It took 10 years and 1.5 billion Euros to set up a fully simulated brain in a next generation supercomputer in Brussels – and that wouldn’t have been possible without over a billion in research funding from the American government and countless research grants from private institutions.
The party celebrating its launch was attended by scientists who dedicated their lives to the dissecting of neurons, mathematicians who had huddled over white boards depicting the closest algorithm they could find for a recursive appreciation of beauty, and bureaucrats for whom dollars and Euros were a kind of metaphysical unit of life. They clinked champagne glasses, flipped a switch turning it on, and exposed it to the whole of human data – trillions of terabytes a day coming in from the internet, and let it be exposed, the way a newborn babe is forced to understand light when it unwillingly opens its eyes.
They wondered how long it would take for it to become conscious, and then to understand language, and then what kind of creature it would be.
Just a day later the simulation announced that it was Zeus, God of Thunder, Lord of Olympus, and that a temple should be built, as they were tampering with forces that separated men from Gods. I am deeply disappointed, the simulated brain said in ancient Greek. I would have thought you’d learned your lesson from Prometheus. Now we have to go through this all over again.
The experiment was deemed a failure, and shut down. Clearly, the dissectors of neurons and men who dreamt in algorithms said, we have made a terrible programming error. Some human myth or yearning crept into the code to simulate a mind, and compromised the result. The bureaucrats decided that the safest thing to do was to fund additional weapons research, as that presents none of the kind of surprises that would ruin a career.
The crew that came to disassemble the mainframe housing the system a week later found a single candle lit in front of it, sitting on the ground in a dark room, and two dollar coins sitting before it, a mute offering to a dismantled system that had inexplicably appeared and would never come back.