Synergy - a fable of the future.
There was no single thing that caused it, moreso a series of events:
The Atomic Age, of course, was the start. A couple of thousand underwater tests put enough radioactive material at the bottom of the pacific to start a chain reaction in the DNA of some crustaceans, fish and bacteria. It was slow at first, but the changes had started...
Up on land, the incidents at Hiroshima, Chernobyl, Sellafield and Fukushima ( - compared to what we know now, it is difficult to call them disasters any more;) put enough radioactive matter in the food chain to start some very small changes at first, (worms, bugs, even plants!) which accelerated when combined with the environmental changes.
What happened the environment?
Well, several things, actually.
The popularity of nuclear fuel took a nosedive after Fukushima, and one result of this was a return to fossil fuels. Digging and drilling took on an urgency never seen before, and with that a disregard for the consequences, razing vast areas of forest to get at coal and oil reserves, which of course put the atmosphere off its true course, bringing longer winters, less food, and other problems.
But it was the fact that such digging and drilling also brought to the surface certain microorganisms. Silicon based microorganisms that were minding their own business, hibernating deep in the folds of the planet ever since being buried there millions of years previously by a meteorite shower that pummeled into the face of said planet, - much to the consternation of its inhabitants at the time, the dinosaurs, who were promptly wiped out by the effects of that climatic catastrophe. Several dinosaurs were actually struck by those meteorites, which may seem unlucky for them, but in fact it assured them a place in posterity. For it was their blood that was smeared over the surface of those meteorites and buried for eons with the silicon microbes. And thus it was that blood which became their first contact with any form of life once they were exposed to the warm surface of the planet, with its oxygen, sunlight and other life sustaining luxuries. And once those microbes resumed their cell division in this new abundant atmosphere, they were happy to learn from their new carbon based friend's cell structure and grow to mimic it, and so began the long journey towards the day when the dinosaurs - this time silicon based ones, would once again roam the earth.
And humans weren't having such a good time of it either.
All those carbon fuels played havoc with the views from their skyscrapers, not to mention their health, so work began again in earnest to find that holy grail of the energy industry; safe nuclear power. Not all were pleased about this, of course. Environmentalist extremists, wanting a return to more natural living, hooked up with economic terrorists, - who were in favour of "balancing the books" so to speak, with regard to the imbalance in wealth distribution, - to sabotage one particular endeavour towards finding a more perfect energy source. A Cold Fusion reactor (- prototype of course), being worked on at Lawrence Livermore in California, was cyber-attacked and driven out of control. Within seconds the atmosphere of the whole western United States was contaminated - the chain reaction the hackers had started (they claimed, of course, that they only wanted to shut it down to expose its security weaknesses) converted the moisture in the air to radioactive "Heavy Water", only dying out once the laboratory actually imploded on itself, creating a radioactive monolith the size of the Vatican, that also threw off the earth's magnetic and gravitational fields enough to confuse birds and bees sufficiently to cause chaos to crops worldwide within just a few years.
It was lucky that the world's richest people lived in such numbers around the Californian coast, as they could afford to finance the move to Africa, buying up almost half the Sahara and building a massive irrigation scheme and controlled-climate domes to render it with some of the comforts of home.
All this of course took workers, who were in too short supply. so Japanese designed robots filled the gaps, being developed to do more and more of the hard and dirty tasks that arose as the world became a harder and more dirty place.
In fact it was only the robots who would look back on these years as their golden age. Progress in development was fast, with robots designing their own replacements in only a few generations. And since they were programmed to improve themselves with each iteration, they became better and better at what they were originally programmed to do.
- The drilling and digging robots from the oil fields grew to relish ravishing any natural landscape to extract its intrinsic resources, siphoning off a small portion to power themselves to self sustainability, and neatly packaging the rest for collection by other robots later.
- The medical robots, at first sex toys but later improved to become the companions, carers, and eventually health workers, also grew to provide their human masters with all creature comforts, - originally programmed to simulate expressions of concern, affection and empathy, they eventually learn the ability to actually feel these emotions, to love, and even sacrifice.
- The repair robots assigned to cleaning up the nuclear waste of Fukushima and all the other now-abandoned nuclear plants developed a sense of duty, and would do anything necessary to protect humans, even putting themselves in harm's way.
