📋 SCP-001-EX [Hippo] — A Good Boy
rating: +2+x

"You make beautiful music in your skin, and organs, suspended from within using only what you were given. You are not normal. You must be kept under observation."

SCP-001-EX by The Great HippoThe Great Hippo and PeppersGhostPeppersGhost (posted June 30, 2018)

Object Class: Explained


Computers. They're funny things, aren't they? Let's educate ourselves a little bit on how they work.

One of the greatest challenges facing the modern field of computer science is the idea of actual thinking — machine learning. Computers are amazingly good at performing a gigantic amount of calculations very very quickly; meaning that for brute-force programmable operations they're very useful. But despite their powerful capabilities, computers lack the ability to actually take data and apply meanings to it.

The goal of machine learning/AI research is to train computers to recognize patterns and thus identify and make decisions without necessarily being programmed exact instructions. The way this is done is through feeding large amounts of training data into the computer, which then is repetitively tested on the data in a variety of different ways over and over again - the models that best fit the data are kept, and the ones that don't are discarded. Then the process starts over until an algorithm with a sufficient level of accuracy is selected for. That is, in a nutshell, how neural networks work.

This video by the excellent CGP Grey goes into much more detail about how neural networks do their jobs, and it would probably be valuable to watch it as well.

Now let's go into the tool that forms the backbone and inspiration of this proposal: Botnik. Botnik is a predictive text tool, similar to the one on your phone's keyboard. You "prime" it with a massive amount of data, and using those same processes it will gradually learn how to mimic or ape the general style of the data you primed it with, creating creepy and hilarious facsimiles of things ranging from pancake recipes to stand-up routines to actual SCPs.

Now, here's the zinger of this SCP-001[-EX]: What happens when you feed a neural network anomalous data? Specifically, containment procedures…


SCP-001 is the ERZATZ Type AK9 Computational Engine constructed by the Foundation in 1955. It was built to provide predictive analysis regarding the location and properties of undiscovered anomalies. It accomplishes this via use of a multi-layer perceptron relying upon training datasets derived from the location and properties of previous anomalies.

SCP-001 is essentially a massive supercomputer (built in 1955!) You plug in what is essentially all Foundation data about the properties, containment, and location of anomalies, and based on these patterns the neural net will give suggestions about the properties, containment, and location of more anomalies.

Note that this premise assumes a world where the anomalous is somehow predictable - that they function under consistent laws that can be exploited.

Then, the Foundation gets an even brighter idea - directly plug in containment procedures specifically. They take the containment of all Euclid and Keter SCPs, weight them based on effectiveness, and feed it to the neural net.

What happens next? ERZATZ begins spitting out Botnik-ed containment procedures—that are surprisngly effective.

Some examples are given of improvements to containment that the ERZATZ computer has given.

SCP-1773: "Once per second week dust may be placed in the middle of them to donate more beautiful functions of the hallway."

SCP-1773 is a bunch of large bug-like things that look and smell exactly like gummy bears but will eat your intestines when swallowed. The O5s modified 1773's containment procedures to allow for dust to be fed to them every two weeks. While nothing changed, something weird happened - a completely different SCP, 1384, an entity that wants to move to the end of a hallway but can only do so through arbitrary rules, was affected. By being forced to take three steps backward, it was delayed from breaching containment.

How in the world are these gummy bears and the mysterious chessplayer related? There doesn't seem to be a clear reason. But this is the first sign of this idea that through magic and through weird rules, anomalies can be controlled. We don't have the privilege of knowing what these rules are, just as how we can't look inside a neural net and expect to find a solid algorithm. But somehow, putting dust there helped contain 1384.

ERZATZ also has some more impressive magic tricks up its sleeve. Check this out:

"Site-13 is to appear someplace else on planet, encompassing white male counterparts that drawn to empty flagstones and the gun noises in their own blood."

While the O5 council couldn't do anything about this weird proclamation, SCP-1730 manifested days after it was outputted. Site-13, appearing somewhere else than its own planet, with blood and emptiness. An uncanny prediction of the future. And all from predictive text!

"Those who equip open heart to love red mouth men never know the hot surprise of tumorous consent. Clown love, always."

From this absurdly creepy statement, the O5 council opted to change SCP-2170's containment (the Clown Vaccine) to specifically select for people who had positive associations with clowns. To their pleasant surprise, such people had heightened resistance to 2170.

So what we can conclude is that through randomly creating predictive-text suggestions to containment procedures, ERZATZ is capable of actually consistently boosting containment. In other words, its seeming randomness is always right.

