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Permanent Serendipity

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God
Romans 8:28

The Church of Logitech was an enormous building, built of huge stone blocks with buttresses plunging great depths into the water on all sides. Antony stood in his dirty suit at the end of the bridge, with his hand on the door. The huge dark oak doors were closed, but there was a smaller entrance cut out of the right hand door that was open. Even knowing that it'd been built with some of his money, it was hard not to be intimidated. He breathed deeply, summoned up his outrage, and pushed on the door.

Inside, huge marble pillars soared up to the gold inlaid dome. Specks of dust and smoke from the incense sticks danced in the few shafts of light. Antony was halfway down the marble aisle towards the sanctuary before he was met by an hooded and cloaked figure.

"Hi, I'm Steve, and I'm your pastor for this evening"

Antony sighed. "I'd like to speak to the abbot of customer services."

Steve looked Antony up and down, taking in the dishelved hair, the stubble, the scent of alcohol, and the thorougly disheveled suit. He'd only been working here three weeks, but he was getting quite good at evaluating peoples need and potential for being blessed. Working here had been the cheapest way for him to acheive his own blessing.

"I'm afraid he's busy, you could make an appointment for two months time."

"Pastor eh? New though. I bet you aren't even given 5 minutes of grace processing to pass to the worshipers. I'm not here for blessing, I am the owner of the Most High Prioirty."

The claim seemed unlikely, but Steve gazed up at the row of icons depicting the blessed along the ceiling. The man before him was there, unmistakable even in mosaic. Flustered, he bowed and said "Of course, please follow me sir".

The abbot of customer services was dining with the abbot of the exchequer, discussing money and clerical matters over fine food, but when he saw Antony, he excused himself immediately.

They sat together in a confessionary where poorer folks could swap information about their doings out of the eye of society for a brief blessing. He knew that everything would be recorded by the serengents, but it was in strictest confidence - nobody could talk to a serengent.

"Why are you even here? You have already received the greatest blessing we can give you, you have no need for worship - there is no point entering you in the worshipers lottery for greater priority, you already have the Most High Priority, you are more blessed (he pronounced the 'ed') than the Bishop of Logitech himself".

"I want to talk to my serengent."

The abbot spluttered as if he was still eating the fine duck he'd left behind. "Impossible. I don't care if you are the richest man in the world and the owner of the Most High, no one may speak to their serengent".

"Was the richest man in the world. In the time since I was 'blessed', my wife has left me, my businesses have gone under, my new house collapsed, and the nicest members of my family have died, the rest have fallen on hard times."

"Strange, strange, indeed, but we never promised you that life would be easy afterwards, just easier than it would otherwise have been. Whatever may have gone wrong, you must trust that you are living the best possible life."

Antony snorted "I no longer believe. My life is harder than ever before, and I see no changes to the benefit, just an invisible malevolent hand conspiring against me.",

"Blasphemy! Your serengent is calculating all the possibilities, and making tiny, subtle changes in thousands of situations across the world. It can change information systems, weather systems, traffic systems all across the world. It is supernetral. It can make sure information comes out, or is buried. It knows so much about every individual that it can direct the course of their actions by simply changing the art on the wall, or by altering the scent in the air conditioning. It is a perfectly benign, all powerful software agent, dedicated to your benefit and that alone. You must know that whatever is happening is part of a plan, being woven together as a tapestry by the most sophisticated intelligence known to man. It understands far more than you, it knows every person, place and thing on this planet intimately. Unlike everyone else on the planet, you have an unconstrained serengent. It makes changes for your benefit without concern for the plans of others. Whatever has happened in your life since you were blessed is for the best."

"I have heard stories", Antony said, "stories of serengents created to inconveience people, to make their life harder. A curse. On the streets, I met a woman who swore that she had been cursed by one of your exinitiates."

The abbot became a little more red faced. "It has happened," he said hesitantly, "our deifiers must create curses to test the blessings against, but they are kept locked up in the crypt, only one has ever become supernetral, and we hunted it down and punished the initiate who released it.

"Perhaps you cursed me instead of blessing me."

"There is no way that that could happen. We are very careful, and besides, a curse with Most High priority would certainly have found a way to kill you by now."

