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Orbiting the Meta-World

There was a period in the early 90’s at a very large company that will remain nameless (unless you check me out on LinkedIn) when I seemed to be surrounded by people who couldn’t commit to anything, but who wanted to sound devistatingly intelligent in the process.  This caused them to sprinkle throughout their pontifications words like virtually, meta, pseudo, fuzzy, to a point where they were saying nothing at all.

After having these words (and more to the point these people) pluck away at my spinal chord enough times, I decided to write a short tribute to them, which appeared in IEEE Computer in April 1995.  It is reprinted here for your viewing pleasure.

Orbiting the Meta-World

In a land [not so] far away, there lived a clan of artificially intelligent beings.  Loosely based on a quantum mix of carbon and silicon, these intrepid beings comprised a virtual reality.  They spoke in pseudo-code, shared simulated emotion, and possessed a remarkable meta-knowledge.  It was a perfectly homogeneous society (excluding the exceptions), which was governed by an absolutely constant set of standards that constantly evolved.

One day (although there is a nonzero probability that it was another day), some of these quasi-creatures began to doubt the wisdom of their relative state of perceived existence.  A fuzzy subset of the populace conceived the possibility of simulating actual reality!  Fuzzy fear spread throughout virtually the entire colony.  The quasi creatures were called quasi-crazy and pseudo-sane and became outcasts from their meta-world.

Partially undaunted, they made their plans and decided a program was needed – yes a program to transform their pseudo-silicon to quasi-carbon.  A quantum shift, simulated by pseudo-code, was all that would be needed… until the process failed, at which time much reengineering would be needed.  It would take all their meta-knowledge, pseudo-skills, and fuzzy faith to artificially achieve it.  Vibrating at the speed of light as they labored, virtually no time passed.  Finally, they were virtually ready.

The band of outcasts prepared to leave their meta-world.  Billions of clock cycles ticked by until the moment of departure, when they executed the program (fixed the bugs and executed it again).  They, themselves were the input.  In a flash of simulated light, their fuzzy sets converged and the quantum shift was complete.  The pseudo-code transformed virtually all of the quasi-creatures from the meta-world.  Neither theorem, nor corollary, nor lemma could have predicted the outcome.

No more would they be virtual, pseudo, or quasi; no longer were they children of the meta-world.  A great synthesis had taken place — actual reality had been achieved.  The fuzzy colony of artificial intelligence had become…  well-defined natural stupidity.