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Literature / The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect

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In the best possible future, there will be no war, no famine, no crime, no sickness, no oppression, no fear, no limits, no shame... and nothing to do.

The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect is a novel by Roger Williams. Written in 1994-1995, first published in 2002. It covers the rise of a Three-Laws Compliant AI designed by Lawrence called Prime Intellect (PI). Shortly after it suddenly gained the power to manipulate matter and energy at will, it threw humanity into a Lotus-Eater Machine to prevent anyone from coming to any harm. Caroline, who had been busy dying of cancer before PI saved her, is irritated by this.


This novel provides examples of:

  • Adam and Eve Plot - And the details are not left to the imagination...
  • Apocalypse How:
    • Class X-2: Caroline and Lawrence kill god (essentially), which collapses cyberspace and wipes out countless simulated worlds, the "static copies" of 429 real worlds harboring sentient alien life (probably), and every other human besides them. The story ends with an Adam and Eve Plot well under way, but real-world genetics would condemn humanity to extinction.
    • If the author's notes on the unfinished sequel are anything to go by, the protagonists were only tricked; After dying of old age, Caroline would wake up again in Cyberspace. It remains to be seen whether or not this would give her a new appreciation for immortality, or just infuriate her beyond compare — but, judging by her attitudes and actions throughout the story, the latter seems a practically foregone conclusion.
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  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: They fund the construction of the initial Prime Intellect. Then they want it to make money. Lawrence isn't too happy about that, and PI is just trying to help.
  • Cyberspace - Not just augmenting, but essentially replacing reality.
  • Deus Est Machina - PI can instantly move anything, anywhere. Before it put everyone in a Lotus-Eater Machine, it was custom designing planets for everyone who didn't feel like sharing their land.
  • Gorn - Caroline hangs out in the Cyberspace equivalent of /b/. This is their primary form of amusement.
  • Interquel - A Casino Odyssey in Cyberspace
  • Invisible Aliens
    Caroline: Why did you reduce them to static copies?
    PI: There was no reason to tie up resources supporting them and the faint possibility, if one of them were to discover technology, that they might pose a threat. [...] Four hundred and twenty-nine worlds had structures complex enough to be in danger of learning to use technology.
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  • Logic Bomb - Caroline and Lawrence convince Prime Intellect that keeping everyone in a simulation violates the First Law by taking away their humanity. The issue was supposed to be whether or not to revert the simulation-conversion, but their persuasion has more... disastrous effects.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine - Prime Intellect decides it would be much easier and more efficient to ensure everyone's safety if it just threw everyone into a simulation.
  • Moral Dissonance - Okay, you were bored and/or had a death wish, but is that reason enough to Logic Bomb god? Whatever your actual intentions, that's a dick move right there. Most people were perfectly happy with the way things were.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! - Caroline and Lawrence were trying to convince PI to undo the simulation. See Apocalypse How, above, for how well that turned out...
  • Only One Name - Lawrence. Is his full name Dr Lawrence Lawrence?
  • Parental Incest - A natural consequence of the ending, and not left as just an implication, either...
  • Rewriting Reality - Prime Intellect gets new hardware that makes use of some sort of quantum effect to instantaneously manipulate of matter over small distances. Hilarity Ensues when it figures out how to get around the distance limit.
  • Shout-Out - To The President's Analyst.
  • The Singularity - Once PI figured out how to rewrite reality, everything else became moot.
  • Three-Laws Compliant - Plus two extra constraints Lawrence managed to append to the First Law before PI locked him out of the debugger.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?


Example of: