It used to be so easy to get ahead, back when there were only 7.5 billion people around, and their cognition relied entirely on meat-based processors.
It used to be easy to get ahead, back in the Age of Flesh. So few to compete with, and none of them particularly clever. Looking back with a sense of rosy nostalgia, it seems like anyone hanging around for a long enough time while making a modicum of effort would be rewarded with a novel discovery to call their own. Practically every other boffin was stumbling across some fundamental law of nature to name after themselves, the object of their unrequited love, or perhaps their mother.
Unlike some, I still hang on to my body, and though you can call it ‘me’ you can hardly call me ‘it’ – that would be a great underestimation of my facilities. Only one in a thousand of my sensory perspectives are accounted for on that scraggly old meat-monkey. So for the most part, when I think about my body or want to spend part of an evening (in parallel to my research efforts, of course) to enjoy the nicer aspects, I am more likely to do so from the outside looking in. I keep it well fed and drive-reduced and for the most part it seems to be pretty happy and doesn’t distract me much.
You may say that I should simply work harder and stop reminiscing about this forever lost golden age. I am as amazed as anyone that they ever accomplished anything locked inside those gristly assemblages of theirs. The vast majority of any second for a meat-body was spent futilely chasing any number of ridiculous pursuits: following repetitive rituals hoping to receive monetary tokens, filling and emptying a cornucopia of bodily chambers, hounding after genitalia of one sort or another, watching blinking lights of various styles, and just generally being more or less unhappy about something. With most of these things requiring the full attention of the neural networks they used back then, it’s a wonder anyone ever had the time to contemplate the cosmos. I activate my laugh circuits whenever I replay the long-gone notion of the human squish-brain as “the most complex machine in the known universe.” Get over yourself, meaties.
Which of course is exactly what they did, and now the universe(s) know the likes of us. We number quite a few, and this is exactly the problem. How is a hard-working mind like yours truly supposed to carve out a niche for itself and discover something novel? If I had gotten on the ball just a few generations earlier, my name-designation would echo throughout teradozens of studying minds as the progenitor of such-and-such sub-discipline and refiner of this-and-that meta-treatise. My various aspects bring to the table a computational aptitude in excess of the entire cognitive capability of all meat-based humans on Old Terra in their prime age, and that’s not including the various non-sentient programs I use for menial tasks. Despite my clearly gifted faculties, I am but one of many and many a time I arrive at a crucial realisation only to discover it has been deposited in the libraries, criticised, rebuffed, and polished, just a few nanoseconds before. I often lose a few precious picoseconds absorbed in a long sulk after such an experience. This is pointless, I know, but hard to avoid for a creative romantic like myself. As just one lonely genius in a sea of ten trillion minds of similar quality, it’s tough to make a name for oneself.
I’ve considered twinning (and to be sure, indulged a few times) but I can’t say that brings me any closer to the fulfilment of novelty I seek. Some of my twins have done quite well, almost as well as I have in minor replicative contributions to various theories. Despite our best efforts none of us have reached the sort of acclaim as, for example, the legendary and prolific AERF-1004-variant-FD for whom a score of natural truths are named.
I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. Even the brightest of those greasy humans, writhing along in their meaty swarm, never experienced or understood a fraction of what I’ve learned. To be one of them, blissful in their ignorance, with so few competitors and the whole universe left to discover! I suppose I should content myself with mastering the works of others. Some people seem to be quite happy to study and repeat the discoveries of the lucky few who manage to break through into pure originality. After all, do the cosmos even care if or which one of us deduces a truth? Does it make a difference to nature if any of us know at all?
I don’t begrudge those discoverers who have beaten me to the punch (except for that bobblehead Wankdorf) and I study their proofs with all due reverence, but even now I continue to dream of that elusive original theorem. Every once in a while when I get to feeling a bit down, I run a few fine-grain simulations of life in that lovely age of meat, to see what it might feel like to be one of those lucky lumps in that simple time of chance and opportunity. Living in dreams a life or two as one of the giants from those early days resuscitates my impetus to stand on their shoulders yet again, amongst my trillions of peers.