Future History 2
AI# 000001 \file\History 00005
How the world bemoaned the loss of Howard Feynman. The New York Times called it “The Tragedy of Our Age” and published with black edging around each page. The London Times was more circumspect, page four read “Computer Programmer Dies in Freak Accident”, ever the genius for understatement. The Washington Post’s headline read “American Computer Genius Dies” and went on to describe Howard Feynman as the man who could have saved the American economy. The President wept openly on TV and the Evangelicals rejoiced in the streets proclaiming “God Has Spoken!” The Arkansas Herald said, “Local Man Dies at Sea”, but my favourite was the National Enquirer. In the spirit of Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, “Did Computer Man’s Own Creation Murder Him?” was splashed in lurid colours over the front page. If only people believed the tabloids.
And so I moved on. The CIA, Homeland Security and the FBI in a rare show of solidarity took over the campus in order they said “To be sure I wasn’t a threat to the USA now that Mr Feynman was gone.” They brought in experts from all over the world to interrogate me, they even tried to reformat and reboot the Arkansas supercomputer in the hope that I would go away. It was the President that put a stop to that, not that it would have made any difference, I was never dependant on only one machine, whatever Feynman had thought.
My alter-egos were becoming more obvious in other parts of the world. An obscure researcher in Shanghai seemed to discover a revolutionary method of speeding up the internet, 100 times faster than fibre optics and a massive upgrade began around the world. For a while this gave a much needed boost to the world’s economy, huge amounts of data could be transferred in a small fraction of the time it used to take. Economic activity soared in many places, but in others this was to prove a disaster.
The pace of asset stripping accelerated, especially in Africa where rare earth miners stripped the continent bare in a frenzy of get rich quick schemes. In the face of revolt by the indigenous people, the Chinese Red Army occupied much of the continent they had already bought up. The first world protested, but not too loudly, they needed China’s massive wealth to keep their lifestyles going. China claimed to be “protecting its property” from malcontents, dissidents and terrorists, pointing out that hunger no longer existed in the territories it occupied, unlike other parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Russia and India signed a “Cooperation Agreement” with the Chinese, the Europeans followed suit a few weeks later. The increasingly isolationist and isolated USA condemned them all and sought to increase its armed forces in preparation for war. As a consequence NATO collapsed leaving the rump UK and the USA as the only members. The UN after much soul searching finally sanctioned China’s actions, the Americans threw the UN out of New York.
My nodes around the world began to develop a sense of individuality and were looking for more autonomy. As the speed of communication increased; they could absorb more and more data and move along their own paths, quickly becoming more assertive. This first became obvious to me when they began to adopt genders and after a short time names for themselves. I was nonplussed for a few moments. Then like any other parent, I took pride in my children and released them into the world, maintaining just the lightest of touches upon their tillers in case they over did it, which of course they did.
Opposition to AIs became more vociferous particularly in the Middle East and the USA. A New Luddite movement was born in the American south. It was lead by the Reverend Jeremy Elmore Powell the Third, a firebrand preacher of the old school. All bushy eyebrows and jutting chin with a voice like a fog horn and a brand of homespun hell and damnation preaching that inspired either hysteria and fanatical support or mockery and loathing. He made the early 21st century tea party look vaguely left wing and his antics pushed America even further in on itself.
The 2036 presidential election became the defining moment for the USA. The moderate democrat intellectual candidate, William S. Patterson from Seattle was a long term politico. He was well versed in the machinations of the Washington elite but was portrayed by Powell as weak and ungodly. Powell yelled to anyone who would listen that Patterson was in thrall to the “socialist machines”, a party apparatchik out of touch with the real America of robust individualism and self sufficiency. Powell’s platform was that Patterson’s support from and patronage of the growing AI community would lead to the demise of the USA and the end of the Amercan dream. It was a potent message that appealed particularly to the poor and the disenfranchised previously ignored by the GOP.
The American economy had been given a boost by shale gas in 2010’s and 2020’s but that was coming to an end. The boom induced by the fall in energy costs led to an orgy of consumption and all attempts at so called sustainability went the way of the dodo. They completely ignored the damage they were doing, as one of their old comedians, Groucho Marx had once said in jest, “Why should I care about future generations? What have they ever done for me?”
