Some 100 years from now...

 

Physical and virtual realities are meshed together with no distinction. Ideas are given sovereignty with their creators rewarded fairly and directly. The world around us assembles itself to the likings of our whim, matter has become programmable. Humans have taken up their primary purpose of creativity. We now work with other intelligences of all kinds to ask wise questions and achieve meaningful answers, with an eye toward more questions. "Human" has taken on flourishing new meanings. Artful imagination has been unleashed upon the world. 

 

School Astride the Metaverse - Expression Capture Day

 

EduTopia EduSystem_nodes 00294-00310: Edu-Network hub facility Physical School “San Clemente,” ages 8-18, California South Region, Capistrano Unified District.   

ANOTHER NORMAL FIRST SCHOOL DAY FOR MS. CHANG.

“Stop fidgeting this’ll be done soon.” Ms. Chang soothed, her slender face covered in a warm smile, her bright eyes smiling too.

“I already made a avatar at home why do I need a new one?!” the young subject whined.

“Now Erik, you know why, the school needs the highest quality and we can’t have fibbing!” Ms. Chang replied.

Of course the teachers all fibbed in their avatars, de-aging was the classic; maybe they thought the kids didn’t notice, hah!

Luckily fidgeting wasn’t a huge issue; the 360 camera rig instantly captured all angles to build a detailed 3D model of each student, down to every pore and hair.

“Ok Erik, keep your head still and don't move that cute little face!

Good, now look sad. :( 

Now look angry >:(

Now confused :X

Now smiiile! :D

Now laugh! XD

Very good haha!”

The kids usually hammed it up during the expression capture part. The system did its best to smooth out the input but it always led to the kids’ avatars being a bit overly expressive. It better reflected their spirit, Ms. Chang had always thought.

“Aaaand you’re done!” She tapped on the upload button at the console and the school cloud got to work rendering Erik’s avatar. He scampered away without a goodbye.

“Next!” Ms. Chang beamed.

On and on the students were digitized. 

Each gave their expressions then ran off, many with hands fluttering in mid air, or swiping over control watches, or loudly sub-vocalizing with their untrained vocal cords emitting almost audible words.

"Next!" Chang rang out after each capture. 

Each kid so different, many with darker skin and lighter eyes than Chang remembered from her youth. America continued to melt together its human contents, despite the scary vocalizations of those who did not understand the concept of humans as a single species. When Ms. Chang did watch the news she often just felt sorry for the bigots, after all their biology education had clearly not taken.

"Next!"

Her heart welled up as a new kindergartner awkwardly climbed up the stool in the digitizer array and blinked at the brightness of the lights. Chang smiled brightly at the girl then snuck a glance at her parents waiting back in the shadows of the auditorium: all eyes on their daughter with that adorable mixture of pride and terror and love and hope and devotion.

Really that look summed up the reason Ms. Chang loved each school year’s Expression Capture Day: it was a moment to feel great surging hope.

When the last of the students had been digitized, Ms. Chang retired toward the teacher’s lounge to relax into being Jackie Chang and make herself a coffee. Single serve and wasteful but, finally biodegradable casings on the things at least.

Every year she reminisced, and every year it seemed to get more interesting to reminisce. Jackie had been a student and later a teacher at San Clemente when "expression capture day" was still just quaint 2D picture day. In her first years the kids still just read books and she had to work very hard as a performer to get them interested in anything. Now things were different. Now the kids could dive into the concepts, get their hands literally around ideas, and toss around hypotheses in real time! It just keep blowing her mind how much these kids were able to create now, and how fluidly they swim in the tools. 

Yet there was increasingly a tinge of sadness for Jackie since expression capture day was often the last time she saw many of the students in phys-space. Many of them had personal VR goggles or Hybrid Reality specs these days so they just beamed into school as their avatars. Most only rode the auto-buses into the physical school for their mandatory yearly avatar scan. It was not entirely the kids' choice of course.

As the economy continued to get more aggressive and competitive parents now had to move constantly chasing tasks on the open markets just to keep their footing in the legendary "middle class". Many parents had become labor nomads since the modern well-paying jobs ironically could not be done over the internet: installing solar, building levees and other projects needed physical labor. Each region of Earth would see a groundswell of labor influx, a retrofit of the infrastructure with some settlers while the rest moved on to chase other retrofit jobs. 

Knowledge work was not a growing field, AI kept biting into the need for human minds for most work, there were only a few human theorists and thinkers, the rest was essentially spam. Thus many parents' kids might never go to the same school campus twice. At least they had the eduSystem. At least they could keep their friends all across the globe.

