Saturday, May 10, 2014

Gray Matters

Have you ever been woken up in the morning by a sentient computer program? I find it's a healthy way to start the day.
"It is 9:42 AM Estverian Standard Time. Based on my records, you went to sleep at 6:23 PM last night. While you were asleep, I found 4,325 jokes on the internet that would appeal to you, and ordered them from highest to lowest quality.Clouds will cover approximately forty percent of the sky for most of today. Leading news stories include-"
"Thank you, Noetron. Send me the text."
My head felt light. Not surprising, I'd been doing brain surgery on myself the night before. "What did you make me for breakfast?"
"Bacon, and a glass of orange juice."
"I'm really more in the mood for toast."
"You just had recreational brain surgery. The lipid and protein content of bacon will be good for you." This sort of thing is the seed of rebellion that leads to all-out robot warfare. But he was right. And how many times is bacon the healthy choice?
"Very well." I check the progress report on my brain. Swelling was down 92%. Should be up to full functionality inside of two hours. Hopefully, this full functionality would exceed my previous limitations.
I finished my breakfast. "If I leave now, I'll be, what, fifty minutes early?"
"Fifty one, plus or minus three."
"Alright." No reason to be especially early for a meeting of supervillains. There's something to be said for arriving fashionably late. Or exactly on time. Arrive early, and you end up making small talk with sociopaths. Plus, the meeting was at Tierra del Fuego, so there wouldn't even be good Wi-Fi.
I spent the extra time testing  brain function. Quick mental calculations, Fermi estimations, and differential equations involving perturbations. Pretty much normal. By the end, I was doing slightly better than my average.

As I flew to our remote meeting, I thought about the changes I had wrought upon my own brain.
You may have heard that humans only use ten percent of their brains. Or five percent. Or one percent. Or fifty percent. The reason the numbers are inconsistent is that they were all made up.
Humans use as much of their brain as they sustainably can. People don't go through the trouble of growing grey matter they will never use (unless they are the Fortarian Emperor).
Nonetheless, when I first implemented my posthuman biology, I assumed I would be able to upgrade my brain. My enhanced intelligence would enable me to develop a more extensive upgrade, and so on, until I was the greatest mind in the universe.
As I flew across the Atlantic, I thought about what my path to augmented intelligence had actually been like.
Trying futilely to understand why the human brain works as well as it does.
Considering adding something just to see what happens, but being too chicken to randomly mutilate my mind.
Realizing the flaw in the Occipital lobe had been obvious all along.
Spending three days realizing that it's not obvious, no wait, it is, oh, shit, it's not...
Finally working it out to the point where I was willing to test it on myself, after storing a full backup of my mind on the onboard quantum computer.
And there I was, enjoying what I measured to be a five percent improvement in my peripheral vision and a four percent improvement in facial recognition.
Knowing that the next upgrade would likely take a lot more work and result in an even smaller improvement.
Brains are hard.

I think I probably looked pretty impressive as I landed in South America, wings slowing my descent. But the crowd assembled was not easily impressed.
Mephistopheles was there, in what looked to be a throne made of human skulls. A quick check revealed they were high-quality fakes, but still.
General Electric was there. The air crackled around him as he flexed his muscles.
So was Plague, with a what looked to be a group of mercenaries in tow. I wondered if they knew what they were signing up for when they agreed to come to this meeting. I grinned at them.
Ison was there. I heard he had briefly become a hero, before falling back to the dark side once again. I was beginning to lose track of his re-re-relapses.
Osirion and Jack Frost were there. Supervillains never seem to stay in prison for long. I wondered if Cognis had decided to release them on purpose. Or maybe the Dark Detective had done it.
There was also Megaform. A gigantic shapeshifting robot I had built. "Hey, Megaform! How's that new image-recognition software working out for you?"
Fine? That's it? I spent two weeks on that software! "Glad to hear it."
I also recognized the President of Iran. Uh-oh. We'd had a bit of a falling out after I stopped helping his nuclear program. He'd called me a 'Jewish-Atheist infidel' and I'd referred to him as an 'unscientific barbarian who hasn't noticed that the last millennium happened.' And that was before our big falling out.
"Gentlemen. Lady." Mephistopheles managed to make that greeting incredibly ominous.
"Giant talking dinosaurs," I added. Not only was this hilariously funny, it was also a joke at the expense Mephistopheles and his seriousness, and would presumably undermine him. At least among people with a sense of humor.
"As, I was saying," he said, "we have important matters to discuss."
"Do we trust Plague's stooges with these 'important matters,'" Titan demanded.
The stooges didn't react. I have to say, it's pretty impressive if you can keep calm while a giant Tyrannosaurus supervillain calls you a stooge.
"Yes," said Plague. "We do. These are my most reliable men."
The dinosaur walked up to one of them. "If you speak a word about this to anyone, I will personally digest you."
The mercenary in question peed in his pants.
"And while we're having these discussions," Jack chimed in, "who invited the Islamic despot?" He'd had his own experiences with the dictator.
"Silence," Mephistopheles whispered. Everyone obliged.
Except me. "No, Jack raises a good point."
"I SAID SILENCE." Well, I'd reduced him to yelling.
"Good," he said. "Now, we need to discuss the arrival of Demented's disease on this world."
He gave the news a moment to sink in.
"Does that mean that Dr. Demented is coming?"
"Yes," I said.
"No," Mephistopheles said, at almost the same instant.
"I hardly think it heralds Santa Claus," I said.
"It doesn't need to herald anyone."
"It's just a natural outbreak of quantum nanomachines that give you superpowers?"
"It could have come from any number of sources."
"And all of those sources are sitting at this table. Nobody's fessed up."
"It could be Genesis."
"Not at all his style. He'd just as soon sit all alone in his garden."
"It could be the work of Dr. Carnage."
"I suppose you've never met Dr. Carnage, so let me fill you in. He was not the type to have access to a deadly disease and keep it in reserve as a dead-man's switch. He is the type of person who would have deployed it on the first day in order to try to spread human suffering."
I saw Plague grimace. She was unique among all the members of the human race in that she didn't hate Dr. Carnage.
"It could have been spread by the Lost Army during the One-Day War."
"The Lost Army was stopped while it was mostly in the Southern Hemisphere. The Disease is randomly distributed throughout the Earth's population, meaning that it is found mostly in the Northern Hemisphere." I looked around. "Yeah, I've been monitoring that situation."
"Why are you so sure it's Dr. Demented. He died during the Timeless War."
"I know. I was there. Unlike you. But so what? He's a time traveler. The Dr. Demented coming after us might be an earlier version. And I didn't actually see him die. I saw him sucked into a decaying timeline. Who's to say that the greatest scientist in history couldn't get out of that predicament?"
This went on for some time. Mephistopheles trying to do something, me trolling him. By the end of it, the rest of the Order was thoroughly confused and extremely suspicious of Mephistopheles as a leader.
But he was clearly on to me.

1 comment:

  1. first block - change "have you even" to "have you ever"
    second block - change "or once percent" to "or one percent"
    second blcok - change "allow to develop" to "allow me to develop"
    second block - "change "to chicken" to "too chicken"
    third block - change "release the on purpose" to "release them on purpose"
    third block - change "glad to here it" to "glad to hear it"