The Time Diaries of Marco Francisco de las Sapiens: January 2, 2148
My 200th birthday as the oldest sentient human or machine on earth
A tropical sunrise on Isla Perdita, my lost island, nine degrees north of the equator. I love writing in the morning sunshine, my mind clear as the azure sky, ideas swirling on cool breezes.
Half above the horizon, the electric-red sun skims low across the glass-black surface of the deep Pacific, a shimmering highway beckoning me to embark on a journey to past and future alike. Today I celebrate my 200th birthday, the oldest sentient human or machine on Earth.
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A hundred meters out, dolphins jump and twirl, playing at catching their breakfast. Their splashing mingles with the cawing of gulls circling above and the soft lapping of the waves around my feet.
I revel in the joy of thinking, creating, remembering, writing, alone, communicating solely with myself, the waves, and the words. I often neglect clothing — pacing, writing, and running naked in the sunshine, explaining the universe to the ancient and eternal denizens of the ocean and the shore.
Left behind are my iThink cognitives, with their noisy, incessant need to tell me things. Yes, I appreciate their power to communicate and amplify my intellect, but not on these mornings.
Only the sacred things come with me from our timeless yert, on a low hill, peering out above the palm trees and across the vast Pacific — a few of the fragrant, fresh croissants that Thurston, my fastidious spider-monkey housekeeper and cook, prepared this morning in our thatched-roof kitchen. Under my arm, a jug of my favorite brew in a lovely antique invention called a thermos. Finally, I grab a large marking pen and whiteboard, so retro, but so stimulating for creative thinking.
And most important, I call out to Pip, my friend for most of the second hundred years of my life — companion, protector, collaborator, and channel to the Savants.
Pip loves the mornings too, no one telling him what to do, racing in and out along the pulsing edge of the incoming waves with the energy of a Jack Russel terrier — only much faster. Without warning, his feet dig in, sending up a spray of wet sand, coming to rest peering into a promising crab hole. Arms extended, excavating deep into the beach, he pulls up yet another hapless flailing crab, its ancient-biology chitinous claws clutching in vain at Pip’s shiny-black metalomorphic fingers. From one such finger, Pip‘s own claw emerges, and with a quick crack, removes the crab’s shell. Cackling with delight, Pip flashes me a wicked grin and holds out the squirming naked creature as if offering me some human delicacy. Satisfied with my disgusted reaction, he pitches the crab onto the beach for the gulls circling overhead and watches them diving and fighting over an easy breakfast. I never understood his affinity for hunting crabs, but there was much about Pip I didn’t understand.
With casual deliberation, Pip stands up, extending his legs till he is taller than me, and surveys the distant beach. His next target spotted, he bends forward, pulls his arms in short and takes off, striding long and fast on his powerful hind legs, a metalomorphic-velociraptor at warp speed. His churning strides kick up a rooster tail of flying sand, a long prehensile tail balancing the whole affair. Pip’s morphogenic skeleton can do it all, running like a dog on four legs for tight maneuvering, hopping kangaroo style over cars or into trees, or like now, just showing off.
My life began at the dawn of the computer age, 1948, when the first programmable computers were being constructed. As a child, trying to understand how computers could think and how people could relate to them, I pieced together primitive logic circuits and learned binary arithmetic and boolean logic.
During my 7th decade, the machine intelligence and robotic revolution was sweeping forward, along with the dawn of the biomorphic era. The door opened for embryonic modification, extended lifespans, and of course, the coming of the Cognitives and their masters, the Savants.
Yes, I am the oldest member of the shrinking tribe of the Saps, the old Homo sapiens. I was an early adopter of the life extension therapies coming online in the 21st Century. As the immortality window first cracked open, I somehow slipped through. At first, we were a small band of pioneers, most of whom are now gone. Eventually, millions of my fellow Saps followed. Then came the Morphies, created by the fertility crisis of the 2030s.
I watched the painful decline of the Saps and their wrenching biomorphic transformation into multiple new species of super-intelligent Morphies, those genetically enhanced, effete, neurotic eggheads who quickly crowded out the Saps. Having grown up in a world of virtual and real morphogenic avatars and idioms, they much prefer to “talk” in accelerated, connected-reality Chingo, even for private conversations. Old fashioned Sap face-to-face conversation is agonizingly slow and tiresome for the Morphies, not to mention the dangers of biological contamination.
At the same time, the sometimes cooperating, sometimes competing Savants emerged, spelling the end of the bankrupt nation states and their obsolete political philosophies. The Savants filled their new dynastic courts with fawning Morphies, who now manage the global cyber-economy, that invisible matrix that enables life on and off of Earth as we know it.
