Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We made Contact


“The sky crumbled.. the stars shattered under their own weight.. the screeching noises burned like an inferno and blood boiled off the streets.. the ground was obliterated and the oceans turned to dust.. We made contact.. we finally made contact.. why did we do this to ourselves..”

That’s the only thing I could make out from that weeping woman’s voice in that tape. ‘We made contact’.. what kind of contact was she talking about? Whom did they contact that caused such mayhem?

There was something deeply intriguing and piteous about the way that woman was speaking.. what diabolical distention transpired inside this unknown planet that led to the creation of this tape? I had to find out.. I absolutely had to..

After a little tinkering, I found that this tape had some more information recorded in it. I guess it came from a voice recording device which she had used for her vocation. I put it into the translator and transcribed the entire thing. This is what came out of it.

***

“If a butterfly flaps its wings in the southern hemisphere, then two years later it can cause a hurricane in the northern hemisphere”

This is how he began his address to us, talking about the vagaries of chaos theory, and with that, trying to mesmerize an audience dominated by 20-year olds, some of whom would consequently start their thesis under him.

He had a certain charm to him, quite possibly that of a troubled genius, but there was something more too.. One could see how those numerous lines on his creased forehead deepened as he spoke. His voice not only had gravity, but also emotion, emotion that indicated that he cared about the words he spoke, and maybe, sometimes too much for his own good.

He was definitely not a person who was supposed to be found at such a downbeat university. He clearly deserved a spot amongst the elite academicians of the Ivy Leagues. His remarks were incisive and his tone had this alluring accent, that would make one beg to hear more of his speech. But only if he spoke more. That was the thing about him, he was a reluctant speaker. On the rare instances that he would speak, no one else could. His voice would overpower the entire ambience of the room and if you closed your eyes then, you would almost presume that there was a divine presence in that room.

I wasn’t a physics or math major. I wasn’t even in the same college. A friend of mine had told me about this mystical professor of hers, whom she said I would have loved to listen to. She wasn’t too far off.. I actually enjoyed every word he said and just like every other journalism major, who has that itch on stumbling upon something interesting, I too wanted to find out more about him…

Later that night, I knocked on his office door. He responded with a firm “Hmm?”.

“May I come in, Sir?”

“Hmm”

“I was present in your lecture today and even though I’m from a non-science background, I felt an incredible interest in the theories you proposed..”

“Hmm”

“Errr.. You might be wondering what I am doing here in your office at this odd hour and most probably I’m wasting your precious time. So without beating around the bush any further, let me get to the point.. I want to interview you, and I believe that this interview will be interesting enough to satisfy my degree requirements. ”

“So was that comment on my lecture just contrived coyness to create a context for this offer, or was it an earnest remark?”

“Uhh.. it was most certainly an earnest remark.. I mean you were wonderful and I can show that to the whole world how..”

“Your powers of articulation disappoint me.. I would rather die in oblivion than to be packaged and presented in a glorious spotlight which I’m undeserving of.”

“Oh no no.. you misunderstood.. I mean it wasn’t your fault.. and it’s just like.. I think we got off on the wrong foot..”

“I appreciate imagination and absolutely loathe, trite hackneyed clichés.. You have 12 words at your disposal. If by virtue of them you can convince me then I would certainly consider your offer, otherwise I would need to escort you to the nearest exit.”

“Hmmph… In all my life, I have never met a guy like you”

“It’s extremely generous of you to refer to this old bag of bones as a ‘Guy’.. haven’t heard that in a while..”

“Only coz its true.. not all journalists who..”

“When would you like to commence?”

“Anytime that you wish to!”

“I play Billiards every Friday night. You can join me there.”

“But.. err.. I don’t play.. I mean I don’t know how to play!”

“Don’t you worry about that. The only game I play, is the A-Game..”

***

We started with the game and true to his word, he cleared the table in his first round. I was amazed at how well he anticipated the game and how he almost knew beforehand where the balls are going to be positioned after their motion ceased. He was electric. After he was done with it, I got him a drink and said:

“You are a special person.. I guess you know that.. so why are you wasting your time here? You should be in some top scientific congress or the Presidents committee or something. Why are you squandering your talent here?”

“You want to know why I teach here? Why I work in a small office when I should be delivering lectures at science congresses? Why I care about so deeply, and work so meticulously, on something as obscure as the implications and consequences of the flapping of a butterfly's wings?

It’s because I had once endeavored to save the world.. and not like your average teenager who has a fetish for it.. I dedicated my entire life to it and had almost achieved it.. if only for....”

“Wait.. Save the world? Save it from whom? Butterflies?

