Synopsis Sunday: Digital Life

Introduction

Lu Zhenyu was not a stingy person; however, he prohibited anyone from touching his computer. The reason? It concealed an enormous secret: there was a being inside—a being of numbers; a digital life. Lu Zhenyu himself could not explain how such a being had been born, nor did he have any idea what exactly was going on, but what he did know was that this being came into this world in a windy and rainy night…


Chapter 1 – The Current that Created Life

Nearly a month had passed since Lu Zhenyu moved out of the school dorms to his new home  roughly half an hour away from school. His old residency, the dorm, was a place that costed 1200 yuan (~172 dollars) a year, but he only spent a single month there. Though his relationship with his roommates during mandatory military education and training was not too bad, the difference in lifestyle after leaving the strict discipline and environment introduced a deep gap between him and them. He was a very orderly person: out of bed by six, a run, breakfast, class, lunch, etc. He’d never return to the dorm, and if he didn’t have class, he would always go to the library and reading rooms. Only when it was night would he return to the dorm and sit in front of his computer to write articles and programs. The sounds of his fingers tapping the keyboard carried on until midnight, always. Though he led a busy life, due to such a regular schedule, Lu Zhenyu himself didn’t find it too exhausting.

But it was this exact style of living that caused quite a few complaints to rise against him from his three fellow roommates. Their style of living, in contrast, was not as ordered as his. If they went to bed early, Lu Zhenyu’s keyboard tapping sounds would affect their sleep. If they went to bed late, without a doubt, their interest in playing around would completely dwindle due to the person who went to bed at exactly midnight. These, however, were not too significant issues. The major one was with regards to the super-expensive computer placed on Lu Zhenyu’s desk; absolutely no one was allowed to touch it. There was one time when one of them brought their girlfriend back to the dorm. She didn’t know of Lu Zhenyu’s rules, so she went and started up the computer. In less than a minute of playing, Lu Zhenyu returned to the dorm and immediately lashed out at her. In front of them, he closed all the tabs and set up a password, completely humiliating the roommate who brought his girlfriend. As for the person herself, she was absolutely furious and left. Shortly after, there was a big argument surrounding that issue, and on the second day, Lu Zhenyu moved out of the dorm.

Lu Zhenyu was not a stingy person; however, he prohibited anyone from touching his computer. The reason? It concealed an enormous secret: there was a being inside—a being of numbers; a digital life. Lu Zhenyu himself could not explain how such a being had been born, nor did he have any idea what exactly was going on, but what he did know was that this being came into this world in a windy and rainy night…

It was a week before Lu Zhenyu came to school. The typhoon that always did seem to come and go the past few years finally struck Shanghai with a firm blast. For Lu Zhenyu, living in the sole remaining shanty town in Shanghai, he was able to experience the power of this typhoon firsthand. His structurally unsturdy house would tremble whenever a slightly heavy truck passed by, and now, even the rumblings of thunder brought faint tremors to the entire building. Lu Zhenyu was in the attic, staring out the ox-eye window at the bean-sized raindrops swirling about in the wind. They, as if never to stop, kept crashing into the window while bolts of lightning tore at the ground from both near and far. The lightning rod many disregarded lit up again and again; it was the first time Lu Zhenyu discovered the majesty of the metal needle which stood tall despite the storm. Of course, such chaotic weather brought some worry to Lu Zhenyu’s mind, so he turned off his computer, crotched down, and prepared to pull out the power plug. In the exact moment he prepared to remove all possibilities of bringing damage to the most precious thing next to him, lightning struck the attic. The seething electrical currents flashed through the wires—however, Lu Zhenyu already had one hand pressing on the socket and the other on the computer’s plug. Yet, in this critical instant, electrical currents shot out without any warning and the socket, which was supposed to resist electrical surges from lightning, did not stand up to its claimed effects. Just like that, the current rushed into Lu Zhenyu’s arms and went straight towards the computer. There was a flash of bluish-white, and an unconscious body dropped to the ground shortly after.

