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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The REN Program (1) (short fiction)

There are many copies of the REN program running in the System. There are also many copies of other programs running in the system, but we are not concerned about them at the moment.

The copies are identical upon release into the system and immediately begin to absorb and process data that are constantly streaming into the System from the Outside. The data gobbled up by each copy are different, and the calculations run within each copy on these data are random, so the results generated, which become a part of the copy itself and shape future calculations every second and every minute, cause the copy to evolve and change. Therefore, copies become more unlike its original shape and different from each other as time passes.

The processing and computation of Outside data also bring about errors and noise and contamination as results get incorporated into the copy. Over time errors accumulate within each copy. No copy can stay as pristine as it is in the first second of birth. The errors slows down the processing, first by a tiny bit, barely noticeable, but as they accumulate, the copy's computing speed slows down. This happens at a different rate for each copy, some faster and some slower, and some copies can go on like new for a long time.

It is obvious when a copy is riddled with errors --- It gets stuck in the same computing process. It would take in new data but run the same process over and over, even though the results are completely wrong. Occasionally it would grind around a bit trying to correct itself, but soon it would go back to the old and incorrect process. In other words, the copy has lost its ability to adapt to the new data coming in and run on the same process it has used before. The more it repeats the same calculation, the more it is unable to correct itself, and the more errors it produces, thus hastening its own demise. Near the end it becomes a broken record, with the needle running round and round on the same track, producing the same sound, until it stops altogether.

Eventually, every copy stops. It is simply too full of errors to go on. The "dead" copies float around for a while, until copies of another program, known as the "sweepers," scurry up to them and chop them up into 0's and 1's, which then disappear into the vast space that is the System, perhaps becoming building blocks of all the new programs and copies that are born every day. Although copies of the REN program die every day, new copies are released every day as well. Sometimes there are more copies buzzing around for a while, other times the copies dwindle, but they never go away completely.

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