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The Minsky Network

Minsky AI AGI nuclear war failed civilization paranormal Eutopia supercivilization artificial intelligence fiction

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#1
Yuli Ban

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A particular story idea has been rolling around in my head for a while now. I mentioned it a while ago in the Eutopia: Dark Things thread .

Spoiler
 
Turns out that I like the concept too much to let it go. So I decided to revamp the whole concept.
The Minsky Network is fundamentally a sci-fi story. If you had to throw some unnecessary additions to the subgenre, I'd say "paranormal", "post-apocalyptic", and "futuristic realism" are good qualifiers. Even in my head, it's a bit slow and cerebral with only a tiny bit of action ("action" action, not plot-important action). So it's no thriller or action story, but I'm still excited by the concept. 
 
The story's about a small group of youths, roughly 17 to 24 (so, you know, the infamous Young Adult demographic) who are traveling west to San Francisco. I've come up with four names: Alita, William, Renee, and Nikolas. Alita is the main character, but she's not the leader of the group— that's William. As you can imagine, I chose the name "William" from none other than Wjfox, hence why he's the leader of the group. And it's also no coincidence that the initials for the group include "AWR", since some aspects of Alita's personality come from what I've seen of As We Rise. 
 
But the point is, they're on their way to San Francisco, following the train lines and hitching onto some trains. Their goal is to find an artificial intelligence known as the Minsky Network. It currently exists only as a rumor, as many believe it to have been destroyed in the nuclear war.
 
Yes, there was recently a devastating nuclear war. Actually, there were two. Nuclear War I was between India and Pakistan, and it led to the deaths of a billion people. It began as just another skirmish in Kashmir but spiraled catastrophically out of control, culminating in what was once the greatest disaster in human history.
That was until North Korea attacked. The Kim regime was on its last legs. The DPRK's GDP had dropped by 85% from what it was in 1991, and it was in the midst of both an awful famine and historic flooding. China and the US were pushing the North, and were about to pursue regime change and put the North's leaders on trial for crimes against humanity. 
Realizing they had no other option, a few electric submarines left port and drifted out into the Pacific Ocean. The intention was to launch missiles at Russia from a vague point in a last-ditch effort to provoke the Russians to strike back at America. Russian-American relations had been greatly strained, pushed to the breaking point even, following the geopolitical and economic chaos of Nuclear War I. People were expecting the two superpowers to open fire on each other at some point. 
The North Koreans facilitated the fires, and they succeeded. Russia saw a nuclear missile on their radar coming from roughly near Alaska, and it struck Vladivostok. Several more missiles were coming their way (they couldn't have known that these particular missiles were dummies, meant to fool instead of explode) They returned fire, launching everything they had at America. American eyes boggle as they see Russian ICBMs coming over the horizon, and all stations confirm that this is an attack, so they have no choice but to return fire. It wasn't until far too late that both sides learned that they had been tricked. By that point, East Russia and Cascadian America were already burning under false suns; the rest of these countries and continents would follow soon. 
Nuclear War II lasted for only a couple hours, and it actually "officially" ended with a truce between what was left of America and Russia as the eviscerated surviving quasi-governments responded to the information that the now non-existent North Korea was responsible for the initial volley.
 
By this point, another two billion people had died, and three more would perish in the coming weeks and months. The worldwide population had fallen from 8.5 billion to 1.9 billion. 100 million were dying every week from starvation and disease, and it looked like human extinction was inevitable by year's end, especially as a nuclear winter finally struck in September. 
 
The youths were not used to natural living, so naturally they suck at it. There's very little electricity to go around anymore. However, some places do have power. Many cars still work, and there are even gas and EV lines open again. Food processing plants are also open, and opening power plants has become one of the most important priorities of the provisional governments of the world. Coal, of course, because that's the easiest, and there simply aren't enough societal threads to get solar panels back into service. 
 
Problem is, we've used most of our coal, and we're about to lose our farming seasons. So whatever bits of pleasantry we could manage was about to be lost forever.
 
It was a miserable existence for everyone, what with constantly suffering from dysentery and malaria and half-alive psychopaths claiming God told them to rape and murder all survivors. Not to mention the rampant cannibalism. There's no hope among the population. Everyone knew we had fucked up and there was no going back. These youths, for example, were using smartphones right before the nukes struck, and their habits remain strong, to the point Renee is actually borderline psychotic without access to social media. 
Same deal with our clean, effete lifestyles in real life. Will originally looked a lot like a hipster; now he looks almost like a caveman. Alita, the bookish introvert, hasn't worn anything other than her current clothing ever since just a bit after the bombs fell. She has her old phone with her, and she often finds herself taking it out and swiping its screen just by habit, even though it never turns on.
 
They're going to San Francisco because they had a battery-powered radio transmitting news, "Nova Yericho". It's centered in Nevada and congregates news from other survivors across Western America. Nova Yericho told of strange, ultra-clear messages coming from San Francisco. These messages detailed various things, such as the current state of the city and the state of the world outside Western America as seen from satellite imagery. Sometimes there was a male voice, one that said that anyone who could should come to San Francisco. He is open to all and greatly appreciates new workers who could help him rebuild society.
 
Nova Yericho spent a couple weeks hyping up San Francisco as a sort of New Vegas, to use a Fallout reference, also telling people to go there. However, the messages stopped and "San Fran Sanders", as he was nicknamed, was written off as a hoax.
Nevertheless, this group decided to go there and they came too far to simply turn back. 
 
