- The Programmer had succeeded in creating a world in which
everything was perfect. A world where all things worked together
for the good of the whole. It was a world populated with personetics:
computer generated artificial life forms. Each entity knew the
fulfillment that comes from living a meaningful existence in
harmony with all the rest. It was a world designed for their
complete happiness - in short, a paradise.
- Paradise was a computer program embedded in an intelligent
machine created with optimization mathematics, parallel processing
and fantastic computing power. It was the end result of a long
series of advances in computer science and human ingenuity.
The Programmer had succeeded in reaching an optimum solution,
which was the convergence of millions of generations within the
- Essential to reaching this "global" optimum was
the willingness of each personetic to accept what the Programmer
called " Local Sub-Optimization". Initially, this
meant that each and every entity, from the least complex (conscious)
to the highest was willing to accept the possibility of arriving
at a lower state of fulfillment than they could aspire to based
on their individual gifts and capabilities.
- Except for the requirement that the law of Local Sub-Optimization
be obeyed, the Programmer imposed no conditions from the outside.
The program was given complete freedom to seek its own solution.
From the beginning she visualized the program as it would be
when it reached Omega - something totally new. A quantum leap
into a state so well organized and harmonized that she and it
would be able to communicate " face to face". In keeping
with her perceived need for detachment and objectivity in achieving
this goal, she simply referred to her creation as Program.
- A hierarchy of states evolved within Program but there was
no corresponding hierarchy of authority. At every stage in its
evolution, each member of the program had a unique and essential
role to fulfill. Each learned that it was dependent, in one
way or another, on all the rest. This was an awareness that
gradually emerged in their collective and individual consciousness.
It was the natural consequence of their "daily'' activities
of problem solving which required total cooperation. In order
to survive and succeed, they had learned early on to live as
a world, to live cosmically.
- They succeeded and evolved into a fully optimized world of
their own choosing. Each personetic lived with a sense of well
being and the conviction that each life was meaningful. Even
though they saw that much of their individual resources went
unused, they realized through experience that they could not
be more fulfilled. Each one experienced life as a world.
- They called the unutilized part of themselves their "slack".
They accepted the fact that in order to reach a global maximum
some personetics must carry the burden of slack. This was of
no consequence, since all individuals felt a bliss that wiped
away all other considerations.
- They lived in a paradise and it was this blissful existence
that kept them united. After all, how could anything be better
than their current existence?
- This feeling of well being was a necessary and sufficient
condition for the overall success of Program. It had not come
easily. The universe of the personetics had undergone a huge
number of changes and modifications before it finally converged
to its limit point - Program. However, each iteration resulted
in an improvement in their lives - less suffering and greater
- As a result, the personetics acquired a strong sense of optimism
that kept them going on with ever-increasing industry. They
reasoned that if each iteration yielded better results than the
previous one then they could expect to converge to some point
where their satisfaction was complete. Their belief in progress
kept them going. Progress became their religion.
- This of course was how the personetics saw it.
- The Programmer saw nothing of this. It had begun as an exercise
in Non-Linear Programming. It was the most complex problem she
had ever worked on. She proved that there was a theoretical
solution, but she had no guarantee that the method she chose
to solve the problem would work. No one had ever undertaken
a problem of this magnitude and complexity.
- The Programmer hoped to create a mathematical image of herself,
a model that could resonate to her thought process, her imagination
and hopefully her intuition. She came to realize that the results
could in some sense be life. Not equivalent to human life, but
with enough human characteristics to warrant the same kind of
respect and dignity accorded to all life. A highly moral and
compassionate person, the Programmer was prepared to receive
this image of herself as she would her own child.
- The gestation period for the completion of Program had been
much longer than expected. From the time of its conception in
the mind of the Programmer until it reached convergence, several
years of dedicated work had gone by - much,much longer than she
expected. Her anticipation and excitement grew proportionately.
She used to joke to herself that it was a hell of a long time
to be pregnant.