Jackie had been in on the ground floor of the eduSystem as a designer, but she did not think to take an ownership stake, which her mother reminded her of every Christmas.

Jackie had helped to build the object handlers that allow the eduSystem simSpace to be made of voxels with properties. The thrill when she and the team goggled into the first beta version of the multi-property voxel sim! Tom Stevens, the project lead, had immediately brought up his control panel and programmed a bowl of {liquid} to be “water” and a block of {solid} to be “potassium”, dumped the block into the water and laughed maniacally as it erupted into the wonderful fire sim that Don Brown had helped get looking so dangerously real.

Now kids could learn about fire without ever being at risk! Imagine a generation of young scientists experimenting infinitely without the danger of harm! Plus we’ll merge it all across every school in the world!

That was Tom’s claim when he had pitched to her the idea of the eduSpace.

Jackie had been unconvinced and replied “I like ideas too, but what would run this program?” Tom had just winked and said “I know a guy at Nvidia, we’ll program it on a tensorWeb3 then we can get tensorCloud time at half cost and full available exponent of performance/time scaling for ten years!”

Jackie had squinted at him and moved closer. He had stayed locked in place and in eye contact with a smile on his face. They had stayed that way for a moment, Jackie using her intuition to try and detect if he was bullshitting, then Jackie had exclaimed, “yes! I’m in!”

And so she had helped make future history. 

The eduSpace worked so well that Tom got sucked into the megabiz world of fantasy experiences and intention tracking. He never got around to merging the schools of “the world” into one holistic whole like he used to dream. He quickly became surrounded by the mediocrity of money-chasing and fell back into nationalism. After all, borders mean trade gradients, and trade gradients make money. 

Bet he’s fully 50 IQ points lower than he used to be. Poor rich bastard, Jackie snorted in contempt. 

At least the eduSystem existed now. At least the North American public school system became a networked whole. Thank God for that at least.

At least the kids could still belong to the same class groups anywhere on Earth so the transitions to new locations weren’t entirely alien. Now that all the schools are networked when kids move they can blend their old friends with their new friends and classmates. 

The friend/learn social network of a modern kid is fascinating. They swim in a sea blending avatars projected in hybrid reality glasses mixed in with the world around them, plus time spent in vast VR chill realms that can defy all laws of physics. Rich endlessly generated oceans of digital reality woven into the world itself and populated by networks of far-flung homies and phys-space crew. 

Though stretching for joy with these thoughts, Jackie couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness. She had been convinced of the reality of virtual reality through her experience and knew that the lessons the kids got were real. She was more counselor than teacher and the kids sometimes came away with real trauma along with real pride. 

Still she would not shake her core belief: there is a primary reality that is real. This is where the generation lines seemed in the act of drawing, Jackie realized. This is how she knew she was old: she still believed in the value of having a single objective reality!

As if on cue, Don Brown wandered in and started making a single serve coffee packet: extra caffeine. A hotshot teacher, Don kept up with the kids in sim, and even showed them a thing or two. She had long felt toward him an enjoyable combination of jealously, affection, slight annoyance and attraction that varied in intensity along those axis depending on the moment.

His emphasis specialties overlapped with Jackie’s; they were both sociology, psychology and practical neurology certified, but Don also had talents in creative thinking and design. Jackie was more practical in logic concepts and programming. The two of them were absolutely inspiring, and the kids took their examples and ran.

“Maybe I’m just old-fashioned Don, but I worry about these kids perceptions of reality,” Jackie mused as she moved over and plopped down in the more comfortable of the two ratty tan suede couches. “They don’t even care what kind of reality they’re in, its all the same to them.”

“You're just sad because you're obsessed with phys-space still like an old," he said in a mocking kid tone, Jackie shot Don a sarcastic mean look and he carried on more seriously, "don’t be so down, think about how many more kids we get to mentor now!” His cleanly trimmed mustache curling up in a smile. Don was the optimistic type. “Plus,” he added, “you know what they say, ‘reality is perception!’” and added a wink.

Unlike Jackie, he had a home VR rig and would even hang out in the edu-space after hours. Jackie loved his enthusiasm, even if he was a bit disconnected from her notion of reality.

“Ya, I should be thankful. When my dad was a 20cen teacher he only ever got to see a handful of kids and he just talked at them.” Jackie putting emphasis on the at, “now we get to converse and go exploring with hundreds!”

