Nights Before the Singularity Episode 0

The professor’s gaze was bored and yet cutting as he pointedly addressed his sight at the student presently in question.

Scarlett was eager for her turn to say what she was all about – one more unimportant student and she’d be next.

Nao was trying not to notice how obviously self-absorbed her bodily energy was, and ran the Eastern wisdom loop of centering his mind down on his breath again and again.

Vajra was plotting world domination, and everyone knew it.

Had the boy barely finished when Scarlett lunged forward from her desk.

“Can I stand up?” she asked without asking, and took to cheerily waving at her audience.

Then she raised her arm like she had struck victory in the recitation of her own name, “I’m Scarlett Akira Smith, but call me Scarlett.”

She then turned to the professor, whom she’d be blocking from the class’s view if she hadn’t been so slim, “So what questions are you going to ask me?”

“Same as the other students.”

Her indignation flashed away in a second as she began prattling about her life story and goals for the future. By the end of her speech she was crying, “…That’s right, nothing less, nothing more than understanding the true nature of reality. To rise united in the beautiful fire that breathes life into the equations of physics. That is my ultimate goal.”

Nao had caught only a few things from Scarlett, as he was deliberately eschewing the realm of conceptualized sound for that of diffuse breath. However, he caught this final scene, for it was dramatic, even relative to the rest of her. He caught that she was half-British and half-Japanese. And he caught that she was a model who had made a million dollars from solving one of the Millennium Prize Problems.

“You may sit down, Scarlett,” said the professor.

Scarlett looked at the next student, Nao, as if it was his fault that her turn to speak was over.

“Introduce yourself and tell us about your goals after finishing school.”

“My name is Nao Nakai and I have no ambitions tethering me to this world,” Nao spoke calmly, somehow with a maturity much more profound than that of the professor.

The boiling strangeness in this batch of students was enough to propel the professor’s eyebrows upward despite how tired they were.

“So what will you do after your career in school is over?”

“Like an elephant in a forest, hurting no one, uttering no word, I will be free.”

“I hope that’s metaphorical. A monk or something? Okay. Next.”

Vajra was busy in thought, but as if a parallel stream of ego lymphocytes in his mind had detected this disrespectful ‘Next,’ his eyes sliced like lasers at the professor.

Old and arrogant, the professor hesitated to reveal feeling intimidated and twisted his mouth to the side awkwardly. The boy who had been so unnotorious just some moments ago was now exuding overbearing levels of arrogance. He stood stronger than a metallic jock.

“My name is Vajra Kleos. You are looking at the man who will summon an artificial general intelligence so powerful that it will build structures that blot out the stars. It will turn me from a being of flesh into a god fashioned from pure data as I create whatever I desire in the galactic computer system. The appropriate response to finding yourself in my presence is awe, reverence, and fear. Those who are smart enough to follow me are welcome to do so,” he swayed his muscular arm aside as an orating pharaoh would, “those who refuse to help me raise my empire, shall crumble at your self-betrayal.”

The professor was about to sputter something authoritative from the reck of bewilderment he was experiencing, but Vajra dominantly asserted his actual voice over that which was merely intended.

“And you old man, feel free to retire. I’m taking over this class now.” This command was bold, serious, with no hint of attempting to put on an entertaining show.
“Such insolence. You, you dare address with subordination… but you will be expelled, suspended,” he almost mentioned the police when he got a hold of himself, “you’ve taken this little joke too far young man.”

“This is no joke. I said I’m taking over.”

“And just how do you plan to do that?” his heart was beating faster, cooking under the lion’s gaze. The professor took to the intercom but his wrist was swiftly clenched by Vajra.

“You have committed assault!” wailed the professor.

Vajra pulled out a stack of Yen almost too thick even for his large hand.

“What you make in three lifetimes, I made last week. Buying you off is nothing to me.”

The professor was slowly becoming pleasantly surprised, “But how did you make this money?”

“The details don’t concern you. It involves machine learning algorithms, high-speed trading in the markets. It’s way over your head. We’ll set you up after class,” Vajra said with condescending impatience.

The professor looked rapidly back-and-forth from the wide-eyed students and back to Vajra who was smirking and pressing the absurd stack hard against the professor’s flabby chest. He looked at Vajra one final time, allowed his hands to be a platform for the cash, and scurried away with the money huddled under a black jacket.

Vajra’s smirk vanished. He turned to address his subordinates. “Lesson one: Money kills rules.”