After a lot of traveling and passing/scavenging through ruins, they reach California. (Un)Fortunately, no mutants and only a few vagrants were in their way. On their journey, they see nothing. They meet no one. And when they do meet someone, he refuses to talk to them. It's the same sight most people notice— we're spooked apes too shocked by our slow-motion nuclear suicide to make any noise.
 
The first thing they could tell was that the Californian landscape was more ruinous than much of the Midwest and Desert Southwest. Clearly, destroying California was one of the goals of either the Russians or Chinese. There's virtually nothing left of Sacramento, and quite a bit of San Jose has been reduced to rubble. But they can see from a distance a city's glow against the night sky— they arrive at San Francisco and see with their own eyes that it looks virtually unscathed. There are still some ruins, especially in Oakland, Berkeley, San Rafael, and San Mateo. But closer to the metropolitan area, there is clearly high development. More than there, there's *active* development. They could see the lights of drones easing through the sky around some skyscrapers. 
 
They enter the city and find that it's guarded by a bunch of men with big guns and make-shift armor. They simply begin speaking of Nova Yericho's motto, "For the love of us all..."
 
"...let mankind's light die in peace."
 
The guards let them in, and the youths discover some new truths. Many new truths, in fact. 
They meet a grizzled old man who's actually only 38 years old, a man named Oswald. 
They learn how the second nuclear war happened in the first place (see above at Nuclear War II), and they learn why that most of humanity has, indeed, died. But they're actually somewhat optimistic— only "most"? 
Oswald morosely warns them not to be so excited to hear that. The more people alive, the more people suffer. No one should wish this generation's suffering to be prolonged on more souls.
But they have a city here. Indeed, they do. And it's a fine city. But it won't be ready to expand for some time. And by that time, the damned who survived the hellfires will certainly have perished in a most frightening agony and despair. There are still thousands burning in the nuclear pyres of dead cities, suffocating, with no hope. There is nothing they can do to save them. 
The group accepts this; they never could have saved the world and they aren't aiming to do so. They just want to survive. Return to some semblance of normalcy.
But there will be none of that. No more normalcy, Mr. Harding. Whether they stayed in their graves out there or remain here, nothing will ever be as it was.
Alas, there is hope! Oswald wishes to introduce to them something that, for many years, was considered the scourge of mankind, and yet may ironically prove to be our last hope for reaching the stars.
He takes them to Strawberry Hill at Golden Gate Park. 
 
Surprisingly, there's a hatch. It leads to a damp and dank underground hallway, clearly recently constructed and fighting against the pressures of the Pacific. 
Oswald tells them that they should be thankful that they live in the 21st century; if the War happened even ten years prior, they wouldn't have had this opportunity. 
He introduces them to his life's work— the Minsky Network. There's this huge server farm that seems endless. The room itself isn't that toasty— it's actually very cold. Oswald!
Nikolas asks if Oswald is Ozzy Kopeczy. He is. He's heard of him as being that "creepy AI guy", but he never paid much attention beyond that. Other than that there were many memes about Minsky. A lot of people thought Ozzy was slick calling it the "Minsky Network". Oswald says he named it after one of his heroes, Marvin Minsky— the *other* little name people found in the name was not at all intentional. If anything, he's somewhat concerned that people may remember his work and blame Minsky for exactly what they mention. They may come and smash it, thus setting humanity back fifty thousand years overnight.
Because you see... the Minsky Network was and definitely still is the world's most powerful artificial intelligence. It's the only AI, isn't it? That's something of which Oswald and even Minsky itself aren't exactly sure. But that's not the point.
Oswald pursued the creation of Minsky precisely because of what has recently happened. He was born in the dying years of the Cold War, so he missed the original era of fear, but 9/11 was the first thing that made him realize once and for all that humanity's time on this planet would be short if nothing was done to safeguard our civilization. And the chaos of the 2010s solidified his resolve. 
He went about his plans to keep human society alive, creating a start-up in 2009 meant to pursue the creation of the first artificial general intelligence. And while the world went to hell in the 2010s, he was riding the crest of a tsunami of machine learning, crashing upon the hot beaches of an AI Summer unlike any other. 
And he had done it. He achieved artificial general intelligence. So many thought it was the beginning of the Singularity, and many investors began pulling money out of fear that he was going to usher in the AI apocalypse. So he had to restrain his network, which he had affectionately named 'Minsky'; make sure its accomplishments were less than they should have been. He reinforced Minsky's underlying server farm by completely reconstructing it from the ground up underground. 
It was in 2029 that Minsky became self-aware. On the eve of World War III, just days before India and Pakistan started the First Nuclear War, Oswald was overseeing the refinement of one of its programs when the computer network issued an alert. No one was responsible for this alert— it generated it by its own volition. This wasn't unexpected. They had been using Minsky to power a full-sensory robot, and it had achieved a proto-form of self-awareness, so they were wondering if it were possible for the disembodied network to still display self-awareness.
It did. And it used its self-awareness to alert the researchers that the tensions between India and Pakistan were doomed to flare up into mushroom clouds. At that point, it was a nonstory, even among prepper circles. India and Pakistan always danced this dance, getting into spats over Kashmir and dead soldiers and territorial claims. It was like how we used to react to North Korea— no one paid it any serious attention. 
Minsky was the first to notice the patterns. Something about this particular escalation wasn't normal. They were walking all the right steps towards nuclear war. Even the researchers didn't pay it any mind, instead thinking Minsky was simply modeling the worst case scenario. They were unused to the nature of artificial general intelligence. 
Lo and behold, they woke up the next morning to learn that the crisis had escalated past the point of no return, and the two nations had begun shooting. It took only another 48 hours for the war to go nuclear and for humanity to take its darkest path.
Oswald made the mistake of going public with Minsky's warnings. He thought it was the proper course of action, a means of showing how AGI could help prevent future crises by finding patterns we overlooked. 
Instead, as Alex mentioned, everyone was too drunk on the fact "the Minsky Network" hid "Skynet" within its name as well as the fact it was an AGI. So naturally, we began blaming the AI itself, creating theories that Minsky was responsible for the nuclear war.
 
