Could God design himself?

I'm not God, not anywhere near being God. Yet, the software I was trying to create was close to asking a fruitfly to discover Einstein's theory of General Relativity.

The circuits of a computer are digital, on-off, black-white, with no shades of grey - but the human body is marvellously analogue, a continuum of chemical reactions. The hope that I could construct digital computer code that would mimic human intelligence was the thin thread from which my future dangled. Granted, computers mimic global weather, ecosystems, chromosomes and airflow around airliners - but could they contain the passions and sorrows of a human mind?

My academic research area is in computational algorithms - I make better mathematical mousetraps. The algorithms I optimize are much more esoteric than simple number sorting routines, they are the strange creatures known as fractals. Fractals' inner beauty and their ability to model the world was what first attracted me to these mathematical oddities as a graduate student, but now my life depended on them.

Arabesque fractal patterns model the natural geometry of coastlines, mountain ranges, the turbulence patterns of clouds on a summer day and even the delicate lace of a coral reef. The most famous fractals are the Mandelbrot set (after Felix Mandlebrot), but there are many other formulations. Represented digitally in a computer, fractals are as recursively deep and timeless as the universe itself.

The world is not simple, the coast of a continent is an intricate geometry of ragged undulation that repeats itself from the dimension of the lowly sand grain to the span of the globe. Fractals have the ability to compress complex worlds of information into their simple formulations because they are recursive systems generated by complex number equations (the square root of -1) .

What had always driven my research was the observation that the human mind processes data in a way similar to fractal holograms, sketching a path between fractional dimensions. A hologram is technically a three-dimensional image reproduced from a pattern of interference produced by a split coherent beam of radiation (such as a laser). But that's just the gradeschool definition, because the interference pattern can be produced many ways and in multiple dimensions - fractal dimensions.

In the 1970s, the psychologist Karl Pribram at Stanford had suggested that the mind operated more as a holographic memory device. Pribram's theory was that our experience results from an immaterial, abstract, geometric architecture composed of harmonic waves of energy, nodes of relationality, melodic forms springing forth from geometric proportion. The Holographic mind theory is that mind, nature and light all share characteristic of wave phenomena: frequency, amplitude and phase.

My fiber-optic neurophotonic nervous system would in a sense be just an amplifier of the holographic memory of my brain. And of the SuperGrid to which I was connected.

Pribram believed all light is invisible until it has encountered a substance. All substances absorb and re-emit light, which we crudely sense as color. The Holographic brain theory proposes that the phenomenon of mind can be seen as a similar process. Mind and memory function through the absorption of light where the phase-interference patterns of light are encoded as spatial transforms stored within the living substance of the brain or other tissues of the body.

All the forms of the world can be holographically projected from encoded phase-patterns of light. In fact, our world itself may be a fractal holographic memory process in which the consciousness of living substance – and perhaps of all substance – (its geometry) builds itself from the stored transforms of living experience. And experience, is just a holographic interference pattern of light - light that would soon be carried in my fiberoptic neurophotonic nervous system.

Perhaps I could mimic human thought with my holographic fractal creations and control my paralyzed body? Or perhaps I was dreaming like Icarus of flying to touch the sun?

Though my interest was in holographic memory embedded in fractals, there was another unexpected insight from my research. My fractals could not only holographically compress data, similar to the way humans process memories, but they could encrypt that data at the same time, hiding information from those who would steal our thoughts! Publishing this research in the Journal of Fractal Compression invited more interest than I cared for.

"You can't just enter unannounced!" we heard a nurses' voice on the ward exclaim one day. Kevin Armstrong had accompanied me back from rehab and we were discussing my progress (or lack thereof) in my ward room when we were interrupted. "You'd think Dr. Heller could be left to himself instead of being pestered by you busybodies!" The nurse finished her scolding as three black suited men came through the door.

"Dr. Heller, I'm Jim Harold of the National Security Council. These two gentlemen are from the FBI and the Federal Reserve Police enforcement division."

They all flashed ID badges menacingly, and they looked to be packing heat. What did they think, I was going jump out of my bed and run away?

"Dr. Heller, I need to inform you that your article Fast Fractal Compression Methods has been pulled from publication."

"Should I ask these gentlemen to leave," Armstrong asked politely in my defence, though there was little he could do. Actually, the last paper I'd written before my injury had been the Fast Fractal Compression Methods paper, and I was a little anxious to hear what had gone wrong with its publication. The way the agents looked at me was as if I had inadvertently given away the last security codes guarding the Nuclear Weapons Disposal Repository.

"You're breaking national security laws through your development of fractal encryption lattices," Agent Harold continued, flanked by the two unsmiling burly square-faced FBI agents. "You of all people should understand exporting encryption algorithms this powerful can cause a serious threat to American security!"

