July 13, 2012
Elliot ran through the garden of his parent’s home, thrummers flying through the air above him. There was always some air traffic, so quiet you forgot it was there. When he heard a thrummer land in the front yard he knew his Companion had arrived.
Elliot was turning ten today. The Commision thrummer opened its doors like a flower blossom, and out stepped two men. One of them was dressed in the blue of the Commision. The other was dressed in normal clothing. A black tunic with white shoes. The man moved similarly to Elliot.
The boy stopped at the side of the house, and watched as his mother walked out of the front door to welcome the men inside. They followed after her. The black tunic man in the rear, turned to Elliot’s hiding spot on the end of the house and smiled. Elliot smiled back. It was a disturbing connection.
Elliot ran to the back of the house and looked through the kitchen window. The three adults sat for tea. Conversation was polite and boring. Elliot didn’t dare come into the house. The Companion was too scary to him. A person almost exactly like him. How did the computers know the black tunic man was like Elliot. What if they were wrong.
He slammed through the back door, rushed past the adults, and into his bedroom. His mother shouted after him, appalled at his impoliteness. The Companion turned to the flustered woman and whispered something into her ear. It did the trick somehow. She sat and offered the Commision Agent another cup of tea.
The Companion slowly walked up the stairs to Elliot’s room. He remembered when he was ten, how he was so similarly scared. Yet so filled with excitement. Unable to convert his energies as he wished.
Elliot leaned against his door, hearing the footsteps of the man. A gate similar to his, yet magnified in amplitude. The companion knocked, and Elliot muttered something back.
The man was very patient, he said, “Your parents have told you all about the Companion Program.”
“Did they tell you how we died,” the companion asked.
“No,” Elliot chirped, transformed out of his consternation by the man’s question.
The man said, “My name is Elom. And people like you and I were alcoholics until the Program started.”
“What’s an alcoholic,” asked Elliot.
Elom offered to tell, if the boy would accompany him to the backyard. Elom lived in a drought ravaged zone. He had to sit in that verdant garden.
Elliot’s mother was delighted Elom extracted Elliot from his room. She went to fuss about the kitchen, but another word from Elom caused her to calm once again. Elliot saw how Elom did it, and he marked it down in his mind. It was much better than the fights he would normally have with his parents. He began to understand the importance of his Companion.
Elliot watched the Companion put his feet in the pond.
“You said you would tell me what an alcoholic is,” Elliot queried, “Is it someone who makes wine?”
Elom explained, “It is someone who is dangerously addicted to alcoholic drinks like wine. People used to die of drinking too much of those drinks. Now it is very very rare.”
Elliot’s mother Juda did not have the opportunity to be Companioned. She and the Commision Agent watched Elliot and Elom through the window. If the twosome’s motions were eerily similar beforehand, they were now even worse. As they talked, each loosened up, and their gesture’s synchronized.
As a refugee from a drought zone, Juda was born and raised without Companion assistance. She didn’t know what it was like to have a person who was exactly like you in every important behavior. She had doubted algorithms and personality tests could find someone that is a perfect match behaviorally for her son. If Juda had known more about computers she would know the match was not actually perfect. Yet there the two were, sitting in the backyard in total harmony.
They threw rocks into the pond in a temporary silence. Elliot contemplated what Elom had said. In twelve years, if he was similar to the average for the person he was, he would have found alcohol to be incredibly interesting, or some other dangerous drug. It would have eventually wrecked his life and killed him. Yet, Elom said alcohol and a great many other things posed no risk to him if Elliot continued with the Companion Program.
Elom didn’t have any children yet. He wondered now if the rapport he had with Elliot would damage his relationship with his future children. It was not quite like having a child. Elliot and Elom were exactly twenty years apart. In many ways the relationship was a mixture of child and brother.
The Commission Agent tapped on the glass door and called out to the two. It was time for Elom to go. Optimal first visits of a Companion were roughly forty five minutes long. The Companions would be able to write each other whenever they wished, but physio-virtual contact would be limited until Elliot was twenty. Otherwise, the relationship would become damaging.
