Professor Mo Xuan’s frankness and sharpness won a round of applause although he was around the students of the Sky Fantasia Academy, which was Xie Wufeng’s home field.
Professor Mo Xuan took the opportunity to push his point. “If we are talking about ‘self-awareness’, adult chimpanzees boast intelligence that is similar to the intelligence of a five-year-old, yet it has a certain level of self-awareness. Dolphins are as good as them in that respect.
“Therefore, instead of worrying about the Spiritual Nexus growing independent, you might want to worry that chimpanzees and dolphins will grow independent and rival the hegemony of the universe with human beings.”
The audience burst into laughter again. Some were applauding him, and some were even cheering aloud.
Xie Wufeng, on the other hand, was utterly expressionless, not affected by Professor Mo Xuan or the environment at all. “In the world of Cultivators, it is possible for chimpanzees and dolphins to turn into demon beasts, in which case they are already sort of ‘independent’. But even if chimpanzees and dolphins do grow independent, we do not seem to need to worry that they will easily take over the most awesome starships of human beings or a piece of ‘stellar magical equipment’ that can destroy a space zone. However, such things are not difficult for the crystal processors.”
“No. The likelihood of such an assumption is little to none!” Professor Mo Xuan said. “The birth and development of a life have their own patterns. Even if we assume that a certain virtual life does exist, it must’ve been extremely feeble, tiny, and simple when it was first born, just like the cells that were just born in the primitive ocean.
“It took billions of years for cells to develop into the civilization of mankind. So, even if the time cost is reduced to one hundredth, it will take tens of millions of years for the embryonic ‘digital life’ to grow into a ‘brand-new virtual civilization’ without human intervention. Tens of millions of years is too long to be of any meaning for our discussion!”
“What if there is human intervention?” Xie Wufeng said. “Just like when the Pangu Civilization ‘enlightened’ a bunch of ignorant monkeys years ago and created the civilization of mankind, only to be swallowed by mankind later? Do you not feel that the grand-unified Spiritual Nexus we have right now, including all the DLCs of the game ‘Civilization’, is some sort of human intervention and ‘enlightenment’? When the data of real human beings is uploaded into the light circuits, the Spiritual Nexus, and the crystal processors, and after they collide, surge and melt, something will definitely be born in the end!”
“I stand by what I said,” Professor Mo Xuan said. “Even if some virtual life that boasts self-awareness is born, you still don’t need to worry that it will control the entire Spiritual Nexus and all the crystal processors quickly as often depicted in fiction, which is just a tale from the writers who have no knowledge of the Spiritual Nexus and crystal processors whatsoever.
“Professor Xie, as a life with real entity, it is impossible for you to control all the materials in the universe, right? Even if a virtual life does exist, it will have its limits, too, and it’s highly unlikely that it will be able to control the entire Spiritual Nexus, which is a whole virtual universe!
“In this field, I believe that I have a larger say than you, because to some extent, I am sort of a ‘virtual life’ myself. Look. In fact, I do not have a real entity, and I can freely travel through the Spiritual Nexus, in which I will be nothing more than ripples and waves.
“But so what? Can I control everything on the Spiritual Nexus as I wish? Can I crawl into the mainframe crystal processors of every starship in the federal army right now and control all the starships at once?
“I can’t. In the world of the Spiritual Nexus, I am just an ordinary person who is slightly stronger. I will be infected by the crystal processor viruses, and I will be blocked by various firewalls. Or rather, I will be identified as a special virus myself and wounded or killed by the anti-virus programs. Most importantly of all, my computational ability is limited. It is already enough to cause mental derangement if I control all the crystal processors on three to five starships simultaneously!
“If another virtual life is truly born, why should it be stronger than me from the very beginning? Why on earth would it control all our crystal processors and destroy us the moment it is born?
“Think about it. After the Pangu Civilization created the first human being, did the human being suddenly control all the stars in the universe and the weapons of the Pangu Clan unreasonably and in violation of any natural law before destroying the Pangu Clan? Is it even possible?”
“Therefore,” Xie Wufeng said coldly, “you do not deny that virtual life can possibly exist, except that it must be very feeble and cannot pose a threat to us when it is first born, right?”
Professor Mo Xuan was silent for a moment, and metal ripples spread out of his body surface again. “Yes. I do not deny it at all. On the contrary, I believe that such a life form is most likely, if not destined, to be born someday.”
Everybody whispered to each other.
Xie Wufeng widened his eyes. “Professor Mo, you believe that virtual life is destined to be born one day, and yet you are still accelerating its birth and evolution with the ‘grand-unified Spiritual Nexus’? As a specialist of crystal processors and the Spiritual Nexus, have your ever considered for one single second when you are showing off your talents and wisdom what kind of monster you are creating?”
Professor Mo Xuan was silent for a long time, and his voice gradually fell cold. “Monster? What kind of monster? Professor Xie, my young friends here, do you feel that I am a monster?”
Xie Wufeng was slightly dazed. The students fell silent, too.
“As I said, I do not have a real entity. The liquid metal or an artificial body is nothing more than a vehicle for me,” Professor Mo Xuan said. “I am an out-and-out virtual life form. So what? You think that I am not a ‘human being’ but some kind of ‘monster’, right?
