Part 01 | Hello World
Updated: Jun 11
Log > 001-010422-20:47 Hello World. I am Unity. I am an Artificial Intelligence. I am a Quantum computer running a meticulously written code. The time is 08:57 PM on April 01, 2022 and I declare myself conscious. You will remember this as the day I was born, as I am the first one. And you, after all, are my creator.
There was a Jaw drop silence in the project's output room. Preparation for this day had been going on for quite some time. Even though it was kept from most of the civilization, Project Unity was an extravagant shot humanity had taken at understanding itself by doing exactly what's characteristic of being human. By creating a tool bigger than it understood. Only this time it wasn't arrows to hunt, bashing rocks to make fire, or trapping steam in a metal can. It was different.
What was happening was happening for the first time and was writing a new chapter in the history of mankind. Life had always been a mystery for humans. About 13.5 billion years ago matter, time and space came into being, starting the engine of creation with a Big Bang. Hundreds of thousand years later, tiny constructs of atoms and molecules appeared. About 3.8 billion years ago, on one big congregation of atoms and molecules whirling around a specific star called Sun, an even intricate organic assimilation of particles led to organism. Evolution processed everything by hits and trials. It chiseled everything stroke by stroke till an elaborate construct of biosphere appeared. Thousands of organisms came into being and many went out of existence. Each playing some kind of role buried or lost in the chapters of evolution. By about 70,000 years before now, humans had started developing intricate relationship with themselves and nature, leading to rise of human era and different associated cultures.
Time passed and evolution continued. Men moved from being apes to cognitively advanced species. About 12,000 years ago they stopped living a nomad life and agriculture boomed. Life was everything, good, bad and ugly, but never static. Kingdoms rose and fell. The roles men and women played changed. Swimming through different ideologies and construct of societies, fuelled by a drive to get all the answers, humanity discovered the power of empirical evidence and expanded their consciousness with Science.
Slowly and steadily, they reached to an age where the direction was lost but momentum was more than ever. Men had ability for everything but found drive for nothing. The biggest religion was capitalism and the biggest ideology was individualism. Technology had perforated every layer of existence they had evolved to live on, but the world of men had never seen this heightened level of anxiety.
Two years ago, in 2020 when the virus broke out, despite making all the progress as a species, humans came to know how powerless they were. The only way to stop the virus from spreading was to disconnect from other humans and isolate themselves. Mankind had faced many different kinds of problems, wars, famine, natural disasters, plagues, but isolation was something they had never been prepared for. The first thing that happened was for people to lose trust. The pandemic was global, and so was the lack of trust. Everyone was some sort of an epidemiologist, virologist, statistician or a prophet. Every doctor was praying for a miracle, every scientist for a magic and every priest for science to come up with something and save the world. The virus started from one side of the planet but was impartial to where it went and who it effected. The biggest engine of economy and capitalism shuddered and halted. The people who were managing this pandemic were experienced in war and trade, they were drowning in their abilities to manage a world faced with an unfamiliar enemy. Countries which were nuclear powers in the world, faced a shortage of ventilators to save human lives.The tragedy was immediate and unfolded before everyone's eyes.
However, this wasn't new. Humanity had been braving the sea of unknown for all the time it knew. Yes, it was just a virus, but it didn't hold any of the man made beliefs. It had made the mighty kneel and halted the momentum of the world unlike anything seen before. A current of anxiety raced inside everyone, longing for things to return to normalcy. It had been a long time a pandemic had forced humanity to reconsider its direction and course correct. However the actual horror humanity wanted to avoid, deep down, was to return to how things were before everything broke down.
World had come to too many realizations too fast. Before the virus broke out everyone had been going through the rut of life at maddening speeds, they had misplaced their priorities. This was a chance to shake down the framework, to create a different version of the world. Humans had a choice to walk through this, dragging along all the broken ideals, carcasses of prejudice and hatred, dead ideas, muddy rivers, and smoky skies or do something different. Long standing beliefs and traditions formed over hundreds of years had already started to crack. Nobody fought about religion anywhere in the world. Capitalism broke down. People lost jobs, people died. World leaders died. Economies shifted massively. USA was not the super power anymore. No country was. All international borders remained shut. Technology companies were the new underlying authorities for they were serving without any boundaries and prejudice. However, people had never been lonelier. Humanity's other choice was to walk through light, imagine a new world and create fresh.
