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The Final System Failure

The Final System Failure

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Published by Benjamin Trayne
Editor: You're killing people again. I suppose it was inevitable. Writer: I can't help it. It's all of the life, all of the death, all of those crazy possibilities. It's completely out of control. Got any beer?
Editor: You're killing people again. I suppose it was inevitable. Writer: I can't help it. It's all of the life, all of the death, all of those crazy possibilities. It's completely out of control. Got any beer?

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Published by: Benjamin Trayne on Sep 20, 2013
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12/28/2013

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The Final System Failure
 byBenjamin Trayne 
 Prologue: The Singularity Will Not Be Televised 
The year was 2032, and scientist Rob Flemington was having a vivid daydream. Facedwith the problem of creating a new algorithm, he sat blindly at his desk with his chin proppedon his right palm and drifted to a semi-conscious state. It had happened many times before, andit was a condition he welcomed. Because from it had come realizations, world-altering ideas,often things no one else had considered.
 
In his daydream, there was an ocean of sparkly-blue, deep blue, startlingly blue water  before him. He might have been in a boat, but that wasn't part of the dream, nor did he imaginethe sensations of wetness or temperature of the water as he reached into it. At first the water seemed to be dissolving his hand painlessly, as he considered that the chemical content of his blood and the seawater were, in fact, so similar. But then, a large fish seemed to swim right intohis open palm. He grasped it, and with great curiosity, he gently lifted the fish from the water.This fish was the ideal subject for observation, for it remained perfectly still in his hand. AsRob stared at the fish, it became transparent, and he could see into its brain. Rob's visionzoomed in until he could see the flash of synapses between neurons, indications of at leastautonomic processes occurring, and he wondered. How can we do this?Rob snapped back into full consciousness and glanced around. No one appeared to havenoticed, which was a good thing. That trance state had been misidentified before as sleep,which considering the hours he kept, from time to time may have been accurate.What separated Rob from his contemporaries was not necessarily his intelligence. It wasactually a matter of his perceptions. While others he knew seemed able to concentrate fully onspecific, perhaps mundane problems, Rob had difficulty with that. He saw a very much larger  picture; his interests were intense, his curiosities deep and far-flung across the full cosmos of human understanding. It could be a debilitating trait, for without the ability to center hisattention on a specific issue, simple goals often took a while to reach. It was sometimes verydifficult to explain why he had not reached an objective he had been working on, usually for too long. And yet when he did achieve an objective, it was often breakthrough in its proportions. It was likely the only reason he still had a job. Above his desk, one of his co-workers had tacked up a sign bearing one word in bold type:
INSIGHT.
For nearly two decades, the concept of computing with more than just ones and zeroshad been trodden underfoot by corporate giants of the computing and software industries.Upgrading existing hardware would have created mountains of cyber-junk, and manufacturers
 
-2-would have had to re-tool and to completely re-educate, to accommodate such a radicallydifferent technology. Indeed, when forced forward by genuine entrepreneurs intent on provingits usefulness, “trigital” or three-character computing did prove to be a relatively brief foray.Originally, binary code, and thus digital technology, was developed because theunsophisticated electronics of the day could easily detect whether a switch was “on” or was“off.” When the speed limitations of silicon chips were at last reached, chip developers couldeither abandon hope of getting faster or sacrifice accuracy, an impossible choice. However,detection of state had achieved a high enough resolution that now, instead of just a third state,five states were as easy to implement. But why stop there?
 
People like Rob were assigned the task of seeing beyond the current technology. For Rob the developments seemed very timely, for his interest in creating true artificial intelligencehad been smothered by the facts. Utilizing the best storage and the fastest processingtechnologies had failed miserably to provide enough computing power to produce anythingmore than mimicry of human thought. Here at last was something he considered importantenough to be given his full and undivided attention, and he threw himself into this work.
 
In short form, the two characters in an eight-bit byte permit just 256 combinations.Increasing the number of characters to
three
increases that to 6,561. Jumping it up to
 five
characters makes it 390,625. Eight bits are no longer optimum for that many combinations.Shortened bytes mean much shorter strings to carry the same data. But to that point, the mostsignificant advance of all had been overlooked, and Rob found it, while looking at optionsafforded by additional characters: markers within bytes of information allowed a mathematicalturn that created a form of machine shorthand. Application of a derivation of fractals would beemployed. Entire phrases, sometimes whole ideas could be expressed in one short string. Anentire new language unfolded before him, like the opening of a book.
 
To Rob, this was more than just a breakthrough. It was more like the shutters to adarkened room being thrown wide on a sunny day, permitting a glorious view into a previouslyunseen world. And if he was impressed, the world would be astounded.
 
Here at last was a means to attain goals he had set for himself more than two decadesearlier. A machine would actually think.
 
Alas, new infrastructure required new support. Back to the algorithms. To the humanmind, the requirements would be complex beyond imagination. Only a soon-to-be-outmodeddigital super-computer could generate them, and it was not a two-second wait while numberswere crunched. It was not unlike the dilemma faced by a primitive man who had discoveredthat he could extract metal from ore by heating it in a fire. Here was something entirely newwith desirable properties, but how could it be shaped into something he could use?
 
Rob believed that machine thought would include a sequence of models that thecomputer would sort through, in search of similarities or references to any stimulus or problemat hand. Any single algorithm would not suffice, but would have to reference others as asituation dictated. A new kind of progression would take place; it would be comparativelysimple for the the new machine language to seemingly almost instantaneously manufacturenew algorithms of its own. It looked startlingly like realization that would develop new ideasand would permit new conclusions to be drawn. Learning. Data reception becoming perception.
 
Yet there was a single element that could scarcely be overlooked. The true nature of 

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