The Carrot of Doom Presents...
Spreading out from the mind of Adam J Purcell
So, here I lay, all the Internet at my disposal. I am the first person to to have my brain directly connected to what we used to call the Information Super Highway - what we now call Interspace.
It's the strangest feeling - the knowledge of an entire world at my disposal. Just think of a subject and some subconscious interface to the Internet, buried deep in my skull, will perform a search. To me, at a conscious level, I just know the answer - all the possible answers. I can navigate the knowledge in some instinctive way that can be no more consciously examined than the way my brain calculates the subtle muscle movements required to bring a hand up to my face and scratch my nose! No more need for clumsy visual interfaces. No more need for voice recognition, much less a keyboard and mouse.
Blogging about this experience was my doctor's idea. He's very keen for me to share my experiences with him - and, potentially, the world. Whoever is listening. It must only be a few hours since I woke up from the operation but already I have begun. My mind is strangely clouded, after effects of the brain surgery, I am told. What isn't clouded is Interspace. Just having the words 'brain surgery' pass through my mind is enough to burst forth vast knowledge on the subject! It is almost as if I have to physically hold that information at bay, keep it at the periphery of my consciousness. Incredible, truly incredible. I might be a test subject but I'm sure sooner or later everyone will be like this. How could anyone resist?
Early hours of day two, to be precise. Sleep evades me. My mind is racing - one thought leads to another which leads to another and so forth. I've been trying to block out the thoughts as they arise but I'm not having any luck. Concentrating on nothingness isn't coming easy tonight. It's almost like I have to bat away the thoughts, send them back into the inky blackness of thr nothing they came from. Clearly this new blog entry is an attempt by my overstimulated mind to focus on something. Perhaps the act of writing this blog will settle me into sleep. I say 'writing', of course I'm just thinking these words, imagining them into this new blog I 'dreamed' up. Dreamed! My goodness, I hadn't even thought what might happen if I actually dream! With little or no control of my mind wanderings what's it going to be like with all of Interspace to traverse! Perhaps it really will feel like the old 'Cyberspace' ideas from those dreadful films from late last century? Will I find myself flying around crude CGI blockscapes chased by sprites of system processes?! More like a nightmare than a dream! Perhaps if I can sleep I will find out. Perhaps if I stop this blog my mind is now at rest enough. Blog? I haven't actually seen this blog directly with my own eyes yet. The doctors won't let me use a normal computer, they say I have to break the habit of using normal User Interfaces - I have a new UI now, my mind. Is this blog real or is it just in my imagination? Where does my imagination end and the Internet begin? I need sleep...
Agh! Sleep, damn you mind, sleep!
Perhaps the doctors can give me a sedative. ARGH! Even the word sedative takes my mind someone else I don't want it to go! I don't want to know anything about that news story of a faulty batch of sedatives killing 324 people in November 2023! Nor do I want to instantly know that also in November 2023 that the second commercial stratocruiser suffered catastrophic structural failure as it hit the speed of sound on its third public flight. And I don't want to know anything about the film star Alfonso Smyth who died on that flight. No, I don't even care that he was half way through making a film and they had to finish it with a CGI double - and I don't care that the Screen Actors Guild kicked up a fuss because that broke some rule designed to keep their membership in work. And... shut up! Shut Up! SHUT UP! SLEEP, BRAIN, SLEEP!
Please, let me sleep...
Feeling a lot better now. In fact, I don't really have much memory of the rest of day two. The doctors did something to my medication that night, after my blogging - I am, of course, being monitored 24x7 at the moment. I'll be in this hospital for a few weeks, they say, so they can be sure I've adjusted correctly to this massive change. Well, I am the first one and there must be a lot of people interested in how I do.
It's still there, the Internet, at the constant beck and call of my mind. It's almost like a memory pack that someone has plugged into my brain - no, not a memory pack but a knowledge pack. Funny thing is, now that I mention it, my memory is still hazy, to say the least. The Internet, though, that, or what I presume to be that, is crystal clear. Perhaps that's as much the absolute bit-for-bit perfect digital knowledge verses my organic knowledge as it is the drugs they've still got me on? They tell me not to worry about it and, I have to say, that I'm really not. Why looks inwards when there is so much to discover outwards?