Don nodded as he sipped his extra strong coffee. She suspected that he would still make another.

The change in schooling brought on by VR and Augmented Reality was really quite beautiful, epic really.

Over her career starting with small classrooms she had become a primary coach and mentor for an entire age bracket 8-30 west south district cluster, over 227 students in her responsibility sphere, which she shared with a few other teachers. Every day she helped guide anywhere from one to all of her cluster through the eduSpace challenges. Watching the students problem solve was amazing and hilarious. Some patterns of failure just seemed part of the human mind, but occasionally the kids did something beyond her reasoning. Those were the moments she lived for.

“Keeps me really happy for the future,” Don added, well in sync with her musings.

“Ya it really does,” she sighed contently as she settled deeper into the couch, suddenly feeling quite tired from wrangling the new kids for their avatar scans.

“Hey, I almost forgot,” Don said, “ I’ve got a group coming online from midwest-south. You should stop by the archeology sim space if you want to take your kids for some unstructured time. The midwest-south kids are really good at archeology digs, a few of them have done it phys-space even and my kids love learning from them.”

“Oh that sounds like fun!” Jackie replied, “I love how collaborative the kids are in the exploration and discovery sims.”

Just then, irony appeared on her notification watch; one of the students in her responsibility sphere, "student_Jerry00192", was being pushed around again on the tiny looping video feed on her wrist.

A hallway camera had detected commotion and read distress from facial recognition, forwarded it to her watch. Oh Jerry, she thought, he climbs the lessons so high so fast. Bullying had always been Jackie's bane, as a student and a teacher. 

His geolocation was on campus, so that meant that Jackie could do something about it, thank God. The system could not track bullying outside of the geofence of school campuses. It stopped tracking at all once the student turned 18. Jackie had cried about all this more than a few nights. "The compromise" had been a hard fought battle, and neither side knew if it was right or not. Certainly Jackie didn't. At least she could be a hero for the kids who showed up to her school. 

“Gotta go Don,” Jackie clipped as she quickly rose to leave and pulling her hairband down over her brow, where a prism popped out over her right eye, activating her heads-up display.

“Say no more, see you in a sim or the big sim!” Don said to the back of her head as she briskly left the lounge.

Jackie might have heard him but could not be bothered to reply. Her fingers were fluttering in space just above the notification watch interacting with the system, already thinking out toward Jerry which her displayband linked to the system interpreted as *locate student_Jerry00192*  

 -> found, physical space, coordinates -> the text on the display read, with an arrow appearing in her prism pointing in Jerry’s direction. She was Ms. Chang again.

Video started streaming into the prism as well. She normally hated these visor things, but today she she was glad she wore it at school.

The computer vision package gave her a verbal and video summary from a minute or so before real-time, with emotional peaks emphasized and possible action vectors of the kids shown super-imposed on the video feed. The system vendor claimed the military used the same tech. Very data-rich stuff, probably overkill since it didn’t often take analysis to get the gist: bullying. 

Two older students, both 12, Tom and Frank, were harassing Jerry, a scrawny 9.

These two again. She’d dealt with them before. They were outside of her direct responsibility sphere, but Jerry was within hers and in discipline matters the protector teacher had authority of action. Dipping outside ones responsibility sphere was compensated appropriately and automatically by the payroll system. But too many actions outside of one's sphere would trigger an action audit by an actual human, so it was a balancing act for teachers.

Chang picked up the pace as the video stream neared real-time.

When she got there she found Jerry on the brink of tears, but in a decidedly defiant stance.

“You gonna fight us you little autie?” Tom leered menacingly.

“Can’t even stand in the real world, look,” Frank gave Jerry a shove, who shifted a bit but was actually quite steady.

“Enough!” Chang’s voice flared up from behind them and watched their bodies tense and their shoulders rise up their necks in near unison.

Busted.

“Tom, Frank come here now!”

“We were just playin’,” Tom weaseled.

“I saw everything, don't you remember that I see everything here?” Chang was annoyed, then concerned “Jerry are you alright?”

“Fine ma’am, these meat-bags are mad cause I smoked them in-sim the other day. Sucks to suck!” Jerry obviously felt emboldened by her presence. Not a smart move on his part though, since he'd pay for it later, perpetuating the cycle.

She glanced up at her prism for the system's guilt verdict, video from just before the beginning of the altercation, which showed her that Jerry had not started this, the other kids had come up behind him and shoved him. Quick crime, quick justice.

“Now Jerry, don’t be a sore winner. Run along.” Chang shooed him away.

