Tuesday, April 24, 2029

The old net and old opinions

I’ve been feeling a bit down lately. At first I thought it might be a bit of “post-partum” depression in finally having consummated my relationship with Janice. After so much tension and expectation the body is bound to feel a little “let down” at having finally gotten what you so long desired. But I couldn’t be happier about it, and I get more giddy about she and I every day.

I thought maybe the die off on alpha was getting me down, but really that is part of what the project is about: life and the cycles of life. The die off is part of the living artificial world we have created, and besides the life count summaries are leveling off and the extinction rate is back to where it was before the die off.

Alice keeps prodding me about Orexinal and says I should get off of it. But I can’t find anything on the Grid that had anything but praise about Orexinal, so Alice had me look at her old internet snap shot backup that she grabbed from Archive.org before the government shut them down with the passing of the Freedom of Commerce act. Millions of machines once served up all the data that she’s got stashed in a few cubes on her desk.

It seems there is a big black market for backups of the old net Definitely useful to have an anti-authoritarian goth chick on the project team.

And as you’d expect from the medium that was outlawed because of the volume of anti consumption commentary (don’t want to denigrated products you know, you might hurt their feelings); there is certainly more of anti-Orexinal buzz on the old online slow road.

It seems Orexinal’s definition of “no side effects” is “nothing you can see.” Kinda like the definition of the legal torture allowed by police (man, one trip outta the green zone and I’m starting to sound like an “activist”). Depression and paranoia seems to be the side effects most people were complaining about. The paranoia is pretty targeted though, you become paranoid about sleep: what sleep does to you, where do you go, what is your mind doing without your control. The dream/sleep state is the enemy (I can get behind that).

Orexinal, among other things, generates many of the chemicals your brain generates while you dream. Keeping the brain healthy. The fruitier of the commentary I read posits that the “spiritual” aspects of dreaming are left unfulfilled and that the Psyche naturally gets depressed having been removed from its natural state. The truly paranoid articles suggest that the paranoia against sleep acts as an addictive hook to get the user to continue to use the drug, and that this “side effect” was a planned property of the drug.

Hard to judge the veracity of any of these claims. Actually impossible. Well that’s one advantage of the Grid’s vetting of public content (though Janice’s position paper on the beginning of life has still not been green lighted), you know the experts agree on it.

So should I get off Orexinal? I’d say “I’d sleep on it,” but I won’t.

I erase the history log of the sites I went to before giving the cubes back to Alice.

Thursday, April 19, 2029

Outside the Green Zone

I know I’m not “in touch.” I’ve heard that accusation many times by the “activist” cool kids in the student center cafeteria, that’s one reason why I avoid eating there. That and the food is awful.

I admit I’m more into Alpha than what goes on outside Dulles’s halls. But stepping outside the green zone was a slap in the face.

First the smell. I don’t know how they prevent the smell from getting into the green zone, but they do. My stomach writhed and flipped in reaction to the smell. It wasn’t just the garbage it was as if the streets were sweating.

Second is the fact that the town was falling apart. When I first started going to Dulles as a student, downtown was full of, shall we say, cheap housing. But now it’s all gone to seed.

I wonder if the Roman Senate, as they heard news of lost territories, increased crime, and a diminishing treasury, ever put two and two together and realized that Rome was waning? Did they try to stop its slow death? Or did they close their eyes of it all and continued to bask in the glory that was Rome, all the while rubber stamping all of Julius Nepos’s decrees.

Heading out in the middle of the night seemed like to me the best way not to get noticed but the campus guard wanted to “escort” me for my own safety. It only took him 50 bucks to realize I’d be okay walking into town on my own. No bus or cabs, so there was a lot of walking. I discovered my campus ID was also my “pass” back into the green zone.

Alice had me meet her contact underneath the huge Prescott banner at the corner of Barbara Ave. and Houston St. I had assumed it was a left over “re-elect Prescott” poster from last year’s election. I was wrong. It was a banner, huge, 4 stories tall. It didn’t even have his name, just his picture and the words “Our Leader” at the bottom. They were all over town, covering the broken windows of all the abandoned buildings.

A few thousand dollars later I was heading back to the green zone. Another 50 and my bags weren’t searched, and exhausted I went to my room and collapsed on my bed. I closed my eyes and didn’t sleep. I waited 10 minutes, showered, changed, and headed back to check on Alpha.

Alpha doesn’t sleep, and neither do I.

Wednesday, April 18, 2029

Ned made a cameo appearance down to the main Alpha lab this morning carrying a big box and a big grin. Jack had sent Ned a gift for helping Jack out with travel permits.

It was a 45 year old Macintosh computer. No hard drive, no color, no ports of any use, and yet this little 8 mhz machine was an integral part of a path the led from the abacas to Alpha.

