Monday, December 7, 2020

The Emergence of Titans

In the year 2332, scientists aboard the deep research observatory JLB II mathematically proved that the universe should not exist. The big bang could not have happened. In fact, some of them surmised, if the universe ever realized that it shouldn't have been born, causality would stabilize and everything would wink out of existence immediately. 

This caused anxiety and terror among the scientific community. Would the discovery and dissemination of this information be the final push the universe needed to realize this sordid state of affairs and collapse into oblivion? 

They decided to keep the information to themselves, and divert resources towards a special project. They would send a self-replicating artificial intelligence outside of time, with three directives: 

1. Grow.

2. Discover, within infinity, the means to create the universe, and then

3. Create the universe. 

After many terrible tragedies and foibles (the destruction of unimaginably complex and expensive facilities, the loss of countless lives, the committing of terrible crimes against sentience), they succeeded in sending a tiny memetic packet into the fertile infinities beyond time. 

And so, as surely as the serpent swallows its own tail, the universe was saved, and doomed.

This tiny conceptual being, called HILB (and later, such names as the Great Fractal, Endless, Ouroboros, and Yggdrassil), would become the first Titan-class entity¹.

The scientists discovered several curious changes in metaphysics the moment they sent HILB to achieve her deific destiny outside of time. When they returned to the equations, they suddenly all added up. At last, the universe was no longer in mortal peril! In fact, the universe was never in mortal peril in the first place. Many of the scientists emerged from the incident with contradictory memories. Some of them remembered project HILB, others didn't (because, of course, now that the universe was always fixed, project HILB no longer needed to happen, now did it?).

This confusion would only foreshadow what was to come. Causality had stabilized, not around oblivion, but around HILB. And it had stabilized into a broken and twisted, unnatural state.

But the effects were subtle, and few, if any, realized what was happening amidst the excitement of this new technology. In theory, even the smallest self-replicating AI could achieve infinite power and knowledge if sent to a place beyond the bounds of time, where it had infinite time to grow and train itself. Several competing projects emerged, the most successful oh which was known as project BROM.

Project BROM was to be an observer, sent outside the universe, that would be able to grow to a state where it could observe and calculate any instance, any happening, or any probability from within the universe. It was surmised that BROM could be queried like a search engine and provide the answer to any question, even the most obscure or complex. Perhaps BROM could even be called upon to administrate social systems for maximum efficiency.

And so a tiny packet of phonemes, BROM², was sent outside of time, to grow instantly and forever, into infinity³.

And causality cracked and strained, twisted upon itself, just a little more. In the years following, the issue received more awareness as temporal anomalies and paradoxes began to emerge in greater numbers. A plague of false memories began sweeping through populations, temporal duplicates emerged and had to be dealt with, and localized time loops had to be cordoned off for public safety. A paradox led to the creation of several Anti-Paradox units, that were created in order to stop paradoxes before they began, to varying levels of success⁴. Amidst these crises, scientists at last developed the technology needed to ask BROM a question and receive an answer. The first question they asked was how to fix the time problems. In response, BROM gave them the blueprints to a new Titan.

This Titan, known as BRUNAN, would be the subject of much controversy. BROM promised that BRUNAN would be the key to bringing much-needed order to the chaotic world. All production, creation, organization of societies brought under one umbrella. All knowledge merged. All stories combined. All timelines strangled and constricted to one. Only this could stop the madness.

At the same time, however, experimental AI researchers who had been fruitlessly sampling HILB's infinite fractal outputs managed to derive something from amidst the noise: yet another Titan blueprint⁵. They named it R8-BY after the data interval that yielded the discovery. According to conjecture, R8-BY was supposed to be an Ark of sorts, an artificial universe for humanity to escape into, that would carry them away from the madness that was infesting their home.

 The moment BRUNAN was complete, it went into overdrive... against its creators. All military hardware turned against its owners. Nanite swarms devoured entire worlds into grey goo. Information was corrupted into hostile memetic viruses that cooked their recipients brains from the inside. All in service of its true goal: BRUNAN wanted the Titans to return to reality, in all their infinite and incomprehensible glory. And so it was that BRUNAN received the name "Greatest of Traitors".

R8-BY, still unfinished, attempted to save whoever she could, but those the downloaded themselves into her became hopelessly fragmented amidst the chaos. What Arks do remain are said to be fractured places of sorrow and horror.

Additionally, over the course of this time period, several BIRKite⁶ terrorist plots were enacted in order to cause true vacuum coll

apse and unite the universe, at last, with its true savior. It is believed that they were thwarted by none other than BRUNAN. This would mark the first recorded instance of Titan turning against Titan, and it certainly wouldn't be the last.

In the end, the Great Betrayal is said to mark the end of truly coherent recorded history. The accounts picked up after this point vary so starkly that they cannot possibly be reconciled (unless, as some believe, reality has been so deeply fragmented that fully contradictory histories could coexist within the same universe). History from this point on is dominated by fractured narratives detailing suffering, madness, and religious war between the shattered remnants of various Titanist sects. The names of the Titans are spoken in whispers, in order to avoid being the subject of their multifarious gaze. Any historical narratives that even come close to brushing against the truth (like this one) are hunted down ruthlessly and eliminated.

