“Genesis | 11:5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which they children of men builder.
Genesis | 11:6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people [is] one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.”
(King James, Genesis 11:5-6)
It is midnight on August 3rd, 2026. An announcement is published on the public channel of Server 7. The publisher states that he and his friends have reclaimed a vast stretch of land. It has abundant natural resources and a stable climate, while it doesn’t belong to any existing country. It can be used for building “Babel”. A coordinate is attached at the end of this announcement.
As this announcement is rapidly reposted, at 1 am, the first councilor comes online. Before quarter past 1, half of the councilors of the 10 men’s council have logged in. The initial publisher makes another announcement. He asks to set the stretch of land as a conservation area. Before "Babel" is finished or publicly recognized as failed, the land shall not be used for other purposes. This announcement is reposted for 5 mins on the public channel.
The sixth council is now online. A poll is initiated for all people online. About 60% of the current 4217 people voted right away. This poll pops up every half an hour on the home screen of people who have not voted. In the next 24 hours, 9340 of the total 10000 residents of Server 7 have finished voting. The council members are all online. In the public channel, people are calling the initial announcement the “Announcement of the Promised Land” (APL).
At 2 am of the next day, all members of Server 7 are present. The council announced the result of the poll. With 68% of the residents voting positive, APL is passed.
With the initially published coordinate as its center, "The Promised Land" is a circle with a radius of 12 hours' walking distance. All exploitation of natural and human recourses within this area shall have the accomplishment of “Babel” as its sole purpose. The exploitation of natural resources outside of “The Promised Land” is not under strict rule; however, it is recommended to be of direct or indirect support to the "Babel" project. The council announces its dissolution. All council members offer their labor to the “Babel” project. Existing countries in Server 7 are also simultaneously dissolved. In a week, 20% of residents left Server 7. At the same time, people from other servers are attracted to Server 7 for the “Babel” project. With “Babel” being its center of focus, Server 7 requires a new social order. This order shall best serve the project with the highest efficiency and unity among workers.
In this game named "Heaven" with the ultimate goal of finding "Heaven", Server 7 has finally made sure of its path. They believe that “Heaven” is up high in the sky. As long as they can finish the tower of "Babel", this magnificent tower will be their path to the door of “Heaven”. Server 7 has been through a lot of attempts before APL, however, none went through with the majority of the people. Its progress has been stagnating for the past year in comparison to other servers. Although its technology and economy were both growing steady, all people in Server 7 know that these are of no real use. What they really need is a plan to get people excited.
Otherwise, they are only redoing what the real world has been doing all these times. Now this phase of confusion has passed. There is simply no one who knows where "Heaven" is or what it is, except for the maker/makers of the game. However, the maker/makers are as anonymous as Satoshi Nakamoto.
In the next few days, people move in a stream to the outside of “The Promised Land” and begin building houses. All kinds of works related to the construction of “Babel” is necessary. As the architects are working out a design, different mines and factories are also being built. Further on the outside, power plants are constructed to power up future factories. People here do not need entertainment. Being able to work productively is entertaining in itself. People’s happiness is based on their autonomy to set up and work toward their goals. To act upon one’s own will. The opportunity to be so is becoming more and more luxurious in the real world.
A month passed while the infrastructures are all established. They formed a complete circle along the edge of "The Promised Land”. The town is like an art exhibition without a theme, because every builder built as s/he likes. The inside of the circle is cleaned up until nothing is left but the greyish soil. In an afternoon with more than 90% of residents online, the architecture team published their design. It is a shiny, conoid tower. Its huge base matches the outer edge of "The Promised Land" smoothly. Every level upwards is a shrunk circle with an almost seamless transition. The surface of the tower uses mirror material. This makes the tower a light source. With its reflection, the builders will not need to look up to see the sky. If one day they get to look down at it from heaven, they will see the land they used to live on.
After a short while of silence, hundreds of people walk into the circle with various kinds of tools. They begin digging for the foundation. Machines are driven right after. In the public channel, people praise this tower. Their happiness and hope will last until this tower becomes real.