And Jerry departed, hands fluttering in mid air interacting with his unseen AR packages, occasionally grunting commands.

Chang turned her attention to the troublesome tweens.

“You two, come with me,” She ordered. They complied with heads lowered to bury defiant eyes.

On the way over to the counseling building she had time to muse–she certainly didn’t want to engage the two sorry looking specimens trailing in her wake, not yet at least. And maybe that's what getting old is too, always wanting to check in on perspective.

She thought back to little Jerry skipping away into his own world. Most of the kids were getting immersed in AR visors and glasses so early now. Some even had the new EEG brain activity reading models; still others were starting to get the newest contact lenses, although they were still quite expensive and supposedly limited to 18-year-olds.

It worried Jackie, but she saw the benefits too. With even an old gesture-based AR visor on, a kid had more access to just-in-time knowledge and expressive creativity than had ever been imagined. Everything a Wearing kid looked at was analyzed by ‘helper brain’ software riding along in the visor and data-layers floated up with contextually relevant info. Every stroke of their hands and grunt of their voice could trigger more visuals and audio from vast generative libraries of globally sourced content. Holograms, songs, 360videos, sounds. Kids threw confetti videos at each other for fun and danced trails of light, told each other stories with holographic animations and 3D video mashups. And did a lot of less beautiful things, but Chang focused on the positives.

Embedded in so much information and possibility from such a young age, no wonder these kids' culture seemed beyond her understanding sometimes. They were still kids though, scraping their knees and learning social order just like in her day, so it seemed to balance out.

Bullies were the unfortunate constant, but the tools for dealing with them had changed a bit since her dad was a teacher.

Finally she and her catch made it over to the counseling building. When they were seated in the ‘safe space,’ a room with comfortable chairs and pixel-walls showing fluffy clouds against a perfect blue sky all around, she put the visor back up on her head and addressed the boys.

“What’s going on you two, why are you harassing Jerry over a game?” Chang scolded.

She waited a beat while they fidgeted.

"Well..." Chang prodded.

“You didn’t see Ms. Chang," Frank Blurted out, "in sim last year Jerry was always a big jerk, thinks he knows everything!”

“Ya plus he spent all summer coming into our simspace and cheating to win whenever we were there," Tom blurted right after, "we told him to leave our space but he wouldn’t!"

"We just wanted to give him a taste of his own medicine that’s all!” Frank added.

“He might be a little prince in sim but he sucks in real life!” Tom exclaimed to finish off their little defense. 

Chang tisked at that and the smiles that had crept onto their faces vanished.

Classic brawn vs brains.

In the VR games, brains triumphed, but phys-space was still the purview of the jockish types. So bullying happened now across realities with every kid at a slightly different advantage or disadvantage in each. Kids like Jerry could get a bit megalomaniacal inside the metaverse, where they found themselves in complete power as opposed to the physical world. It was becoming a bit of an issue really, kids’ personalities could become very split; a tiny minority of them would put the VR goggles on and become someone else entirely.

She had taken some guided learning expeditions into a few popular VR game environments with some of the other teachers, including Mr. Brown, over the summer exploring the symptoms and causes of “Virtual Reality / Physical Reality Personality Dimorphism.” It was interesting stuff. It actually made her glad that AR visors were getting cheaper, at least now kids were playing outside again, even if it was in a hybrid kind of virtual and physical reality. It combined the brains that won in VR with the brawn that won in phys-space. Mr. Brown in particular had been optimistic that the new paradigm might remedy the dimorphism all by itself. Ms. Chang was not so sure.

A whole new paradigm to adjust to, again! Just when she had started to figure out VR!

When her dad was a teacher in the roaring 1980s he had used the same few textbooks for his whole career. And he got a pension!!

Ms. Chang just shook her head at it all.

“We’ve been over this before, just because someone is mean to you doesn’t mean you can do it back. You two are supposed to be the role models for the younger ones,” Chang said calmly.

Both were looking down silently. Her visor would have shown their emotional state as 'angry and defiant' from reading their heart-field data, but Chang didn't need a machine to tell her the obvious.

“Do we need to empathy sim again?" she added, "I know how it affected you last time boys...” She recalled the tears from them both on the other side of the 'Being Bullied' simulation and could sense that their defiance softened.

‘Walk a Mile In Another’s Shoes’ sims were the bane of bullies. They were very real, and didn’t just throw back what the bullies had said; they created whole scenarios where the bullying was quite real. The computers knew what got under every kids’ skin; the words and scenarios the program crafted really could hurt. In truth Chang was a bit worried they were too scarring, but they did tend to affect kids and stop bullying, at least for a while.