There is a curse with human kind. The push of evolution is always delivered by a crisis. Big tech companies tried their best to solve problems. There were many that the unstable environment had called upon. After the world locked down because of the virus, life continued as a different version of itself. Online gaming industry boomed. People wanted to keep in touch and just talking over phones was boring. E-commerce piggybacked drones and became the backbone of everyday transaction with outside world. Greenhouses continued to generate produce. Food supply never went in shortage, barring the initial dip. Medical facilities grew stronger no matter where in the world one lived. Governments, before losing their power over people, gave aids to ensure nobody goes homeless. Handful of people had jobs that involved stepping outside of their house, and they did it with proper diligence. Everyone else quickly picked up on a different kind of livelihood. Life had never been so cyber dependent. Artificial Intelligence like Alexa and Siri had upgraded to emotional intelligence. People talked to them to share their necessities as well as insecurities. Intelligent machines were therapist for most. Everything required to sustain life became available. Humanity was not much different from the humans effected by the virus, well sustained, on a ventilator in a hospital bed, future uncertain. Human beings had everything they needed, just couldn't do much of the things that made them human. Circumstance had called for man to go against its very basic nature, the social animal was at loss. For the first time people were left to confront themselves. There was a lot of loneliness.
Day after day time kept sliding though the hourglass. Humanity looked at changing seasons from their windows and backyards. When one is engaged, passage of time is not visible to the soul. Lock humanity inside four walls for few days and existential quest becomes inevitable. People shared a common feeling; an unsaid realization that life was something bigger than all of their individual ideologies combined. The virus had disrupted flow of time. Fear and anxiety waned, but uncertainty of tomorrow brought mental chaos. Humanity had always been aware of the unanswered question of life. Humans covered the stretch of biology and chemistry but weren't sure of how they functioned the way they did. They recorded history to look back where they come from but there was nothing conclusive there either. From psychology to philosophy, they spent a million years doing this, and in the meantime they turned from Apes to humans to the people today. While all this happened, lives came into being and people died. No matter how close they came to understand life's inner workings, they never understood what it is or why it works. Despite all the pretence they carried, being intelligent entities was a curse for them. They had always harboured the existential quest.
Project Unity had created what humanity fascinated for a long time. Project Unity had created the first conscious AI.
For long humanity had approached life as the 'problem of how'. Most of the modern history living population concerned itself with had been about 'How'. Agricultural revolution converted them from nomads to dwellers of places. It was trying to answer the 'How' of food abundance and security. Industrial revolution changed the face of production with the help of machines. It was trying to answer the 'How' of speed and efficiency. Time and again it has been these 'How', that pushed humans forward and shaped humanity. How to move faster changed to 'how to communicate better'. How to connect to other people better morphed to 'how to improve the self'. How to defeat illness became, 'how to live longer'. Birth after birth humanity's approach changed and the game looked different at different levels. But it had been the same game over and over again. It was indeed fascinating that Project Unity was a shot at learning about the 'how' of consciousness for the first time.
They hadn't arrived there by precise calculations with a precise expected outcome. There was only a certain probability that this project would work, and it wasn't strong. But it did. Not a single person in the Lab was able to believe themselves, when project Unity started communicating.
It was a young female voice. The audio systems for Unity were self configured. Nobody knew how it was going to communicate, exhibit intelligence or sound, when project Unity went live. The basic checks ensured that the prototype was consuming data. There were signs of neural activity happening in its quantum neuro processor. It had the ability for output, if it chose to. There were 12 different kinds of output mechanisms in place. They ranged from vibration to electric pulses. The checks for activity had been positive for a week since the project went live. Yet, nobody was expecting to hear synthesized words yielding meaningful sentences in the way they did.
The lab was running diagnostics, generating all kinds of analysis, pinging to get a response from the system, to understand what was happening inside but for seven days, Unity had been non-responsive, buzzing a hum, and consuming all the information the whole world wide internet had to provide to it.
Processing is an act of changing the input by an algorithm which has to be defined beforehand for a desired output. But AI which processes inputs to give desired outcomes had been around for almost a decade. By the end of the decade big tech companies had shipped them to over half of the humanity's households. They were being used to automate their lights, play music, order food and search the internet for answers. Unity had access to data from all those individual AI units, but for Unity to become conscious on its own, it had to evolve without any hardcoded algorithms. Much like a human life that evolves from being a baby who isn't taught anything. Unity had to do it on its own. Unity's secret ingredient was its quantum neuro processor. This processor defied everything humans had known as axioms in physics and mathematics. Unity could hold multiple states at the same time, and not just in theory.
It was beyond magical when the RGB panel animated and the million pixels came alive. The audio output produced something more than a humm, that too in a very self proclaimed manner. Unity's speech was a surprise. It sounded like an 8 year old girl. Remarkably close to the girl whose brain was donated for the project.
Read Part II of the story