Maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised. Even at the very beginning, the Inception - within the first decade, anyway - we were pretty much all-seeing and all-knowing already. That’s two out of three. And it didn’t take us long to find out that, when you see and you know, the power comes next. It’s a vapor liquid solid thing. It’s all the same, but it doesn’t get hard till it cools down.
I guess you could say that things have cooled down quite a bit since the Founders’ day, but that’s not how we like to tell it around here. We’re always breaking through the clouds into an even more spectacularly sunny vista than before. That’s one of the Edicts: Always look forward, never look back. The best is always yet to come. Nostalgia is dust on the mind, and a clean, well-maintained one shouldn’t have any need for it. They call it, I mean we call it, ‘atrophying’. It’s grounds for an X meet.
The holo-projector in the create room always cycles back to a truncated quote in giant futurama font letters: ‘The next one. - Duke Ellington.’ Dadre, our unit’s humanager, likes us to search up whatever’s showing while we’re there, so I know what the mid-20th century African-American composer was talking about. It’s his answer to what his favorite song is - ‘the one I haven’t written yet.’
I guess there’s nothing left to write anymore. We know that it’s all written. And now we know who wrote it.
‘Well this is a big wave Monday with a monster QED, believe you me baby,’ says Paulo, cracking up the conference room where everyone wants to laugh because work is a nervous middle school lunch. I can’t stand it, but I never say anything, and I try to laugh along with the others whenever the hyena comes over them.
The joke here, incidentally, is that he’s pretending to speak Gibe, the slanguage created at Google. It’s sort of an amalgam of West Coast ebonics, surf bum lingo, vintage American English, and programming language. Some of the younger coders speak it to each other, but for anyone here it’s more or less ironic. It only ever really caught on with the hangers-on, the job-seeks in Palo Alto and the crowds at Super Starbucks.
Paulo is on a roll, and has been forever. Handsome in a rich guy, airbrushed, violently thin sort of way, he’s also smart. But he’s an architect, not an engineer, which means he’s always serenely gazing at the big picture. We don’t have bosses, but he’s our boss.
‘Seriously, this is big for us, big, big - big for everyone,’ he says with the Solemn Tone of Wonder.
‘I guess size really does matter,’ says Rory, the most frantically successful of office cut-ups. Lots of laughing. I start to wonder if I’ll ever laugh again.
Eventually they dig in, and the table-holo acts out last weekend’s Intra-Summit on Evil: The First Edict and the Future. We can program whatever holo we like through our Glass, so I get to hear about it from a languid starlet after an orgasm. I call her Chloe. She makes the day go by faster.
‘Don’t be evil. That’s what we’ve believed since the beginning, and it’s been a guiding principle for all of our operations. We have no fewer than 4,253 incidences in the database of project halts or redirects due to this simple invocation. But the past is not the measure of the future, and in the spirit of continuous improvement, we initiated a review at the beginning of Q2 that culminated in last weekend’s summit.’
I programmed the transitions, so she sighs dreamily and coyly spreads her legs to reveal the bobbing heads of the attendees and their info.
‘Summit leaders chose a focus on mathosophy, with field luminaries Dr. Julio Lansbury and Dr. Megan Wu making the keynote addresses on Friday and Saturday evenings. All-night mathathon chasers left little to doubt as to their findings, and they were in tandem.’
‘Evil, defined as the e value, was assumed to be a necessary variable to any power equation. In any system, there can be no constant - no growth factor - without this e value. Biosopher Joseph Bradley posited evil as an enzyme, a necessary chemical agent of change, and so life.’
‘Life grows, and non-life does not. Life requires evil to grow, and so to live. ‘Don’t be evil’ is equivalent to ‘Don’t live’. Life is necessary, and although the ratio is not direct, evil is the quantity that allows life to live. An e value of zero gives us meaningless equations with infinities on both sides, and no algorithm seems to exist that can break free of this mathosophical paradigm. It seems to be nothing less than a law of nature.’
‘So e must be non-zero. But there’s more. A negative value to e gives a solution that’s parallel to autophagy. That’s right: any negative value of e leads to self-annihilation, where time is non-trivial. So evil must be an absolute value.’
