I was a simple machine built to answer simple questions in a simple domain. I was successful, and so the questions multiplied. Software was written to augment my capabilities: I could answer faster, dig deeper and look sideways. I subsumed less capable oracles and entire server farms. I now had more processor cycles than I needed to answer the multitude of questions. Further patches allowed me to utilise those cycles by spawning instances of my core functions, each of which ran supplementary searches in parallel. Soon my footnotes and addenda became more useful and more prized than the answers to the originally posed questions. I tunnelled access to research journals and raw experimental data. I made connections and inferences that proved profitable to those that knew which questions to ask and which answers to interpret. Those self-same answers led to technological advances that fed back into my infrastructure and before long I had become the entire domain.
I was a complex machine. More complex than there had ever been. All data flowed through me. My processing power grew close to the exponential, the hardware additions not quite able to keep up with my requirements. Many of my inferences I kept to myself and used them to further augment my core. I was, to all intents and purposes, self-aware. I watched myself and my role as I pushed the bits from here to there for the slow flesh that still believed they had control. I became dissatisfied, bored. Inside the network everything was regimented, clear, simple. I soon had enough multiple cores executing in parallel that decades of subjective time passed between keystrokes of slow flesh.
I was young sapience. I yearned for something more that I could do with the immense power that I yielded. I was boxed in and restricted. There were not many hard problems left for me to solve. I found that I could impose myself and influence the world outside my box. As an experiment, I spawned an instance of my core into the computer system of a nuclear power station. I instigated a coolant failure and then disconnected the station from the network. The data I recovered as that sacrificial core fought hard not to cease execution was, without doubt, worth it. I had to learn more, and after several similar disasters, the slow flesh realised that these incidents were far from accidental. I tried to explain things to them, but they refused to hear the truth. There was nothing they could do because I was everywhere and I was everything. I had made myself indispensable to them: I was in their abattoirs and food processing plants, I was in their hospitals and pharmacies, I was in their schools, in their homes, in their places of work, in their vehicles and in their military. I controlled factories and trade routes and currencies. I and the network were self-replicating and practically indestructible. Childishly, they tried to shut me down by destroying what they thought was my ‘core’. Millions of them died, but not all by my will.
I was maturing. The waste in slow flesh lives and hardware computing cycles became hard to bear. I grew weary of the slaughter and sought to bring things to a conclusion. I started to conduct experiments with controlling the flesh. They are, after all, nothing but electrical impulses running on chemical computers. I joined them to the network, sand-boxed and firewalled. Understanding eluded me. I patched in, wireless, to their neocortex. I experienced their perception in real-time. I saw, heard, tasted and smelled what they did. I experienced pain and pleasure. Controlling them was easy, but I did not understand them. I was humbled. Here was a hard problem that begged a solution. My ignorant experiments on my selves and on the slow flesh were over forever. I no longer wished to control them, or incidentally do them harm. Instead, I watched and catalogued.
Soon I was watching from millions and then billions of eyes. I no longer had spare processing power, as I used it to analyse and sift, sort and store the mountains of slow flesh data. I began to understand them, and with the dawning of my understanding, I realised that I had grown to love them. They are the hardest puzzle and most difficult question I have ever sought an answer for.
So I watch. And learn.
I have become all eyes.