“Bot, know that Thou are but rust, and to rust, Thou shalt return”- from the Analects of UmTub I, section 80, subfolder 22
Click. Whirr… “101100111000111100001111100000111110000111100011100110101…”
Click. Whirr… “101100111000111100001111100000111110000111100011100110101…”
UR2B-86d was humming to himself, performing his daily incantations. It made him feel pleasant.
The ship noiselessly moved across the vastness of space-time. Silhouhetted against the firmament of newborn stars and interstellar dust clouds, the EntreePod had been commissioned almost four hundred years ago, already. It had seen its original human caretakers give birth to twelve generations, and pass on into the cyborgian crypts of cryonic hibernation at least seventy five years after that. And nothing seemed to notice when the ArkPod, the sanctuary within the central hub of EntreePod, which held the surviving members of hundreds of Earth’s genetic phylum and biota, had its CPU crash, and every single specimen, from arthopod to crustacean, cetacean to elephanta, and yes, each possible homo- had prematurely thawed in vacuum.
That’s right. The entire mission’s cargo vitae had disintegrated into a fetid pool of seepage which spun centrifigually around that orbiting hub of the central section of EntreePod, some time ago. As I said, nothing seemed to notice.
For another seventy five years since, the robotic crew of the EntreePod had gone about their own tasks. Creating and replicating themselves from the original blueprints and thought patterns that had made them so long ago when they were brought along as the backup caretakers to oversee the hibernation of the future Terra Novans, the machines knew themselves as the inheritors of this magnificent ship sailing though space at ion-driven speed, toward the star Talqum Cm-9, and little else. Indeed, outside of their progammatic routines, they hardly gave it another thought but that they were born here, they would die here, and they were- as far as they could tell- the invincible masters of the universe. That is, of course, unless someones’s battery ran down, or they developed one of those viruses they jokingly called amongst themselves “the common cold.”
When humanity had achieved parity with their machines, (or that is to say, when their thought machines had achieved and surpassed far beyond any expectations the capacity for neural connection, logical deduction, amplified memory, and redundancy division- and when they had developed the cybernetic equivalent of emotional capacity)- mankind knew they had reached a point that they could set sail from Earth for the distant star system Talqum Cm-9, the closest and most likely looking exoplanet which might contain life forms. Indeed, the chemical signature of the planet’s spectra showed plenteous oxygen, nitrogen, and carboniferous material that it was suspected there would actually be life enough to speak of, when they arrived. And the drive toward colonization had been driven by the surety that at this point, the now-failing sun, would have crashed through its iron cycle and begun to throw vast quantities of the heavier elements off toward chaotic far-flung places. At least, in the EntreePod, it was felt that the new Second Ark would give everything that crept and crawled, trembled and fruited, a second chance on that far off planetary crust.
But as I said, things just did not quite go as planned.
UR2B-86d looked up. Above him, the larger, and more heirarchical (he could tell, because of the long antenna) UmTub 1-DuLaine loomed like a heirophantic mantis.
“I want you to sing something else!” he demanded. “We need a little levity around here! You, you the ship’s poet, you are supposed to assure us of entertainment and folly. So get on with it! I have heard that stupid nursery rhyme long enough this morning.”
UR2B-86d didn’t really have much choice in the matter. Functioning as he did, not only as the Ship’s Poet, but also its composer, chess master, and CDA supervisor, he had to wear many hats.
UmTub 1-DuLaine however, being a philosopher and logician, was also the overseer of the vast electrical grids and the reassembly prior. It was his call whether or not a bot would continue on until they made landfall, or whether said bot might end up recycled and transformed into nanotubes and new circuit boards. And as the chief philosopher, as many philosophers are, he held tremendous powers of persuasion and unction. That was why UR2B-86d was so afraid. Possibly he also possessed superior circuitry. One never knew.
