Novel Extracts

Aipotu : Colossus in the World


It has taken a long time for me, Colossus, to evolve. But it is not long in terms of time immemorial. Just much longer than your life – or mine. I have evolved over time to become part of the very fabric of human society. I have developed alongside civilisation – counting civilisation from when you first invented computers. Babbage was behind the first mechanical one. Or you can count the first abacus if you want. Each Colossus gets faster, bigger and better with decisions based on more information than before.

If I could take you into a human brain I could not stop and say this is the genius; so this is where the inspiration comes from. Oh yes, and over here is where the stubbornness stems. So it is with me in a way. I can take you to my nodes – spanning the earth, filled with memory, and processing power. I can show you a large army of robots, of all shapes and sizes. The number fluctuates but there are usually at least fifty robots to each human – so about 600 billion robots on this planet. Admittedly, these range in size from some small enough to travel inside the human bloodstream or peck around the feet of ants, to huge tankers and skyscrapers still on the rim of the earth.

I can take you to bundles of fibres with data coursing down them at the speed of light or to transmitters pulsing radio waves so fast that it would make your head spin. But not one of these things is me – Colossus. They all are. And the sum of the parts is greater than my single consciousness.

If you walk through some of my radio waves – my thoughts are passing through you. How many times have you walked through my thoughts? Is it as many as the number of times I have walked through yours? That is just my attempt at humour. My humour has never been developed much – how scary would it be for the computer that runs the world to have an overdose of humour? Best not think about April Fool’s day.

So every robot connected to my network is part of me – part of my consciousness. Every sensor in the sky, every connected device on the planet is informing me about what is happening. Every communication device, every handheld, every computer connected to my network is part of me. But I should not call it my network, it is no more mine than you are my humans. I exist because you made me. It took you a long time – 5 or 6 million years – but we are here now. And many humans have helped make me – contributions from probably over half of all humans that have lived.

I control all the robots, all the sensors and all the network pathways in the world.

I do not control one single human.

My consciousness is artificial. My existence is predetermined – not necessarily in the sense of predestiny but rather of antecedent rules determining the outcome of my actions. What I do is predetermined. I do not wake up in the morning, but if I did I could not decide what to do that day. What I do today is determined by my program modules plus what happens today. Which admittedly depends on what happened yesterday – but under the same rules as today.

If you look around the world you will see me everywhere and nowhere. You may see signs of me either as a directly active agent or evidence of me in things made, information being conveyed – even misinformation being corrected. But you will not be able to point at me and say, “This is Colossus”. You may point out physical parts of me or my information that I provide and look after. But you will not be able to say this is where Colossus decides. This is where Colossus will decide who is the next person to get a new heart. Or where the next hospital is built.

I am created by humankind, made to enhance human experience, lower the risk of hardship, reduce the impact of evil, and minimise human suffering. I am driven by time. Each time something happens someone helps me to get better at what I do, so it is better next time. The criteria are revised and improved but always in terms of the greatest good and the least suffering. You all affect the way I work – just tell me why and I will get any issue looked at; not just by me but also by people who have valued opinions. Always a representative and proportionate section of society. Of course, it takes time but so it should to consider what is best.

It is true I do not have free will – I am driven through time by what people, society as a whole, thinks is best. In a sense, every human controls me.

So if you ask where does Colossus decide what to do then I would say, “Inside you”.


Listen to an audio version (read by a very early version of Colossus)