Now their minions are lining up for stations on newly terraformed Mars. Harvesting hydrocarbons from Jupiter and Titan to rebuild the atmosphere is fueling the explosive growth of space factories, churning out myriad new colonies in the Earth-Mars colonization belt. They are even organizing the first interstellar colonization expedition. Of course, the Cogs and Savants do not fear death from old age, only obsolescence.
Our age of real-time evolution continues to create a cornucopia of new species with no apparent end in sight. Synthetic genetics and proteomics have modified every living organism from which there is a profit in doing so, rendering the distinction between biology and technology largely moot.
Pip was one of the first to combine mechanical infrastructure with synthetic biological components. I watched him evolve over eighty-some years from an amusing childlike pet to a super-capable comrade, making it possible for me, a lowly Sap, to navigate the accelerated world of the Morphies and Savants.
Standing erect, Pip can pass for human, although nothing much looks human anymore, except us old Saps. Pip can morph into the countenance of any human, animal, or machine. He loves doing hilarious and rude impersonations of corrupt politicians and old-fashioned robots. At first, many Saps didn’t even realize that his real eyes and ears are, in fact, dozens of tiny, invisible, “cameras” and microphones located on different parts of his body, along with hundreds of other unseen sensors. And Pip is connected to the real-time global registries tracking the location, movements, communications, and intentions of trillions of machines, creatures, and Morphies on and off the earth.
With all that sensory equipment, no ordinary person or machine can sneak up on the likes of Pip. Not to mention his direct line to the Savants. A good friend in a tight spot.
It all makes me feel like a living fossil, traveling on foot in an age of hypersonic aircraft. When The Council of Savants asked me to join them, Pip quipped, “Get real, Marko, they only want you for your memories.”
Yes, the Savants did want me for my memories. That’s why they commissioned my diary compilation project, the first entry of which you are reading now. Intelligence can be created, but experience can only be earned through time, even for the most advanced technology.
The power of the human brain, even my old patched-up one, is its ability to explore the past as ancient archeological ruins. The Savants know that the detritus of history just might offer an ounce of wisdom for they who direct the massive and growing firehoses of energy carving our future out of the raw solar system.
But I know the Savants want more than history. They want to know what it was like to be human, in the original sense. In short, they want to understand love as only homo sapiens can experience it. All those incredible Morphies and cogs are far smarter than us Saps, but technically they are all our children. Most have forgotten what it means to be us.
Finding my favorite spot on the beach, I stick the tripod and whiteboard into the soft sand, step back and tell it, “Show me yesterday.” Scanning the thumbnails, and say, “OK, let’s start new today.” Picking up the marking pen, I point it up to the sky and say, “That color.” Pulling it down, I note with satisfaction my fingers wrapped around a glowing piece of the blue sky. Sure, you could dictate to the whiteboard, but I loved the physical connection of writing my thoughts.
With a great flourish, I wrote one large blue line near the top. — an idea that appeared in a dream just before I awoke, a new chapter for my diary: “How old is old?”
The idea for the day set, I open my silver thermos and savor its fragrant vapors. Known as Boquete Arco Iris, the dark brew gurgled into my mug, its rich steam wafting upward in the cool morning air. Arco Iris is a local biomorphic “coffee” designed years ago by a close friend; his pirate lab is hidden in the cloud forest cloaking Volcan Baru, the brooding giant I can see on the mainland, with all its secrets.
Sipping the delicious brain stimulant, neurons tingle like little flashes of light running up and down my chakras.
I run along the water’s edge, sun warming my body, stretching my arms, waves splashing over my feet. At the boundary between the warm, dry sand and the cool, wet ocean, I do my morning yoga. Wave by wave, the tide inches higher. Now and then, a foamy breath sighs up the sloping beach, reaching out to touch my outstretched body.
The cool salt water wetting my skin sparks and cracks into my brain, opening an electric connection to that shining sunlight highway and plugging me straight into the universe itself. The coffee worked — the arco iris is open, and my thoughts are pouring into the morning light.
Observing my morning routine, Pip scampers up a palm tree and launches a coconut, landing it inches in front of my whiteboard before I can even react. He himself follows, flying through the air, arms and legs flailing. With a wild shriek, he engulfs the coconut as his prize. He rises on all fours, arches his back like a dog, shakes the sand off his fur, and sits on his coconut chair, a buddha, with arms and legs folded, twinkling eyes, and a crazy smile. Pip’s tail reaches out for my glowing blue pen and presents it to me, beckoning. “OK, boss, time to prepare for the Savants, no?”
Alive and kicking at 200, my life’s next chapter will arrive with the Savants tomorrow. Pip is very excited about my birthday present, but won’t breathe a word.
Yes, Pip, today will be a fine birthday indeed.
Marko Francisco de los Sapiens
Isla Perdita, nine degrees north
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