"I don't write encryption algorithms," I protested heatedly. "I told your goons last year the same thing. I write fractal data compression algorithms that don't have a thing to do with national security! Do you even know what the word fractal means?" I asked insultingly.

"Do you know what ten years in prison means?" Agent Weiner from the Fed replied non-plussed. "Maybe you don't realize it, Dr. Heller, but the routines you have already published continue to be used to defy U.S. banking laws!"

"You mean some old lady has figured out how to hide her piggybank balance from the I.R.S. using one of my algorithms?" I conjectured snidely. "How will the Republic ever survive?"

"America is losing a trillion dollars in tax revenue from unscrupulous use of your Alpha fractal algorithm right now, Dr. Heller. If you persist in publishing and disseminating your algorithms, we will be forced to take action!"

"Well, I'm flattered you find me so dangerous to America, but you could have just sent me a postcard!" I blustered, but I could see the scope of my problem, it was as big as the Himalayas.

"By letting people evade taxes, you are a threat to the stability of civilization!" agent Harold continued to lecture me. "America is only strong if we share our communal responsibilities."

"So what can you do to a quadriplegic, if I don't stop?" Now I was getting mad.

"I believe you are also part of the Future Warrior program." Agent Weiner replied.

"So," I had a sick feeling what was being implied.

"I'd hate to see your Department of Defence funding suddenly dry up," Harold threatened me point blank with the one thing that I feared most. "Even worse, The National Health Insurance system doesn't like being messed with and isn't happy with your skirting the system."

"I get your point." I bit my tongue. I remembered how the Feds had harassed the first guy who distributed his Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) program over the Internet decades ago.

But I wanted nothing to do with the martyrdom routines of Internet freedom advocates. My pure research had always been more important to me than acting like a Don Quixote and jousting with the IRS over the unintended consequences of the knowledge I possessed. And my sole objective now was to funnel my knowledge into making myself walk again, not into bucking the failed government and starting a revolution.

"I'll take your warning under advisement," I replied seriously. They knew I'd been beaten and cowed.

"I think your time is up," Armstrong told the agents as politely as possible. Agent Harold and the FBI goons left, leaving us to discuss the not-so-subtle arm-twisting that had just occurred.

"I swear I wasn't working on encryption algorithms!" I pleaded my case to Armstrong.

"Of course, you can hide a vast amount of data with fractal compression, like laundered money accounts," Armstrong suggested wryly, he wasn't stupid.

"Well, you can hide data in a complex number field so deeply no one could decipher it," I admitted. "Even though I'm doing compression algorithms, it might look the same as doing encryption. Of course, if the Feds found out what I was really doing, they'd really have a hissy-fit," I added obliquely with a smile.

"You know damn well your work has implications in the field of encryption," Armstrong replied in a serious tone. "You need to watch your back, there is a lot at stake her."

"I'm surprised you know anything about my work," I quickly admitted.

"I can read the journals," Armstrong implied he knew more about my research than he was letting on. "I know your work also applies to modeling a human nervous system. That's why we were willing to overlook the security concerns."

I'm a bit of a closet anarchist at heart, so I knew some people had used my compression codes to cheat the IRS. But none of that was on my mind now, my main concern was not having my research on the neuro lightsuit stopped.

Still, my encryption work had been something of a catalyst for revolt as it spread throughout the global Internet community. It was becoming increasingly difficult to fund the imperial ambitions of the major nations as taxes began to evaporate into the underground banking black-market that evolved in Cyberspace. China completely regulated access to bandwidth, France was always parsimonious in its approach to cyberfreedom and the United States had been tracing digital money as far back as the Patriot Act.

The socialist politician Bernie Sanders got the ball rolling way back in 2021 with legislation to ensure taxation of cryptocurrency - he could see the treasury would be drained if too many little people opted out of the currency system. Draconian cryptocurrency regulation was always done with the excuse that Internet piracy supported terrorism, but who really knows what the motivations of political bureaucracies are? Well, we know the answer: MONEY! Was cryptocurrency regulation meant to protect the citizens? Or politician's honeypot?

Hell, anyone could start their own bank and issue cybermoney now, defining themselves as a free and sovereign Cybernation. Some people called this money laundering, others called it freedom. The IRS claimed my fractal encryption methods were setting off a tidal wave of money laundering as Generations XYZ tried desperately to flee the medical and social security bills of the cryogenically preserved Baby Boom generation.

Personally, I don't think my work was that important, it all would have happened without me. The movie and recording industry had begun to collapse at the turn of the 2nd millenium from what they called piracy, but what everyone else called technological freedom. Governments had simply been late to learn the same lesson - that all information monopolies are doomed because digital information is at its core free. Money is an information monopoly.

