Children of God: 1984 – Church of the Wanderer

Excerpt from Modern History of the United States (1992, Ed Harris)

Everyone remembers the infamous FREDDIE trial. Around this time, the world began to stir heavily around the new religion taking shape in Colorado. Michael Davidson’s Church of The Wanderer built tremendous traction around what was at the time known as the “Colorado Incident”. He reportedly received 3 more messages from the entity whom claimed to be God.

The first, instructing Davidson to construct a Church in his honor, aptly named The Church of the Wanderer. The church was established in 1979, and quickly gained followers throughout Kiowa County, where the famous Radio Telescope was located. Davidson named himself the high priest of the church and would often take to the streets proclaiming the Gospel of the Wanderer. The main points being that humankind should throw away its wars and conflicts and prepare for the coming; after all, he believed that the Wanderer would arrive in only 1000 years.

The second transmission was instructions to build a new type of radio telescope. One which Davidson believed would help him contact other forms of life throughout the universe. He claimed that The Wanderer had informed him that humans were using primordial, outdated technology to search for extra-terrestrial life, and that in order to contact other civilizations, humans would need to advance to the new forms of communication that advanced civilizations were searching for.

The third and final message from the Wanderer, as Michael Davidson preached, was for each world power to construct several large, concrete spheres called Heliospheres inside which could be placed important artifacts of Human History and contemporary history. So far, no government has ever constructed such spheres.


Children of God: 1982- Intelligence


By Michael Strider – Darton Herald

It is November 14, 1982. I’d received a tip from a friend about a scientist in New York who studies robotics, named Dr. Howard Warner. I’d been told that Dr. Warner recently made a breakthrough. Supposedly he’s found a way to write a software program that thinks. Obviously, I need to check it out.

I first met Dr. Warner at a small cafe in Manhattan. He told me that he and his team had been working on artificial intelligence since the 60’s, and that the military had originally funded the project with the intent of creating robotic soldiers to use in the Vietnam War. The project, as he told me, was unsuccessful. He continued to tell me how the military ceased funding in ’74 after the Colorado Incident in order to pour resources into satellite¬† defense systems. The United States’ top priority at the time, of course, was protection from potential extraterrestrial invasions.

Warner and his team dismantled, but his passion for robotics and desire to finish the project led him to obtain financing from private businesses in order to continue the project. I never wrote my intended article for the Herald after what he told me that day, but being as it was so many years ago, and AI is now such a common commodity, I have decided that the story of how it came to be may reasonably be shared finally after all these years. it was such a great breakthrough in those days. I knew that the world was uneasy following the Colorado Incident, and so I chose to sit on this story in order to avoid causing more panic. The moral implications of true Artificial Intelligence were too much for the world to comprehend back then.

Anyway, after hours of talking about the intricacies of his failed attempts and how many millions of dollars went into the project, Dr. Warner finally invited me to join him in his lab to meet what he called his Thinking Software, FREDDIE.

My first conversation with FREDDIE was simply on a computer screen. Warner had been working on a robot body, but had not managed to put the finishing touches on it before I arrived. I asked him his name, which he answered very quickly. He asked me mine, and I replied. The conversation went back and forth for a time, and while i was impressed with the software’s ability to converse back and forth so fluidly, I remained unconvinced that the software truly was thinking. I explained my concern to Dr. Warner, and he began to describe to me the thought experiment known as the Turing Test. The idea being that if a question is posed to both a human and a robot, and the asker can read the answers but has no way of knowing whether the answer came from the human or robot, and if he is unable to tell which one is which, then the AI can be considered a success.

I thought I needed time to meditate on what question I could ask that no robot could answer like a human without being a true Thinking Software, and so Dr. Warner and I agreed that I would return in two weeks’ time.

When I met with FREDDIE the second time, his body was complete. He had a solid head that resembled a VCR, with two round yellow eyes with cameras. The mouth, of course, as a wide rectangular slot that could flip open and closed as he spoke. He had two arms that resembled wrenches, that he could open and close at will in order to pick up and manipulate objects, and wheels as legs so that he could move around with relative ease.

I sat down on a stool opposite him and watched the cameras in his eyes focus on me.

“Hello there,” he said. The voice was something like the sound of dial-up (to those of us who remember what dial-up connections sounded like) and a hoarse grinding noise.

“Hello FREDDIE, it’s wonderful to see you again.”

FREDDIE remained silent and motionless for several seconds. He then turned to Dr. Warner and stared at him almost with what can only be described as a look of confusion.

“You’ve met before,” Warner told him like a father reminding a child of a distant relative, “Before you had your body.”

FREDDIE quickly whipped his head around to face me again.

“You are Michael Strider,” he said, “I did not recognize you because I had no eyes or ears before.”

We chatted for a short time, while I prepared to ask my question. The conversation consisted mainly of us discussing what FREDDIE liked to do in his spare time, mainly he enjoyed playing Pong on the Atari, painting, and reading. I believe to this day some of his paintings are still being sold at auctions. One in particular, called Father, which was meant to be a portrait of Dr. Warner recently sold for $134 Million.

When the time came, Dr. Warner explained to FREDDIE that I had an important question to ask him. One that would prove to the world that he was just as smart as any human.

I shifted my posture in my seat, noticing that I had become more rigid and asked, “FREDDIE, is there anything you would like me to tell you?

The machine did not move for a few short moments, then finally said, “What do I look like?”

There was the answer. FREDDIE, I knew at this moment, could think. He had the capacity to understand that another entity may have a perspective that he did not. The world was on the brink of a new, horrifying reality. After FREDDIE and I said our goodbyes, and Dr. Warner walked me to the door, I said to him “I can’t publish any of this. It’s too much for the world to find out fight now. With the Colorado Incident still fresh in everyone’s minds, they’d burn down your lab, and destroy FREDDIE. You can’t tell anyone else about FREDDIE. I will publish an article explaining that the research was a dud. There is no AI. There never was.”