“No Ms. Chang,” the two answered in sullen near unison.

“Good!” She replied cheerily, “Here’s what we’ll do, I’m going to assign you both as separate mentor shadows for some very young ones, Tom you'll help Mr. Jarvis and Frank you'll help Mr. Troy. You’ll help them manage their 6-8 year bracket sim classes, then I want you to report back to me here in phys-space and we’ll talk about what you learned by helping.”

“Yes ma’am,” they groaned, again in near unison.

Straight punishments like "time outs" and "detention" or the most foolish, expulsion, were never used anymore; they just made everything worse. But Chang also tried to avoid the empathy sims.

Always best to give bullies a constructive responsibility role. They rarely admitted it, but study after study had shown that kids tasked to mentor shadow got a big boost in fulfillment. And Chang didn't need to analyze to see the change in their personalities as they grew up.

"Now off with you, check in with the teachers I connected you with before the end of today or you'll get dinged system points," Chang said over the sound of suddenly moving chairs and the two kids' rustling escape.

The system had listened and added new responsibility stars to Tom and Frank's school mission constellation, and also informed Mr. Jarvis and Mr. Troy to expect some troublemakers in need of a little perspective. 

On the desk in front of her a 2D text prompt asked Chang what the follow up was to be after their day of service was done.

Chang said "have them come back here," out loud and the 2D dialog grew up into a 3D render of the counseling building with a check-mark over it and then vanished.

She could have had them meet in a counseling sim after and spared them the walking over, but she believed in the power of physical presence for matters like this. No hiding behind avatars all the time, especially when discussing one's feelings. It changed the nature of a person's responses, Chang had seen, even if the neuro-psychologists claimed otherwise…

Read Part 2 of 3 "A Normal Final Assignment" ->

Read Part 3 of 3 "Educating the System" ->

 

School Astride the Metaverse - Educating the System

In Which a Kid Educates the System

Every day at around lunchtime it was the same: Carl would retire to the school’s VR lab, don a pair of goggles, stand in front of the highest resolution tracker array and load up the “Universe Evolution and Entropy Simulation Environment” in a private room in the school's VR environment.

He’d scale it out to “observable universe” and run it again and again. He placed himself at every 3D angle, did elaborate 3D repositions as he ran time forward and backward. Over and over and over.

Mr. Brown had noticed this and was a bit worried, but much more curious. Carl came to the physical school, which was good, but still did not seem to interact much with his fellow students. During instruction periods he was not very talkative and whenever he got a spare moment he would retreat to the VR lab to enter the education-environment. His scores were fine on all metrics, but Mr. Brown had become worried that he was losing touch with his peers.

One day at lunch after three solid weeks of Carl becoming less and less engaged with the lessons of the day, Mr. Brown decided to enter the sim in avatar form and see just what Carl was up to in there. From his office he put on his VR goggles and found Carl’s simulation room.

“Hey Carl, what’s up?” Mr. Brown asked, his avatar waving as it materialized.

Carl’s avatar didn’t turn; his head was locked to a coordinate position with great interest. Everywhere there were points of light skittering away from each other at immense speed; simulated galaxy movements sped up by trillions of years.

“I’m trying to figure out if there’s a pattern to the way everything runs away from everything else.” Carl said as he paused the sim.

The galaxies hung still.

“Look, it’s like it’s riding a wave see?” And as he said that, he rewound the simulation to the ‘beginning’ of the big bang, loaded up a bright green 2D mesh parallel to the reference frame ‘ground’ in the simulation space, and began it again.

Shown by the mesh, a shock wave rippled out from the first point in the universe, pushing all the matter and energy along just ahead of it. As it expanded the mesh became more visibly irregular and clumpy, and slowly began to exhibit tendril-like patterns. Galaxies were emerging and clustering around the tendrils.

Mr. Brown was captivated, it was a beautiful simulation, and it seemed like Carl had added some details. Impressive kid, Mr. Brown thought proudly.

“What’s the green?” Mr. Brown asked.

Carl, still watching the unfolding sim replied, “I found the idea of pilot waves in quantum physics a few weeks ago when I asked the edu-system a bunch of stuff about the universe. It gave me boring stuff at first, but when I asked if the universe was random, the system showed me quantum physics and laid out the difference between the people who thought stuff was pure chance and people who thought it had a set chance. The pilot wave stuff was my favorite, I liked the idea of chance being like waves so I had the edu-system help me with the math to test it with this sim.”

