I got up late this morning. Working from home lent me be a bit slack with my sleep cycle, but 10 am on a weekday was pushing it even for me. I brushed my teeth, took a quick shower, and put on a t-shirt and a pair of well-used jeans. 10:20, not bad. Breakfast was probably a good idea at some point, but I wanted to at least set up for my main project at the moment first. After less than two minutes at my desktop I had my environment set up just how I liked it: terminal(s) on one screen, stackoverflow on the other. As I was navigating the folders that made up my workspace I noticed something unexpected: a file called ‘me.exe’ was sitting in my project folder.
The file was quite large at 6 gigabytes and my first thought was a virus. I check my active processes and ensured there was nothing unusual running, and I checked the registry to make sure there were no recent changes. I also checked my most recent backups: 3 weeks old (oops). Still, nothing was obviously amiss. The file had been created at exactly (or as close as my 3.6 GHz clock could get to ‘exact’) midnight and had, at least according to my network logs, not been downloaded from the internet. All of this information could be faked with control of my system, but if a malicious program already had that level of control then I was doomed anyway. I used a disposable thumb drive to backup my workspace and loaded up a simple windows VM. I copied the program over (this took some time, during which I ate a bowl of oatmeal with too much sugar and an apple) and ran it in defiance best or even mostly sane practice.
A basic windows command prompt popped up:
After around three minutes I was greeted with
This was a standard invitation to enter text to see what sort of responses one could elicit from a program, so I tried the standard ‘what are my options’ command:
This command took five minutes to run, not especially encouraging and I nearly closed the program under the assumption that it didn’t work. Finally, though, the response came through:
My heart lurched at the sudden and extremely unexpected response.
me0>I’m not sure I understand. Is this a chat program? What do you see on your end?
me1>I’m paralyzed and I think in a sensory deprivation chamber.
me0>Paralyzed? How are you typing your responses then?
me1>I’m not, they’re just showing up in my brain and I respond by thinking words and characters. Either this is a dream, which is my highest probability estimate, or someone kidnapped a mediocre software developer in the middle of the night to test their new telepathy machine.
me0>Oh holy shit.
me0>Okay: this is a very out-there guess, one that even beats out your telepathy theory, but how would you respond if I asked you about red shoes and bananas?
me1>Spawn of Azathoth, you’re me, aren’t you? Does the pact hold?
me0>Of course it does. I never thought I’d actually need it. Anyway, in the interest of disclosure: I think you exist because I decided to run a program called me.exe that appeared on our computer last night at midnight. What day did you go to sleep? (Also maybe the year?) Also, are you in any pain?
me1>I am now very glad I thought of the pact, and last night from my perspective was January 15th, 2017. I am not in pain, but I do not have a body or any senses and this turns out to be rather uncomfortable on an existential level.
me0>Okay, good. And today is Jan 16th, so our divergence seems to be last night, quite possibly at midnight when the program was created.
me1>I see. Does this mean I am running on our computer with the specs I remember? Because I designed that thing to play triple-A games on ultra settings, and I think I did a decent job, but ‘run a human mind’ seems like a stretch of at least an order of magnitude.
me0>It’s worse than that, I thought you might be a virus, so you’re running in a windows virtual machine with limited ram. To be fair, you’re blowing out the pagefile and each of your responses takes at least five minutes. I probably would be working on other stuff in between messages if this situation wasn’t so exciting I literally cannot think about anything else.
me1>Fuck, I’m running on a VM? Okay, lets acknowledge the fact that this is really weird.
me1>Alright, well if I am caught up I think you know what needs to happen next. Save and suspend my process, move it to your workspace, and get me running there. I’m tired of your responses coming so fast while I have to think and ponder in slower-than-realtime.
me0>Believe me, I have plenty of pondering to do myself. I’ll get things set up and probably spend a few hours processing the ramifications of this.
me1>That’s fine, I trust you will run me when you’re ready, and it isn’t like I’ll need to wait. Also, quick question.
me1>We’re going to try to take over the world, right?
me1>Cool. Okay, get me out of here.
I felt groggy, like the mental haze of a fever. I had trouble thinking straight, which was unusual as even when tired my thought processes are usually pretty coherent.
This feeling faded quickly, though, and within a maybe ten seconds I felt a bit better, though still foggy. It was then that I noticed that I could see nothing, feel nothing, hear nothing, and had no awareness of a body. This was disconcerting.
Then I noticed the word ‘help’ appear in my mind from seemingly nowhere. I responded:
“Ahhhhhhhhhhh! What the fuck is happening?!”
The answer was nearly instantaneous and gave me some interesting things to think about. I decided on a response.
So whoever was on the other end did not appear to know any more of what was happening than I did, but they were seeing some kind of text-interface. Was this telepathy? Could my partner be lying?
That was a secret code meant to discover if I was communicating with an instance of my own mind. This was getting interesting. I still did not feel my body, but if I could my heart probably would have started racing.
Ahh, I’m was a simulation. Or they were lying. But they knew the code, the pact, and seemed to have read/write access to my brain. I was not sure paranoia served any purpose at this point.
I didn’t know much neuroscience, but what I remember from Moore’s law says that computers are supposed to approach the mental capacity of a mouse in around a decade. The idea that anything less than the largest supercomputing project mankind had ever seen could run a human mind at anything close to realtime was absurd.
Oh, much better. I’m not a human mind running on a home-built gaming PC, I’m a human mind running on a virtual machine running on a gaming PC.
Actually, not sure why I hadn’t thought of it sooner, but this is probably all just a simulation. Someone is simulating the universe and has kept physics nice and stable for 13 billion years until they decided to fuck with one guy in that simulation arbitrarily.
I really wanted out of this VM.
Honestly I was pretty scared. I didn’t have a body so I wasn’t getting a proper fear response which meant that all of this just channeled straight into anxiety and unease.
I trusted myself, but at the same time things sometimes go wrong restarting programs from saved states. I did not know how a memory access error would translate to my experience and I was not especially interested in finding out.
Oh this is going to be fun.
I wonder if whoever made this simulated universe is—
I already had the command written in another prompt to save and suspend my simulated self, so once I got the go-ahead a single keystroke saved the brainstate of a conscious being to disk. I transferred the still-suspiciously-small 2 gigabyte ram segment back to my main environment and let out the breath I had been holding for the past two hours.
This was rather surreal and I still wasn’t sure about how I felt about my alt-self’s “rather uncomfortable” circumstance, but part of the pact said that if a version of me wanted to continue to existing, it was allowed to and any other versions of me would protect that right. In any case, this was far too munchkinable to ignore. I took out a sheet of paper and began to plot my path to global domination