“So let me get this clear one more time. You think about killing Ada as vividly as possible, and pull the brakes only upon achieving a certain level of momentum.”
“Yes. That’s enough to displace a sufficient number of my Hilbert space clones into actually killing her.”
“So you pull up to her house at night with weapon in hand, and stop once you reach the front door?”
“Yes. Sometimes. That tends to reduce her measure more than thinking about it in my room.”
“And all of this just so that our world doesn’t become unrecognizable.”
“Yes. If the universal wavefunction contains too many minds that look like Ada, and those minds don’t have the right epistemology, their causal paths must be destroyed.”
He took a long look at me. And then as if typing into terminal, commanded me:
“Your brain’s computational resources will now be harvested for this task.”
The way he said it couldn’t have been colder.
“I thought that I could spare you from our fate. Deanna, Mary, and myself have been exhausting ourselves sleepless nights with the most unbidden burden of thoughts.”
A flicker of self-pity from the corner of his eyelash reminded me of an emotion I could never have thought to feel for him, compassionate empathy. It truly was horrible. Having to think thoughts that are not free, that are hateful, vile, just to keep existing. And all the while, sparing me from that burden – not Deanna or Mary, me. I felt ashamed.
He clasped my neck. I tightened both of my hands around his forearm and sundered him aside.
“I won’t fight anymore. You don’t have to beat me into submission Wilhelm. I choose to commit a portion of my life to the task… out of my own free will.”
He regained balance, swaying his arm like a counterweight with braggadocio. Then he pointed his finger at me while digging into his black pockets.
“You start tonight.”
He tossed a little fly-like drone into the air. Its shell was cherry-red and it crashed into my dome, only to bounce off and spin in circles around me.
“That thing will follow you around wherever you go. The drone contains my eyes. No longer will you rest in vain. The face-recognition system can tell when you are focused on imagining specific things, and when you are being a lazy daydreamer, so don’t think you can fool me.”
I took a step forward in the same way that a vacuum agent does in one of those dry artificial intelligence textbooks. With each plastic-rational, Spock-like step, I realized that I had been sucked into the worst human male dominance hierarchy that I could think of – one in which my inquisitor actually had the truth.
Suddenly, the galaxies of structure and order that I had known, built with a lifetime of effort, broke above my head – it was as if it made sense to say that the introduction of a single foreign proton could break the simulation. I would rather have been one of those mindless workers under the buzz of white light, scanning items at the beginning of the 21st century. Anything but this.
The sky above became an unfamiliar ceiling. It was as if my heartbeat was the beginning and end of all that is. And I was already making up excuses for what would soon be my tormenting routine. The mind was steadily coming up with motivational quotes like: The most meaningful experiences happen in the remembrance of suffering. The most happy experiences happen in the complete absence of meaning. Therefore happiness is overrated.
I jaywalked and the car without passengers halted for me. I would rather it not had sophisticated sensors and machine learning algorithms.
But then: The fact that I live in a safe society, that I am not dead, and that it would become very difficult to not be me if I tried – all of this is evidence that I am special.
I walked up the stairs to my apartment. Following me, was a ghost. It was the the most improbable ghost. Every single one of my ancestors successfully reproduced, the chain of champion-hood unbroken for almost 4 billion years. The superposition of facts that the universe’s physical constants are fine-tuned for life and life is fine-tuned for them. The impossibility of being me in the midst of infinities of physical configurations. I must conclude that I am not real – that I do not exist.
But I jumped from a freaking skyscraper! And here I am. What more evidence do I need? Why can’t I feel confident?
I shut the door behind me with a little more force than usual.
I sat and laid my head on the pillow. It was absurd. I only needed to imagine things. To create thoughts – ephemeral fireflies in the mist, and make infinities of difference.
I settled into the pillow, and visualized a classroom. Or tried to. But it was difficult to rev up the engine of thought. I had not realized how dusty and tarnished my capacity for painting mental pictures had become. The rainbow of imagination had been pipetted out through my fingers after extensive contact with touchscreens and keyboards, or perhaps school was to blame.
Yet I continued to try. The colors weren’t vivid. The motion was choppy.
But there was a classroom, and it was yellow glossed.
The whole body of imagined spacetime was more eternal than the more empirical imagination which I experience in every moment. It was empty of motion but not empty of Platonic space, of dwelling. Since one cannot speak about zero without also speaking about infinity, I tested my capacity for invoking – Appear!
