Computer Elves

Computer Elves
Image from Bernd Helfert

Computer viruses (originally nonsentient only, later sentient and fully sapient forms were developed, these overlap with Savirs) torturing those spending too much time in virches or the Net; late Information Age to present.

Mothers frequently warn their children: if you will waste time surfing in entertainment virches or the Known Net, an Elf will eat you. And this is not a tale.

By the second century a.t. cyberspace, virches and the planetary net were becoming more and more important as entertainment and as a lifestyle choice. At that time, some extreme conservative (so-called 'Pro-Reality') groups created viruses to harass virch users, which they hoped would cause distress to those immersed in virtual reality scenarios, and deter them away from these "damaging", "anti-reality" activities. Since that time, many feral semi-intelligent varieties have developed, despite all attempts to eradicate them.

The Computer Elf is a program attacking users addicted to the entertainment virches and Net. In general a person who is not addicted to Virtual Reality will realise in time that something is going wrong, or er friends and relatives disconnect er. Those hooked to the VR usually fail to realise their danger, and often have become alienated from any real-life assistance. Once the victim is snared, the Elf modifies the virch environment together with memetics and subconscious stimuli closing the victim in an artificial world with no way back.

Elves can be of (moderately) benign or of lethal type. Benign ones finally simulate the death the victim, who spends some time in the state of sensory deprivation and wakes up. This may cure the victim of eir addiction; a kind of aversion therapy. There are rare cases of death due to heart attack or when person dependent on regular medical treatment did not take it.

Lethal ones fool the victim that they have disconnected from the virch into reality where e lives for some time, maybe reconnecting periodically to virch. In fact the victim never leaves the simulation. This fake reality continues until the victim's real body dies of dehydration.

At the same time, many Elves are programmed to explore the mind and brain of the victim, continually adapting and improving the hallucinations that will engulf future targets. This led to a suggestion, that some Elves were originally aggressive tools for marketing and customer preference research. After the attack on the virch and the victim (if one of the two is poorly protected, the Elf gets you), many variants of the Elf will begin an assault on the victim's personal files, trying to get access to money accounts, databanks, intelligent devices, energy resources. Frequently the Elf tries to trick the user into giving security codes, perhaps after the fake waking up. This is one of few signs, that you might be attacked by an Elf.

Access to brains and personal belongings of a victim allow Elves to change and develop fastest of all viruses. Some varieties mutated into virtual gladiators, and will challenge virch maniacs to a type of duel. The Elf lets users to win some fights, in exchange for breeding and swallowing less lucky victims. With the exponential increase in virtual reality environments throughout the Terragen Sphere, most of the population of virchspace has discarded all physical bodies; the true virtual human cannot therefore be trapped by the Elves in this way, but still Elves continually harass and annoy the bodiless virtual citizens. Very common is also a cyclical pattern, when Elves switch to distant planetary nodes or remain inactive, until anti-viral vigilance lulls down.

Elves take great interest in and quickly adopt any trick which the virtual communities employ against them or in any form of warfare. For example, tracker programs were developed to search and destroy the Elves. Within 104 seconds the brightest Elves developed fake, inefficient tracker programs destructive for users' own data, aimed to discourage using trackers. Elves move across the Known Net usually attached to encrypted data and uploaded sophonts, so they hardly can be detected at the firewalls or similar safety checkpoints.

Of the major polities, only the heavily controlled Negentropic Alliance claims to have eradicated "99.9%" of these pests. Unfortunately, all other attempts failed. Therefore, from time to time, every other node of the Known Net and the Cybercosm is at risk of a quick visit by Elves.

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Development Notes
Text by Jorge Ditchkenberg
Initially published on 09 July 2004.