Kogarashi (Sci-Fi Short Story)

Kogarashi (Sci-Fi Short Story)

Published: July 10th 2019 (Medium)

Note: This was a random trail of thought and remains a work in (very slow) progress.

cmd /K C:\core\digitaldawn\kogarashi-intro.exe

In the years following the explosive proliferation of techno-political decentralisation, society was drastically restructured. The wealth pyramid was upended to begin with, then wholly shattered. A profound and long-forgotten cultural and philosophical introspection was aroused as mankind began to grasp the tremendous significance of the separation of money and state. The 20th Century had seen religion deprecated, and the rise of the secular individual. The 21st Century would see government marginalised, and the birth of the truly sovereign individual. Society was becoming a self-organising system fuelled by intricate economic equilibriums.

In the year 2023, the second global macro fallout of the period had seen astonishing sums of capital clamber for the exit on a dying monetary system. This had driven violent demand for bitcoin, the hardest money to ever exist. It reached $373,000 by 2025, which was its last measure of value expressed in US dollars. The creative destruction that Satoshi Nakamoto had unleashed was of cosmic significance. The emergence of true digital scarcity would turn out to be a necessary stepping stone for any civilization in the quest for post-scarcity existence. The world now revolved around three supercommodities of grave importace; bitcoin, hash power, and energy.

The Kogarashi network came to life on the 3rd January 2042, exactly 33 years after the Bitcoin Genesis block. Originally coded by Katabatic (KB) — a mysterious fanatical technology group of Japanese origin — the world had paid little attention. Its whitepaper and code skeleton had been released two years prior, outlining its plans to harness the power of a decentralised network to simulate an entire universe. None had forseen the infectious spread of Katabatic ideology. It sought to push the limits of technology at all costs without regard for legal, moral, or mortal boundaries.

cmd /K C:\core\digitaldawn\kogarashi-partone.exe

Pax’s eyes roved the textured gradient as he scrabbled up the loosely packed Earth towards the lip of the hill. He stood at the apex and sharply inhaled a lungful of air as if to declare his existence to the darkness. A tangy petrichor pricked him. The tired Moon issued amorphous shadows that toyed with his vision. The 13th consecutive hour without power in Neo Tōkyō. Pax had moved west out of the centre upon receiving a tip off about the United Nations’ intended EMP strike to the east of the city. Ever since Katabatic extremists raided the LDP’s mining farms, conflict had escalated on both sides of the equation. Gentle flames danced in place of city lights on the horizon as he watched Mount Jinba unfurl into the distant concrete jungle. He took out his Damascus knife, drew his right hand to his left temple, and made a clean incision. This was not the first time the relay for his retinal projector had blown — the Oculons were still highly experimental. He rinsed the lifeless circuit in a nearby puddle, watching as his warm blood fused with the cold starlight on the surface of the water. The Oculons were meant to use thermo-electric energy harvesters to convert body heat to power, but the voltage conversion unit was dead.

With tensions rising, Pax had to find a way to get back online. He was one of the original Cloaks, he never had a passport, nor was part of any citizen database. After the data scandals of the 2010s, an elusive strand of society had committed to keeping their progeny completely off the grid. Without access to his fabricated identity keys through the Interplanetary Filesystem (IPFS), it would be difficult to clear the UN checkpoints at the airport. There was another situation threatening to ground him — Erebus. It was the name given to the latest and most dangerous in a series of cyberattacks carried out by the Katabatics. It was expected to break the hashing algorithim used on the Global Citizen Database (GCD) in order to nullify any attempt at tracing KB supporters.

Ever since the Kogarashi network had gone live, a deeply threatening series of events had begun to unfold. It started when the incriminating findings of a UN-issued blockchain forensics report pointed to Katabatic. At the conclusion of the multi-year study, there was overwhelming consensus that the group had accounted for almost 15% of all stolen bitcoin in the past three decades. This placed them amongst the top global holders, dwarfing the national treasuries of a broken Japan and England combined. It was estimated that they were in control of roughly 175,000 BTC — almost 1% of the circulating supply. It remained a wonder that governments had not begun to accumulate coin earlier. Fear and terror swept the globe as people began to connect the dots. Information pulsed in the veins of the World Wide Web as nine billion people turned their attention on the hitherto obscure Katabatic organization. Who were they? What was their objective? Out of sheer curiosity, Pax had decided to join the Katabtic organization through their darknet forum. M0rph, as he came to be called, would see a swift rise to prominence due to his unusual technological literacy.

At the top of the sleeping mountain Pax found a shuttered cafe with a single neon sign flashing ‘bitcoin accepted here’ into the deserted space in front of it. Power, he thought. Without hesitation he circled the hut scanning for the optimal point of entry. He did not care for the security cameras he was sure would be trained on him. His exomask contained a thin hyper-reflective membrane capable of blinding them. Pax identified a point of vulnerability, and punctured the rotten wood with considerable force. He was in.