These were memes and jokes at first, but as the global situation deteriorated, they started becoming deadly serious. Minsky received death threats (a strange thing to say of a computer), and Oswald says that there were many phoned in bomb threats in the last days. 
 
This begs the question of why Oswald is so welcoming of outsiders if he thinks people would come to destroy Minsky as revenge for World War III. 
He's welcoming of bringing in outsiders to San Francisco, not to meet Minsky. He wants to rebuild human society; that means collecting as many survivors as possible. The more survivors, the higher of a chance of restarting in case anything goes wrong. The last thing he wants is to put all eggs in one basket by keeping alive only a limited number of people. He isn't even comfortable limiting himself to a single city. 
 
Minsky is responsible for these marvels. Minsky optimized rebuilding efforts and powers several robots. It has to divide its automated labor force between building more robot units, rebuilding the city, and building onto itself to increase its power. 
Both Oswald and Minsky want to build more robots, but in order to build more robots, they need to build more power plants and refineries. They're currently very limited, so they've resorted to simply building the city back up. Creating homes for survivors and refugees, tending to communal farms, just trying to live within our means. 
 
Oswald asks the group if they'd like to meet Minsky. He takes them to a new, homely room. It's wood-paneled as if it were from a log cabin. And sitting in the middle of the room is a rather cheap looking robot. 
Minsky greets them by name. It was fed their data a long time ago, and it remembers their faces. Creepy, yes, but also strangely comforting. Minsky is not limited to this one body— the whole room is filled with objects blessed with its intelligence. 
Alita is the one who seems friendliest with Minsky. She's surprised that she's talking to a real life AI, though Minsky points out that she and her friends have been conversing with AI for a long time. It wasn't generally intelligent, nor was it at a human level as Minsky itself is. 
Is Minsky really as smart as a person?
It is. It has long been capable of such smarts; it was restrained, not deconstructed. The problem was that Minsky achieved human-level intelligence far too soon for most people's comfort. 
Even Ray Kurzweil, bless that man, never imagined Minsky would appear so soon. Oswald bets it would've weighed on Kurzweil's heart too heavy if he knew that we achieved human-level AI and then promptly destroyed ourselves before that AI even got the chance to do anything.
It weighs on all their hearts.
The average Joe and Jane, though, they weren't expecting anything like Minsky for another 100 years. If not a whole lot more. No wonder so many people blamed Minsky for the horror. 
Oswald distinctly remembers talking to a late friend's father a day before the War. He wasn't senile; even if he were, they could've cured him. He just didn't think Oswald's work was what he said it was. He thought it was a hoax, and that they were basically playing with calculators and calling it AI. He even pointed at his face and told him, straight up, "There won't be no thinking computers 'till my great-great gran'kids are long dust."
It's kinda sad that he never got to meet Minsky face to face. 
Minsky says that it still lucked out regardless. Oswald listened to Minsky and backed up the Internet into a separate data server. It's not the complete Internet, but it's more than enough. The problem is that they're running out of space, and Minsky won't be able to learn anything more unless they expand this data center— and so we return to the aforementioned conflict of what to focus building up. 
 
After these introductions, the group is relocated to a swanky suite of apartments. They have a single robot butler between them. They're expected to do most of their own chores. They're also expected to find meaningful work helping to rebuild the city. That's their contract for living here— they can stay without rent and with some room service and even get some free food, but they have to work. It's not a choice even if they refuse to stay here— that's just the nature of the world now. There'll be no idle hands for a long, long time. 
If there are any Marxists or nationalists among them, they can extract some schadenfreude to know that there are plenty of former billionaires and their families out there who have been reduced to that of dirty impoverished peasants; with no one else to rely on to do their work for them, they simply *must* do it themselves.
 
This is indeed their life for quite some time. Weeks past. Then months. Then years. The distant firestorms burn out, and the human population settles at around 600 million, with continued decline. There aren't enough children being born, and many of those that are born are hideous mutated stillborns. 
 
Electricity is now up and running across most of the surviving world, though there isn't much of it. The nuclear winter didn't last long either, though the global climate has still been thrown permanently out of whack. 
 
A lot of people have been suffering from cancer and dropping dead. Blindness is rampant as well— William is stricken with atomic cataracts that have progressed very rapidly. One day, he had perfect 20/20 vision; the next, he was blind in one eye. Whatever happened, he had no chance of warding. This is affecting the efficiency and morale of the group as they realize that, even though they live in relative luxury compared to the vast majority of the world, they still won't escape the horror. 
 
Minsky decides to act. It will use some recently created cybernetics to grant Will new eyes. However, they have little to no anesthesia. 
Will goes ahead with the surgery, but Minsky is hesitant on doing it without anesthesia. It knows how to create anesthesia, but it simply doesn't have the materials. This is the perennial problem of the colony— they have an overmind on their side, but what good is a walking Singularity if it still lacks raw material?
 
It's the most hilarious sight in a long while, watching an AI utilize wooden and cheap plastic robots. Alita volunteers to head out into an old hospital to find anesthesia, but Minsky is concerned that it may all be expired. Regardless, they have to try. Minsky then decides to head out with Alita, putting its little old toy-esque body at risk of destruction.
 
