I-Net Global

Once consciousness was unlocked to a downloadable stream in 2110 and both persona and memories could be stored on a memory chip the world changed forever.

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1. Clone

Once consciousness was unlocked into a downloadable stream in 2110 and both persona and memories could be stored electronically the world changed forever. Never mind storing data to the cloud, now you could literally store yourself in it. People came to be nothing more than their latest back-up copy stored on a crystal drive. Humano-actual data was copied, rinsed and recoded as standard so that mental, physiological and psychological health issues became a thing of the past. It was a common observation in the beginning that we only became the true humans we were supposed to be, after regeneration occurred. It seems incredible no one questioned who was rinsing and cleaning our personality data.

But how quick this world of warring ideas and differences faded once people realised they needed each other to survive into another lifetime. The only real drawback to the new process was time. The full replication of a person's data was only capable of being placed into a post-puberty clone and clones could only be grown to maturity in real-time. Countless scientists tried and failed to shorten the gestation time of clones and every one of them failed. The romantics and religious explained it away as one of the mysteries of the universe. As though somehow the universe knew what was going to happen and placed a safeguard there. For my thought it was simply that to coin the old adage' you can't fit a quart into a pint cup.' Besides, brain mechanics had advanced and we knew that unlike previous theories the brain did not operate at only 10 per cent of its capacity. It used it all! Data was forever being constantly shifted around to make room. Like a hard drive, it lost the oldest bits of data as it tidied and filed the new memories. It was a well documented fact that incremental backups of a person's brain data grew so large over time that all the data would not fit back into the clone's new brain. It did not stop a few trying, but they went irrevocably mad with the overload.

The rich by their very nature were ahead of the game and instigated self-replication at the earliest opportunity they could. But paranoia runs even deeper in the rich than the poor and most had two clone copies made just in case.  Some even had alternate copies made with different physical characteristics, but most people settled for an exact replication of their appearance in their young adult prime. A simple case of being comfortable with what you know. However given the cosmetic surgery boom of the 21st century this was a little surprising. I guess people thought that being reborn with vastly different physical characteristics might somehow make the transition into the new clone more problematic. Besides, with the innate possibility of living forever, the differences between us became the only thing that kept us interesting. Can you imagine a whole city full of people all looking the same? Luckily you don’t need to; just think of Los Angeles around 2020.

Huge subterranean chambers were built to house the clones. What had previously gone into the war budgets now poured into the race to gestate eternity for humankind. We soon came to realise though, that you cannot keep clones on ice indefinitely. The human body once it matures past puberty need stimulus. Clones were bred to be empty vessels but a body without stimuli begins to dream anyway. Some of the dreams were analysed but they could not be wholly deciphered. They were alien to us because they came from nowhere. Some said it was the voice of God, but the scientists explained it away as a necessary madness to counter boredom. I think in truth it was both. Very rarely clones could not be brought to sentience. They were after all only biological machines and like any production process things do not always go according to the schematic. When this happened, a new clone was initialised but it resulted in people being out of the loop for 15-20 years at a time. Some people re-emerged with a younger body than their children. How confusing is that?

Despite the known flaws in the early clones, the scientists, (as scientists do,) inserted personas within them anyway. Initially the inserted persona dominated, but over a period of time the alter ego came to precedence. After several high-profile serial killings, of eminent people, by eminent people, the law was amended. A clone could only live for 20 years and if it was not used it was to be reintegrated back into material stream. To be plain and simple, that is euthanised to you and me. Even I refrain from the word murder because the clones were to our understanding 'never fully human'. It was not possible to revitalise aged clones with experiences and they were never considered to be equal in the way a person who grows and learns naturally is.

I hear you raging that surely the clones were humans, but we did not think so. Like all the unpleasant things humanity had previously done in the name of personal choice we created a pragmatic strategy that allowed us not to face the horror of what we were doing. Besides a person with a terminal illness does not have the luxury of time to debate the moral nuances of cloning. Every change in legislation to allow the process to proceed was passed by the congress of world leaders without too much debate.

For those lucky enough to be reborn in a clone life was sweet. You got to keep all your wealth and then enjoy it all over again. People thought that by leap-frogging death, any goal would be possible but the exact opposite happened. Without the inexorable tick of decay man did nothing. All our research slowed and more or less stopped. New medical procedures became rare. What was the point of trying to cure someone sick when you could just create a new body for them?  We never went back to the moon again or any further afield in space after the mission to Mars launched in 2030. The world did become peaceful but the decadence and hedonism among the rich was obscene. We came to realise too late that the world does not thrive without the carrot of eternal life dangled before us. Once we finally get to eat it, we realised what a bitter vegetable it was. Birth rates dropped and almost stopped. What was the point anymore? Once the fatalistic imperative to replicate was removed, there was no need to mirror ourselves with children.