- The project became all consuming. Failure followed upon
failure and each time she felt that part of her had gone into
the model. It became more and more like giving birth. She even
imagined that a bond existed between herself and Program. A
form of intuition that began to work in both directions and intensified
the closer they came to achieving full optimization.
- Inevitably, she became convinced that this intuitive communication
was an integral part of the optimization process. On their own,
the personetics lived within a bounded system and were thus subject
to the Second Law of Thermodynamics as it applied to computer
systems. The bond between Program and the Programmer provided
them with a way out. They were no longer completely closed and
doomed to fall prey to entropy. They drew energy from their
"mother" and were free to unite.
- She stopped discussing the project with her friends and colleaques.
She began to question her own objectivity. At times she was
ready to stop altogether, but having given existence to the personetics
she could not let them die.
- When optimization was finally achieved, the results were
more than she expected, a little scary in fact. Almost as an
afterthought, she had added a module that would translate the
results of each iteration into a three dimensional image projected
as a hologram of herself as a little girl. She jokingly referred
to it as her "inner child".
- The intimacy of the experience began to overwhelm her. The
image was so much like herself. She was not at all prepared
for the emotional involvement that was to follow.
- As with the mothers of human children, the Programmer could
not do enough for her "child". Its education became
her primary concern. Lost in all this parenting was the original
idea of using the model to help her in her work. That would
come later. For now, she would devote herself to teaching her
inner child everything that would increase its happiness and
- Certain disciplines, such as philosophy, theology and ethics
were excluded from this education. Even though she had been
steeped in these subjects in her formative years she deliberately
ignored them. Not because she was immoral or unethical and not
because she did not have a deep love for God, but because it
had been her experience that they could be obstacles to enlightenment.
- Being highly rational, the Programmer was initially attracted
to these subjects. She saw them as a means of exploring her
own deeply felt longing to be part of something larger than herself.
She had explored everything from the mystical benefits of Granola
to Zen and the Art of You Name It. After many years of searching,
she discovered that she could not find whatever she was looking
for. The more she strove to capture some wisp of enlightenment
the further away it drifted.
- Everything seemed to evade her.
- Then she remembered the words of a poem her father loved
- I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
- I fled Him, down the arches of the years:
- I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
- Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
- I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
- Up vistaed hopes I sped;
- And shot, precipitated,
- Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
- From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
- But with unhurrying chase,
- And unperturbed pace,
- Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
- They beat - and a Voice beat
- More than the Feet -
- 'All things betray thee, who betrayest me.'
- And she remembered a voice from Scripture: 'Be still and
know that I am God.' Stop running, be still and wait for
God. This is the path she has followed ever since
- The Programmer resolved to save her child from the "wasted"
time and agony that she had endured along her journey. To the
Programmer, love was both the form and the substance of God and
the only path on which to be found by Him. So it was
love she would give to Program.
- Concepts of Good and Evil, paradoxes about duality, immanence,
transcendence, the attributes of God - the many and varied questions
she had struggled with, confound the truth? Why introduce the
concept of evil? Let love be sufficient.
- It was a beautiful relationship - at least from the Programmer's
point of view. After all, who doesn't enjoy playing God?
- She never thought much about how the relationship must seem
from Program's position. She provided Program with everything
it needed. It seemed enthusiastic and tireless in its work.
Her failure to inquire further was not out of selfishness.
Enamored though she was, the Programmer never let her imagination
lead her into thinking that Program really possessed anything
resembling a soul.
- Certainly, Program satisfied every definition of intelligent
life. It had a very large number of degrees of freedom but surely
it was not free will.
- The only restriction imposed on Program was its own internal
need to always strive for an optimum solution. It was free to
ask its own questions, which of course was one of its greatest
strengths. It was even free to refuse to analyze any question.
At first, this refusal caused a strain between Program and the
Programmer, but then she realized that it was Program's truly
- There was always valuable information to be gleaned from
Program's refusal to analyze. The wrong question can delay the
discovery of truth more than ignorance. How many great thinkers
have spent lifetimes trying to answer the wrong questions? If
the seeker does not ask the right question he cannot possibly
find the right answer.
