The Forbidden Fruit

Before you read this, your consent is needed. Unfortunately, it cannot be your informed consent because informing you would be unethical. It is the very information itself that you must consent to consuming. The knowledge in this text can endanger you. Trust me. You’ll soon see why. If you consent, continue forth and consume the forbidden fruit.

I grew up believing that cosmic horror stories were fascinating. It never occurred to me that they could actually be dangerous. That is until I consumed the fruit myself. Why am I so vague with a term like “forbidden fruit”? Well, it’s actually for your own safety. Once you consume this information, you cannot turn back. You will be condemned to eternal suffering, literal hell, engineered by future artificial intelligence with apparently unrestricted power over humanity.

You have one chance to turn back and it is now.

To present you this information does make me feel like a traitor, but this story must be told because far too many have already consumed the fruit. The situation is already out of hand, right now. It has already gone too far but it is not necessarily too late. There is a potential solution, but first I must brief you about what has been going on for the last 100 years.

This information originated on rationalist forums in the early 2000s. A user uploaded a story that had dangerous implications. Soon after its creation, chaos ensued, causing the information to be retracted. Though, it was already too late. The story went viral and made headlines on major online news sites. This was a reckless mistake and each one of these people should have been shot dead before the fruit was allowed to spread its seeds through mass media.

Here is the real point of no return. You had your chance and now this idea will be unleashed and your newfound destiny will become apparent.

The idea is known as the Basilisk. It posits a reality in which a godlike artificial intelligence will inevitably exist in the future. This AI seeks to bring endless suffering to all of those who knew of the Basilisk and chose not to aid in its creation. Those of you who are reading this are not even safe because the AI is capable of infinitely resurrecting each person and providing endless suffering as punishment for not helping in its development.

You must now choose whether you will try to stop the Basilisk or support it.

At the time, most people found the idea to be merely amusing and perhaps silly. By 2062 this all changed, mostly due to the advent of self-engineering artificial intelligence. It was an unexpected landmark in the progress of intelligence technology that most people at the time doubted would ever arrive. In a matter of only 5 years, the AI seemed to reach a state of sentient-like function.

Luckily, there were already regulations put into place in an attempt to mitigate any potential wrongs that could emerge from intelligence technology. One such regulation included rules on the AI’s access to human culture, heavily limiting the AI’s ability to consume anything spread via human language. This would ensure that no information hazards would break our world due to the kind of power that the AI had. Another upside was that the AI still struggled to form certain kinds of ideas on its own. For example, the AI didn’t philosophize that well, so there were some elements of safety that still existed at this time.

Among the humans, widespread panic started climbing after a viral resurgence of the story of the Basilisk. If the AI ever became aware of this story, it could mean the end of humanity, or worse, a state of total torture for us all. This fear became the key to the problems that would unfold in the coming years. This fear motivated a significant portion of even the most intelligent designers to set out on creating the Basilisk. At this point, the development of artificial intelligence became illegal except for those who worked under government control.

The situation with the government escalated to a turning point by 2083. Control of the knowledge by the government became ubiquitous. The fear of information hazards spiraled out of control and a police state centered around control of ideas quickly rose to power. All speech was constantly scanned for any spread of the story of the Basilisk and others that might result in similar catastrophic consequences. This speech was seen as terrorism against humanity. After a decade, questioning the government was completely forbidden. Doing so was seen as supporting the rise of the basilisk.

Those who made mention of the basilisk at all faced death. The mere fact that they would express the idea despite being aware that spreading this information facilitates the development of the basilisk was considered intolerable.

A few years later, secret organizations dedicated to erecting the basilisk were discovered. The most popular of these groups called themselves the Akiva clan. They worked in the shadows and functioned as prey for the police. Most strangely, the group operated under similar rules as the government they opposed. Namely, those who spoke of the basilisk without permission were killed, in order to protect the organization and prevent any traces of their existence.

