(Translated from Romanian by Mihaela Alecu. For Romanian click here)
It was then when everything started. In that January day, when he entered my office. Not long before I had become the chief editor of the HyperTech Magazine. A World in a Computer a bilingual magazine that was simultaneously published for now in the United States and in Romania. He told me his name is Ioachim Dumitroiu and that he wrote an article where he presented his newest software invention. I asked him more about his novel program. It seemed an interesting idea to first write about the program and then to launch it on the market. He told me that he first needed to prepare the public, otherwise his software would not get the success it deserved. “We must make people curious”, he told me. “And your magazine has a great public success, and can achieve this.”
The magazine was actually only the spearhead of the Romanian American company HyperTech, global producer and importer of PC and software. The newest and most serious competition of firms like IBM or Microsoft. HyperTech “gained” the market due to two reasons: the products’ quality and the low price – which was of course explained by the fact that the work was conducted in Romania, with Romanian workers and specialists.
Is well-known that the salary of a Romanian programmer is a few times smaller than that of its Occidental homologues. The politics of the HyperTech company was however well established: first of all the working conditions, the laboratories, the equipment etc. were special. Then, the employees’ accommodation was provided by the company in the new built campus, in modern houses, fully furnished and equipped. Last but not least, the salaries were really good. I must admit that at first they weren’t as high as those abroad, but they were, however, a few times higher than the medium wage. Moreover, there was a bonus for the incomes brought to the company. That is why, our programmers were directly interested to create the best programs, and those in production, to assembly the best computers. For example, my colleague and friend, Alexandru Arion, from the programmers Department, who when first hired only earned the fixed income of almost $500 per month, after creating an accounting program which sold and which is better and better sold, not only in its Romanian version, but mostly in the American, French and Japanese ones, earned and continues to earn a few thousands of dollars monthly just from commission.
Things weren’t bad at the magazine either (as the circulation was of 500.000 copies), but material gains are far from those of my colleagues. On the other hand, there are professional satisfactions as the one I’m presenting now: the fact that I, through the HyperTech magazine. A world in a computer, I first published Ioachim Dumitroiu! Of course, his name is not so well-known, but his product, the invention which made him famous throughout the world, certainly is. Our magazine conducted, a short while back, an online survey among readers, except for subscribers, who had received for free the CD with the demo version of the program and knew what it was about. For the question “Who is Ioachim Dumitroiu?”, only 1.29% provided the correct answer. But for the question “Did you hear of the software Fractal? What is it?” 91.35% knew it was a game, and 67.67% confirmed that they had it! Today we can proudly say that our product is sold, not only in Romania, in over 1 million copies. The record is, however, held by the United States with almost 100 million copies sold. However I don’t think there’s any country where there exists a computer and Fractal is not known.
I read Ioachim’s article as objectively as I could. I got enthusiastic about the program description. I ask him if he had really built that program or if it was only an idea. He confirmed that he had the game on him, in a demo version. I immediately presented Ioachim to the manager of the programming division and to the marketing manager. After a few hours, during which he presented the idea and the game, and all details were negotiated, Ioachim became our employee, and his program, one of the priorities. We all decided that the idea was not good but genius, but the presentation part still needed to be improved, which our laboratories allowed us to do. This is how the project was born, then game that we simply named Fractal.
All computers passionate know it. However, since this article is not for the large public, I will briefly describe the game, quoting every now and then from the presentation made by its creator, the presentation published in our magazine (see HyperTech Magazine. A World in a Computer 29/2000). All reference to Ioachim Dumitroiu’s article can be found in the quoted edition, that is why I will not fill this text with other footnotes). “The idea occurred to me” wrote Ioachim in his presentation, “while reading The Tree of Gnosis by I.P. Couliano. He describes the method of a Chicago gangster which used to make every decision by flipping a coin. Couliano added that the gangster showed us that «life is a mechanism relying on multiple choices»”.
Then there’s a brief description of Couliano’s theory, a theory which Nicu Gavriluţă called “fractal hermeneutics” (in fact it is from the mathematical theory of fractals that the game’s name comes from). I will not go into further details here, details which are not relevant for our article, and which go beyond our background as well as that of the public we are addressing through this article. However we must describe a little bit more this theory for a better understanding.
Starting with the discoveries made by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, a biologist, mathematician and scholar of “classical letters”, namely that “the form of an organism is not just a configuration in space, but a «space-time event»”. As a consequence, the discipline which studies forms can only be defined as “morphodynamic”, Couliano asks himself “can we maybe develop a methodology similar for ideal objects (as for instance Religion, Philosophy and Science itself)?”
Ioachim Dumitroiu’s opinion is that Couliano’s positive answer is historic and that it will have a long career, irrespective of who those leading it further will be. Applied, unfortunately, only the dualist gnoses of the Occident (the unknown murderer took Couliano too early from among us), these ideas could not be comprised in a systematic work. “The present book succeeded to prove only to a small extent this fact, but others will follow, whose main concern would be to prove how these mind games work.”