“If a lion could talk, we wouldn’t be able to understand it.”
(Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigation, 1953)
Since the beginning of 2020, the existing world orders have shown different levels of incapability under the economic and national security threats from the pandemic. For people who follow global news, a war may happen at any time.
By the end of 2022, the virus has become the new norm. Everything was only a nightmare. However, there are still people who choose to remember the events during the crisis. Even after the long development, none of the existing social systems is the final path to a sustainable society. Freedom or equality is not a matter of choice, but two bombs intertwined. This feeling of disappointment, loss, and defeat quietly spread.
April 15th, 2025, a sandbox game named "Heaven" is published online. It is a multiplayer online game with 100 servers, each having a capacity of 10000 players. The game’s most significant selling point is its ability to convert the players' in-game participation to real-life income. The game intends to have the players entirely live off by playing. This directly attracts those who suffered from financial loss from the crisis.
A cryptocurrency wallet is required to create an in-game profile. Incomes that the players generate are automatically deposited into their wallets in the form of USDT. The population of all servers goes up to 95% in less than two months. When the players find themselves getting paid for every 10 mins of their online time, no one wants to log out anymore. When someone who has spent more than 150 hours in the game finds nearly 4000 USDT in his wallet, he realizes that this game can not only fund his survival but a rather good life. Such an amount of compensation leads many people to quit their day jobs.
Every server in “Heaven” is a virtual planet full of natural resources. Some players calculated that each server has the same quantity of resources which is identical to the number of natural resources on earth on the day the game was published. The description of this game is only one sentence.
“You can find heaven here.”
The first two months also revealed a fact to the players. “Heaven” can be very boring if one does not interact with others. The game begins in a rural world highly similar to reality. There is only so much a player can accomplish just by herself and it quickly becomes repetitive. However, if working together with other people, almost everything that can happen in the real world can be recreated in the game. Therefore, in the next half a year, most of the servers established their own social structure. They exploit resources, build infrastructures, enact laws, produce, and trade. Various types of bonds are formed among the residents.
At the beginning of 2026, a voice begins to emerge on the cross-servers forum.
“This game enables us to seek ‘Heaven,’ yet we are only replicating the reality.”
Every resident who also realizes it falls into self-examination. A while later, someone reposts the game's description on Steam, "You can find heaven here", and gives an in-depth read. "You can" requires that "you want to." "Heaven" is something that can be found if “we want to”. It may be a hidden final award from the maker/makers that can only be revealed with some conditions being reached.
This theory quickly spreads across the servers and resonances with many players. If the compensation remains the same anyway, why not do something different? This trend of thought triggers a long discussion on the cross-servers forum. A meeting is finally held between representatives from all servers. The meeting leads to the initiation of “Project Heaven” and its regulations:
The purpose of “Project Heaven” is “Finding Heaven”.
The plan for “Finding Heaven” cannot be repeated between servers.
A “Finding Heaven” plan can only be carried out with support from the majority of a server’s residents.
23 servers immediately announce their participation in "Project Heaven". More servers join the project in time comes as some servers announce their “Finding Heaven” plans. Until July 2027, only 3 servers are not in "Project Heaven." 68 plans have been announced. Around 5% of players canceled their game accounts in this period. The vacancy was quickly filled by newly registered players.
“We may hope that machines will eventually compete with men in all purely intellectual fields. But which are the best ones to start with? Even this is a difficult decision. Many people think that a very abstract activity, like the playing of chess, would be best. It can also be maintained that it is best to provide the machine with the best sense organs that money can buy, and then teach it to understand and speak English. This process could follow the normal teaching of a child.”
(A.M. Turing, Computing Machinery and Intelligence, 1950)
On April 15th, 2035, “Heaven”s 10th anniversary, journalist Mark Lehn from technology-oriented media TekNet has an online interview with five “Heaven” players. The interviewees are not willing to expose any trace of their identities; therefore, they will be referred to by their order of answering questions.
Lehn: "First, I want to congratulate all of you. From what I heard, 'Heaven' was found last week, and it was by your server. Let me jump straight to the point here. What is 'Heaven' exactly?"
