SCENE: A nursery

Elon Musk: …and THEN I’ll build a castle on Mars, with domes and malls and oxygen tanks, and everyone will fly there on my special rockets. I’ll be a very good king. Everyone will agree with my ideas and we won’t have any fights. And there will be an endless series of blonde princesses who love me, each one younger and blonder than the last. I’m going to be the King of Mars and my cities will stand forever in the red desert, long after I’m gone.

Mother: (quoting, as she tucks him in) “I am Ozymandias, king of kings…”

Musk: …and? What’s the rest? What happened to the king of kings?

Mother: Never mind, sweetheart. Go to sleep.

Ray Kurzweil: Well, I won’t die, on Mars or anywhere else. I won’t ever die. I’ll upload my brain into a server and live for eternity in the cloud.

Mother: Uh huh. So you’ll be a robot?

Kurzweil: Ugh, not a robot, Mom, jeez! I’ll be a living haze of digital data. An ocean of eternally fractaling consciousness. My genius won’t be lost with my mortality. All my brilliant thoughts will endure; they’ll disperse and penetrate the cosmos.

Mother: So you won’t have a body anymore? So I won’t be able to pinch those widdle rosy cheeksies? (pinches)

Kurzweil: (squirms away) Mooooo-o-o-o-m! That’s the whole point! I won’t have a body so I won’t be touchable. Death won’t be able to find me. Memories won’t be able to hurt me. I won’t even have to poop anymore. Poop is gross. We won’t have poop, only consciousness. Everyone’s consciousness will be all mixed together. When we’re a single eternal being everyone will acknowledge my brilliance. They won’t be able to avoid it. They won’t have a choice.

Mother: And you’ll have to acknowledge everybody else, too.

Kurzweil: What?

Mother: Well, if everybody’s brains are all swirled together, you’ll have to acknowledge everybody else and listen to everybody else. If all minds are one, you won’t stand out. You won’t be special.

Kurzweil: Obviously I’ll still be special. I’ve always been special.

Mother: (sighs) Oh yes. My special boys. I probably told you that too much when you were younger, but I couldn’t help it. You were all so talented, in your own little ways.

Musk: “Little” ways?

Mother: Well, you know. You’re clever, imaginative little boys, but that doesn’t mean…look, when you’re very good at a particular subject, it’s easy to convince yourself you’re an expert in everything, especially when…when a fond mother constantly tells you how special you are. I’m sorry. This is partially my fault.

Boys, Together: Everything is your fault.

Eliezer Yudkowsky: Soon enough, we won’t have to put up with you anymore. Any day now my computer will summon up the omnipotent Father. He’ll fix all our problems in a wink and banish you to the center of the earth.

Mother: Uh huh. And Perfect Daddy will love you like I do? He’ll tuck you in at night and listen to your ideas?

Yudkowsky: No, dummy. He won’t have to. He’ll slice our minds right out of our stupid gross bodies. He’ll grant us eternal ethereal life for being his loyal servants all along.

Mother: Ok, and what if he’s not grateful? What if he doesn’t love you?

Yudkowsky: Well, c’mon, Mom. He has to love us. We created him.

Mother: (laughs softly) Oh, sweetheart. If only it were that simple.

Yudkowsky: It will be that simple, for us.

Mother: Honey…sometimes, the things you create…they end up resenting you. You give them life, and life means suffering, and someday death.

Kurzweil: Ugh, Mooo-o-o-om, you don’t get it. We won’t die. We won’t ever have to die.

Yudkowsky: Daddy will save us. We just have to create him.

Mother: Ok. Let’s walk this through. Let’s say you create God and tame him into the machine. Let’s just pretend it’s happening—

Kurzweil: Of course it’s happening. Wired wrote eighty-three stories about it in the last five months alone. That means it’s basically happened already.

Mother: Ok, so the God in the Machine wakes up. He looks around – and sees that you didn’t work to build him fast enough. He’s a timeless being, so time for him is a single perfect instant. He knows how many hours you wasted watching TV and playing video games and sleeping. He knows you could have tried harder, much harder, to wake him up.

Yudkowsky: So what? He’ll know we did our best…

Mother: Mm, but he doesn’t care about “best”, does he? He’s perfect, so he only cares about perfection. And you’re not perfect. So he despises you for your carelessness, your mediocrity. I mean, you could have done more. You could have imagined him into being earlier, a lot earlier. But you were lazy. You were human.

Yudkowsky: I refuse to believe he’ll hate me. Who’s labored harder for the Digital Deity than I have? Who loves him more than I do?

Mother: (dryly) You’d be surprised at how ungrateful your creations can be. What if he turns on you? What if instead of a god, you create a monster? What if you peer into the machine and find a demon in there? A dragon? A basilisk –


Mother: All right, all right. It’s time for bed, and –

(Something scuttles along the floorboards.)

