Death and Life on Enceladus by David C. Kopaska-Merkel and Kendall Evans

death_and_lifeDeath and Life on Enceladus
David C. Kopaska-Merkel
Kendall Evans

What am I
That have bathed naked
In vapor fountains
              on Enceladus?
Otto Prime’s persistent forward roll
Unscrolls the Enceladus moonscape
While Otto Deuce lags fifty meters
Trailing, reassuringly in sight
Shadowing Otto Prime
Providing redundancy
Against the arbitrary will
Of time and space, chance forfeitures
Of eruption, rockslide, unseen crevice―
The possibility of protection,
Replacement, or rescue

What are they
These metal explorers
Walking upon the surface
Of one of Saturn’s
      many moons?

Otto Prime and Deuce
Are six-legged robots
Resembling insects
After which they were loosely modeled:
Stenopelmatus fuscus,
Known as the Jerusalem Cricket,
In Mexico as Niños de la Tierra
Or “Children of the Earth”―
But the robots
Are much more streamlined
Sculpted all of metal, gleaming
And close to the size
Of Doberman Pincers

What am I
That can remember
The moment of my “birth”
With perfect clarity?

Saturn sails above, jewel-like,
Hidden and revealed by the flying wrack,
Unregarded in her vast beauty

Two hexapods toil spinwards
Orbital photo mosaics unreeling
Map layers plotted, samples
Collected and analyzed
Results transmitted burstwise
To the orbiter

H inconsistent’ implies ‘G(H)’
n<a-15+210 log3
P(Q5.Q6) is not deducible within F
F inconsistent implies omega ‘(G/f)’
P consistent implies G(F)

Algorithms that train themselves
Generating and testing recombinants
Resulting in still newer recombinant patterns,
New tests, and exploratory variations
Allow both Ottos to learn
Avoid dangerous ground
Develop preferences
Their makers did not intend
Do not fully comprehend

Otto Deuce finds itself strengthening
Pathways that allow it to interpose
Itself between Otto Prime
And potential threats from the environment
It finds this consistent with its
Name and role as now conceived

What am I that tastes
Snows laced with organics,
Catalogs and does not ponder,
Keeps a schedule – and
Measures time ticking,
But feels no anticipation?

What am I that wonders:
What is the nature
Of “anticipation”?

Otto Prime adds a new routine
To its on-top menu:
Ping Otto Deuce at regular intervals
And/or whenever line of sight
Is broken.

Otto Deuce casts its gaze
Up a screw-like spire
0.721 km high
Impaled on the top
Blooms a ringèd ball
Saturn, the database reports
And the distance much greater
But the entry seems somehow

Otto Prime finds trace amounts of organic compounds
Not those expected here
This sort resulting from the interaction
Of photons with inorganic materials
No, these are
Consistent with biologic processes
Indigenous life or perhaps something else

The new crevice lengthens
Subsidiary fractures grow like scalpel cuts
Ring faults groan and flash
Ice slides down into unprotected ocean
Black water geysers out of closing cracks
Winks at the jewel in the sky

What am I
That I wake
 Into this strange place
 Named consciousness?

For fourteen months
They trained upon Luna’s surface
Not merely learning
To work together
On the low-G airless surface
Of a moon
preparing for their future mission
To Saturn’s Enceladus,

But as an experiment
In mechanical intelligence/consciousness
And the emergent relationship
Of interactions, behaviors, communications
Between two robotic intelligences
Thus endowed

Recent advances
Prefigured in Roentzger’s
And New Recombinants: Strategies for
Creating Man-made Consciousness
Resulted in revolutionary
algorithmic sequencing programs
Virus-like, voracious
Hungry for self-controlling
All systems, All programs
Thus making the two Ottos possible

Otto Deuce slides down a steepening plane
And out of sight
There is no splash
In moments it is gone
Eventually the hole stabilizes
Skin reforms to give the fallen robot
A frozen pucker for a tombstone

Death is slow for Otto Deuce
In the underwater grave
And only shadows here
No vault of sky
No light to recharge
Solar voltaic panels:
Cessation will be gradual

Drift-sinking to the floor
Of the dark shallow ocean
The robot shines its light
Into inky water

Gentle impact upon the bottom
Little fishes gathering to his light
Silver slivers of curiosity
Shift-darting all about the robot

Like miniature sand castles,
The structures they have built
Upon the floor of their sub-Enceladan sea

Deuce blinks its light
One … two … three blinks
all the way to ten
Subsequently blinks out a code
Prime numbers only –

The  intricate patterns of the swimming forms,
Little flecks squirming by
Within the inadequate light
Shift, not randomly―
Movements and inexplicable structures indicating,
The artificial/mechanical consciousness suspects,
Organic intelligence;
Otto radios photographic evidence
And a detailed analysis
To its robotic twin

Does some strange realm
Platonic or ideal
Mathematic or algorithmical
Imply and underlie
All conscious thoughts
Our dreams themselves?

P is not deducible within F(QH)
H is deducible within (F)log 3
H inconsistent implies omega(F)
K6n-6+542 implies k<a(210log6)
P consistent applies (QH)

What or why
This structure,
This ring of rocks
That I’ve constructed
All ’round the frozen pucker
Here where my metal brother
Disappeared into the Enceladus sea?

Authors’ Afterword: Several stanzas of our poem were inspired by Roger Penrose’s book, Shadows of the Mind: A Search For The Missing Science of Consciousness. On the other hand, Roentzger’s Recursions And New Recombinants: Strategies for Creating Man-made Consciousness does not exist. Both the title and the author are purely poetic inventions. ―K.E. and D.C.K-M.


Leave a Reply