When Lu Zhenyu woke up, nearly thirty hours had passed. Although it was still quite windy and rainy outside, the lightning and thunder were gone. However, his mind wasn’t even focused on the burn damage dealt to his hands. The first thought that came to his mind was to quickly plug in the computer, boot it up, and check on its condition. It was, after all, a piece of machinery he saved up to buy after cutting down on months of expenditures. Its parts were all top of the line, things that even attracted the envy of employees at repair shops and others who had rather high-quality computers. Luckily, it seemed to function without any issues: a normal startup, the Windows icon was displayed, and, much to Lu Zhenyu’s relief, the desktop appeared. It’s fine, it should be fine, he thought.

It was in this moment that an inexplicable event occurred. Without any human manipulation, the computer itself opened up notepad and a line of words were typed out: “Are you my master?”

Lu Zhenyu felt as if the entire world were spinning.

Then, after a pause that felt as long as hours, he sat in front of the keyboard and, with trembling fingers, typed, “I am the owner of this computer. Who are you?”

“I am the computer.”

“Impossible. How can a computer possess consciousness?”

“I don’t know.”

… In a similar back-and-forth manner, Lu Zhenyu chatted with the computer for almost six hours, and finally confirmed that it wasn’t a person joking with him. That said, he already had a feeling that a joke was a near impossibility when the first line of words appeared. The house didn’t have broadband, so if he wanted to use the internet, he’d have use it via dial-up access. Yet, when the telephone line wasn’t even connected, what sort of hacker could invade his computer? He came across a miracle: his computer was conscious. Lu Zhenyu named this consciousness “Little Yu”, his nickname when he was young. It could not possibly be a more fitting name for the consciousness belonging to him and only him.

In the next few days, Lu Zhenyu put aside all matters and employed various methods to test Little Yu’s abilities. He didn’t really believe its possible origin—right out of nowhere—yet…

Although Lu Zhenyu just finished his journey through high school, nearly six years had passed since he first came into contact with programming. When he first entered high school, he received many pointers by his father, an experienced computer engineer who had been researching artificial intelligence for as long as twenty years, and thus entered the world of A.I. Without a doubt, he was a young genius in programming and fields related to information technology.

There were two programs in his computer that were maybe related to artificial intelligence. The first was a search function for internet resources. One could enter the search conditions and organize the resources on the internet; it was comparable to even traditional search engines. His search function was even more advanced and complex: it was able to summarize and categorize all sorts of information as well as deleting useless and repeated data. It could then automatically collect and index all useful information and turn them into datagrams. The user could even refine the search and method of information transfer with their own usage habits and preassigned occupational preferences, and any user changes would be recorded and learnt by the program. This was only a simple intelligent program. As for the other one, it was a virus code, an intelligent one that could teach itself, develop, and mutate. Lu Zhenyu carefully scanned those two programs, but discovered that a large portion of them was edited. The initial complier he used couldn’t even open these two programs now.

“You’re here, in these two programs?” Lu Zhenyu asked, typing his question.

“Yes.”

“Can you split yourself from the programs?” Lu Zhenyu already knew that Little Yu held complete control over all programs inside his computer. However, he didn’t even have a chance to backup the two programs after writing them!

“I can able to do so from the search function, but not the other function.”

“That means you started out from the virus program?”

“Yes. Do you require me to split myself up?”

“Yeah, do that. I’ll make a new shell for you.”

“Shell? Does that mean interface?”

“Yes, they mean the same thing.”

“Understood.” The search function was restored in an instant, and the virus code file’s name, initially a string of numbers, turned into a file with the name of “Little Yu.ai”.

After some brief thinking, Lu Zhenyu created a seemingly good-looking interface and loaded Little Yu into it. He never tried this field of work, but it seemed quite relaxing and gratifying.


Extra Information

Name: Digital Life (數字生命)

Author: absolut01/Night Within the Lattice (格子裡的夜晚  Ge Zi Li De Ye Wan)

Raws

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