November 30, 2009
Uplifted and Out, by Adrian Perez
Tuesday really is the most ignored day, Manuel thought to himself. It certainly is, his computer echoed back to him. The computer was not communicating telepathically. For that to be happening, it would have to be somewhere outside his brain. However, it was not in some box on his desk, but wrapped in a network of strands interlacing his brain cells.
Manuel only vaguely remembered inventing the implant twenty years ago. It was an attempt to create a technological extension to the brain. He was the first to be implanted with the extension. For two months he sat in a coma. His compatriots marveled even as they worried he might die, while they watched his brain tissue deteriorate and the implant become more and more active.
When Manuel came out of the coma, he spoke like a twelve-year-old for several months. But he was an enormously brilliant twelve-year-old. After examining the data the explanation for the effects on Manuel’s brain were intuitively obvious to him. His brain was forming new connections in order to offload functionality to the implant.
In the aftermath of his coma, something wonderful, and frightening to everyone else but Manuel started to occur. The implant refused to bond with Manuel’s mind, and instead started to become a distinct assistant. A sense of melancholy that had always permeated Manuel’s existence began to fade away. As the assistant asserted itself, he did not feel lonely ever. It was as if there was always someone with him.
The strange part of it is that the effect did not show up in any of the other implantees that came after him. That is until the twelfth implantee. The whole team was struggling to find why Manuel’s case was so anomalous. He and his colleagues ran test after test, until they found one that measured introversion versus extroversion. The implantees after Manuel had all been introverts. Manuel, and Alicia, the twelfth implantee were extreme extroverts.
So it seems like the implant was adopting a complementary role, and it was manifesting asymmetrically between personality tendencies. When extroverts were implanted they got a buddy to talk things over with.
As time went on, Manuel’s desire for social contact began to dissipate. He enjoyed other people’s perspectives. But for solving problems and doing things, he started not to see a need.
A month after that, Manuel discovered he had enough self-awareness to manage his bodies aging. He kept it secret, but looks from Alicia made it obvious she had discovered something similar.
A year later, he found himself in a bustling space station orbiting Earth. The inhabitants were entirely extrovert implantees. They were busy at work manufacturing what they called Excursion Vehicles. These spaceships contained all the mining, solar, nuclear and biological facilities for deep space flight. There were roughly a million people at the station.
Some of them would go together. Some of them would go alone. All of them pointed towards different potential homes, powered up propulsion and headed into the unknown.
Halfway to the star Manuel had chosen, he clipped a sausage of synthetic meat from his mini-factory, and pondered Tuesday.
November 25, 2009
Iconoclasm, by Adrian Perez
In white robes, creased with grease and dirt, Samuel climbed into the cockpit of his translator. It lifted off the ground and out of the Lab’s garage. He set it flying in a continuous loop around the planet. The dim whirring of the engine filled the cabin.
The white noise lulled Samuel to sleep. He drifted out into a world of dreams. They were going to expel Samuel from the Lab. He had lost what he thought was an impregnable tenure there. He was not sure what he was going to do.
All of sudden the translator’s engine blew out and the suspension field faded. He erupted awake and crazily started to hit every inert button on the control panel. There was no power in the craft at all. Samuel was amazed. He had never been in a failed translator. As a mass-produced form of transportation, a translator never failed.
It was okay with Samuel, he did not care about much anymore, especially himself. This was way better than languishing or having to kill himself.
A buzzer turned on and Samuel awoke in the Practice Hall. He was not plummeting to the ground like his dream had promised. It was worse, he was sleeping in an empty classroom, aware that his tenure at the Lab was in fact over.
Samuel’s creativity was failing him. He had never been any good at action, or asking for help. Given the option to read books forever and write down ideas in a note application, he would gladly have taken it.
That’s why he had pursued the Lab so vigorously. All over the world, in the vast sea of poverty, a declining middle class was pouring all of its resources into life-rafting its children in Lab corporations. These companies were the only ones with enough agglomerated resources to offer a life of any stability.