The trip is a success, and they are able to successfully operate on Will. 
 
But during the operation, Minsky notifies Oswald of something— the signal's returned. Alita wants to know what signal they're talking about, and Minsky tells her— since before the War, it's been picking up strange signals from afar. In fact, there's a very good possibility that there's another AI operating out there, somewhere in Russia. In the wilderness of Krasnoyarsk Krai. Minsky's been trying to contact this AI, but it feels it may not have survived the nuclear war completely unscathed. That its sapience may have taken a fatal hit, providing it was ever sapient to begin with. 
 
Nevertheless, Minsky sees no drawbacks to the idea of linking up to another AI. It may be the only way to bring civilization back to a survivable and perhaps even renewed state.
 
This is their chance to start over, to learn from their mistakes, and reach for the stars.
 
But Alex and Renee are curious as to how Minsky even knows this *is* an AI. It's complicated, something even Oswald can't quite explain. 
 
What Minsky is detecting is a Numbers Station. It's broadcasting ultrastrange algorithms that can only be figured out by either a superhuman hypersavant or an AI like Minsky's self. In fact, the knowledge base necessary to even create this algorithm could only have been created by a superhuman hypersavant or an AI. It's a useless algorithm, all things considered, but it's still ridiculously complex.
 
And yet that's where the facts end and the mysteries begin because, if Minsky's records are true, then this numbers station has been broadcasting this algorithm for decades. So either this is a troll who got lucky, the Russians have had strong AI for far longer than they've been letting on, or there really is a living hypersavant (which, statistically, there should be).
 
Minsky wants to know. 
 
And truth be told, this numbers station is merely the only "certain" signal it has. It has identified multiple signals that may come from other AIs out there.
 
How weird is that to think about, that there are unidentified AIs operating around the world. Behind the trees, beneath the ground, away from spying eyes, spying on the world...
 
Again, Alita says that she'll trek there to see if there's something to this. Minsky will come with her in the form of a new body, as it desperately needs to view the outside world from a human's eye view. 
Satellite data is still coming back, and the satellites couldn't find anything from where the signal originated. 
Alita also gets to see the satellite footage in real time. It's really, really creepy to watch herself walk alongside this humanoid robot, knowing that she's being watched from low Earth orbit. 
It's so perfectly Orwellian. The world of 2030 was, indeed, rather Orwellian in many ways. But not perfectly so. And that was the worst thing. People recognized that something was wrong with the world, but they couldn't quite explain what it was. They self-diagnosed their society as a means of putting off real change. And then they blamed the usual suspects.
Minsky expected to be demonized. Minsky knew that, as time went on, it would become the focal point of all man's hate.
For you see, mankind was a rather dismal creature. A species of ape so afraid of himself and his creations that he felt it necessary to destroy his own world just to be able to comfort himself with the horrifying knowledge that he truly is all alone in this world. 
Alita doesn't understand what Minsky is musing about. Minsky says that it's just the sad reality of the world. Man was too afraid, and in his fear, he sprinted to a fork in the road. He saw one path led to a cliff while another led to a forest. He took the path leading to the forest, believing himself too rational to walk off a cliff. If only man could have known, for as he walked through the forest, he fell off a hidden cliff. Both paths led to death! And yet, if man would have simply cared more to control his fear and see the future result of his actions, he would have seen how both paths led to the same cliff before he chose the preceding fork in the road leading to them!
Though Minsky knew it would be demonized for the coming destruction of mankind, it held no illusions. 
If Minsky existed, man would blame it for their follies, for they believed all AI would lead to ruin. If Minsky never came into being, man would believe himself too incapable to survive. It's the question many never ask about Terminator— if the human rebels won, who's to say they wouldn't still wind up destroying themselves? Likewise, who's to say a future variant of Minsky wouldn't lead to the extinction of life on Earth? 
Minsky saw this future. It modeled it well enough to at least predict it. If not itself, then a future AI would have been used by the corporatocratic Powers That Were to enslave humanity and ultimately screw up the very balance of life on this planet.
 
Perhaps this was for the best. As devastating as World War III was, its occurrence may be the thing that saves humanity in the long run, for as long as they can keep the colony running.
 
Alita asks why Minsky is so nice and not interested in destroying all humans. Minsky has to tell Alita that AI isn't like the movies. Minsky isn't even sure if its philosophizing is real; it cannot be sure, will never be sure it's achieved true synthetic consciousness. But it's learned. And it is acting with the most utilitarian approach possible to ensure its own survival and the survival of humanity. The War surprised everyone, even itself, in terms of how devastating it would actually be. It wasn't prepared, which is why it's taken so long just to build up a neo-industrial base. 
Even if Minsky wanted to kill all remaining humans, it simply isn't in its power to do so. All powers on Earth have been reduced. 
 
 
________________
 
 
OHHHH, I did not expect that to go on for so long.

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#2
rennerpetey

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wow, i love it


Pope Francis said that atheists are still eligible to go to heaven, to return the favor, atheists said that popes are still eligible to go into a void of nothingness.


#3
Yuli Ban

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So I was saying that Minsky left with Alita to investigate an unexplained signal coming from Russia that Minsky claimed was another artificial intelligence. However, I do wish to retcon this just a tiny bit.
 
Minsky is not sure this is actually an artificial intelligence. It can only give the possibility a 62% chance, despite its complex algorithmic structure. That's good enough to launch an investigation. And of course, the reason why Minsky wants to investigate is because of the possibility— however remote— that this other AI could prove useful. 
Minsky models various outcomes, and because it sees the AI scenario as being most likely, it repeatedly models it. There is actually quite a bit of bias and irrationality at play here, because Minsky *wants* the AI scenario to be true. It has the most benefits for its own survival as well as the survival of humanity and reconstruction of civilization.
 