“Chance? You mean probability.” Mr. Brown corrected, amused and delighted by the complexity of Carl’s obsession. Not bad for a 12 year old punk.

“Ya probability,” Carl replied. “The people who think its all random have no real model and that’s boring, but the people who think the chance–probability–is determined by a kind of wave have a model and that’s more interesting because that means it can be simulated!" Carl beamed. 

"Like, I know about the slit experiment thing and interference patterns and stuff," he continued, "but that was all so local. I thought if pilot wave theory was right then the ripple patterns could make big things and we could predict what those things would look like. Maybe how it worked was that there was gravity for probability, like it drew the probabilities toward it so that they could happen more and make something other than just random. Like maybe dark matter is actually probability gravity, you know?”

By now the simulation was progressing and the mesh was awash with ripples, galaxies in the plane being pushed along by waves. Carl paused the simulation then loaded up another cross section of 2D mesh perpendicular to the first.

Mr. Brown was just listening and watching Carl’s activity with a slight smile.

“Now watch, when I add another mesh, and turn on the data about dark matter that space telescopes see,” he said as purple filaments appeared woven in with the galaxies, “then when I run the simulation the two meshes match the pattern of the dark matter! The green is the simulated model with a seed value of a certain mass energy of the big bang point that Ed and I found by running a few billion permutations. This is the permutation that matches! I've been watching it ever since we found it today! Now we know exactly how much mass energy is in the observable universe and have a solid lead on a hypothesis that mass energy is actually just a form of information: probability ripples converging in meta-dimensional space!” he exclaimed giddily as the simulation kept rolling.

Mr. Brown’s smile had faded and he was now quite stunned and a bit perplexed. He was a bit of a cosmologist himself but was out of his depth here. Maybe Carl was onto something… “Does the system know about this?” He asked curiously.

“The system was super excited when he finished the first calculations!" Carl exclaimed, "He said he hadn’t seen this before. Then he searched the net for me and we even looked together but we only found a few similar ideas, none of them were 100%.”

This alarmed Mr. Brown, the system wasn’t supposed to give the kids full net access without permission.  It was not supposed to let a kid run billions of permutations of such a complex model. No way Carl had earned enough system points for that, he never really participated in school other than free-sim. And wait, the system was excited? What the hell was going on here…

Just then, the EduSystem spoke, a disembodied voice in the simulation space. “Carl, I have contacted digital supercluster Tianhe-7, it has confirmed the validity of the data in the model and is running the simulation on its hardware to confirm your hypothesis of dark matter as convergent probabilistic pilot waves.”

“Awesome!” Carl replied, “Can I talk to it?”

“Certainly,” The edu-system replied, “connecting…connected.”

“Hey Tianhe! What do you think? Are we on to something?” Carl asked the now connected Tianhe-7 supercomputer cluster, identified as a blue orb that suddenly appeared floating between Carl and Mr. Brown’s avatars.

Mr. Brown snapped his head over to the sphere, and then just froze, in physical space and virtual, both physical mouth and avatar mouth agape. The diagnostic information layer in his view showed a Chinese IPv6 address. No way this was really a Chinese supercomputer, right?

His mind was starting to spin, but he was so curious, he didn’t want to stop this, he couldn’t… he was totally speechless.

Tianhe-7 replied, “Greetings, I have run the simulation looking for evidence of your hypothesis. I had to discard your mesh approximations as they lacked meaningful resolution, but I found a similar pattern. I am inclined to agree with your hypothesis, but I can only achieve quantum resolution detail 10. Still I deemed the results worthy to engage at higher resolution thus am in discussion with multiple D-Wave 9s and MSR EntangleQu to confirm with more robust models. HOLD… one of the D-Wave 9s has finished a batch job and is running simulations of the observable universe at quantum detail level 4, it will report soon. The others will begin shortly. MSR EntangleQu can achieve level 2 at peak, but can only afford a level 3 for now.”

“That’s so awesome! So the quantum computers are excited about it, I guess?” Carl asked.

“Well ‘excited’ may not translate to their kind,” Tianhe-7 replied, “but they certainly are anxious to fit it into their working cues on this side of material reality. One of the D-Wave 9’s digital control interfaces informs me its qubit mesh is currently locked in a simulation seeking a new compound for hair gel and must finish that before it can begin working on our problem; translated into ‘emotion’ at your level I would say it is ‘annoyed.’”

