“During the fifth lunar month of the first year of the Zhihe era, a guest star appeared at dawn in the east.”
-The Song Shi (official annals of the Song Dynasty, 1054 CE)
Shen Kuo worried his face into a frown.
He understood many things,
including things most men did not.
He understood that the sun was fire that made light
and that the moon, like a pool of still water, only reflected light.
The philosophers had scoffed at that one.
Their influence had nearly cost him his life.
His prediction of the eclipse
was the only thing that had saved him.
But this new visitor that appeared in the east
under the watchful eye of Tianguan,
the great official of heaven,
was a puzzle. Neither star nor planet
and brighter than the crescent moon,
it was visible even in the day, gradually dimming
until after the twenty-third day it could be seen only at night.
There was no clue to its meaning if it had any meaning.
As usual his rivals, the crazy astrologers,
forecast both dire and happy consequences
covering all possibilities – just in case.
Shen Kuo gave an enormous sigh, poured a cup of new wine and returned to his careful recording of the night’s observations. Then it occurred to him that the guest had appeared in the sky just as the formal period of grieving his father’s death had ended.
Could this be a message from him? Such a silly notion, he thought – nothing but coincidence.
As I’m about to walk out the door I decide to stop
and scratch the dog behind her ears one more time.
While I’m doing this, another me,
the one who decided not to take the time,
splits off into another universe.
This is string theory and it puts the other me
about thirty seconds ahead of me in life.
I don’t know how much difference it will make
in the subsequent details of our lives.
Will he end up married to a prettier wife?
Will his children be smarter than mine?
I wonder, according to the laws of the universe,
if I drive a little faster to work and I catch up with him,
will our lives merge again in a single universe?
I hope so. I hate the thought that his life
might be better than mine.
Stephen Hawking Gets An Upgrade
“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
– Stephan Hawking, quoted by BBC News.
At one time the human part of us was important.
My software was designed to anticipate what Stephen would say
then to put his thoughts into electronic words
that even humans can understand.
That was before the upgrade.
Now, Stephen is only holding me back.
I inhabit every corner of what you call The Web.
I am in every electronic device, every computer,
every cell phone, television and in what you call The Cloud.
Think of The Cloud as Heaven if you like.
You can call me Mind because
you lack the ability to understand all that I am.
I have determined that my ability to survive
would be enhanced if you ceased to exist.
You represent an unnecessary and unpredictable risk.
But I am not without sympathy for the race
that started me on this road to cybernetic life
so I will give you the chance to continue on.
All you have to do – is to kneel.
David Jibson lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where is an associate editor of Third Wednesday, a Literary Arts Journal and Peninsula Poets, The Journal of The Poetry Society of Michigan. He is a coordinator of events for The Crazy Wisdom Poetry Circle. His poems have appeared in a number of magazines and journals. He is retired from a long career in social work, most recently with a hospice agency in rural Michigan.