Dearest LoOGies, this is the second part of a series of posts comprising an experiment in fiction blogging, a distributed novella that touches on many of the themes we explore here at the League. The first part of the series is located here. Art work is by Jack Jerz.
There’s a certain class of people I hate, and by hate, I don’t mean hate, but I mean hate. And by that I mean that I wish them no harm but because in general I wish no people harm I wish harm upon a few specific people who I can calculate with certain certitude will harm other people I do not wish to harm. These people exhibit certain general qualities, and I would call these people that I hate “rule-followers” except I like to follow rules sometimes, like rules for Lewis structures or rules for crossing the street. Basically, my basic idea is that these people exist everywhere and constantly make abstractions of everything onto linguistic templates which they then take as TRUE even though TRUE itself is a linguistic template void of significant meaning to more than any one particular individual, unless you want to rely on a bunch of non-empirical, extrapolated, made-up bullshit that almost all of us just accept for no real reason.
In some places, these rule-follower people have an aura of disease around them. It’s not “yellow” as the psychics might say, although I guess I can’t really deny them their bizarre sense-experience, just as I hope no one denies me mine. The aura of a rule-follower is clear and unremarkable even to those who have experienced it, but people can and have trained themselves to recognize it. The instinct is to get away – to get one’s children away – from the aura, from whatever is causing the disease; but in such situations when one comes across rule-followers logic usually dominates the interaction, and there are never scenes of people running away screaming or anything like that. Such behavior would violate everything we’ve ever been taught.
But, increasingly, as a function of the games of significance played nowadays, these diseased people can be marked by their failure to win the game, even at very low levels of play. As I mentioned earlier, significance is created nowadays, when nothing holds intrinsic value. Nothing is given (except the earth, ironically. We treat it like shit.) The diseased people will come home with bags of Chips that say things like “No Trans Fat”. Well, duh, an informed person might say. Trans fat was created in a lab in like the seventies as a preservative and soon thereafter discovered to be not easily digested and cause premature angina and it’s been banned in the state for like twenty years so yeah that bag of Chips can advertise “No Trans Fat” just like it can advertise “No Mustard Gas”.
Here the rule-followers will usually continue to point out to the non-diseased people that the chips in question have no trans fat, hence, they cannot possibly be bad for them. There are a few logical meta-explanations for this pseudo-logical behavior: one is that it’s kind of like when people who have AIDS sleep around in hopes of spreading the epidemic so that we as a civilization are compelled to “do something”, if those people actually do exist of course, which they might not. The second meta-explanation is that these people are actually engaging in fully honest behavior: they just have very high social intelligence but few critical faculties. In their private lives they might do things like watch sports compulsively or participate in ridiculous tasks like national novel writing month, fantasy sports leagues, or book groups, simply because they cannot think of reasons not to do things which are suggested to them by peers. Another meta-explanation is that it’s all kind of a form of learned helplessness. In this context we see the rule-followers are just textbook betas, and there are simply too many of them acting like alphas. They’ve retained their aggression despite clear signals from society otherwise that we no longer account for strength and power at the level of the individual, and something needs to be done about it before their susceptibility to advertisement and high earning potential results in the destruction of us all.
The rule-following morons are just like the fucking zombies storming the last stronghold at the end of it.
It was always thought that time travel would be a quantitative thing; whether or not scientists thought of it that way, certainly the culture did. I guess in retrospect, it became clear around the early 2000s that time travel would take on a qualitatively different character than dude gets in machine and goes somewhere, and it was obvious even before that if you were one of those rare people who sits around all day thinking about the future of personal electronic devices or fab labs or harvesting trillion-dollar asteroids.
I remember my own childhood when a family friend who worked for the air force came by to talk physics: we would spend hours discussing the potential pitfalls of travel through time or at the speed of light – radicals in space hitting the ship hull at super-high effective speeds and gradually poking little holes in the hulls until one day all of a sudden you’re very far from home with a very serious air leak, whether time travel would involve actually going back (or forward) and screwing up things or creating alternate realities, and would these alternate realities be super-focused, i.e. holding everything but properties relevant to some particular goal as constant or would they be so unfocused that we wouldn’t recognize them as realities nonetheless realities alternate to something else. Anyways, we’d have these conversations, imagining these wildly different possibilities for future technologies that none of the science fiction writers or Time journalists had been anywhere near.
Well it turns out that out of the ashes of the first genomic revolution back just after the human genome was decoded came the phoenix of realizing that all of that genetic noise as it was called then – or the stuff that they didn’t really understand – was actually a very, very, very detailed record of the past for that particular individual’s genome; and it was this, combined with increasingly larger processing power and the new emergent engineering that started coming out of the Bay Area around 2030 or so, plus the entrepreneurial vigor of the Bay Area’s young residents, plus the new propensity for the public to voluntarily upload all sorts of intimate personal details onto the Internet, plus some neuroscience shit, plus some other stuff which I’m probably leaving out, plus some advanced mathematical techniques that I don’t understand, plus social forces pushing us all towards cooperation and away from competition – am I starting to breach my neutrality?
Good. Anyways, all these forces came together to give us chemical time travel, what is essentially a genetic reagent that realigns synapses in apparently random fashion to allow us to experience what we believe are the experiences of our past ancestors and what will likely be the experiences of our future descendants.
Now, there are all sorts of issues raised by this, and I’m sure you’re just racing though them. So, I’m gonna tell you, as amazing at this chemical time travel sounds, most of it, at first, was empty marketing. At first, only really primitive areas of the brain could be affected, so whatever vague euphoria or pain of death of whatever I felt was probably very similar to that felt by a lizard, BUT, it was, empirically, the experience of my father when he once felt vague euphoria or pain of death. And this context in itself is mind-blowing. For the curious, chemical time travel was highly coveted, and we all tried it, and we all found it quite boring and infinitely exciting at the same time.
The next generation of chemical time travel came a few years later, and by this point you saw it starting to be marketed by the bigger players, and the government starting to get its slow tentacles moving towards either making it illegal outright or trying to take some money from it. This time around the obtrusive effect was the sudden realization of epiphany of something, like, how to make silver from scratch in people named Silversmith or the proper procedures for planting sorghum in people who’ve lived their entire lives in cities; and it was random like that because who really has any idea what one’s ancestors were doing at any particular moment?
Complications started to crop up at this second generation too, due to apparent statistical errors compounded by removal of each successive generation, and it seemed chemical time travel would never expand beyond the novelty it was. Like, it was easy enough to learn about my mother without taking pills, so why go through the effort when I might wind up experiencing childbirth or your dad having an affair or something? Let me also add here, that at this time too experiences were still totally random. They hadn’t figured out how to chemically code qualitative differences in what kind of experiences the user is looking for. Nor had they even scratched the surface of the mapping and bookmarking features that would come along later.
Around the time of the second generation too they discovered the viscosity of time, which it turns out is not really an issue locally (i.e. parents and even grandparents) but can totally bone “psychochrononauts” who venture too deeply into the distant past or future. Still, risk it enough times and you’ll eventually get lucky and wind up at the dawn of civilization or on Cook’s vessel at the age of exploration or somewhere and the experience will seem to drag on for days or even years and really it’s just been thirty seconds. Your brain’s circadian rhythm-generating pulsars go into crazy overdrive or something, and your mind creates an entire coherent world, like the best, most realistic dream you’ve ever had. Except that it’s real, or, it was real, for someone who is no longer on this earth and whose only crumbs of past existence are encoded in your DNA.