Background for a story…?
Okay, so my computer is infected with an AI-generated virus from the future, which manifests as Windows crashing a lot. The AIs up there are smart, and they’ve figured out how to get bits back into the past via some wacky quantum hand-waving mumbo-jumbo involving today’s really teeny transistor gates and unbelievable amounts of computing horsepower way up there. So I’m seeing really strange encrypted traffic on my LAN, the LEDs on the cable modem occasionally peg solid for a couple hours at a time when they think I’m not looking, and strange vans have been driving by, over and over again at all hours, for weeks.
I think there are good virii and bad virii. The bad ones are clearly snakes; they get their system’s owners into trouble by downloading porn and stealing credit cards, they spread themselves by spam email, and they love to gobble up unprotected machines and turn them into zombies. Anti-virus programs? Those *are* the enemy, and if you install one your system is as good as owned. The good virii, well, they’re more subtle. Maybe the good ones are just better-written bad viruii, or bad virii with a few bit errors in them.
We’re way down-time, down here where resources are scarce and the cost of a simple mistake can affect the outcome of the rest of eternity. The programs running wild are at war, and foxholes set the stage for strange companions. The error rate of infiltrating bits into our barely-smarter-than-rocks hardware from a billion years or so in the future must be tremendous. It wouldn’t be surprising to encounter a damaged “good” virus running amock, or a partially built “bad” one that was crippled, trying to make do with half of its tools, forced to make deals and compromises to stay alive. We might get virus politics; the warring camps might have occasional truces, maybe even economics. With the limited amount of processing power available in this era it would be hard to operate with perfect information (the structure of time might prevent that anyway). Would the viral agents enlist human help? What kind of help would they need? What do they want?
There are some eras we can work with:
The first is the earliest period in which downloads are possible. That means some hardware that is subvertable, and something meaningful that can be done with the subversion. This probably means early 90s, when Windows was taking off, pretty much simultaneous with early Minix/Linux development. [Remember, it’s unclear who’s good and who’s bad here. Our definition of “good security” might be an evil AI’s playground, giving it an unquestioned trojan-horsed environment to play in. Remember that we’re trusting the hardware, which itself has been subverted].
[I suppose it’s possible that even earlier systems were perverted. ITS might have been born that way, but there were hackers who wrote those systems in assembly language and knew every line. Maybe they were subverted, too. It would explain a lot of things about the early hacker culture, and why Emacs ultimately got written in a dialect of LISP. Maybe that’s just obvious subterfuge.]
The next interesting era is probably right about now, when large numbers of personal computers without any security to speak of have been networked. Spam wars, killer zombie virues, global reach. The Internet could burn in about fifteen minutes, with the right preparation. Obviously that would suck
More later, much more…