Mindshadow is a meditation on the nature of communication, meaning, and storytelling after the passing of humanity. It takes the form of a message from one alien AI to another, encoded as a Lambda calculus program. This program is reiterated across the book in four sections, emulating the patterns of its initial transmission, and then showing a ‘translated’ depiction of the raw program, before then printing the outputs yielded by its execution, and concluding with a two-part ‘interpretation’ of what these outputs might actually ‘mean’.

The text of Mindshadow can be viewed by clicking on the cover image below, or through this link. Please note it is a large file, and may take some time to download.

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Translation Guide

The message in Mindshadow is modelled on those designed by humans for transmitting messages to alien beings, and so contains explicit clues to aid its decoding and translation – not a casual task, by any means, but possible (for those up for the challenge). The opening section of the text is the closest to the actual message sent – a representation of the raw radio signal – but the sections following depict the parsing of this message in successive stages, leading eventually to a simple ‘natural language’ translation. The majority of the message is given over to statements in Lambda calculus for making simple algorithms, which then cascade into a program that prints out a text-based, MUD-like world that is traversed by several interacting agents over a series of discrete timesteps. Descriptive captions articulate the events and dialogues taking place, and it is through this that the heart of the message, a multi-part ‘story’, is represented. The concluding section of the text shows each timestep as the virtual world evolves, along with its accompanying narrative captions, formatted in order to make it easier to read (a provisional translation). On the opposite page is a true ‘natural language’ rendition – a tentative expression of what the ‘story’ depicts. While not stated as such in the text, this story draws explicitly on some of the earliest recorded tales available to us, as passed down from Mesopotamian and Akkadian cuneiform tablets.