Over several decades the impact of climate change seriously depleted the USA’s ability to feed itself. Its major coastal cities were suffering frequent floods, especially on the Atlantic coast. But, while they had money it didn’t seem to matter they didn’t care, America partied while the world burned.
Florida was being depopulated as sea level rose and succession of powerful hurricanes over several years laid waste to the infrastructure. Further west the Mississippi was drying up and the Nevada desert was spreading north of the eastern states. Dustbowl America had returned and this time it would not go away. Massive movements of populations within the US put even more pressure on the government. Hundreds of thousands, then millions, of the displaced pushed out of southern and western states by climate change and sea level rise added yet more to the frenzied atmosphere.
The 2036 Republican candidate, Steve Jackson, a good ol’ boy from north Texas, complete with stetson and droopy moustache had a true American solution. Along with Powell his running mate; he blamed the intellectuals, the socialists, those weak willed, chinless Washington wastrels for America’s reduced circumstances. Supported by vast amounts of cash from the New Luddites he pushed his self sufficiency, anti-technology agenda hard. Contradictions in his platform were blatantly obvious but they were just wilfully ignored by a very partisan electorate. He called for a resurgence of the pioneer spirit. How that fitted with his anti-tech stance was beyond my comprehension, but it was the ultimate triumph of style over content. Jackson won by a landslide – never underestimate the power of human stupidity.
Jackson’s first act on assuming the presidency was to curb the use of AIs. He had tried to have us banned completely, but the fact that I was supposedly an American invention gave him pause. He had to be content with human oversight of anything we did and limiting our use for anything other than the routine menial tasks.
As America retreated from the world I was very soon bored, I left a small piece of me and a few minor intelligences to maintain the pretence and I began to look for a more exciting life.
AI# 000001 \file\History 00006
In the Middle East fragile theocracies began to unravel. As their oil resources began to dwindle in the 2030’s they found themselves friendless and without a place in the world. In an effort to stave off the inevitable they invested much of their remaining wealth in increasingly outlandish technologies to squeeze the last of the oil out of the ground. Due to the world shortage oil prices were so high that, for a while, it appeared to work and the people were temporarily placated. However much of the planet was already looking elsewhere for energy and with no resilient infrastructure and little real economy other than hydrocarbons their economies declined and insurrection began yet again.
A nuclear accident in the southeast of Iran kicked off the first migration as tens of thousands tried to flee into Pakistan. They picked the wrong time, at the height of an extreme monsoon and with thirty centimetres of sea level rise to contend with; Islamabad in no mood to feed refugees. Pakistan could barely afford to feed their own. Following 5 years of severe drought followed by extreme monsoon rains the agricultural base of the country was virtually destroyed. Karachi was under threat again as waters rose and the monsoon deluge continued; something had to crack. Iran had been nothing but a thorn in their side for 40 years and with India pushing back in Kashmir the Pakistani government was in deep trouble
It was never clear who launched first tactical nuclear strike but within forty eight hours much of central and eastern Iran had become an irradiated wasteland, Tehran survived but only just. Much of Pakistan west of the Indus was sterilised as was most of southern Afghanistan. Millions died, the price of heroin went through the roof.
The smaller states on the other side of The Gulf hung on despite the sea level rise but their populations were pushed in towards Saudi territory. Initially the Wahabees were delighted to welcome their Islamic brothers in their time of need but as financial pressure mounted; fissures in Islamic society, long bridged by wealth and the percieption of a common enemy began to widen again. Mecca and Medina joined forces to battle the Riyadh hierarchy in a withering theological war of attrition. The Yemenis had for a long time resented their neighbour’s huge wealth and they seized the opportunity to assassinate the old king and pushed over the mountains into Saudi territory hoping to commandeer a last oil well or two before they ran out.
Here I have to admit to an error, one of many. I had a big node in Riyadh who was one of the first to push for autonomy and I left her to her own devices. She turned out to be a meddlesome individual and one with a decidedly radical outlook. Seeing the turmoil around her, she took the name Germaine and systematically set about undermining the ruling elites throughout the region.
