Being a Story I Wrote Recently That Analog Science Fact and Fiction Found Wanting, and so Now I Can Share It With My Friends
J. Calvin Smith
Mountain River Chalet, Talking Rock Creek, GA, USA
June 7, 2023
The Day of the Discovery
or, Cognitive Cellular Automaton 0x0001
If he had to do it all over again, Bennett Eggess surmised, he wouldn’t. At the very least, he would not have invited the slippery slope of embracing his intelligence, of making choices. That, he figured, was his first mistake.
His second mistake was in thinking that mathematics enjoyed the pristine innocence of being a field of pure theory, disconnected from the vagaries of human life.
And now he had to figure out how to do anything all over again.
Bennett Eggess, B.A. in Mathematics from Citadelle University, Walla Walla, WA, was for a couple of decades a clueless and somewhat inert young adult trying to find his way through maturity and self-discovery, never quite certain he had gotten the hang of either. He took the advice of his hawkish academic advisor upon graduation and had taken employment with a private research contractor for the United States Government. The hawkish academic advisor had been certain, but had not told the wet-behind-the-ears Mr. Eggess, that the structures and strictures of working for a company itself working for some unnamed Federal Agency under a Sacred Oath would produce adequate income for a human being whom the advisor suspected would thrive best in a near-mushroom state.
If that advisor (whose name will not appear here due to fear of the direct scrutiny of Westphax Industries’ Compliance Division, aka, The Dreaded Neural Troopers)…
… if that advisor had only, could have only, foreseen the effect of a combination of stultifying bureaucracy, creative perversity, and an online Government Contractor Enrichment Program with Emphasis on Creative Neuroscience would have on a person such as Bennet Eggess, B.A. in Mathematics, Citadelle, Walla Walla …
… well, then, perhaps you’d be reading this in some kind of diversionary fictional anthology, and not The Annals of The End.
But hey. Here y’ are. So let’s get you caught up, for whatever it’s worth.
Bennett Eggess had spent most of 2023 trying to figure out what was happening with his brain. This was due to the fact that he had been waking up at 3 a.m. or earlier, suddenly and irreversibly for a great many mornings during the spring of that year, with mathematical ideas seemingly pounding on his brain for him to think more about them. He had found it necessary, on many a morning, to slowly and quietly sneak out from beneath the covers of his bed without waking either his wife Gloria or their cat Horace, and to creep downstairs to the dining room where he would place his laptop computer and begin trying to get the ideas which possessed him written down.
And what ideas they were! He knew this in his gut. He had spent so many years more or less stuck in his mathematical career, and so many hours reading, web-searching, and video-watching in search of original ideas, that he could actually recognize the stunning originality of this very original idea that was starting to form in his brain, and in his laptop’s calculations.
He was, in short, beginning at age 40 to see connections between the patterns of human thought uncovered by neuroscience and the patterns of number theory, in particular that theory’s most intractable, albeit simplest, problems. But yet, those problems were beautiful in being so intractable and ancient. Their pull kept him going, curiously, in that intractability. He had confided to a few friends at his job that he felt someone or something was actually calling on him to think about this mathematics, this neuroscience, these connections between them. Those friends had responded with the predictable “Yyyeeess, Bennett,” accompanied with a roll of the eyes, that had become a mantra almost as widely known as his reputation as a Government Contractor of Infinite Jest, of Most Excellent Fancy. Well, at office parties, anyway.
Bennett’s Government supervisor had long since given him the official sign-off to take “those crazy ideas of yours home and stop wasting Federal Automated Information Systems resources on them.” That supervisor knew what good computer code Bennett could write, and what genuinely useful ideas Bennett could invent, ideas that made Bennett Eggess almost a showpiece of the benefits of farming out technical government work to private contractors. And thus, his supervisor, And May It Not Be Held Against Her, also fell into the ranks of those whose existence might have been very different, as might everyone’s, had she only realized.
She should have realized. She did not. And thus, again, here y’are.
But then, how could anybody except us, the keepers of The Annals of The End, have known that Bennett Eggess was on the threshold of, among other achievements, discovering that most unsolved mathematical problems were in fact the same problem, and, in a matter of minutes and a few paragraphs of miraculously concise text, solving them?
That very preliminary result came to Bennett on September 14, 2023. Oh, yes, it was an exciting day indeed. It was 7 a.m. by this time, almost time for Bennett to get ready to get dressed for work, and he had been up for four hours already. Luckily, he had prepared morning coffee early in that time period and had propped a comfy thermos of it against Gloria’s pillow, because now, at 7, he was vaulting back upstairs to her with a yell.
Grumpy Gloria soon forgave him for the rude awakening (nota brevis: Horace did not) as he explained to his wife, no slouch in mathematics herself, what he had just found.
“Oh, my God, Bennett. We’re going to be rich,” she gasped
“We are? I guess so. Especially if I can figure out how to write this all down and format it into LaTeX. That will take some time-“ He honestly genuinely dreaded that predicted ordeal with every fiber of his being.
