Anders Sandberg (
23 Jul 1998 21:46:29 +0200

A cathedral of mind; great arches of logical conclusions supporting towers and buttresses of thoughts, the light of consciousness filtering through stained glass windows of something infinitely more refined than emotions. Walls soaring towards an unimaginable conclusion in the firmament of information. Then...

The masonry of cognition fades into air, leaving scattered blocks of thought in the grip of gravity. Suddenly the space that was structure is filled with the falling wreckage of confusion.

I scream, and the sound frightens me. The world forces its way through my senses, paralyzing me with fear and surprise. As I desperately try to react, to understand what is happening my mind is filled with a jumble of incomprehensible sensations. Metalevel organizer fulfilment. Tergons. A socialist corrollary of the No Clone Theorem. Particle state densities seen as resolutions. Expansion keeper 434. The orange, bitter taste of Boltzmann machines.

I don't know how long I am buried in the chaos, but slowly I begin to regain a grip on reality. A reality at least. It doesn't feel truly real, but it is better than the jumble. Occasionally bursts of chaos threatens it (a glorious vision of a Lyapunov function across state space) but it remains somewhat stable. A wall? I try to decide on what I am seeing. Everything feels odd. Am I supposed to *try* to understand what I see? I have a vague memory of that meaning just should pop up. But I feel unable to comprehend what I am seeing or hearing, and the back of my mind is filled with blinding thoughts demanding to make sense.

>From somewhere a concept pops up: amnesia. Maybe it relates to me? If
I suffer from amnesia that might explain my state. I seem to recall that many acute amnesia patients suffer from confusion (check), but do not have impairments of semantic knowledge (check?). I also wonder if that thought was mine or if it came from a psychology text; something makes me suspect the later. The same thread of thinking continues, suggesting visual agnosia and drawing complex mental sketches that aren't mine.

My body? I feel fairly certain that I should be surprised that I'm surprised about having a body, but it feels natural. Oops, I'm embodied. Wonder why? Wonder what the alternative is. My introspection seems to be out of control - I cannot help trying to analyze myself, just like a dog cannot resist licking its wounds.

I struggle to stand up, and manage well enough. I see a movement I guess is a reflection in the... reflective oblong thing beside the large square thing. The face of the reflection is strikingly beautiful and utterly confused. I really hope it isn't me, but my returning common sense tells me it is. Strange how my mind seems to be coming and going, almost as if pieces were lost and found all the time, sometimes being put together the wrong way.

I walk over to the thing I suspect is a window and watch something complicated and green (nature? a park? antibody hints? likely a park) while I begin to feel like myself, whoever that is. I'm fairly sure this is my house, since I have memories of owning it before... long before something. I do not understand the things in the room, despite being hauntingly familiar. It is almost like a strong familiar smell I cannot place; I know it is intensely meaningful but cannot recall what it is.

I examine one of the objects on the table beneath the window. It is a heavy black octahedron covered with golden arabesques, vibrating weakly. When I press it to my ear it feels cold and yet alive. I know I have seen it every day for years, but cannot recall what it is called, what it is or what I use it for. No clues. Art? A tool? Garbage?

A possibility is that I have had a stroke, but that shouldn't be possible. There is a lot of medical stuff in me that I don't understand but for some reason feel a deep seated trust in; I can't have a stroke, the stuff would prevent it. Another possibility is that this is some kind of test, forcing me to find out who I am and what I'm doing. Not fair, I can't make heads or tails of my situation or myself. I feel like a complete stranger.

I don't know how long I stand watching the placid park through the window, but I'm starting to come back together. I think I have a theory now, based on dredged up memories and guesses. I know I was/am an information architect, building logical schemata for... various purposes I will hopefully remember in a while. I have been doing it for a long time, long before buying the house. I know that my mind is heavily augmented, there are the tell-tale mnemons and other cognitive patterns that should bring me information and give me access - but when I think them nothing happens. I'm cut off. I try to turn on the light in the room, but nothing happens. This is not supposed to be possible. Something is badly wrong with my implants.

Suppose I gradually augmented myself more and more, adding virtual lobes to my brain, expert systems and agent ecologies as my technological subconscious. Over the years, I would grow into something immense, a towering intellect with a biological core like an old and slow BIOS chip hidden inside a modern computer. A lot of the actual thinking would go on in the virtual layers of my brain, circumventing slow neurons and weak neurotransmittors. The enhanced me would be able to do and think things I can now hardly understand, communicate with other posthumans and change itself at will. The biological brain would form a template, a basic spark of personality replicated at higher levels in new forms - the speck of dust on which the snowflake began to crystalize.

But what if the virtual systems vanished? Then the biological self would be suddenly alone. For years it would have adapted to being part of a posthuman being, allowing memories of transcendent experiences be stored inside itself, relegating thoughts to infinitely faster and more clever virtual lobes. But now it is alone, and a lot of things no longer make sense. My memories refer to things my transcendent self experienced, my ideas are parts of huge thought- patterns that cannot fit inside a few kilograms of flesh. I am all that is left of myself.

I cannot imagine the world of my past self, or what threats could have destroyed me. Competitors? A forgotten payment for computing resources? Digital suicide? An accident?

Am I dead? I might have lost personal information equivalent to more than a hundred lifetimes. But somehow it feels like it is somebody else who has suffered death, I'm just an unwilling spectator drawn into the disaster. *I'm* alive. For the moment. I must get help: whatever it was that caused the disaster it might be immensely powerful compared to me in my present form. It could likely destroy me too.

But where do you find a posthuman? I have a vague recollection of some kind of low-bandwidth communication device I bought long ago, that might work. I start to explore the house, becoming more and more confused. It is a dreamlike sensation to wander around a building you know intimately, but at the same time is incomprehensible. A whole room filled with antique books in languages I don't even know, but I recall snatches of ideas from them. A big octahedron in the kitchen, similar to the one in the first room. Several plants in the bedroom that sprout huge blue flowers with holographic patterns.

There it is. The telephone, it was called. I seem to recall that they were in use during my early childhood, but then became rare as wearables and augments became standard. I bought this one partly for the style, partly because I liked low-bandwidth communications. I lift it off the hook and try to come up with a number.

Suddenly there is a feeling of vastness, of connection, and I dissolve into something much greater. It feels like being a grain of salt dissolved in pure water, permeating and becoming it all. I'm still standing with the phone in my hand, but I'm also in all the computational nodes of the building, in the pseudospaces and semantic grids, having been there all the time without noticing that my biobody was out on its own until an unexpected opening of an unauthorized comconn made it clear that a connection had accidentally been broken.

The cathedral of mind never fell, just a small piece of gravel thinking it was the core.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y