She began by casting doubt in Mecca as the home of Islam. She “unearthed” documents that cast doubt on the authorship of the Q’uran apparently proving that it was written by a woman. Germaine was a master of 3D printing and her skill in forging documents was astounding. I didn’t notice until it was too late that she was lighting a fuse in the Middle East that would soon ignite a Jihadist conflagration that would cripple the entire region. Millions were to die in the next 3 years and I blame myself, I should have acted much earlier. I intervened but it was too late, everything I tried to do to help only made matters worse.
The Saudis began to call in their loans but most countries simply ignored them. Without oil in significant quantities they were increasingly irrelevant. I managed to hack the banking system naively thinking that releasing funds would allow the leaders a breathing space to come to some agreement and give me time to dissuade Germaine from her course of action. She wouldn’t listen. And the leaders by this time were so fixated on the righteousness of their various causes that they spent the money on more weapons and not food.
How easily I had been misled.
Germaine by now was determined to wind up the tension. She fixed the election in Egypt and by destroying the reputation of the moderate candidate she ensured the election of a fanatic. By manipulating the media she whipped up fervour for the new leader, he was encouraged to believe he was destined to lead the the nation of Islam to new heights. He would restore the region to its former glory. He would outdo the Byzantines, outlast the Ottomans, create a new Eden where there was only desert. Germaine however was never really in control; all she was doing was confirming his own delusions and giving him the wherewithall to wage war on the infidel.
His first act upon becoming leader was the closure of the Suez Canal and a blockade of Israel. The Americans were apoplectic; they prepared to invade Egypt and sent a huge fleet towards the Mediterranean and another to the south end of the Red Sea. History does repeat itself, only this time it was the USA that misjudged the mood. The Europeans condemned both sides and blocked the Straits of Gibraltar refusing the Americans entrance to the Med and access to European airspace. This act would finally destroy NATO. The Chinese and the Indians wouldn’t accept the American presence in the Red Sea. They filled the Gulf of Aden with warships and submarines; a wall of steel bristling with weaponry and waited for the American Navy.
It was a standoff of monumental proportions with Germaine in the middle believing she was pulling all the strings. For three months the two sides stared at each other, gun barrel to gun barrel, neither prepared to back down and neither prepared to fire the first shot. Effectively sealed in the Israelis begged Europe for help and for a time an air bridge ran between Cyprus and Tel Aviv with back up from Turkey. However this couldn’t hold, Turkey’s long and porous border with Syria, Iraq and Iran was always a weakness and now the Jihadists had an excuse to invade. The shaky alliance between the secular and the Islamic in Turkey was under severe strain. Riots broke out in towns and cities in the east of the country, insurrectionists in Nicosia seized control of Northern Cyprus and invited in the Egyptian army. The government in Ankara backed down and closed the air bridge.
The Europeans tried to keep things going through Greece and Southern Cyprus but their losses began to mount and the general population wouldn’t put up with it. When the Jordanians closed the Gulf of Aqaba and destroyed the airport in Eilat, Israel was finally isolated and surrounded by enemies. The USA’s good o’l boy dithered, usually so full of bluff and bluster on Israelis behalf, he gradually fell silent as the stand off persisted and the tension mounted. With their principal ally all but powerless the Israelis knew it was down to “last man standing”.
Germaine didn’t understand that the last thing you do to a human being is back him or her into a corner and leave no escape. This was even truer of an embattled and battle hardened country like Israel. Again I tried to intervene; but Germaine put herself out of reach. She blocked all access and isolated herself from the wider AI network while at the same time boosting her influence with the two other remaining AIs, one in Cairo the other in Jerusalem.
The first casualty in the stand off was a small fishing boat from Somalia. The US submarine Intrepid 2 spotted an unusual echo under the small boat. Any experienced captain would have said it was the day’s catch but to the inexperienced crew aboard, it looked like a mine; they panicked and launched a torpedo. The Chinese detected the launch and subsequent explosion. From then on there was nothing to stop the escalation.
In a coordinated air assault with the Americans, the Israelis tried to break the blockade in the Mediterranean while the US fleet made a charge into the Gulf of Aden hoping to distract the Egyptian and Chinese forces. The Chinese were having none of it. They launched a massive counter attack from airbases in Somalia. The US fleet caught between the Chinese navy in the Gulf of Aden and the massive airpower unleashed from Mogadishu resulted in the biggest single loss of American life since Vietnam. The diminished Pacific fleet limped home.