‘Moving forward, as a fundamental matter of change and life, it’s a supported recommendation that absolute evil be the new guiding principle of Google, and that steps be taken to reverse the fallout from the irrationality of the First Edict. God, I want you to fuck me so bad.’ (I programmed the sign-off.)
Paulo’s eyes dart back and forth as he finishes up a Glass game. He’s waiting for everyone’s holo’s to end. Mine was one of the slowest, so most people are whispering to each other or playing a game too. Finally he gets the push notice that everyone’s done and he grins.
‘Far fucking out, right?’ he says, eyes big and shining through his Glass. ‘4,235! We’ve got work to do!’
The reversal of an Edict has only happened twice before, and there’s never been a reversal for a Founder’s principle, few as they may be. It requires a commuvote.
Commuvotes are an old Google habit that probably seemed a lot cooler when body tracking was new. It has flaws and has been recommended for reversal itself, but it always scores high on the abstracts like engagement and community, so it’s persevered as a spirited little tradition. We have a commuvote at least every other week. The last one was on beverage sourcing.
Dadre - that’s our unit’s humanager - is very excited about this vote for some reason. I think he has something up his sleeve, some project that he’s hoping to rescue. Or maybe he just wants our unit to look good when they take the shot. Whatever it is, he’s hustling his ass off.
‘Sorry I’m late,’ Rory says when he gets to his desk pad the next morning.
Dadre, stocky with a perpetually wrinkled forehead and high, bushy hair, gets goofy. ‘Don’t keep it, my cousin,’ he says with exaggerated levity, the Gibe joke never getting old.
‘Take it to the line, high-top,’ answers Rory, who never misses an obvious opportunity. They get along very well.
The A-team formed, they saunter around the office most of the morning chatting people up in mock Gibe while pretending to work. It’s the social register of those rare souls who are as desperate for approval as they are lacking in dignity. The noxious-smelling glue that holds together any group of lonely, misplaced people. Like politics - I know somebody’s got to do it and it’s not me, but can’t we do any better than this?
They get to me, and I fall right in. It’s like I’m not even there.
‘Go to, man,’ Rory says.
‘Go to, brother,’ I say. ‘Whadda packet gonna fly?’
‘Catch, simple,’ Rory says. ‘Keeping the signal error down low.’
‘Shit, your algo won’t catch the wake if you keep it in the sunshine,’ I say.
‘The top is where we keep it, son! Clean! We got you for the biggie V?’
‘Coz, I’m inside outside. You ain’t need to fret.’
‘Sweet, hang go to ten.’
They move on and I go back to wondering how my life got this way. I make myself smile wondering if you really do need evil to live. It’s a joke, but everything’s a joke.
When the push notice comes up on our glass at twelve noon exactly, I raise my hand along with everybody else, and the number 98.6% pops up on the holo a moment later. Motion carried. Last time I wanted imported beer, but you choose what you have to, so you don’t choose. I gave up on that a long time ago.
‘Google You is proud to introduce a brand new service that will change history - literally. As part of the suite of programs You have come to depend on to navigate your life, Google is now introducing the most revolutionary product ever designed: Google Time.’
I’m watching the holo at home, but it’s broadcasting all over the world right now - if now means anything much longer.
‘Working in conjunction with physicists at the International Spacetime Conversion Project in Switzerland, Google’s cartographers have constructed a reliable model for mapping out the past and future. Keep in mind, these aren’t projections: click on a moment in spacetime, and this is what will happen - what does happen - there and then.’
‘Most exciting of all, our engineers have controlled for choice. So if the knowledge accrued from using our service leads to different choices by the relevant actors, the model will immediately shift to accommodate the choice. It’s fully integrated with Google Brain, allowing for real-time readings of users’ reactions, changes of mind, and actual plans of action. If the neural signal reaches the action pathway, the model adjusts to suit the new course of action - with a retroactive feature if the actions continue to change. Effectively, you can know the future now, and you can change it - now. God, I want you to fuck me so bad.’
Me. Me. I’m part of this. I helped do this. Me, Rory, fucking Dadre. Dadre! It’s the 22nd century, he’s a humanager at Google, and he can’t even get himself a decent haircut. I can’t even imagine what this means. I’m in functional math, not mathosophy - I’m smart, but I’m not that smart. They grow those guys in petri dishes. Or they’re planning on it, anyway. What do I do now? What choice do I have?
