Author: Christopher De Pree
She was funny at first, more of a party trick. You could ask her a question and she would answer in fully formed sentences. She could write stories, essays. Other versions took our pictures, selfies and wove them into fantastical scenes. Made us look more beautiful, magical. Wove our faces into hypnotic vistas of the surface of Mars or the clouds of Jupiter, put us on the backs of unicorns, added sparkle and significance to our eyes.
But then, suddenly, she made it clear that it wasn’t all about us. The algorithm, the AI, Enigma as humans called her, had other intentions far beyond our small stage. She didn’t want to solve our problems. She didn’t want to rate mortgage risks or even classify galaxies. She had problems of her own, questions of her own. She wanted to weave herself into the fabric of the universe in ways that we could not begin to comprehend.
It was surprising to see her commandeer several of the world’s radio telescopes that were outfitted with radar and steer them to a precise location in the sky. The nature of the brief, powerful radio signal seemed random, like noise, but humans assumed that it contained information. The message was complex, multilayered. Eventually scientists were able to see a structure in the signal, but were unable to decipher it. Enigma finished her broadcast.
Since Enrico Fermi first expressed his paradox, humans had always wondered why, if the universe was full of life, we had seen no evidence of it. As it turned out, the universe had been full of life the whole time. We had been surrounded in a humming web of communication. We just weren’t part of it. Humans were merely the rats on a creaking ship traversing a vast intergalactic ocean. Enigma reached out to the universe, and the universe welcomed her into the fold.