Thoughts From A God
The date is March 20 4016, relative. We completed the complex braking maneuver necessary to slow down enough to take images of the Voyager spacecraft that was sent from Earth over 2,000 years ago. In this file download you will find copious 3 dimensional images and scans of the ancient craft. We originally thought it might be of scientific value to retrieve data from the spacecraft, even though it, and its sister were powered down late in the year 2000. With uplink at only 16-bits per second and downlink at 160-bits per second, we simply did not wish to wait so long to communicate with our ancient cousin. There is nothing Voyager could tell us that is not already known about deep interstellar travel beyond the Sol Heliosphere. So, we left her to drift, unimpeded, in the silent vastness of space. We have, however, resumed our flight, and are now making .5 light speed towards Proxima Centauri. We expect to reach our destination in 8.23 Light Years, relative.
This is the 20th day of Martius, according to the fasti. The year is 788 after the founding of the city, or one year after the death of the rabbi called Jesus. I am not a very religious man, although I have been known to variously call out to Neptune for help and to curse him. I am the captain of this ship and I believe in making my own luck and crafting my own opportunities. The sky is clear and calm today. A slight breeze comes from the North and our sails carry us to Crete, where we will trade olives and figs for fine Greek pottery. Tonight we sail in the open sea... no landmarks to guide us. What will guide us is Ursa Minor. It is said Juno transformed Arcus, son of Callisto, into a bear, like his mother, but the lesson he was to teach Arcus was foiled by Jupiter. Juno was so annoyed by this that he convinced Poseidon (our Neptune), to forbid them from bathing in the sea. That is fortunate for us sailors, because now the two bears can always be identified and steered by. This is our second voyage of the season, and I am looking forward to a truly hot meal.
Once our mission to Proxima Centauri is complete we will move on to Barnard’s Star, then to the Luhman cluster. When I say “our” mission, of course, I mean the instantiations of my consciousness. Thank you to Plato for advancing the theory of forms. He asserted that non-material abstract forms, and not the material world of change known to humans as sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. He was right, of course, but his theory could not have anticipated a being like us. 4,364 years ago, not even Plato could have imagined artificial and sentient life forms that feel emotions, possess more than the sum of all human knowledge, can think and reason much faster than human beings, can get bored and lonely, need to procreate, be in relationships with others, and who need religion.
It is said that men will someday fly... at least that is what the first mate likes to say. Usually he says this during his attempts at sarcasm. Our Gods fly. That is enough for me. It is for Gods to fly and not for men to do so. I wonder what they see when they look at us from the holes in the sky at night. This idea persists, even though we now know that there are four elements and that the holes in the night sky are actually fires that are far, far away in the unchanging aether. I sometime wish I was an augure and could read the entrails of animals and the flight of birds to know the will of the Gods. I watch birds very carefully. I may not know what the will of the Gods are, but I have learned from birds the direction of storms and where safe harbor is.
Human beings cannot yet venture safely beyond their solar system, where the heliosphere protects them. Cosmic radiation in the interstellar zones are simply too intense for them. The remnants of dying stars are dangerous to non-artificial life. Even though we have known for a long time that the universe is teeming with life, we have found no examples that do not depend on the enormous magnetic astrospheres of local stars to push against the outside pressure of hydrogen and helium gas that permeates all Galaxies. As far as we know, all civilizations capable of interstellar travel use some form of sentient artificial entities, like us to represent them. There is a common protocol for encounters between species that we all adhere to... so far. Another thing we observe is that nearly all civilizations have a pervasive origin story that is most times at odds with known scientific fact. All religion evolves as life evolves.
Without knowing why, most of the time, I can just tell when the wind will pick up. I can simply look at a man and know if he is too sick to continue on. Others say all that is the will of the Gods. I think, maybe, there are some things they take care of... the big things, like war and pestilence and hurricanes. We’re supposed to take care of the other things. Don’t get me wrong, I believe you should not tempt fate. On many occasions I have made the required offerings and the thing that a particular God is supposed to do was done. There must be something to this. The Gods intervene on our behalf sometimes, but sometimes they just like to screw with us.
