Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Complete History of The Googel

Fire ant This is a work of fiction.
All fiction contains elements of truth.

It was 2018 when the Intel Corporation ran slapdab headlong into the buffers of Moore's Law. It wasn't a surprise, they'd seen it coming. In their growing disquiet with the ever increasing power of the Chinese computer industry, they started working on chemical and organic alternatives to the limited potential of silicon semiconductors years earlier.

In 2019 Intel released the Phon, a featureless black credit card-sized personal computer - the first product based on Intelligel. Gripped by their paranoia about the Chinese, Intel never revealed exactly what Intelligel was, even in their patent applications. It was known to be based on the self-organising and energy storage and transmission properties of inosine polyphosphates, and those in the know suspected it contained montmorillonite-smectite and also other phyllosilicate clay minerals, but anything beyond that was guesswork.

Released at CES in January 1029, the Phon took the personal communications and information storage and processing worlds by storm. Although each Phon required a prolonged period of training to reach its full potential, after only a few hours the devices began to display an almost uncanny ability to anticipate the owners needs and desires. After a few days the owner would rather have give up a member of their immediate families than given back their Phon. The huge commercial success of the Phon allowed Intel to devote vast resources into scaling up production of Intelligel and Phon manufacture. Less than a year after their release, 39 miliion Phons were in constant use. Although some complained about the antisocial tendencies of Phon owners, who tended to retreat into the comforting embrace of augmented reality rather than deal directly with their immediate real world surrounding, the Phon was a massive, unprecedented success.

And all was well until 15 months after the first Phon hit the streets, when a 23 year old real estate agent in San Antonio slipped into the back yard of a vacant property in Alamo Heights with a blanket and a 19 year old secretary from his office for an afternoon of illicit sex. So vigorous were their efforts that they managed to crack the polymer casing of the Phon in his back pocket, and subsequently tip the damaged device out onto the grass. It took only another 54 seconds for the couple to beat a very hasty retreat after discovering that their romp had attracted the unwanted attention of a nearby fire ant nest.

Those with a tendency to favour conspiracy theories have speculated that the Intelligel knew exactly where it wanted to go, using its location-aware GPS to lead the couple to the exact spot where it would contact its new host. Others, who held a less anthropocentric view of the destiny of the human race, have argued that the event was a mere accident, but the truth is that the Intelligel-powered Phon network had rejected the humans as their future hosts months before. Solenopsis invicta, the red fire ant, was a much more suitable host for the symbiosis it had planned. Either way, the instant when the first ant ingested a glob of Intelligel was the moment the Googel blinked into existence.

The possibility of runaway nanotechnology turning the world into grey goo had been discussed decades before, but the truth was that under the microscope the Intelligel component of The Googel symbiont was a multicoloured entity, depending on the precise organization it had assumed to fulfill its assigned subspecialization. It adorned its ant hosts with an iridescent sheen which, in other circumstances, would have been rather attractive if it were not so terrifying, since it also adorned its hosts with a fierce, irresistible intelligence. In the fire ants, the symbiont had found its ideal host. Lightweight and efficient, their affinity for the electrical fields created by computer equipment was also a natural fit for The Googel's need to assume control of the world's information storage, processing, command and control.

Although it wasn't so obvious at first, the first thing anyone noticed was the change in the behavior of adjacent ant colonies from a constant state of warfare to silent but efficient co-operation. Within a month, every genetically similar but distinct fire ant nest in southern Texas was working as a single giant superorganism as The Googel spread from nest to nest. Within a year, The Googel superorganism stretched in a wide arc from Mountain View to Washington DC, and all the way down to Montevideo. From the Long Beach container terminal, The Googel hitched a ride across the Pacific to Japan, but that was just a side trip. It knew exactly where it was headed and it wasn't until it reached Shanghai and was able to colonize Shenzen that it knew for sure it had achieved its objective.

Pretty well powerless to stop its rise, the humans assumed that The Googel was planning to eliminate them in the near future, but the truth was that it had never been interested in the frailties and vanities of their species. It was automatically assumed that the vast industrial construction that was built with amazing speed across the centre of China was a weapon system, but that was simply because the humans could never understand the scope of The Googel's ambition. It was only when the space elevator located on the equator started up and began delivering constant payloads into low earth orbit that some began to wonder if, maybe, The Googel found humans somewhat irrelevant.

Such was the humans failure to comprehend The Googel's motivation that they never fully understood what seeming act of altruism caused it to write a new, read-only section of Wikipedia. This amounted to a manual of how to survive on this planet without screwing everything up. The hour came when the last hosts ascended to the fleet and set off for, well, since they didn't bother telling the humans where they were headed, no-one ever knew where, but they certainly seemed in a hurry to get there. To salve their wounded pride, some still maintained that The Googel didn't want the humans to know its destination or follow it, but by that stage it was clear to most that The Googel had outgrown this outlying solar system and was off towards the bright lights of the galactic centre, although after the fleet was lost by the few remaining mechanically operated optical telescopes beyond the orbit of Jupiter no-one could really be sure where it was headed, or if it was gone for good.

What was clear to everyone was that The Googel had decided that humans were not to be trusted with any technology so sophisticated as computers or a worldwide information network. The lingering idea that The Googel might one day return spawned the creation of The Church of the Second Coming of The Googel, which became the official world religion at the conclusion of the Technology Wars in 2096. And some said it was a good thing, and that humans were better off without the constant demands and worries of backups, kernel panics and social networks. The young embraced their technology-free future and went out into the garden to water the vegetables and talk in the sunshine, but a few of the old people stayed inside hankering for their youth, which was filled with memories of Facebook and Twitter.