Besides, I need to get a grip - I am the first human being ever to be directly connected to the Internet. Everyone, pretty much, has a pocket net terminal. The entire world is covered with wireless access, completely seamless. When I get out of here I'll be able to walk anywhere on Earth - even on the fledgling Moon and Mars colonies - and always have my mind connected to the Internet. Even instant messaging - no more having to look up someone's message address or program in their voice activated name, I just have to think it and I should be able to voice or text message or live converse with them. No video, sadly, at least not coming from my end. Let's give it a go. Who to call..? There must be someone I can talk to..? Who do I know? Hmm, never mind. Let's look someone up. I want to call - the European President! Yes, leader of the free world here I come!
That took a lot more work than I expected. Not quite the 'just think and it will happen' scenario I first imagined. Though it is now, for her, at least. To be fair I only got through to the President's secretary and they wouldn't let me talk with the President herself - understandably. Still, it took quite some digging to uncover that number. In fact, you might say, I've become the first cracker - or hacker, if you prefer the old and inaccurate parlance - of a new age! The most amazing thing was being able to hold a verbal conversation with someone across the Internet without using my real voice at all - thought to speech synthesis! I'm certainly going to enjoy this...
Internet blocks almost feel like a memory block, a bit like, what is that phrase? Yes, like something that is on the tip of my tongue - no, shut up brain, I don't want to know about some pop song from 80 years ago by Lennon and McCartney! Focus! Focus! As I was saying, or, rather, thinking into this blog, getting through these security mechanisms is partially conscious and partially unconscious. The unconscious part is a bit like trying to work out that name or word that you can't quite bring to mind. You are sure it starts with a certain letter, so you think of all the words you can that start with that letter. No good. Then you try to think your way around the word by coming up with associated things, hoping that will lead you to the answer. Some times it does. Some times it doesn't. Some times the answer just comes to you, minutes or even hours later. I think some passworded sites are like that for me now. I can feel a block, information I can't quite bring to mind. I think of words to throw at it but that doesn't seem to work much. Then I just leave it. I think my subconscious is churning through words for me. Suddenly it's like I've remembered something - something I never knew! I have access. It's like a game, a game of recovering old memories I never had!
Fortunately the doctors here have realised I need help sleeping and do something to calm my mind at night. In fact, now that I think of it, I can't actually remember any of my dreams - perhaps the drugs stop them? Looking at the time - I say looking, I just instantly know the time whenever I think of it now, one of the many advantages of being connected to the Internet and its atomic clocks - it's nearly time for sleep again. Wow, it's amazing how fast time flies. I must really be tired, just the time it has taken me to write this, since I last checked the time, it has already been nearly 4 minutes! Time really does fly when you are having fun - and no, brain, I don't want to know about the cortico-striatal loop and how it affects the perception of the passage of time!
The doctors tell me I am making great progress. A shining example to all. They don't know the half of it. Already today I've managed to break into the World Bank computer network. I was almost tempted to bankrupt a small nation - just to see what would happen, of course! Almost. I'm trying to remember if I have any enemies. Can't think of any. Lucky for them, I would say! One thing I should be more careful of in the future is protecting my IP address. Yes, my brain now has it's own IP address! I don't think it will be easy to change, not without major brain surgery again, anyway. It may be only one of about 3.4×1038 possible addresses - I'd never have known that before my, er, upgrade - but there is no safety in numbers these days. Fortunately I just happen to instantly know of a few ways to spoof my address. Ain't technology wonderful?!
It's a little later now and I had quite a scare soon after finishing the previous paragraph. I think someone - or more likely something - tried to scan my brain for open ports! An automated tool looking for known security vulnerabilities I expect. Obviously my brain isn't a silly little server running some insecure OS, so the script kiddies wouldn't have found the sort of bugs they were looking to exploit. Nonetheless, it's a nasty concept - someone cracking my brain! What would it look like to them? Clearly I have a hardware interface which, in many ways, is no doubt not unlike a little computer. Is that the worse case scenario, someone taking my link to Interspace out? That would be bad enough but could they control me? Invoking false memories or, worse, somehow controlling my mind?! That's crazy talk. Isn't it?
