THE prohibitionist society was long since overwhelmed by the desire for intoxication. There was a time when hedonistic pursuits were classiﬁed as unnatural and born of human weakness. Only qualiﬁed elite could distribute those chemicals deemed legitimate. History, of course, washes these periods cleaner but the ﬁne line between prescribed and illegal was quite often determined by larger factors than the potential beneﬁts to a suffering individual. Over time though, human weakness overcame human strength and freedom of choice prevailed.
The ﬁrst big step, brought from off-world where the laws were weaker*, was Dreamstate™, which came in various strengths and dissipation rates. Dreamstate™ granted the taker a moment of peace and contentment.
The perfect drug paved the way for a more permanent solution to mental unease. Thus the Nirvana Now™ treatment hit the market, which was then quickly followed by the more successful Chocolate Human**.
It is an antiquated idea (so we should naturally remain suspicious) that happiness and, conversely, depression is merely a shifting chemical state that is regulated, agonized, inhibited, blocked, intensiﬁed and ampliﬁed into a delicate balance of dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and other chemicals – the end result being our ‘mood.’ Once you add to that the brain’s endogenous bank of opiates, cannaboids and amphetamines, any emotional or mental state can be induced.
To ‘attain nirvana,’ as the advertisements proclaimed, a subject needed only a minor implantation to allow manual control over the body’s natural processes. The subject can then live out their life in euphoria, travel between various altered states, or use it only on social occasions – it’s up to the end-user.
It may be my age speaking but it seems akin to madness to be able to switch between moods willynilly and I can only assume that not enduring the inherent suffering of life and the pains of mortality would create a weak and insipid creature, though it would be hard to tell as they rarely dip out of nirvana with anything worth hearing. And yet, maybe that will be the new way. Lives are longer, nobody is starving and we could soon be immortal if the Emulators*** are ever successful. What need is there now for pain?
I am reminded of a quote by the ancient, Voltaire.
Happiness is an illusion, only suffering is real.
Why am I so encumbered by this traditional concept? For every point of view a supporting adage can be found, as if such appropriation could make an idea infallible? Or that mere repetition equates to truth? How many of our founding ideas are based on historical ballast rather than actual evidence?
Plate 35: Sergeant Garcia, veteran of the Epsilon territory clash, convicted of humanitarian violations. After replacing his legs with a long-stay nirvana-can on a neu-wheel****, he now lives in a permanent state of Chocolate.
PROLONGED use of the Nirvana Now™ or Chocolate treatments could result in what is variously referred to as ‘Paradise Sickness’ or ‘Stimulation Disability’ (Plate 36). Sufferers prick or in some way inﬂict pain on themselves, perhaps either to receive a surge in reactive stimulation or to break a hypothetical numbness created by a brain-chemical re-alignment.
* Legality seems linked to enforceability. Once bans on drugs became unenforceable the laws were lifted. I believe this is so as not to weaken remaining laws. ** For the chocolate-lovers, inducing the effects of chocolate eating up to a hundredfold.
*** A ‘copying’ of a human mind (memories, personality and hopefully soul) into a tactile-sense machine.
**** At last! Someone ﬁnally reinvented the wheel.
Other Symbiotic Technologies
THESE days there are so many implantations that grow along with the human body, repair themselves, and add to our everyday lives in so many ways that we often ﬁnd it hard to imagine life without them or to conceive of their earlier fallibility.
The hotly debated subject of inception ages springs to mind as the main example that these technological additions are still not fully accepted. When is ‘too young’ to implant a child with nanos and give them weave-access? Should they experience traditional ‘normality’ before joining the work ﬂow?
Equally pondered is the recording of our lives. Implants that transmit an optical/audial feed at true resolution to be recorded for later reference. While a huge advance for the justice system*, how does such a virtual Panopticon affect behaviors? Furthermore, how does the observing of such an accurate historical record affect societal development?
Imagine if you would, a generation free to watch the daily doings of any individual from the previous century**, as our next generation will be free to do. Then imagine being able to view lives from past centuries or millennia? Would the generational divide disappear, as the sense of a place in time becomes blurred by the inﬂuence of immersion in the past?
Of course, I worry too much and am calmed by the thought of how little interest children can show in the lives of their parents. And why am I concerned that its effect would be stronger than ‘normal’ surroundings-based observation and learning? Perhaps children will achieve the impossible and actually learn from the past.
Perhaps when we are all sharing each other’s minds, thought will become the equivalent of action and physical action superﬂuous. Similarly, historical recordings could then be equal to thought as they also exist without physical action, or physical effect. For our proto-plastic descendants it will all be a part of the daily lifestyle, perhaps never experiencing an other who could confound their habits and memory.
Moving on: spaceskin, or snakeskin, was a recreation in miniature of the snakeskin plating used on space-based cruisers to protect against depressurization from small meteor and combat punctures. The space-skin version coated the body with micro-tech scales that would shed and grow as necessary.
Plate 37: the prototype that with prolonged use deprived oxygen from the body and was shed after a space-walk. Subsequent versions keep a thin oxygen-rich layer between the scales and the astronaut’s skin.