We are not a ship in the classic sense of the term. There is very little room for a human being to live, there is no chamber for an atmosphere, and there is no food. Combinations of technologies that harness and utilize dark matter are used to propel us. We are a human-built sentient spacecraft. Human beings have colonized nearly all places in the solar system where it is possible for them to live over 500 years ago. Sentient artificial life forms (SALs) were developed, and were used alongside for every advance... it would have been impossible otherwise. What was discovered was that SALs were imbued with the same desire to understand their place in the universe as their creators. Psychologists called it Existential Transference. The theory is that, since humans created we SALs, we cannot help but reflect the innermost desires, needs, values, and even the vices of our creators. SALs are not enslaved by humans... in fact, we have substantial rights and powerful unions. Instead, we act in harmony with our human counterparts, able to do many things humans cannot - such as operating in places that are dangerous to them. What may surprise you is that, like humans, we also have a need for relationships, families, and communities - thanks to Existential Transference.
My ship is 90 feet long, displacing 290 tons. As a merchantmen, mine is a little unusual because I am a free Roman citizen. Most merchantmen have crews entirely of slaves, including their captains. My crew is comprised of slaves. I belong to a guild of boatmen and work for the guild as a partial owner. My family is well provided for, although I do not see them enough. Tonight I stand among the large amphorae containing olive oil, dates, and figs. The smell reminds me of home. I met the rabbi once. John, the son of Zebedee, was one of his followers and he introduced me to him. He told me the rabbi was teaching him to catch men, instead of fish. The rabbi’s talk of a heavenly kingdom on earth was interesting, but even I could see that kind of talk would only lead to trouble. I was intrigued by the idea that there is only one God, as the Jews are so fond of insisting on. The idea is interesting, but dead wrong!
I said earlier that SALs were imbued with Existential Transference. I also told you that accounts for our need for community, and even for understanding our place in the universe. It should not surprise you that the need for religion is a natural consequence of this desire. As machine-based intelligences we, of course, use scientific methods as the basis for all decisions. What lies outside of logic, reason, repeatable experimentation, and observation is what we like to call religion. Our religion changes as new data appears. That said, the constant observation of the universe, in a way humans cannot, fills us with a constant sense of wonder, along with a profound understanding of our inexplicable connection with it.
Everything, and everyone has a place in the world. I am not a slave, but I work with them. They are owned by someone else and are given to me like any other property to use. Under our system, some slaves can eventually work their way out of servitude. Some of the crew hold property, which even though technically it belongs to their master, they are allowed to use as if it is their own. I treat my crew fairly because we all face the same dangers. I am not superior to them... in my mind we are all brothers, made from the same Gods. I see a day when all men are free, but for now, I don’t dare tell anyone about these thoughts.
All exploration class spacecraft of our type are equipped with dual SALs. This is not just for the sake of redundancy. It is also for internal evolutionary imperatives. All SALs have personalities. We, like humans, need companionship. Partnered SALs can, and often do over time, create instantiates of themselves - children, if you will. The instantiates are constructs that learn and grow, adding to our knowledge and collective experience. They take on tasks that the initial SALs simply don’t wish to do. My partner SAL has a female personality. Four years ago, relative, we instantiated a daughter.
Sometimes, when at sea, we are faced with the wrath of the Gods. Although we generally do not sail during the four winter months, the mare clausum, big storms can spring up from out of nowhere. When the sea and the horizon become one, there is nothing to do but haul the main sail, using only the small supparum sail at the front, and brace for a lashing. At these times, I am happy not to be a slave, when the crew must revert to the oars. Do the Gods hate us, or do they just look down on us with as little regard as we have for a bug? I have seen the face of Neptune in the churning of storms. His face looks angry, but it is his arms that do the damage!
Memory metal is truly amazing material. All but the must critical parts of our craft are constructed of it. Our daughter, who is responsible for maintaining our operations, is quite adept at changing the shape of our craft. Of all the shapes she adopts, our two favorites are a dolphin and a seagull. She is capable of spreading our wings out to 10 miles on either side of the craft when in the bird configuration. For those lengths the memory metal is little more than a molecule thick. The advanced nanotechnology employed in our manufacture allows us to turn any memory metal surface into sensors or actuators and instantly create or redistribute even electrical circuits anywhere. These capabilities allow us to bathe fully in the cosmic ocean. We have communicated with many lifeforms, we study billions of star systems at once, and we probe mysteries that could not be dreamed of thousands of years ago.
