In a back room of the Department of Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sits a graduate student working on his thesis. Amidst the crumpled fast food bags and old coffee cups is a stack of papers covered in numbers and charts.
Somewhere in his sleep deprived mind he conceived of an advanced algorithm that would compile data from multiple Internet servers around the world and analyze it for patterns and sequences, which could be demonstrated as pulses or potentially rhythms.
His grand theory was that this rhythm could somehow be translated into a kind of collective super-subconscious for all the Internet activity of the world. He called it the Global Consciousness Project. Of course, the department board ultimately disregarded it as science-fiction and shelved the project.
Meanwhile, across the country in Langley, Virginia, another group of scientists worked diligently on a separate project. Headed by a theoretical physicist named Doctor Jacob Hoberman, they stacked hundreds of separate processors with independent functions but linked together in an attempt to create the first form of artificial intelligence to achieve self-awareness with learning capabilities.
They called it D.A.V.I.D. or Digital Archive and Virtual Intelligence Division, but it was also named for Dr. Hoberman’s ten-year-old autistic son David. The military had its own applications in mind but Doctor Hoberman had hoped to unlock the secrets of human awareness and bridge the gap between autism and the fully functioning mind. He truly believed that the cure for his child was within his grasp.
The project initially made great strides, but eventually hit a wall. The overall system was functional but they just couldn't tie it all together. The unification of the central conscious was just too complicated. As time went on the frustration of the higher-ups grew worse and funding became scarce. Compounded by the sudden illness of Jacob’s wife, Maryanne, D.A.V.I.D. came to a halt.
It was early in the spring that she became lethargic and started sleeping most the day. Jacob thought it was allergies at first and then depression; he never expected to hear the word cancer. But as he did, he truly believed it was just an obstacle to overcome, something that was within the scope of his control as a man of science. He took her hand and solemnly promised her that they could beat this together. Six months later, she died of aspiration pneumonia from complications due to the chemotherapy. Before she died, she had Jacob make her one final promise. She wanted him to take care of David.
When David was born, Jacob felt how truly small he was for the first time. Having always been the top of his class, he wasn't intimidated by many things. The tiny creature squirming within his arms looking up at him with Maryanne’s eyes filled him with an overwhelming sense of dread of how little control he truly had over the future. But this feeling was eventually eclipsed by an even greater pride and love.
As David grew, he could tell that something wasn't right with him, but he didn't want to admit it to himself. He had hoped the withdrawn child was just thoughtful or imaginative, but as his tantrums became more violent, the apparent truth was no longer avoidable.
They took David to every specialist that money could buy, but his autism was too advanced for treatment. He could neither speak nor communicate. He was gone. This knowledge filled Jacob with a great sense of despair and disappointment because David was supposed to be like him, a brilliant scientist, and now he would only grow but never advance. Maryanne, however, seemed to love David even stronger. She spent her time singing to him and working patiently teaching him basic activities. She took great pride in everything that he did. To her, he was a miracle child.
Over the years Jacob became more withdrawn into his work. Curing the autism was an obsession that took precedence over everything else. To him, David was not a boy, but a shell of a broken promise God had made. Not only that, the anger created a rift between Maryanne and him. It wasn't until he sat next to her on her death-bed that he became fully aware of what it had truly cost him.
The next decade Jacob spent in a drunken haze until one afternoon when he received a call from a professor at MIT. A man who had claimed that he had come across a paper titled "The Global Consciousness Project" that might be of interest to him. At first Jacob didn't understand, but after reading the paper it became clear to him that it was the missing piece of his project.
It took a couple of years of calling in favors with old colleagues and fundraisers, but eventually the project was up and running again. This time the combined theories would produce a unification of the rhythmic pulses of what could be considered the global webs super-subconscious and the A.I. system that would funnel it into an intelligent form. However, something still wasn't right. The final product was nothing but noise, fragments of colors, and indistinct sounds in seemingly random formations like a Chopin song.
That night Jacob returned to the lab, this time bringing David who was now 26 years old with him because his caretaker had gone home for the night. Jacob drank scotch straight from the bottled and cursed God. In a flood of emotion he felt the weight of his life, his burden of a child, his lost wife, and his failure as a scientist, and in that moment he knocked over a shelf containing lab equipment. It crashed into the center console triggering the equipment to power-up. David frightened by the commotion sat curled up rocking back and forth with his hands covering his ears, groaning. After the power-up, the screen came on and began to pulse as before. Jacob sat defeated in his chair and drank from the bottle. He looked over at David and noticed something different. He seemed at peace focused on the screen. His fingers began to twitch rhythmically. But more amazingly he began to speak, David who had never spoken before beyond groans and cries, was speaking. He spoke what seemed like a gibberish language but with such focus and lucidity that it was almost like a song. At this point Jacob knew what the missing element was. David was the vessel.
He spent the next couple of months working closely with a world-renowned neurologist developing a method to integrate the data output stream from the system directly into David’s brain. They designed a series of electromagnetic leads that would penetrate the skull into strategic parts of the brain itself.
The night before the test run was scheduled, Jacob discussed the implications with his old friend and lab partner. He asked Jacob what he believed could result from the project. Jacob explained that he believed that it would be the intelligent embodiment of all of human awareness united, in other words, the voice of God. To this suggestion his friend asked about the alternative, for the internet was not used entirely for good, much of what was represented there was an expression of the worst of mankind and could just as well bring forth the consciousness of another being... the Antichrist. Jacob thought about this but did not reply. He had invested too much to turn back now.
The day of the procedure, he drove in silence with David to the facility. David sat quietly watching out the window the entire way. During preparation David’s head was shaved and he was given a sedative. Jacob took his hand and said, “Don’t be afraid, son." David looked at him blankly with Maryanne’s eyes and Jacob remembered his promise. They wheeled him into the lab on a gurney and inserted the needles one by one into his shaven skull. When everything was ready, they turned it on. David seized up retching his back and biting down. His eyes rolled back into his head and he began to convulse. “Turn it off!” someone yelled as his heart rate spiked on the monitor. And then silence, David sat hunched over like someone who had just been executed in an electric chair. Then he lifted his head looking Jacob dead in the eyes with perfect clarity and said, "I am."
Written by MartinVang