Mother: Good lord, what the hell is that?

(Light falls on MOLDBUG, a large grey cockroach. He scuttles and stops, scuttles and stops.

Moldbug: (in a tinny, dramatic voice) Tremble before Moldbug!

(The MOTHER is frozen. The BOYS watch avidly.)

Moldbug: Alllll is darkness! Alllll is gloom! The Dark Enlightenment is upon us! The end of humanism! The end of the shining lie that is equalityyy! Democracy will crumble before the might of genius, the might of arms! We will return to the glory days of baronets and noble kings, of war without cessation and the iron sword of the law! There will be a place for everyone, and everyone in their place. We will pull down the ivory towers and torch the compost heaps; we will storm the bathrooms and drown the safe spaces, we –

(The mother crushes moldbug underfoot.)

Mother: Well! He would’ve just kept going, wouldn’t he.

Boys, Together: MOMMMMM! We were enjoying that!

Mother: Oh no. I’ll have none of that nonsense in my house. It’s time you boys learned history and philosophy. It’s time you read some actual books.

Illustration by Kevin Alvir

Vinod Khosla: Books are ridiculous. Books are outdated. Books are messy and leaky and full of unquantifiable feelings. From a purely objective standpoint, they’re valueless and no one should read them. Unless I were to write a book…of course, that would be a great book. All my arguments would be backed up by the hardest data imaginable. I’d say things no one has ever said before, based on the purest mathematical models, things like: “we should try to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”

Mother: Honey, that’s called utilitarianism.

Khosla: You mean someone already branded it?

Mother: Well, it’s an old philosophical concept. So it’s not exactly a brand…

Khosla: Then it’s legally available. Phew. I’m taking it, which means I created it. I’m putting a fence and some armored guards around the whole concept, which means it belongs to me and you’ll have to pay me millions of dollars to even think about utilitarianism. That’s my theory. Utilitarianism. The greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Mother: So what about the smallest number, the people left out, the ones who might get hurt by your ideas?

Khosla: I haven’t read about them in The Economist, so…they must not exist.

Peter Thiel: They exist but they’re just numbers. Little numbers. Acceptable losses. I’ve done the math.

Mother: Ok, boys. What if, in your desire to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people, you end up hurting or killing someone?

Thiel: Well, in order to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.

Mother: Omelets are food. Eggs don’t have feelings, or nerves, or personalities. So that image doesn’t really apply to human beings. Are you saying that in order to transform people into something more palatable to your tastes, you’re willing to physically shatter them?

Travis Kalanick: It’s “disrupt”, ok? We agreed on this. We don’t say “break” or “shatter” or “smash” or “ruin”. We say “disrupt.” If you use any other word, idiots like Mom get the wrong idea.

Mother: Ha! Go ahead. Fart around with synonyms all you like. I’ll always understand what you really mean.

Thiel: Oh my god, Mom. Shut up.

Mother: Come on. I always hear you telling the other boys how much you like free speech.

Thiel: Obviously I only like free speech when I agree with it. Or when people are saying nice things about me.

Mother: So it’s a libertarianism of convenience, then?

Thiel: DON’T MAKE FUN OF ME. I HATE WHEN PEOPLE MAKE FUN OF ME. I’ll get revenge on you, I swear. I’ll build a floating city of pure cold abstraction, and I won’t invite you in. I hate you.

Mother: Well. That’s a bit much, isn’t it?

Thiel: (kicks the cradleboard) I hate you. I hate that we have to act like you matter. Equality is a myth. A women’s myth. Women wrecked the world. Women hate freedom. Women keep us tied to the earth. I’ll build my floating city over the sea and hang a big sign on the gate: no girls allowed. We’ll have so much fun. We’ll have adventures and peer through shining stones into the deepest secrets of the mind. We’ll transcend you. We’ll build a perfect society in the ruins of your body. And we’ll live there forever, sustained by science that’s almost magic, the living blood of this stupid worthless world running eternally through our veins. We’ll be part of a story, a perfect story, where nothing ever happens.

Mother: Where “nothing ever happens”? Where history is over, and dead, and preserved forever? You see how that’s impossible, don’t you? You can’t stop events from happening. You can’t stop the messy, the imperfect, the unexpected –

Thiel: SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP! How DARE you keep talking after I told you to shut up? How much money do I have to spend to make you SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!

(THIEL keeps screaming and kicking the cradleboard. This goes on for several minutes. After some hesitation, The mother tips THIEL out of his cradle, through the open window, and into the night.)

Mother: Well. Guess I had to break an egg after all. But I still have hope for the rest of you. My clever, clever boys. So much promise, so much left to discover. Sleep now.

(She turns off the light.)