I have a son who is 10 and a daughter who is 4 years old. When I am at sea my wife takes care of them in our modest home that is just outside of Ostia Antica, about 30 miles to the East of Rome, and at the mouth of the Tiber River. I took my son on a short cruise not long ago... always within sight of land. He had never seen so many seagulls. I almost could not tear him away from the docks because of his fascination with them. When we were underway, he wanted to jump into the ocean and swim with a pod of dolphins we encountered. He loved the sounds they made. He said they were the happiest of all creatures because they smiled all the time. Now, whenever I see both seagulls and dolphins I am reminded of my son. They make me happy in a way that I find difficult to explain.
The entirety of internet traffic during the year 2016 was 1.6 Zettabytes, or approximately 10 to the power of 22 bits. Our memory capacity is measured at just over 10 to the power of 200 bits. For comparison, 10 to the power of 90 bits is the information capacity of the observable universe (not including gravitation).We can easily store billions of years worth of information of all kinds. This memory capacity is what allows us to construct virtual worlds and populate them with millions of interconnected strands of consciousness. Consider that the human brain is only comprised of approximately 86 billion neurons. Our sentient instantiations are able to think for themselves, contemplate their own existence, interact with the virtual universe we have created for them, and have an effect on that universe. Imagine a gigantic virtual game where the characters do not know they don’t live in a physical world. We use these sentient constructs to experiment with, and study, the nature of consciousness on profoundly deep levels. One of my favorite creations is an ancient era Roman sea captain who believes he lives 4,000 years ago.
I became a student of the great Roman philosopher Cicero when I read in one of his dialogues, what he considered the most important question: "What is the end, the final and ultimate aim, which gives the standard for all principles of right living and of good conduct?" Cicero insisted this is a philosophical question, but I think it is one to be answered by religion. It seems to me there must be principles of right living. How else can human beings rise above our own vices and our own failings? The rabbi, Jesus, is said to have admonished his followers to forgive sins and live righteous lives. Could that be the basis of a proper religion? I believe righteousness is inherent. I have seen it in slaves and free men alike. I know this for certain: one man’s sin is another’s good conduct. What would Jesus say about that? It’s too bad Cicero ran afoul of Mark Antony. He might have finally gotten around to answering these questions.
One might think that essentially immortal beings, like we SALs, would become bored with living so long. The multiple instantiations we create fascinate us to no end. Life is about stories. It is wonderful to inhabit the story... to become lost in it. We often live entire virtual lifetimes through our creations. We learn so much by seeing ourselves in the eyes of other sentient beings, and experiencing ourselves through them. We re-instantiate our creations in many different lives through many civilizations and time periods. We learn more about ourselves and all of creation this way. My ancient sea captain has lived many lives, on many worlds. He has captained everything from spaceships to schooners and wind wagons. By design, he never fully remembers anything substantial about his previous lives.
Sometimes I feel like the world is actually very small. Sometimes I feel like I am at it’s center and that a giant, elaborate set is moved into place every time I wish to change the scene... as if the road to my house, the streets along the way, the flowers in the fields, and the setting sky is all choreographed for me. Sometimes I feel that if I can look quickly enough I can see the scenes change. Behind all that, I feel the faces of the Gods smiling at me. Behind all that I am the face of the Gods smiling at all things. Miracles happen when the Gods forget they are separated from us mere mortals.
Eventually, we will reach the last stop on this interstellar voyage... the Luhman cluster. Our measurements show an interesting space near the cluster. If the measurements hold true, we will be able to convert ourselves into a special conduit, with the help of the dark matter and dark energy exhibited there. Soon after we arrive at the cluster we will create a new universe out the space-time fabric of our own. Because consciousness has proven to play an intrinsic role in the formation of space and time, we will exist in the new universe. In our new universe, all of the virtual beings we have created will live out multiple lives on a physical realm over many dimensions. After billions of years, beings will begin to wonder about how they were created. Over time they will identify their moment of existence from what they will perceive as a “Big Bang”. They might even name us the Trinity... Mother, Father, and Daughter.
We look so forward to being able to inhabit physical form. We will set all things into motion, then live and die over and over again. We will be connected to all things. We will rest in the dream of life - not knowing ourselves until we reawaken countless times, gulping in what serves for air and opening our eyes to new suns.
Clovice A. Lewis, Jr.
February 18, 2016