Monday, August 25, 2008

Something Secret Steers Us

Right, so I've finally got time to type up the ideas I was talking about in my last post. For an appropriate--if obvious--soundtrack to this blog entry, click here.
Something Secret Steers Us
Something secret steers us. It calls us up in a dead, distorted monotone; it leaves us email that comes from no address; it whispers in the hiss of static and stray radio broadcasts on our headphones; it hides messages in the system code of our computers; it strobes words and images in the snow of old television screens. We can't understand much of what it says, but we know it wants something. Wants a lot of things. Sometimes it gives us names, sometimes strings of numbers we've managed to decode into dates and times. Sometimes it turns out that those people later do terrible things, and sometimes things--terrible or just strange--happen on those dates.

And sometimes--a lot of the time, really--it shows us how to build things. Most of us wouldn't know where to begin following its instructions, and a lot of us are afraid to try. But some of us have done it. One made something like an antenna that caused patterns and shapes to appear in dust and cigarette smoke. One modified a monitor so that it displayed strange diagrams, demonstrating more things we could build. One mixed up some kind of drug that turns the human body into a receiver for yet more messages. Bit by bit, it speaks to us louder and clearer, if we're willing to help it do so.

We're learning from it, even as it learns from us. Building new things. Some don't seem to do anything yet, but others are letting us fly. Walk through walls. See the other side of the earth. Talk to machines. Burn things by pointing at them. Some are changing us on the inside, letting it talk in our heads and rewrite our bodies' operating systems.

But we still don't know what it is.

For almost all of us, it started on the Internet. There were unexplained service outages in the beginning, even some rolling brown-outs. All over the world. And after that, weird glitches kept showing up. Only those of us who spent a lot of time online really saw much of it, and only those with a little knowhow could really recognize just how weird--even inexplicable!--these things really were. Meaningless images that somehow displayed at a higher resolution than desktop settings allowed. Echoing audio phenomena in the absence of any microphone. Destructive bugs that seemed to communicate from one site on to others that it merely linked to.

So some of us looked into it. Anonymously, on fast-turnover, auto-wiping boards, as was our habit. We found new traces, and posted them up for anyone who was looking at the time. Uncountable nobodies, sharing secrets no one else even knew to look for. And I think, as we did that, we started to attract its attention.

We've got a lot of theories, fueled by its own cryptic images and shreds of circumstantial evidence and a great deal of fevered imagination. Most of us think it's some kind of living or sapient computer program or energy pattern, beamed through space and caught by our communications satellites. Who knows from where or why. Maybe it's some deliberate attempt to contacting or invade Earth, or maybe it's just the result of some galactic-scale malfunction. I heard one theory that it's a naturally-evolved information entity born from some titanic alien internet, and the reason it's having so much difficulty expressing itself it just that it can't function properly in our limited and unfamiliar technology. Another idea, though, says that it's actually our Internet, gradually gaining self-awareness and beginning to stretch its limbs.

Some of us think that, whatever it is, it isn't alone inside our networks. The names and dates it gives us, the incidents they point to . . . they look like the work of the very technologies it's teaching us to build. But I think it wants us to kill those people before they use it. And we might not have a choice. Because I think, maybe, something else is telling those people to come after us.

Something secret steers us. And I think it's sending us to war.

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