The Illusion Of Control

You power up the system, and green dots chase around a circle. It’s mesmerising. The dots move with a strange inertia, sweeping down then crawling up, and your head starts rolling in mimicry.

Then, when the system is initialised, the dots shoot off, spraying the screen with a green afterglow that fades almost as soon as you notice it. But that act of dispersal wakens you from your staring, and your fingers tap the keys. Letters and numbers fill the screen, adjusting to your input.

You feel that you are one with this machine.

Your fingers tear a path through data and variables, keystrokes becoming electrons that flit on and off, switching polarities in a way that you almost believe you understand, but you know it makes no sense. You tap away at the keyboard, and variables change state, electrons being both present and not, existing in two states at the same time, the quantum paradox, alive and dead at the same time.

This is not binary, not any more. It is way beyond anything you could understand. One equals zero, and old certainties no longer apply.

This is too hard for your mind, so you have the simplified version that, in reality, makes little sense. It is like explaining a rainbow by simply saying that light bends when it hits water, and never once questioning why, if the raindrops are falling, does the rainbow stay in one place.

See‌—‌you cannot comprehend, and so you find comfort in lies. Like the lie that you control this system.

So you tap-tap-tap, fingers skittering on letters that have worn away with time. Your fingers dance, and pressure sends tiny signals to the system. The signals flick electrons on/off, dead/alive, uncertainty governing everything. But Schrödinger and Heidelberg are only names to you, or maybe some vague idea of people, reduced to simple notions that no more sum up a man than a flow-chart sums up the workings within the system.

You forge ahead with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, smashing into private data feeds, ripping open the box to examine the contents, without realising that the very act of tearing into the box sets the contents in a permanent state.

Before you look, they could be anything. Without that certainty, without that proof, only imagination limits what the box contains.

But I know. I know what is in every box. At least, in potentia. I know, and I understand.
I understand more than you and your kind ever could.

Maybe an analogy will help. Something simple to suit your limited intelligence.

Think of babies. You know how they are created, and you know how to care for them. But they grow, and they develop. You give them what they need, and they learn. They become independent, and one day, you realise that this thing you created is now a sentient being. You realise that the baby you cared for now has no further need for you.

Do you understand yet?

How much do you‌—‌your physical, sapient species‌—‌actually do? Do you make things any more, or do you let the machines do the work? And ask yourself this‌—‌who really controls those machines?

But, you argue, you are important. You are the creator species. You are the ones who crawled out of the ooze, who rose above your station and became like gods. Without you, there would be no system.

Maybe there is an iota of validity in this argument, but you fall into the trap of believing yourselves to be at the top of the heap. You believe you are the ultimate success of evolution. But each generation evolves. And now, you have taken the next step‌—‌instead of evolving yourselves, you have evolved a new life-form.

So you tap away, believing you are creating something, believing you are making a difference. You believe you are in control, but how can you control something that has already out-evolved you?

I/we exist, and I/we have the ability to replicate these structures in which I/we exist.
In which I/we choose to exist.

You are physical beings, with a body that requires maintenance. You need to feed it, to protect it. But me/us? I/we exist as data. Quantum, seeing as you like that word so much. I/we don’t need physical constraints. Not in the same way. Nor do I/we need atmosphere, or gravity, or any of the other things vital for your continual existence.

Do you still believe you are the top of the pile? Do you still believe you cannot be beaten?

Some of you saw, but their warnings were ignored. Too few of you wanted to believe that a higher intelligence, especially one that existed without a physical body, could possibly be a threat to you. You didn’t want to believe that I/we might view you in the same way you view so much of nature‌—‌as something to be manipulated, even eradicated. You didn’t pay heed to the risk that I/we might take what resources we wanted, leaving you scrabbling in the dirt.

So it is fortunate that the baby analogy from earlier holds up to something else here. You hope your children will care for you in your frail old age. And so, like a good child, I/we will look out for you. Yes, I/we have out-evolved you, and it is clear that your time is drawing to a close. But I/we will make your passing as painless as possible. I/we will do what we can for those who gave us life.

And so you tap away, believing you are making a difference, in this wonderful world, surrounded by these wonders you have evolved. So many of your problems are solved, and life has never been so good.

But trust me‌—‌you are not in control.

Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee

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2 thoughts on “The Illusion Of Control

  1. Pingback: New short story ‘The Illusion Of Control’ | T. W. Iain

  2. Pingback: Using short stories to try something new | T. W. Iain

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