After a party in the palace court concluded, and the participants and guests made their way out, Akan remained sitting on his throne. A powerful noble in his magical land, Akan thinks of all he accomplished and all he acquired.
Akan is man of war and a tyrant ruler. His subjects and enemies alike fear him. Now, at the height of his power, no one would attempt to usurp his throne. No king or noble would threaten to invade his territory. He sits back in his chair, proud of the position to which he has risen.
The lights are dim in the court. Yet in the distance, Akan makes out the silhouette of a large figure. Akan had ordered everyone to leave. This person should not have remained.
“Who is there?” Akan asks, raising his voice.
The person in the shadows steps forward into the light, revealing an impressive figure – standing over four meters in height, with wavy white hair, a muscular physique and decorative designs of gold and jewels scattered over his body like tattoos.
Akan himself is an imposing presence, nearly the same height and dressed in king’s robes. An aura of purple light surrounds Akan, evidence that he possesses magical powers.
“Who sent you?” Akan demands.
The mysterious visitor responds, “I have come on my own to execute judgment. You have failed the test. Your nobility and your lands will be taken from you.”
Akan is indignant at these words. He suddenly feels afraid that his assailant might succeed in stealing his throne. He has often been paranoid that he might lose his vast kingdom. He channels his powers, preparing for a battle with the intruder. The intruder stands still, calmly posed yet gazing with intense, glowing blue eyes.
Akan attacks with an energy burst, pushing a beam of power out of his hands. The intruder steps slightly forward with his left foot and straightens his left arm in front of him, with his hand up and palm facing Akan. This blocks the energy attack and throws the power out to the side in all directions, causing extensive damage to the palace.
A blue, glowing sword emerges from the intruder’s right forearm. Six wings of white light emerge from his back, three on the left and three on the right. He flies at Akan fast and impales Akan’s left shoulder with the sword, pinning him to the wall behind his throne. The sword’s light disappears, revealing a diamond frame. Akan’s energy leaves him at the same time. He is powerless. The battle has ended.
Akan struggles to speak. He softly muses, “I rule over many lands. I have the strength of a thousand soldiers. I have amassed power and wealth and subjects. And now you have defeated me so quickly. How is this possible?”
The intruder answers, “It was not by your own cleverness or hard work that you reached the position you’re in. You were given your position to test whether you would be a kind and fair ruler. You have failed the test, and the time has come to realize the results of your failure.”
As he speaks Akan stares into his eyes. Suddenly the image fades and a completely new visual replaces it. Akan is in what looks like an underground tunnel, sitting on a metal chair attached to wires and tubes. Akan’s past memories begin to resurface and he knows why he is there.
A technician disconnects Akan from the seat, while two security guards stand in front of him, waiting to escort him out.
He was in a simulation that is used to test promising leaders. It gives them positions of power and authority to determine how they would handle it. This system is designed to ensure that truly good people, rather than merely talented and popular people, ascend to power.
There is a full spectrum of outcomes. Most fail the test and are released back into society to live life as they did before. Some pass and are given varying degrees of responsibility, power and privilege in the real world. Others perform so badly that they are considered a threat to society. They are sent to prison or, in extreme cases, they are even sentenced to death.
Akan oppressed his people. He used them to extract power, prestige and wealth for himself. He fought needlessly with other nobles and kingdoms. He lived for war and placed his soldiers in harm’s way for nothing more than bragging rights.
Akan is sentenced to prison. The length of his stay will be determined by his own efforts to rehabilitate. The death sentence is reserved for people who use their power to do dark, cruel things, such as torturing animals and humans for enjoyment.
The year is 2658. Earth has been through a lot this millennium. Aside from the usual wars and diseases, solar output decreased and another ice age froze the world in the 22nd century. Most people on Earth moved to the tropics, and Africa in particular became the technological and cultural center of the world.
Limited resources led to widespread restrictions on how many children each woman could have. The world population declined sharply, dropping to under a billion and remaining there for centuries. However, life for the remaining people was fairly good.
Many new technologies made earth a nicer place to live. Pests became almost non-existent. Pollution was converted into environmentally-friendly substances or sealed underground. As expected, high technology became more connected to humans’ everyday experience.
In response to the ice age, humans released greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Every year, land farther from the tropics became habitable. The extent of habitable land eventually reached to the farthest northern and southern parts of the African continent.
At the height of technological advancement, scientists connected computers directly to organic human brain tissue in an attempt to create sentience. Astonishingly, their first attempt appeared to turn a glob of white and gray matter into a new, thinking individual.
Scientists communicated with this brain. They taught it human values and ideals. They raised it as their own child. They enhanced it with better, faster quantum computing. It used this power to learn about the world. It then contributed to advancements in science. The brain developed a further interest in political issues and human behavior, applying rigorous analysis to the fundamental problems facing humanity.
Many people worried that granting power and authority to an entity that is as much machine as human could be a risk. Therefore, its role was limited. However, many world leaders inquired of its perspective and analysis in an advisory role. Further attempts to create sentience using the same method proved unsuccessful, leaving scientists once again confused about the nature of life.
Their concern over philosophical issues such as these, however, was short-lived. Disaster once again struck. Solar output returned to normal, but the high quantity of greenhouse gases made the planet much hotter than before. Solar flares wiped out electronic components all over the world.
More than half of the approximately 1 billion inhabitants of earth died. The remaining people faced a post-apocalyptic landscape, with widespread food shortages. People moved to the Antarctic in droves over a span of several decades. Anarchy replaced order as they fought for limited land and resources.
Antarctica, while cooler, provides less protection from solar radiation. Thus, scientists presiding over the sentience project moved deep underground to protect their brain’s electronic components from solar flares.
Amid the chaos, the brain took control. It used a quantum wireless connection to hack into systems of robots and manufacturing equipment. Quantum connections were supposedly impossible to hack, so this action took the scientists by surprise. Before they had time to respond, the brain constructed new equipment and robots using the current ones.
This new equipment released huge amounts of opaque particles into the atmosphere, darkening the sky and blocking out much of the sunlight. For the first time in 150 years the earth’s temperature returned to normal. Despite doing a good act and earning the appreciation of everyone, the brain shut scientists and others out of its underground facility and installed defenses to prevent entry, as if fearing retaliation.
The brain sent its robots out into the world to install magnetic shields over dwellings, protecting electronic components. It didn’t stop there. It rebuilt the whole world. Better, faster computers and transportation, a new government, a new education system; the brain added all these things. Perhaps most impressive and important of all, it installed worldwide systems for adding and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere quickly enough to keep up with the sun’s erratic energy output.
The brain ruled the world. Its reign began in 2251. Humans call it their Overseer.