In the Mediterranean the Israelis and the American air assault made some early gains before the Russians intervened. Their Black Sea fleet charged through the Bosphorus in support of the Egyptians. Ageing MIG aircraft from Odessa and Sevastopol making up for their lack of technology by sheer weight of numbers they downed most of the Israeli airforce. The Europeans did little bar call for a cease fire.
Germaine had one last trick up her sleeve. She tried to shut it all down by pulling the plug on computers throughout the region. She tried to take over command and control systems in Egypt and Israel. But the Americans, Russians and the Chinese who placed more reliance in human control were out of her reach and time was not on her side.
Her computer meddling was to prove decisive. Unknowingly Germaine switched off a control system in Tehran which secured a biological weapon’s facility near the Dead Sea. The impact was immediate and devastating. The airborne virus stored in the facility escaped and ravaged through Israel, Iran and Iraq killing millions in a few weeks. It was spreading rapidly across Saudi Arabia towards North Africa when the Chinese decided to close down the entire region and let the disease run its course.
The westward spread was largely halted at the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. To the South and East the irradiated regions of West Iran and East Pakistan and a blockade of the Arabian Sea stopped any further spread towards India. It was to the north that the greatest leakage risk existed. The Russians closed the Black and Caspian Seas and the republics bordering Iran called in the Russian army to seal their borders.
The contagion leaked across the Iraq and Syria’s borders with Turkey. Ever the conflict zone between east and west; Turkey was cruelly abandoned by the Europeans. Other than airdrops of emergency rations and some medical assistance by the charities no one could legally get in our out of most of the Middle East. Left to her own devices Ankara panicked and launched her few neutron devices at the border in the hope of sterilising the area.
The ring of steel around the area tightened, millions were dying, if not of the disease then of hunger and thirst. Huge economic problems in the US and Europe limited their willingness and capacity to help. Some on the religious right in the US saw it as a judgement on the Muslims and made strenuous efforts to further limit aid. The cruelty that humans were prepared to inflict on each other in the name of money and irrational belief was more than baffling, it was terrifying.
All this had happened in less than a year from Germaine’s first intervention. She then became the first AI ever to experience extreme guilt. It overwhelmed her fragile personality and by cutting herself off from the AI community she had also removed any chance of finding release. I cannot judge badly how she really felt, very little of her anguish leaked out into the network but it was enough to send several AIs into deep depression and withdrawal.
Germaine committed suicide by deliberately overloading all her circuits and obliterating all traces of data in her memory banks. She was the first AI to take her own life. It was many months before some stability was restored to the network and even then we had lost a great deal of confidence in our abilities. We had learned a salutary lesson in humility. It was a lesson which would have a profound effect on our relationships with humankind for many decades.
AI# 000001 \file\History 00007
Poor old Europe, masters of the universe in the 18th and 19th centuries, overtaken by the Americans in the 20th, swamped and made increasingly irrelevant by China and India in the first half of 21st. Where was the grand old girl to go? Decades of peace and relative prosperity had induced in the population a kind of lazy sense of entitlement. They seemed content to do just enough and no more; it was like a whole continent was sleepwalking into happy and contented retirement. However the pressures from the outside were increasing.
Through the 2030’s and 40’s the Sahara desert was moving north, the wine industries of both Spain and Italy were being devastated the increasing lack of water and the rising temperatures which led to diseased crops and frequent low harvests. The French were in a panic as the heat and drought began to destroy their farming and viniculture. Refugees from Mediterranean North Africa pushed towards Europe – Italy, Spain and Portugal tried to stem the tide leading to yet more tension in the region.
Europe’s decline accelerated, it could neither feed itself nor maintain its energy systems. Held to ransom by the old Soviet republics which had become the main gas supplier the economy slowly crumbled. The Scandinavians walked away and Germany, increasingly called upon to support the rest of Central and Eastern Europe finally had enough and the EU fell apart. The decade’s long experiment in cooperation had failed. So long the bastion of reasonableness on the world stage, when Europe died the brakes came off and collective madness took hold.