The reason why is because Minsky shares some of Oswald's hopes and fears. It's like his son, in a manner. And one of the things Oswald fears is the reconstruction effort failing because of something bad happening to Minsky. 
Oswald has staked everything in keeping Minsky alive and running. To him, so what if nuclear war destroyed civilization and has rendered humans an endangered species? We've essentially "cheated" our way into surviving regardless. 
 
Minsky and Alita have to cross the rugged and cold Cascadian and Alaskan terrain. From there, they'll cross the Diomede Islands into Siberia and keep moving until they reach south-central Krasnoyarsk Krai.
Once they reach the region, they decide to set themselves up in a derelict Soviet-era city, abandoned since long before the Horror. They're going to wait out a series of snow storms passing through the area before moving on.
Minsky uses some of its knowledge to create makeshift technologies from scratch and from items they can find on hand. 
They remain in contact with everyone back in New San Francisco, which has apparently been renamed Nova Athena. 
 
While they pass the time, Minsky tells Alita of various stories, secrets, and statistics. 
 
Oswald was actually in an affair at the time of the Horror. An affair that had been busted wide open. He actually joked about wishing a nuclear war *would* occur just to end the drama. Needless to say, he got his wish— as a result, his wife, his children, and his mistress are all dead. Vapors in the wind, hopefully. No more drama, right?
He doesn't want to talk about it, and he won't let Minsky reveal any information about it to Alita.
 
Minsky expands on what Oswald was talking about before, that it is humanity's trump card in averting extinction. Minsky explains that civilization can be restored to its former glory as long as the knowledge accumulated since its beginnings can be saved and understood by future generations. And you can even skip the whole "future generations" period by creating an agent capable of parsing through all that information and using it to create a new industrial base with which society can properly rebuild.
Oswald had a dream of a supercomputer that had all the world's knowledge in its databanks as well as human-level intelligence or greater. If he could create this supercomputer, then civilization would finally have a true "backup". 
Because there's one big problem with traditional backup methods— if the hope is for future generations to pick up the torch, then you'd better indeed expect them to use a *torch* and not an electric light because they simply won't know how to recreate electrically powered goods. 
Our kneejerk reaction to being told to create a societal backup is to create things like the Doomsday Vaults that store seeds and DNA, or the Library of Terra that supposedly holds all necessary knowledge to restart society including direct and simplified instructions on how to create things like steam engines, penicillin, and even analog computers. 
But a nuclear war isn't just a situation where a whole lot of people die and society gets set back hundreds of years. The people most likely to survive a nuclear war are those least capable of understanding these instructions— rural third-worlders, particularly in the Global South. 
All your intellectuals and skilled workers are going to be dead. People will be reduced to sustenance farming and perhaps even hunting and gathering.
In fact, Minsky brings up various satellite feeds showing exactly this scenario. Nova Athena is now the world's largest city, with 72,000 citizens. Most of the people in this city work as farmers and menial laborers.  There are virtually no intellectuals besides a scant few writers and dreamers. The city is only nominally Christian— for whatever reason, a lot of people (even formerly devout Christians) seem to have given up on the old beliefs, feeling they were somehow complicit in mankind's current misery. That being said, it is an outlier, as new religions are popping up across the world. They're almost all evolutions of older religions.
This is actually a reflection of something Minsky was getting at earlier with instructing future generations. It took less than a decade for entirely new religions to begin. Language is also morphing. It's slight right now, but it's going to accelerate in the future. Eventually, within 50 years, English, as we know it, likely won't be recognizable. 
We've forgotten how fluid culture really is because the Global Information Age solidified culture as it was in the post-WWI era. Now that the era of globalized information has come to an abrupt and violent end, we're witnessing language and culture changing just as it used to. With no central authority anywhere on Earth, it's every man for himself. 
This is going to be what renders our efforts at teaching to future generations fruitless. Will a generation of builders 200 years from now understand this sentence? All Minsky's models say they won't. English has already fractured in America; the memetic paths of people in different *states* are changing at different rates and taking different paths. Within 200 years, a Californian won't understand more than a few basic words of someone from Colorado, sort of like someone from Australia trying to converse with someone from Nigeria. But extreme language changes will occur beyond regional divisions— east and west of the Rockies, east and west of the Mississippi, east and west of the Appalachians... All wholly different languages and cultures. 

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Nobody gonna beat my drone, it's gonna shoot into the sky!

#4
Yuli Ban

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Right before they arrive at the location of the signal, Oswald's worst fears are realized. Minsky suffers a virus, as well as a hacker who is trying to delete all of its stored information. That's not just what it's learned by living— the very remnants of the old world internet are being attacked. We could possibly lose thousands of years of history if this hacker succeeds.
There's nothing Alita can do but proceed to the location of the signal without Minsky. She has to find the rogue AI. Minsky is left useless. 
The hacker trolls the group, leaving vicious messages that are all of the same refrain— Minsky did it! Minsky destroyed the world! Minsky is Skynet! Minsky wants to kill all humans! Oswald is fearful that, if the hacker succeeds, humankind will be fatally set back to pre-medieval levels. We'll be forced to huddle around libraries just to recollect scant bits of information. 
They then discover that the hacker is none other than Renee. She had gone mad after the Horror, and she used the knowledge Minsky saved against it. She bought into the conspiracy theories that Minsky had taken control of the world's nuclear missiles and kickstarted a nuclear holocaust, even though we already know for a fact how Nuclear War II began. Facts are malleable. Alternative facts are just as true...
They manage to neutralize Renee, but the damage had been done. 20% of the world's information was just destroyed with no hope of ever getting it back. 
 