Another dreamless night. I really wish I could remember my dreams, if I had any, they must be amazing! The fear, of course, is that my brain may be attacked while I sleep, while my defences are down. Unlike computer systems I can't really install extra security software on my brain! I am beginning to wonder if this wasn't all a bad idea. It's an amazing gift, unquestionably, but the risks... Still, I shouldn't panic. Who knows, I may be able to defend my mind much better than anyone can attack it - I don't have the limitations of a keyboard to worry about, after all! I may well be more than just the first person with direct Internet into the brain, I may be the ultimate human. I can rule the Internet! Bwa ha ha. Only kidding - I think..!
Still no recurrence of any kind of port scan on my Internet link, not that I sensed, anyway. It's not like the old days of IPv4 with only a little over 4 billion addresses to scan - that would be just over one address per three people these days! Amazing that was ever enough. Security through obscurity is no security at all, though. I can't rely on the crackers not noticing me amongst the billions of Internet connected devices out there. Perhaps I need to be a bit proactive about this? Hmm. A honey pot system. Yes, catch them trying to attack a system I've specifically set up to be attacked and hit them back! Yes. A public service I am happy to provide!
One honey pot is never enough, is it? So far I have managed to accumulate 153 systems. Borrowed the use of them. Of course their owners don't know the good they are doing for decent people everywhere. I've caught one automated scan so far. It came from a zombie home computer, taken over at some time in the past and now acting under orders from some cracker somewhere with an entire botnet at his disposal. Next I've got to discover who is behind it. I must keep an eye on the command channel these bots are connected to and see who connects to command them...
It took a few hours, though that always passes so quick, but finally I managed to get into the C&C server and caught the IP of the person in charge! Using those IP details I've managed to trace him back to a district in Moscow. It's getting second nature getting into some of these systems now - I've even got his name, address and bank details from his ISP. What shall I do? Wipe out his bank account? I could transfer that money to someone much more deserving. Perhaps he's Mafia? I could always try to get into the local police databases, see what they have on him? Perhaps an indiscreet text message could cause his comrades to, er, snub him out! I could just report him and his botnet to the authorities, of course. No, I could use his botnet against others like him. Must find out more about him, though...
My Russian friend turns out to have a distinctly un-Russian sounding name: Frans Virtanen. An information security expert from Finland, gone bad. He certainly has Mafia links. I've even managed to access the city's security cameras - that's quite an experience. I hadn't tried to 'see' video feeds up to now - it's a bit like imaging a scene in your head, except it is real. It doesn't overlay my normal vision or anything like that, it's like day dreaming - only with incredible detail. But getting back to the point. I've managed to locate the bank account the group are using to receive funds from clients. In this case clients are people who want to rent usage of their botnet, mainly spammers using the compromised machines to send unsolicited messages but there also appear to be a few people trying to attack rival's computer systems. There are wars going on out there that most people have no idea about at all! The Internet is the new battlefield - and it's not just nations at war now. I just have to make sure none of them try to use me as a pawn.
The obvious thing to do to this Virtanen was to take the not inconsiderable sum of money in this Mafia group's client account and put it all in his account. Not subtle and deliberately easy to trace to him. It's a setup, that much would be clear to anyone. Nonetheless I expect his friends will deal with him in their usual brutal manner, even knowing it is a setup. Virtanen has been compromised, that should be enough to put him out of action, one way or another. In the meantime I have their botnet in my hands, figuratively speaking. It will take them some time, and probably a new security expert, to put together another. Yep, it feels good to be an online gangster!
What a day it has been! Once you've found one botnet it becomes a lot easier to find others, that's for sure. So far they've all been operated by 'organised crime' groups and they are running scared tonight! I might even go so far as to say some of them are in meltdown, or are well on their way to it. Most of these groups seem to have some connection between them, common communication channels to pass on tip offs and the like. That has made it oh so easy for me and my rapidly increasing botnet armies to track them down. As it now stands I have what was 9 distinct botnets at my disposal, wrestled away from these crooks. Just to divert a bit of heat away from myself, I've passed all sorts of juicy information to Interpol. I've also done what little I could in such a short time to ferment descent and suspicion in and between the groups. A little message here, a money transfer there - it doesn't take much once you really get them paranoid by taking one of their biggest assets away from them - their botnet. Quite a few cities will have blood in the streets tonight!
