Time and Scale
Image from Bernd Helfert
By Anders Sandberg (2001)

One thing my humans never seem to get used to is our different sense of time and margins of error. When a passenger capsule approaches a bay, I open the doors with a margin of a tenth of a second - plenty of time to deal with any unforeseen problem. But many jump or even cry out in the second or so they can see the closed door approaching in the hull. They have told me they worry that I will not open it in time, or that it will jam. But if I had that bad timing, how could I catch a capsule moving at many tens of kilometres per second with my constantly rotating body? If they worry about a simple mechanical door, then why don't they worry about the infinitely more complex and dangerous devices that provide them energy, information and peace and could wipe them all out in a microsecond.

To a human a second is a short time, just enough to think a thought or react to a nasty surprise. To me it is a working year. It is almost too long time. If I did not have time-management systems hardwired into my very personality I would probably lose the thread of all what I am doing and maybe forget to open doors when spacecraft rush towards them.

My problem is that those that I worry about are just as much faster than me as I am to my humans. While I try to figure out what they might do they may well be doing it already. If I knew what they were doing it might not even help. I cannot outwit them. They could if they wanted scan my very deep structure; they can penetrate my every defence by being smaller, smarter, and more nimble than anything I got.

It is an old problem. My humans think they had to deal with it once they had created my kind. In the end they say they "solved" it by simply accepting us as their gods, bosses or natural forces. But they forget that it was their remote ancestors that actually solved the problem. Hundreds of millions of years ago, when they became multicellular they had to deal with their tiny barbarian cousins who wanted to steal their nutrients, live in their bodies or eat their cells. They solved it by developing immune systems, acting on the same scale as the invaders. In fact, they got their own microscopic allies to fight their microscopic wars.

That's why we are here. To see if we can find allies of our own. Hoping they find us before our enemies find us.

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