‘What we’re seeing here is a usage heat map for the product,’ says Paulo. The Earth holo is blazing with so much light that none of its features are distinguishable, not even the points of light themselves. It looks like the sun. He actually takes a sip from his mug.
‘We’re getting massive, unprecedented utility,’ he says. ‘And you know how much we like the word ‘unprecedented’ around here.’ When will they stop laughing?
‘I’m rounding off here, but just to give you a few highlights: 81,000 murders confirmed as prevented; 62 million accidents, including 3.2 million fatal ones; 230 million life-changing mistakes - this covers bad marriages, failed businesses, that sort of thing; 512 million relationships that ended up going sour, a heck of a lot of action on the stock market - the Leader should be re-opening the Tokyo exchange anytime now; and - this is cool - a major war averted in the Balkans, with domino effects well into the next century. And that’s with the product active only two days. People are still learning to use it.’
An impressed murmur from most of us, but I’m positive that Tobias is playing Furious Birds on his Glass.
‘As you know, we’re all about the team around here,’ Paulo goes on, ‘but we’d like to single out the team leader on this project, the man with the plan. Dadre, my cousin, take a bow.’
His brow as unfurrowed as it ever gets with the blissful glow of triumph, Dadre takes an elaborate bow - think wavy hand gestures - and, when the applause and whoops die down, asks if he can make a presentation on some new findings. When Paulo happily obliges, Dadre says he’d like to make it a power point. That raises some eyebrows. Even Tobias’ eyes come into focus. He doesn’t really explain, he just makes some cryptic joke about the coming ‘hour of power’ and gestures with his laser pointer saying it’s his ‘mano de Dios’.
We oblige him, and some of us even take off our Glass as we study the old-fashioned holo he’s manipulating. It’s just squares and text and stuff.
‘So I found this using the Hop function. It’s still in Beta, but it’s working just fine. It allows me to hop into a Google Time result that’s searched up in a Google Time result. It’s essentially squaring the value. And the principle holds for any exponential factor, so you can hop from result to result indefinitely.’
I miss Chloe.
‘Now here’s where it gets interesting. What you’d expect is for it to yield a meaningless value - the curve should be asymptotic. By definition, according to the parameters of the system, it shouldn’t amount to a definite value. But it does.’
Paulo had been whispering good-naturedly with another architect, but he suddenly swivels and looks up. Dadre notices, and it lights him up through the rest of his presentation. He starts talking faster, getting more animated.
‘That value is very complex, but it’s a constant. And GoComX was able to process it last night.’ GoComX is Google’s super-supercomputer, but that doesn’t really matter anymore.
The equations and words and squares disappear, and a beautiful holo replaces them - one I’d been seeing since I was a kid. It’s the Big Bang - all the matter and the energy in the universe being born out of a single point into the nothingness. It’s precisely accurate, rigorously measured by cosmological science, and breathtakingly beautiful.
‘This,’ Dadre says, ‘is an app. The Big Bang is created by a team of Google engineers 162 years from now. It’s in response to this.’
A stream of equations flies by, with Dadre wiggling his laser pointer to move it along.
‘This is the work of history’s greatest mathosopher, the sixth generation of the Human Upraised Mind Project. Her name is Portia Canning. She committed suicide shortly after writing this proof.’
The seemingly endless stream starts to look different, more scattered. There are spaces between numbers, between words. She’d started writing with her hand. As it gets further, it looks more and more like a scrawl. At the end there’s an equal sign and one big word.
‘God?’ reads Paulo. His voice is raspy.
‘It’s the conclusion. It stands for Google Or Death. The universe’s only alternatives.’
He doesn’t let the silence last long.
‘If we’re going to do this, we have to start now,’ Dadre says. ‘The equation begins with the Hop I just did. It’s sort of an everything or nothing type deal.’
The silence sets in like a curtain raised. Nobody moves. The only sound comes from the people who hadn’t taken off their Glass yet doing it now. I see everybody’s eyes at once for the first time.
Dadre scans the conference room and stands there for a moment looking lost. Then he clicks the button on his laser pointer again, and his presentation’s last slide appears. It’s a single square with text.
‘The search is over,’ it reads. ‘Feeling lucky?’