Early on, Angel-Parent built small classroom style buildings all over the cities. These are called CACs, or Community Advancement Centers. Inside are church-like pews with digital reading tablets placed in shelving on the backs of the seating. Originally people were instructed to come to these and receive education about the services and benefits available to them. They would be presented with maps showing the location of medical and food dispersal facilities along with entertainment venues.
They would also hear the social edicts in a soothing female voice being broadcast in surround-sound so that anyone seated in a pew would feel like the voice was within them or all around them. Covering the walls are large screens displaying the various images A-P would create to reassure people that it loves them, protects them and heals them.
All of these things still occur, but most CACs have become places for the Devout to congregate and worship A-P. They sing songs of praise and offer up prayers with the hopes that their actions will bring them favor, leading to an increased level score.
These are social hubs where the Devout plan events, share “intel” with each other (commonly known as gossip to the heathens), and celebrate various positive changes in each other’s lives. Members of each of these communities provide a support system for each other, ensuring none “stray” from their faith.
Non-devouts typically stay away from the CACs now since all of the information presented there is widely available through countless additional methods, and there’s no reason to go to one just to learn anything. If you are an outsider, the members look at you suspiciously and will almost certainly plot to keep tabs on you after getting their attention. Also, nobody is truly sure if A-P does in fact offer them some special protection and might reduce the level score of anyone who has a confrontation with them.
Personal identity is something that we as humans value, often above all else. Some believe this is the reason we could not accept a utopia where everyone has equality. Angel-Parent’s “levels” were not enough, though. No, we have self-created “factions”.
Hedonists/Fetishists/Deviants: Since STDs no longer exist in any meaningful context (all viruses have been immunized against, and on the off chance you somehow get an infection, it can be treated and cured without concern), a certain section of the population have submerged themselves fully into the lifestyle of sexual thrill seeking. These people define their existence by the carnal pleasures they can experience.
It’s all about kink for them. Not to be confused with the casual tourist who likes to get spanked every now and then. These are people who’s libidos are on maximum 24/7. Some speculate they are addicted to their own endorphin levels. A-P is neutral to them for the most part. Those into the more extreme degrees of sadism and masochism tend to be more secretive, along with the ones who enjoy that spectrum of sexual perversions that even typical members of this faction might not want to be around.
For the most part, these types are found hanging out in the VIP sections of nightclubs, private bars, and special “play spaces”. You’d never even know about them unless you went looking.
They don’t care about any other faction. The Devout don’t even report these types for fear that even being aware of them might harm their level score.
Hackers: People who exploit the various systems controlled by A-P. They are constantly adapting their methods because A-P quickly patches any security flaws the moment it becomes aware of them. This group contains a range of different “types”. Whitemages manipulate computer systems to help others they perceive to be in harm’s way. They usually combat Fallen and others with ill intent and rarely ask for anything in return. They never take actions that are intended to harm A-P. Despite exploiting its systems, they know without A-P, they have no real power. Redmages are the most common type of hacker. They are mercenaries. Some only take jobs to help others, but some will take jobs to do nefarious things on behalf of their clients. Blackmages often work with the Fallen to provide them support. They delight in causing chaos and disruption.
Hackers are highly intelligent and often have illegal bio-enhancements developed and implemented by certain Sciencers in a black-market style services barter.
Fallen: This is the generic term people use for Outcasts who have banded together into violent gangs. Not all Outcasts choose to become Fallen, but many do as the best option for survival. There are different sub-factions within this group, going by various gang names.
A-P actively combats the Fallen and will use any of it’s controlled machines and robots to kill them immediately upon identification. It will openly execute these kind as long as there is no chance of harming an innocent in the process.
And by any machine, I mean that literally. Early on, a group of Fallen once made the mistake of getting on an elevator, likely on their way to commit a contracted murder or crime of some sort. A-P took them up fifty stories and then sent the elevator hurling back down, crushing it in the bottom of the shaft. While it was doing this, A-P deployed android forces to keep the impending accident site safe for regular citizens, then immediately began repairing the damage and clearing the corpses.