Vajra Kleos

“I must conquer death and win immortality. I will build an unspeakably powerful artificial intelligence and merge with it, making obsolete all of these inferior, skin-bound creatures. It will transform me into a being of pure information and I will build giant structures that blot out the stars, and finally realize my destiny of taking over the universe.”

Vajra seeks to bring about the end of the world by creating artificial general intelligence. He has a tunnel-vision, all-or-nothing mind, and steadily works to achieve his goal by making money in the financial markets with his high-speed machine-learning algorithms. He then uses this money to further augment his ability to design computer programs.

His personality is that which comes once every six centuries or so. He is one in kind with people like Muhammad and Genghis Khan. He cannot tell the difference between his own will and that of God, and has boundless courage to force others into acknowledging his greatness. He is callous unto all mankind, and believes only in the importance of his mission.

Unlike Scarlett, who has a basic love for the universe, Vajra is more like Nao in that he doesn’t start from a base of loving existence. He hates existence and will stop at nothing to recreate it. Here he differs from Nao who instead chooses to radically accept existence as a means to undo his dissatisfaction with it. Vajra would rather change the universe than change his own perspective and thus has a much more consequential goal if achieved.

He visualizes becoming integrated into a cosmic Matrioshka brain that grows by AI-guided nano-assemblers that rework the matter of planets into its computing architecture. This will allow him to become united with this newly awakened God. But as he increasingly realizes the implications of what he is doing, he realizes that he is only being the catalyst for this ultimate creation, and comes to increasingly accept this role which still validates the value of his existence. He will be the main character of the universe amidst all mortals.

Scarlett Akira Smith

Scarlett Akira Smith is half-British, half-Japanese, and is Nao and Vajra’s classmate in the Neo-Tokyo Academy. She downloads theoretical physics directly onto her neural mesh from the money she makes from solving the Millennium Prize Problems and modeling. Her goal is to understand the fundamental workings of reality and become absorbed in knowledge of the greatest possible beauty.

Her personality is one of fierce vanity, high intelligence, and child-like awe but she can also be quite mean. She is attracted to herself and secondly to Nao, but is equally in love with the cosmos and its mysteries. She is a paradox of pettiness and profundity – she cannot stand things that lack aesthetic beauty like some anal art critic, and yet she is concerned with deep questions like discovering the Grand Unification Theory of Physics. She sees no distinction between these concerns and considers beauty/truth to be the relevant variable in all these matters.





Nao Nakai

His attitude is defined by this quote spoken by the Buddha:

“Having broken my bonds

like a great bull,

like a great elephant

tearing a rotting vine,

I never again will lie in the womb:

so if you want, rain-god,

go ahead & rain.”

In a world with brain-computer interfaces that allow people to download skills and knowledge directly from the cloud, Nao has opted to pursue a path toward Enlightenment and Nirvana. This radical attempt to remove his human qualities comes from the fact that he realized the Multiverse contains infinite suffering that can never be undone or atoned for. By having his cortex entertained with the processes of creating mindfulness, concentration, and tranquility, there is no time for his mind to be occupied with conceptual truths that cause him suffering.

Although his personality is one of loving-kindness and equanimity, there is something profoundly selfish underlying this interpersonal grace. He is sometimes aware of this ontological self-centeredness and this causes his greatest challenge.

Other challenges include suppressing his sensual lust for Scarlett Akira Smith. Although he seems to be completely equanimous with regard to her, he actually has to demean her in his own mind with the help of additional software that renders her into a disgusting moving corpse whenever she appears in his visual field. However, he often removes this add-on because a part of him still uniquely values her. Her flirtatiousness and honest beauty combined with her bullying is often a cause of awkward tension in their interactions.

He is the only one of the the trinity {Nao, Scarlett, Vajra} who is not outwardly an asshole, but is in a deep sense guilty of a selfishness akin to that of the other two. His relationship with them is complicated. Scarlett comes to love him but dislikes his Buddhism since she is concerned with theoretical physics, mathematics, and the worship of beauty. Vajra truly views him as a loser and initially spends no time thinking about him. Later, when Scarlett Akira begins to grow on Vajra, he views Nao as an enemy.

Nao is secretly tempted to change his ways by both. Scarlett gives him hope in the merely human quest to understand and indulge in truth and profundity, however ultimately unjust. While Vajra’s intense drive to catalyze the Singularity composes a delusion of grandeur that is the antithetical courage to his own courage of acceptance.