McBuddha Awakens


Ben Goertzel, December 2002



I’m in a broken-down city of rubble and ruins, post-nuclear-holocaust, circa 2100 AD.  People are living in caves amidst crushed buildings, deep in old basements and sewer pipes, etc.  Three-eyed mutant pygmy mountain pigs run rampant through the ruins. Phosphorescent tarantulas with the intelligence of monkeys roam the surface in hordes, hunting the pigs and occasionally humans.  The sky is dark and smoggy, with satellite debris frequently crashing to earth.  Yellow, red and green lightning occurs at all times of day, sometimes making inordinately beautiful patterns in the sky.  Electric power is erratically available, and parts of the Internet still exist, but are populated largely by AI shopping agents run amok, striking complex deals with each other for futures and options on physical goods that no longer exist, such as plane tickets to cities that have been nuked into oblivion. 


The streets are patrolled by robotic Buddhas on wheels, which fire exploding bullets from their navels; these are defective offspring of a research project in self-replicating software carried out at Maharishi University just before the holocaust.   Some of these "Buddhroids" were programmed for tantric sex and due to a bug in their software make a habit of raping human women, forcing their victims’ bodies into extreme twisted poses, tormenting them slowly and emotionlessly.


A young couple are living in a hovel carved out of a collapsed skyscraper, with a pet Great Dane that is sometimes murderously psychotic, but is very effective at chasing off the mutant three-eyed pigs.  They look exactly like me and Jamie.  I have a strange feeling – I realized I am dreaming – but then I forget what dreaming is.   The couple gets along terribly; she alternates between days of nymphomania and weeks of frigidity.  She will eat nothing but roast pig; she nags and hounds him into dangerous hunting expeditions on the surface.  He subsides largely on mushrooms, which he grows in a corner of their hovel.  


Much of the day they spend screaming at each other, or throwing pieces of broken electronic machinery at each other.  Respite is brought only by bizarre sex games in which, during her nymphomaniac periods, she binds him with spiderweb and alternatingly torments him and satisfies him.  While he is out hunting, she seeks out Buddhroids and encourages them to torture her sexually.  Sometimes the experience is just painful, other times it is divine.  Once she has a truly enlightened experience, perceiving the whole universe as a huge white continuum, with a beautiful young man's face surging out of it, singing to her in psychedelic Mozart melodies.  She returns home from this experience with a smile on her face, and prepares him a mushroom salad.  He is overwhelmed and confused; and during the meal he manages to say something wrong, and the unpleasantness between them returns.


He is hunting.  He sees what at first seems like a mirage, but then seems more vividly real than anything: a beautiful, dark-skinned teenage girl, clad in colorful rags, standing amidst the ruins of an electrical power generating station.  She looks at him with wide lusty eyes, but when he approaches her, she’s gone.  He is obsessed with the vision of this girl; imagines himself speaking to her, caressing her.  He hunts incessantly, day after day and week after week, gradually becoming an unparalleled expert at dodging the psychopathic Buddha machines.  In one battle, he crushes Buddha machine under a boulder, and he opens up its metal carcass, finding a peculiar glowing crystal inside, which he realizes is the quantum memory unit, the essence of its artificial mind.  He carries this in his pocket, as a sort of good luck charm, and with the idea that it may be useful in the future.


In time, he finds the girl again, and when she looks at him this time, soft white eyes glowing against rich brown skin, he holds up the crystal.  She stays and stares.  He approaches her.  She does not speak, but clenches his hand.  They sit and look at each other a while.   After an hour or so she gets up and leaves.  "Will I see you again?" he asks.  She nods yes and smiles.  He knows that she is lying: another one will come, but it will not be her, though it may look and feel exactly like her.  The her that she is now is vanishing every moment.


They are making love, and he is enjoying it.  I cannot feel it; I am hovering in the air.   


I wake up.  I am flying in the air.  I am in an airplane.  I almost remember who I am, why I am there.  But I don’t want to remember.  I want the dream back.  Its tendrils scrape against the inside of my skull.  They are making love, I am making love.  It is a crazy mix of colors in the superordinary blackness.


I leave his body, float into the background.  He is back with his girlfriend, the Jamie clone.  She beats him to the edge of death.  He doesn't fight back, just lies there and lets her strike him with broken computer parts.  I am no longer him now; I can’t feel I thing.  I watch and hover.  A vision of the dark-skinned girl pops into his mind, all of a sudden, like the rising of an alien sun.  And into my mind as well.  He summons his strength and thrusts her off him, tossing her into the wall, and leaves the hovel, with his crystal in his pocket.


The girl is living with a gnarled, angry, legless old man.  He grows flowers, incredibly beautiful ones, some of them up to a foot in diameter and multi-colored.  The flowers talk to him.  The peace and gorgeousness of his garden contrasts with his dyspeptic personality.   She runs through the city to find wrecked stores with bottles of spring water, which he then empties into the garden. 


He kills a Buddhroid and wires it directly into the Net, with the intention of somehow downloading the intelligence of a shopping bot into its body.  The situation is getting worse.  There are more and more Buddhroids and they seem to be league with the tarantulas.  Each horde of tarantulas is now led by a Buddhroid, and they scan the city, not only destroying pigs but also razing buildings to the ground.  There are fewer and fewer places to hide.  He goes out to look for the girl, the silent and beautiful one, dark angel who gives life meaning, but she’s gone for good it seems. 


The lightning storms are worse than ever.  The Net goes down and comes back up erratically.  The building is collapsing.  As he runs away from it he sees her walking toward him.  But then she is gone again


And out of the rubble of the building comes something new, something he hasn't seen before.  The Buddhroid he had been working on is alive, but with something different on its head -- a Ronald McDonald face.  Somehow the McDonald's ad from the Net has invaded his project.  Instead of shooting bullets, this droid radiates light, in a kind of rich yellow spherical halo.  As he walks through the city he sees french fries, appearing in huge piles, spontaneously generating from nowhere.   The evil Buddhroids are dying.   The tarantulas are burrow into the ground, fleeing the light.  The pigs are still there, but are mellower, less menacing, more natural.  The sky is dark, but there is hope.


He wanders through the rubble in a daze, seeking her, seeking her, seeking her.  She is nowhere.  Finally he tunnels through the sewers and finds the flower garden where she lives.  He parts the beautiful blossoms in amazement, until, aghast, he finds her body.  The old man has killed herself and him; their corpses lie side by side, the knife clenched in his hand.  He bends over and kisses her, hoping she’ll revive a la Sleeping Beauty, but the miracle does not occur.  Not at all.  He sits amidst the flowers and cries.   After a while there is a rumbling noise: the roof of the sewer has racked, and McBuddha, his grand creation, is visible, spreading light through the world.  A small bird flies over the crack, through the light.  He takes the knife from the old man's hand and stabs himself repeatedly, and dies.   He is me – I feel my soul inside him, dying.


McBuddha travels across the landscape, purifying the city, and heading toward the hills.  The pigs gobble up the french fries he is distributing.  Everything is annihilated in his path; I am the only thing remaining, and I have neither body nor mind anymore; I am, merely and massively, a suspended dim blue light against an infinite eternity of black.