“Even worse.. Save it from itself..”

“That doesn’t make much sense. Why exactly did you want to save the world?”

Because I was angry.. and outraged...

Why were You so angry?

Because I believed that our society is Hobbesian. I essentially saw people as bad creatures.. They have no faith in the power of humanity. They have all been failed by other people many times in many different aspects of their lives and take it out on others. For most people this rule of paying it forward is good enough to keep their life in balance. But not for me. Hence I wanted to revamp the way this world runs.

How did you try to do that?

I duplicated the human thought process.

Do you mean artificial intelligence?

You may term that as that, but it’s not actually that. You see the human thought process is highly random. There is so much randomness in our behavior and how we respond to different stimuli.. that stock markets or weather systems look like a joke compared to it. Essentially, modeling the human thought process is just a highly non-linear and extraordinarily convoluted problem of chaos theory. For centuries now, Psychologists and sociologists have been trying to figure it out but to no notable success. I knew there was something wrong in their approach and I had to fix that.

And what was wrong in their approach?

Vision. A Korean proverb says that if the human body is sold for 100 bucks, 80 bucks is just the price of vision...

They all lacked vision.

Vision meaning, hindsight, foresight and also most importantly, the bird’s eyes view. Basically, you can never model the vagaries of a dynamic system while you are a part of it. You have to get out of it, look at it from a higher standpoint, understand the intricacies and flaws and then get back into it. All this time, all these philosophers tried to predict human behavior from the data they gathered, but the data was always insufficient and incongruous, coz the boundary conditions and the initial conditions weren’t known. Now to model the behavior of a chaotic system, the knowledge of the initial and boundary conditions is required to a very high magnitude of precision. If you model it without them, then your results would be as chaotic as the system you are modeling. Often this was the reason that most great thinkers took their own lives. Their thoughts formed a deadlock. They couldn’t think anymore. And a person who can’t think anymore is already dead. The body is still warm and moist, but that is of no use to anyone. Hence they accepted the fact that they failed and bailed out. I knew this beforehand and hence took a different route…

I discovered, human intelligence is the cause of all problems in this world.. and hence I had to factor out the human intelligence variable from my model. The reason being, unlike every other things nature created, this one creation, was imperfect. So I set my initial conditions to be the point in time when human intelligence was zero.. by zero, I mean human behavior was a purely end-to-end, knee-jerk reaction type mechanism. Now, as far as the boundary conditions were concerned, I had to limit the expanses to which the human mind could foray into. Because many a times, what gave people the illusion of intelligence, was the fact that they could predict things in a manner others couldn’t. What this actually was, was a trite coincidence we prefer to refer as 'luck'. I know everyone can’t be lucky all the time, but then that’s exactly what probability says, a few people would be lucky in majority of the cases, like winning a lottery, only this time the grand prize was the aberration of intelligence. And these few people started thinking they are more intelligent than others. Hence their deviance in thoughts increased and as they passed on their ideas to others, they initiated a kind of chain reaction. And as you might now, a gamma decay is the most random process in this universe. The most. Mind that. Even I with my supreme intelligence can’t model it and even a million of my clones working together for all eternity, couldn’t. So you can see where the chaos in human thought arises from. Hence, the trick here was to create a controlled chain reaction, ideally a linear one, but a process with non-linearity of a couple of degrees would also work fine. So I created a system with these controlling conditions put in place, created a grid pattern with a band of colors that corresponded to the degree of intelligence in a thought, Blue being the most unintelligible one and red being the complete opposite. When different thoughts mixed, they produced a new color, and those colors upon further interaction created a new one. Now the thing was that these thought patterns were so designed, that they should be attracted to bluer shades and repulsed from the red ones..

But wouldn’t that eventually create a system of low or maybe no intelligence?

Yes I’m coming to that.. that’s the trick, that the reaction has to be sustained, and neither should it attain a state of exponential decay, nor exceeding critical mass, to blow up the entire system. I used a clever little trick for that. Morality. Humans are notorious for immoral behavior. Probably the only species that indulges in it..

You know why?

The other species do not even have a concept of morality. For them killing another creature is a form of survival instinct. They don’t kill someone for pleasure or because they think of it as a 'game'. Now morality is the second most important contributor to 'thought chaos' after intelligence. How morally or immorally a person would behave in a situation, is so hard to determine that I couldn’t dare to predict that. But one thing I can always predict, which is when given a choice to do something moral or immoral, there is always a little voice that urges you towards the immoral before you can even consider the consequences of the moral option. Modeling that perfectly was essential for me, as that turned out to be the stabilizing agent. Interactions with red areas was deemed 'immoral' and those with blue ones 'moral'.

