The Amazing Adventures
of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey
Of Alien Superintelligences, and Visitors
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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,
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
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
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
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!
© Patrick Hill, 2000