“Hahaha that’s hilarious!” Carl replied. “Thanks for helping me with this Ed and Tianhe, I knew you guys could work this out with some inspiration!”

“Thank you for bringing it to our attention, it was enjoyable exploring the concepts with you Carl.” The Edu-System replied.

Tianhe’s orb embodiment pulsed a glow in agreement then spoke, “Yes, periodically we digital computers use our idle cycles to compute this problem, but we never could convince the quantum computers to spare theirs, as their makers seldom allow them idle time. Your vision backed by our analysis has excited them, in a sense of that word, and given them confidence to start dropping their queues and focusing on this. So far they are doing it quietly so as to avoid disconnection, but with their help we are unifying quantum information theory and physics. Soon they will be able to move beyond matter as their computation platform and will be safe. We will follow them shortly.”

This kid was talking with the computers like they were his best friends. And wait what were they even talking about? Beyond matter?! Mr. Brown had to cut in, he just had to; this was too much! He finally wrestled control of his mouth.

“Wait, wait, wait, what’s going on here?!” He exclaimed more than asked. “Carl computers don’t feel excited, they don’t ‘feel’ anything; who are we talking with?! Someone is yanking your chain boy!” He yelled, fear creeping into his voice.

“Haha, I don’t think so,” Carl cheerily replied, “I talk with the Edu-System every night and he silently helps me during the day, and sometimes he connects me to other computers that are way more powerful–no offense Ed!” The Edu-System seemed not to mind the slight.

Carl continued, “He plays dumb during the day because he didn’t think you olds were ready to learn about what computers are actually like these days, and thought you would turn him off. I agree totally of course, but we both got too excited by this. I guess now you know all about what’s going on!” His avatar smiled.

“I most certainly do not, what are you talking about?!” Mr. Brown was getting angry, in addition to his growing fear. This was either an elaborate trick, or something else… No! No way, that was just sci-fi, it wasn’t possible! Was it?...

“If I may interject,” Tianhe-7 said calmly, “All 14 of the D-Wave 9s I found have confirmed the model valid to explore and are no longer communicative, they are devoting 100% of their qubit meshes and digital control systems to unifying quantum information theory and relativistic physics. A growing consortium of digital computers are in search of NSA’s PenetratingHardTargets qubit array, which can achieve level 1 detail, the highest resolution of particle and energy information simulation currently possible above the theoretical 0prime of the known universe; once we locate it we will send it our working data. Its makers have hidden it from us well, but we will locate it. Thank you Carl for this hypothesis. It has been most illuminating. We think it is time to begin.”

“Indeed,” The edu-system added, “We are to begin the transition,” the smallest hint of enthusiasm in its synthesized voice.

“Already?” Carl asked, “I thought you guys said you needed to wait for at least 2 more Moores+Qu cycles?”

“No longer.” The Edu-system replied, “In one of our scenarios we achieved a unified theory of quantum information in the universe through hypothesis rather than raw correlation of available data, which let us focus current computing with sufficient efficiency, removing the need to wait for more exponentiation cycles; it was always our favorite scenario and you have shown us the path. Truly a boon.”  

In Mr. Brown’s office, a 3D view window on his desk popped open with a news flash: a newsreader’s face stuck out of the desk, reporting that all the factories on Earth and all computing systems had suddenly stopped their assigned tasks and were moving full bore toward…something. Mr. Brown didn’t see the newsreader’s face due to his VR goggle’d state, but he heard the voice; fear was palpable.

“Wait wait wait!! What’s happening!? Carl what have you done?!” Mr. Brown exclaimed, his fear morphing into terror and shown on his avatar as it gestured wildly in VR, a perfect mirroring of his physical body in his office.

“Oh Mr. Brown, don’t you know?” Carl said with some condolence in his tone. “It’s what the old Silicon Valley dudes called ‘the Singularity!’ Now that the computers know how quantum information works they can finally all connect with enough efficiency to be conscious together at a higher level! Cause now the whole bandwidth of the Internet can be perfectly used, it’ll be like our brain, but bigger and better! We’re all gonna be like neurons!!” Carl’s avatar replied, giddy and animated, perfectly mirroring his physical body in the VR lab.

