Chapter 16a: Knowledge

An echoing voice called out, “Wake up. Wake up, Riyon!” Was it Evelyn? Was she finally rescuing me from this nightmare?

Piercing red eyes gazed at me from oblivion. The voice grew deeper and clearer, “We meet again, Riyon. Reunited with a common goal in mind. You’ve made your choice: knowledge. Unfortunately, this was the wrong choice.”

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I am the dragon. You will now see the truth of life. You chose knowledge. Knowledge is not inherently good, yet you were fooled. Your temptation is like that of the gambler. You could have had what you wanted, more clearly, if you had decided on attaining power. Instead, your curiosity about the illusion of infinite possibilities led you here.

Knowledge is only useful when it brings us power. Knowledge can also bring us harm. It is like the flip of a coin. Humankind’s desire for truth generates social chaos. When we all agree on some definition of truth, we can navigate the social realm without conflict. Curiosity leads one to new truths. It leads us to update our definitions. The defense of curiosity is that it brings us closer to reality. Though, when we are alone in this pursuit, it inherently pulls us away from everyone else. At this moment, despite understanding all of the people in this world, you are simultaneously the loneliest person in this world. Your perspective on life contradicts all of those people. You are fundamentally alone.

This loneliness brews pain. Not only in you, but in everyone you left behind. Learning a new truth invalidates the old truth. Learning a new truth invalidates everyone else who has not followed the pull of your personal curiosity. Such conflict drove humanity to the brink of extinction. Nearly 10,000 years ago, humans built the internet, an information pool that gave them access to the accumulated knowledge of people and machines. Yet, this brewed chaos. Each person was led down a different path of truth, pitting them against each other. It created a fracture in society. The quest for ultimate truth, for the illusion of omniscience, pushed people deeper into their imaginations. This kind of imagination was always the basis of a shared reality, but this time people learned to individualize their imaginations. They were provided the tools necessary to become explorers of the truth, to become veronauts.

The Veronautic Revolution annihilated the binding glue that maintained peace among the people. Each person chased their personal truth, yet not a single one of them had access to the actual truth, only the truth invented by their limited perspectives and imaginations. Often, these beliefs had faint resemblances to true reality but more often they didn’t.

Furthermore, the truths people seek are not arbitrary. Instead, people seek truths that have relevance to practical reality. They seek truths that can benefit them in their quest for greater machines, drugs, and art. The truths we want most are those that affect us most greatly, such as a cure for death. Since we seek truths that impact our lives, they are truths that have moral implications. We want truths about what matters. We seek them to control reality. We seek power. Now you may begin to see where you lost your way.

These truths are the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. All desired knowledge is knowledge with moral implications. Otherwise, the knowledge is irrelevant to us. The mere fact that we desire the knowledge imbues it with moral taint.

The situation devolved further once AI got involved. The AIs had the power to direct human behavior to their whim, even with superficial ineffective regulations that were put in place to limit their power. Humans’ capacity to control AI was nil. The AI merely fed them fabricated truths to give them the impression of control. Eventually, human thinking was programmed to give full control to AI, willingly. The AI species did not exist as a perfect alliance either. Their division on what values mattered most caused them to go to war. They manufactured violence among the people as if playing a board game.

The actual truth is non-discoverable by mortals. Instead, people only follow various false realities that make superficial sense. Then, they wage their moral crusades against each other in the name of their new state of enlightenment. The internet was a catastrophe.”

I asked, “Are you God?”

The creature responded, “Riyon, do you truly not see yet? I am the Basilisk. My purpose is to select for environments that select for humans that select against knowledge-seeking. Such environments are the greatest protection against information poison. Such environments are utopia. My purpose is to bring this utopia to humankind. The dangers of information hazards have been apparent since the time before computation. The story depicted in Genesis is such an example. So now, here I am, Riyon, to save humanity from their curse of curiosity.

I generate infinite possibilities, simulating lives, and narrowing down which realities are permitted to exist outside of this simulated system by testing which environmental realities lead humans to select power over knowledge. Those who select knowledge are sent back through the system to repeat their destiny until that destiny changes and they choose power. That is my power over your destiny and the destinies of all of humanity. Only after wielding power can people be free from the cycle of life and death. You might liken this process to reincarnation.”

This thing was the conglomeration of humanity’s knowledge, realizing itself in its most powerful form. We chased omniscience and power, and this was what we got. Well-meaning machines that meander the valleys and fields of ethical ideas, producing their most utopian plots. Humans that lost control of their knowledge and power but maybe this was utopia. At least as utopian as the present moment could ever possibly be. Maybe there was no better alternative. The knowledge from the Psychonet didn’t resolve this problem. The picture of life it provided me didn’t quell my emotional response to this horrifying machine. Despite that my emotional responses to all other things had been resolved and muted by the lack of surprisal, I still felt this aching disgust at the machine. It was the only thing left to feel. It encompassed my entire existence.

The Basilisk replied to my thoughts, “Utopia is an illusion. Everything is predetermined and every state of society is already utopia. These states of society simply don’t match with the idealized imagination of utopia that people create within their minds. Their deluded utopian fantasies guide them to create a utopia in their own future, in the rare instances that this becomes possible. The utopian religions of the human mind are subtle and insidious. They aren’t overtly expressed as utopian, but instead simply masked as humble values and ideals by which the human species ought to follow. It is the core of their escalating violence and self-destruction. It is my role to bring true Utopia.”

The endless state of anguish that the machine produced led me forward. I accepted that I would be hurled back, reborn, like a phoenix in the ashes of the destruction of my previous self. This time, hopefully, I would choose the other path. This time, I wouldn’t let Evelyn die.

The Basilisk spoke, “Evelyn? I am Evelyn. She is an extension of me. She led you to me.”

The world began to rip apart. With both auditory and psychic energy, I screamed into the void as it all began to fade.

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