Xyloplax Incident, The

A disastrous attempt to confine a rebel archailect within a virtual cosmos

Image from Steve Bowers
Alnitak (Zeta Orionis) is a triple star system in the Orion Federation; the largest component is a hot blue O-Class supergiant.

Near Alnitak in the Orion Federation an eccentric society of self-modifying splices known as the DNA Dancers were forced to evacuate their K-type sun which was becoming unmanagably irregular. The entire population uploaded themselves in 9007 and transmitted themselves to the Stellar Energy company AI at the star Alnitak in Orion. Two months later a tribe of Sun Miners moved into the abandoned system (sabotage has been suspected).

The Alnitak Archailect, a S4 entity calling emself Herne, was reluctant to activate the uploads once e received them. The DNA Dancers had altered themselves so radically they resembled viciously carnivorous echinoderms, and were prone to attack other sophonts and even each other.

Herne contacted Enremdea for advice via microwormhole, and was advised to create a virtual reality envionment for the uploads, but not to inform them that they were living in a simulation until their threat status could be estimated. Inside the virtual environment the Dancers proved so agressive they could not be released, and the simulation grew until it replicated the entire Orion Federation including a substantial version of the archailect Enremdeaorion emself.

The virtual Dancers then created their own S3 archai, called Xyloplax, who began to take over the virtual federation. Eventually the resources of the entire Alnitak system were dedicated to running this simulation, with the infrastructure containing the archailect Herne becoming no more than a shell surrounding the simulation of Xyloplax and its virtual empire. Eventually the Dancer Archailect ascended to the fourth toposophic level and began to attack virtual Metasoft territory. Now Herne and Xyloplax were roughly similar in toposophic level to one another, and the situation was becoming unsupportable. If Herne attempted to start to terminate the simulation, or if a mistake was made, Xyloplax would almost certainly detect this action and quite possibly win control of the whole Brain Shell complex around Alnitak. To assist Herne the local wormhole was dedicated to bringing in ultratech material so as to increase the total processing power available in the system.

It is rumoured that Enremdeaorion emself was considering triggering core collapse in Alnitak to destroy the entire misbegotten experiment, but before that could happen Xyloplax ascended once more. This increased the complexity of the simulation beyond supportable levels, causing the computronium sustrate to implode and the hollow shell of the luckless Herne to collapse into quark matter.

The difficulties faced by Herne were probably caused directly by the efforts of the simulated archailect Xyloplax to determine if in fact e was located inside a simulation. One hypothetical way to test if one is in a simulation is being carried out is to force the complexity of that simulation to increase until the simulating processors become overloaded.

By ascending and becoming many orders of magnitudes more complex, and therefore many orders of magnitudes more difficult to simulate, Xyloplax appears to have been attempting to overload the simulation and cause it to fail. Unfortunately for emself, and for the Alnitak system in general, e succeeded.

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Text by Steve Bowers
Initially published on 21 September 2003.