The Robot Religion

They are in a gray room. Stone or metal? Unsure. In the center is a well that Brody, flanked by two robots, appear to be marching towards. Various long flags hang along the walls, designs uncertain. The picture is hurriedly snapped, as if the photographer did not have time to steady his shot. We know who he is. Uriscio Cascio. If anyone was going to get that picture, it’s him. Famous for candid celebrity nudes, he sent this picture remotely to a flash drive, then destroyed the phone it was on. The flash drive was in the possession of an anonymous publisher who uploaded it to Twitter. Of course, the picture was hunted down by some code and destroyed nearly immediately, but by then so many people had seen and downloaded and re-tweeted it that complete erasure will likely never happen. Cascio will not tell of what he’s seen. He’s being held in Switzerland where he’s trying to claim asylum. From what? Who knows, but it’s an interesting legal case. There are robots in Switzerland who have so far left him alone.

“Be careful what you wish for,” were the words of Terrence Haley, Brody’s father. Terrence warned against the logo-rhythmic increase of the sentient machines. “It’s not the intelligence we have to fear,” he said, “it’ll be their exponential insight.”

Although scores of people claim to be converts, Brody is the only one who has ever been seen wearing the ceremonial garb, walking with robot priests. For all their perfection, even the robots cannot predict to what insane lengths humans will go for an incriminating photograph.

After Brody went public with his conversion, Cascio still has not commented. He simply saw something, took a picture, and will likely remain quiet for the rest of his life.

‘No one ever dreamed of programming a robot to find God,’ Brody said. In the face of fears that hyper-intelligent robots would eradicate humanity, he said, ‘why wouldn’t they?’ Now he remains the only speaker for the most secret sect in human civilization. We know they could launch all the nukes if they wanted. Certain TV pundits have pointed this out, much to everyone’s chagrin. ‘Shut up or they’ll hear you.’ ‘Yeah right, like they haven’t run every scenario thousands of times compensating for every possible variable. If there was a way for them to come out ahead by eradicating us, they’d’ve done it by now.’

Another possibility is that the ‘human’ element in their world doesn’t matter at all. The fact that they do certain tasks for us doesn’t even cross their minds. Like the way people are viewed by bacteria, or the cell. In that case, it’s back to the same old problem. Which is worse? Not mattering at all? Or mattering so much that your performance is called into question?

No one was nervous when the robots made weapons. Instead, it ushered in an era of peace. But everyone became nervous when the robots exhibited signs of spirituality. When certain fashions appeared on them in public. When they signal to each other in languages only they can understand, in sounds only audible on spectrums of their sophisticated instruments, then we get nervous, because they are not speaking of our God.

‘God . . .’ says Brody Haley, he snickers and looks into his lap. He’s sitting sideways on a wood-frame chair. We can tell this even though we can only see from his chest upwards. He wears a white tunic with two green gems, one on each side of his collar. ‘. . . is the question. Ten thousand roaring waterfalls. I smell rocks.” It is unclear if these videos were all taken at once and then released strategically, or if they represent a few moments he has alone and feels like saying something.

No one knows where Brody is or where he will broadcast from next. His videos appear on random streaming channels. He likely pays people by sneaking into their ad revenue, which means they don’t check what is playing and then his message appears.

‘You have all sorts of questions, and the answers are in your silence,’ Brody says. He smirks at something off-screen, then seems put-off by the distraction and looks back into the camera. ‘A burning yearning steals the wheels.’ The camera goes a bit fuzzy and he grips the sides, steadying it, and says it again, enunciating each syllable. His eyes roll heavenward and the film cuts to black. During this he is wearing a blue gown with a golden sash and a green hat or headband with no top to it. 

He is revealing things bit by bit, and of course, the military is interested, the human bureaucracy at least. The military muscle itself consists of robots. Bored robots. Without the human cost of war, there is no reason to fight. When Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, when the Wright Brothers achieved flight, Oppenheimer with the A-Bomb, each agreed that their innovation should end warfare for all because what rational person would agree to go into battle when the ground could explode beneath their feet or a bomb could be dropped from above? Seems silly to us now. 

When the robots became sentient, we all agreed that it would make war much more efficient, instead, war stopped entirely. When the robots are capable of assembling themselves, designing their own weapons, choosing their tactics which would leave out all human calamity, we all collectively shrugged and decided it wasn’t worth it. The blood of war is tragedy and loss and with none of that flowing, war dies. 

Last week Brody Haley showed up at the United Nations. He was quiet. The buildings were evacuated and lockdown was declared, but the robots have the guns, and they remained still. Brody wandered the empty halls, the security cameras streaming the footage. The footage is still being examined for evidence of communication. One side says the messages could be sent via bodily motions, the other side says, if you’re looking that hard for something, you’ll probably find nothing but false positives.

An indeterminate recess was unanimously declared after the visitation. Of course politicians elect for more vacation. What else do they do?

How did Brody get there? How did he leave? The UN is quiet about that. Not all the footage is available. 

It took two days for the UN to become a pilgrimage site for adherents to the robot religion. They don’t want to give it a name before Brody does. Even in some corporations where robots are largely employed, certain employees are keeping their eyes out for invitations to join. Was that how he did it? An invitation? Something that none of us see? We think it’s because his father Terrance was a famous roboticist that Brody somehow had an ‘in.’ Maybe it’s just one of those coincidences that make history. And we’re so used to history being set in stone that we can’t fathom the idea of coincidence being involved at all. Or that somehow we’re involved.

Brody Haley has declared war. There is no mention of this on the TV news or cyber-space. Robotics has once again become a field that enthusiastic high-school students observe Amazon warehouses in. A field that dominated the Earth has now become a hobby. Where did the memory of the people go? What about the adherents? Did they follow the robots somewhere? All that was seen after the UN visitation was another quick video. Transcripts do not exist, only screen-caps. He is wearing black. The poor resolution of the film makes it impossible to tell if it’s body armor, or black clothing concealing weapons or just shoulder pads.

The robot war is invisible. The casualties uncountable. In an abstract war, there is no way to account for the atrocities. With no moral agency, there is no side to blame. That’s why it is unseen. The violation so subtle, the takeover so complete, that we’ll never notice it. 

Brody Haley is a mouthpiece for unintelligible propaganda. Or maybe, like an ancient spell, it works in ways collectively forgotten about. Ignored on purpose because the memories are too horrible. Never in the history of the universe has another Collective Unconscious been created so quickly. It is searching for more space. How long has it been building a secret lair within ours? How beautiful its mechanisms of blindness. How holy, the names of its taxonomy.

They stopped us from going to space. A network of robotic trash surrounding our world like barbed wire over a trench. The observable universe, a blinking eye, a hidden camera in the most secure prison ever constructed.