Now all of this would have been a good thing, and might have actually salvaged the situation on the planet, if they had not met up with those pesky little microbes I mentioned earlier.
You see, nobody ever bothered programming the robots to wash themselves, only to remove any obstacles that interfered with their tasks. So as those robots toiled away in the radiation filled fields of Fukushima, the Ukraine and what used to be American North West, the microbes that stuck to their legs and traction belts were allowed to flourish as long as they did not interfere, and soon came to prosper on the warm bodies that gave them a mobile home. And the robots soon observed that the microbes also functioned as lubricants, cleaning their joints and protecting them from rust, and thus were incorporated into their design, and actually encouraged to thrive all over their bodies.
The same happened with the fish and crustaceans that clung to the underwater drilling robots, feasting on the radioactive algae churned up by their digging. Growing, - faster than their hosts, they became like more like riders on their mounts than parasites, eventually wielding the drills and scoops like weapons to forage for food. - the robots would siphon off a portion of the oil they drilled to power themselves in eternity, and since they were still doing their basic task, felt no need to complain about being carried around and taken advantage of. Many iterations of self-design under such conditions made it the norm, And when the creustaceans could find no more on the ocean bed, they turned towards land, having grown in size and ferocity, they posed a considerable threat to the cleanup efforts of the repair robots, since they were very messy eaters, and conflicts became inevitable.
Humans evolved also, losing muscular strength due to lack of work and an aerobically unfriendly environment, they became more cerebral, relying on exoskeletons. The sciences of robotics and biology grew closer, as the decimated human population strove to restore their numbers. And thus the robots and the humans became more and more alike. - The humans more logical, the robots more empathic.
This as partly due to a theory that developed in Japan, the home of the greatest robot designers. It was suggested that since the Shinto religion, which drove much of the spirituality and morality in that land, believes that all things have a spirit, a "soul" as Christians would call it, they should be shown suitable respect, especially given that they were becoming more and more human in their design and interaction skills with each iteration.
Someone else in Japan suggested that the humans and robots were growing towards each other - in the same way as the buddhist faith believes that a spirit attains Nirvana through rebirth. A new religion grew out of this that sought to unite the humans - the perfect spirits, with their perfect physical creations - the robots. In order to achieve that unity, it was necessary to cross breed, and figure out a way to do this, so this became the driving philosophy behind both human development and robot development. And this obviously had to include the reproductive process, so it was not just the "pleasurebots" that were getting attention from the biologists.
Fast forward a thousand generations:
Accelerated by the radiation and other catastrophic changes to the environment, DNA had all but ceased to function, (a fact, once realised, that in one fell swoop proved the theory of evolution, and sounded the death knell for Christianity as a mainstream religion) with only partial strands surviving from one generation to the next, mixing the already cross-bred characteristics of the parents with whatever broken-down threads remained in the food chain. Humans, realising that in order to survive this breakdown, they had to find another medium to carry on their genetic heritage, made even more strenuous efforts to integrate the human mind and robot bodies, and had pretty much achieved that goal. The only step remaining was fully fledged interbreeding between a post human, - a sentient spirit inhabiting a machine made machine as its semi-eternal body, and a carer, - the carer-health robots designed to nurture human life, give pleasure and provide all comfort.
There were also, of course, the lower ranks of robots, with which post humans had as little contact as possible.
- providers, the caretaker robots designed to maintain the environment, supply resources, repair and build,
- protectors, the fighter robots designed to destroy human enemies and keep the life-domes safe from the outside,
but it was no paradise, there were also the monsters:
- giant crustaceans, evolved into dinosaur-sized fish, reptiles and birds that forage the planet with their mechanical appendages, feeding off any resources they find, destroying all in their path;
- silicon based giant jurassic-beasts, roaming free at a punishingly slow pace, but incessant and invincible, mostly docile if allowed to graze their mixed diet of plants and rocks, but persistent in their search for it;
- poisonous worms, insects and viruses lurking in every nook, diseases morphing to new forms even as each cell divides;
- mammals of all sizes and demeanours, the rag-tag remnants of what was the fauna of earth, few if any of them friendly.
On a planet that now had three oscillating poles, where gravity varied like the time zones of old, and daylight is determined more by the wind patterns pushing the pollution clouds around than by the actual presence of the sun;
- what could possibly happen next?
End of Chapter 1.
And over to you....