“Stars, everywhere. So many stars that I could not for the life me understand how the sky could contain them all yet be so black.”
“Evolution has no foresight. Complex machinery develops its own agendas. Brains — cheat. Feedback loops evolve to promote stable heartbeats and then stumble upon the temptation of rhythm and music. The rush evoked by fractal imagery, the algorithms used for habitat selection, metastasize into art. Thrills that once had to be earned in increments of fitness can now be had from pointless introspection. Aesthetics rise unbidden from a trillion dopamine receptors, and the system moves beyond modeling the organism. It begins to model the very process of modeling. It consumes evermore computational resources, bogs itself down with endless recursion and irrelevant simulations. Like the parasitic DNA that accretes in every natural genome, it persists and proliferates and produces nothing but itself. Metaprocesses bloom like cancer, and awaken, and call themselves I.”
“People aren't rational. We're not thinking machines, we're - we're feeling machines that happen to think.”
“I brought her flowers one dusky Tuesday evening when the light was perfect. I pointed out the irony of that romantic old tradition— the severed genitalia of another species, offered as a precopulatory bribe—and then I recited my story just as we were about to fuck.
To this day, I still don't know what went wrong.”
“This is how you communicate with a fellow intelligence: You hurt it, you keep on hurting it, until you can distinguish the speech from the screams.”
“There's no such things as survival of the fittest. Survival of the most adequate, maybe. It doesn't matter whether a solution's optimal. All that matters is whether it beats the alternative.”
“Every concert pianist knows that the surest way to ruin a performance is to be aware of what the fingers are doing. Every dancer and acrobat knows enough to let the mind go, let the body run itself. Every driver of a manual vehicle arrives at destinations with no recollection of the stops and turns and roads traveled in getting there. You are all sleepwalkers, whether climbing creative peaks or slogging through some mundane routine for the thousandth time. You are all sleepwalkers.”
“Brains are survival engines, not truth detectors.”
“I really wanted to talk to her.
I just couldn't find an algorithm that fit.”
“How do you say 'We come in peace' when the very words are an act of war?”
“Maybe your empathy's just a comforting lie, you ever think of that? Maybe you think you know how the other person feels but you're only feeling yourself, maybe you're even worst than me. Or maybe we're all just guessing.”
“Not even Lucifer left Heaven until he was pushed.”
“Imagine you are Siri Keeton:
You wake in an agony of resurrection, gasping after a record-shattering bout of sleep apnea spanning one hundred forty days. You can feel your blood, syrupy with dobutamine and leuenkephalin, forcing its way through arteries shriveled by months on standby. The body inflates in painful increments: blood vessels dilate; flesh peels apart from flesh; ribs crack in your ears with sudden unaccustomed flexion. Your joints have seized up through disuse. You're a stick-man, frozen in some perverse rigor vitae.
You'd scream if you had the breath.
Vampires did this all the time, you remember. It was normal for them, it was their own unique take on resource conservation. They could have taught your kind a few things about restraint, if that absurd aversion to right-angles hadn't done them in at the dawn of civilization. Maybe they still can. They're back now, after all— raised from the grave with the voodoo of paleogenetics, stitched together from junk genes and fossil marrow steeped in the blood of sociopaths and high-functioning autistics. One of them commands this very mission. A handful of his genes live on in your own body so it too can rise from the dead, here at the edge of interstellar space. Nobody gets past Jupiter without becoming part vampire.”
“but you had a point about language. When you get right down to it, it’s a work-around. Like trying to describe dreams with smoke signals. It’s noble, it’s maybe the most noble thing a body can do but you can’t turn a sunset into a string of grunts without losing something.”
“Not even the most heavily-armed police state can exert brute force to all of its citizens all of the time. Meme management is so much subtler; the rose-tinted refraction of perceived reality, the contagious fear of threatening alternatives.”
“My genes done gone and tricked my brain
By making fucking feel so great
That's how the little creeps attain
Their plan to fuckin' replicate
But brain's got tricks itself, you see
To get the bang but not the bite
I got this here vasectomy
My genes can fuck themselves tonight.
- The R-Selectors, Trunclade”
“If the rest of your brain were conscious, it would probably regard you as the pointy-haired boss from Dilbert”
“Humans didn't really fight over skin tone or ideology; those were just handy cues for kin-selection purposes. Ultimately it always came down to bloodlines and limited resources.”
“What's the survival value of obsessing on a sunset?”
“Perfection’s unattainable but it isn’t unapproachable.”
“It’s not in the nature of the lamb to mourn the lion.”
“I am the bridge between the bleeding edge and the dead center. I stand between the Wizard of Oz and the man behind the curtain.