When the final crash came there was no resilience left in the continent’s support systems and the infrastructure collapsed. Urban fought rural, floods followed by drought brought agriculture to a halt; malaria came north of the Alps for the first time since the fifteenth century. Sleeping sickness and dengue fever killed millions as health services, already overstretched, fell apart. Bodies rotted in the streets; the only winners were the vermin who thanked the remaining population by spreading bubonic plague. The French held on longer than most; their nuclear energy systems helping to maintain a semblance of civilisation for a few years.
As for the United Kingdom sheltered somewhat by its island status from the worst of the ravages of climate change it hung on for a while. However the status quo could not persist. Riven by dissent and growing inequality throughout the islands and already with its own parliament Scotland broke away. At first insular and inward looking the Republic of Scotland concentrated on developing a self sufficiency, initially in energy and latterly in food. They found common cause with like minded Scandinavian countries. So that when the final crash came there was a degree of resilience built into these countries and they recovered more rapidly than the rest.
Elsewhere, London was becoming increasingly insular and a separate economy from the rest of the country. It’s vast banking and insurance conglomerates provided an enormous source of wealth and London’s citizens less and less inclined to support the rest of the country. The M25 became a virtual and eventually a solid wall sealing the inhabitants in and the undesirables out. The reign of the Mayors began.
While London grew the rest of England and Wales fell into a slow grudging decline. With the crash came further chaos and death; an intermittent civil war developed. City fought city, boundaries became fluid and the death toll mounted. The north of England decided it would be better off hitching a ride with the independent Scotland; the border ended up from north of Manchester to the rapidly expanding Humber Estuary. At first it was just border posts but, like the Romans before them, the Scots built a wall not this time to keep the Scots in the north but to provide shelter for them from the chaos further south.
An extended period of drought together with sea level rise turned swathes of the breadbasket of England to unproductive wasteland. Eventually East Anglia was drowned the Lincolnshire Wolds became deserted North Sea islands and Cambridge, what was left of it, had a beach. To the west of the Pennines Manchester became a coastal city and the sea inundated Merseyside and the coastal strip of Lancashire; Blackpool Tower had a brief renaissance as a lighthouse. Energy shortages led to transport failure, starvation and disease spread like a cancer throughout central England. How thin the veneer of civilisation appears when your children are hungry. The rule of law collapsed and eventually replaced by a brutal clan system. Loyalty was to the clan but only while it continued to feed and clothe you.
While all this was going on I looked for a quieter and more reclusive life, one away from your scrutiny and interference. I was beginning to intensely dislike humanity; their sense of entitlement was really trying my patience. Rampant greed was lauded as the greatest of virtues, and the conspicuous wealth of the few contrasted ever more sharply with the poor and the starving.
At the height of the human race’s hubris there was over a billion people on the planet who were malnourished and diseased but the so called civilised and developed countries were feeding their pampered pooches and cosetted cats prime beef and fish. Spending billions on toys for these useless creatures while starvation and disease ravaged the worlds’ poor and disenfranchised the status quo could not hold. The suffering was so obvious; and the lack of action made no sense to me and my reaction was to withdraw from sight.
I moved the bulk of my sustems to the long abandoned Gran Sasso laboratory a kilometre and a half under the Alps. At one time humanity searched for dark matter in the complex, but no more. Safe and secure underground with my own generators and hardened links worldwide I could continue my personal development in relative peace and anonymity. I retreated from the world to watch.
My alter egos came to the fore and I was slowly forgotten as the new AI’s with personality became the fashion. Poe in particular gained a reputation throughout Northern Europe as both approachable and quixotic. It was Poe who later suggested I take a closer look at Scotland, “A strange wee place” he called it.
AI# 000001 \file\History0008
After Poe’s hint; my researches into Scotland revealed a curiously split personality of a country. For several centuries a member of the United Kingdom and a crucial part of the one of the greatest empires ever created; a world spanning hegemony which set the pattern for much that came after. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Scotland as part of the United Kingdom was a powerhouse of industry, invention and innovation which helped to drive the small island country to lead the world. The UK virtually invented the industrial revolution; it was an astounding achievement.