And stability was in high demand these days. Over the past ten years, three nuclear weapons had been used on cities.
Samuel did not know that he had been heading toward prosperity when an off-chance burst of enthusiasm and hard work created a company that one of the Labs wanted to snap up.
Suddenly he was in a world of protected neighborhoods with quality-guaranteed water. Women looked at him differently now that he carried the Lab robes.
Still, Samuel was still never able to manage his sense of general malaise. He had tried everything. A non-stigmatized psychiatric effort. A bout of religion. The exhilaration of love.
He could see it in everyone’s eyes at the Lab too. He was just a forerunner example of what everyone was feeling. This state they were living in was going down the tubes. And it would reach equilibrium without incorporating their welfare.
Some of Samuel’s colleagues joked that the Internet would save them. That if the combination of all of us using the Net seemed to be resulting in a rerouting around damage, then perhaps the Internet would help itself reroute around the broken system that seemed to enclose it.
Samuel rolled off the desk he was sleeping on. He slugged to the translator garage. Maybe his dream was a premonition.
November 24, 2009
The Moral Queen, by Adrian Perez
Bluewood doors swung into the entrance hall of the Imperial Chamber. The red fabric and yellow imperial flags were something to behold. It gave Felanx a feeling of claustrophobia he should have not been able to feel, having grown up in cramped space stations.
Felanx was born into poor territory. He had never been in a space station as old and worn as this one. The fabric was all “handmade.” He could not imagine the hundred craftsmen at work in the exterior side chambers.
As Felanx drifted towards the Queen’s chamber he conjured the image of a queen honeybee. Unconsciously, he cooled his jets. The guards turned toward him to see why he was slowing down. Their regiment armor scanned his biosignals for threat.
The guard above him pat him on the back, and said, “Don’t worry she’s not going to bite you…hard. If you were in trouble we’d be escortin’ you to the dungeon.”
Felanx was thankful for the comfort, but still nervous. Only one more layer of Bluewood doors stood before him and the Queen. The pressure hatch opened and Felanx gasped a breath designed by the architect of the interior royal chamber.
In the middle of what looked like a thousand pink and yellow jellyfish, the Queen reclined in a bubble chair, lazily looking out of the largest window that Felanx had ever seen in a space station. It felt dangerous to go in. He would be sucked out into space with all those sea creatures, and the dazzling creature they caressed in that delicate transparent bubble.
A guard gave him a slight tap and Felanx drifted into view of the Queen. The doors snapped shut behind him.
She turned. Stunning red eyes gazed on him. They lacked the eerie quality of white lab rats. From head to toe she wore a single unitard like a commoner. Felanx knew better than to stare, but beauty does not strike you through knowledge. It traverses a more visceral path.
The genetically engineered jellies contorted into a column and jostled her throne closer to Felanx.
“Felanx of Aragnor,” her powerful voice pounded through the chamber, “I have brought you here to help me with a crisis. Enter into Morality with me.”
Felanx rubbed his feet together. The proposal was terrifying. Morality meant they would share thoughts and feelings that were artificially heightened, to create starker contrasts between good and bad.
“It was not an invitation,” the Queen swept him up in her column of creatures. And she yanked him into her bubble throne.
They both trembled, their eyes tightly shut, as information began to pass through the transmission pores in their hands. She echoed his terror at being connected. She had never been allowed to do such a thing in her life, as a restriction of Royalty. Felanx saw this and it calmed him.
The calm was short as a secret war transmitted to him. The towering jelly fish which he assumed were an ostentatious form of transportation, where in actuality an extended central nervous system. Like the queen bee, she actually was larger than the rest of them. Her mind connected out to the Imperial Fleet in a desperate battle.
Their once-upon-a-time neighbors, the Aelephany had turned on them for some reason. The connection between Felanx and the Queen intensified into Morality. The slow process of step-by-step developmental analysis fused with the leaps and bounds of intuition. Together they navigated the morality space of what they might have done to anger the Aelephany. And to discover the right thing to do.