"This is wrong you know. You are controlling peoples lives. You are destroying their free will. You have created a false God"

It was the abbots turn to snort contemptuously. "You had no trouble with it when you believed that peoples lives would be controlled for your benefit". He paused for Antonys rebuttal, but Antony could say nothing. He knew the abbot was right. "As for 'false God', it has always been mankinds aim to create God, first in the imagination, then in craftsmanship. Now finally, with the benefit of modern technology, we have succeeded. Replacing supernetral for supernatural, we have finally created the all loving, all powerful, all knowing intelligence, and we make it available at a very reasonable cost. Primitive beliefs in primitive Gods have faded quickly as the whole world has seen the immediate benefits of worshiping here. We are the most successful religion that has ever been. False God? Hah, we have the only true God."

"I read the leaflets, all that 'guiding hand steering the hugest of boats with the slightest of touches' nonsense. It was lies - I cannot explain what has happened to me any other way. You promised me a life of permanent serendipity, forever bumping into forgotten friends and meeting fascinating strangers. Everything I turned my hand to should have succeeded. What is happening? I must ask the serengent." Antony was near tears.

"We cannot let you ask that question yourself - it cannot work if you learn anything about its plans and what it is doing for you - it creates feedback in the logic. However, I can see that you are in a very unusual position". His attitude became fatherly, "you should go and rest, I will get some of our deifiers to examine your case. We can't second guess a serengent, but there are a few things that we can do to investigate. Come back tomorrow, perhaps we will be able to help you then.", he put his arm round Antonys shoulders and started to walk him towards the door, while at the same time making a series of hand signals to Steve to start the investigation he'd just promised.

Steve hurried up the spiral staircase to the top of the tower, leaving the vague sound of Antonys half hearted protestations behind him. There were only two deifiers on duty in the enormous supernet visualisation room. He bowed deeply as he entered the sacred space. Around him light danced and flowed, the global optimisation problem of happiness was being computed by millions of serengents with complicated priorities, all squabbling for computation rights, as he entered, a warning light flashed, and any visualisation involving his serengent was blanked out.

"What are you doing here?" asked one of the deifiers, "you are one of the blessed, we can't work properly with you here."

Steve explained his mission, and then went and sat outside on the cold wooden bench. When the abbot checked on him later that night, he was still there, waiting.

The next morning the abbot found Steve and a deifier sitting quietly in conference outside the visualisation room.

"So", he said, what did you find?".

Steve stammered, "The serengent prioritises important long term gains over short term, doesn't it?"

"Yes"

"Even really long term?

"Certainly, if it's sure enough of them and they're important. Why?"

"We believe that Antonys serengent has been making changes to improve his character."

"Improve his character?" The abbot was incredulous, "but it's programmed to increase his overall happiness, not make him a better person."

Steve shifted uncomfortably.

"We're uncertain exactly what it is doing, but our best guess is that it has found a proof of the existence of an afterlife."

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Awesome

I second everything t3knomanser said. Awesome concept, and a great kicker at the end. The typos were a bit distracting, and a run through a spelling and grammar checker would probably have caught them all.

I also agree that it could be fleshed out more. I would have really enjoyed a scene where the techs begin to figure out what's going on, perhaps in an enigmatic conversation with the serengent itself.

Very Cool Concept

Conceptually, this is excellent. The idea is Strossian in its implications and the world has the baroque complexity of his post-singularity visions. The biggest lack I can see is that it lacks the sort of characterization he also manages to evoke.

The hardest part of a short story is establishing your characters- you don't have a great deal of time or space to do it in. Give me more about Antony. Make me care about his misfortune. Don't have him merely "on the verge of tears"- give me a taste of the internal turmoil and the real outrage at his perceived betrayal.

Working customer service is perhaps the shittiest job on Earth- and the Abbot's gotta calm down a distraught customer and it looks like he's not going to get a quick and easy solution- that's gotta screw his day up. Even worse, the final realization is something that threatens his entire industry- this is massive.

Which makes it important to expand that last section there. The final jab doesn't have the punch it should because I'm not invested in it as much as I could be. Everything the Abbot believes is about to be destroyed- that's massive. _Devastating_. Make sure that full impact is conveyed.

Finally- I noticed a few proof reading things. Missing apostrophes and punctuation. That's basic bullshit stuff that you want to make sure you catch.

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Not Responsible

Thanks for the feedback

Thanks very much for the feedback. I often get these ideas and dash them down, but I really have trouble with characterization. Thanks for giving me those suggestions to help me get my head around it. I'll have another go at it, and post it again. If you have any other suggestions for things that might help me (particularly with characters), please let me know.

kybernetikos
http://kybernetikos.com