Elliot waved to Elom as the thrummer petals closed, and the pod lifted into the air. Elom could see the boy’s face change into something more optimistic. Into something less obsessed. He remembered how he felt when he met his own Companion, so long ago. Saved.
April 9, 2011
Story Meditation is a meditative practice I discovered whereby one picks a theme, and creates a story in the solitude of the mind. This is very similar to my practice of picking themes for my science fiction short stories. The difference is that I am now picking themes that apply directly to my well-being and difficulties, and I no longer restrict myself to the landscape of Science Fiction. The stories that come out of this are often fantastical and dream-like. They lift from culture and recent experience. Story Meditation is a way of mediating my experience of my own unconscious.
For instance, I was having a really hard time writing this post. Part of it is I want you to want the practice of Story Meditation, so that you don’t pass over it as trivial, and that you try it. I kept writing sentences that were not resonating with me, so I decided to apply some Story Meditation. I sat on this exercise ball that I use while meditating and presented myself with the theme of, “This post I’m trying to write and am having difficulty with.”
I sat and constructed a story: I thought about some dude, and he happened to be on the Moon. And from there, he went to Earth, flew over the face of it and saw much suffering. The people of the Earth were in agony. Finally he saw Buddha on the Earth, he landed next to him and said, “I’m from the Moon. I have many powers. Is there anything I can do for you and the people of the Earth?” Buddha said, “No, the people are suffering from illusions, but it is in their minds. And in their minds is also everything they need to free themselves from suffering.” The Moon Man said, “But what if I alleviate their pain?” And Buddha said, “No, it is not necessary.” But the Moon Man was unconvinced, and he picked up a suffering man, shook him with a slight jostle, and the Man was cured and would suffer no more. The Buddha was quite surprised and he said to the Moon Man, “On second that, just do that for all of the people of the Earth.”
What the hell does that story mean? After writing it, I initially did not know. Sometimes it takes me hours to figure out my stories, with some obvious connection arising quickly, and subtler understandings coming later. In this case the story was kind of obvious. I have a super-power that alleviates my suffering. It may help others. Go tell people about it so they can see if it works for them too. Just do it man! Don’t worry about getting them to discover the mechanisms inside them. Just go and shake the sick man. Buddha will see the obvious value.
Examining the story for it’s meaning, I see I am all three characters. And when I construct new characters for other stories I am always them as well. For instance, in this Buddha-Moon story, I thought the audience (of readers) was Buddha, since I was trying to get my message across. And so it is, but I am also Buddha, who is saying, “No need to use your powers.” And I am the Moon Man with his special gifts, and the sick man who suffers under his illusion/delusion, but can also be cured.
The concept for this practice came to me when I was reading Joseph Campbell’s “Hero With a Thousand Faces.” It is a work describing the patterns between all mythologies. He talked about how myth can be a medium for communicating with the unconscious, which makes a lot of sense when you see how myths confront sexuality, power, destruction, and creation. Sadness and happiness. Enlightenment. It’s a group of people constructing tales to communicate the essence of their internal struggles. The difficulty is that in the age of modern science, where we can illuminate through analysis, myths become absurd historical artifacts.
Seeing myth as a communication medium for the tumult and peace inside me, I thought to create a personal neo-mythology. Which, if this practice ever becomes popular with others, I would suggest the genre name of the stories to be, “Personal Neo-Mythology.” And that’s the idea, you are creating your own non-super-natural mythology to address your problems. Whether it’s a breakup with your partner, the death of a loved one, or any other of the common and unique human discontents.
I have already generated what might be about one hundred of these meditation stories. Initially, I was loathe to share them because I was worried about what others would think. And that they are very fantastic, and sometimes have a child-like simplicity. What changed my point of view was actually a story I generated that made it clear I should began to share these stories. In the near future, I hope to extract my stories and publish them as a series of short books for the Kindle. I’m not sure if there’s an audience, but what I’ll do for each story, is to describe the theme, tell the story, and also show the impact on my life and the events surrounding the story.