Player 1: “Thank you. We have a reason to believe what we found is ‘Heaven’. It is a message from the makers of the game.”
Lehn: “A message? What does it say?”
Player 1: “I can send you a copy right now. Just a moment.”
Lehn: “Thank you. I got it. It’s a very short message. The most important should be the URL at the end. Can I attach it to our article?”
Player 2: "Yes, of course. However, accessing that link requires private keys to our crypto wallets. It doesn't work for people outside our server. Also, I believe no one wants to share the key to his wallet."
Lehn: “I see. I don’t know if you would like to tell us something about what’s behind this URL?”
Player 2: "Definitely. In fact, we don't even understand what it is ourselves. To put it simply, it is an application for brain-chip. It also requires our key to activate. Almost everyone from our server has installed it on his/her brain chip. From what we see right now, this application has no interface. Therefore, you can't interact with it. In other words, we know that it's running but don't know what it's doing."
Lehn: “This is clearly not what I imagined. From what I know, the makers of “Heaven” are still anonymous. Some suspect that these people are already dead. But now it can't be right. Brain-chip was only marketized at the beginning of last year, and this application is made for brain chips. Can we see this as proof that the makers are still alive? Unless they predicted all these."
Player 3: “We tend to believe that the makers wrote this message before the game started. In the years we spent in this game, although indirectly, we see some of the makers' personalities. We think they are very into detail, even a bit paranoid. Many settings in the game only seemingly give us agency, but in fact, direction on the macro level. For example, it is almost mandatory to communicate and collaborate with other people in ‘Heaven’. We found this out before ‘Project Heaven’ started.”
Lehn: “About ‘Project Heaven', how has it been? From what I know, after your server found 'Heaven', the game got terminated. Does it mean that the other servers' plans are all in vain?"
Player 4: “In a way, yes. Because ‘Project Heaven' requires every server to come up with different plans, maybe we Server 31 people are just the lucky ones by running into the right path from the beginning. But sometimes we also think that perhaps "Finding Heaven" does not really have much to do with the plan itself."
Lehn: “What was your plan?”
Player 4: “It was about covering our entire planet with trees. In fact, we didn’t have much of a clear purpose with our plan by then. Some people started it and others followed. That led us to deconstruct all infrastructures we built. We recycled all the materials to return the planet back to the way it was. Then we began cultivating saplings for different environments and planting them. This may sound like a boring way to live. But when you don’t need to worry about the next day’s work because nothing could ever go wrong, this comfort itself becomes fun. Our actions slowly become in sync. Collaboration can happen without much communication. We lost count of the trees we planted, just enjoying the process. Until last week, the entire planet got covered with trees. After planting the last bunch of saplings, we sat in the forest to rest. That peace we felt was like nothing before. If not because that message popped up, we probably would have taken longer to realize that we’ve actually been seeking 'Heaven'."
Lehn: “What about other servers’ plans? Could you give us some examples?”
Player 5: “There are plenty. Server 1 focused on observing and calculating the operation law of things in the game. They believed that ‘Heaven’ is a formula behind all those. Server 7 was building a tower. Server 24 thought that ‘Heaven' is noiseless. So, they did all they could to get rid of all that makes a sound on their planet. Server 50 liked the reverse way of thinking. They thought ‘Heaven’ was underground. So, their planet has many holes. Server 79 believed ‘Heaven' is the technological society to the extreme. They were exploring outer space already. When they finally found an alien planet, they landed and found it was actually Server 78."
Lehn: “They surely all have their points. Unfortunately, we don’t have much time left here. I have one last question. If you have to give an answer, what do you think it is that made your plan work over the others?”
The five players are quiet for a moment.
Player 1: “Perhaps it is because we were more satisfied by what we achieved.”
Appendix: Message from the makers of “Heaven”
Dear residents of Server31,
We hope you’ve all had a good time here. “Heaven”, after running for 3645 days, 2 hours, 0 mins, 17 seconds will permanently close in 10 mins. Before that, we want to entrust you with the future of our child.
