When the first chimp completely rendered a Shakespeare play for the first time, it was mildly interesting.
People said, “Trial and error is not a sign of intelligence.” I won’t even begin to explain how incorrect that statement is, but that’s not the point.
The scientists, though, saw infinite potential. It wasn’t really the event, but rather the outcome. Of course if you give a chimp enough time, she will eventually choose all the letters and words that make up something recognizable. The question was, what else can randomly combined words and phrases accomplish?
By the time the first experiments were being conducted, the people had already lost their interest.
Scanners and other scientific devices were synched up to human brains to gauge emotions. Flickering eyes explained that attention was waning. Lip twitches meant something was thought provoking. A tilt of the head conveyed sympathy. And so on and so forth.
The experiments began with words. What words do humans like, and what words do they not like? Which are interesting and which are boring? And what happens when they are strung together this way? Or this way? Or this way?
Randomness became increasingly beautiful.
It wasn’t long before computers could write grammatically correct, original stories, with beginnings and endings, in a matter of hours, that were on par with the intelligence level of a 6-year old. And these scientists weren’t stupid. They’re computer programs learned and retained and improved.
The people began to pay attention again. Some began to protest. The authors, already, were quivering.
Soon enough, as you would imagine, the computers started writing best selling novels. Some people claimed that these were the best books they’ed ever read. Ever. And still the computers improved. Moving into music and art as well.
The reaction in the art world was two fold. Some were infuriated, claiming science had no place in art. Others became depressed, as artists are prone to do. What is talent? A carefully calculated formula? What, in this world, has worth?
Deep down though, everyone felt a growing sense of sadness.
The first author to commit suicide was Judith Stein. She was nearly 60 years old. Not only had her life’s work centered around creating art, but she had a deep and complete faith in the overall goodness and beauty of mankind, in an overall pattern or design to life. All of which was shattered.
Judith, who lived alone in a small cottage by the sea in England awoke from a terrible dream on the morning of Saturday, January 7th. Dawn had just broken and her room was filled with a soft gray light. She calmly arose, fixed tea, and fed the cats. She then dressed in a bright red beaded dress which she hadn’t worn since her daughter’s wedding, walked out toward the cliffs over Dover, and stepped off.
She may be recognized as the first, but she was by no means the last, nor the most dramatic. Judith had started a trend. It seemed now that dying was the only thing that humans could still do better than computers. Cliffs were nothing compared to the mass drownings, public dismemberment, stomach stabbing, electrocution, slow suffocation, and the like.
Pain, also, was something only a creature could feel. Even if a computer could write about it better.
Eventually the non-artists started going, too. Young adults and teens, self-centered and apt to follow the lead began going. Their parents, heart-broken, followed. Older people, who only stuck around for their friends and family found they had none, and left, taking the long journey toward the beloved state of Grace, wondering how closely it resembled the state of Idaho.
The doctor’s, disheartened, and fearing that they were next to be cloned, slit their throats.
The sick, uncared for, overdosed.
The millionaires, loosing money, hung themselves.
It took so long for the trend to pick up speed and for the rest of the world to off themselves (we do have a fairly large population after all) that half the world was already reverting to a pre-human state.
Windows broken by the elements went unmended. Gardens, once carefully cultivated, were left untended. Suburban houses became overgrown. Cleared farmland filled with grasses and wildflowers.
The computers, though, continued to compute and to create. There was a problem though; the programs were created to constantly advance. They could not settle for perfection. With a lack of humans for them to read, imitate, and impress, their quality began to decline. They had only themselves to mimic. Art became more and more wild and abstract, colors blending confusedly until the canvasses were dominantly black. The music became more chaotic and tuneless until discordant screeches were the next big thing.
And the writing, too, declined. It was as if time was spinning backwards. Spectacular novels became mediocre ones, and continued on a downward slope back to childishness.
In the end, the last book ever written before the all the computers broke or wore out due to lack of maintenance, was the simplest yet.
It read, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”