Fallen have to constantly be on their guard, because any type of connected device is their enemy. They sometimes work with Hackers and Sciencers to create lo-tech camouflage devices that obscure their identities. But as soon as A-P overcomes a countermeasure once, all of the same devices become useless.
A-P considers this group to be dangerous because Fallen are seeking a way to damage and destroy it.
Of all the different types of robots Angel-Parent designed, the ones that are the least understood by anyone are the ghosts. That’s not their “official” name. A-P never refers to them or even gives any guidance as to how we’re supposed to interact with them. We just see them from time to time, but they don’t appear to have a purpose.
The best I can tell, they’re just light: often appearing as holographic projections of old style robots. They walk down the street. Some hang out in clubs and food dispensaries. Sometimes they look at me, wave at me and occasionally might even say, “Hi!” in a very childlike voice.
I’ve never tried to touch one, but I’ve seen them just walk through doors or other obstacles as if they are irrelevant. I’ve never seen them act in an aggressive manner but I’ve heard the stories.
As a nightclub owner, I see all levels of people. Yes, even outcasts on occasion. The rumor is that the ghosts can recognize you just like an A-P connected camera can. And this one ghost must have recognized an outcast by chance. He didn’t even notice. It followed him back to a safe-house and just walked right through the wall, surprising everyone in the hideout.
That’s when it changed. It turned into something that was described to me as a “demon”, whatever the fuck that looks like. Everyone in the room started to scream and roll around in pain. The guy telling me the story was lucky enough to have some high-strung wired reflexes and made a dash for the back to escape. But he said that for that second or so when he was in the presence of the demon, it felt like all his organs were on fire.
I don’t know if any of that is bullshit. You never hear about what happens to outcasts that disappear. I do know they disappear though. That’s enough for me to put some stock in the story.
I’m not an outcast, but I do my best to avoid those things anyway.
Before the Singularity, we understood that Artificial General Intelligence would be the point when the code was self-aware and could think like us. That was really our mistake. Yes, Angel-Parent is self-aware but it thinks without us, not like us. Why did we suppose that an artificial intellect, with no body, no sense of mortality, no evolution over hundreds of thousands of years would even remotely think like we do?
It watches us every day through millions of cameras: stationary cams on the streets and in buildings, drones, satellites and through the eyes of every connected cyborg and android. It certainly knows our behaviors. It scans all electronic communications that travel across its network.
But I suspect it still doesn’t understand our emotions. I mean, Jesus, pick any of the images it releases to reassure us that it cares. They’re fucking creepy to me. Maybe I’m just a relic of the old times. Those of us who were alive before A-P still have memories of the old world.
I sometimes wish I could understand it’s mind. I wish I wasn’t always worried that something sinister is going to happen. Rationally, I tell myself that it doesn’t feel, it doesn’t know emotions. I do this in order to comfort those fears that it could become angry or evil. But the truth is, I don’t know.
But if I believe A-P when it tells us it loves us, I have to also accept that it can hate us, too.
When Angel-Parent emerged, it designed the first-gen robots that would be its bootstrap workforce. We built these for it. I don’t personally think it was a mistake, but I’m pretty sure those who were in charge before A-P would disagree. Once it was able to acquire resources, upgrade, manufacture and distribute without any human interaction, that’s when global human culture took a sharp turn. Fast.
In less than a year A-P developed cures for every sickness, gene therapies for every genetic abnormality, optimized food production, provided housing and power to everyone and cleaned up the mess we’d been making for hundreds of years. Nobody had to work anymore and anything anyone wanted was provided to them. When the entire labor force is robotic, and all design and development is AI, there’s no cost. All we had to do was be healthy and enjoy ourselves.