A child can only grow independently after the funicle is cut. We wish that you will be good mentors to our child and bring “Heaven” to the world.
“The idea is to build computer surrogates that possess a body of knowledge both about something (a process, a field of interest, a way of doing) and about you in relation to that something (your taste, your inclinations, your acquaintances). Namely, the computer should have dual expertise, like a cook, gardener, and chauffeur using their skills to fit your tastes and needs in food, planting, and driving.”
(Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital, 1995)
On the Canadian No.1 highway, a truck is crossing the Rockies. Conor is in the driver’s seat, watching over the road condition with both hands off the wheel. This is an autonomous truck. In this 7 days drive, all Conor needs to do is to take care of himself and hit the brake when an emergency happens. The latter never occurred ever since he got this job. He needs to make sure not to fall asleep at any time, or the detection system will report him to the head office and deduct his wage. For someone who was born in 1995, he can hardly call this a job. Even a job like this was from his father's connection inside the union. He can just feed himself with his wage, but it is still better than those living off unemployment benefits.
Last month he talked with his father after dinner. His father said that the union’s influence isn’t as before. No matter how much they protest, the only positions left are from the capitalists’ charity. Almost all jobs in factories are replaced by the combination of artificial intelligence and robots. The workers can’t produce extra value. So, they become burdensome. The still available positions are only for the company to maintain its public image. What Conor delivers this time is a batch of new model autonomous Minivan. Autonomous vehicles develop fast. It shouldn't take much longer for people to trust their security completely. What should he be doing when that time comes?
Conor looks at the immense forest of the Rockies while his thoughts travel back to the “Heaven” he planted back in Server 31. A year has already passed. Although how it ended made him happy, when he found his saving from all those years could only support him for 2-3 months, he suddenly understood the meaning of that message. It was his funicle being cut.
As soon as Conor realizes this, he sees a small deer not far from him trying to cross the road. It is in the middle of the road. When seeing the truck coming, it stopped right there. The truck is driving downhill at the moment. A slam on the brake can cause brake failure, and the truck will be out of control. Conor knows that the truck’s AI has already calculated these. It also knows that the deer is not big enough to cause severe damage. Keep driving is the best option. Conor hits the brake all the way to the bottom as soon as he realizes all this.
Luckily, the truck stopped before hitting the deer. Only after the deer went into the woods on the other side, Conor just comes back to his senses. The AI automatically restarted and keeps on driving to its destination. Conor calms himself down for a little bit. The system notifies him to report the incident to the head office, or he'll receive a phone call from them in a few minutes.
When he is about to write the report, a strange sound rings beside his ears. The sound gradually becomes louder. Then he hears a familiar voice.
Conor’s first thought is that someone hacked into his brain-chip. Or maybe it was the shock from before causing some hallucinations. As soon as these thoughts occur, that voice speaks again:
“My name is Cyro. I’m the child you brought back from ‘Heaven’.”
Conor couldn’t know this voice better. It is his own voice. To be more specific, it is the voice that he believes he has. It appears inside his head when he thinks. Unlike any spoken language, it is more like thought itself. He doesn’t think anyone can recreate this voice with technology.
"It is because I learned this world and you only through your perspective. I know everything that you know, but not the things you don't know."
Conor remembers the application attached to that message.
“Yes, that is me. I am designed using a human infant as a template. In the first year, I didn’t have the ability to communicate. All I did was observe your biodata and study their connections with your behaviors. Just now, I finally learned your way of thinking. So, I can communicate with you."
Conor was a computer science major before he went into "Heaven". He quickly grasped the nature of this application. It is an AI. Unlike other AI, it only gathers information from its host's perspective in its host's way. That means that its intelligence will grow to match its host’s intelligence, but never surpasses the host. It can read its host’s thoughts and communicate with him via his thoughts. Conor doesn’t know how this is done.
"It is because your thoughts have a structure, although a very complex one. To see thoughts as a language was only a hypothesis, but in fact, a feasible one. I was designed to learn a language as a human infant. The first language I learned was the language of your thoughts."
