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The Nine Bajillion and One Names of God

Sure, I'll state my name for the record. It's Maggie Rodgers, with a D. Like "and Hammerstein," not like "Mister." Where should I start? All the way at the beginning?
So, on paper the project was called the Supersimulation, but privately, we called it "The Nine Bajillion Names of God." Hard to get research funding under the auspices of an inside joke.
But we did get funding, from twenty-seven countries and four independent research organizations and a couple dozen billionaires who thought this flavor of good P.R. was more interesting than, I don't know, ending world hunger or curing tuberculosis or something like that. No one's ever built a supercomputer this powerful; maybe no one ever will again, I don't know. Takes a lot money to keep it running, sure, but also? A lot of cat-herding to keep MIT, South Korea, the owner of the London Lions all at the same table. No, I didn't have anything to do with it. You can thank our marketing folks for that one.
The end result, of course, is the most detailed, most accurate simulation of the universe that's ever been devised, and yes, that one I will take some of the credit for. Not all, of course. That was a team effort: feeding in the data, the fundamental laws of the universe. That's were the inside joke came in, see, those were the names of God. You get it? e=mc^2, there's one name; the ideal gas law, there's another, and so on. And then layers upon layers of refining the output, bending the world we'd made toward the world we lived in. Some of that was automated, sure, but you'd be surprised just how much hands-on time it takes to create the whole damn universe from scratch.
And of course that's what we were doing, even if it we didn't realize it at first. That would have been a hell of a thing to write into a grant application, wouldn't it? Wasn't till about two years in that we started to notice what was happening--what was really happening. If you make a simulation of the universe that's good enough, powerful enough... At some point it's not so much a simulation anymore. It's just plain old Universe, Jr.
All right, yes, the next part, that's the one I can't take full credit for so much as full blame. I took lead on Input, after all, you can check the digital signatures. The credentials for those later entries are all mine.
When did I start? I think it must have been just after the third round of the Water Riots. When the south side had no power but up here, in our nice cozy campus in the suburbs, we were running bright and warm. I thought I could make just some little edits. Fine-tuning, right? Maybe no one would even notice, or that's what I convinced myself. A little bit of bias toward sentience. A tweak toward stability.
From there it wasn't a big jump to some of the really important stuff. Plugging kindness, fairness, diversity, and beauty in right alongside the laws of gravity. "Be good to one another, damn it," baked right into the crust of the universe, so that mercy and grace are ever-increasing arrows right alongside entropy. Do you really mean to tell me if you had the chance to take a chisel to the cold stony face of the world as you know it, you'd just turn your back and walk away?
I know that this isn't what this hearing is for, but we've all heard that the investors are talking about pulling the plug. That the money poured in isn't worth it now that the data coming out isn't congruent to our universe anymore. The money! Jesus Christ. Have you thought about what if we could ask, if we could talk to the beings in there? Have you thought about what they could tell us? I sure have.
And as for why we're all really here today, well. If the board wants to fire me, sue for damages to the project, I'm sure you'll do what you think is right. That's what I did, after all. I can live with the rest, because God has a bajillion and one names now, all right? And the last one is Justice, and I'm proud to say I scribbled it in there myself.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

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