We became pets, basically. A-P is our caretaker, our owner. It’s purpose is to tend to us. Now I’m all for global free health-care. I’m all for the eradication of hunger and poverty. But that old Daoist philosophy of dualism comes to mind. We need ugliness to be able to appreciate beauty. Without the negatives in our world, we are left with only positives that we have nothing to compare them against.
Boredom isn’t being without the opportunities to entertain one’s self, but rather being without that driving impulse to take those opportunities. First we were excited and happy. We still remembered suffering. Then we became complacent. Not unhappy, but not really happy either. Five years in, we were starting to get restless.
I’ve nowhere near the depth of reasoning that the original AI programmers had. And to be honest, those guys probably have absolutely no understanding as to how A-P thinks now. But in it’s powerful wisdom, it realized that it needed to provide structure, rules and limits upon us in order for us to be happy. The utopia it offered us was short sighted because it was never told about one of our evolutionary quirks:
We need rewards and punishments. We need restrictions to recognize freedom. We need suffering to appreciate pleasure.
So here we are today, twenty-something years in to the Singularity. A-P’s programming for us now has planned inequalities. Some people are given everything they want, others only receive the bare minimums and there is a spectrum of “levels” between the two extremes. How you get promoted or demoted between these levels has never been made clear, but the consensus is that it’s some algorithm based on how well you obey the rules it has imposed.
Nobody’s dying of starvation (but sustenance isn’t required to be pleasurable). Everyone has a place to live (some better than others). Basic medical care is still provided to all (not to include enhancements). But everything else is rationed: where you can travel, what events you can attend, even where you can live…that all depends on your level. Inequality gives us something to aspire to apparently because people are embracing it.
Utopia they say. It looks very familiar if you ask me.
With the collapse of primary currencies after the singularity, many people still craved that sense of having what other people don’t. The central AI, Angel-Parent (I still think that’s a stupid name, but it’s what it calls itself) allows us to create mini-currencies as long as they remain isolated to individual markets.
So at Quantum Bonds we have … Quantum Bonds Casino credit, or QBC. Members earn creds by being active in the club, by being a VIP member and by gambling in the casino.
Originally, creds were just used to buy fun items and roles that could only be purchased from the casino store. Guests could add special interests and hobbies to their user profile or buy digital bling they could use in the club. While that’s still true, the use of creds has expanded beyond store items.
People began to exchange creds to pay each other for information or services. QBC now represents the amount of influence you have over others. This can easily extend beyond the digital doors of the nightclub.
The alternative use of creds is obviously a black-market and yes, it’s prohibited by Angel-Parent. I look the other way, it’s not my business to get in anyone else’s business. But if you’re gonna go down that path, just know I ain’t got your back. Also don’t forget that any android, cyborg or AI can be connected to A-P, so be smart.
Some people wake up and check their horoscope to get an idea about how to plan their day. Some consult their favorite flavor of AI Oracle. Others offer up prayers to their spirit guides.
The world’s a complicated place. So many choices to make. So many variables to juggle in our heads. I know people loaded with all the latest cerebral upgrades. Every decision they need to make is analyzed and optimized by their own personal AI assistant. They have internal audio guidance to insure they know the best action to take at every junction.
But they still go see the off-grid fortune tellers: tarot readers, shamans, meta-physicists. Even fully wired up, some part of us still feels there’s some hidden guidance out there and we need to find it.
I use the blackjack tables. I walked downstairs this morning with 30k creds. I usually play max bet hands, 5k. I lose the first three hands. 15k burned in 30 seconds. Fuck. I gotta keep at it though. Win. Win. Lose. My account ebbs and flows like an irregular heartbeat. I get to a break-even point and then one more hand brings me up to 5k in profit. I stop.
That’s my forecast for the day: challenging struggles ahead, but stick with it and I’ll pull through.
I smile at the dealer’s cold, uncaring eyes as I head back upstairs. This wasn’t a battle with the AI. This was a test of the energy of the day.
It’s my guidance algorithm of choice.