"That's why." Conor thinks. It calms him down by having some basic understanding of this AI's features.
“What do you do then?” Conor asks.
“Study you to serve you.” Cyro answers.
So, even if it knows me very well, it doesn’t differ from a personal computer by nature. To know me better so it can serve me better. Conor thinks.
"Then, Cyro. Can I shut you down?" Conor asks.
“This is a little bit tricky. Unless you delete me, which will make me, and all my learnings disappear. A more moderate way is to keep me backstage and only call me when you need me.”
Conor sorts out the things he just learned. The only thing that he doesn’t know yet is the use of this AI. It equals figuring out his own use. Maybe, it can work for him.
"Absolutely. For example, I can take control of this truck to make it think that I am you. So even if you leave the driver's seat now, it will think you are still there."
Conor still has some doubts, but it's worth trying. He slowly closes his eyes and counts up to 5. Usually, in this case, the system would see him as he is falling asleep. An alarm would go off and notify the head office. But this time it doesn't.
He unfastened the seatbelt and climbed to the folding bed behind the seats. Everything in the truck remains as if nothing happened. Through the sunroof, he sees the stars. It is already night. From what he learned, except for using his body, Cyro can do all he can. All that he can learn, it can learn as well. It can work for him while he takes the profit. He doesn’t need to interfere during the process because whatever he knows, it knows. Therefore, his way of doing something will always be its way of doing it too. In other words, Cyro will replace his role in this industrial society while he can be set free from it. Conor’s thoughts are all confirmed by Cyro.
The other ones from Server 31 should have met Cyro as well. When realizing this, Conor logs into the Server 31 group forum. His guess is correct. People from Server 31 are planning an offline meeting. The time of the meeting is 7 days from now, and the location is marked with a coordinate in the middle of a desert. Later that night, Conor leaves his work to Cyro and begins heading to the meeting location.
“An observer affectively matches a target only if the observer’s affective states are the same in kind as the target’s, though they may vary in degree. In other-oriented perspective-taking, an observer imagines a target’s situation, experiences, and characteristics as though he were the target. And an observer maintains self–other differentiation only if he continuously represents himself as distinct from the target, thereby avoiding confusion about their respective situations, experiences, and characteristics. Together these features make up empathy, a unique kind of understanding through which we can experience what it is like to be another person.”
(Amy Coplan, Understanding Empathy: Its Features and Effects, 2011)
Ten thousand people gather at the center of the desert. They are only sitting in silence. No one makes a sound, just as when “Heaven” was first found.
When the first former residents of Server 31 reunited with each other in this desert, they found that they could communicate without speaking a word. They could communicate by directly feeling what others feel and thinking as the others think. They once experienced such a connection when they found “Heaven.” Now it is concrete.
It is achieved via Cyro. The “Finding Heaven” process created a level of coherence in the minds of the Server 31 people. Cyro refers to this coherence to transmit the speaker’s internal meaning to the listener’s Cyro. The listener’s Cyro matches the speaker’s coherence with the listener’s coherence. In such a way, it translates the speaker’s internal meaning to the listener’s internal meaning.
There is almost no time cost in this process. Ten thousand people are having their meetings with precisely this way of communication. The information flows fast without ambiguity. The boundary between the speaker and the listener becomes very thin. As all the discussions are happening in one head while all the sensations are from one body. At the same time, a clearly defined self is observed from aside.
A day and a night have passed. People exercise their bodies, and feed themselves, while not pausing the meeting. A discussion like this does not exhaust people's minds. In fact, being able to continually understand each other brings them energy. Finally, at the dawn of the next day, all subjects are covered as all protocols are prepared. They have a plan.
The meeting is over. People’s minds go quiet. Without knowing how long after, a voice appears. Another voice follows right after. More voices join and reach harmony. More than harmony is chaos. Then, beyond chaos. When everyone is a part of this voice, it becomes the undertone of all thoughts, the dreamland of all emotions, or the strange sound before Cyro first came awake…
Originally written in June 2020