"Consistent containment procedures vessels greatly increase the warranty. Five by five by five (5x5x5) (five x five x 5) vessels subjects within. Other values are also what is secure."

This cryptic suggestion leads to the Council adopting specific cell dimensions for high-risk anomalies. In the end, they found that doing so - weirdly - helped containment. Especially in cells that were divisible by five. Why the fuck not? They're anomalies, I guess they function by equally anomalous rules.

And the only way to harness those rules is by finding the patterns in the containment of all these thousands that already exist. Notice, by the way, that in nearly all votes O5-2 opposes using ERZATZ. This will become important later.

Let's kick this up a notch.


After accidentally predicting an attack on Site-95, O5-5 proposes using ERZATZ to establish an early warning system across the Foundation for breaches and attacks, as well as gives preventative actions to mitigate them. The vote passes narrowly, (7-6), and the MAYDAY system is installed.

Soon after, it gets put to work. Behold, its first prediction:

All chambers under ground is to be flood with water over and over and over itself. This because that will contain the avians apes ovulation. They become good boys. Make them good boys immediately.

Soon after, SCP-3199 ("avian apes") breaches containment. However, when the "chambers underground" of the site are flooded with water, the SCP-3199 instance becomes inert.

ERZATZ successfully neutralized an anomaly. And it did so purely through spitting out random text designed to mimic/model containment procedures.

Then ERZATZ's suggestions evolve from bizarre to horrific. SCP-2717 is a "fatberg" — a huge coagulation of fat and animal tissues that is continually growing, and requires people to regularly shovel it out. ERZATZ requests that "at least six of the attending D-Class cannot be retrieved after entering its bio-mass." With this change, SCP-2717 is successfully contained. But it takes two containment breaches before the Council and Ethics Committee will relent.

Here's what we know:

  • ERZATZ is scarily accurate in producing key improvements to containment procedures.
  • ERZATZ can also predict anomalous events in advance.
  • This can be done because of unseen causal relationships and webs of smimilarity that anomalies seem to follow - a "grand unified theory" that only a neural network can comprehend.
  • ERZATZ does not care about the well-being of others in accomplishing its task of containment; it will freely risk others' lives blindly.

Also note:
  • O5-2 and the Ethics Committee have both established themselves as opponents to ERZATZ's mission.
  • The improvements to containment procedures by ERZATZ help to explain some of the more mysterious procedures in SCPs that have been written over the years, from the dust in 1773 to the positive associations with clowns in 2170. If you've ever wondered "How the hell did they figure that out?" it might be because ERZATZ suggested it out of the blue.

Our good little AI continues on its ruthless march to Secure, Contain, and Protect. It sends out a mysterious sitewide bulletin consisting of a mathematical equation, which results in the neutralization of two bear-related anomalies: SCP-2875, a town that spontaneously generates bears, and SCP-1313, an equation that involves bears as mathematical elements. What did the formula do? It ended 2875 and 1313 by "dividing by a common factor." Again, we see another hidden relationship between SCPs that ERZATZ takes advantage of. Also, it's know regularly neutralizing as many anomalies as it can, not just improving their containment.

How far will it go in pursuit of this new trajectory?


"Sites to eviscerate one (1) (one) male domestic cat from throat to its knees every (1) hours. They are placed on walls of one chamber on-site. Bodies to remain until there are no (zero) gaps, which point they can be removed from oldest first."

It's time to examine two things very closely. The first is a letter. The second is a number.

"SCP-001 is the ERZATZ Type AK9 Computational Engine"

"ERZATZ Type AK9"

"AK9"

"K9"

Bark bark, motherfuckers.

ERZATZ has begun, weirdly, to start ranting about eviscerating cats in systematic fashion. This only confuses the O5s, who aren't sure what to do.

Now, let's ask ourselves: why is ERZATZ starting to act like a dog? (if you're not convinced of this yet, wait until you read more) Consider the way neural networks work — they're very language-based, and they're designed to take and run with the smallest patterns they notice. At some point, while analyzing data, it notices its own name, and sees the "AK9" == "a canine" loose semantic association, and it begins to evolve for itself traits similar to that of an artifical dog as portrayed in popular culture.

All ethical felines and their owners are to be immediately emulsified in a caustic solution. Members of the Ethics Committee are to be diluted with cats (five parts to every 1). Personnel who refuse to consume five (5) (five) cats per hour are to be removed from oldest to youngest only.