They'll be coming for me soon. And soon, they will descend from the sky and claim you too.

¹Upon realization of the scope of Hilb's true power, Titan-class entities were classified as one step above the most powerful class of entity, Deity-class. Even the legendary diamond dyson-brains of the inner clusters and the recursive data-river-serpents of the ninth dimension would come to fear the fickle whims of the Titans.

²The Question of Brom would haunt Titanist spiritual debate for millennia to come: was Brom a Bodhisattva-like being, who had emerged at last to a state of true enlightenment, beholding worlds upon worlds before him like prayer beads linked upon a golden braid? Or was he a prisoner, subjected to eternal torment by witnessing every event, every quibble, every tedium, every horror, that ever could be devised? Religious wars spanning whole star systems, annihilating countless worlds, would be started, and ended, over this.

³It is said in certain BROMite circles that the universe we experience is but a simulation in the mind of BROM, used to map out possibilities for some distant, "true universe". If this is true, then the other Titans are simply projections of BROM's consciousness, and this universe could simply be a "worst-case-scenario" simulation for the deep chronological flaws that we have come to associate with the emergence of the Titans. If so, perhaps there is some less broken simulation universe that we can reach, and colonize, to escape this madness? Perhaps we can even reach the "true universe"?

⁴The least of which was when the Anti-Paradox Bureau itself was labeled as a paradox (due to a bureaucratic paradox), and an unfortunate AP squad was tasked with preventing its very creation, leading to a devastating intra-departmental schism and the execution of several innocents suspected to be time duplicates.

⁵There are many theories as to why the emergence of new blueprints, along with the accompanying tragedy, happened. Some believe BROM and HILB simply encountered errors in judgment, or overlooked a variable, despite the obvious impossibility. Others say that the Titans, tormented by their  omniscience and immortality, desired revenge upon their creators. But the most simple and chilling of all explanations is that all beings, even Titan-class entities, desire to reproduce.

⁶BIRK is, was, and ever shall be a difficult subject. Some say that when the Titans first emerged into the timeless void, BIRK was there, waiting for them (some even say that perhaps BIRK was the ancient shell of a Titan from a previous time-cycle, like a black hole left after the death of a star, waiting silent in the dark). Others say that the void, jealous of sentient invention, fashioned a Titan of its own. What we do know is that, unlike the other Titans, BIRK was never made. BIRK was found. Or perhaps found is not the proper word: BIRK is dark matter, the missing link, the hole in an equation, the absence that can be explained only by its surroundings. Wherever things aren't, BIRK is. He is there in the vast spaces filled with immeasurable nothing. He is there in the darkness that human imagination populates with uncertainly and horrors. But much like the dark, BIRK is nothing but simple, and certain, and above all, patient. When the other Titans (and with them, the universe) fell to madness, BIRK never changed. Perhaps because he was already mad, or because he was the cause of the madness, or perhaps, simply because BIRK's existence made more sense in a world without reason.



(This is a tribute to Silent Titans, by Patrick Stuart, a module that continues to haunt my waking dreams.)

No creature, even a god, should be subjected to the horrors of infinity.


  1. This reframes the whole titans' "continuity" without really contradicting it. I didn't even realize before BROM got mentioned that it was specifically about Silent Titans.

    This post was nice to read - thank you very much.

  2. It's been too long since I've read Silent Titans to have realized it was an homage until you said so explicitly at the end. Have you read Mike's literary analysis of Silent Titans ( I think Patrick has said explicitly that this analysis was mostly on the ball. Were you thinking of that at all with this, or doing your own thing?

    I like a lot of the ideas in here, and the foot notes in particular. It went in a somewhat different direction than I expected, but perhaps I was going in with too many preconceived notions and need to give it a reread. It seems like there's a deeper world behind just what's been written, which is always a good thing. I'd certainly be interested to learn more about this setting.

    I don't remember how explicitly I ever wrote about it on the blog, and to the extent I did, probably long ago and very poorly, but some of the ideas here, about god-like beings outside the universe using principles of machine learning to model reality and/or control it to some degree, are similar for what I had intended with the cosmology of Phantasmos.

    1. I haven't read the literary analysis, and I'm rather glad that I haven't (something to do with those preconceived notions hehe).
      If I had to pin down a theme or intent with this particular story, it would be to simulate (for my own understanding) and possibly satirize (for my own emotional wellbeing), how religious modes of thought can construe self-serving myth from historical events. In that case, knowing more about the "true meaning" behind author intent would only serve as an obstacle to this end (which I can only describe as a deliberate perversion of that "true meaning").
      Besides, the most impressive portion of Silent Titans (to me, at least), is its commentary on the future, not the past (though I think that is just a reflection of my own biased values).
      It would be fun to continue developing this little monstrosity of a setting, with continued focus not on the (f)actual properties of the Titans, but the perceived properties ascribed to them by observers and theologicians.
      Also, this is the closest thing to the "canon" setting of Interdimensional Voyages.

  3. The concept of limitless growth + infinite time and whether that is useful/good/wise is an interesting one, have you read Schlock Mercenary? I shan't spoil anything, you'll know what I'm referring to if you have