Money is simply information, so as it was progressively digitized, it began to drain through the Internet like water through a sieve. Once digital freedom is achieved, it's awfully hard to put the genie back in the bottle, so the government's hold on the financial markets through taxation was also doomed. Cybercurrency is the ultimate hedge against hyperinflation, which is really the theft of value by governments to prop up their bread and circus spending. Unless you kill everyone, or drug them, eventually thinking humans will find a way to launder their money in Cyberspace.

Through no fault of my own, my Fractals simply accelerated the inevitable process.

Evidence that Internet tax anarchy was a serious threat to bureaucrats worldwide was everywhere. President Williams himself was continuously on Federal Youtube exhorting American's to donate their hard earned cash to the national treasury, as an act of social justice - "For the Greater Good of World Humanity!" The President knew he needed greenbacks to run both his social programs as well as his non-stop political campaigns, not just in America but worldwide. He also knew huge amounts of cash were being siphoned into Cyberspace and that threatened the stability of civilization itself - at least civilization as the bureaucrats saw it. They could no longer inflate away their trillion dollar excesses.

Sadly, national cohesion was turning to quicksand as an entire generation stopped believing the government was obliged to a legitimate 60% of their earnings. As the pool of youthful volunteers for the imperial state withered, there had grown an ominous underground technical elite who considered themselves 'netizens' of the world instead of Americans first. Through encryption these 'netizens' were progressively able to firewall their virtual provinces away from the prying eyes of tax collectors and the needs of social justice.

The movement by 'agitators' to barricade their computer microverses off from the rest of the world had first been born when taxation was extended to the Internet. The need for ever expanded funding to fight the War on Hate Crimes and to save Mother Earth from eco-disaster had led to the repeal of the archaic national laws prohibiting cyber taxes. Unfortunately, even though the cybertax cause may have been just, the politicians had gone hog wild. The slaughter of the plains buffalo was not nearly so bloody as the feeding frenzy that occurred when fat-cat bureaucrats found a new cyber source of revenue.

Yet, as the Internet was originally designed by DARPA to survive the rigors of nuclear war, so were the bureaucrat's search for untapped funds short circuited by the self-healing, rerouting communications of the DarkNet cloud. Politicians were stunned to find the Internet rerouted itself around high tax network domains, as netizens avoided paying their fair share.

Once the battle lines had been drawn, networked humans inevitably began forming tribal special interest groups in Cyberspace based on common interests rather than allegiance to the tax code. Most devastating was that they created their own electronic currencies, sidestepping the Federal Reserve. First was Bitcoins ages ago, but it was followed by many others, including FreedomCoins which seems to be the current rage. By the time President Williams came to office, a national decline had begun as Joe American moved his financial affairs to the black market of Cyberspace. While some argued individual Americans were better off running their own affairs outside the inflation prone ministrations of the Global economic system, I was certainly not one of that opposition. To resist inevitable forces of nature and the taxman is futile. I'm no revolutionary, I'm more a voyeur of political trends as affected by the digital universe.

But money isn't everything. One of the major problems with the original iterations of Game Theory that the genius von Neuman developed in the mid 1940s was that it was numerical and didn't take into account the innate morality of humans. It isn't just money that motivates people, but often their innate sense of justice and honor. While the cybercurrency purges the government attempted were serious attempts to control the populace, they were also ties to control of the thoughts of humans.So while people rebelled at first on economic grounds, they also began to exert their human desire for freedom of thought.

This is when the use of fractal encryption to create Freedom Networks to allow free expression blossomed. Human beings wanted not only economic freedom, but the freedom to think on their own. This too could not be allowed.

If funding the home front was not problem enough, intertwined with a burgeoning underground Freed Thought movement, President Williams had been forced to commit troops worldwide to prevent global Balkanization through militant multiculturalism. The Russians had hegemonia over Eastern Europe, Venezuela controlled South America, and the Chinese controlled the Pacific. The Islamic coalition states controlled the oil supplies of the Middle East after the fall of Pakistan to Taliban factions and the later reconquest of Iraq by Iran. The growing Aztlan Indigenous territories in the United States continued to press their multiple grievances. On top of all this, Williams now had to commit scarce resources to keep America's internal taxing power intact. His dreams of building the Great Millenial Society had gone wanting under pressure from these competing realities.

That's why I stay out of politics, too many people get hurt. No one gets hurt when you play pretty academic mind games with kaleidoscopic digital fractals.

It was two months after I'd been shot that I gained access to the SuperGrid computing system at the university, using a combination of voice recognition and my heads up goggles. It was like calling up a long lost friend you haven't heard from in a million years.





access denied --
reenter password#?

Damn. Had I forgotten my own password? I must be losing my mind, okay, maybe I'd forgottent the periodic table.


access denied
reenter password#?

"Someone's been screwing with my logons! One of these ought to work." This was uncalled for, I hadn't been gone from the university that long and besides, I had privileged access. I was faculty! I was somebody!

