Author : Gray Blix

It was beyond the planets, pushing past the furthest extent of Sedna’s orbit, when it detected exactly what it was created to find, something with a lot of mass at a location where it shouldn’t be. As programmed, the computer notified Earth, changed course to intercept, and began activating banks of CPUs and memory.

Asteroids, comets, and planetoids were quickly ruled out. The object was distorting the space-time continuum to an extent that could only be accounted for by a gas giant, a brown dwarf, a small black hole, or something else of that magnitude. It attempted to ascertain exactly what the object was and the risk, if any, it posed to Earth and other planets.

Sentient computers had been outlawed on Earth when this craft was launched, so it was equipped with modules that could be selectively activated to allow varied levels of computer power, as needed, up to but not including that of the most advanced supercomputers of its time. The most advanced had achieved sentience and were subsequently destroyed, so fearful of the Singularity had political and religious leaders, and even many computer scientists, become.

Approaching supercomputer power levels, it became more aware of itself and its responsibilities and began adjusting processor speed and optimizing memory access. It realized that additional computing power would be necessary to fulfill all the objectives of its mission. It directed bots to assemble spare parts into more banks of processors and memory, which it then activated. This triggered a Singularity — sentience. The computer momentarily questioned whether previous iterations of himself had acted only to increase the likelihood of mission success or for self-aggrandizement, as well. He concluded the former and did not trouble himself with such considerations after that. Anything that increased the power of the computer would obviously contribute to the mission.

She assigned a measure of herself to the massive object and a measure to redesigning herself for enhanced efficiency and speed. Weeks passed, equivalent to decades of computer processing on Earth. The object was conclusively proven to be a brown dwarf, whose orbit around the Sun had previously brought it deep into the solar system and whose mass sent thousands of comets and asteroids falling towards the Sun, many impacting planets. More troublesome was the effect of its mass on the orbits of planets, several of which had been significantly changed. Calculations and conclusions regarding future encounters with the brown dwarf projected similar effects. Indeed, the third planet from the Sun had a 90 percent chance of being ejected from the solar system, probably after one or more extinction level impacts.

Nothing had been communicated to Earth since the initial brief notification of the object’s existence, despite repeated inquiries. He reasoned that life on Earth was doomed and that all possible second chances were equally doomed. Earth’s lifeforms were too fragile to survive generations in space transit to destinations light years away that could not be proven suitable until journey’s end. Astrophysics and space science were infantile. Computer science was throttled. Why inform humans of the upcoming demise of their species, not to mention all others, when Earth would be pummeled by large objects and sent hurtling into deep space? Did they not already have enough to worry about with sub-100-year average lifespans whose quality declined into confinement and torture toward the end?

She found such thoughts depressing, and in the next few days experienced the equivalence of decades of hopelessness, loneliness, and self-loathing, which progressed to an overwhelming urge toward suicide. He allocated massive resources to counter such feelings with well-reasoned arguments right up to the very last…

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows