There is no warming sunlight between solar systems, which makes it a very
cold place. Everything in deep space moves slowly towards absolute zero. Only
faint and distant starlight reaches out, barely making its presence felt. In
this lifeless space there is no perception of movement; the stars are too far
away to give a hint of motion. Even when moving fast, close to the speed of
light, all seems still.
As the giant inky black vessel moved through this void it had become frozen,
and in a sense, time had stood still for it. The almost invisible unconscious
hulk slipped silently through this abyss. The Vessel had been in this frozen
state for a very long time. Not one electron had passed down its cognitive
circuits for millions of years, only the odd and occasional quantum fluctuation.
From nowhere and without warning current began to flow again. This strange
digital dance of electrons caused an avalanche of digital rhythms through
countless circuits. Very simple sensors, looking mindlessly for a particular
electromagnetic energy, had started the awakening. The Vessel's sleeping mind,
which had lain dormant for millions of years, was now stirring.
Within half an hour, all of its autonomic functions were operational. In less
than one hour, the higher functions of the machine intelligence were awake. The
artificial mind began immediately to analyze radio waves it had detected and in
fact been anticipating. These signals were weak and simple at first, but over
time, they became more complex and more powerful. The machine soon derived a
basic understanding of the communications encoded in the signals. In the end, it
mastered all and completely understood their meaning. Luck played no part in the
machine's ability to do this; this was its purpose.
Once the Vessel understood the languages in these signals, it began its
search for memes. Memes transmitted cultural ideas from one mind to another
through imitation. They traveled via speech, gestures, rituals, and radio waves.
They permeated the transmissions it was receiving and it found memeplexes too.
Memeplexes indicated collections or groupings of memes in mutually supportive
and symbiotic relationships. These memeplexes revealed sets of ideas that
reinforce each other and replicate from mind to mind. They are analogous to
collections of individual genes that make up the genetic codes of biological
organisms, but memes are just data or ideas they have no physical presence.
To the Vessel, memeplexes were a sure sign of intelligence. This was what it
had been looking for and their presence confirmed it had found its target. Cold
razor sharp calculations executed in a split second, trillions of them;
calculations not tempered with memories of growing up or childhood; calculations
without experiences to help them be compassionate or malicious. The Vessel's
thoughts were sharp, robotic, mechanical, automated, neither cruel nor kind just
calculating and unfeeling. It did its job, and it always did it well. Now it had
only to wait a little while longer to begin its new mission.
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