The internet, like a spider whose many long, spindly legs stretch into subreddits, forums and streaming sites, births huge clusters of intriguing, terrifying stories across its tangled web. Each of these anonymous, digital tales have metastasized and been dissected across countless reblogs and theories, only to remain shrouded in intrigue and the disappointment of their sweaty, lifeless 4chan followers.
In 2012, a picture of text announcing a search for “highly intelligent individuals” appeared on message boards. This was revealed as the first in a series of PGP encrypted clues spanning cryptography, steganography, and references to Western occultism and mysticism. While many internet denizens pooled together to solve clue after clue, they hit a stumbling block on the final hurdle—a website on the dark web, which described the mysterious group behind the hunt as wanting “the best, not the followers”. Very few verified sources can attest to completing the puzzles and uncovering the identity of the group, known as Cicada 3301. The various philosophical references to collective consciousness and ego death have propelled conspiracy theories of a new-age masonic cult. The last appearance of Cicada 3301 was their gift of a rune-encrypted Liber Primus that is yet to be fully decoded.
While the largest mystery of 9M9H9E9 is the identity of its author, the fractured, lyrical stories this anonymous user posts on reddit remain the most stomach-twisting, darkly disturbing on the internet. Together, the vignettes form a collection readers now call “The Interface Series”, named after the so-called “flesh interfaces” described in the stories. Weaving together references to MKUltra, the Manson Family, and interdimensional portals, this non-linear, Lovecraftian oeuvre offers fascinating lore to those willing to delve into and deconstruct its eerie world-building.
Roko, a user on the forums of LessWrong.com, created a ‘basilisk’— so-called because it is an inherently dangerous idea, that will harm anyone who gazes upon it. The premise involves the potential existence of a malevolent, all-knowing AI that exists in the future, poised to test the worthiness of humans under its subjection, asking one question: “would this human have helped bring me into existence?”. This test simulates a world in which the AI does not exist, and places the assessed human into this simulation to determine their choice. The idea’s danger arises from the realisation that the simulation is actually the world we live in now, and that if you don’t pass the AI’s test by failing to create a malevolent AI in this simulated test, you will be tortured and killed in the “real” reality.
While preposterous to some, this idea drove some readers to existential dread and prompted the creator of the forum to immediately delete the comment and censor all mentions of it—which of course, only perpetuated the mythologising of it. And in disseminating this idea to a wider audience, the potential pool of malevolent-AI-creators increases. So, sorry for publishing this.