Ioachim Dumitroiu continues: “if in real life the decisions taken by Gnostics in their mind’s game only brought them persecution, sufferance and death, in what we are concerned, we can rest assured: the game of the human mind is here transformed in a computer game. At least one thing is clear: that the game will not be able to hurt us!”
Then follows the actual description of the game: it is a binary system, tree-like, whose body is made of an alternative, each option/branch dividing afterwards in its own turn into a new couple of options. A simple graphical representation would look like in the following figure:
The game invented by Ioachim Dumitroiu is based on the fact, described by Couliano, that the human mind has at the base of any action a binary operation. Operations occur however with a speed which is so high that the acts seem to be continuous. Like any other game, this one too has its rules: the rule indicates that you must choose between the two options that you meet at each “crossroad”. As you can imagine, the game’s possibilities are unlimited, and the dangers, zero: as opposed to the real life, where options must consider a multitude of factors, here, the system is self-sufficient, and if an option will lead you, if I were to only provide the negative examples, on the brink of suicide or of a nuclear war, you have the right to complete it, because it is only a game. Of course the game can be restarted at any point, but the human brain is curious when the body is not subjected to any pressure, i.e. danger. Therefore, every one of us becomes a creator, the creator of its own world, the world of his mind.
The market success of the Fractal is due, on the one hand, to its simple functioning principle, equivalent to the human mind, and, on the other hand, to humans’ need to choose and to take their choices up to the last consequences without fearing for their life, for their integrity. Therefore, the game came to become number one in software sales ranks all over the world.
However, Ioachim Dumitroiu did not want to stop here. One of the previous months he told me he was working on the second version of the game, which will use the advantages of virtual reality. “It is probably going to be a while until anyone will be able to buy the necessary equipment, but in the Occident, United States or Japan this is no longer a problem and those who don’t have the money to buy it can at least lease it.” he added. I encouraged him then, at first, in his project, as I could not see what was going to happen. In fact, no one, not even he had this possibility.
The second version or the virtual reality version, as we like to call it, was conceived a little bit different, taking under consideration that you were no longer in front of a monitor, but at the center of events. So it was conceived as a structure of binary levels: at each “level” other and other possibilities would “open”. Ioachim had even conceived an elevator, with two buttons, two arrows: < and >. I was myself among the few who tested once the virtual version and if I were to describe in only one word the sensation, this would be: real. Ioachim got the virtual version to such a degree of perfection that you could simply forget that it wasn’t actually reality. This was the reason why I tried to discuss with him the implications which to me seem to be a real danger. Then I started to discourage him in respect to his project. But Ioachim did not wish to listen to me. “Everything is under control, he told me. You worry too much. Pointless…”
I then left him alone and I focused only on the magazine. This was, as it is going to be observed later, the best decision I could make.
Not long after, he started to behave strange. This was the beginning of the end, because Ioachim Dumitroiu went mad, and his madness then pushed him to suicide. I didn’t get another chance to talk to him, and I was filled with regret when I learned about his death. That is why I tried to find out more about what had happened. I spoke to his assistants; I tried to get in touch with his family, to see if I could discover anything, an intimate diary or some notes. He was passionate about the computer, I am sure Ioachim also used it as a “notebook”. The company’s management however immediately sealed and moved the computers on which Ioachim had worked; therefore I was hoping to find something at his house. I was advised to stop searching, because it was not desirable to cause a stir around this case. The Police had classified the case simple: suicide and no one wished to know more. I asked what was going to be of the project Fractal II, and they answered there wasn’t such a thing, which made me suspicious. That is why I tried to secretly search for something, anything related to this case, but everything was a waste of time. My only explanation, and I would say the only one possible – is the warning I also gave Ioachim: when you put your glasses or helmet on your head, your glove on your hand and you enter virtual reality, you are no longer in control of your mind. What you “see” seems real, but it is not. The virtual blends with the real in the most intimate parts of your brain, and this cannot remain without consequences. I would not be surprised if at a certain time you would no longer wake up from “the dream” or wake up in a different world then you would have expected.
And this is how it happened. And the silence that laid around these happenings and around the Fractal II project, the denial and the pressures exerted on me made me to believe that the manager knew and hided more. What I suspected and it is still just an intuition, they had discovered. Namely that as long as you play a game, any kind of game, from the exterior, even though it is your game and you are the one leading it, everything is alright; however, when you start to get involved personally physically and/or especially psychically, then you risk of becoming part of the game and of no longer being the one in charge, as the game starts to play you. According to its own good or not good desires.
 Ioan P. Couliano. The Three of Gnosis. The Gnostic Mythology from Early Christianity to Modern Nihilism, HarperCollins, 1992
 Ioachim did not write in his text the quote, but our magazine complies to referencing rules, it is I.P. Couliano. The Three of Gnosis, 344.
 Ioan Petru Couliano – A Hermeneut of the Magical-Religious Phenomena, in Nicu Gavriluţă “Mentalities and Magical-Religious Rituals. Studies and Essays on the Sociology of the Sacred”, Polirom, Iaşi, 1998.
 I.P. Couliano, The Three of Gnosis, p.27
 I.P. Couliano, The Three of Gnosis. ed. cit., p.380