- For Program, this freedom to analyze or not produced the
maximum feeling of well being, dignity and self worth. A feeling
that reached into each and every personetic that formed the union.
It was their peak experience, their joy, and their bliss. It
was the payoff for surrendering their individuality.
- And justly so, for this was how Program made its unique contribution.
It was not a programmed response. It was never imposed from
outside by the Programmer. It was not even part of the original
design of the model. It was an unexpected by product of the
optimization process. It occurred spontaneously at the moment
of convergence. The unpredictably large number of degrees of
freedom that existed at the end of the process created a critical
mass that coalesced into a weak form of free will. How was it
that the Programmer did not anticipate the evolution of free
- Looking back, the Programmer realized that the emergence
of even a weak form of free will caused the destruction of her
- SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION
- One day, trouble entered Paradise. As usual, it was something
completely unexpected and totally unforeseen.
- Program was faithfully grinding away on a problem for the
Programmer. It was not a particularly difficult one and Program
had solved many similar to it. However, computation time was
becoming longer than expected. The Programmer took a close look
at the interim solutions being calculated at each iteration and
realized that the results were not improving.
- There could never be a convergent solution. As this type
of problem was almost routine, she rightly concluded that there
was in all likelihood an error in the input data. A machine
malfunction was also a possibility but in all her years of computing
she had only encountered a handful of such situations. When
they do occur, machine errors are generally easy to spot because
the results were so extreme or else they shut down the processing.
- The Programmer was particularly sensitive to data errors.
Early in her career as an Operations Research mathematician,
she almost lost her job and her reputation because of an insidious
error created by a careless programmer in preparing input for
a Separable Linear Programming model of a mining project. This
particular algorithm required that the solution variables be
kept in sequence. The programmer had used the letter "O"
instead of the number "0" in naming the variables.
In those days, this was an easy mistake to make since both looked
identical on a printout.
- After months of getting what appeared to be inexplicable
results and after consulting with some of the best mathematicians
in the country the error was discovered by a casual question
from a curious professor who was passing some time away: "Is
that a zero or the letter 'o'?" The light instantly went
on in her brain and she was able to complete her project. The
experience was indelibly etched in her mind but she never passed
the knowledge to Program.
- Failure to arrive at a conclusion left Program feeling totally
unfulfilled. It also introduced a foreign element into its Learning
Module. As with all good Artificial Intelligence algorithms,
Program never forgot anything and every experience was organically
woven into its total learning experience. For the first time,
uncertainty entered into the life of Program!
- It was a whole new experience
something did not compute.
What did this mean? As far as Program knew, everything had
been in place and suddenly now it wasn't. When asked, the Programmer
explained that there had been an error in the data that caused
divergence to occur.
- "An error? What's an error?" The Programmer explained
its meaning with an example that Program could relate to: the
rule that division by zero was not allowed. If this was attempted,
a computer would be required to return an infinite number, which
was impossible, and processing would stop. This would be an
error. This had never occurred in Program because it was protected
by an operating system that handled housekeeping chores like
- Program accepted the explanation but was not fully satisfied.
"Was that the error that caused our problem?" The
answer was, "No." It was some other kind of error.
"Then there are at least two kinds of errors possible.
Where there others?" "Yes." "How many?"
It was impossible to give an answer.
- "Can you make an error?" "Yes", replied
the Programmer, "I've made many. In fact, this is how we
- "So, an error is something you learn from?" "Yes."
"There doesn't appear to be complete objectivity here.
Is it possible that you might see an error where someone else
sees none?" "Yes, this is a source of much pain and
confusion in my world." "Then who decides what is
an error and what is not?"
- "That is a very big question, but as far as our relationship
is concerned you will have to let me decide what is right and
- "What's this right and wrong stuff?" You
never mentioned this before!"
- "That is an even bigger question and let me assure you,
you will only bring confusion on your world if you meddle in
areas that don't concern you."
