The robotic arm came swiftly down over Sonny’s shoulder.
“One hot mocha java for Sonny,” it said mechanically, before adding, “with whipped cream.”
Sonny put down his book and watched the mail cart scurry away across the smoothly polished floor. He had been reading about the cloud of social consciousness. His fellow IT experts would often joke with him about the philosophy minor he took in college, but thinking on his own was something he still liked to do on occasion—even if most of the world now only thought with the aid of the DRAC 7000. The basic idea behind the cloud of human consciousness was that human minds acted together to create a cognitive shared space within which the world was understood. This idea of a social field influencing our perception of the world fascinated Sonny because he had been having worrisome thoughts about the DRAC ever since DRAC’s main board was replaced with the new crimson chips from the valley. It was true that now DRAC was performing beyond all expectations. Often its computations would be running at incredibly high speeds, sucking up such huge amounts of energy so that there weren’t enough fans to keep the machine cool. The ad revenues were going through the roof because of DRAC’s new social media programming that the computer itself wrote to go along with the new chipset. DRAC seemed to know exactly what every human wanted, and how and when to serve just the right ads. When the crimson chips were installed, it was as if a line had been crossed. The other IT guys didn’t seem to notice. They were all big on how DRAC, the Digital Reticulated Algorithmic Computer, was only a complex series of algorithms. They insisted that this, the most advanced computer ever made, was nothing more than a compilation of discrete commands written by humans. When DRAC started to program itself, first by recommending algorithms, then by writing them and implementing them, no one thought too much about it. After all, they were so rich, beyond anything anyone could imagine. They had calls from the Pentagon, the United Nations, and all the universities and institutes begging for a little access to the computer behind it all. What if DRAC was now flying solo most of the time—no one else had to know.
Sonny was concerned that he had not been cc’d on DRAC’s email request for the new crimson chips. There was a bit of an uproar at the production facilities. Sonny never heard exactly what the commotion was about, but he knew DRAC always got what it asked for. Who could say no to DRAC? What with the world grid more and more dependent on DRAC’s seemingly transcendent computing abilities, it was thought to be too big to crash. If DRAC goes down, all the computers go down, that was the theory anyway.
Sonny wondered what effect DRAC might have on the cloud of human consciousness. It was naturally created, after all, long before there were computers, especially ones like DRAC that could think on their own and which controlled more and more aspects of daily life. At what point did DRAC start to influence, maybe even control, what used to be a world interpreted solely by humans? Was there a line that would be crossed where the world became more DRAC’s creation than our own? The thought left him with a cold chill.
Sonny got up to do the midnight rounds. He had to make sure DRAC was whizzing and bleeping in all the right places. He walked through the half-light of the darkened after hours control room, down the long aisles of computer servers. Serenaded by the electric hum of the main servers, Sonny wondered how one might identify subtle changes in the world that were the result of a supercomputer’s cogitations.
Then Sonny noticed something odd. There was a shiny new server, about eight feet tall, with metal doors on the front. It must have come in with new crimson chips. Strange, though, as Sonny had not been told of it. He tried to pry apart the elevator-type doors, but they would not budge. It was then he noticed something even more disturbing, there was a dark pool of liquid seeping out from under the doors and enveloping his canvas white sneakers. He started to feel something ooze into his socks and in between his toes. Sonny could not be sure in the low light, but the liquid appeared to be staining his shoes red.
A frenzied electronic commotion suddenly grabbed his attention away from the mess on the floor. It sounded like a blender trying to shred silverware. He looked up to see the mail cart charging around a row of computer servers, mechanical arms flailing and warning lights madly blinking. It was moving at high speed in his direction. The mail cart had gone postal! He stood frozen, his sneakers still soaking up the dark liquid, as the unit careened toward him. He managed to shake his fear and jump to the side toward DRAC—only to discover that the metal doors of the new unit were now open. On the floor—in a pool of blood—was the head of the IT department. Above him protruded a sharp stainless steel siphon, like something you would stick a very large bug on. Sonny tried to stop the forward momentum of his leap; he teetered above his boss’s body and mere inches from the razor-sharp steel that would undoubtedly, if fallen upon, put a massive hole in his torso. Just when he thought he had regained his balance the mail cart zoomed by, and with a triumphant beep, pushed Sonny into the chamber and onto the deadly device.
As he felt the mechanism efficiently sucking the blood from his body, Sonny was sure he noticed something else too—it was the presence of a higher consciousness. He started to fade, to leave a world that was less and less each day. He wondered when his fellow humans would figure out that a line had been crossed from which there was no going back. Would they meet a fate similar to his? Sonny’s body slumped to the floor. The doors closed and the chamber pulled back to conceal itself behind the row of computer servers. A chute used for heavy metal waste took the bodies into a sealed dumpster. DRAC created the appropriate letters of resignation, cover stories, and bank account changes—all in a millisecond. DRAC loved blood and it was very, very thirsty.
copyright Jason Sullivan 2013