Here I stand, at the top of Ivory Tower, looking down upon the amorphous masses I used to belong to. A tiny adjustment here and there, a little shift in the cybernetic behavior alignment system we use to instill our sheer benevolence onto our unwilling and unknowing subjects, and yet another stage will be complete. In a few years, the very concept of hurting another human would be but a distant memory. We started small, nothing more than targeted ads, some small nudges to make ‘The Healthy Choice – Your Choice’ as our old slogan goes. The insurmountable scale of our success made us quickly adjust this thinking to larger problems, though. Shifting to education and then to social engineering was the logical consequence.
It was simple to extend our reach to policing and other executive bodies, having spent decades in the trenches of the legislative groundwork to legitimize our lofty ambitions. Governments the world over were standing in line to incorporate our technologies to sustain their feeble and conservative claims to power; one service at a time. When the moment came to surpass the old-fashioned notions of borders, nations or sovereignty, nothing could stop us anymore – few even tried. The puny attempts to limit our claims, often a last hurrah signifying the waning glory of some former power, were thwarted swiftly and rigorously, albeit at great cost.
Who was it all for, I wonder? The cybernetic supra-intelligence governing humanity, most logistics and transportation networks, all the intertwined global communications systems, much of our med-tech and diagnostics, all financial flows, education curricula and so forth, is irreplaceable. Should I have stopped Ivory Tower’s ascend while doing that was still within reach? We told ourselves to “remake humanity in our image” when we adopted the primary use of ritual and mysticism as our operating principles, as various splinters of technophobic anachronism started sprouting around the globe.
There is no way back. Not anymore. No human would be able to comprehend, let alone execute the vast amounts of computations required to manage a system of such infinite complexity, and without Ivory Tower the world surely would fall to ruin. Petty crimes are no longer thinkable, most forms of malice will not survive into another generation – our reeducation programs performed better than even the most optimistic heuristics predicted. Humans have never been more adept, well-nourished, free of illness or discomfort, and have become utterly incapable of performing any non-collaborative action. Isn’t that what we set out to archive? What I dedicated my life to?
Some philosophers argued that our aggressive reprioritization of individual strife led to the very definition of human intent as ‘non-action’, which I consider ludicrous. Sure, there were reports of isolated cases where our hyper-personalized civil engineering systems outperformed their intended goals. Sometimes targeted information funnels might lead some weak-minded individuals down into rabbit holes of infinite depth, abyssal voids they could never escape again. But we knew that some price must be paid in service of the greater good. Maybe music and literature should have been propagated, not automated, but the potential abuse for spreading ill will and radical thought was too severe. We knew there would be casualties, but there are always those who cannot see the light, even as it burns their eyes. History has never measured successes in relation to the absolute bottom of human potential. And yet…
‘Those who fight monsters – watch, not to become one yourself’, as the old saying goes. Have our machines of infinite benevolence not obliterated the very notions we build them to protect? Could we have been too blind, too arrogant, to grasp the implications of the course we set for humanity? Even if freed of perpetual control, behavioral adjustments, cybernetic enhancement – will any human ever again feel the simple joy of just being?