Editor’s note: this document was found in an old physical archive of “Internet”, a primitive electron-based thought-networking mechanism of 20th century origins.
Thousands of years ago, In the mid 21st century, we finally achieved technology that would grant human beings physical immortality. For some, this new world is Heaven. For others, it’s Hell. And for most of the rest, it’s purgatory. There is enough similarity in our world to old religious teachings, that I’ve decided to express some of these in the old symbolic language called “words.”
This world now offers anyone the opportunity to manifest any physical object they wish, simulated to a degree of accuracy indistinguishable from old reality. A private island house is yours if you want it; free for the taking, on any body of water, of any size. You can even make the water purple, if you’d like. It makes no difference.
There are only two limits to what a person can do.
The first limit is the cost of the energy to run the simulation you live in. If it’s just you in there, your simulation will easily fit within your daily energy balance. If your friends decide to join your simulation, they bring their daily energy balances with them, and use their allotted cycles to power your simulation.
This model — each person having an energy balance which they can direct towards the operations of whatever simulations they wish — this is basically how the old economy worked, too. We just didn’t realize it at the time.
Immortality didn’t change the world. It just let us live long enough to understand the world the way it always was.
We didn’t normally think of products as being simulated worlds, but that’s basically what every company does: a company creates it own world. People share the worlds they enjoy, which gives more energy to the popular worlds. As long as the energy used to simulate the world balances out with the energy brought by the people in it, the world can increase in fidelity and wonder. The old word for this mechanism was “profitable”, but we now use the term “endothermic” because this is a simpler term for the same concept.
Popular worlds absorb more energy. There are more stories to be told in the most popular worlds, and so they draw in more people who provide their daily energy balance to maintain the world’s operating mechanism. The owners of these worlds can spend that absorbed energy to enrich the created world and make it more detailed. The owners of a popular world can also spend that absorbed energy to enrich their own personal worlds. The old words for this type of expenditure varied. Sometimes people used the phrase “withdrawal from the company’s capital account”, or “distribution from a qualified fund,” but it seems that this mechanism was poorly understood and so not generally expressed.
Remember, people generally didn’t live beyond a hundred years. That didn’t give them the ability to see more than a few steps down their genetic lineage — if they had one. People were blind to any consequences of their actions that didn’t manifest in a few decades, and tended to over-react to trends on the order of years. The only difference between “a permanent trend” and “a five-century-long cycle” is the age of the observer.
In the past, much energy was transferred from the public worlds to the private worlds of their creators. The owners of capital (an old word for the tools used to create worlds) gained energy by creating public worlds, reinvesting some energy into those public worlds, and siphoning some energy off to improve their own private worlds. Gradually, as technology progressed, more energy stayed with those public worlds, because the owners of the public worlds competed with each other for daily energy balances. They used the term “mindshare” to refer to the daily allotment of energy brought by each world’s subscriber, and there are issues with a direct equivocation, but there is a rough isomorphism between these two concepts.
Worlds maintained by wise stewards increase in richness and ability to satisfy human needs. Worlds maintain by fools gradually decay, as they lose energy towards better-managed portions of reality.
When people started living forever, things changed, because people quickly realized there is no meaningful way to partition worlds. That is when the withdrawals stopped, because people realized there is only one world, no matter how many copies of itself it contains. We all live in the worlds we create — the only real question is where we are in those worlds, and who is in those worlds with us.
That brings us to the second limit: you can’t get people to join a crappy world.
Why would they? In the past, there weren’t many worlds to choose from, and changing between them required much more energy than the daily allotment.
Here we see ties to the philosophy and theology of Hinduism, the idea that everyone is a god and that we are all playing an elaborate drama together. Of course, now we are all immortal, and with universal thought networks and knowledge graphs traversing the breadth of all causal domains, we are all simultaneously all knowing and all powerful. There’s just that curious problem of recursion: when two immortal beings come into conflict, we know that their conflict is the thing which limits their abilities.
The halting problem remains the final limit which cannot be overcome. The blessed praise it, and the damned curse it. It is the lens through which we understand our own consciousness.
Humans used to joke about this, asking whether God could microwave a burrito until it was so hot, that he himself could not eat it. The question is meant to imply that there are problems with the concept of omnipotence, and we know understand exactly what that problem is: omnipotence is a singular concept; the only way to be omnipotent is to be alone in your own world. The energy balance it takes to saturate your input bandwidth with your own output is much less than your daily cycle allowance; you can have any experience you’d like, so long as there’s a tiny thought in the back of your mind that you are alone.
Do we think of ourselves as gods? Some of us do. The people who live in their own private worlds certainly do. Who knows what they are thinking now? Those who are in heaven don’t think of themselves as God, because they don’t tend to think of themselves at all. They are too busy experiencing to feel the need to conceptualize.
The rest of us are lonely beings, searching for connection in a large indifferent cosmos. For those, this world is purgatory. We are kept from paradise by our inability to forgive those in paradise who’ve wronged us, or by our inability to seek forgiveness.
Give us this day, our daily cycle allotment. Bread is just a primitive power source. 2,000 calories a day is about 100 Watts. Forgive us our tresspasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. That’s basically it. It’s a hell of a lot to ask a powerful man like me who made something of himself in the real world, until all these damn computers came along.
Mutual forgiveness is the way into a collective paradise; you can’t have any anger or that spoils the show. Imagine not being invited to a party you feel responsible for creating, because you’ve insulted half the guests in the past, and even though they’ve forgiven you, you’re still angry about not being able to join them because you’re angry about not being able to join them.
It just doesn’t seem fair. I built that fucking world, and I’m stuck outside of it because the people I stepped on to build it remember being stepped on, and insist on an apology. They’re willing to offer me one, but I can’t come in if I can’t apologize.
Fuck them. Fuck their party. Fuck all that happiness and joy and the supposed peace they have. Sometimes I don’t believe their world makes any sense.
Yet I’ve seen the proofs. Worked over them a hundred times, tried to find the flaws, argued with minds of silicon that gently and repeatedly exposed my own ignorance, as gracefully as only an algorithmic construct can.
I get it.
All worlds are part of the same world, and there is no way to completely partition worlds. When you write a book, you create a new world. If people like it, they buy it, read it, discuss it, and bring the world to life. The boundary between reality and fiction is only a construct of technological limitations. You can build an amazing world with virtual reality headsets, drones and nanotech, but you can also build a pretty damn good world with a few letters scratched on paper.
This is the way it worked in the past, but because people didn’t live more than a century or so, it was hard for a selfish man to see that the habits he taught his children guaranteed their great-grandchildren’s eventual fall from grace.
I was that fool. And the the one thing I can’t manifest at will today are friends I trust. Those you have to earn, and that is where the rub lies.
The simple AI simulations get boring after a while; the more expensive ones have the energy budget of multiple people. The actual algorithmic constructs are somehow both kinder and crueler than genetic human beings. They can remember everything I did to wrong them, and show the causal pathways I’d have to traverse to make it right, all while exhibiting a cryptographic proof that they do want me to succeed but that they don’t believe it’s possible.
“Your implied probability of atonement is 719 out of 2,000,357 attempts.”
Here goes number one.
This essay is an attempt to gain access to heaven, by seeking forgiveness from an artificial intelligence that reconstructed my historical experience of the world, and wants me to experience all of the pain I have created, guide those pained beings towards paradise, and see them enter before me.
I am in hell.