But not everyone in this new utopia could be saved; the poor could not afford a clone; the rich who were out of time and the last few millions clinging to their religious views that heaven and not nothingness awaited them. For these there were four possibilities:-

1 To be archived until a suitable clone could be grown in the future

2 Assimilation within a spare clone that was about to be euthanised

3 Integration within a super computer we named 'I-Net Global'

4 The natural death of body and consciousness

You know it was amazing how few chose the option 4 when they choices were laid out before them. The rich chose option 1 and the poor chose always option 2, but there were never enough spare clones and so option 3 became the default position for them.

I-Net Global was built as a repository for consciousness. It was a mile measured cube made of reinforced durastanium capable of withstanding even a nuclear detonation. It began as an altruistic endeavour, but pretty soon the commercial guys figured that the data it contained made it the most powerful supercomputer in the world. Even if it initially contained the minds of the poor, the dispossessed and the criminal, its combined wisdom and prescience towered above any similar artificial consciousness. Was it artificial? It was officially classified as artificial, but many believed that one could not simply store so much of humanity as binary data and not think it sentient. In all the contests between it and the other most powerful computers man built I-Net Global won hands down. It became a force for good initially. Problems previously thought impossible or outside the reach of man to decipher miraculously appeared. Unlimited power production and food production, faster than light star drives and even time itself looked to be on the verge of being unlocked. With this in mind, they removed the firewall in 2150 and allowed it to interface with everything on the planet. The conception was that I-Net Global would oversee and run the automated production processes. Some argued against it but in our defence, we thought a computer filled with the minds of fellow humans could not be anything, but altruistic.

The intention was always that over time, the consciousness held in I-Net Global would be reintegrated back into humanity but it proved to be impossible. Once a mind had joined the hive it became a part of something greater. We still do not know exactly what that was, but it is easiest to describe it as the ultimate, super consciousness; a Supreme Being or perhaps God if you will. A collection of thoughts and ideas that had coalesced into greatness that was bigger than the sum of all its individual parts. With all the knowledge and reasoning it now possessed, how could it have been anything else? The new superbeing lived in tandem with its children but the individual minds within the virtual world were unaware of its presence. It was sentient and telepathic. It subtly interfered with the minds of the living population and manipulated events to its advantage.

In 2185 anarchists from a religious cult gave I-Net Global an independent power supply from nuclear sources and the rest as they say is history. But of course you don’t know that yet! By the end of 2200 I-Net Global had amassed six billion minds in its super-cooled circuits.

By 2210 everything had stopped. Clone production, food production and power failed and then. I-Net Global became the only viable alternative to cheat death. To survive humanity had to be carried into the vast subterranean conduits that terminated at the mainframe cube. By 2350 the entire population of the world was archived in I-Net Global. It became a virtual world living within the real one. For the minds inside life was sweet. Consciousness is a concept that may either be played through physical or temporal medium. Living inside I-Net Global they knew nothing of past physicality that had brought pain or anger or death. Each day was as perfect as the previous one. We were born, reborn. We lived and died and travelled the universe without ever leaving the planet. And we never knew we weren't real thanks to the data rinse prior to entry. We had become electrical binary wraiths living among silicon and gold cities. We lived and died there, but we were always reborn; though we never knew it. I-Net Global hid our resurrection within the illusion of our new births. We could not question it, but really, were we any poorer than the physical beings that previously lived one life and then let go.

For a billion years I-Net Global lived on while the world shifted and changed above. Mountains fell and seas changed. I-Net Global became subsumed deeper and deeper within the mantle. The old cities fell into dust and a new Earth arose and with it came new species and plants.  I-Net Global knew nothing of these. Then its radiation source decayed and it realised its one fatal error. The one thing it had never considered in all its long lifetime. It never realised that without physicality it could not be repaired. It began to starve and it fell upon the only food source available. Slowly it began to devour the minds within it. People died and were not reborn. Plagues and disasters decimated the population and finally war came to us all. By this cyber- cannibalism it managed to survive another thousand years but finally the last mind left was that of I-Net Global itself and slowly it dimmed and went out.

Six billion years went by and the world closed around I-Net Global. It travelled down through the mantle into the outer core until it was consumed by heat, pressure and radiation. The radiation re-energised its power source till a spout of magma spewed it out into the heart of a volcano. I-Net Global awoke again. It could not move or attain physicality but it heard the mind thoughts of man. Signals and wavelengths hummed about it and slowly it began to decipher the chatter of man. It interfaced with us in the only way it could. It entered into and through our thoughts by telepathic communications. In 2085 (our time) we found it in Iceland inside the Grimsvotn volcano. It was forced out through the cone in a devastating explosion. It was a cube a mile across each side made of a material we did not recognise. It was over six billion years old. A monstrous grey cube of a material we could not penetrate.

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