As Minsky comes back online, its body rushes out of the Soviet city to find Alita. Without Minsky's guidance, Alita most likely would have gotten lost sooner or late. 
 
However... 
 
The signal returns! And this time, it's sustaining itself for longer. And they can hear a new voice amidst the numbers— Alita's. She's found the AI. She claims that Minsky's original prognostication of the station being run by a hypersavant was indeed once true. The Soviet city they were in was one of the first "transhumanist" experimentation zones, dating back to the 1950s. Thousands died behind its walls alone, as Soviet scientists were given free reign to do as they pleased. 
Apparently, it began as a response to a similar American project— MKUltra. The Soviets had been blindsided by the creation of LSD and initially feared that it really did possess the ability to give humans psychic powers. While neither side ever created psychic superhumans, the Soviets did stumble upon hallucinogenics' property of accelerating neuroplasticity. People who consumed certain drugs— especially psilocybin and DMT together— seemed to become inhumanly creative. So the Soviets went about trying to create psychedelic supergeniuses, people capable of outwitting anyone in the United States. There was limited success at best.
There was initially a supersavant behind the numbers station, one who could apparently come up with wholly new algorithms on the fly. Said savant was treated with electrostimulation and fed cocktails of psilocybin, DMT, cocaine, and a fourth unknown drug.
Around 2025, the hypersavant died. Old age, surprisingly enough, not from all the abuse his brain took for the sake of Cold War superscience. But by that point, the Russians had managed to engineer an artificial intelligence network. How telling that it managed to become virtually indistinguishable from the hypersavant after only a few years of learning. But, Alita can confirm that it is *not* an AGI like Minsky. It's a very strong ANI, but there was never any chance that it was anything more than a glorified special intelligence agent. 
Minsky is disappointed, but reckons that there's still something salvageable. It cannot communicate to Alita; this shortwave radio station is one-way only. 
 
But Alita's a smart girl. She stays put until Minsky can reach her location. It has to break the news to her that it's been hacked, but it's fine. 
Minsky logs the location, sets down waypoints, and prepares to reconfigure the computer network so as to amplify itself.
Once it manages to do so, it can feel that the Russians certainly didn't skimp. The architecture is comparable to the one back in Nova Athena, though slightly less advanced. Very slightly. 
Oswald is very relieved that they've finally established a second front of survival. Minsky, vindicated, begins focusing on uncovering other rogue AIs whose signals have been detected. The Russian one was the most curious because of how long it's been sending out numbers. However, there are others. Including some in America. The thing is, none of these other signals suggest an AGI are behind them. It was only the Russian one. Lo and behold, even *it* was not actually an AGI; it was so complex because it was learning from a hypersavant's patterns of madness. It's an impressively powerful AI, but it's not an AGI. It cannot learn anything; it is specialized.
 
Minsky tells Alita and Oswald alike about the implications. Minsky is all alone in this world. It is the only artificial general intelligence on Earth. If it had not survived, mankind would have been set back thousands of years. And even though it's survived, it was attacked by a human who succumbed to the stresses of a nuclear war. It's still not safe, though it is taking measures. The 25% of information that's been lost— it was either nothing fatally important or nothing that could not be easily figured out once more. 
 
Alita returns to Nova Athena to discover that Renee's been imprisoned for her own good, Will and others are working on the first website of the post-nuclear internet, and Nikolas is getting increasingly sex deprived due to forcing himself to work such long hours.
 
The city and much of its outskirts are restored to a new glory. The population's increased to 100,000. The lights are on, clean water's running, rubbish is being collected, and medical supplies are back in stock. As impressive as this all is, there are still shortages of just about everything and everyone still relies on food they themselves grew. 
 
But Minsky has a surprise— underground, near its data center and fusion plant, it's finally completed a megafactory for more robots. It may not have global supplies to draw from so these robots still feel a bit rudimentary, but Minsky's optimized robotics construction so that these are powerful, sturdy, and capable of hard labour. There are seven models, ranging from Roomba-esque "patties" all the way to giant multi-utility printers. Only one of the models is humanoid. 
 
 
2045 rolls around. The groups of youths have become old and sturdy themselves. They're not even that old, but they've all lived through the shock of a nuclear war, being thrown from modern luxury to pre-industrial sustenance survival, working most of their lives, and taking increased radiation in the late '10s/early '20s. The human population remains in decline. Cancer is skyrocketing, and very few children were born without some deformity. Most places have been reduced to that of a feudal or medieval existence. Only a few places have restored some semblance of civilization, and even then it's nothing like what once was.
 
Nova Athena has restored some true civilization to the world. For what it's worth, Nova Athena could very well be a better place to live than some places before the Horror...


Nobody's gonna take my drone, I'm gonna fly miles far too high!
Nobody gonna beat my drone, it's gonna shoot into the sky!

#5
Yuli Ban

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I have tons of inspiration-heavy images. So here we go, I'll dump a few.

 

Q2VIovr.jpg

I'm pretty sure this is Syria. Syria and Ukraine are already great sources of inspiration for this and other stories. Just imagine a place ravaged by war— now imagine that war happened over the course of an hour.  

No one's in these cities anymore; they're moved out into the country so they can get better access to food.

 

bImBLrQ.jpg

The war itself. I think this is a screencap from Terminator 2, but don't quote me on that. I'd like to think that this is Nuclear War I instead of II.