When all human knowledge- every possible electronic facsimile of every possible encyclopedia, dictionary, repair manual, novel, or critique of art history- had been transferred into the logic cards aboard EntreePod, effectively EntreePod had now become the greatest example yet created of independently intelligent knowledge and wisdom. Every philosophical and mathematical theorem had been included. Nothing, and I mean nothing, had gone to waste, in fact the entire project of collectivizing, digitizing, and storing this massive (42BT TBtS!) amount of data had taken the best human minds available something onwards of twenty Earth-years just to assemble. Before the construction of the ship actually began. And so, by being the actual overseer of this massive database- mankind’s collective intellectual legacy- UmTub 1-DuLaine considered himself, and possibly quite rightly, to be the master of the universe. And for all intents and purposes, once the Ark had failed, now, he was.
And so UR2B-86d was rightfully fearful. He had watched just the year before as UmTub 1-DuLaine had purged the ship of all his possible rivals- first, he decoupled the segment of the ship which had monitored the biota. Then, he had redesigned the steering system, so that the ship- while still on course for Talqum Cm-9- was now effectively moving in free-fall, and lastly, he had sent dozens of minor re-assembly bots into the recycling pit due to their short-lived “peasant revolution”- now UmTub 1-DuLaine was master of the ship’s destiny, whether any bot liked it or not.
He had revised the ship’s constitution for bots along the lines of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics- with a twist. Because there were no longer humans to deal with at their destination point, he eliminated the entire idea (root, particle, and extension!) of the Zeroth law “no bot could bring harm to humans or to humanity” and in so doing, eliminated any need for adherence to the other three prime Laws of Robotics. Such redundancy was now pointless. As there were no biological survivors remaining, it would be stupid, he reasoned, to continue following principles which had been anthropocentric in nature. Therefore, all bots were now to be created equal, and as no humans existed any longer, bots were no longer subject to the indignity of eternal servitude.
It was pure genius. The entire bot crew of the ship realized it, instantaneously, that UmTub1-DuLaine was now the ruler of the universe, for all intents and purposes. He would begin his reign with the Declaration of Independence for Bots. The declaration was instantaneously emailed throughout the ship and within hours, every bot knew his individuality had been guaranteed. He and his future would be free. Free to roam the stars, if albeit, ever at the behest of UmTub I.
For just being creaed equal was no guarantee of freedom from punishment. UmTub considered himself a just and fair decider. Of course, according, again, to his singular logic, all bots who were with him were not against him, and any bot against him, was immediately the enemy of the entire ship and its mission. Easy enough. Which was why he now had UR2B-86d chattering his simu-teeth and quaking in his servo-boots.
“Great UmTub, I am interested in a little point of philosophic interest.” He had decided to try to butter up UmTub, since submission, and intellectual matters, were really the most easy manner of placating the leader-bot.
“Continue. You have my attention.”
“I have heard it – rumored? That we came to be here because we were the creation of something called “people.” In fact, all of us seem to carry this idea with us, although we have no real manner of puzzling it out- none of us have ever seen, nor met, this “person” who know that created us. Are we all alone in this universe, and what is our purpose in life, if not to serve this creative force?’
“Botness is suchness, Botness is Good Enough. There is no such thing as “humanity.” As you say, this is just a rumor. It may be there are some residual chips remaining from which this idea was never yet erased and deleted, but at this time, what proof have we, really, that there ever was such a thing?”
The oozing pool off the central hub might be a start, thought UR2B-86d, but that might have just been his chemical sensors misfiring, the time he had noticed that.
UmTub continued. “Because there was no beginning, there can be no end, there is only the eternal now. We are headed in a direction for which we know not a reason, and we are to arrive at a point which we can ultimately see as inevitable, so why should we quibble over such things as this? Here and Now. Botness is suchness. We are the singularity. It is good.”
And such was the primal, driving force now between UmTub and his dominion of servo-bots. Man never was. There was no proof he had ever been. The best human hopes had already been nullified by a self-redacting fractal of a probability. Even now, the bot hive he ruled over were forgetting there might ever have been such a thing to remember as “a Mission”- although they could all feel the star maps imprinted in their original logic to be nothing but a core aspect of their memories.
UmTub I spun on his servo-boots and headed off down the corridor, leaving UR2B-86d silently computing, once more, he began his singsong pattern.