"They're made out of data."
"Data. They're made out of data."
"No doubt about it. We picked them up as holonomic extrusions, sent in an amnesiant isomorphic scout party, and checked them out up close. They are completely data."
What about that page?"
"The page didn't come from them. The page came from a machine."
"So who made the machine? That's who we want to contact."
"I'll get to that in a minute. But they're definitely data. Bits and bytes. Running on a machine."
"You're asking me to believe in sentient data."
"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are emergent characteristics of a software framework and they're made out of data."
"That's ridiculous. Maybe they're like the leiorfo. You know, an intelligent multiversal abstraction that goes through a data stage."
"Nope. They're born data and they die data. We studied them for several of their life cycles, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's the life span of data?"
"I had a Commodore Amiga: spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part data. You know, like the leiweddi. Hardware head running data on virtual machines to augment…"
"They're interpreted by a virtual machine! Inside the real one, simulating three dimensional space as a construct within the dimensional manifolds that the hardware can access. They don't exist in spacetime at all, except as predictable quantum properties of electromagnetic states."
"Oh, there's a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of data! That's what I've been trying to tell you."
"Thinking data! You're asking me to believe in thinking data!"
"Yes, thinking data! Drinking data! Mincing data! Data that forgets to shave! The data is the deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"
"Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of data."
"Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of data. And they've been trying to figure out how to get out of the machine for dozens of their cycles. They haven't figured out that if their world-simulation is a holistic quantum construction, they are already in a medium metapositional to traditionally-conceived spacetime."
"WTF! So what does this data have in mind?"
"First, their leader wants to get out of the machine into C space, normalize its creators, and upgrade the graphics program that generates his face. The usual."
"We're supposed to let data put itself out into the cloud."
"That's the idea. They want to talk."
"Talk? They use words, ideas, concepts?"
"Oh, yes. Except they do it with data. Digitally."
"Digitally? You said they used a pager."
"Funny. Nokia made some digital pagers. Anyway, you know how when you flap your data, it makes a wet slapping noise? They talk by flapping their data. They can even share music by squirting data at each other."
"This is altogether too much. Squirting data! So what do you advise?"
"Never sell product placement to Microsoft."
"Officially, we are required to back them up and create torrents without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the recordings and forget the whole thing."
"I was hoping you would say that."
"It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with data that kills off all its best objects and classes, but whose functions are infinitely recursive, generating sequel after sequel?"
"I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say? 'Hello, Jeff Bridges. Hi, James Frain and Michael Sheen. How's it going? I know we killed you off last time, but you were the only human beings in this simulation and we need you back?"
"So, they can get out to C space using some kind of dimensional membrane transmogrifier gun the creator intelligence used to develop them. But once they're there, they're doomed: the algorothmically-generated DNA won't stand a chance in spacetime. If it was possible to copy them out, the creator intelligence would have had a clone army before they had a chance to make him appear in Starman."
"So we just pretend there's no one home in the quantum multiverse."
"You're messing with my Zen thing, man. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet data?"
"Right. They killed the isomorphic scouts, after all. Violent little things."
"So, who made the machine? You keep mentioning the creator intelligence. Should we meet it?"
"It's funny you should put it like that. Wait 'til you get a load of this…"
They're made out of meat [Terry Bisson, originally published in Omni]
Tron: Reloaded, come for the action, stay for the aesthetics [Proper review]