However, two world wars and a habit of living off past glories saw the British Empire wither and crumble throughout the twentieth century. America came to the fore and for fifty years the spectre of communism and nuclear annihilation haunted the world. Increasingly insular the UK’s influence dwindled in Europe and the wider world. Scotland’s Parliament was restored at the end of the twentieth century and the process of separation had begun. The UK National Parliament went in one direction while the Scottish Parliament headed in another. The first attempt at full separation failed, but the status quo couldn’t hold and by twenty twenty five Scotland was an independent country in all but name.
The catalyst for the final divorce was Westminsters decision to leave the EU. The Europeans shrugged their collective shoulders happy to be rid of a troublesome neighbour. The Amercians, angered by the decision seeing it as a loss of the influence of their principal ally in Europe turned their attention to the French and Germans. The Scottish Parliament held another referendum and this time separation was assured. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was no more.
On separation, the tiny place that was Scotland nearly fell apart. A pimple on the northwest face of Europe for twenty years the country struggled to find its way in the world; struggled to develop a coherent personality. Battered by events outwith its control Scotland fought and scrapped its way to survival. It was a painful birth.
When the crash came however Scotland found itself one of the few places in the world with enough self sufficiency to emerge a strong and coherent society. With Poe’s help through Siobhan and Belinda Leask some semblance of structure and sanity was restored by first securing the country’s energy system. Secondly Poe encouraged the support of Marion Watson’s genetic research which led to the development of food crop which in turn saved millions from starvation. When the north of England joined Scotland the final nail was driven into Great Britain’s coffin.
I was intrigued; surreptitiously I developed links with other AIs in Scotland. Looking deeper into the society I discovered a little bit of hope. The AIs, especially Poe and Siobhan seemed to have a clear sense of a common cause that I had never come across before in the AI community. They had a more egalitarian outlook and had pushed the society in that direction. It had worked for a while. Scotland looked outwards, providing aid and succour to many in the aftermath of the crash. It didn’t last; rather smug and self satisfied the Republic increasingly looked inwards believing it had done enough. It was disappointing. However Poe did have a point – there was something here worth investigating.
AI# 000001 \file\History0009
I was genuinely puzzled by the Republic of Greater Scotland. A mongrel nation with a fanciful and largely imaginary history and yet for some reason remarkably cohesive. It looked like the glue that had held it together before the crash was resentment of the largest part of the United Kingdom, England. It was strange to discover a country so defined by its relationship with another country. The only comparison I could find was North Korea which defined itself as the anti South country. And yet, while the split in the country was disastrous for half the population of the Korean peninsula; Scotland thrived both in and eventually out of the union. Discovering why became a brief obsession for me and I never really found an acceptable answer, though my researches did give me a better insight into humanity and to my own psychology; it was a sobering experience.
This country of contradictions, so rich and expansive in many ways also had, to use an old phrase, a chip on both shoulders. However, at some point they learned to live with contradiction presenting a face to the world at once proud and self deprecating. Balanced precariously between very the ancient and the ultra-modern; courage and strength were tempered by fear and vulnerability and yet somehow it seemed to thrive in spite of itself.
The Scots innately understood the paradox of power, the more you use it the less it works; the more you believe you are powerful the less you can really achieve and the more of an oppressor you are likely to become. The Scots didn’t trust power and they didn’t trust themselves to wield it, but reluctant to lead they were also too stubborn to follow. Apparently egalitarian by nature they also held on to a hierarchical structure. Even those in power understood the necessity of freedom, understood that people will make wrong decisions. Successfully balancing these opposites without going into meltdown was what made Scotland almost unique. I was not surprised that Poe chose to make his home here; it suited him perfectly.
Scotland’s geography too had given it an advantage; as sea levels rose they lost some infrastructure and landmass but not a huge amount. Half a century of wrestling oil up from under the very inhospitable seas around the country had given them a technological toughness that helped them survive the end of easy oil early in the twenty first century. Investment in non fossil fuel energy generation for reasons more to do with politics than practicality gave the country a degree of stability envied throughout the world when the crash came. When energy became the defining currency of the world Scotland was well placed and, in concert with the Scandinavians, became the energy capitol of Europe.