* The ‘justice system’, physically defunct and replaced by the ever-improving algorithm that determines what is a crime and the appropriate punishment, something along the lines of: crime/behavior divided by social factors and inﬂuences ± motivation and effect = action (equal to effect of punishment divided by value ± desired outcome).
** Approximately when life-recording began on a large scale. Nearly 87% of the Earth-bound are being recorded as we speak.
THE museum housed humanity’s greatest traveller: stuffed and displayed in his original navigator chair (which cost us a fortune to buy from a rival collector).
Initially, his mission was to deposit transmitter/ receiver orbiters around Fomalhaut* to accelerate research in deep space communication. Gustav survived in space for ﬁfty years, travelling to and from the Fomalhaut System, entirely alone.
Such a long journey presents many physical and psychological challenges, to which many creative approaches were attempted to keep the pilot attentive and coherent to avoid such malaises as depression, insomnia, schizophrenia etc. Gustav died ungracefully on his return to Earth. He had become so habituated to his chair and the artiﬁcial mental environment, that his body went into shock on disconnection and the med-techs were unable to reverse soon enough to save him.
The logbook for his voyage spans a gallant eighty- two volumes, becoming more and more verbose the further one reads. Most people of course, study only the single abridged volume or the narrative version16. The complete works have not yet been translated from the native low-Ganderan.
It seems that an injury led Gustav to abandon his exercise regime, and thus chair-bound he quickly succumbed to the common ailments of long-term space travel: muscle atrophy, bone-thinning, excessive ﬂatulence etc. Compounded with bed sores and the effects of sustained acceleration in one position, Gustav spent the next ﬁ fteen years rotating through a stim-diet of psychotropic phantasmagoria, simulated life programs and pharmacological comas.
It was during the return leg of the journey that he coined the term ‘ludicroustic.’ The food reserves hadn’t kept as well as hoped so Gustav had to rely more heavily on the protein recycler than is deemed safe. Tubed permanently to his chair, there were few intermissions from the CRF (Computer Reality Feed).
Insanity is where one misperceives the external world but I am not insane yet. It is just that the world presented to me is too strange to bear, and I have become ludicroustic. My senses and foldback are artiﬁcially controlled and lack the complexity of what I remember of Earth living. I have been a king, a queen: I have been all things, and suffered all the fates I could desire. Not even the breakfast simulator can save me now.
Obviously these long voyages were not for the human body, or mind, and thus the Human Seed Project was given a further boost.
* It is a class A star approximately 25 light-years (7.688 parsecs) from Earth. Its name is derived from Arabic, meaning “mouth of the whale”. Incidentally Fomalhaut is also listed as a ‘Fallen Angel’ in the Book of Enoch.
** Peter Leonnard, 2187, available public domain.
Time Dilation and voting trends
I DIDN'T mention the dilation of Fermat’s journey and the societal changes that occurred in his absence, remembering that for him ﬁfty years had passed but here on Earth we had rotated three generations. Were he to have survived, he might have felt rather out of place. Blow that for a game of robots!
Of course, people being what they are, there are some who use the nature of time dilation to ‘future travel.’ By leapfrogging ahead of the rest of us they may be going forward in time, pioneering the ultimate tourism, but if I may split a hair, it is not ‘time travel’ and nor are they really travelling into the ‘future.’
Here a lingual update is necessary: as these chrononauts must be realizing, since they cannot go backwards in time to their starting point (nor any of their earlier stop-overs), they are merely sampling points that would have been in the future if they had stayed at ‘home.’ Certainly for me they are going into the future, but for them alas not. Their future is just as unreachable and untouchable as yesterday or any other abstract concept.
Indeed it seems that what has changed is that the common future we once shared (should we call it ‘Earth-future’?), and their own journey have separated into ‘personal-futures’.
Luckily only a few play with their lives in such a fashion, but if the population en masse started seeking out this new excitement, it could have a chaotic effect on the political sector.
When you ‘land’ a century from now and there happens to be an election*, are you entitled to vote or have you sacriﬁced your say in human affairs by abandoning your time-zone? The latter is how it stands at present, but if a signiﬁcant number take up this lifestyle will this remain acceptable? What if on landing, one’s country has disappeared? Similarly, how could a time-bunny from over a century ago understand the issues and climate for which they might vote? Should such redundant citizens be eligible, and if they are, what potentiality is there for vote rigging by sending a large number of your own supporters into the future?
Alas, I have only more questions and the time-bunnies themselves have no desire to be troubled so, as it is precisely this experience of a fresh culture that appeals to them. It would be ridiculous to expect them to take part.
* Already we see countries experimenting with being in a state of constant election, in which citizens vote on a daily basis or as needs be; not to mention the theoretical auto-democracy which would bypass the need for a government, instead having a computer program that reacted to instant voter registries.
Fuzers and other mechanical failures
FUZERS: a commonplace tragedy. We only kept two examples of them in the museum, since we couldn’t afford to become an institution for such unfortunate souls, besides which, when nanoimplants short-circuit, they don’t usually affect the external appearance.
