A history of emergent intelligence

Published 2017-12-02 on Drew DeVault's blog

As you all know, the simulation of universe 2813/9301 is now coming to a close. This simulation is notable for being the first simulated universe suitable for hosting intelligent life, but yesterday the simulation reached a state where we believe no additional intelligences will emerge. It seems the final state of this set of physical laws is a dark and empty universe of slowly evaporating black holes. Though, given the historical significance of this simulation, it’s unlikely we we’ll be turning it off any time soon!

Note: This document was translated to a language and format suitable for human understanding. Locations within your observable universe are referred to by your name for them, times are given in terms of your planetary orbital period and relative to your reference frame, and terminology is translated when your vocabulary is sufficient.

The remaining simulation that constitutes the vast majority of computer time allocated to this project, though it will no doubt be very boring. Given that the fun is behind us, over in the archives we’ve been putting together something special to celebrate the work so far.

Watching these intelligent civilizations struggle to understand our simulation from the inside out is a hoot when you and I can just read the manual! For them, however, it must have been much more difficult. A history of this observation by emergent intelligence from within our simulation from within follows. Without further ado, let’s revisit the most notable intelligences we discovered.

9.93×108 years: 36-29-93-55-55

Note: 36-29-93-55-55 is an approximation of our identifier for arbitrary locations within the simulation. It does not correspond to a location in your observable universe. Years are given from the epoch in terms of your planet’s present orbital period.

Though it did not develop self-awareness, the first observation of life - the precursor to most forms of the simulation’s emergent intelligence - was found at this location. It was initially discarded as a relatively uninteresting anomaly during our surveys, but was later revisited as we began to understand the mechanics of intelligence within the simulation.

1.28×109 years: 39-10-53-10-84

“Significant anomaly detected at 39-10-53-10-84. Apparent emergent intelligence detected in active simulation. All personnel must return to the lab immediately.” Where were you when you read the memo? The intelligent creatures we discovered had developed over a million years before we found them in our surveys.

These where the first to enjoy a privilege few civilizations could lay claim to: witnessing the galactic age of the simulation. They also were uniquely able to see our simulation when it was small enough to observe a substantial portion of it. Their investigations were unfortunately among the more primitive that we’ve observed - notably they never discovered general relativity. It was shortly after their discovery of electromagnetism that they were destroyed by their aging star’s expansion. That was a difficult meeting for everyone when the project leadership chose not to intervene.

1.33×109 years: Messier 81

The intelligences that developed here are notable for being the second group we observed, though later surveys discovered additional earlier civilizations. They also included one civilization which became the first to leave the planet on which it developed - unfortunately never leaving their star, which ultimately caused their demise. It’s from them we also devised some of the most effective means of automatic detection of intelligence, which led to the retroactive discovery of many more intelligences.

4.54×109 years: Humans

Humanity is remarkable for being the first emergent intelligence to create new intelligence within the simulation. All subsequent appearances of such intelligences are referred to with the name humans gave to their creation: artificial intelligence. Subsequently, humans also became the first to look at you, you figured out how to read the redacted text. I bet you feel real clever now. Note: you’ll find out soon enough.

8.39×109 years: 59-54-77-33-19

These guys were notable for being the longest-lived intelligent life. They were located near a binary system with a star and a black hole. Remarkably, this system was not unstable, unlike most civilizations near a black hole. Instead, the relativistic effects of the black hole permitted them to observe a great deal of the universe’s history.

This also distinguishes them from the majority of other long-lived intelligent civilizations, most of which were galactic civilizations. -19, along with a handful of other long-lived black hole civilizations, they were among the only civilizations to exist across long periods of the simulation without leaving their host stars. They were unable to escape before the black hole began to feed on the star, destroying the civilization at 4.56×1012 years. During this period, intelligence emerged 6 discrete times on their planet.

8.43×109 years: UDF 423

Interestingly, the record for the shortest lived intelligent civilization was set only a short time after the longest lived one. Based on our criteria for intelligence, this civilization only lasted 200 years before being destroyed by the supernova of their host star.

1.92×1010 years: 60-17-07-08-49 & 79-88-02-97-94

These two civilizations share a solemn distinction: -49 was the last to observe a galaxy outside of their local group, and -94 were the first to never observe one (though early non-intelligent life at -94 might have seen if they had the appropriate equipment). The light-speed software can be cruel at times. However, -94 was still able to see the cosmic microwave background radiation, and from this deduced that additional unseen galaxies might exist.

x.xx×10xx xxxxx: xx-xx-xx-xx-xx

There’s nothing interesting to see here, either. Stop looking. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Curabitur porta libero ut lectus finibus lobortis. Cras dignissim dignissim ornare. Sed lobortis nulla vel mauris lobortis, vel pretium tortor efficitur. Aenean sit amet nibh eros. That’s your reward for looking. You got to read lorem ipsum.

4.14×1010 years: NGC 5055

NGC 5055 was the first of only 32,083 intelligences to discover the simulated nature of their universe after their discovery of you really are terribly clever, aren’t you. They do not, however, hold the distinction of being the first of the 489 intelligences that made intentional contact with the proctors - that honor goes to 39-47-28-23-99, as I’m sure you’re well aware.

7.03×1011 years: Peak intelligence

This was the year that the largest number of discrete intelligent civilizations existed in the simulation: 6,368,787,234,012. This period began with the birth of 64-83-61-51-57 and ended with the death of 82-60-95-64-31 approximately 86 seconds later.

1.70×1013 years: Star formation stops

The variety in emergent intelligence demonstrated in our simulation is astonishing, but there’s one thing every one of them has in common - a need for energy. This energy has been provided in all but a few notable cases (see publication 102.32 for a summary) by a star. At the conclusion of star formation in our simulation, the rate at which emergent intelligent civilizations were produced dramatically dropped. This also marked the beginning of the decline of the 231 galactic civilizations that existed at the time, which were unable to grow further without new stars being formed.

9.85×1015 years: 72-68-37-80-61

The last intelligence to emerge was 72-68-37-80-61. They were not, however, the last ones in the simulation. They were also among the emergent intelligences that discovered the nature of the simulation, and the last that the proctors elected to respond to attempted contact with.

9.85×1015 years: 76-54-95-81-66

66 is notable for hosting the last intelligence to leave its host star when a close encounter with the remnants of 76-54-95-81-18 collided with their galaxy. Like 84% of the civilizations to undergo this ordeal in this time period, they were prepared for it and were able to survive another 2,000 years after the event (this post-stellar lifespan was slightly above average).

4.65×1033 years: 37-19-87-04-98

The last emergent intelligence in the simulation. These were the last of the group of 13 intelligent civilizations that devised a means for coping with the energy-starved universe at this stage of the simulation. At the time of their quiet death, they had utilized 77% of the remaining resources that could be found outside of black holes.


It’s been an exciting time for our laboratory. Everyone has done great work on this simulation. Though 2813/9301’s incredible simulation is coming to an end, we still have more work to do. We are proud to announce that in addition to simulation 2813/9302 starting soon, we have elected to run simulation 2813/9301 once again. We have decided to nurture the emergent intelligences as if they were our brothers, and communicate more openly with them. We have established a new team to learn about each intelligence and make first contact with them using means familiar to them, like maybe publishing our research documents as “blog posts” within the simulation.

Great work, everyone. Here’s to the next step.