In our planet’s history there have been multiple periods of mass extinctions, Die Offs, where changes in environment or atmosphere or something cause a significant percentage of life on the planet to disappear.
I guess I wouldn’t want Alpha to be different as it is supposed to teach us what life (and the history of life) could look like on a different planet.
But it is still hard to see the Alphans (so many types of slugs!) disappear. To Janice it is like watching pets die, for Adit it is like knowing the code you worked so hard on was removed in beta; I’m not sure what it is for me except that it leaves me cold. I don’t want these things, bits of data, to die.
But they are.
First it was what should be one of the hardiest form of life, bacteria. Strains of this and strains of that started dying off and we didn’t notice until we started comparing the life count summaries we get at the end of each day.
Then we slowed down the simulation a tad so we could see in more detail what was happening. You’d think the die off would move up the food chain if it started with the bacteria, but then larger species far removed in the food chain started dying off, and then a variety of grasses. The cause and effect is impossible to track.
But track it is why were doing all of this.
Adit and Alice are leading most of the development team in going over the code in greater detail to make sure this isn’t a software bug (how awful it would be to find out that this pivotal moment in the history of Alpha is an error in some routine). So far nothing seems wrong, just as with the invertebrate issue, this seems to be part of Alpha’s evolution.
Kaitlin and Janice have been going through the snap shot archives of Alpha to see if there were any earlier signs of chemical changes in the atmosphere that we might have missed. The snapshots are hard archives of a moment in time in Alpha. Alpha is just too huge and memory intensive to record so every ten minutes of real runtime a moment in time is frozen and stored. Given that our simulation speeds have varied from real time to as fast as the servers can go, the snapshots capture intervals as short as ten minutes up to hundreds of thousands of years in Alpha time.
The tricky thing is that the snapshots are literally of what was, and as much of what Alpha is, is various algorithms unfolding, interacting, and rewriting themselves with a touch of randomness. So though it is Alpha’s past if Alpha started again from there (then?) the present Alpha we see might not be the Alpha that unspools. i.e. that past could lead to infinite versions of the present. Statistically they’d average out to be the same, but tell that to the dead slugs.
So far it looks like this was the natural evolution of the planet but we’ll continue looking into it. Like I said, Earth has gone through many such die offs in its history, so this maybe just be the first for Alpha, but it is awful to watch the list of extinct Alphans fly by on the screen.
One nice thing is that Alice has updated her NetTat to a still Mickey Mouse. I guess she realized the animated evolution tattoo she had on her arm earlier the week wasn’t in good taste once the die off started to happen.