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Today may be the most important, and last, day of Anatoly Kravnikov’s life.

(Image by Merlin Lightpainting from Pixabay)

When he was 25, Anatoly founded Kravnikov AI, mostly using borrowed money but also some that he inherited from his mother—a stock market player with incredibly effective cognitive augmentations.

Kravnikov’s enterprise turned out to be successful. As the business expanded significantly, the staff remained small compared to other businesses, which was all thanks to the company’s proprietary unique management AI. The capital grew by leaps and bounds, and as the AI improved itself, fewer and fewer managers were needed.

Anatoly then decided to establish a strong connection between the AI and his brain. Technically, it wasn’t too difficult, and it changed his life far more than he had expected.

Before the first deep connection session, Anatoly had perceived growth as a means to achieve other goals. Afterward, however, when business management schemes met human aesthetic patterns, he came to view growth as fascinating by itself. Knowing that many people would call such thinking evidence of mental degradation owing to his careless union with a machine, Anatoly decided to keep his admiration for growth to himself.

All this led to Anatoly Kravnikov, who had previously been rather unsociable anyway, becoming a full-fledged recluse. He rarely disconnected himself from the AI and would sometimes attempt to integrate with it so deeply that it was nearly a merger.

Anatoly remained interested in various fields of science. One day, he was particularly drawn to a certain theoretical physics concept about the hypothetical expansion of a bubble of a more stable vacuum within the less stable “false vacuum” environment.

Space devoid of matter isn’t really “empty.” There are quantum fields everywhere. Also, the present vacuum may be the most stable quantum state possible, but if not, it can potentially decay to a more stable one, changing important laws of physics along the way. It would happen quickly, at the speed of light. This is known as false vacuum decay.

It could start without intelligent intervention of any kind. But Anatoly resolved to try to help make decay happen. Why wait and hope?

Yes, this may result in the death of humankind, including him. But how tremendous the growth could be! Anatoly was captivated by the beauty of false vacuum decay.

To get a better understanding of this, Anatoly further improved the AI during a research project. By this time, Kravnikov AI had grown to become a huge company.

People from both inside and outside the company were surprised. Quantum physics? It was a financially promising direction, as the management AI, more heavily influenced by Kravnikov’s mind than anyone would have thought, stated. All went fairly smoothly.

The true motivation—the full picture—was carefully hidden due to the complexity, high automation, and artificially high job segmentation of the human workforce, with all the secrecy and obfuscation that entailed. A wide variety of elements were involved. The human units had exceptionally narrow specializations and were often poorly informed, uninformed, or downright misinformed about what other units were doing. Even among members of the board, no one knew the whole truth except, of course, Anatoly himself.

Now, years later, the machine that could possibly end the world as humanity knows it is ready. In light of new findings, the false vacuum hypothesis seems more probable than previously imagined.

All of Anatoly’s doubts and fears have been eliminated by brain editing.

Anatoly Kravnikov initiates the process.


This story previously appeared in 365 Tomorrows.
Edited by Erik Homberger

Igor Dyachishin is a speculative fiction author living in Bryansk, Russia. He prefers to write science fiction, and his interest in science and philosophy is often reflected in his works. Among his favorite authors are Peter Watts, Greg Egan and China Miéville.