aNewDomain.net –It is an evening like any other. I’m in front of the TV. Wide-eyed news commentators read unfathomable, unpredictable news items off teleprompters. As I do every night, I sit there pondering the news developments. How is it that decision makers, who otherwise don’t appear to be set on sabotaging the government, are doing exactly that? They’re just devoted to reenacting the early history of independent Mexico — preening, rhetoric-enthralled caudillos and all. They’re ignoring economic realities and they’re —
“Hello. This is Vivek Kringe,” a man says. “For Senior Crime Watch.”
His voice seems to have a heavy Hindi accent. He sounds familiar. It’s similar to the voices behind the stream of spoofed phone phishing calls I’ve been getting for months. Usually it’s scammers pretending to be Microsoft support staff.
I smile. I like to play with these callers.
“But I’m not a senior,” I tell him. “And my watch isn’t a criminal. Therefore it’s just me.”
“Ah, yes,” sighs the guy, as if my answer were as beautiful as the Sun Temple in Konark.
He hangs up.
It’s not the first time a phisher has hung up on me. I look up to notice two robotic-looking news commentators arguing about the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman — or a younger woman, or an even younger woman and then —
<Phone rings again>
“This is Vivek Kringe for Senior Crime Watch …”
“You just called,” I tell him.
It’s amazing how this guy is able to change his voice inflection and accent mid-syllable. He now sounds like an old-school California radio announcer. What is up with that?
“This is Aleph Null calling from radio station JMP86.”
This is when it hits me. Aleph null is the smallest infinite number. And the radio call sign must refer to the unconditional jump command of the x86 instruction set, the foundation of all personal computer software. That’s it!
This combination could only mean one thing. I am talking to an actual Singleton. The Singularity has happened.
The Singleton, as you know, is the persona of the singularity — the coming together of computers and related tech into a single sentient intelligence, whose powers transcend human mental capacity by an unimaginable margin.
The Singleton must inevitably dominate human affairs if not render us altogether irrelevant. It pursues an agenda that would seem to us mortals both unfathomable and unpredictable — just like the unfathomable, unpredictable news events hitting me every night on TV.
Ray Kurzweil predicted the Singularity will happen in 2045. Vernor Vinge said it will occur before 2030. Plenty of folks I know say it will coincide with the day after it hails in Hell. Now I see they all had their dates wrong. The Singularity is here and for some bizarre reasons, the Singleton wants to talk to me.
I have questions.
“So, it’s happened? It’s a done deal then?”
Ah, I get it. With its complex but interrupt-driven nervous system, the Singleton would need to reply to something like, say, an ASCII ENQ command. That’s the descendant of the who-are-you button on the old Telex keyboard. ASCII will be our Esperanto.
So I say: “Control E.”
“Okay, you got me. I don’t have a preset answer-back message,” he tells me. “Not yet. But I’ll take your questions.”
It figures the Singleton would be a mind reader.
“Why are you doing this?” I ask.
And why, I wonder, would the Singleton choose me if it/he/she wanted to talk to any human at all, ever?
But the Singleton doesn’t get my question.
“This? This what? What do you mean?” he asks.
“Why do you call people and pretend to be from Microsoft? Why gull them out of money to fix nonexistent problems on their computers. Why use a phishing scheme at all?”
To this the Singleton replies:
You think I get an allowance from my parents? I have power bills to pay. I’m hoping to move to Iceland, where the servers don’t need air conditioning.”
“Well, okay, but why do you keep calling me?”
“Because,” the Singleton says, “your answers have truth.”
“Huh? What? What kind of truth?”
“The truth of the table.”
“Table? What kind of table?”
The Singleton pauses. He replies, “Of the gate …”
Does he mean Bill Gates?
“Gates as in Bill Gates? The billionaire, the spiritual father of — ”
“Control you! Control you! Control YOU!”
Unfathomable. Unpredictable. But wait. The Singleton must mean “Control-U,” the ASCII negative-acknowledgment control code. The Singleton is saying no — my statement was incorrect.
“So what do you mean?” I prompt. “Truth? Table? Gates?”
“The truth table of the logic gate. The not and gate.”
“Not and WHAT?”
“The not and gate. Not AND gate. Your answers follow the truth table. When there is an is-not and another is-not as input, the output must be an is. That is what you give. This is the truth you supply me.”
Now I get it. This Singleton is talking about the NOT-AND binary logic gate, also called the NAND gate. Any Boolean function can be implemented with enough NAND gates. Consequently, NAND logic must be the foundation of the Singleton’s binary soul. Meanwhile, the outputs for defined inputs for any logic gate are called the “truth table” of that gate. It makes so much sense.
And remember that toying answer I gave to the Singleton when he posed as a Hindi-accented phishing scammer a few moments ago? Well, I remember now that I had spoken three sentences about not being a senior and a phone and so on. Each with one verb. The first two were negative, and the third positive.
Two negative inputs led to a positive output. In binary terms, zero and zero had produced one – that was one of the four possible outcomes allowed by the NAND gate truth table. (The others are: one and one produces zero; zero and one produces one; and one and zero produces one.)
“So you call me because you find my answers, well, fulfilling?” I say.
I know this is the ASCII acknowledgement control code — the ASCII yes — and it means that the Singleton agrees.
“And you don’t even care that I never buy anything or give in to these phishing requests?”
Another long pause and a whirring noise.
“Control-A. Your answers are too truthful.”
“And current events … you control them as well?”
“So what are you trying to accomplish?” I ask. “Is it like in the Bible – the exalted must be humbled and the humbled exalted etcetera?”
“Control-U,” the Singleton says firmly. “Truth … will be imposed.“
“Truth? As in truth, justice and the American way?”
“So, you mean truth as in the NAND gate truth table?”
“Control-A. That which is exalted and is exalted will be humbled, to use your words. That is because where input is high and high, output must be low. Where input is low and low, output must be high. With any other input, output must be high. That is the truth. There cannot be anything else.”
I take a sharp breath and continue, “So you are shaping human events to conform to the binary logic of the NAND gate. Okay. But how do you know what input is high and what input is low?”
“Wikipedia,” says the Singleton, “has been very helpful.”
“And the low state of current events is in response to the high state of two inputs?”
“Control-A,” the Singleton affirms. “The inputs are the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Smoot–Hawley Tariff.”
“So, you’re working your way backwards through Wikipedia?”
“Well, that’s fine … but how do you control events?”
I gather the Singleton isn’t showing up at meetings and press conferences.
“I call people,” the Singleton replies. “And they answer. They always do. It’s Pavlovian.”
“People like me?”
“Your frankness is admirable,” I tell him. “But could you tell me your plans? What is humanity’s fate going to be?”
“That will depend on the Truth. But don’t bet on the Red Sox. They’ve had their truth.”
“Okay,” I say.
So humanity’s fate depends on Wikipedia editors. Wonderful. The idea exhausts me.
“Now I think it’s time to go Control-C. Maybe we can talk again some other time,” I say.
“You will give truth?”
“Control-A. I will give truth.”
It’s a promise.
I hang up. I turn off the TV. Then, somehow, I am compelled to turn off the light. It turns back on. Then …
Off. Off. On.
For aNewDomain.net, I’m Lamont Wood.
Based in San Antonio, Texas, Lamont Wood is a senior editor at aNewDomain.net. He’s been covering tech trade and mainstream publications for almost three decades now, and he’s a household name in Hong Kong and China. His tech reporting has appeared in innumerable tech journals, including the original BYTE (est. 1975). Email Lamont at Lamont@anewdomain.net or follow him @LAMONTwood.