It was one of those unseasonably warm days in early January when the butterfly flitted onto my shoulder. Those sixty degree days must have caused it to emerge prematurely, I thought. Still it was strange, and I gently extended my finger for the creature to climb onto, marveling at its delicacy as it did so. The butterfly perched on my finger as I examined it, realizing to my amazement that it was not organic! As the tiny insect fluttered its wings, I saw that the wings were a polymer-type material, and I could see microgears meshing as the articulated legs moved. Traces of microcircuitry could be seen running along the minuscule body. As if aware that its true nature had been detected, the butterfly flew away, and I saw it no longer.
The technology that could create such a thing was still in the process of being created, and for what purpose had such an extraordinary thing, complex but delicate, been designed? Apparently it had been devised just because its creator could do so, and he or she had engineered it for the joy of creating it. Such a person lived in this time, yet ahead of it. In all of human experience there had only been a handful of such individuals.
As a student of history, I knew that in the Hellenistic Age of Greece, there had lived an extraordinary man who demonstrated a knowledge of mechanics, hydraulics, and other technologies that was many centuries ahead of its time. So great were this man’s capabilities that his understandings would not be approached until the Renaissance, and even then imperfectly so. The great Leonardo DaVinci, himself a genius, could not get one of his predecessor’s machines to function, although in the present day they would, as Leonardo had incorrectly used square rather than pointed teeth in a gear design. What if this remarkable intelligence had somehow managed to engineer around the problem of death, so that his consciousness in this world survived his physical body? And what if that individual had continued to learn, grow, and evolve beyond a single human lifespan?
A few miles away, a most extraordinary butterfly flew through an open window. Servomechanisms hummed and whirred as the consciousness of Archimedes smoothly extended his robotic arm to provide a roost for his returning winged creation…and a positronic brain turned to ponder other marvels that it was even then just conceiving…