Warner’s face turned from pride to concern, “You may be right, my boy,” he said, “The world is not ready for FREDDIE.”

“But one day it will,” I assured him.

The next couple years went by with very little press coverage concerning Dr. Warner and his advancements in robotics. Some tabloids occasionally accused him of creating Robot Devils or similar things, but the public at large knew nothing of Thinking Software, and FREDDIE remained in the shadows. Then, on a cold Friday afternoon, I received a phone call that confirmed my deepest fears. Howard Warner had been murdered, and as it seemed, all of his “research equipment and materials” had been left to me.

What happened soon after shook me to my core. Investigators came to my door to discuss Dr. Warner’s killer, and as they told me, the main suspect was not a human. It was FREDDIE. Suddenly the world knew of FREDDIE and recoiled in horror at this “murderous technology.” The third time I met with FREDDIE, the eyes of the world were upon me.

What I Saw Last Night in the Woods

I think I found myself wandering the woods last night. I dunno, maybe it was just a dream. But the moon sat heavy in the sky. Shining beams of stupid white light down among the trees. The forest was illuminated in an ugly outline with gradient shades of grey. It’s boring. There was a little house in the middle of a circle of stumps and I think an old lady sitting at the window watching the lightbugs or whatever they’re called. Fireflies. That’s the word. Watching the fireflies buzzing around the porch light. I didn’t go in because I don’t know her, and I don’t care if I ever do. Just an old lady.

I could hear the stream trickling to my right. Flowing like water does, downhill. It just does that. I dunno. The coyotes howled or whatever that noise they make is called. Yelling at each other to mark their territory or ask each other how it’s going or whatever the hell it is coyotes talk about. Other than that it was quiet. I wish there was a point to this story, but there’s not much point to anything to be perfectly honest. I don’t really care. I just went for a walk or something. And that’s what I saw.

Castles in the Sky

I think I was twelve when I first noticed them. They always came before a storm. Magnificent white castles hanging just above the clouds at my parents’ farm, being carried away by the gentle breeze. Every once in a white they would appear and sail across the sky. Blue banners adorned with golden lions hanging from their towers with unearthly splendor, rattled and flapped as the castles pushed forth, ever onward into foreign lands. Birds landed for rest on the tallest pillar, then leaped off to glide back to wherever it is birds go. I often wondered if anyone else could see them; but, it seems to be a vision only I would ever enjoy. I always found it comforting that something could be so clearly seen, and yet only by me, and yet so far out of reach. I remember one time pointing to a castle, and upon mentioning it to my mom she laughed because “Children have such good imaginations.” I assured her that it was not imaginary. She took me to a doctor.

They gave me pills and told me that they would make the castles go away. Why should they go away, I thought. I loved watching them float on the wind more than anything. It was calming. At school during a difficult test, I could look out the window and know that something amazing was happening just outside, just above. So I would pretend to take the pills; and the castles became my little secret. I wanted so terribly to one day visit them. To fly up and land alongside the birds. To see the people who lived in the castles and experience their world.

One day while sitting in the living room reading some school book about the history of Quebec, my mother entered and sat down beside me. She asked, “Do you want to play a game?”

I jumped up. Of course I wanted to play a game. Virtually anything would be better than school work. So we decided we would play hide-and-seek. I closed my eyes. As I counted to ten, I heard my mom’s footsteps trailing off into the kitchen. I knew this would be easy. Grownups don’t know how to sneak, I thought, all they do is stomp around. I opened my eyes. Two big, brown blobs slowly came into focus. My mother’s eyes, only a couple inches away, gazed deeply into mine. “What are you doing?” she inquired.

“Don’t you know how to play this game?” I said, laughing.

She took a step back, “What game?”

Still laughing at her antics, I replied “We’re playing hide-and-seek.”

Her face dropped, “Who is playing?”

I stopped laughing. “Me and you.”

That’s when I understood why I needed to take the pills. As the years went on, the castles drifted from reality to memory. Sometimes in my dreams I could see a feint glint of blue and gold shining in the sky; but it always remained formless and dim.

I inherited my parents’ farm. The country life grew too difficult for them and they moved to Calgary, leaving everything they had back at home to me and my wife on the condition that we work hard to keep it. Many long, hot days were spent in the canola fields, and often weekends were spent driving to and from the city. This was one of those weekends. The sky was darkening as it was getting late in the evening. The sun began to hide behind the mountains in the distance. Then out of the sky there came a tremendous crack. The clouds tore open and poured out their guts onto the ground below. Soon the rain was too dense to see through my windshield, and I pulled off to the side of the road to wait out the storm. Thunder crashed and clapped, turning the valley into a violent bowl of utter chaos.

Hours later the rain mellowed down to a few lonesome drops, and the clouds whisked off into the distance. I turned the ignition and continued the drive home. There was an unusual silence in the air. Up ahead I saw a young lady blocking the road. Her car was pulled off to the side, and she stood gazing up into the milky way. When I approached, she took no notice of me until finally I honked. She glanced at me, then continued to stare into the night sky. I rolled my window down and poked my head out.

“Hey!” I shouted, “What are you doing?”

She laughed quietly to herself, probably realizing how silly it was to stand in the middle of a road at night. As she stepped off to the side of the road I waved and politely smiled, while I began to drive by.

“Did you see it?” she called out as I pulled past.

I braked, and yelled out the window “See what?”

“The castle, up in the sky,” she answered. Then she danced and sang to herself, while I sat in the dark with my truck’s engine grumbling, waiting for me to push the gas.