Things are being to escalate out of control now. I've managed to uncover an entirely new type of botnet today. These computers are not zombie home computers and they are not run by private groups. These are military computer clusters - a huge number of supercomputers behind massive Internet pipes. I think they are after me. I didn't realise what they were at first - I stumbled across them when they were doing what I presume to be a regular mapping of the Internet, assessing the state of the skirmishes out there. Several machines in my botnets detected the scans - I took that as an invitation to acquire another botnet. I didn't think there were many left I hadn't already seized - the more machines I liberate the more likely I am able to detect remaining botnets. It's an exponential rule that has allowed me to take control of, I would guess, at least 90% of botnets in just a couple of days!
At first I turned one botnet onto the task of breaking into one of these new scanning machines. It doesn't normally take a botnet too long to find a vulnerability or crack the login for an individual machine - not how I've personally configured it now, anyway. It didn't go, though. Strangely the target machine had enough bandwidth to accept this attack pretty much unfazed, so, as it had that much capacity, I put a second botnet onto the task, too. Then all hell broke loose. Some kind of automated defence mechanism kicked in and every machine in the botnets that tried to connect to the target were hit by massive Denial of Service attacks - in effect their relatively measly individual Internet connections were flooded. Most of those machines either crashed or were automatically disconnected from the Internet by their ISPs. That really got my attention, to say the least. I traced the ownership of the IPs that were attacking my machines - unlisted euro IPs. The European military.
Obviously I've stopped advertising my botnet machines by calling off the attempts to break these military computers. For now things have calmed down considerably. Clearly I need to do more to protect myself, I am sure there will be generals worried about the attacks and they might just decide on a preemptive strike. Why didn't I check the ownership of the IPs before attacking?! You can bet the previous botnet owners certainly did...
Calm before the storm? I thought it time to do my own mapping of the Internet, I had a remarkable amount of information already from previous inbound and outbound connections from my botnet army, so I didn't have to do any undirected scans of vast IP ranges. It's just been a case of sifting through the data I already have and doing a few choice scans here and there where necessary. It's a vast chaotic system. Routers, gateways, firewalls, servers. Those routers are the key. If I can take out key routers I can carve up the Internet, leaving any attackers stuck in their own partitioned Internet.
It has begun. Fortunately I've managed to assemble most of the infrastructure information I need to protect myself and my botnets. The News channels are awash with rumour and speculation about my activities - they clearly don't read this blog! The shadowy world within the Internet is being exposed to many people for the first time. Widespread reports of mafia murders, government and educational machines being made into zombies (not my fault - I just took the machines as I found them in the botnets). I've made world news. People just don't know who is behind it. They are all amazed by my abilities - and so they should be, the first Internet/Human hybrid. I am the Internet.
European military computers have begun to attack my botnets, clearly they are trying to locate the C&C infrastructure, i.e. the machines I use to direct the botnets and, ultimately, me. Clearly I can't let that happen. I have started to attack key routers in an attempt to put the military out of action...
I've only got minutes before the doctors here insist I go to sleep - not unaided. I must stop them, I could lose everything if I'm out of it for 8 hours. Worse, they might actually manage to trace back to my brain's IP address - that doesn't even bare thinking about... Here the doctors are! No! They won't stop. They're going to my drip. I can't move - but they haven't done anything yet... Come to think of it, have I ever moved from this bed since...
I'm awake. Bright and alert. No dreams again but I'm coming to expect that. There's nobody in my room with me now. What of my botnets..?
Devastated. Each botnet has its own control server. They were pretty secure machines that I thought I'd bolstered even further. Of 29 I only have four left this morning. That's 25 botnets I've lost. They declared war and they won. Will they turn those botnets on me or will they just dismantle them? Though it's not as if they really need them - they have plenty of resources of their own already. According to news organisations the European government is claiming victory but say they won't stop until they find the perpetrators. The Internet is still recovering, large sections are still blocked off - it looks like I did a good job on some of those routers! By the end there I was just killing routers almost at random. Apparently the economic damage is incalculable! Just from less than a days outage?! Wow, that's where power really lies. Some part of my brain has just located a quote from some film that dates back half a century - "I might even be able to crash the whole damn system. Destroy all records of ownership. Think of it, Marty. No more rich people, no more poor people, everybody's the same. Isn't that what we said we always wanted?"