I am the curtain.”
“Perfect hexagonal tubes in a packed array. Bees are hard-wired to lay them down, but how does an insect know enough geometry to lay down a precise hexagon? It doesn't. It's programmed to chew up wax and spit it out while turning on its axis, and that generates a circle. Put a bunch of bees on the same surface, chewing side-by-side, and the circles abut against each other - deform each other into hexagons, which just happen to be more efficient for close packing anyway.”
“What's the difference between being dead, and just not knowing you're alive?”
“Computers bootstrap their own offspring, grow so wise and incomprehensible that their communiqués assume the hallmarks of dementia: unfocused and irrelevant to the barely-intelligent creatures left behind. And when your surpassing creations find the answers you asked for, you can't understand their analysis and you can't verify their answers. You have to take their word on faith.”
“You had hoped that smarter creatures would be wiser ones.”
“The Zodiac had rearranged itself into a precise grid of bright points with luminous tails. It was as though the whole planet had been caught in some great closing net, the knots of its mesh aglow with St. Elmo's fire. It was beautiful. It was terrifying.”
“We've surpassed ourselves now, we're exploring terrain beyond the limits of merely human understanding. Sometimes its contours, even in conventional space, are just too intricate for our brains to track; other times its very axes extend into dimensions inconceivable to minds built to fuck and fight on some prehistoric grassland. So many things constrain us, from so many directions. The most altruistic and sustainable philosophies fail before the brute brain-stem imperative of self-interest. Subtle and elegant equations predict the behavior of the quantum world, but none can explain it. After four thousand years we can't even prove that reality exists beyond the mind of the first-person dreamer. We have such need of intellects greater than our own. But we're not very good at building them.”
“Centuries of navel-gazing. Millennia of masturbation. Plato to Descartes to Dawkins to Rhanda. Souls and zombie agents and qualia. Kolmogorov complexity. Consciousness as Divine Spark. Consciousness as electromagnetic field. Consciousness as functional cluster.
I explored it all.
Wegner thought it was an executive summary. Penrose heard it in the singing of caged electrons. Nirretranders said it was a fraud; Kazim called it leakage from a parallel universe. Metzinger wouldn't even admit it existed. The AIs claimed to have worked it out, then announced they couldn't explain it to us. Gödel was right after all: no system can fully understand itself.
Not even the synthesists had been able to rotate it down. The load-bearing beams just couldn't take the strain.
All of them, I began to realize, had missed the point. All those theories, all those drugdreams and experiments and models trying to prove what consciousness was: none to explain what it was good for. None needed: obviously, consciousness makes us what we are. It lets us see the beauty and the ugliness. It elevates us into the exalted realm of the spiritual. Oh, a few outsiders—Dawkins, Keogh, the occasional writer of hackwork fiction who barely achieved obscurity—wondered briefly at the why of it: why not soft computers, and no more? Why should nonsentient systems be inherently inferior? But they never really raised their voices above the crowd. The value of what we are was too trivially self-evident to ever call into serious question.
Yet the questions persisted, in the minds of the laureates, in the angst of every horny fifteen-year-old on the planet. Am I nothing but sparking chemistry? Am I a magnet in the ether? I am more than my eyes, my ears, my tongue; I am the little thing behind those things, the thing looking out from inside. But who looks out from its eyes? What does it reduce to? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?
What a stupid fucking question. I could have answered it in a second, if Sarasti hadn't forced me to understand it first.”
“His mother had died at eighty, his father at ninety. Aloud he said to them,
"I'm seventy-one. Your boy is seventy-one." "Good. You lived," his mother replied, and his father said, "Look back and atone for what you can atone for, and make the best of what you have left.”
“But I'm not a saint yet. I'm an alcoholic. I'm a drug addict. I'm homosexual. I'm a genius.”
“El amor debe ser como un beso al atardecer..., como el último beso, el auténtico, el verdadero, al término de las historias románticas de la colección Arlequín... ¡El amor debe ser como un aroma de rosas a la hr del crepúsculo!”
“Their love is eternal because time seems to have fled, embarrassed to be sharing such a small apartment with so much dumb affection.”
“Lying flat, the small mound of their child nearly disappeared,with only a palm-sized hardness palpable below her navel. Darcy murmured nonsense over this evidence of their love, tickling Lizzy's skin so that she giggled and squirmed.
"What are you saying to him, love?"
"I am informing him that he has been gifted to the very best mother in the entire world. Also, I am reintroducing myself and thanking him for finally allowing me to feel him. If need be, I shall squeeze him several times a day. He can kick me whenever the whim takes him!" He glanced up into her mirth-filled face.”
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