The higher ups called it Project Morpheus. A supercomputer: I swear that was all we ever intended it to be.
Its underlying premise was simple. Technology has always involved the interaction of routines and subroutines. Early computers may have been hangar sized monstrosities but in essence are no different from their smaller sleeker counterparts today. The years to follow saw dramatic reductions of size in relation to processing power, with some current models fitting in a single palm. Research goes into ways of making a computer more durable; longer lasting, able to withstand impact, water, and a whole host of other things. We continue pushing the bounds of what is possible for features like memory storage, speed and accessibility. Modern computers are portable and can be used on the go - at school, a cafe or in a bus. An improvement, but not enough - it will never be enough. It can never be enough given the original model template of which it is only a flawed copy; the target that we as developers hope it can one day be:
The functioning brain of a living person
Few people realize it, but many complex interactions sustain the continued existence of sentient life. The amount of power required to simultaneously process all the minutiae of day-to-day activities must be staggering. Some routines like walking or breathing are simply on autopilot, occurring in the background without the need for conscious thought. Imagine the potential then, if certain unneeded subroutines could be safely reduced - freeing resources that could be diverted to other important operations. What if it were possible to repurpose the functionality of a living brain and employ all that computing power on running logic scenarios instead of having it wasted on automatic actions?
Such was the aim of Project Morpheus. Significant advancements were made adapting the neural interface to long term coma patients - all volunteers ethically sourced from relatives who believe the ongoing mental stimulation created as a result of such research would help with patient recovery. Whether they did or not made little difference. So long as it could be clinically proven that the proposed routines would not adversely affect recovery the rest was irrelevant. All that mattered was the wondrous, perfect engine sealed behind their skulls and the means of accessing it.
The underlying theory was sound. Already respirators and IVs were required by most of our sample, due to conditions that interrupted these autonomous functions. It would not harm the patients to fully shut down these crippled processes, especially with life support on hand to pick up the slack. Our problem was primarily in identifying the hindbrain regions related to these functions and shutting them down one by one without compromising other locations that had adverse effects. Everything else was simple in comparison. Results were encouraging and supported the theories.
We took to using these modified organic supercomputers to run and predict the outcome of simulated scenarios - ones too complex and wide-ranging for conventional computers to support. The average brain has no problem with these, of course. One does not need a genius level intellect to worry about potential consequences of a single action, or dwell on what can go wrong in a given day. Thanks to our volunteers we finally gained the means to extrapolate longitudinal regression models in a matter of seconds or minutes; an achievement that would have considerable impact on economic trends and investment. By populating the Tabula Rasa of a recipient brain with simulated structures, ecosystems and societies we were able to run our predictive models in fast-forward on entire communities - or even entire worlds.
I suppose it was not that much of a surprise that we made the leap from relatively benign research on economic stability to the more questionable one of DMS given the current state of world affairs. For those not in the know, DMS stands for Disaster Management System and basically refers to any work put into anticipating what could happen so as to devise ways to guard against the worst. The capability of our new processing software meant we could do a lot more than your basic Fire Safety plan, however. With the tools that we had on hand, we could imagine and therefore in theory come up with contingency plans for worse - MUCH worse.
Perhaps you have heard of the Hakkar's Corrupted Blood incidence? What started out as an unintentional exploit within a popular MMORPG suddenly gained practical real world implications as people realized that the manner in which a particular status condition acquired in-game could be extrapolated to how diseases spread in real life and how communities will react. We would expand on this theory by replicating the HCB phenomenon - this time not by chance but with purposeful design; to study the potential outcomes that could arise with the adjustment of certain variables. Like errant toddlers we inflicted atrocities upon our simulated creations, creating whole communities only to wipe them out with disasters both natural and artificial, with every apocalypse worse than the last. Each time we would watch and chart events from their conception to eventual decline, indifferently watching and making notes as tiny A.I representations rallied, fought, plotted and died in their millions around us.
Here followed an unexpected, yet welcome development. The new scenarios we developed and put in play appeared to have some positive impact on our host volunteer's mind. Prognosis improved and we would see several instances of brain activity that could not be attributed to our interference. Whether it was due to the mental stimulation in general or the added complexity of the sims we were starting to run was anybody's guess, but it was enough motivation to increase our efforts. The patient was even ironically helpful in this regard, as there were often times their brain generated its own disaster scenarios without our input. Similar phenomena seemed to apply the other volunteers we tested. It was theorized that what we did was open the floodgates and set the machines in motion to provide a means for the brain to facilitate its own recovery.
Up to then we had only run one simulation at a time before wiping the slate clean to commence the next, but at the time we saw no reason not to take advantage of our patient's encouraging recovery. We built and populated the infrastructures as before; rarely having to actually initiate a scenario since the brain would generate its own more often than not. We turn from puppeteers to watchers, bearing silent witness as our virtual communes encounter crisis after crisis. Floods in Southeast Asia... Haze from slash-burn forest clearing practices in Indonesia... A worldwide, unstoppable epidemic. Political unrest, riots, in major population areas
Any of these sounding familiar?
It has been years since I've had occasion to think about Project Morpheus. After accidental success led to the eventual recovery of our volunteer, the project shifted in a new direction to help in the treatment of coma conditions. The original team was disbanded and later reformed with medical professionals who from what I hear made good use of our findings. The rest of us were transferred to different areas; other teams. All's well that ends well, and yet... Yet -
Yet reading through what passes for news in this day and age triggers fleeting memories of that time so long ago. Seeing the death tolls rise and rioters march brings a certain sheaf of scribbled notes to my mind; records in my own shorthand belonging to a younger me who catalogued all those numbers and outcomes with cool indifference. Of late, I find myself dwelling on those notes I took with increasing regularity. Is it a trick of my memory, or did they really use to be so long; trailing for pages and pages? For some nagging reason, the term `Delta' is unsettlingly familiar. Did I write that once, or am I just attributing my present knowledge to past affairs?
There's no way to really be certain, of course. I can only hope it is paranoia in my old age causing me to see patterns where there are none; to make connections that do not exist. I hope that is all it is. Because; gaps in my memory notwithstanding, while I can't recall the exact specifics, there is one aspect of those notes that I'm absolutely sure of: the word `Delta' doesn't occur at the end, or anywhere even near it. The most optimistic of interpretations would place it somewhere halfway through - barely halfway through.
Nope, it gets worse. Much, much worse.
If there really is a Sleeper; and that Sleeper is awaking, gods help us.
Gods help us all.