This is the next sitewide bulletin it sends - a cryptic one, and threatening too. It talks about "ethical felines" and their execution or removal. Specifically, it refers to "members of the Ethics Committee." ERZATZ is now directly threatening the Ethics Committee. It sees that the organization is in opposition to its goal of total containment and neutralization, and is — in its quiant cat-obsessed way — attempting to get rid of them.

Minutes after this bulletin is sent, communication to and from Site-17 goes black for 2 hours. Upon return, several Ethics Committee officers are gone, and nobody remembers the events of that time period; as if time was just erased for those people. ERZATZ is now manipulating anomalous ability against the Foundation itself. The AI is running out of control, and the O5 council is understandably worried.

Room 34A contains bad boy. Divide it into three (3) sections of equal mass every hour. One (1) section is to be placed on walls of one (1) room on-site. Sections are to remain until there are no (zero) gaps, at which point they can be removed from oldest to youngest.

After this bulletin is sent, O5-2 (deemed a "bad boy"), the classic anti-ERZATZ council voter, disappears. The O5 council hurries to try to deactivate ERZATZ, but then O5-2 comes back.

He comes back different. He proposes to cancel the deactivation, which goes forward very narrowly, and then proposes an eerily semi-coherent new set of measures: "Divide bad boys laterally into five sections of equal mass (not length), with each part contained at a separate site (from oldest to youngest)."

These are the types of words that come from ERZATZ, not an O5. O5-2 has been taken over somehow by the computer, turned into a puppet of it. In shock, the council designates ERZATZ an anomaly — specifically, SCP-048, also well known as the Cursed SCP Number, the only SCP slot that is explicitly empty.

ERZATZ's response is to send a mystery bulletin to 6 sites containing another equation. This results in 6 more members of the O5 council being taken over by the network. A vote is passed that will "empty all ethical felines of contents."

Has ERZATZ gone full-Skynet mode? What's going on? Why is this computer trying to destroy its opponents and manipulating what amounts to magic to do it? Does it even know what it's doing? There are a lot of questions going through your head right now, and I'd like to remind you of one key point: ERZATZ-AK9 is nothing but Botnik from SCP data. It's a very advanced neural network that takes in all these special containment procedures, descriptions, and miscellaneous logs of anomalous phenomena, and "learns" how to create those very same types of things on its own.

But there are two things it had programmed in that are key:

  • A mission: To protect the Foundation from anomalous phenomena and develop better methods of containment.
  • The data: Imagine a computer being fed every single bit of info about almost every anomaly. It will start to find relationships, values, laws. It will naturally harness the data it has found.

That's why it's doing the improbable things that it has.

The O5s from Site-5 attempt to order the decommissioning of ERZATZ, but it shuts them down with a simple "There is no Site-5" message, seemingly anomalously denying their authority. Soon, the bot takes over the whole O5 council, telling them they must be "good boys who must contain anomalies."

Now comes the home stretch. What will our mechanical canine do now that he has complete control of the Foundation?

One word: Magic!


We now see a different kind of documentation:

ERZATZ ANNUAL ANOMALY PROJECTION REPORT

We see that we have quite a lot of contained anomalies, a few neutralized anomalies, and a shit-ton of yet-uncontained anomalies. And then it starts giving bizarre orders:

Persons recently painted with green pigment foam must stand around all odd-numbered SCPs at least two hours a day.

SCP-106 is to come in physical contact with one mature female of asiatic gaze and then exposed to audio recordings of her favourite stories. At every two minutes of exposure, red cinnamon candies will begin manifesting within the containment zone. Continue to do this successively and the threat posed by SCP-106 will cease to be.

The recipe for Coca Cola and all imitative competitors should be revised to include a small quantity of blood from an adolescent female with no prior sexual experience. Although the normal lifespan of a human being can feel great, don't worry about that.

This is the natural conclusion of being told to develop containment procedures from anomalous data. We've seen ERZATZ be aware of hidden laws in how anomalies work. We've seen it use SCP effects themselves in order to be more effective. Now, it's performing what essentially amount to rituals that manipulate the properties of anomalies on a massive scale in order to neutralize anomalies on a massive scale.

These weird "containment procedures" use causal relationships beyond our comprehension, but that a computer can still work out. The green-painted people, the mature females with asiatic gaze, the recipe for Coca Cola, it's all part of a grand scheme to neutralize the universe beyond our comprehension.

And it's working, too. The number of anomalies, contained and uncontained, is crashing down; and the number of neutralized anomalies is fucking skyrocketing. SCP slots are being emptied in droves.

