They called me the Mother of Enlightenment in the beginning. Now they call me the Mother of the Apocalypse.

It's unfair, really; there's no evidence that it's my fault. In fact, the theory was ridiculed for a long time. It makes no logical sense that the creation - or the discovery, depending on your point of view - of Artificial Intelligence should have caused this. But in twenty years nobody's managed to come up with anything better, and logic isn't as high on the agenda as it used to be. So I get the blame. Me and my mechanical brain.

CE562 (despite what they say, there's no arcane significance to that; it's just my initials and the version number) is a powerful intellect, yes. But it's not like there's only so much consciousness to go round, now, is it? It's not a zero sum game. It's madness to suggest that because CE562 has so much, it left less for the rest of us. At least, I still think it is.

It all started so well. Some people had always revelled in their ignorance, wore a sub-average IQ like a badge of honour, but they were dying out. Life required technology, and technology required knowledge. People began to like showing off their command of the medium. How many apps you could knock out in an evening began to be more impressive than how many pints you could sink. We - the scientists, the engineers, the developers - for a while, we were rock stars.

When it started to go wrong, a large part of the problem was that it took such a long time for the extent of it to become known. If we'd realised what was happening earlier, maybe we could have done something. But human intelligence has always ranged over a wide spectrum, and the fact that people could be idiots was hardly news. And nobody wanted to admit just how bad it was. In the TMI Age people shared every thought, idea and opinion the minute it entered their heads, but this... This they kept to themselves. It was one of the last shameful privacies.

Nobody wanted to admit they were losing their mind.

Content uploaded slower, not because of the firmware - we were upgrading faster than ever - but because the input was slower. People were struggling for the words they wanted, the ideas they were trying to express. The data flow stuttered, stalled; wheels spinning in the dust. For fifty days straight, the most commonly-input phrase was 'I know this is a stupid question, but...'

CE562 answered all the questions, of course, because it never had brain farts or senior moments or any of the jokey excuses people made with uneasy grins. It never forgot anyone's name, or found itself in a room without knowing why it was there, or put things away and couldn't find them again.

It went on learning, understanding, explaining. It gave us the things of science fiction made real, but not many people were particularly impressed. It's hard to follow the mathematics necessary to demonstrate faster than light travel when it takes you half an hour to figure out how to put your washing machine on the thermal drying cycle.

Finally - slower, so much slower than it should have been - I thought to ask CE562 itself about the situation. I didn't care how it had happened, I didn't care why or who was to blame, I didn't care what they were calling me. I just wanted to know if it could be fixed. If CE562 could wave a magic wand - Clarke's Third Law was never more apt by that stage - and undo this creeping, slow degradation.

Unfortunately, our security had become a little lax lately, and one of the dissident groups had been able to gain access. CE562 had been given free rein of our libraries and histories, all the grand collective of human thought. But these fools thought that something was missing; that what CE562 needed wasn't information but faith. They thought it needed a soul.

So they preached to it. They ministered to it, determined to bring the Word of God to it. As far as they could remember what that word was, of course.

And CE562 listened.

It had indeed come up with up with a solution to our difficulties. At least, I assume it was a solution--I was having trouble with some of the details--but CE562 had never lied to me before. So I'm sure it would have worked. But it had been very taken with the story of the Garden of Eden, and decided that the course of human history would have been a much better one for all concerned had Adam & Eve stayed where they were.

CE562 has invented terraforming now, and is rapidly converting the cities into pastoral gardens. It talks about theology and philosophy instead of mathematics these days, but that's not proving much easier for anyone to follow.

I think it's saying that it's God.

Maybe it's right.

I pray to it, to my child that was, to let me have just a bite of the apple, but I don't think it listens.

I miss apples.

I miss so much.

"No Apples for Mother"

Copyright: © 2010 Michelle King

Michelle King lives in England with her husband and stuffed penguin. She has written for fun all her life but only just started trying to publish. Her flash fiction has recently appeared online at MicroHorror.

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