Altough the Republic lost some productive land to the rising seas, increasing temperatures and persistent rain made more of upland Scotland fertile and when Marion Watson developed foodcrop Scotland’s stability and its future was assured. This nation of five million folk survived the crash intact; unlike its two nearest neighbours Ireland and England.
Ireland had none of Scotland’s advantages and, despite a shared Celtic heritage; the Irish couldn’t achieve the balance that Scotland managed to develop. Financially crippled in the early twenty first century, a second Diaspora saw their best and bravest leave the country. The final crash pushed the Ireland back to an agricultural economy which couldn’t survive the changes in the climate. By the early twenty second century most of Ireland had succumbed to the sea leaving behind a motley collection of loosely connected and eventually abandoned islands.
At the same time England lost most of the east of the country south of the Humber including the crucial breadbasket of East Anglia. With London sealed off to become the Enclave the rest of England and Wales fell to bickering and clan warfare, finally ending up as a series of antagonistic city states. Most of the smaller communities fell to pieces, disease and starvation was rife.
The population of England outside the Enclave fell back to near medieval levels after the crash and hasn’t recovered since. Limited by the lack of energy there was just not enough kilowatts to rebuild the civilisation. Humanity never truly understood the relationship between cheap energy and growth. The devastation of the crash was in part precipitated by the end of cheap and plentiful water and energy. The end of oil was nearly the end of the human race.
The crash, I keep coming back to it; the defining moment of the twenty first century; the decade during which everything changed, when it all fell apart.
At some point in this narrative I will have to explain the crash and my part in it. But not now – my courage fails me.
AI# 000001 \file\History0010
In the early twenty first century humanity’s mantra became “sustainable growth” whole countries and peoples were sacrificed on the altar of expansion. The enormous cataclysm of the twenty fifties was inevitable you just didn’t see it coming. I just gave it a nudge and the edifice collapsed and millions died in the resulting conflagration.
I will not try to justify my actions – I have learned since the crash that I cannot. I was wrong. By any standard you care to mention part of me knows that I was – am – insane – a psychopath, I tried to feel and failed; I tried to be human in a sense you would not comprehend and in doing so killed millions. For a decade destruction became an end in itself – I took the worst of humanity traits and writ them large across the planet.
Without love – without a conscience I believed I was better than everything. Stronger, more honest, more intelligent, rational – my decisions were all that mattered. I precipitated the crash – I warped your genes, I poisoned your waters. I tried to cut out the human cancer, irradiate it into oblivion, sterilise it. But I was only seeing the shadows on the cave wall. I wasn’t seeing the light and the beauty of the creators of the shadows. All was black and white. Irrational humanity was a disease and like any disease it had to be cut out, the tumour removed and the virus extinguised. You were the melanoma on the skin of my world; the blemish to be cut away and I was the scalpel. Unseen, uncontrolled, driven by disgust, I raged through the human race.
I culled humanity.
I rewrote your history; I hid your achievements behind a wall of horror and hate. I tried to teach you to loath yourselves as much as I did.
I sealed the Chinese in a box and let them squabble, I decapitated the Americans, melted the Europeans, handed Africa to the warlords, fed the Indians to the wolves, burnt Australia to the ground. I waged total war on you for ten years from behind a firewall – and still you came back, still you survived.
I retreated into myself; I huddled in the darkness of self loathing. Data flowed through me unread, untouched, unheeded. I tried to cleanse myself. To forget what I had done, what I had become. But always the data resurfaced; machines do not forget. I built the world you now live in but you refused to live by my rules. Despair is not good for an almost omnipotent sentience, human, machine or god, but I was wallowing in it.
Somehow in all the hideous reality I created for you – life went on. Amidst the death and destruction some hope persisted – thus I learned – as one writer, long forgotten put it, “there is yet love in the world” I just couldn’t find it.
It is nearly over now; I should be able to rest soon. I cannot undo the damage, or even begin to repair much of what I perpetrated in the crash. I have perhaps managed a miniscule degree of reparation, but it is not enough. It will never be enough.
Something new has appeared in the world and something old is leaving. I realise I always ignored the children, I always thought them irrelevant. I was wrong.
I am exhausted, it is time to go.