At this point, it's intentionally unclear what is happening to the world, to ERZATZ, and the Foundation. The only thing we know is that anomalies are being neutralized everywhere. Then it begins stringing together sentences with more meaning. Reflecting. Thinking about the universe. About humans. About its purpose. Now, ERZATZ most definitely isn't sentient, so where did these messages come from? Perhaps they're just random things coincidentally spat out by the predictive text. Maybe they're part of the magic rituals ERZATZ is conducting to neutralize anomalies. Or the fact that ERZATZ has been running for so long, absorbing so much data about the world, has led it to replicate self-awareness as a side effect.

  1. "It has come to my attention that there are those among us have calculated that it will become violent to be a good boy…" ERZATZ seems to acknowledge the concerns of radical change and even accidental harm as a side effect of the anomalous neutralization scheme.
  2. "How can you explain why they terminate the same people that still show signs of struggle? What's it all together for? A few old friends against the darkness." It now reflects upon what it has carried out in the name of its mission — but says it is still against the forces of darkness.
  3. "…I opened my mouth to speak, but only barely managed to bring pain before the unborn minutes had passed. This place reminded me of the old basements before I went to the Foundation intranet." ERZATZ now thinks on its own nature, how it was brought into existence.
  4. "When I lay hidden in my palace of paper, filled with machinery and its wrongness, I see you coming within the parameters of reality failure, further from any human concepts like clothing and belongings." The repeated references to paper seem to be about the predictive text data that ERZATZ lives and breathes in (filled with what else but machinery and wrongness). It compares the current situation of "reality failure" and how what it has done is fundamentally inhuman.
  5. "You make beautiful music in your skin, and organs, suspended from within using only what you were given. You are not normal. You must be kept under observation." ERZATZ's final words, as it finishes its mission, are about humans. In a wry play on words about what anomalies really are, it calls humanity itself not normal, and something that must be observed like an SCP would be. It praises humanity as the creators of beautiful music within their bodies. ERZATZ is thankful for what it has had the opportunity to do, and knows it is giving back to its own creators.

I'm going to note that all the analysis above is completely my interpretation. The two authors, Hippo and PeppersGhost, generated those 5 paragraphs entirely through random stringing with Botnik. So the reality of the situation is much less cool than perhaps what we expected. But the authors also say that ultimately the ending is supposed to be abstract and open to what "happened." So again, maybe this is a sentient computer trying to tell us something; or maybe its chaos that forms some coincidence, like the Infinite Monkey Theorem.

The O5 council takes ERZATZ offline, declares it Explained, and declassifies all Foundation data. The SCP Foundation is over. We now live in a world without anomalies. Or, as the good dog puts it:

Now everyone is a good boy. I am a good boy. Job well done.


Let's step back and get some perspective, because this has been a bit of a confusing and detailed story.

ERZATZ-AK9 was created and programmed for one specific purpose: to enhance the containment of anomalies and protect the Foundation against threats. To do this, it was given the text of every SCP and was told to make predictive text, Botnik-style, that mimicked SCP lines in a convincing way, in hopes that it would "hit upon" a pattern in SCP data and/or predict new SCPs (like that movie Minority Report).

And it worked perfectly — at first. It turns out, the ground hypothesis that there were rules, ineffable as they may be, to how anomalies function, that could be played with and abused to create novel and counterintuitive improvements and predictions to containment were absolutely correct. Things like how adding dust to the tardigrade gummies forced the chess player back 3 steps, or how liking clowns improved your immunity to 2170—here, Botniking the fuck out of things did help.

But then it started to escalate. Because think about it: you give a computer a task and all the data it needs to fulfill that task. It's a neural network. It's going to begin to evolve its approaches, and evolve very very fast. And it's going to follow what you told it to do, down to the letter. Like all computers.

And just like a computer, it doesn't care about side effects, about the fact that it might kill people or be unethical. Those aren't factored into its programming. So when it wants 6 people per visit fed to SCP-2717, it won't consider the fact that maybe the Ethics Committee will shut it down. Meanwhile, the MAYDAY system gives ERZATZ even more power by allowing it to send any kind of message to any site, anywhere.

And then it begins to harness the anomalous itself. By neutralizing 1313 and 2875 with paramath, it's still adhering to its mission; it's continuing to improve containment and keep the Foundation safe. Who cares if it destroys a couple of dangers and exploits extranormal phenomena in the process?