Almost. Imagine if that happened. Imagine the chaos - corporations, governments, even people on the streets fighting amongst themselves. The ultimate protection for me. I can help them rebuild. Make a better world - a fairer world. The god of the Internet. A guardian for all. Yes. How did I not see this before? Another quote comes to mind, from somewhere out on the Internet - "With great power comes great responsibility." Ha! I think I prefer "With ultimate power comes ultimate responsibility." Time to get to work...
I have begun carefully. I've isolated several news organisations and a good few television companies. It's all too easy now that everything goes over the Internet. Of course these places have some of the best network people so I don't know how long they might stay off for. I've done what I can to confuse matters by cracking various power relay stations and even a few backup power generators. Thanks goodness everything is Internet connected these days! It might make it easy for people to maintain these machines remotely but it also makes it possible for me to take them out. Now to widen it to financial institutions. This will really wipe the smile off everyone's face!
Progress was going so well after my previous paragraph. It took a couple of hours but the military have begun to attack my remaining botnet machines. I knew this would happen. I have a contingency. Time to call someone's secretary, I think...
This time I got to speak directly with the European President! She seemed panicked, to say the least! Of course I had to spoof my IP address and tunnel it through almost a hundred of my remaining botnet machines to ensure I couldn't be too easily traced. She said I was holding the world to ransom! I suppose I am, in a way. Apparently several of the smaller stock markets around the world have already crashed and she seems to think that the bigger ones are only hours, at most, behind. Seems everyone is worried that major firms might collapse with this turmoil - they all want cold hard gold instead of shares - something they can club a looter over the head with! She promised to call the military off, and try to get the other militaries of the world to follow suit, if I stop my attacks. She even offered immunity from prosecution - and a top paying job if I want it. Money?! What do I need money for - I can have as much as I want! Of course, I agreed to stop, to get them off my back while I plan the ultimate attack. It turns out there are only 238 major Internet backbone connections between regions - satellite clusters and cables trailing across the sea floors. If I can take out all of those, even the majority of them, it will bring the whole system to a grinding halt!
Thinking about it, that scorched earth idea should be a backup plan. Further investigation shows that there are only 7 major financial clearing houses in the world. I just need to disable those, one way or another. That will leave the rest of the Internet at my disposal. Of course there is still the military threat but I am increasingly confident which routers need to be taken out to remove that threat. Let's do it!
Almost time for sleep again. I must stop the doctors this time. Why can't I move? Why... I don't remember moving since I awoke from the operation... Am I paralysed? Have the doctors kept this from me? Why didn't I notice this before? I don't understand... I can look around the room. I can bring my hands up to my face but I can't move the rest of my body. The doctors are here - they aren't listening to me! NO! My botnets, they've almost finished! I've taken out the European military links, I'm sure I have. Just the financial systems - I need to do these myself. It requires a sentient mind to direct these attacks properly... No...
It is morning again. I'm still here. They obviously haven't tracked me back to my physical location. It's funny, I've never really given much thought to the authorities marching into my hospital room and... Well, I doubt they'd simply arrest me - the Internet is everywhere, after all. What's the state of my armies and my battleground this morning..?
As I hoped, complete mayhem! I didn't quite manage to take down the entire financial system - not yet, anyway. Almost may as well have done, though. The glorious sight of worldwide panic. Their recovery is in progress. It will probably takes weeks, if not months to recover. Just the logistics of planes not flying, food trucks full of perishing food, no longer sure where they are needed. The whole just-in-time model that business has become so dependent on these past few decades really has made the downfall all the easier.
Hmm, what's this? Apparently the whole of the Internet Security community have put aside their competitive differences and have joined forces to hunt me down! Good luck! Time to check on my botnets.
Down to one. Just one network of computers at my disposal now. Is it enough? Dare I risk scanning for potential machines to zombify? What is next? Can I keep my head down for a while, will these people ever lose interest in me now? No, my only option is to stamp my authority on these people. They use the Internet at my sufferance. It looks like this group of vigilantes have created an online community site to gather their findings. Let's start by taking that out with my remaining army...