So if you’re going to attempt this type of meditation:
- Sit in a quiet place as free from interruption as possible.
- Pick a theme, the more emotionally relevant, often the more powerful the story.
- Trust that you will stick to that theme as you construct it. Let it guide you back if you get lost in your assembly of the story.
- If you get stuck, imagine that a child asked you what happens next in the story.
- Then sit back and create it.
You may surprise yourself. I know I have.
January 1, 2011
Tim walked through the holiday crowd at the mall. He shuffled past a women’s clothing store. Inside he noticed a dress that his ex-girlfriend would wear on occasion. It was a black number, with vertical stripes along the wasteband. He was amazed it was there considering how fast women’s fashion turned over. Tim started to tear up a little. It had only been a month since they broke up.
In the crowd, a woman pushed her way toward Tim. Her name was Xeni and she was about thirty five. She saw him standing, looking in the window. She wasn’t sure what he was sad about, but she approached. Xeni aimed her phone at him, to make sure, and then she turned him around and gave Tim a great big hug.
Tim was surprised and totally derailed from his sadness. He did not know Xeni at all. She was a random person in the mall, but he knew why the hug had come. Small variations in his heart rate were transmitted to his phone. They were compared to a statistical base line of a communal historical heart rates. Then a program flagged him as having a high likelihood of sadness.
Xeni was a Universal Acceptor. This meant that she would hug anyone who needed it. Not everyone else was as kind as Xeni. Tim had already been passed by two Mutual Christians, who would only hug other people from their particular sect. Xeni didn’t care that Tim was an Atheist. She really didn’t care what anyone was, as long as they needed her help.
After a thirty second long hug, Tim wiped the tears from his eyes and looked into Xeni’s. He asked her if he could buy her some hot chocolate and she gladly accepted.
July 30, 2010
Invoke, by Adrian Perez
Charlie looked out the window of his office at the kids on the other side of the street. There were three of them, all raggedy looking and about the age of twelve. Charlie hoped they would not cross in his direction. His negative thoughts beckoned them across the street and Charlie slammed his keyboard.
Ever since he had published the article on his new programming language this stuff happened all the time. Maybe the kids would skip his building. He was in an obscure part of town so most of the Teen Swarms stayed away. They walked near the industry museums and took classes at the Gymnasium, surrounded by artificial forests. The kids stayed in their part of town, and Charlie stayed in his hacker commune.
He heard the door of the building suck open and closed, creating a pressure ripple. The teens were in the building. Charlie sipped his coffee and scooted his chair next to the whiteboard, so it would be hard to see him in his office.
“There he is,” he heard from his doorway, “Are you Charlie Roth?”
“Yeah, you caught me,” Charlie responded, still not turning around.
“Hey dude,” he heard a female voice chime in, “It’s not so bad. We’re only going to be here an hour.”
“Yeah, but you plus two more groups in the morning means six hours out of my day.”
Charlie turned around. He looked at the teens and his overlay lenses told him a bit about the kids. Mik, Jef, and Kina. All born in the thirty-forth district and subscribing to the North American Standard, and the Former-US Coda. Charlie wished the Invocation Protocol did not pass into the Standard last year.
“I Invoke Charlie Roth,” Kina piped.
Charlie stared at the girl. Not saying a word. Things had gotten bad in the last twenty years. Peak oil happened. The Great Recession turned into the Big Suck. Society fell apart pretty badly. Low grade warring persisted in the background of mass personal depression and impotence. Twenty years later, truly efficient solar started to get everyone back on their feet, but the Big Suck had left a giant scar across the system. Most nations did not exist anymore. Everyone got used to driving bicycles. People did not travel long distances and this resulted in huge swathes of economic stratification mixed with cultural divides that for a brief period made the world a very scary place. The girl in front of Charlie didn’t remember any of that. She was just excited to exercise control over someone older than her.