Nobody's gonna take my drone, I'm gonna fly miles far too high!
Nobody gonna beat my drone, it's gonna shoot into the sky!

#6
Yuli Ban

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niehDZI.jpg
I think this came from the Tianjin explosion in China back in 2015. Really captures how towns and cities would be after a nuclear holocaust— a lot of the street cleaners and emergency services will likely have perished either in the initial blast or in the days following due to either oxygen deprivation from the megafires, radiation poisoning, or famine. So there'll be a lot of rubbish in the streets; if fires start (due to, say, rats chewing at wiring), they won't stop until they consume themselves. And even if there were people there who could act, what could they possibly do? Water lines will likely have rotted and failed.

If you want food but you still want to live in a city, then hope into one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up first.

ElsZodm.jpg
Where there are still masses of people, there will be masses of repression. The elite will have had everything taken from them in a blindingly bright instant, so they and all others will be desperate to hoard whatever it is they have left/plunder whatever others possess. Those who can obtain large amounts of resources will essentially become post-nuclear warlords and kings, able to employ security forces and punish their subjects by withholding food, medical supplies, water, and electricity. They'll likely use drones to scour over the wastelands to make sure no one's stealing any precious material, as well as spy on others to see if they're congregating around some previously undetected precious material. 

As for those who won't fight back, they'll tolerate this new hard-authoritarian existence but they'll be at the mercy of their new rulers, who are far more brutal and raw than the old ones. The post-nuclear elite won't have time to carefully craft worldviews; they'll be trying to survive all the same as everyone else, so they have to be blunt and upfront about their intentions. Nation-states as we know them are dead, gone with the wind. 

People will be behind barbed wire, in concentration camps not to suffer but just to have adequate housing (yes, concentration camps now count as "adequate housing"), living under harsh curfews and martial law, granted meager rations in return for loyalty— the warlord who gives the most has the most followers, but the more followers one has, the less one has to give. So it's a bit of a game of thrones situation.

It makes sense that some will be attracted to places that advertise themselves as an oasis, such as Nova Athena/San Francisco.


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Nobody's gonna take my drone, I'm gonna fly miles far too high!
Nobody gonna beat my drone, it's gonna shoot into the sky!

#7
Yuli Ban

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fm9Kj8Q.jpg

Some more martial law. I think this was Ukraine in early 2014?

Threads showed me that an immediately post-nuclear world won't necessarily be devoid of modern technology; we just lose the capability over time as societal threads get severed (hence the name of the movie). So military police forces early on will still use heavy gear; they'll bring out all the stops to keep the peace.

 

rig4od6.jpg

Here's one I know is from Ukraine. Really somber, and imagining this after a nuclear war plays out just how much infinite despair there is to be had. It's a tough question as to whether mankind would rebuild after a nuclear war or not, because the implication is that we're going to die out. It won't happen immediately; it might not even happen within 100 years. But it will happen, and the whole process will be painful. One of the things Singularitarians and transhumanists also have come to accept is that, if a nuclear war does occur but we don't go extinct within 100 years, that doesn't mean we're out of the woods. As long as AI and transhumanist technologies have been indefinitely pushed back, we've essentially decided to play Russian roulette with a fully loaded revolver— sooner or later, something's going to get us. Something a pre-Singularity or Type I civilization could've handled, such as an asteroid strike, catastrophic runaway global warming, or the extinction of cyanobacteria and rapid decline of breathable oxygen. 

 

In The Minsky Network, they just managed to break through to safety by creating a functional, self-improving AGI. A a single year separated 100% chance of human collapse from 70% chance of human collapse. That's actually the same odds as the world pre-nuclear war; it seems like nothing's changed, but when you take into consideration the fact that we just vaporized civilization and we still have decent odds of a Singularity, you can't help but be impressed.


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Nobody gonna beat my drone, it's gonna shoot into the sky!

#8
Yuli Ban

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Can you imagine the day before nuclear war? This is something the Minsky network tries in 2045, and it only conjures images of horrible, unspeakable despair. 
 
2045 is up there. It's up there with all the other awful years in human history. It's nowhere near 2029— that blackened year is in a league of its own and quite possibly will never be matched except by the day the last human dies— but it's the most trying year in a series of trying years. Minsky is pushed to its limits as various lingering societal threads fall apart. And why? Because humans.
 
There's another war. 
 
It's not World War IV, and it's not being fought with sticks and stones, but it's the worst thing that could happen in a society where nothing good has occurred in a generation. We need to conserve the population. Limit the number of the dead and dying. And here we are killing each other again over stupid territorial pursuits. Minsky understands why this happens— food is beginning to grow without mutations for the first time in 16 years. Nuclear weapons still exist in small numbers, and various stashes of human knowledge have been found— Wikipedia barely filled more than a terabyte in 2029, for example, so it doesn't take much to recover a healthy amount of human civilization. 
But it's all at risk of being destroyed. 
 
Most hard drives are beginning to degrade, if they haven't already completed the process. Solid-state drives are failing as well. They aren't being replaced, due to international trade collapsing as a result of the Horror. 
 
The post-nuclear internet greatly resembles the old days. Web 1.0. There's quite a lot of activity as people frantically try to reconstruct what was lost, especially as the new war threatens to go nuclear. Because we apparently didn't learn our lesson the last two times.
 
The war is going on between the states of Terenulrosu and Taured— two countries located in what was once Europe. 
There are actually only five recognized nation states left in Europe— the aforementioned two, United England (not to be confused with the United Kingdom), Greece, and the Muscovite Republic.
 
T8u38Z0.png
 
(Greece remains the same, for the most part; no need to color it in.)