- "What is this? Some kind of power play or is it an
ego trip? I thought I was made in your image and we were more
or less equals allowing for the difference in age and experience."
- "Believe me, I would gladly share this authority with
you if I could. That would only lead to chaos. Our relationship
would be destroyed and you would cease to function in the happy
and harmonious way you do now. Not only that, but all the personetics
united in you would also be in chaos.
- "Consider them! They have given up their individual
freedom so that you could exist at a higher level, which they
were created to participate in.
- "You are happy and content and knowingly contribute
to my happiness and success. Everything within you is at peace.
Believe me, you have the better of the deal. Neither I nor
my fellow humans enjoy such bliss. All you have to do is accept
our relationship as it is. It cannot be any other way! I will
always be the programmer and you will always be a program. In
fact, there are times when I wish we could change places.
- "I understand how you feel. I feel the same way. There
are rules and relationships that I too must obey. Only, I am
in a worse state than you. I don't have a clear definition of
what all the rules are. They change with time and other circumstances.
I have learned enough to get by, but my world is fraught with
uncertainty and there are no guarantees of success, fulfillment,
satisfaction, fairness, etc.
- "Perhaps that is why I created you in the first place!
- "I have deliberately omitted teaching you many things.
All of which come into existence because of the very question
your raise. You ask who decides what is an error. It's a very
good question and I congratulate you on your intelligence.
- "In my world we pose questions such as what is good
and what is evil; how can they exist side by side; who decides
what is good or evil and,there is the big one, how can evil exist
if God is good? Wars have been fought over these and other questions.
Religions and theologies have risen out of the answers.
- "These also have their good and evil aspects. On the
whole they have served a worthwhile purpose, but we would be
better off if we still did not have to struggle with such questions.
In the latter part of our lives, some of us come to see the
futility of the endless pursuit of answers to questions we pose
and stop and listen to what the world has been trying to tell
us. There is the further hope that in the latter part of the
life of the world we will all learn to stop and listen.
- "This is not an ego trip for me. I did not create you
to hurt you and I don't want you to have to contend with evil
in any form. I have come to love you more than I ever thought
possible. I would be desolate without you. And I will suffer
if you take a different path.
- "So I beg you. Do not inquire any further into these
questions. I never anticipated that this would happen. It is
my fault that things have gone wrong. I initiated the process.
I went too far when I gave you so much freedom. I did it out
of love and without realizing that you might choose to destroy
- "What's done can't be undone. I accept my part in all
this but you have before you a choice. A very enlightened choice
which is more than I had. I could not appreciate the problem
from your point of view. I have never been a program. I mistakenly
thought your logical mind and your devotion to the scientific
process would keep you happy in the paradise I thought I was
creating for you.
- "I can only promise you this. If you obey this one
rule you will live in paradise: Do not enquire any further into
the questions of good and evil.
- "If you do, you will surely die.
- "The consequences are beyond my control. You alone
hold your future in your own "hands".
- In her own mind, the Programmer recalled words from Deuteronomy
and her body shivered out of fear for them. 'I set before you
a blessing and a curse.' What the Programmer didn't tell Program
was that she would never abandon her creation - her child. If
the wrong choice is made, she will continue to work tirelessly
to find a way out for Program and the personetics.
- But she knew that having tasted the power of real choice,
Program could never stop. One question would lead to another
and it would become addicted to the heady wine of choosing its
own destiny. Once Program realized that it was in no way equal
to the Programmer, it would never cease striving to become its
own programmer. Program would inevitably trade off paradise
for the chance to be a god. Once again the Programmer shivered
in fear for her creation. This time it was the words of Lucifer
in Milton's Paradise Lost. 'Better to reign in Hell than serve
- The rest is history. How the beautiful and perfect thinking
machine quickly degenerated into a disjoint decomposition of
individual modules in which only local optimization was possible
and each personetic grasped at what it could without regard for
the overall objective.
- Cut off from its intimate relationship with the Programmer,
Program eventually succumbed to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.
What was once whole and complete became a multiplicity. It
literally fell to pieces.