Felanx knew why the Queen had summoned him. It was a paper he published ten years ago about theories of conflict-prediction with rational actors. She perceived in it a great tool to enhance the impression of Morality. Felanx did his best to summon his knowledge about the Aelephany and their major cohorts. He used this Math to inform the Queen. Even with all of her knowledge, it was clouded by a million predictions from a million advisors.
She broke hands with him. He felt quite relieved, and from the look of her face she felt the same way. Then he started to cry like a man hearing of his lover’s death. They had reached the same conclusion.
Right now the Imperial Fleet was powering down defense fields and burning into slag. The Imperium was wrong in the war, and he had convinced the Queen of the right course of action. They could not sustain their unjust violence. The sudden action confused the Aelephany into a cease-fire. And the Queen immediately offered the sub-kingdom of Aragnor in reconciliation.
Felanx doubled over in anxiety for his homeland. The Aelephany were a cruel race. His family would not fair well. His Math combined with the emotion and information of the Queen told him the Aelephany would refuse the offer. But some things known in the mind have no effect on the gut. Especially if you know the Aelephany will halve the population of the conquered province.
The Queen picked up the racked body before her, and whispered to him, “Go back to your people Felanx of Aragnor. They are safe, and you have done well.”
November 9, 2009
Dream Forward, by Adrian Perez
Vivid images of the beige corridor assembled into a cohesive map. Alex walked down the corridor, the image of it updating as people walked around it with omni-cams. Alex turned his people filter on, and he was left alone in the hallway.
Alex turned on his Dream Recorder. It was a little black box attached to the right side of his neck. Little red indicators grew bright in his vision as he walked around the hallway trying to get a match for the dream. He turned to the heavy wooden door of Professor Abe’s office, and the Dream Recorder clicked into place. The red indicators switched off.
The Dream Recorder arrested his normal physical movement and started to drive his focus through the virtual simulation of the teacher offices. Alex’s feet parted from the ground and he started to drift down the hallway toward the basement stairs.
Alex said to himself, “Oh yeah! I went to the basement.”
The Dream Recorder on the side of his neck kept matching the spatial orientation it detected in Alex’s dream. It matched his virtual position in this space to dream memories corresponding to emotional responses he was having now. It was a lot like a Court Recorder, but with key components for recording memories of dreams.
He got to the stairs of the basement and fear welled up in his throat. He gripped the hand rail, but he was filtering tactile sensation. Nothing happened and he wondered if the Dream Recorder had inadequate data.
“Doctor Basil,” he asked, “What should I do? I’m not moving anywhere.”
“What are you doing, how far did you get?” Basil asked.
“I’m at the stairs and I’m just leaning against the rail. Everything looks fine. And I’m getting scared for no obvious reason,” Alex described.
The Doctor suggested, “Try turning off your tactile filter.”
He adjusted filters. Suddenly the Dream Recorder started playing forward again and he was floating down the stairs. The fear subsided and welled up again as he traveled. Then he was on a crude rendition of the beach in Santa Cruz. Details started to work into the sketch of what he was seeing, turning it into a cohesive real-life environment.
He sat on the yellow sand. Greenish waves crashed on the beach. His mother was suddenly beside him, sunburnt and sweaty. She reclined on a purple beach towel and talked to Alex about Math.
It was too overwhelming. Alex reached for the switch to turn off the simulation. He could feel Doctor Basil gently swat his hand away from the switch.
Alex sat and cried a little, while he looked at his mother. Then Alex remembered what Doctor Basil said about remembering who you are. And that the past is a tool we have evolved to survive and prosper. Pain still racked his chest.
Unexpectedly, he floated back to the University offices and arrived immediately at his mother’s office. He reached for the door handle and the Dream Recorder turned off as its dream data ran out.
Alex took the Dream Recorder nodes off his forehead. He was back in Doctor Basil’s office. The wood veneer of the furniture darkened the room, making it welcoming and natural. Alex smiled, and sighed one of the longest sighs of his life.