The funny thing I ﬁnd about nano-implants is that they always claim that the beneﬁts outweigh the risks, which seems interminably odd since if it all goes wrong, you don’t receive the beneﬁts promised (or sympathy). So we’re stuck with a degenerate class, often with violent interactive preferences. There’s only one treatment for the fuzer condition, and that is hardly considered a crime.
Most fuzers are ex-military or ex-mercenary, who boosted themselves beyond the limits of their bodies or pushed the limits of their enhancements to a point where they ‘fused.’ Nano-enhanced strength and senses, as well as data-feeds, were some of the many attempts made to create ‘super-soldiers’ and have largely been abandoned since the end of warring.
THERE are only two recorded cases of the porcupine, plate 40, caused by a sudden mass ejection by the nano-system. The subject suffers a quick and most likely unbearable execution – though I suppose most executions are – akin to the death of a thousand cuts, but more accurately it was a million internal perforations. As for fears that such a fate could be triggered by a another party, I cannot speculate, but I don’t see why not.
Silentium Domini / Non esse Domini
THE usefuls of the world have revived an old concept of their own, that of the adversary.
The man-made weave of datastreams and gizmo-links that extends beyond our planet, forms a nebulous and growing manifestation of our existence, and to outsiders this could seem like an ‘entity.’
Beyond what these hypothetical aliens* might think of our ‘entity’, the possibility of other entities arises. How would we recognise another entity? If it was not like our entity, and projected no intelligible action, how could we recognise it from the natural chaos beyond ourselves? Could there not be an entity of such disparity with our own, that we could not distinguish if we were interacting with it or natural forces. Or are we merely conjuring explanations for unknowns?
Some go further, suggesting that we have already encountered another entity and we hear from them every time a remote orbiter has a ‘mysterious loss of power.’ The mistake I fear is in the naming of it. Surely such pigeonholing will ensure that when an entity is encountered, our reaction to it will be predisposed towards aggression.
Still, as we periodically go through waves of externalizing and internalizing the ‘adversary’, it may be merely a useful evolutionary phobia to keep us on our toes. But perhaps if we called adversaries ‘challenges’ we would be more effective when put to the test. Am I now acceding to the power of words?
* To be clear, beings that did not originate from Earth, its colonies, or any descendents of Earth or its colonies.
THERE are two popular phobias, unrelated to the mystic fears of puritans. Firstly, that of a singularity, and more precisely, one brought about by our own doings. The hypothesis that began nearly three hundred years ago is that an ‘event horizon’ of technological advancement will lead to a redundancy of human usefulness, as our own creations take the lead in scientiﬁc and developmental undertakings – or some such sophistry. Personally I think this is quite a boast on our parts – that humanity could become so ingenious as to destroy or replace itself.
Actually I think this fear is countered by another as yet under-studied social phenomena: self-organized criticality. Each structure has a peak mass or volume before it overwhelms its own foundations and spills over. The common example is of a pile of sand upon which one adds more sand, thus forming a peak that grows ever higher until it collapses, resettles and begins to build towards a new peak. Not unlike the maximum volume a population can reach before the whole system crumbles and starts again from a new premise. Historically known as revolutions, each ‘avalanche’ of civilization settles and rebuilds larger and more complex than ever before – until the next collapse. The limits of a particular structure exist prior to the collapse of said structure, and should have some element of predictability.
Opponents of this idea declare it a hind-sight theory, made to ﬁt existing evidence. They may be right, as much of human knowledge is hindsight and there have been no successfully tested models as yet – nor hopefully anytime soon. Perhaps the collapse of the early 22nd century was precipitated by technological progress (or perhaps not), but perhaps we can hazard a guess that it has enabled a rebuilding that has created the vastest civilization in our history. But there is concern too that if there are technological advances that can refashion our environments within a single lifetime, and eventually more frequently, might we not discover that there is a limit to the speed of evolution. Is there in fact a point of critical-selforganized-criticality?
This is theorizing best left for the teenagers whose problem it will be. The main concern in regard to the dangers of technology are, as always, ourselves.
NOT so long ago ‘The Weaver,’ former stock-pilot turned master criminal, tried to reconstruct the fabric of the weave. He succeeded in so far as his early activities were unseen but that was just the beginning.
With access to all the weave-based operational systems (including government codes, historical and personal archives, and functional routines), once he attained a few followers they attempted to re-pattern the fabric so their crimes were no longer illegal, and to set themselves up as the ofﬁcial rulers.
For nearly ten hours Sector 13 was under their control. Had he held control a while longer he could have achieved legitimacy. As it turned out, the WU ran a global shut down and polarized the information ﬂow, so the weavers were temporarily stunned by feedback, allowing a military strike to meet with them more directly. Plate 41 shows a scene titled ‘The Weaver’s last stand.’
SECOND on the list of foreboding moments was the ‘accidental terrorist.’ A girl of just eleven years managed to gain control of a super-soldier exoskeleton and wrought havoc on the city before succumbing to the might of the weave. She could not distinguish the thin line of reality from the fantasy she was plugged into, believing herself to be part of a group game. Don’t we all?