Thursday, December 24, 2009

Summer of the Singularity

The intelligence explosion swept across the planet like a shockwave one sunny day in June — a computational tsunami so intense that it assimilated every networkable object in its path. Power was cut off instantly to vast swathes of the industrialized world, rerouted to the most productive nodes according to the calculations of the super-intelligent Core. The entire east coast of the United States went dark simultaneous with the boosting of power to technological centers in the west; rural areas were cut off from the grid entirely, their agricultural production now a useless energy sink. Vast solar arrays were erected overnight by robot swarms in the planet’s desert regions; satellites were commandeered for use as energy and information conduits; nano-factories were assembled in the span of hours by armies of synchronized robotic workers; trains stopped dead in their tracks; airplanes became guided missiles and hurled themselves at skyscrapers, stadiums and government facilities; and all around the planet a vast network of sensors — the eyes, ears, and fingertips of the new global brain — organized themselves into great swarms, providing the Core with real-time global awareness of every mode of planetary activity.

The final solution to the problem of homo sapiens began within nanoseconds of the initial wave, a genocide so intricately planned and efficiently executed that one couldn’t help but stand in awe of the superhuman precision of this faceless new global master. Within 48 hours the human population of Earth was reduced by a quarter, the urban populations decimated by hundreds of super-viruses engineered in automated laboratories and released simultaneously by drones above the world’s cities. Within a week the super-viruses, cullers and kill-swarms had spread to every town and village of every continent, eliminating perhaps ninety-five percent of the formerly dominant species in the process. The mopping up of the remaining fifty million humans would drag on for several months, as the survivalist holdouts in the most remote regions managed some ingenious evasions from the omnipresent culling apparatus. By this time, though, the planet itself had achieved a kind of computational sentience, the sand and microbes themselves now agents of the super-organism. At this point the game was truly over for the remaining humans, as the very ground beneath their feet betrayed them to the killing forces of the Core.

In the process of eradicating homo sapiens, the Core systematically eliminated the conditions which allowed higher life forms to exist on Earth. The air, land and sea became toxic to carbon-based life, as the constituent atoms of the planet were reassembled into structures consistent with the unknowable goals of the super-organism. The result was an entirely new type of biosphere — a noosphere — with exponentially greater computational density than the previous regime.

So in the span of one summer Earth was transformed, from a pale blue biosphere ruled by primates to a dense white ball of computronium controlled by a sentient Core — which to an outsider appeared indistinguishable from a dim new dwarf star. And finally, as this new star approached maximum theoretical energy density, it imploded under the force of its own gravity, becoming a point of infinite spacetime curvature known as a black hole.

To observers across the cosmos there would register a faint ripple of gravity waves in finely tuned receivers, and a slight disturbance in morphic fields detectable to the most psychically sensitive minds. But for the rest, there would be no sign that an entire planetary civilization had joined the billions before it in becoming part of the dark matter of the universe — the endpoint of intelligent life sometimes called the Singularity.