The Guguniverse

A short history of the guguniverse

About 12 years ago, I realized that not only are we creating huge amounts of information every day, but that this amount increases exponentially, roughly doubling every two years. This shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with technology, where similar growth trends have been observed, in things like transistor density or the size of software. And it makes sense, that having our globalized economy outgrown the supporting capacity of our planet, it looks for new frontiers to colonize in the digital realm. The problem is that this digital economy does not exist in a vacuum; every bit of information needs to be stored somewhere. Eventually, we will run out of materials to build storage, and out of storage to put our bits in. What will happen then?

A quick calculation showed me that this could happen some 200 years from now. The world, then, should start preparing for it much earlier, during the lifetime of those being born now. Our physical growth will have to stop within the next hundred years, as we are already consuming too many resources for our planetary systems to remain in a stable, life supporting state. We know that we are reaching tipping points, that millions of people are already suffering the consequences of climate change, and billions more will follow in the near future. The problem of peak storage seems almost trivial in comparison.

The solution, proposed by a group of scientists and engineers, is to gain some time by centralizing all our knowledge of the world, and optimizing the shit out of it. This is a reflection of the almost religious way in which we tackle problems nowadays, placing unjustified expectations in unproven technologies, instead of facing the deep and difficult task of changing our behaviors and our society. Of course, something unexpected happens in the story, and Gugu, the sentient, all-knowing AI, is born.

At first, I wanted to create an old-school, point & click, adventure game based on this premise. The protagonist, an ordinary government worker, finds an error in this vast repository of information, uncovers some buried truths, and ends up confronting Gugu. It was in 2020, when I decided that instead of a game, I could tell the story through a novel. Since then, I’ve written a hundred pages, and I’m halfway through. I would have continued at a leisurely pace, were it not for the fact that Machine Learning services started popping up everywhere, and becoming part of the daily conversation for a lot of people. Suddenly, Gugu was becoming less of a key plot in a novel, and more of a reality from our near future.

One thing that I noticed, when talking about the story, was how much interest people had in the world that I was creating. So instead of taking my sweet time to finish the novel and risking writing yesterday’s news, I decided to organize my ideas for this world, the guguniverse, and write them down as blog posts that could be enjoyed in small bites. I’m publishing them as I write, and will soon include some short stories. Hopefully, at some point in the future, the full novel too.

At the moment of this writing, the guguniverse is still a work in progress. It is an interesting experience, as each new post teaches me something about this world, that I didn’t know before. I am enjoying these discoveries very much, and I hope that you enjoy them too.