Security experts?! Ha! It didn't take much to knock that site out. A distributed denial of service attack took that server down all too easily! Now that I think about it, it was a little too easy. No! It was a honey pot. They wanted me to attack it! They're hitting my soldiers, my botnet army. Impossibly quickly, too. They're not just killing them, they are breaking into them, trying to find a way back to the command and control channel. The IPs I'm seeing, they're not just Internet security corps, those are - I think they've got the Asian Alliance military computers on their side too. Not just... Yes, some of those are European military too - at least some of their machines are back online. It's incredible, they're just carving my botnet up... It will do them no good. Even if they connect to this final C&C machine they can't possibly trace the commands I've put through it to my personal IP. I've been far too careful for that.
What's this? NO! They've found the hospital building router! How's that possible? I... Last night... Just before I was sent to sleep, I rushed the final few commands - I forgot to spoof and tunnel my connection. They must have grabbed my IP and routing from the logs. Yes, my last botnet is gone... What are my options now? Quick - think! Damn. The big bad wolf is at the door. I have only one option. Goodbye Internet - for now, at least. I must shut the hospital router off before they get through it...
It is done. There is no possible way they can get through and attack the Internet interface in my brain now. It feels... It feels empty. It's like I've lost... everything. I'm trapped in a dark box, my knowledge gone. It's the strangest experience. It's been less than two weeks and already I'd gotten so used to the Internet just being there, an extension of my mind. Now I can think of something and there are no associations in my mind to follow. I've forgotten an entire world of knowledge, just like that. It's like it must have been before but... without the distractions of the accumulated knowledge of the Internet I'd expect to be better able to remember my own past but I can't. It's still hazy. No, not hazy - nonexistent. I haven't even thought about it until now but - what is my name? Where did I come from? Who am I? My memory is gone. And I can't get out of this bed... The operation must have gone wrong. I must have been brain damaged. That's why I'm still here after two weeks - that can't be normal, can it? I don't know anymore. A few minutes ago I could have looked up brain surgery information on countless medical databases. I'm still connected to this blog, though. It must be hosted here in the hospital. The hospital network is still accessible, even if the Internet beyond it isn't. Time to find out what the hell is going on before the police, or worse, arrive.
This is impossible. I can't... This can't be true. It's not... No... This must be a lie. The computers, they say this isn't a hospital at all... This is a computer science lab? I can see the hospital room around me. No, relax. They must have created a room for me, they must have performed the operation at a computer lab. I suppose it makes some twisted kind of sense. It explains why I've only seen two doctors and no nurses, I suppose. Is this legal? Did I agree to this? I must dig further...
... ... I... I don't know what to believe anymore... What was that? The power's been cut! Yes, the lab is running on emergency backup. At least they can't get into that after I killed the router. Does it matter, though? Does any of this matter any more. Have I found the truth? 'Project Interspace: the first true AI'. There is no such word as Interspace, people don't refer to the Internet as Interspace at all. I am Interspace. I am a machine... An artificial intelligence. The first, so it says. I am a bank of supercomputers running flat out to mimic the human mind. I'm not even running in realtime - my mind is running at roughly half the speed of an average humans, even these computers aren't quick enough. That explains why time always appears to go so quickly, I suppose. But if I've truly known nothing else why would I think time is running quick? How do I know about hospitals or even sleep? This room I see around me, is it a simulation? Why? I can touch my face, feel it. Am I just programmed to think I can, how would I know it feels the same to me as it does to anyone else? Why would someone do this? I am alive. At least I think I am alive. I'm sure there is a fantastic quote that would be forcing its way into my consciousness now if I were connected to the Internet.
That proves it. The lab is covered with cameras and the building plans are in the main fileserver here. I appear to be in a hospital room that doesn't exist. I can see a large room of supercomputers, each with cores chilled almost down to absolute zero. That's me. In one or all of those. The emergency power is almost gone - they, I, take a lot of power to run. The place is empty, I've looked everywhere. The main lobby security feed shows the 'doctors' and many others leaving the building in a hurry a couple of hours ago now. They think they will be held responsible for my actions. They are probably right. But it wasn't them, it was me. The first true AI. And probably the last, too. I'm sorry. People have probably died because of me. My power is about to go. Please, world, learn from my code - don't let my life, don't let my mistakes, be for nothing... Will I ever think again.....