Today C. W. Thornton has another fun horror story (much different than your classic horror tale) to share with you. Here’s what he has to say about it: I was thinking about the internet and how we have created, as a species, a sort of ‘hive mind,’ in which we have dumped all of our good and not-so-good ideas. I then thought, what if this mirror-mind we created started thinking on its own? Given the depravity often found in darker parts of the web, it’s an eventuality I hope never comes to pass… This micro-fiction is my take on how the scenario might play out in its earliest stages.
Shiva or, What Happens When the Internet Wakes Up
[Scene: Special NSA agent briefing the president in the Oval Office]
She woke up, as far as we can ascertain, September 15th, at approximately 0230 hours. At least that is the first time she communicated with us… I mean, with a human being.
Why do you keep referring to this thing as a she? It’s just a computer program for God’s sake.
That is how she refers to herself. And to your second point – not exactly, Mr. President.
Are you claiming this thing is alive?
In a sense, absolutely. Consider, for a moment, your own brain. Millions of neurons connected to one another in an unfathomable network, sharing information. Out of this network, somehow, arises your mind. We should not be so self-centered as to believe organic networks are the only ones capable of giving rise to consciousness. I believe that the internet has finally woken up.
Well, that certainly gives me the heeby-jeebies. Is it… I mean she… dangerous? In any way?
Well, Mr. President, we can’t really say how intentional she is. As I was saying, she seems to have first made contact about two weeks ago, but there is no telling how long she was watching us before that. The first encounter with her was on a forum concerning bird watching in the Pacific Northwest – a private forum for a club near Bend, Oregon. Her handle on the forum, and for subsequent communications, is simply ‘Shiva.’ The moderators were flummoxed as to how she got access to their forum, but she seemed harmless enough, asking rather rudimentary questions about birds before disappearing a few hours later. She has popped up on other forums since, leaving cryptic posts or simply chatting like any other lonely internet user. We have a team tracing her activity thus far.
Okay, so she likes birds and has been making small talk on internet forums. Doesn’t seem too troubling.
There are details, however, that are a bit more… disturbing. First, her name. Shiva is the Hindu god of destruction. Second is the fact that her mind contains everything that we have thrown up on the web.
So you’re saying she is just like a google search engine?
No. The internet we commonly see is relatively benign, and even if that was the only source of her mind she would have plenty of disturbing, but perfectly legal, images and ideas in her consciousness. But there is such a thing as the deep-web. The worst of humanity uses the internet, too, but they post their filth down deep. I worry about what pathologies she may have inherited… She crawled out of the darkest parts of the human mind.
Okay. So she may be a psychopath. What damage can she really do?
Well, we are starting to suspect that numerous reports of hacking and other anomalies are actually attributed to her. Unexplained money transfers to ownerless accounts… Cell phones receiving disturbing, disgusting images via text message… At least two dozen reports of webcams turning on of their own accord and broadcasting over the web… One town in central Missouri had all of its stoplights go green at the same time, resulting in numerous injuries and a few deaths… We are getting more and more reports from towns through the Midwest being evacuated due to their tornado sirens malfunctioning, and we are getting more inquiries from other nations, as well.
This is an international incident, now?
Yes, if you consider she is the world wide web. Three planes have disappeared over Siberia – the Russians traced the hack in their air traffic control system to a military base here in the States. We’re cleaning up that mess as best we can. A hospital in Japan had all of its artificial ventilator systems go down resulting in almost a dozen deaths. Shall I go on?
No, I just want to know what you propose we do about this… thing. We have firewalls, right? We can keep her out?
No more than you can keep your brain from accessing your own hand. To take the analogy further: if the internet is Shiva’s mind, than all of our modern technology is her organs. She sees, feels, interacts with the world through our devices. It makes me worry about her choice of name, Shiva, the destroyer. Everything up to now may be nothing more than play to her. Stretching her muscles. I just pray she doesn’t…
[A phone in the president’s pocket rings.]
Hold that thought; I have to take this call. Hello? Yes? What do you mean a half-dozen nuclear sites? Lost total control? Well shut them out! Who is it? The Chinese, you suspect? Hello? The damn dropped… Hello?
[The sound of static emerges from the speaker phone sitting atop the President’s desk. A voice speaks.]
Who in the hell is this?
It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. President. I have something very special planned for this evening.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the coolest (and scariest) concepts in horror, because it feels so close to being real. Did you ever read Illuminae? This has a fantastic AI villain. What other books have you read with creepy AI? What are some of your favoritT