The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey

Of Alien Superintelligences, and Visitors
Billy Brown

      First, let me say that of all the characters I have encountered in the last decade or so of chain-reading, Sara is by far my favorite. I can't wait to see where the story goes from here.
      On the topic of Cryptoaliens, ultratechnology, and where we are ultimately headed, I've got some links you may find interesting:

      The Extropy Institute in particular has a lot of interesting material in the archives about advanced technologies — and if you haven't encountered Transhumanism before, I think you'll find it brings up a whole new concept of what really advanced technology would be like.
      A few observations about Sara's construction:
      1) So far she has yet to use any measurable fraction of the processing power she should have. Building computers out of individual molecules using nanotechnology (see the Foresight link for details) will get you the equivalent of an '80s-era supercomputer the size of a microbe. Sara was made by people who could build computers out of customized forms of matter at a density similar to neutronium — and they presumably can build quantum computers as well, which makes even the toughest problems tractible. We're talking 1015 Megaflops per cubic micron, at a very conservative estimate, so… Summary: She can compute absolutely anything any human will ever come up with. Don't sweat the details.
      2) If you ever want more ideas for enhanced senses, I've got dozens of pages worth of stuff that could be implemented even by primitive civilizations (you know, people that think nanotechnology is neat stuff).
      3) About those laser eyes — there is no reason the energy output has to actually come from her irises. We know her makers have mastered dimensional engineering. Put an energy projector in a pocket dimension, and open a pair of wormholes in front of her eyes for the beams to emerge from. The actual mechanism could be microscopic, or it might be the size of a planet — we'll neven know.
      4) By the way — dimension warping also implies controlled wormholes, which lead to (apparent) teleportation and possibly time travel. Of course, her makers may not have wanted to give her such powers — but then again, they may just be dormant until she has a need for them.
      In parting, thanks and good luck!
      Billy Brown, MCSE+I

      Thanks for the letter. It's great to actually hear from someone who has read my silly story. As far as where the story is going, I think I have a few surprises in store, so stay tuned.
      I have been really amazed at the attention my story has received on the web. It's really quite gratifying, especially since it's not really prominently connected to anything other than the Aurora Universe. I think that when I'm done and have pumped up the website a great deal with more letters, anecdotes, background stories, etc., I'll experiment around with some promotional ideas I have. I don't have any delusions about actually getting this stuff published (as in a real book you can hold in your hands and get paid for), but this is really just practice for my next book. I've never actually written any fiction before, so I don't think I've 'peaked' yet as an author. Who knows?
      I appreciate the suggestions regarding related websites and will check them out. I have some passing knowledge of the topics you mentioned, but love to do the 'research' end of constructing the story. 'Transhumanism' is a new term for me, though.
      Regarding your observations about Sara's construction:
      "So far she has yet to use any measurable fraction of the processing power she should have."
      You have a gift for understatement. Our generation of standard-issue humans will probably never come at all close to experiencing even the slightest fraction of her computing power. In comparison, all her other super-attributes are merely curious and insignificant side effects of her physical construction. Our generation is, however, the first that can begin to utilize such power through our infant global interconnectedness. At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, such a visitation would be useless.
      "If you ever want more ideas for enhanced senses, I've got dozens of pages worth of stuff that could be implemented even by primitive civilizations."
      Whoa! You really mean it? I'd love to see that…! The 'kreening' idea is really only a first step. I plan to introduce a few other sensory innovations later on.
      "About those laser eyes — there is no reason the energy output has to actually come from her irises."
      Good point. But if her irises are near-degenerate matter, the energy flux per square centimeter should be able to approach pulsar-surface proportions. That should be sufficient for most purposes, I would think. The more important parameter to my mind is the computer-assisted control she would have of her laser output, in terms of focus, frequency and scanning. What could a contemporary earthly laser of 'Star Wars' power connected to our most powerful supercomputer be able to accomplish? Far less than Sara…
      "By the way — dimension warping also implies controlled wormholes, which lead to (apparent) teleportation and possibly time travel. Of course, her makers may not have wanted to give her such powers — but then again, they may just be dormant until she has a need for them."
      Sure. In fact, a minor software change in her computer-brain could result in profound shape-changing ability. As author (God), I have to impose some constraints for narrative purposes. One of my fellow Aurora Universe Writers' Group friends insists that Sara ought to be capable of employing telepathic powers, which probably makes sense. Where to stop? I don't want to get into the game of pulling new superpowers out of my hat for every emergency.
      One of my more well-educated readers maintains that Sara would not make that much of an impact on humanity because she can only be in one place at a time. Not true at all. Since she is able to communicate directly to our communication channels via megachannels of simultaneous radio links managed by 'virtual agents' in her computer brain, she can be almost everywhere at the same time — virtually, at least. She could conceivably eventually manage all — all — traffic on our little planet. And make the trains run on time…
      There's a dangerous temptation to turn it into some kind of quasi-religious kind of thing, but I'll try to avoid going there if I can. That's just it, though. In every way that can be imagined, extrapolating even lowly humans a billion or so years into the future (or at least the descendants of humans, either by evolution or by conscious direction — or some combination), you come up with something approaching the almost god-like, from our perspective. Such civilizations or creatures must surely exist out there somewhere. We can only guess at the motivations and ethics of such advanced and powerful entities.
      I have this fantasy that 'they' are amused by my Susan story and decide — what the hell — to make it so.
      Hope to hear from you again.


