Sunday, June 1, 2008

Continuing Ed

I can almost remember mortality. I lived each day as it came, at the rate of one second per second— because really, what else was there to do?

I can almost imagine immortality: all of infinite entropy stretching out before you, more than worlds enough and time to scale any peak a mind might set for itself. What would it take, I wonder, to provoke such a being to haste? What need to hurry, with eternity to play in? What value could mere moments hold? Mere millennia?

Moments matter a great deal to me. Moments are all I have. Here on Eriophora we exist in some state between those others, one foot in the grave, the other on an event horizon. Tidal forces tear us straight up the middle. I have two or three hundred years to ration across the lifespan of a universe. I could bear witness to any point in time, or any hundred— any hundred-thousand if I slice my life thinly enough— but I am not immortal. I will never see everything. I will never see even a fraction.

I have to choose.

When you come to fully appreciate the deal you've made — ten or fifteen builds out, when the trade-off leaves the realm of mere knowledge and sinks deep as cancer into your bones— you become a miser. You can't help it. You ration out your waking moments to the barest minimum: just enough to keep the mission on track, to plan your latest countermove against the Chimp, just enough (if you haven't yet moved beyond the need for Human companionship) for sex and snuggles and a bit of warm mammalian comfort against the endless dark. And then you hurry back to your crypt, to hoard what's left of a human lifespan against the unwinding of the cosmos.

There's been plenty of time to educate myself in matters of biology. Time enough for a hundred postgraduate degrees, thanks to the best that aeons-old learning technology has to offer. I have never availed myself of those opportunities: they would burn down my tiny candle for a litany of mere fact, they would fritter away my precious, endless, finite life. The vistas of this universe surpass the most sublime religious rapture; mere book-learning would be a dry and dusty garnish to trade for the Cassiopeia Remnant.

Now, though. Now, I want to know. This thing crying out across the gulf, this creature massive as a moon, wide as a solar system, tenuous and fragile as an insect's wing: I'd gladly cash in some of my life to learn its secrets. How does it work? How can it even live in this wasteland of absolute zero, much less think? What godlike intellect must this thing possess to see us coming from half a lightyear away, to deduce the nature of our eyes and our instruments, to send us a signal that we can even detect, much less understand?

And what happens when we punch through it at a fifth the speed of light?

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9 Comments:

Blogger razorsmile said...

WOOO!!!!

June 1, 2008 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger Strannik said...

Damn.

I hope these get collected some day, and maybe we get some more on the Eriophora and the Chimp.

June 1, 2008 at 11:55 PM  
Blogger Nimish said...

I want more fiblets! And bigger ones!

Just one thing though: it should be "to hoard what's left..."

June 2, 2008 at 12:30 AM  
Blogger razorsmile said...

I want to know what the fuck The Chimp actually is, that's what I want to know. Perhaps I'm overthinking things but I have a feeling it hasn't been a literal chimp for a long time. Is it immortal unlike the others? Or does it too leapfrog the eons?

June 2, 2008 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Strannik said...

I think the Chimp is the AI myself. I guess we'll find out one day.

June 2, 2008 at 5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a chimp brain emulated in software, and the main theme of the book will be crew's eternal battles with it's desire to fling sewerage at potential threats and have everything come out of the food synths tasting of banana.

June 2, 2008 at 8:12 PM  
OpenID chang3002 said...

SHITHOT~!!!

Keep it coming.

June 2, 2008 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Strannik said...

I hope these get collected some day, and maybe we get some more on the Eriophora and the Chimp.

Well, that is the plan…

Nimish said...

Just one thing though: it should be "to hoard what's left..."

Oooh. Good catch. Fixed.

razorsmile said...

I want to know what the fuck The Chimp actually is, that's what I want to know.

Strannik said...

I think the Chimp is the AI myself. I guess we'll find out one day.

Anonymous said...

It's a chimp brain emulated in software, and the main theme of the book will be crew's eternal battles with it's desire to fling sewerage at potential threats and have everything come out of the food synths tasting of banana.

Stop that right now.

You know the deal. The whole aura of enticement is lost if I strip away the panties and reveal the wet rotton crotch behind. So you will control your curiosity or I swear I will turn these fiblets around right now

Besides, it's "sewage".

June 4, 2008 at 6:40 PM  
Blogger razorsmile said...

Sooo ... we're pretty close then? :D

June 4, 2008 at 8:45 PM  

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