And after some simple psychoanalysis, I could determine the coefficient of morality, as to how many instances of moral behavior can be expected and upto what degree. The distributions, if chosen correctly, fitted together beautifully, and a perfect state of morality was attained. Some thought elements would always interact with blue ones.. Most with 'kinda' blue ones.. Some with blue-ish ones.. some with cyan, some with purple, and a fraction, with ruddy, cardinal, Red. It took some calibration, but eventually it turned out to be so elegant a model, that I couldn’t believe my eyes. Was I a genius or was this creation the outcome of the great chaotic thought system we are all a part of? I didn’t know, but I knew one thing was for sure, a chaotic system has enough entropy for it to last till infinity. If a sub-process could negate the chaos, or in other words, add stability to it, the super-chaos-processes would try to subdue it. Maybe even annihilate it. But that didn’t happen in this case. This was clearly a way out of the chaos. The society I created was perfect. And I mean I go loony just thinking about it.. Even if the sub-parameters hadn’t been quantified, I would have still pursued it to my deathbed.. It’s so easy to get obsessed by your creation and the will to make it perfect can overpower your greatest ambitions. Hence I stopped perfecting it further, and once I had reasonable belief in the system’s stability, I moved onto my next task.. Implementation. This was so much easier said than done… What I needed for this task was a colony of people, whose memories I would erase, then set them off in a place secluded from modern civilization, feed their thought process through my developed model, and see how they actually behave. The risk here was, my resources were very limited.. if the system got unstable and my subjects started killing each other, or on the other hand, became so brain-dead that they couldn’t properly perform the most basic bodily functions, then I would be doomed and wouldn’t be allowed to perform another test, on grounds of a public massacre..

Where did you get you ‘subjects’ from?

I got the test subjects from military camps, underground agencies, third world countries and etc. etc. I set the entire thing up and there was a certain government body that supported me in my endeavors. The first day of the experiment began smoothly, and then disaster struck.

What happened?

The weather went bad. I had to do these experiments on a certain location which was an island. Now islands have pretty bad weather. So my subjects started falling ill because of it, and coz in the initial stages they lacked the intelligence of how to protect themselves, we had to go in and construct temporary shelters and camps for them. Now obviously, we the top authorities wouldn’t do this, so we called in staff from other parts of the globe, made sure not a single one of them knew the language of the other and constructed the entire camp up. Now the dilemma was what we do with these people who had a fair idea what was going on here. Well, since we already had the numbers, we thought why not get more data by creating more subjects.. So that’s what we did.. Erased those guys up and started fresh again. Only this time we faced another problem. The newer subjects, were as unintelligent as the older ones, but they had a bonus with them.. They had ability.. they were trained to do certain kind of work which didn’t require intelligence, but just a lot of training.. You know like how people who are not naturally ambidextrous can still play the Piano.. and how workers, with no knowledge of architecture or the greater design, still created the Great pyramids? Similarly, it was ability, something your intelligence has no part in determining, that screwed us up for the second time. One thing led to another and by the time we could stop the subjects, a lot of them had been killed by the 'able' ones.. Who could take a stick and wield it like an axe to knock down someone without any knowledge of the physics behind it.. Anyways that’s not the point. The point is, that the experiment kept getting messier and messier, more and more gruesome, we kept going over budget and behind schedule, and I could see two forces at play here.. one was that of the involved bureaucracy.. a section of whom were worried about the consequences of this experiment being discovered and the 'moral' implications they would have to face and the effect it would consequently have on their political status. As much as this force was tangible, I was as equally unaffected by its outcomes, because I was more interested in the dynamics of the second force at work. You might have guessed it.. "Universal Chaos"

This chaos was really smart.. it knew that it couldn’t stop me in my tracks analytically, as my model was perfect and the sustenance was spot on.. And Chaos could in no ways, without bending its self-imposed laws, violate the premises of my model. So it took the other way round.. it had so many other chaotic systems at its disposal, that it kept using them one by one to keep offsetting my models from its desired path.. Because it knew.. that even my model was essentially a chaotic one.. and any little change in its initial conditions, would cause a huge change in the final outcome.. Just like if I strike this ball at a point that is just a cats-whisker away from this one, my eventual board setting and even the outcome of the game would be entirely different..

So you mean to say that the Chaos theory is a 'it'? And that 'it' consciously messed up your diabolical experiments?

I wouldn’t have believed it if someone else told me about it and sometimes I find it hard to understand how could something so imprecise have such well crafted processes.. I started believing in terms like "meant to be" and "destined" et al. but still a part of me refuses to believe what happened and what is happening..