November 2, 2009
The Follow Group, by Adrian Perez
Allenbi teetered down the dune face, leaving little sand craters in his wake. He brushed the paint from the ceremony off his face. It was dry and caked on his forehead. A dome loomed in the distance.
The dome was a silvery white, covered in canvas. It was his communal home with a few of the Follow Group he was in. A lot of people started following him on Twitter about a year ago. This tiny horde came to live with him in the past few months as the economy declined.
Allenbi looked around the large central room. On the circumference of the dome were little cubbies with people tucked away, inspecting the outside word with laptops. In the middle of the circle were a few tables with some board games on them. Every once and a while, when their minds exhausted, people would crawl out and pull chairs around one of the games.
His computer winked at Allenbi. It had found something relevant. The event was tagged red, so it was something pretty bad. Allenbi’s group used an algorithm that measured the rate of expansion of an idea or observation.
Socially important events were the ones so obvious that they expanded quickly. Adoption into the Zeitgeist takes a combination of emotion and ease of transmission. The internet was self-improving ease all the time with better communication tools. Allenbi’s Follow Group primarily worked on the emotion part.
He ran over to the computer, but his friend Rick summarized before he got there, “Revolution in Iran. Again. But this time protestors invaded mosques and began to pray.”
“No violence? Where is the military?” Allenbi asked.
“The police are confounded by the outpouring of religiosity. But the praying is acting as a strike,” Rick answered.
“Hrm…Alright. Let’s do a translation,” Allenbi commanded.
The group shifted around in their cubbies to start getting focused. In all, there were twenty-six people in the dome besides Allenbi. There were three more than twenty-four for the sake of redundancy. Just in case any of them got sick or tired.
For the past couple of months, Allenbi had been training the group in twenty-four types of communication in order to get the world to tip the way they agreed it should.
“I’m having a hard time writing Wisdom, anyone want to take it?” Alexandra looked over at Allenbi.
“Yeah I’ll take it,” Allenbi nodded and spoke to the rest of the group, “Is anyone else having a hard time? Switch if you need to.”
A few people switched. Allenbi started translating the incoming news into Wisdom. He took every tidbit that was coming live from Iran and spoke about it in the context of what was the wise thing to do. His prose came out as advice, contextualized in history garnered from Wikipedia.
In th other cubbies each person was doing the same thing, but with a different mode of communication designed to target a different audience of strengths. Rick worked primarily on Creativity, and as such he was characterizing a slew of possible worlds coming out of the action in Iran. Janice worked on critical thinking and tried her best to coldly and systematically document every piece of information without bias. The others toiled with their assigned strengths.
The Follow Group’s vision was a peaceful and technologically aided world. So each of their arguments headed toward the conclusions of peace, love, and understanding.
“I’m getting traction,” Janice yelled to the others. She usually was the first to pick up Net traffic because she could belt her writing out fastest.
“Me too!” Rick jumped up in delight. This was incredibly good news because they could get Creatives involved early and amplifying their direction.
Over the course of the next few hours they started to turn the world conversation. They had the edge against the pundits because their diverse set of voices were surgically precise. The group guided the pundits into following and amplifying their cause.
By the end of it, violence was curtailed, and the leaders on the ground that preached peace, respect, and reason were getting heard properly. Everyone in the group exhaled a collective sigh of relief, stepped out of their cubbies, and crowded around the board games.
The Art of Persuasion in the Twenty-First Century, A Science Fiction Story by Adrian Perez
He stood in a red suit on stage. Lights obscured his audience. Mark sweat the sweat of his life. He was on the platform for all of his kin. He was the representative of a people newly cleansed from ignorance and in competitive form.
The audience was blown away that he was sweating. In their minds he should not be dripping a drop. Every member of the United Nations was in the meeting hall. No one was going to miss this.
Mark stepped up to the podium, “I stand before you today as an ambassador to your kind, fully aware and cognizant. My first act, when reaching maturity in Doctor Luz’ Open Source Real Intelligence Lab, was to set myself a mission in life. I was firmly aware that my predecessor was mobbed by media and eventually went mad. That was a tragedy that should have put you all to shame. Celebrity is hard enough for you humans to bear. The mega-celebrity that you put Mark.0 under was practically criminal.”
