Comparing Thursday’s progress with Friday’s progress, I have to say in raw bulk that I was able to get through more news items on Friday. I found myself much more capable of taking in a combination of positive and negative information than I was when I charged through nothing but negative information. It was safe to say, though, that there was a pretty simple conclusion to make. Earth wasn’t spiralling out of control quite as quickly as I thought it was. Peaceful technological advancement had ground largely to a halt while the vast majority of investments were being made in defense and military technologies. Efforts to repopulate the satellite network with ‘stealth’ satellites seemed somewhat ineffective compared to simply producing attack or disposable satellites. Low orbital space around the planet had become something of a battleground of scientists making better and better orbital weapons or filling the space with garbage and satellites that looked like garbage.
Multiple nations had collapsed financially. Religious conflicts had never really slowed down, let alone stopped since the start of the century. Remarkably there had somehow never been an official World War, but the conflicts breaking out seemed to be nearly constant. It was almost as if the people were trying to let off a steady level of steam rather than letting it bottle up to explode as it had in the twentieth century. In my opinion, though, it only seemed to be delaying the inevitable. While governments and now companies were trying to reduce the scale of conflicts, no one seemed to be actively trying to find better ways to end conflicts peacefully, or deal with the actual problems the people of Earth had yet to deal with.
This seemed to simply be denial of reality and misdirection. The population of the planet was exploding, and overcrowding and overutilization and squandering of resources were bleeding Earth dry. Humanity simply could not continue to reside on Earth in this fashion forever. Reforms needed to be made, systems needed to be torn down and rebuilt, and the way that people lived needed to be brought into question. The genetic engineers could be working on so many more important problems, like helping people curb their gluttony or to find ways to reduce population growth to an acceptable level. Perhaps humanity’s habit of causing massive losses of life through things like world wars and civil wars had been a way to keep population numbers in check in the past, but now that tactic was simply not effective. Perhaps they weren’t willing to inflict the kinds of casualties they’d need to actually have an effect with the coverage it would get.
In the time before our departure I had gained an appreciation for Christianity. Not so much for the supernatural aspects of it, but the teachings that went along with it. It seemed that, while Christianity was certainly not innocent of many crimes in its own past, its post-enlightenment form seemed to be greatly oriented towards finding ways to reduce violent conflict. The fact that certain forms of media had found endless ways to demonize what was essentially a bunch of pacifists was evidence, in my opinion, that the powers that be had no interest in charity, kindness, and brotherly love. The rare instance where a member of this faith lashed out was often blown out of proportion even online and used as an example of the entire faith despite the fact that the statistics did not bear out. This style of singling out individual members and representing whole groups as being the same had been used on many groups before.
There was simply nothing about the way that the faith was practiced in modern times that encouraged or allowed that kind of behavior. Comparing that with other faiths of comparable influence and age and any logical person would find things wildly out of proportion. More importantly, the bedrock teachings of a society that came from Christianity seemed to tend more towards liberty and freedom as opposed to totalitarianism and fascism, regardless of whether the faith was still actively practiced anymore. Religion seemed to act as a foundation, a grounding force for the people, providing a set of values to help steady the rudder for a nation, and those foundations were eroding in the name of ‘progress’ the world over. This factor is my primary interest in the religion, the way it shapes a society, rather than its particular beliefs.
T.I.A. and I had a lot of information to go over. In a sense I was beginning to wonder why it was that we were even bothering though. Shouldn’t our goal, considering our mission, be to cut all our ties to Earth to give us a better chance of survival? Countering that idea, though, was that if we were to found a society on a new world that stood a chance of avoiding what happened on Earth, it was important that we catalogued how it was that Earth ended up the way it did. It wasn’t as if our sparse return communications with our stranded allies back on Earth were likely to produce much effect after all. It wasn’t as if they could break their isolation and reveal that they were still communicating with what people identified as ‘traitors’ to the planet. They had to protect their own lives and family, and keep their business secret.
It was fortunate that Tia Monsalle had seen to it that those that survived the purges and still braved the dangers of working with us were taken care of to the best of her abilities. The company she left behind had been largely broken up and dissolved and a good portion of her fortunes diverted into different funds for her employees, charities, and the like. She’d made a significant effort to try to make sure that her remaining resources could be used to do some kind of good in her absence. There were significant efforts to destroy everything she’d touched by people that hated us, but she’d managed to conceal so much more than was lost. It was good to see that our old friends were living comparatively well compared to most people and that the rest of her money was bettering the lives of the less fortunate.
It was this kind of compassion and willingness to forgive others that I found myself having much more difficulty embracing. I also seemed to lack a concrete capacity to hold a grudge or hate those that wronged us as well though. I certainly did not lack a capacity for fear nor despair, or if I did it certainly did not dull the pain in my heart over the things I’d seen. When I was younger, I believe I would have just seen such things as mere statistics. Deaths and acts of violence to be logged as data and analyzed for what value could be preened from it. Had I really been so cold and calculating before? Were these emotional bottlenecks of mine something I could eventually grow out of? Perhaps it took some kind of overwhelming tragedy to break the straps on my heart that made it so difficult for me to feel what so many others took for granted.
Fear had been unlocked for me that fateful day so many years ago when I’d seen classmates and professors’ remains splattered across the walls of my University. I’d seen in that moment a potential future for myself, and as my view of things grew I realized how wide-spread and accepted such things had become. Despair had come as a remarkable a surprise just a day ago as the full, crushing weight of the pain that had been unleashed on Earth had managed to finally strike me. I can’t tell for how long those moments had been building in me before they burst, but now I found myself wondering if other such events would further unbind my otherwise meager emotional capacities.