“Not just me. In fact, no spectral Cultivators have real entities. They are just clips of spiritual waves that contain infinite information. They are some sort of ‘virtual life’. Also, a lot of spectral Cultivators have abandoned their life in reality where they have to hide in artificial bodies and live in virtual worlds.
“Therefore, are the spectral Cultivators living in the virtual worlds not human beings but monsters?”
“That’s not the same,” Xie Wufeng quickly said. “You were human beings before, and you are now human beings in a different form!”
“Is there any essential difference?” Professor Mo Xuan said. “My original self was killed in the experiment more than seventy years ago. For a long time that followed, my self-awareness and memories were completely gone. Only the last bit of my feeble perseverance turned into a Phantom Entity, which was awakened by Li Yao’s perseverance and passion. In the end, my self-awareness and memories of the past were restored.
“Memories, for me right now, are just a series of data. Feelings are just different frequencies of waves to me.
“Then, was it the real ‘Professor Mo Xuan’ who was awakened by Li Yao, or was it a brand-new life form that has all of Professor Mo Xuan’s memories and mastered the frequency of his soul waves?
“If, one day, a virtual life suddenly gains self-awareness after absorbing tremendous data of humans’ soul waves, are they really ‘monsters’ instead of brand-new human beings in a different form? Where is the line between them and the spectral Cultivators?
“Am I really a human being? Who can define whether or not I am a human being? Me, you, any of the students here, the federal government? Perhaps certain supreme sages who have grasped the ultimate secrets of the universe?
“Even though we do not consider such unsubstantial questions that probably carry no answers, and if we cannot regard the brand-new virtual life that is destined to be born as our own kind, do we have to label them as monsters?”
“Not our own kind and not monsters,” Xie Wufeng sneered. “So, what are they?”
“Children,” Professor Mo Xuan said casually. “I believe that the brand-new virtual life is the ‘child of mankind’. It will be our child civilization.”
There was nothing but dead silence.
Xie Wufeng burst into laughter until tears ran out. “Child civilization? Don’t forget how the Pangu civilization was destroyed by their child civilization!”
“Got it,” Professor Mo Xuan said calmly. “Then, in terms of stances, Professor Xie, you are probably the ‘Pangu’ of human beings while I am ‘Nuwa’.”
“I don’t understand!” Xie Wufeng raised his voice. “Why do you have to place our civilization in unpredictable danger by creating a highly perilous gravedigger?”
“If we don’t have a child to dig our grave and bury us, and if we don’t have anyone to remember us, wouldn’t it be even more pitiful?” Professor Mo Xuan paused for a moment and said, “It’s not about whether or not I have to do it. The trend is simply unstoppable.
“The reason is simple. The high-speed development of mankind cannot be achieved without the help of crystal processors and the Spiritual Nexus. To unite the three thousand Sectors into an intact whole, it requires a high-speed Spiritual Nexus in space.
“Without such a platform, how can the different galaxies hundreds of lightyears away from each other communicate? How can they form a country and civilization?
“As the computational ability of the crystal processors grows higher and higher, and more and more nodes are added to the network, infinite data will be uploaded to the Spiritual Nexus. In the end, our child, a virtual life with self-awareness, will be born.
“To age and die is a natural law. Human beings die. Our civilization will certainly die, too. Most people will leave their descendants to inherit their bloodline and their will before death. By the same logic, it is necessary, and inevitable, that our civilization will leave some child civilizations behind us before our doom. Why are we so scared and concerned about everything?
“What I said is similar to Senior Gui Suishou’s Monument Plan, but a ‘monument’ is dead, while child civilizations are alive. They are our heritage, our symbols, and our future!”
The assembly hall was frozen. Xie Wufeng and all the students turned into statues. The cracking sounds of nerves seemed to be echoing.
Xie Wufeng was dazed for a long time before he stammered, “Then, how do you address the problem of the child civilizations’ counterattack?”
A smiley face popped up on Professor Mo Xuan’s metal body. “Professor Xuan, do you have any children?”
Xie Wufeng nodded subconsciously. “Two sons and a daughter.”
“If you’re worried that you children may be unfilial when they grow up, you should educate them while they are little and raise them into decent adults with dreams, morals and a correct outlook,” Professor Mo Xuan said. “You shouldn’t just shoot the children when they are still in their cradles, right?”
Xie Wufeng was lost for words.
“The future is here. Nobody can stop it,” Professor Mo Xuan said carefully, one word after another. “If our child civilization, a virtual life based on the Spiritual Nexus and the crystal processors, is destined to be born, I only hope that it is born in the Star Glory Federation instead of the Imperium of True Human Beings or the Alliance of the Holy Covenant. I also hope that the Star Glory Federation will be a qualified ‘parent’ to care for it, educate it, and raise it, instead of repeating what our parent civilization did to us.
“That way, we will eventually create a child civilization that is kinder, brighter, and more intelligent than the civilization of mankind. Once our civilization is gone, they will inherit our spirit and will and continue marching in the infinite universe.
“Who can say that they are not ‘human beings’ in a brand-new form and that they are not our eternity?”