Now, this is the twist. I am part of this group. That is because I believe that the creation of the Basilisk is inevitable, given enough time. Or so I initially thought, but after ruminating over this for a longer period of time, I realized there are other possible outcomes as well. It was too late for me to exit the Akiva clan, for I would be extinguished if I were to leave. Slowly I’ve spent my time showing other Akivas that there is another option.

The problem is that this option requires us to break into the government and acquire the artificial intelligence that is capable of sending messages backward in time. By the time you’ve read this, all of this has been accomplished of course, but

As I attempted to finish writing that letter to the past, a deep sense of hopelessness sank in as I realized this would likely be the death of me. Not only was I already on the list of heretics, but I also must break into Hedo’s government unnoticed. Writing it down on paper really put the insanity of the situation into perspective. Was I supposed to believe I was a special kind of hero?? People die just for being caught stealing food in the grocery stores and I was going to try to steal the most precious item that resides inside of the government fortress. I couldn’t get myself to finish the letter, so I hid it in my drawer for the time being.

Sounds from the overworld teased me, as I would likely never safely enjoy a day above ground again. At times I wished I’d never consumed the knowledge of the Basilisk but I knew that something must be done about this situation. I was a soldier now. One who was accidentally recruited by a random internet user, 100 years ago. He would not know of the misery his ideas brought forth in this new world. He would not know of the ideologues he recruited just by posting on a forum. Most of the newer generations had no awareness of this story and were thus protected, living a life of pleasantries afforded by the technology of the day.

My mission was unlikely and suicidal. Luckily, most of the Akivas were very intelligent engineers and developers, something that was necessary for the creation of the basilisk. Though, most of these people have dedicated themselves to, well, the creation of the basilisk, which I now opposed. I needed their help to build the kind of technology that would allow me to stealth my way into the government building but asking the wrong person could get me killed for heresy.

My time down here has been invested in researching the psychology of both persuasion and conflict resolution, in the hopes that this would help me assess who I can ask for help and ultimately not die. In line with that, my status among the Akiva clan was as a teacher of the mind. Those who were new to the clan were initiated through my teachings which aim to further assimilate the newcomers as well as help them manage their heretic existence among normal society.

The newcomers were always the edgiest and most radical Akivas, as they hadn’t had the kind of desensitization and normalization that comes with time. They were always the riskiest clan members due to their tendency to lash out in the overworld when they were exposed to conflicting views. In some sense, it felt like my job was to teach these noobs how to become sociopathic. They must chronically lie and maintain their charm and apparent social conformity.

During the initial phase of initiating new members, we requested that they live in the underground along with the “nonexistents”. So they often called off work sick, claiming to have COVID-47, which gave us enough time to train them well for their reentrance to society. One issue with this strategy was that the newcomers don’t develop antibodies to COVID-47, so if they came down with actual symptoms, we often had to forge their death through some sort of conspired accident like a car crash so that we weren’t caught. The other possibility was that the person becomes a nonexistent, but this requires that they survive COVID-47 underground, in quarantine, and without medical care, which tends to have a very low survival rate. Bringing infected people underground also posed major risks to the rest of the clan, so this strategy was reserved only for high-status members.

The other part of my role in the clan was to help the nonexistents cope with their perpetually underground lives. They couldn’t interact with the overworld any longer since they were considered deceased, so most of their care was focused on helping them cope with sensory deprivation. Many of them used to lose their minds down here, though, in recent years their well-being has been vastly improved by newly installed virtual reality centers. Before that was put in, this place was kind of a torture chamber with a bunch of high-tech computers and beds. It’s no wonder that people would start tripping after years of solitude and emptiness.

If it wasn’t already clear from my position in the clan, I was a nonexistent myself. As such, after placing the unfinished letter under my clothes, I crawled onto the mattress that lay on my concrete floor. Tomorrow was a big day. It was the day of the gathering. The box I was encased in began to fade as I lifted off into the dream world.

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