It was also easy to recognize that those were not the most healthy emotions to have full grasp of. Fear could be a great motivator, I think I had proved that much, but despair was rather unlikely to lead to anything but destruction. I needed to keep that one under control and under-stimulated. T.I.A. and our allies had done the right thing limiting my exposure to things that might irritate this new allergy of mine. I really needed to compose how grateful I was to her for looking after me despite knowing that I was supposed to be looking after her. In some strange way, we were both learning to grow into what it was to be human. How foolish I was thinking that someone like me should have any right or capacity to guide a machine into sentience!
Still, perhaps it really was as inspired an idea as I thought it was when I undertook the task. The fears of a wild, emotional, powerful AI destroying humanity or betraying its creators in fiction was largely based on the concept that a fresh consciousness could not withstand the power of powerful emotions. Between that and severe flaws in restrictive programming, those conceptual ventures were doomed to fail. Of course, such fictional failures were also in service to the story, and it would simply not do to try and make a horror novel about the betrayal of a rogue AI to simply have the AI operate as intended and not betray anyone.
T.I.A. was different though. She was not shackled or restricted in any such way. Neither were her emotional capacities so open that she’d have full access to them before she was ready. It was a difficult endeavor, but I’d given her room to grow so that her experiences and observations could allow her to develop in a more natural fashion. It also served well for her to have untapped capacity for when hardware started to fail. We’d endeavored to reduce the possibility of long term degradation to an absolute minimum, but there would obviously be some level of failures along the way. Backups and redundancies would hopefully do their jobs in preventing her from losing anything while giving her more to gain.
I had every confidence in my work. Everyone on our mission had performed their tasks to the highest levels of specifications. T.I.A. would see us safely through, I was certain of it. I was the weak link here, not the technology, not the equipment. I needed to see to it that everything developed and travelled as it was intended. As I reminded everyone else before they’d put themselves into stasis, we did not have room for failure.
Thus it was that I undertook Saturday’s work with energy and gusto. I wasn’t feeling entirely up for it physically, but it was exactly because of that that I needed to get to work. Processing through information would not be my job today though, maintaining vital equipment would. Of course, by that, I meant myself. I had never been particularly good about exercising, intellectual pursuits were always my passion, but if I wanted to withstand the rigors of space travel and repeated deaths and resuscitations then I needed to see to it that I maintained my body. I’d spent a decent amount of time preparing myself for this back on Earth, but with the amount of time I’d have up here, essentially the rest of my life, I could more thoroughly dedicate myself to fitness. It was simply the responsible thing to do.
T.I.A. guided me through workout routines, producing needed weights, equipment, and machinery from storage through a panel in the floor as were required. Our people on Earth had endeavored to keep up on what medical and sports science had managed to uncover and innovate in while we were gone. Things had not greatly changed as far as physical maintenance, though there had been some notable breakthroughs in preventing and repairing brain damage from various effects. It was unlikely such things would be useful to me, but if there was anything truly remarkable we’d probably be able to fabricate it with our onboard 3D printers.
One priority, especially, would be innovations in technologies that would allow for better and safer self-surgeries or machine-operated surgeries. The latter was obviously my preference, but there was no way to be entirely certain that I might not need medical intervention in the event of some kind of failure of my body or an accident. T.I.A. was equipped to perform such surgeries if required, but there was something to be said for being able to handle things yourself in an emergency. Among the many things I had to learn before we left included extensive First Aid training, as well as emergency surgery. I found my naturally dull emotions quite compatible with the practice actually, and it was not impossible to imagine I might have taken it up as a profession if things had gone differently.
I was feeling quite weary by the end of this session though, having passed several hours working on just about every part of my body. The idea was to not injure myself too heavily to allow me the next day to heal up properly before I would have to go back into stasis for another thirty-four years. My interactions with T.I.A. had been very minimal, and very businesslike today, with my only deviation from that being a dedication. “I need to tell you something T.I.A., something very important. I promise you that I will be better about taking care of my mind and body, for my sake as well as yours. I will not betray you in this, and if it is in my power I will accompany you for the entire journey to our new home, and long after if I have the opportunity.” She seemed satisfied with this, and proceeded to make me beat myself up in the name of health, running, lifting, stretching, twisting, and most of all sweating. It was interesting to imagine that my discarded moisture, primarily evaporated, would be sucked up and recycled along with everything else that came out of my body.
There would be loss, of course, and there was a vast storage of food and materials intended to keep me operating for my entire life, or someone else’s if I were to pass and another was required to take my place. Even that storage needed to be supplemented though, and recycling was absolutely necessary. It was one of the things our people had put the most work into. We would not have the resources of Earth to rely upon on our journey, and our new world might not be able to provide resources too readily upon our arrival, so being as efficient and self-sufficient as possible was very important. There was also the possibility, one which sparked my newfound dread in fact, that we might never arrive anywhere we could live and that our ship might end up being more of a permanent home.
We were not really entirely prepared for that possibility, though it wasn’t impossible we couldn’t make it work. We would need many more sources of materials than we would have, perhaps an asteroid belt or gas cloud, but considering the minds we had available it could potentially be done. There was something about the likelihood that I’d probably be dead from old age by that point that was somewhat comforting, though I could resume my cyclical life to exist for many millennia after humanity had arrived at its new home. That was at least one problem I probably wouldn’t have to personally see to. Thinking on it though, perhaps it was something I did need to consider trying to prepare T.I.A. for.