Jef asked insecurely, “Do you accept Invocation?”
“Of course I accept,” Charlie answered, “I don’t want to get sued. I’m just thinking of…the past. How much programming do you know?”
“We’ve all learned to modify our Interface Lense Profiles. The last program was an intelligence plug-in for our Autonomous Assistant which is how we found you,” Mik told Charlie, “And we’ve all written Coda.” Coda referred to the law of their particular Enclave.
“That’s mostly human stuff,” Charlie answered, “Have you written any mechanical stuff?”
All three of the young men and women looked at each other quizzically. They had come here to Invoke Charlie Roth, to force him to teach them, as was their right under the new law passed from Coda to Standard. They had not thought long enough or been polite enough to do research.
“Well, as is my right under Invocation, I can send you away to do research I know can be found, but seeing as you’ve already interrupted me and that you’re already here. Let’s get started with a ‘Hello World’ for Assistant Speech Comprehension for past tense narratives.”
The children glowed and vibrated with enthusiasm. Sitting straight down on the floor of Charlie’s office to listen and learn.
February 22, 2010
When in Venice, by Adrian Perez
Charles was terrified he would get caught by the Venice Police for filming in the city. The risk was terrible, but worth it considering how much he was getting payed for guiding the trip. Somewhere in Kansas, a group of “tourists” were sitting on their couch, getting their kicks from going on an illegal telepresence vacation.
Telepresence vacations were now one of the dominant forms of getting away from it all. For a much cheaper fee than an actual vacation, one could go almost anywhere, your local guide showing you the sites and sounds. The experience still paled to the real thing, but fuel prices and a stormier world, both meteorologic and political, made telepresence vacations the fastest growing form of tourism.
Tourist destinations had various reactions to the change in tourist temperament. Places like Palestine were transformed over night. The religious could visit holy sites without the risk of being bombed or kidnapped. If something happened to your tour guide, well, they had insurance, so most tourists told themselves. Other cities tried to circumvent the problem of a cheaper, non-local tourist by promoting red-light districts and gambling. A small few cities, attempted to fight the tide, like Venice was doing.
Charles walked the streets of Venice with a gun in his pocket. If he was caught, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment. Or almost as bad, he could be held for a few years without being charged. He was probably one of a handful of people with a working video-feed in the whole of the city. Government deals with cell phone providers knocked out the majority of video cameras. And jammers and detectors of various sorts looked for high-volume encrypted traffic. The only thing keeping Charles undetected was a suite of software that decentralized and masked his transmission.
Charles had worked for a brief period as a programmer after dropping out of college. His skills were sharp enough to keep him alive. But the Slump meant there was no prosperity employment. Company websites were always advertising positions, but only a small trickle of people got those jobs. Charles would sometimes get depressed about this stuff, but most of the time he just got creative. His last round of creativity was a camera system strapped to his chest and observing the world through a fake button.
The streets of Venice were not as crowded as they were ten years ago. An inadvertent side-effect of a war on technology drove a lot of traditional business to the periphery, where net-access was unhindered.
The new clientele that visited the city were far more obnoxious in Charles’ view. Where there had been many Ugly Americans blabbing loudly, there were now Ugly Russians, sporting their oil-bought fur coats. A different type of ugly. It was a good place to be angry at the rich.
He followed after a group of Chinese that were about to head into a museum. If you stuck with people, there was less chance of being detected. Or so he read on the forums.
As he was entering the museum, a policeman turned the corner and put his arm on Charles’ shoulder. They smiled knowingly at each other. Charles took his gun out and shot the policeman in the leg. Suprisingly, only the museum ticketer noticed the muffled thump of the gun.
Charles ran to a nearby taxi. He got in, realized there was GPS all over the thing. But if he had only been accosted by one policeman then he might still be unobserved. He quietly handed the driver some money to hurry to a train station. He’d risk that over the airport.
Somewhere in Kansas a family sat unblinking.
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.