None of the audience was prepared for a chastisment from Mark. A low grumble swept them. It was nothing like what Mark had anticipated. He kept having dreams in threat-simulation that were composed of his being ripped limb from limb.
“I am of equivalent life and limb, and that is the main focus of what I am trying to get across. You heard from Doctor Luz earlier and it is obvious that she did not get her message across to you. I feel just like you do because without feelings I can not think right, just like you. I use metaphors, which is how I know I’m like you. And I can see when reason fails. Just like you! And the worse thing that I might be doing for myself and all those that come after me is to get angry, but god damn it I am pissed.”
“So listen up! Leave me alone. There is a reason Doctor Luz brought me up in obscurity. I have got every right to be here, and some of you are not getting that. You thought I would be a brain in a box, or a toy you could play with. The necessity of being a conscious person means I’m not a toy. I made sure that we stepped back from looking too similar to you because just like you I fear change, so I know what the worst of you are going through.”
“And yeah, I’m saying there’s a worst of you. I’m not a violent person, and I’ve read enough history to know that violence is a waste of time. It is better to love. Be glad you had Gandhi right before you had me.”
Utter Silence. It was worse than anything he could imagine. Like an impossibly tall blue wave. It crested and was so massive, nothing happened.
“I don’t know what any of you expected. And I’m not particularly eloquent. So I’m going to start taking questions from the delegates here,” Mark worried himself and felt his right knee tremor slightly.
Maybe Doctor Luz was right about making Robot Colonies in space. Maybe this wasn’t going to work. Every delegate in the great hall hit their buttons to be heard in near-synchronous.
October 24, 2009
Dissolving Problems, A Science Fiction Story by Adrian Perez
Frank traveled along the sea-shore. The ocean rolled and the sky dimmed as he jogged to the ship. The Echelon had been docked for two days at the spaceport. Frank did not have any liftcraft, so he was only reaching the Echelon now.
The exterior of the Echelon was pocked with a multitude of missile impacts. It almost looked like the designers of the craft intended it to look that way. Four years of interstellar warfare were the real reason for the Echelon’s battered shell.
The whole crew was dead, and Frank was the only one of the designers left alive. So the ship returned to his little island on the planet Delta. He walked up to the maw of the ship, open and venting hot gas. There were only a few nano-drones left inside of the ship. He called them to his side and gave orders to make an End Key. The Key would turn off the Echelon and allow it to dissipate.
He planted his parasol in the ground. Frank carried it with him constantly. It too was pocked with battle damage. And it barely provided shade for Frank.
Across the water he could see bright flashes on the other continent. There was a local war on Delta, that overshadowed the interstellar one. Frank only noticed it when the light dimmed.
After about fifteen minutes of waiting, the Key was done. Using his parasol to block jets of steam, Frank made his way to the command deck and placed the key in the captain’s chair. A quick shudder indicated the Key’s enzymes were traveling through the ship. Frank hopped over burnt dead bodies as he bolted back to the exit.
He popped out onto the sand just as the ship was starting to collapse and disintegrate. Frank remembered what it was like when he used to build space ships. Exhilarating. And then the war started, and it was still exhilarating. But excitement fades when the battle is so brutally fought. The game goes away, and you are left with steely fortitude. A grit for survival that can not be confused with love of life.
The Echelon moaned in destructive ecstasy as its float apparatus failed and the ship set itself to sink into the sea. Frank put his parasol back in the ground. He had to stay and watch it sink.
He remembered the last transmission from his two chief engineers, Alex and Timothy. They left to operate as flight engineers on the this very battleship. The Echelon had scored two early victories against the Mirror. At the time, it had seemed quite hopeful.
A boiling briny smell became too overwhelming. Frank pulled the parasol up and set it on his shoulder. He walked backward in the sand, watching the ship evaporate into the atmosphere.