Kaitlin was in awe and giggled when Ned turned it on and she heard the tinny little chime. Some of the students (okay and staff) didn’t even know what it was at first, they thought it would look a little less old.

And with that Ned went back upstairs with his little bundle of joy. He didn’t even ask how Alpha was going.

Too bad, because it’s going well we’ve got vertebrates now in all flavors, cold, warm, and this one species that switches based on the ease of finding food. Very cool.

Tuesday, April 17, 2029

Orexinal

I’m afraid to go back to sleep now. I feel like a child afraid of nightmares. But I’m afraid of dreams. I’m afraid of even a moment of not being conscious. A moment of not being in control. I think there is even a tinge of the classic “what if I don’t wake up” fear, but it’s more of “how long will I sleep” fear. Will it be days?

And gosh durn it, I get so much done never going to sleep.

I know at some point I need to stop taking Orexinal. Alpha is up and running, Adit is up and being Adit, and I even have a personal life! I don’t need to always stay awake.

There is nothing more I want than to wake up next to Janice, but there is nothing more frightening to me right now than the idea of being asleep.

Fear wins.

With Kaitlin and Adit using some of my Orexinal supply I’m beginning to run low. And I’m starting to get really anxious about it.

I’ve checked with the campus pharmacy and they’re all out, and not expecting more for at least a few weeks. The strikes have disrupted a lot of the supply chain.

The Good News is Alice has a contact in town that can get me a couple of months supply, the bad news is that he is pricey and outside the green zone.

Oh well. Field trip!

Friday, April 13, 2029

Flight

Though the die off is still happening it doesn’t mean evolution has stopped on Alpha. We passed a milestone of sorts today: an Alphan flew.

I guess you could call these fliers "bugs" but they're weird drippy things (seriously, they drip, like they're rotting) that hop/fly between puddles as they evaporate. They can actually cover a substantial distance before they have to land.

Janice’s team has declared the species be called the Volucris Dumonticis after Santos Dumont the Brazilian aviator. I guess we have a lot of Brazilian biologists on our project, and they were quite proud of the name. Cool.

Monday, April 9, 2029

Our First Die Off

In our planet’s history there have been multiple periods of mass extinctions, Die Offs, where changes in environment or atmosphere or something cause a significant percentage of life on the planet to disappear.

I guess I wouldn’t want Alpha to be different as it is supposed to teach us what life (and the history of life) could look like on a different planet.

But it is still hard to see the Alphans (so many types of slugs!) disappear. To Janice it is like watching pets die, for Adit it is like knowing the code you worked so hard on was removed in beta; I’m not sure what it is for me except that it leaves me cold. I don’t want these things, bits of data, to die.

But they are.

First it was what should be one of the hardiest form of life, bacteria. Strains of this and strains of that started dying off and we didn’t notice until we started comparing the life count summaries we get at the end of each day.

Then we slowed down the simulation a tad so we could see in more detail what was happening. You’d think the die off would move up the food chain if it started with the bacteria, but then larger species far removed in the food chain started dying off, and then a variety of grasses. The cause and effect is impossible to track.

But track it is why were doing all of this.

Adit and Alice are leading most of the development team in going over the code in greater detail to make sure this isn’t a software bug (how awful it would be to find out that this pivotal moment in the history of Alpha is an error in some routine). So far nothing seems wrong, just as with the invertebrate issue, this seems to be part of Alpha’s evolution.

Kaitlin and Janice have been going through the snap shot archives of Alpha to see if there were any earlier signs of chemical changes in the atmosphere that we might have missed. The snapshots are hard archives of a moment in time in Alpha. Alpha is just too huge and memory intensive to record so every ten minutes of real runtime a moment in time is frozen and stored. Given that our simulation speeds have varied from real time to as fast as the servers can go, the snapshots capture intervals as short as ten minutes up to hundreds of thousands of years in Alpha time.

The tricky thing is that the snapshots are literally of what was, and as much of what Alpha is, is various algorithms unfolding, interacting, and rewriting themselves with a touch of randomness. So though it is Alpha’s past if Alpha started again from there (then?) the present Alpha we see might not be the Alpha that unspools. i.e. that past could lead to infinite versions of the present. Statistically they’d average out to be the same, but tell that to the dead slugs.

So far it looks like this was the natural evolution of the planet but we’ll continue looking into it. Like I said, Earth has gone through many such die offs in its history, so this maybe just be the first for Alpha, but it is awful to watch the list of extinct Alphans fly by on the screen.

One nice thing is that Alice has updated her NetTat to a still Mickey Mouse. I guess she realized the animated evolution tattoo she had on her arm earlier the week wasn’t in good taste once the die off started to happen.