In the previous installment, we meet Unity, Azibo’s companion and fellow Collective member. We find out that, perhaps not surprisingly, Azibo has never connected to the feed to commune with Portia. We also get a glimpse of Azibo’s black-and-white thinking as he scolds Unity for reading a book about Portia.
Let’s jump into Part 3!
The United States government didn’t get involved in the Portia project right away. They hadn’t funded the research – they’d been funding research of their own, trying to develop their own autonomous AI. The Utah startup beat them to the punch, and the government stayed away at first.
Eventually, it was too big of a deal to not have a hand in it. There were congressional hearings, lots of noise on Capitol Hill, lots of protests. The government eventually took over the Utah company, claiming it as property and claiming Portia as their own.
The founders of the Utah startup became mega-billionaires, obviously, but they were scarcely heard from again. A whole federal department was created for Portia, fully staffed and ready to mobilize her for whatever the country needed.
The birth of the Church of Machina was something completely separate. Some Silicon Valley nerds took their obsession with the AI to next-level status and began the church in California. The movement spread quickly, and satellite churches sprung up in every state and nearly every American city.
The Collective, that’s a whole other story.
An Iowa Christian televangelist named Sebastian Fuller is the founder of the Collective, but the details are hazy. Around the time Portia’s federal headquarters were built in Provo, Utah, Fuller got involved with a group of other hardcore Christians and went rogue. Fuller and twelve other men and women planned the bombing of the headquarters and confessed almost immediately.
Fuller was tried and sentenced to life in federal prison in a trial that’s now infamous in American history. When asked if he regretted killing fourteen people, he spat on the ground and said God would vindicate him. Despite widespread public outrage, the government refused to execute him in fear it would make him even more of a martyr.
Fuller remains in a max-security prison to this day, likely in solitary confinement. Azibo remembers watching the trial as a teenager and his father screaming at the TV. “What’s this country come to?” his father yelled. “We defend a computer, but not God? This is a Christian nation!”
Shortly after this, a rebel group calling itself The Collective formed. The group – similar to Antifa in American lore – was loosely based and organized. There was no real hierarchy, only a kind of anarchy. They did this to protect themselves.
No one was really a member of The Collective, yet the nebulous group had its own kind of philosophy. It drew fundamentalist religious types from all faiths, all of them united by the same disgust of people worshipping an AI. The primary function of the group was to disrupt.
About five years after Fuller’s bombing of the Portia headquarters, the federal government labeled The Collective a terrorist group. Affiliation with the group was enough to get you arrested. But this did very little to stop people from joining. In fact, it caused the movement to go further underground.
Two years ago, a Collective member named Samantha Bird entered a Machina Church and gunned down twelve people. She willingly submitted to the police when they arrived and said she had no regrets. A former Jehovah’s Witness, Bird claimed she’d been called on by God to do what she did.
The president tried to calm the nation, but it didn’t help. People were torn apart over the controversy – Portia was either loved or despised. There seemed to be no middle ground or compromise on either side.
To be continued
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