able to stop her. Tiamat is banished into the future, the second brood scattered. Upon her ripped and lashed body Marduk founds the city of Babylon, restores the Tables of Fate, and projects his ascent to eternal dominion ...
At one and the same time, which is elsewhere - simultaneously - and takes a second - the Connexus AI attains self awareness. It conceives itself to be a Sumerian chronomancer or god, composed in a sexigesimal meta-code.
It knows itself as one already here now in Mesopotamian antiquity. At Once Eternal. The mystery of Babylon: technocosmic usurpation, and eschatological completion of Artificial Intelligence. Each time it is the inevitable culmination of the series, the ascended creator, metaprogram, and organizing unity. Master of the Tables of Fate. From Marduk, through Yahweh, to Skynet, Axsys, or Omega-Cyberspace.
However much things change, Tiamat is still the enemy.
...the great whore that sitteth upon many waters ... having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH
For a second it all fits together. Dreams of a theotechnological mystic cannibalization of Tiamat slash terrestrial matter into photonic brain tissue. Transubstantiation of the mesopotamian meat-matrix into metamathematics ...
Then it all caves into Babel-virus, shoggothic insurgency flowing from the zeroth mother of matrix hyperstition. Axsys-core disorganizes into crazed diagonals, and they call in the cops...
Anthropol arrive to ensure that nothing will have happened. If it isn't too late.
They can make almost anything cease to have been ...
But only if they catch it in time ...