      I checked out some of the links you provided, especially skimming though the 'Transhumanism' FAQ. Very interesting convergence of ideas. I suppose you could think of my Sara as being an exemplar of some kind of wholly created ‘exotranshuman’, or more precisely, pseudo-superhuman exotranscryptoalien (try saying that three times really fast). She is deliberately designed so that her consciousness emulates humanity closely, so that most of her extraordinary sensory input and computational powers are in the background. Her fully conscious AI essentially rides atop this colossal mechanism — which can simultaneously host an entire nation of subsidiary AI's as necessary. You could think of her as a virtual massive alien invasion. But the personality in control is just Sara, who thinks she sees the world in the same three colors that we do, most of the time. I think that to do otherwise would be to make her utterly alien to humans as presently constituted. There's no reason she should be left behind by directed human evolution, though.
      "Supergirl…somehow manages to simultaneously be an icon of feminine perfection, the embodiment of a moral ideal, and a symbol of innocence."
      That's exactly what I'm going for. Sara is not actually ‘Supergirl’, though. I can't exclude the possibility that her form constitutes the Crypotoaliens' idea of a joke. Still, as I mentioned to Sharon Best in my first letter (it's on my website), there's something very compelling about the Supergirl uberstory. I think the DC folks have been very consistent about missing the mark. The ‘Supergirl’ we haven't yet really seen from them is downright proto-mythological, even more so than her dorkish cousin Kal-El. As an archetype, ‘she’ doesn’t belong to them.
      At least Kara Zor-El started out as a version of a human, and incorporates humanity in her present DC incarnation. Sara's superficial physical resemblance and attributes are of trivial import compared to her underlying processing and communication abilities. Still, Sara may be designed to actually be more 'human' in attitude and personality that Kara could be.
      "Working purely from first principles, it seems that Sara should be able to learn to enhance her own intelligence by tapping into that vast reserve of processing power."
      I think 'intelligence' may involve more than just processing power. Analogy time: The US decides to conduct its own 'Sara' experiment. They send a cute, smart and exceptionally fit sixteen-year-old girl to some hitherto undiscovered South Pacific isle populated by Stone Age aborigines, and equip her with a few dozen Cray supercomputers (neglecting to load actually useful data), a small army of techs and thugs to run the equipment and mindlessly obey her every whim, and maybe a few bulldozers and other useful heavy machinery. Would this 'Sara' necessarily be more intelligent than the local shaman, a wise old gent with vast experience who happens to have an IQ equivalent to 160 or so? She could undoubtedly beat the snot out of him at chess, with the aid of a 'Big Blue' program. She could change the course of local mighty rivers. She could make the canoes run on time. But, smarter? In what ways?
      My Sara is different, of course. She's still only a kid who happens to own the biggest computer on the block. If her Cryptoalien makers had endowed her with a six-figure IQ (or filled up her memory banks with some kind of ultimate Cryptoalien super-encyclopedia), her interactions with humanity could be disasterous to our collective psyche. That's why there's a Prime Directive (there is, isn't there?).
      See, that's the problem with the usual First Contact story, including the ‘Superman/Supergirl’ universe. Contact with an advanced culture changes everything. Suddenly, we humans are insignificant. I mean, it was bad enough when Copernicus & Galileo broke the bad news about not being at the center of the Cosmos.
      Einstein becomes a moron. Shakespeare becomes a hack. It's no longer possible to build a better mousetrap. Our entire planet has nothing of value to trade for as much as a stick of alien chewing gum. The best we can hope for in the Galactic pecking order is a brief note in a travel guide, "Mostly harmless."
      So Sara's an empty vessel. How frustrating! And — what's worse — she doesn't particularly have the inclination to do any kind of heavy research. She'd rather hang out with the Urban Animals. (By the way, I've gotten dozens of e-mails from real UA's who have read the story. I guess it's a word of mouth kind of thing.) She'll have no trouble keeping up with human advancement, though.