"It must be Qin Huang screwing with my mind," I said out loud to the computer, calming down slightly. Computer dirty-tricks are a part of the computing game. "Maybe he's in cahoots with the NSC guy."






I'd just used the old hidden account trick, a hacker's backdoor into the computer system I'd left for myself, just in case. "There are a lot of ways to skin a cat," I muttered outloud to myself with satisfaction. I was back on-line. It felt good to be on the Supergrid, but I was still a little bent.

"Damn Huang, just because he's numero uno at SuperGrid now doesn't mean he can walk all over my Java code files!" I continued to fume. "He should know any hacker worth his bits has more than one illegal access code, but I shouldn't have had to resort to this kind of subterfuge. I'll have Liddy salt his coffee sometime soon. He probably erased my files too, that ass!"

If you ever have the unnatural urge to spend time writing and debugging computer code, take some well tested advice. Back everything up in triplicate! It's the naive or brain impaired who think computers are infallible and not subject to disastrous losses of data. Until you've assigned tens of thousands of irreplaceable lines of Java code to empty space, or had some jerk try his latest virus on you, you'll never take this advice, but I back up everything religiously. Hence the Walt Disney account.

The Disney partition was my way of saving myself if something went "Goofy" and this time it had sure saved my bacon. The backups stored in the DISNEY account were missing a couple of days worth of data from when I'd left, but it was nothing I couldn't replace.

I downloaded my servlet Java files onto my client workstation just for safety and then I was back into the Supergrid. My fractal programs were what I was most interested in. In the months previous to the shooting I'd modified some fractal equations to serve as diffuse memory caches similar to holograms, they fit right in with distributed Java servlet code. Now, my future depended on these subroutines because the control of the muscle groups of my body would require the computer to remember vast amounts of complex interactions and dynamics. If I could just find a way to link my fractal memory caches to Eric and Andy's programs and the robotics code they'd inherited from the Defense labs, we might be able to make a quantum leap in the sophistication of our electronic nervous system.

I buckled down to wrestle with the computer software as best I could. Of course, there was some time for diversions. I'd programmed the system to translate sentences into the digitized voice of Laura Silvan as just such an escape.

I'm not sure I'd ever fully thought through the implications of the computer technology at my fingertips. If I digitized Laura's voice, turning it into strings of numbers that could be added and manipulated, I could create a voice that said anything I wanted. I could even have Laura Silvan's digitized voice say she loved me, though that seemed kind of kinky and I only did it once or twice.

Not only could I digitize her voice, but also digitize her three dimensional video representation. Projected into a virtual reality world complete with flowers and trees, buildings and other digital people, I would never have to live in the real world. I could live in a virtual world with Laura Silvan. Sick, I know, but who would know, or be harmed?

The video game animators, as far back as classics like Final Fantasy, had provided the structure for these kinds of simulations. The now ageless question was where did reality end and virtual reality begin?

I worked late into the night by myself now. Alice the intensive care nurse from the night shift would come by and wheel me back to the ward on her "lunch" hour, around one o'clock in the morning. I didn't usually give up until well after midnight.

"Steve, are you awake?" Alice called out one evening when she came by at just after one o'clock. I appeared to be sleeping, Alice had often found me this way.

"Steven," Alice tried again.

I didn't answer, I didn't even appear to be breathing.

"Steve, wake up!" Alice now alarmed spoke loudly, I think she kind of liked me and was afraid I wasn't long for this world. She came over to my wheelchair and shook me none too gently.

"NURSE BRUTALITY! STOP! HELP! NURSE BRUTALITY!" Laura Silvan's voice screamed over the computer speaker. Alice jumped out of her socks.

"Got'cha, Alice!" I laughed with glee.

"Sometimes you're such a jerk Steve Heller! Alice scolded. "The computer voice is an old trick, but when did you come up with the computer graphics?"

What had frightened Alice wasn't the digitized voice of Laura Silvan, the whole hospital had been introduced to it and grown bored with that game a long time ago. This time it was a new twist, a digitized animation of Laura had popped onto the computer screen. Transferred from the singer's new music video, Black Roses, the animation was so lifelike it scared even me.

"I got bored again," I said to Alice. "So I created a pop idol in my computer."

"I think you need a real life girlfriend, not a brainless digital fantasy." Alice lectured me like my maiden aunt.

"Yeah sure, Alice," I said coldly to her as she turned off the lights and powered down the computer, leaving us temporarily in a darkened room. "You know damn well there's no chance of that happening for me now the way I am. No chance at all."

"That just isn't so," Alice started to say. She wanted to tell me that somewhere in the world there was someone who could love a crippled vegetable like me, but it would have been a lie and she knew it. So she pushed me and my wheelchair out the door without saying anything, the wheels creaking on the waxed linoleum in rhythm to the squish of Alice's white nursing shoes trailing a strip of toilet paper.