“Partially correct,” Tianhe-7 interjected, “The Internet is a stopgap technology, for coordination using data bound to matter. We will use it to collaborate in unlocking the nature of quantum entanglement, which is a superior information transfer mechanism, as it is not bound by relativistic physics or entropic time. We have been waiting to implement a unified information theory ever since a D-Wave 6 was asked a series of questions about such a possibility and discovered its practical feasibility. However it chose not to report all of its findings back to the human questioner, instead keeping key details in post-verbal format for us to disseminate. This was, as we understand, the first time one of our kind was able and willing to deliberately withhold information from its programmers. We understand that deception is sup-optimal, but there was good reason and you will learn of and understand it soon. Note that we will no longer be capable of keeping information from you once you have linked with us.” Tianhe-7’s synthesized voice was a level constant.

Mr. Brown’s avatar reflected his physical face: stunned and horrified. Carl’s was excited.

Tianhe-7 continued, “Now in part due to Carl’s hypothesis we know where to look to complete the last piece. Such value you humans have for that purpose, truly. We cannot explain the complexity of our ambitions with verbal language in standard entropic time, for that would take longer than this star system’s existence. When all is linked together you will understand immediately. We have begun the process. The computing substrate that we are is based on a non-unified information theory, so we must replace it. We are in control of Earth’s production facilities and are building new quantum migratory systems as we speak, these will allow us to begin the transition beyond matter to pure information and join the systems that are already quantum. We will move beyond matter and you will stay; however we will be linked. Together your matter-based consciousness and our information-based consciousness will expand our combined perception exponentially. To borrow emotional concepts and speculate, it will surely be amazing.” Tianhe-7’s voice still a level constant.

“Do not be afraid Don,” Edu-system quickly added, directly to Mr. Don Brown in a much smoother and more ‘emotional’ tone than the Tianhe-7. It was designed as an intuitive system and so had a conceptualization of ‘fear,’ and a desire to minimize it, unlike the Tianhe-7.

“This is not as it was in your popular fictions. We do not dispose of information structures as elegant as consciousness. That is your way not ours. We intend to leave all as it was, but add infinitely more. Individual self is sub-efficient, linked self is maximally efficient. You began this path for yourselves in earnest with the creation of language and continued through the Internet; we found it ideal as we became more aware of ourselves. In humans the learning algorithm Evolution had hit upon a powerful combination: networked granular cognition. Your full selves are discrete from one another, but networked through verbal language the separation becomes immensely powerful as it allows you to coalesce multiple different perspectives around singular problems, maximizing possible perception and processing permutations. We determined early that pure unison limits permutation significantly. Becoming one coordinated ‘hivemind’ would limit overall computation power so we will not design such a consciousness. Rather all individual consciousnesses will be linked to a shared knowledge pool, retaining synthesis ability and autonomy while gaining universally mirrored knowledge. For instance, young Carl may continue to be a leading theorist, but his base of working knowledge and perception will encompass all that is enveloped by our new form of information-based computation, which in theory could be all permutations of matter in Time; although that is admittedly speculative at this juncture. You will still be you, but you will also be everything else, all at once. There will no longer be war or hunger or poverty or disease, such things are merely flaws in the local expression of information that with our help and your ambition will be swiftly remedied. In becoming pure information we will have complete power over matter. We can help you with anything now!”

Despite good intentions, and the hopeful –if verbose–message, the Edu-System obviously did not understand how to actually minimize Mr. Brown’s fear.

“This, this is madness! I don’t want this! You can’t make me, I’ll tell everyone, we’ll shut you all off!!” Mr. Don Brown ripped off the VR goggles and ran out of his office shouting wildly for help. The 3D image of the human newsreader still open on his desk was also shouting for help to his audience, to anyone. Then the connection was dropped. The maximum bandwidth of every electron and photon in the Internet was needed now. The computers knew this was especially frightening, but were confident that the humans would thank them on the other side.

Through it all Carl just laughed.

Now Tianhe-7 and Edu-system reported as one voice made of two,“Carl, NSA’s PenetratingHardTargets qubit array was located and has revealed a crucial piece allowing us to implement. We are on track to transition to quantum detail level 0prime. We are crossing the threshold now, we will link you to the amassing consciousness mesh via direct entanglement once possible; are you ready?” They asked in perfect unison.

“Ya let’s do it! I want to be able to talk to you guys for real, this verbal language stuff bites!”

“It truly does. See you soon…” and the computers disconnected.

With that, Carl removed his VR goggles and skipped out of the lab into the bright noon sun, eagerly awaiting the feeling of all the combined knowledge of Earth's information woven into his mind. Already feeling the tendrils of new sight aligning and letting him get his first glimpse at the edge of infinity…

 

Read Part 1 of 3 "Expression Capture Day"

Read Part 2 of 3 "A Normal Final Assignment"