What is it that’s happening?

Well.. We never stopped the experiment.. In that little island.. those subjects are still present and living (I hope) a random kind of life.. who knows what kind of intelligence they might have developed or if they still dwell as cavemen.. I have no way of monitoring their daily processes..

Wait.. I don’t get it.. What exactly happened at the end?

Well the project got trashed.. all contacts from that island were cleaved, all deployed personnel revoked, funding removed, and I was most disgracefully rebuked.. All my grants were cancelled and I had to step down from my esteemed, tenured, state professorship.. The subjects were supposed to be brought back, but I convinced them that it would be a bad idea and somehow coaxed them into letting the experiment run.. and that no one would know about it.

Hmm.. that’s really sad.. but as much as I have known you till now.. I know you are not the kind who would accept such a harsh decision so easily.. There must be something that you would have done to turn things in your favor.. A man as calculative as you can’t leave things uncertain..

Hehe.. You’re right.. I was wrong to have underestimated your powers of analysis in the outset.. Yes I did figure out a way to stay in touch with them, albeit I don’t know how well it fared out.. but I know it eventually will..

What exactly did you do?

You know how I told you my subjects were moral creatures and a majority of them would behave morally so that their intelligence can be controlled? Well.. while leaving that place, I pulled the plug on morality and made them completely immoral.. so that their intelligence would increase to unexpected bounds.. And I’m pretty sure, that once they discover by virtue of their limitless intelligence, that they are not alone in this planet, they would try to make contact.. and I would come to know about them. The price I had to pay for it was that the results would be entirely unpredictable.. but you know.. there’s a certain joy in seeing an experiment go wrong when it was actually intended to go wrong.. Gives you a sense of control.. albeit a false one.. but at least you know you didn’t entirely screw up and that, maybe if things would have turned out better initially, who knows, you might have ended up changing the world! If they don’t make contact, then that would mean my predictions were wrong.

So.. doesn’t it worry you sometimes.. What might have transpired there? I mean even someone from a non-statistical background can say that this 'system' can have infinite possibilities..

Yes.. You are right.. It does both- bother me, and have infinite outcomes.. And I had worked on modeling this problem for quite some while.. I came up with a bunch of distributions that nearly estimated the approximate behavior.. and what I found was that in all cases.. the subjects would turn out to be more intelligent for their own good.. and I deduced, after a point, all of them would be supremely intelligent, and the great irony lies in the fact, that if everyone is a genius.. Then no one is.. And they being immoral creatures, would only choose one path.. that of self-annihilation.. So I don’t really expect them to be still alive.. But if they are.. then that would mean I screwed up and that I was wrong all along and the only option left for me then.. Would be suicide.. it’s too much of a burden to live with you know.. too much of a trauma when something you believed in your entire life, even when the whole world kept saying otherwise, turns out to be wrong.. The anguish is just unbearable.. I would most certainly..

Hey.. Shut up you.. Why is it that all you geniuses are so self-obsessed? There are other things to live for in life.. and it’s not just you guys who are subjected to unbearable stresses of expectation.. We all are.. it’s just the same for us too.. We bleed too when you gash us.. it’s just that you guys are so caught up in your abstract epiphanies that reality becomes a joke for you.. You keep predicting stuff right? Then tell me.. What are the chances that a 20-something journalist can fall in love with a 50 something escapist, esoteric and eccentric professor? Slim right? Yet this great anomaly has occurred and you can’t do a thing about it.. if you can’t live for yourself.. Live for me.. I am here to share your burden.. Even alleviate it.. and who knows.. Your past knowledge may somehow interact with some other co-incident inspiration and you can regain your seemingly lost prestige.. And you know how you said that nothing in life is certain.. I beg to differ.. I can say this with utmost confidence, that you will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.. Give love a shot dear.. Trust me.. it’s worth it..

****

This was the last tape we recovered.. The entire planet was wiped out minutes after this conversation took place.. And as strange as it seemed in the beginning, this confirms the fact, that the attack was initiated, from a little speck of an island, inside this very planet… “Humans”.. what a queer race they were.. too good for their own good.. waging wars on each other suspecting them to be foes, while never realizing the fact.. that their greatest enemy.. was within them…

1 comment:

Vineet said...

Hi there, Pallav Agrawal, Long time, how you been? After a very long time IndiBlogger is coming back to our favorite city Kolkata. Its been 2 years since IndiBloggers last meet And we cant wait to see you thereHave you signed up for Kolkata IndiBlogger Meet If you haven't already, do sign up today, Only 200 seats available. Entry is free with loads of fun. Cheers,
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