The smell of mold crept up on him as he wired the backup relay required to fix his Oculon. After rebooting, Pax was able to access his files temporarily and retrieve a new identity key. This would allow him to catch a bulletjet out of Neo Tōkyō before the Erebus attack caused a total shutdown. He would need to make it back to London where his main terminal was based before a KB member noticed his absence. As he was about to disconnect, something caught his eye. 137 alerts. Something was up. He froze upon unlocking his encrypted infobite portal:

We do not seek to destroy, we seek to create.

We have the ingredients for the next phase of evolution.

We believe humanity to be the biological bootstrapper for the creation of the Next Universe.

Based upon principles from computational neuroscience, frustum culling, and quantum mechanics, we have created a hardware agnostic self-rendering software engine capable of growing to simulate an entire universe of conscious life.

We will release the simulation on the Kogarashi network.

We turn to you in expectation of support.

Yours faithfully, Mol3ch.— July 13th 2042, the Katabatic Manifes

Humanity’s lights went out.

Was it possible?

cmd /K C:\core\digitaldawn\kogarashi-parttwo.exe

Pax floated coolly through a densely packed Chōfu airport, his physical composure at odds with the million thoughts racing through his mind. He had admired Bostrom’s Simulation Theory since he was a boy, although he had never anticipated it having any practical implications in his lifetime. The latest research into the computational theory of mind had begun to crystallize the view that we had massively underestimated its complexity. There is no way we can simulate sentience yet, he thought, let alone an entire universe. Consciousness was best described as an emergent property of interconnected worlds of smaller processes that, in reality, we had very little idea about. Despite now being deeply embedded within the Katabatic organization’s online presence, he hadn’t quite believed that any of their plans would materialize. So what are they up to?

His attention was drawn by a sudden burst of neurons firing around the still highly sensitive skin covering his Oculon relay. He winced and instinctively reached for the wounded area, but stopped himself so as not to draw attention. If he could just make it to the SpaceX scramjet he had secured a ticket for, he would be back in London within two hours. The world around him rippled with colour as thousands upon thousands of screens and infopanels encircled him in a dazzling display of modern life. A faint memory of distant words blossomed in his frontal lobe:

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
— The Rock, 1934, T. S. Eliot

Prophetic, he thought. Pax, along with many, had become deeply engaged with reflecting upon mankind’s place and purpose among the stars. In wider literature, there had been a great resurgence in Reason as the primary source of meaning in the cosmos. It had stemmed from a kind of Technological Enlightenment that began after the teething issues at the start of the 21st Century as the world came online. Rationality had seeped into the group mind as a desirable yet fragile trait, that many sought but few possessed. The terrifying enormity of the amassed body of human learning made the pursuit of understanding an increasingly unquenchable thirst. As Pascal had so eloquently put it — knowledge is like a sphere, the larger its volume, the greater its contact with the unknown.

Pax increased his pace as he passed seemingly infinite rows of queues on his way towards the newest terminal — the skyport. It was home to the latest generation of Mach 9 bulletjets. Seating just 12 passangers, they remained exorbitantly expensive — predominantly used by the bitcoin-rich. Two propulsion cylinders would carry the fuselage up to around 70,000 feet where it was then released. The boosters would return to the skyport and refuel whilst the next hourly flight was boarded. Pax was still new to the process, he stared out the window in eager anticipation as the gargantuan rockets loomed over the terminal. The nickel-titanium teardrop body of the bulletjet was suspended between the two pillars by an enormously strong nanomaterial rod, originally developed by the Israelis.

It was only as Pax melted into the unnaturally comfortable headrest that his brain slowed down enough for digestion. Holy shit, did that really just happen? He himself didn’t quite understand what he was doing, or how he was in so deep. The last three days in Japan had been a complete whirlwind. Pax, or Morph as the other Katabatics knew him, had been requested to attend the key generation ceremony for what had been referred to as the Clavis — the killswitch for the Kogarashi network. In a damp, dimly lit Tokyo basement, Pax had stood face to face with Mol3ch and a girl whose identity, both online and offline, had been deliberately witheld. In the same way, she did not know of him. From what Pax could tell after his time with the Katabatics, Mol3ch was the puppet master behind the organization. Being in his presence had been both terrifying and exhilirating. As for the girl, there was something strangely familiar about her. It was as though, in dreams, they had met before. She had only very briefly glanced at him, but he was sure that she understood more about him from that one look than he did about himself after 20 years of walking the line between digital and physical; reality and illusion. No communication other than the brief locking of eyes and exchange of digital signatures occured between the three of them before they stepped into the Faraday tent.

Pax’s recounting of the events was interrupted by the thunder of the vehicle’s thrusters kicking into action. It took just 120 seconds to hit dropping altitude, where the teardrop peeled off from the boosters, and ignited its own engine. The sound could have defeaned Thor himself as the compression systems bullied the atmosphere into submission with godly force. From up there, looking down on our murky globe, he could clearly see the curvature of the Earth and its delicate membrane that contains those ingredients most dear to life. Sure as shit she keeps on turning, he thought to himself, before slipping away into a dreamless sleep.