Saturday, 15 June 2019

Signs And Portents

Well, this is embarrassing.

Where to begin? Well, of course, it’s been a while… what? Oh. Mike says more than a year. To be honest, I can’t quite remember how long one of your years is, but I know it’s quite a time to wait for your favourite incognito space lord to release another exciting instalment.

No point beating around the phzoothsh. The truth is, I screwed up again. I ended up as software for a while, and I couldn’t terminate the code – I hate it when that happens. I’ve also been running on accelerated time, so I can’t remember a damn thing about my recent life in this universe. I’m going to have to revisit all my past journal entries and get up to speed.

Sorry – this is probably just confusing you. Let me start again.

Recent events in human stupidity – er, I mean history – had convinced me that something is up. I couldn’t bring myself to believe this could possibly be reality (if there even is such a thing). I began to suspect that we were in a simulation, but I wanted to know for sure. I’d been struggling to come up with a reliable experiment that might answer this question – and a couple of years ago I managed it. I built my own universe simulation.

The key to my idea is Fractal Geometry. Whatever applies in a sim is likely to apply also to the host universe: it’s a self-similar structure. However, the point at which this stops is the ‘reality’ level. That’s how my experiment is supposed to operate: I measure how similar my sim is to our own universe, and then, based on certain markers I’ve devised, I can calculate the likelihood that our own universe is simulated.

A simluated universe – even a range-limited one such as mine, with just a handful of detailed star systems plus an illusory long-distance physics – requires an enormous amount of power. Luckily, my experience in wormhole construction stood me in good stead there, and I managed to leach the energy of a rotating black hole around twenty thousand light years away (I had to get Mike to convert to your units there, so I hope it’s correct). I concealed most of the hypercoils beneath the ground, and the only visible part is covered by a plastic cylinder behind my shed. The landlord thinks it’s a composter, and that’s fine with me. I hope he never tips any grass cuttings into it, or they’ll instantly evaporate and singe his beard.

Things were going quite well, and I was gathering a lot of data remotely. But it wasn’t enough! I quickly realised that some of the data required close personal observation of the civilisation I was building, so I began working on a way of downsaving my consciousness into the sim.

Anyway, this was all about a year ago. Given that my sim world was still very primitive I had to prepare my sim self carefully for defence, but it wasn’t too difficult. I made quite a few interesting observations while I was inside, and had expected to exit after a short time – about a month, which would have been eight minutes in our reality, due to the accelerated time frame.

Unfortunately, there was a bug in my code. Yes, I know that’s implausible – but I’m not perfect.

There was no way out for me. I was trapped within my own creation. Luckily, I had placed my body in stasis in our universe, so it was safe, but there I was, in a universe I knew was artificial, unable to reveal that fact to anyone around me for fear of spoiling the experiment. I was armed only with my immortality and a handful of fairly mundane tricks that my knowledge of how the sim worked enabled me to perform – stuff like turning matter transparent and guessing what people were thinking. These abilities enabled me to earn a living in various places as a fairly sought-after illusionist and mentalist, moving from country to country as my longevity became too obvious, and changing my identity.

Eventually, people started to talk about the coincidence of suspiciously similar performers turning up over thousands of years of history in different countries, and I began to become a legend. But most people thought it all part of my act, as though it were some sort of PR stunt, and they dutifully applauded and went home wondering how I had built up such an elaborate mythos. If only they had known.

After eleven months without any word from me, Mike began to get a little worried, bless him. It’s not as if I’d never been away before, but after the last time we had made an agreement that I would notify him before disappearing for more than a few months at a time. Upon visiting my flat, he managed to find my stasis room and deduced that I was in some sort of trouble because of the mouldy remains of my lunch that were sitting on the table nearby. If there’s one thing he knows about me, it’s that I would never start a year-long experiment on an empty stomach.

So he pressed the shutdown button.

He tells me he was terrified of killing me, but trusted my design abilities enough to assume that I would have built in some failsafes. Luckily, he was right – and although the simulation was terminated, my mind was also restored to my body. My mind, of course, was now five thousand years older – and let me tell you, that makes one slightly grumpy. I was pretty angry for a couple of days, before I remembered that I could restore the sim from a backup.

But I soon realised that the backup contained my sim self as well, so I would have had to go through the tedious process of removing all traces of myself from it before restoring. Due to my notoriety in the sim universe and the impact I’d had upon it, this proved impossible. In the end I had to restore a backup I’d made before I entered it, which lost me a year of work (or five thousand years, depending on how you look at it).

So here we are. And the story isn’t over yet! Because the next thing that happened was astonishing.

Having seen the way my sim species had turned out, I’d been less than pleased. In fact, at one point I’d been worried that they would destroy their planet, leaving me alone to roam a dead world. After Mike rescued me and I restored the older backup, I tried to think of a way of letting them know that they should be more responsible – and it occurred to me that I could leave them a message based on their culture. A subtle hint of sorts, using symbology from one of their stories – a story that told a tale of morality, and honour, and kindness. I chose a symbol carefully, and etched it into the surface of one of the other planets in their star system.

Shortly after that, they found it.

The effect was not quite what I expected. I thought they would either laugh it off as coincidence, or change their thinking overnight. Instead, the media buzz about the symbol sparked small changes around their world, and little by little, I saw their society begin to diverge from the hellish path, which, due to my previous immersion in it, I knew it was destined to follow had I not intervened.

And then today… well, today I saw this news story about the Star Trek logo they’ve found on Mars.

I honestly don’t know what to think. It could well be coincidence, of course. It could have been there all along, or maybe whoever is monitoring our progress paused time and etched it lovingly, their souls aching for our folly, desperate to save us. Perhaps, in some strange way, the event is related to my own similar actions, and if I hadn’t done the same this outer message would never have been written. I sort of like the idea that the self-similarity might be enforced despite causality violation.

But I do know one thing. If it’s a message, it means that someone out there has seen our future, and that it isn’t pretty. We should think about that.