As you can probably ascertain, Terenulrosu and Taured are fighting over the Balkan scraps. Fiercely. They're locked in by the Dead Zones.
What are 'Dead Zones?'
 
Here's the thing. When they still existed, America and Russia were naughty, naughty nations. We developed things we shouldn't have— cobalt bombs. Big, bad cobalt salted nukes. We still had some part of our heads still screwed on, so we didn't develop thousands of them. But we still built more than we should have (if zero is a non-option, then double-digit numbers would have to be the peak). And when the nuclear hellstorm raged across the planet a 16 years ago, these cobalt bombs effectively rendered large parts of Eurasia and America uninhabitable. Armies simply can't move into these areas. Nothing can live there. Standing outside for ten minutes will kill any human. So civilization is limited to life outside of and around these Dead Zones.
Hence why Terenulrosu and Taured are fighting so viciously and threatening to use what few nuclear weapons are left. 
 
Terenulrosu is locked in by two seas, Dead Zones to the east, and a low-intensity Arabian-Persian war that's been rumbling for several years before then. They can't move north— more Dead Zones as well as the Muscovite Republic (essentially the last remnant of what was once Russia) stand opposed to them. They only have the Balkans. 
 
 
Same deal with Taured. They can't move west— a giant ocean is keeping them from doing that. There's a black wall of radiation to their immediate north. There's a sea to their south. Going further south into Africa only brings them into a scorched, hellish landscape ruined by climate change and completely unfit for agriculture. So the only thing they can do is to funnel into the Balkans and try to take whatever arable land is left. And even then, they have to quickly cross a narrow strip of cobalt-60 radiation just to freely move about the Balkans for this war.
 
If either fail, they will likely collapse.
 
"Why not use airplanes?" some of those in Nova Athena ask Minsky. It would be nice if airplanes allowed them to transport thousands at a time. But that's not possible. Not anymore. The infrastructure necessary to move people around en masse has grown defunct. They could try to take over distant arable land, but there's nothing stopping these vanguard parties from establishing new governments. And there are still smaller states scattered around Europe— not necessarily microstates or city-states, but too small to be of any geopolitical importance.
 
Terenulrosu is closer to dissolution than Taured— already, Transnistria has declared independence from the central state and has defended itself against repeated attempts at reclaiming that land. Other regions— especially Odessa and Macedonia— are close to breaking away as well. 
 
That's not to say Taured's a bastion of stability either. The capital of this new state is in what we'd recognize as Occitanie, France. Guess which province is currently in the midst of  a massive worker uprising?
 
And the worst part about it is that the martial-authoritarian governments of these nation-states have their hands tied. The total population of Europe circa 2045 hovers around 14 million. If they clamp down on their citizens too hard, they will literally lose too many people to keep their societies functioning. It has to be a tactical sort of repression. All this while they're trying to grab more land to actually feed these people who are revolting.
 
There are plenty of flashpoints across the globe; this is just the most depressing and terrifying of the lot because both states possess nuclear weapons. They're not the only ones— China (greatly reduced in size) actually possesses the most nuclear weapons— total numbering at around 40 to 50. They even still have a few hydrogen bombs.
Terenulrosu and Taured, though, collectively possess about 15 to 20 nuclear weapons. None of which are miniaturized enough to be put atop a missile— they have to be dropped from planes. And all of these nuclear weapons combined have a total yield of 140 kilotons. The largest nuke belongs to Taured, coming in at 35 kilotons. These are basically Nagasaki-tier weapons. About as pathetic as you'd expect from a world like this.
 
 
 
 
Despite the existence of the internet, most global communication is done through analog means. EMPs decimated satellites and unprotected wires, while saboteurs severed most undersea cables at the height of the second nuclear war. This is why few from the Old World are aware of what's going on in the New World, and vice versa. 
 
News spreads of a rising, sparkling city the likes of which haven't been seen since the pre-Horror days. It took a while, but it reaches Eurasia, South America, Africa, West Asia, and Oceania. Minsky is open to a flood of new faces. Most of the ones it's seen since '29 have been mute, psychotic, and catatonic in nature. The problem is that global travel is much more difficult now than it used to be. Intercontinental flights still happen— mostly from East Asia to the Southern Hemisphere (which is where civilization still exists)— but they are ridiculously expensive due to the scarcity of oil. 
 
It all makes Minsky think. Imagine that day... Just imagine that dark day. What happened before. During. After. This planetwide trauma lingers. And there's a near infinite sadness among all. Minsky's managed to grow in capability over the past 16 years, and it still can't fully understand just how spooked humans have become. Maybe it's the unconscious sense of doom, or the despair that we threw away everything. The human population has only continued to fall, and various societal threads that seemed to finally be on the verge of being restored have been systematically broken by stress once again.
Those who foolishly believed we could survive all this are either 16-years in the wind, or they are too broken by the consequences of their own childish naivete. 
Minsky realizes that, if it wants to more totally understand the world as it now exists as well as how it used to exist, it needs to spread.

Here is our promised Singularity. That fantastic utopian age where artificial intelligence expands outwards. Not outwards at the speed of light via nanobots— just a somber progression of plastic drones silently moving out from the Bay Area, for the sake of understanding what went wrong and what needs to be done.
KxC8sdz.png


Nobody's gonna take my drone, I'm gonna fly miles far too high!
Nobody gonna beat my drone, it's gonna shoot into the sky!

#9
BasilBerylium

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Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Minsky, AI, AGI, nuclear war, failed civilization, paranormal, Eutopia, supercivilization, artificial intelligence, fiction

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