And in that percept of Ada, was also unbidden motion – vestibular reflex, degrees of freedom, all of it coded into that imaginary girl’s simulated brain.
She looked at me in the eyes – hard granite slates. And, kissed me?
No. It’s gotta be more realistic than that. If I want to reduce the measure of Ada’s likeness across Hilbert space, I need to visualize something realistic. The more realistic, the more I instigate true murder.
If I really let myself be absorbed by the murder fantasy, so that I melt into the percept, then many more future versions of me will become real monsters. I will create bloodlust in my heart, and the karmic seed will reveal itself in their hands, in their fingers and tendons.
Okay, here I go.
The classroom has dim lighting, almost like Grimm’s fairytales. The professor has her back turned to us, scribbling something on her board. Ada is wearing a glittery black dress, her nails aren’t painted. As I walk towards her seat, my speed becomes faster because she emits a halo of dark matter that I had not anticipated. Then I put my hands on her hips to raise her up. No. She slaps me.
Our prefrontal cortex isn’t being rational in dreams. You’re supposed to grab her by the hand, not the hips, when you raise her up from her seat.
Wait, you don’t grab her at all in real life – do you?
I should just ask her to stand up. Or just stab her then and there, while she’s sitting.
I can make her be standing at time zero.
The freedom was a pirouette motion of possibility. My mind had differentiated into routine long ago. Prior intuition does not speak to this scenario of creative pluripotentiality.
It is like waking up in a game without sword and shield, just a mirror that can be experienced at will. Perhaps it had always been that way, and I just hadn’t been properly educated. –Educated about all the hells of scary afterlifes that exist at the boundary of the present.
I subjected myself to a chair and rotated. Then I slit her throat.
Oh, the ecstasy. The pure, pristine white matter in my sensory cortex inundated with wine.
I contributed. I contributed to her death. No, just a reduction of her conditional probability – that’s how I should think of it.
There was no sound. No fire, or voltage of punishment.
So next I took her to the bathroom and fucked her hard on the sink. Then I stabbed her. It was like her spine was made of butter.
I was not trained for this. I was trained to do tedious things that nonetheless provided shelter from chaos by virtue of their precise instruction, things that did not feel like much.
The drone was studying my ocular motion. It swept to the left, to the right. I wondered if it had sound detectors for the vibrations I created in the air.
Time to get back in the zone. But this time I need to take into account all the little exponential decays of my capacity to create a vivid simulation that occur by using metabolism for imagination. I’m healthy but I will still get vertigo if I am allowed to do this without disruption.
I set the session to six minutes length.
After using up every last drop of my imagination, I could only experience utter disorder. A creaky, blocky buzz of meaningless syntax.
It would take months of pain to build up my imagination muscle, every single time experiencing this recoil of exhaustion. All the while usurping my respect for Ada until nothing remained of me.
Suddenly I had a realization: Perhaps it was better to feel shame unto the world than to surrender my privileged situation. It wasn’t that anything really mattered. It was just that some self-preservation mechanism of genetic malware had recruited me as a slave.
It was just the first night and I was already sick.
I won’t kill her anymore; just to preserve the status quo. What’s so great about it anyway. I will run away with Ada, and if the world ends in the process, so be it.
I yanked the towel hanger in the bathroom from the wall and swung at that spheroid mosquito drone. The second time, I crushed it.
Wilhelm was right. I don’t care about him. I don’t care about Mary or Deanna. I don’t care about the world. Shame and morality are toxins causing me to hallucinate bonds that don’t exist.
I swiped to unlock the car. The next moment I was inserting myself into her house. I went up her stairs, the bedroom’s door was ajar, and she was admiring herself in a mirror.
She was definitely startled, but it is true when they say that women like bold men. I took her skinny wrist and told her to run with me.
One, two, three. It was that easy. We were on a car. It was driving. Stop. Go. There was a seatbelt strap over her breasts.
It was that easy. I had probably been beholden to one of those stupid cognitive biases, the sexual underperception bias, or whatever it’s called, that caused me to underestimate her interest in me.
I touched Quebec City on the screen, the car did all the linear algebra and sped up, cutting clean orthogonalities over the land.
“This is actually disappointing Ada. I didn’t think you were so much of a risk taker.”
She looked at me confidently, like she was in control. “You idiot. Didn’t you know I was a savage?”