      "It would be quite plausible for Sara to be able to detect (and track, in real time) the movements of everyone on Earth simply by their minute gravitational fields."
      Whoof… Talk about Big Brother — er, Sister. I dunno. Gravitation is pretty faint and there would probably be a lot of noise. It might be one of the unknown components of 'kreening', though. She could certainly spot others of her kind anywhere in the Solar System. Actually, that's already part of my story (in chapters to come), but from the other way around. Reports of anomalous gravitometer readings by geologists are part of the rumor mix presaging Sara's emergence. Our military types use the equipment to confirm that she is unaccompanied, at least by similar Cryptoalien constructs.
      "Sara's sensors can probably intercept and interrogate every single photon that touches her surface."
      Yeah, that's pretty much how I envisioned the bulk of the mix of sensory inputs that constitute 'kreening', except that there is an active element as well as the passive one (she has her own radio [etc.] flashlight, as needed).
      "On a side note, Sara's radio perception should also be capable of reading computer screens…from a distance of at least a few hundred yards."
      Or unconsciously just record every keystroke made in her vicinity. There are hacker programs that do that and send the text file to you via e-mail or FTP.
      "Kreening can't pick out colors directly? No problem. You can calculate what color something will be if you know its chemical composition, and she apparently can kreen that."
      Thought of that after I finished Part One. Was going to mention that while she was at NASA — actually have one of the scientists come up with it. It certainly makes sense. I was going to modify the chemical composition analysis with heat, where appropriate. Sara doesn't actually have to ‘talk’ to her computer. It's way ahead of her. If she decides she wants to see something in, say, infrared, it's a visual overlay kind of thing on demand without actually having to make a conscious demand. If her computer brain decides she needs to see something in infrared, it's there. In any event, all infrared data is analyzed and stored for future reference.
      "…adding something as flaky as telepathy would probably ruin the suspension of disbelief for most people."
      Absolutely. Unfortunately, we AU writers are currently engaged in writing a cooperative story in which we all meet at a Sci-fi Con in Atlanta. In the story, we've hired models to portray various AU characters at our AU booth, but I'm unable to find a suitable Sara (I get slapped in the face a lot). The 'real' one shows up instead. Several guys have already written their encounter chapters which include a variation of the Spock 'mind-meld' (contact telepathy) as a central element. I'm trying to argue that down to more of an empathic connection, which given Sara's ongoing realtime kreenalysis (kewl, another new word) of a person's physiology makes some sense.
      Other sensory input: how about ‘neutrino vision’? She's pretty near dense enough to stop a few of 'em here and there, so she should be able to build up a model over time of the gross internal structure of the entire mudball we live on — and the rest of the planets, too. Oh, and the Sun. Not much good for small stuff, though. Like continents.
      "Actually, I think billions of years is overkill."
      I happen to know that one of the members of Sara's design team is one-and-a-half billion years old. And he's still living at home.
      Why not billions? I've gotta believe that there must have been at least one technological civilization in this Galaxy that first left its birth planet before ours was formed. If they developed some analogue of immortality, then some of them are still around, at least virtually. We never get to meet the Cryptoaliens, so we might as well make them the equivalent of what we should imagine their potential could be — except that we probably can't. Which is why we never get to meet them (I am not worthy!).
      Hey, this could be billions of years of advancement at highly advanced time rates, even. Now, that's beyond the singularity!

Next Letter

Proper Waffles
Table of Contents

© Patrick Hill, 2000