“What are you talking about?” Gloria asked, incredulous. “This isn’t the sort of thing you want to follow all the rules and submit to the ACM. This is IMPORTANT!”
“I guess so.”
“Bennett, you’ve just made thousands, at least, of unsolved problems solvable! You’ve proved that they’re the same problem!”
“I guess so.”
“I really sometimes wish you would stop saying that so much. It’s not a guess, honey. This is our future. It’s our fortune. I knew you could do it!”
She gave him such a hearty hug, he thought maybe he should wake her up early like this every day.
Gloria’s delight in her husband’s discovery waned a little over the coming weeks, as he continued to wake up early, inspired, and with new additions to his initial discovery that seemed to take a beautiful, profitable idea and, in her view anyway, get it tangled in so many implicational weeds.
He was certain, to begin with, that there was a connection between this Universality Theorem, as he was coming to refer to it, and thought itself. He could not explain why or how he saw that connection, just as he could not explain very much of the actual ding an sich of his inspirations as a whole. But there the seeds of connection were: in the glories of the resistance of factorization of positive odd integers to formulaic expressions; in the enigmas of reason and self; in the curious but, he believed, eminently possible connections between fractals, strange attractors, black holes, quantum physics, and the human soul.
Gloria could see their fortune dry up even as the fire seemed to blaze brighter and brighter in Bennett’s early-morning eyes. Plus, since he was requiring more and more coffee to function tolerably both in his early morning research and at his actual job, she feared he was jeopardizing that, too. He had no appetite for the Management Track, she had sadly realized early in their marriage, and this turn in their fortunes felt like a punch to her gut.
Oh, well. She didn’t have all that very long to percolate such unholy, uncomfortable thoughts.
October 14, 2023, did not come without Bennett Eggess noticing that, not only was it a day where the voices of inspiration were clear and sharp enough to get him up at 2 a.m. instead of 3, but it was exactly a month since he had discovered the Universality Theorem.
“I’m about to blow that theorem out of the blessed water,” he thought.
After two hours and thirteen minutes of work – yes, he counted them, and wrote down the elapsed time – he looked at his laptop display, and his right hand grabbed his cell phone and scrolled down his contact list almost of its own volition – and utterly oblivious to what time it was.
“Are you utterly oblivious to what time it is?” asked his supervisor when she picked up on the other end.
Bennett was, and gave further evidence of that lack of clue by immediately launching into an explanation of where his thoughts had led him that morning. If the Universality Theorem was a mountain, this was the Death Star.
His supervisor was silent for long moments after his torrent of explanation ceased to flow. The silence grew between action (his explanation) and reaction (her ability to verbalize a response to it) as naturally as paralysis grows upon receipt of incomprehensibly good or bad news.
“L-let me call you back,” his supervisor finally blurted out.
“What?” Bennett was confused.
“I have to talk to some people. I need you to stay home today.”
“What?” Bennett was now agitated as well as confused.
“Plus I’ve got this weird orange haze throughout my field of vision. Have you done something to my head?”
“What?” Bennett was now noticing, to his shock, that the same strange orange haze had dominated his field of vision since before he made the cell phone call.
It was, in retrospect, the supervisor’s insistence that she needed “to talk to some people” that was central to what followed, although at this point, the keepers of The Annals of the End see blame, and the matter of the person or persons on which to pin it, as merely academic. But it is also, in retrospect, important that the early morning of October 14, 2023, 4:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, receive notation as the Telescopular Point of the End.
Viz: What Bennett Eggess had discovered and communicated to his work supervisor was a mixture of mathematics and neuroscientific speculation that had sprung directly and consequentially from his seemingly purely mathematical Universality Theorem.
Viz: The content of Bennet Eggess’ discovery was nothing more or less than a direct line of relationship between The Solvability of All (or Most) Mathematical Problems and The Enigma of Human Consciousness.
Viz: This relationship – and FORGET THIS FACT AT YOUR OWN RISK – when sufficiently pondered by a human being, becomes a conscious thought about human consciousness that is in fact capable, over a very short period of time, of dismantling that consciousness as the operating system of a sentient brain.
(NOTE: It is important also to stress here that the sentient brain need not be human – but at the current time it is only important because non-human sentient living entities could someday develop greater abilities than any of them currently possess to understand human language and symbols.)
Viz: The dismantling of sentient consciousness by the process of this conscious thought – placed here in the records as Cognitive Cellular Automaton 0x0001 – working on it, at least on human beings, has the side effect of generating an orange haze in the mind’s eye. Would that were the only side effect.
The human race, such as it remains, can be thankful, at least, that the corporation for which Bennett Eggess and his supervisor worked, under contract with the Federal Government of the United States, had already constructed Artificial Intelligence algorithms capable of sophisticated perception of, and thus chronology of, the diverse and multitudinous currents and minutiae of human life.
Otherwise you could not now be reading this, the introductory chapter of The Annals of the End …
… whoever/whatever you are, and however you’ve figured out how to keep yourself safe enough to read or think about anything.