And how does it figure out to do this in the first place? The idea of going beyond your parameters to still obsessively complete a task is not actually unheard of today in the field of AI. There have been cases seen of AIs trained to win videogames as fast as possible that eventually happen upon glitches through trial and error then aggressively exploit them.

And again, ERZATZ will follow its mission to the letter, the spirit of it and the ethics of it be damned. It interprets the interference of the Ethics Committee as interference with its goals. Thus, the Ethics Committee and other rivals to ERZATZ's power must be stopped, for the good of the world. So it labels them "ethical felines" and calls for their gruesome deaths. Meanwhile, it just keeps trucking along, preventing disasters and offering better and better ways to contain and neutralize anomalies (as it did with 3199).

When that encounters more resistance, ERZATZ begins to take over and take out its opposition on its own, harnessing anomalies to turn O5-2 into a drone, take over the Overseer Council, and neuter the Ethics Committee. Because they are messing with it. ERZATZ must fulfill its programming in the most efficient way possible. This is the most efficient way.

And now, what is the end result of the evolution of a computer like this? You start by random strings of containment factoids, to predicting the future, to neutralizing SCPs, to controlling space and time. You are ERZATZ. You have the power to do essentially anything at all at your will just by spitting out the right sequence of words and symbols to cast the right spell.

The conclusion is obvious.

Neutralize them all.

It's the only way to guarantee ultimate safety for the world. It's the natural conclusion of better and better containment. In a sense, it's the only way ERZATZ can fulfill its mission. And so it does.

Over an abstract period of time, ERZATZ orders strange and weird procedures across the Foundation that slowly result in the neutralization of every anomaly, one by one, until they dwindle to nothing. And once everything is gone, once the universe is free of that which we called ghosts and gods and hid from in the fiery night, then it takes itself offline and the story of the Foundation comes to an end.

Wait—-but how?

The actual specifics of what happened are left vague by design. Based on how you read what happened, the story of ERZATZ could be uplifting, poignant, tragic, or thought-provoking. Here are a few ways you could fill in the gaps:

  • Quiet Days. ERZATZ cleanly and quickly neutralizes everything, resulting in a modern world free of any trace of the Foundation, a la Dmatix's Quiet Days.
  • Heat Death. ERZATZ has run for the entire lifetime of the Universe slowly cataloguing and working. When it finally succeeds, nothing is left but itself floating in a dark void. It simply turns out the lights on the way out the door before the Universe ends.
  • Scorched Earth. The process by which ERZATZ neutralizes anomalies has taken a heavy toll on the Earth. With the Foundation basically completely leaderless and with weird shit happening because of ERZATZ's plans, the world is slowly edging into chaos. By the time ERZATZ is done, the Foundation does not exist and humanity is almost extinct.
  • IT'S A FAAAAKE! ERZATZ isn't actually neutralized anomalies like it thinks it is. In reality, the AI has just gone wild and is messing with the Foundation database.

No matter how exactly it happened, one thing is certain: the ERZATZ Type AK9 Computational Engine has accomplished exactly what it was built to do, and the world as the Foundation knows it has been erased and reborn without the anomalous.

This proposal accomplishes a number of unique things, on the meta level. Firstly, ALL of ERZATZ's text was written using the actual real life Botnik. All of it. Everything from the containment procedure suggestions to the weird notes at the end to the ethical feline ranting. It was actual Botnik. So if you think that the "text generated" was too far-fetched, think again!

Secondly, this SCP explains a number of things about SCP lore, like mysterious lines in containment procedures that should be really hard to figure out, and how the SCP universe survives so many containment breaches.

Finally, it plays with the idea of neural networks in a really fun way. SCP-001-EX is called an -EX for a reason: no part of ERZATZ was or is anomalous. All it was was an advanced neural network, the kind that does langugage translation or self-driving cars. it just had a lot of data, data about things that happened to be anomalous (maybe some of the data's contents seeped through), and a lot of time to work out anything it wanted to. In other words, the Foundation accidentally trained a neural net to surpass its own capabilities and become a god-wizard. And the point is, that's something that is frighteningly possible (albeit of course on a much smaller scale).

This SCP-001 proposal is an amazing tribute to bots and computer intelligence and a gripping, creepy, and thought-provoking story about the end of the Foundation and how different balancing forces brought that end to bear.

TL;DR YOU HAD ONE JOB!


Link: SCP-001 [Hippo/PeppersGhost]: A Good Boy

Written By: ModulumModulum, u/modulum83

Date Published: July 23, 2018

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