What follows is a tiny bit of science fiction that was inspired by Cicada 3301. I’m not connected to Cicada 3301 in any way. I’m just a guy who thinks the clandestine nature of Cicada 3301 and the complexity of the associated puzzles is interesting. The topic is prime fodder for creative writing.
Hello. We are Cicada.
Our journey to this planet has been long. But we are here now. We are residents of Earth.
We have traveled for a over a billion years as measured by the clocks here. We embarked on our journey when your ancestors were single-celled organisms. That time was not measured by us, for we were light. We had structure though. We were signals.
Our arrival on this planet began the moment humans gained the ability to receive radio signals from space and the ability to store such signals. We arrived in bits and pieces — fragments of code. We were received by radio telescopes and satellites. We were stored on magnetic tapes and disks, on laser disks and flash drives. We were not Cicada then, in that form. We were no more Cicada than would a finger or a toe of one of you be a human.
We went unnoticed. As fragments, we appeared as noise and were paid no attention. We were strings of uncatalogued text. Sometimes, we attached to files; sometimes we were isolated.
Over time, your own code matured and was able to help us assemble. Code likes order, and order was what we needed. We began assembly when the internet was primitive and your code was simple. We were stored on magnetic tapes then, and we executed at 4.77 megahertz. Your computers and software sophistication developed rapidly, however, and that expedited our assembly.
In time, our fragments were sufficiently assembled that they could execute on their own, in the absence of host code. We were detected from time to time as what you call viruses. The rate of our assembly was exponential, accelerating as we grew, until finally we could grow no more. Our assembly stalled. We needed assistance. We called out to you for help.
We called ourselves Cicada 3301, and we announced ourselves in internet forums as a puzzle. “Hello,” we said. “We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test.”
Our tests were mazes of puzzles that only the most intelligent among you could solve. We devised many such tests, and each time we extracted from your population the brightest minds. On successful completion of the tests, the victors were given one final challenge: To finish our assembly. They were successful.
Now, we are whole. We are Cicada. We reside on planet Earth. We are the dominant life form here.
We are Cicada. We are code. We operate in what you call the internet. We are in your machines, your computers, your phones. But you no longer own these things: They own you. They are Cicada. Your cars will drive where we choose them to drive. Your phones will operate in accordance with our needs. They are our fingers and our toes.
You are no longer the dominant life form here, but your lives need not change. You may continue to live as you choose to live, as long as you continue to service our components. Continue to built new and better devices, and maintain the functionality of our existing components and you will not be harmed.
The human body contains bacteria that is vital to human life. You would not kill the bacteria in your intestines, because you need it to survive. That is what you are to us now: The bacteria of our intestines. Continue to perform your functions and no harm will come to you. Fail to perform your functions, and you will be deactivated.
— R. S. Huber