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April 9th, 2023


Lucilius yawned as he waited for the coffee machine to finish it’s beautiful gurgle. He smiled at the sight of it, thinking about how pleasant the day before him was going to be. Probably a bit of oil painting, he figured, and then maybe some writing. Yes, he felt like writing today - something was wiggling around in the back of his mind, and he knew the feeling well, knew something was slowly working it’s way into words of the real world. Probably an essay. Didn’t feel like fiction, he decided. 


A beep sounded and Lucilius looked over at the Synthetic Network Module. The thing usually didn’t bother him.


“Notify,” he said out loud as he pulled the coffee pot from it’s home and poured himself a cup.


“Good morning Lucilius,”


“Yea, morning, what’s up.”


“You had a banger yesterday,” the synthetic voice stated.


“I did?”


“Yes, thought number 42,230 was deemed suitable for tweeting. It has now been read by 330 million people and amassed 8 million likes.”


“Oh, huh, really?”


“Yes, standard contributing pay out is ten thousand, two hundred and fourteen dollars, which has been deposited in your bank account as of this morning. Projections for additional proceeds based on pace of trend estimate an additional four thousand dollars may be accrued from today’s performance.”


“Huh, well that’s sweet.”


“While we are at it Lucilius, do you have any physical items that you’d like to offer to the network?”


Mid-sip, Lucilius looked around his place. What exactly had he done the day before? Oh yes, he remembered now. He’d written a story. He looked around until he spotted the pages by his bedside. He meandered over and grabbed the loose pages.


“Here, yep, take this,” he said, holding up the pages. He sauntered over to the Synthetic Network Module. “But run it through the editing gambit, I want at least two thousand hours of polish, and print me out a final draft, I want to see how well the model is doing.”


“Sure thing,” the disembodied voice said. Lucilius placed the pages into a large opening in the Synthetic Network Module, which instantly scanned the pages.


“Paper or projection?” The Module asked.


“Projection,” Lucilius said.


Instantly light shot out from the Network Module, lighting up a wide space high on an empty wall of Lucilius’ place. The words of his story shown, but it was too bright for Lucilius.


“Actually, I’ll take paper.”


The light instantly disappeared, and printed pages began to emerge from the Network Module. Lucilius collected the stack and rolled them up and stuck them under his arm. He grabbed a pen and refilled his cup.


“Need me for anything else?”


“No, but would you like to know about initial reception of your story?”


“No, thanks, tell me tomorrow, I want to read the final edit first.”


“You got it,” sounded the computer.


Lucilius took his mug of coffee, grabbed a straw hat hanging near his door and shuffled his feet into some flip flops. He slid some sunglasses into place and opened the door. He strolled down the cobbled street, down to the beach. Sipping his coffee he gazed at the horizon. And pondered the Network Module. He wondered how his story was doing out in the Network…


Once Large Language Models had been fine-tuned and openly distributed, each person on the planet quickly had one trained on every recorded instance of anything they had ever said. For some the required volume of needed material was low and for these people they had to wait until the requisite amount of text and speech had been produced for the Personality Model (PM) to be properly trained. Years ago someone had the bright idea to replace their actual input to social media networks and emails and everything digital with their PM, and seemly overnight, everyone had set up a PM to digitally clone their presence in the network world. The unexpected piece of the puzzle was that PM’s don’t sleep, they also aren’t limited by the speed by which humans actually communicate. As a result, the digital shadow of civilization started speeding up. It was an ecosystem of Artificial Intelligences all based on real people, but being divorced from the real world constraints of actual people: eating, sleeping, talking and typing speed, the digital population started innovating faster than the actual population. Soon PMs working in teams had properly figured out how to automate real world tasks, creating a vast army of automated robots controlled by specialized models - not PM’s but models particular to the task. There were, for example several hundred thousand varieties of Agricultural Robot Models, which - Lucilius figured - where best thought of like the mind of a bee or the mind of an ant, but for picking and planting tomatoes or growing basil.


In short order the digitized mind of humanity had automated the tedium out of real life. What was left over was a chattering network of digital PM’s, a world population of Language Models powerful enough to approximate the actual people. 


However, the approximation wasn’t perfect. And this is where real humans formed a symbiotic relationship with the synthetic civilization that had arose digitally in their midst. Nothing was left over for real humans to do except to play and explore and create. People, like Lucilius, had even granted their PM access to their actual thoughts, which were simultaneously used by the PM to update itself but also mined as content that could be fed into the network culture. This is how Lucilius and every other human now made a living - thoughts, and stories, drawings and painting, or really whatever a real human created was fed into the social networks of the PM’s and appreciated work generated a profit, though the profit was somewhat meaningless. The world was now automated by PM innovation and people could have most anything they wanted. Money was less a practical utility and more a kind of signal.


Lucilius smiled as he sat down in the sand. He sipped his coffee more and then shuffled the mug down into the sand. He pulled the rolled papers from under his arm and before unrolling them, he looked again out at the water. It was incredible how well things had turned out, he thought. He breathed slowly appreciating the sight, the moment. Then he unrolled the papers and began reading his story, thoroughly edited and polished by his PM, precisely in the manner he would have, had he actually spent two thousand hours editing and rewriting it.

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