Archive | January, 2015

I Remember it in My Dreams

23 Jan

So, you want to know what a day was like in my life after the Singularity. Let me see…

I had just awakened from a terrible dream. It was a nightmare from before the big change…but I will get back to that later.

I was refreshed and alert. It was another new morning in the new world. I looked out the window across the Sound. There were not nearly as many houses on the other side of the water as there once had been. It had mostly been cleared and replanted.  There were two sailboats on the water. The sun caught one of the masts and made the whole boat look like a Christmas spire. I could smell bacon coming from the kitchen. Our service robot, Mable, probably knew I was about to wake up and started preparing breakfast.

I crawled out of bed and went into the bathroom. I took care of my business in the way I had always done it, but my irritable bowel syndrome was long gone. My poops were firm but smooth and slid out with a satisfying plop. I washed my hands. It was unnecessary, but it was normal.

When I got to the kitchen, Mable was setting the table. She looked just like Flo from the old Progressive commercials. A lot of people opted for super sexy robots or ones that looked like famous celebrities. Some opted for ones that looked like alien sea monsters or golden age automatons. I liked my robot that looked like Flo and was named Mable. She made me feel at home.

Indeed, I was at home. Unlike my family, which was off seeing the world, and so many people who had left the world and were seeing the solar system, I lived right where I had lived back in the day. There were other people that had joined expeditions and were well on their way out of the solar system. Unless the big AIs found a way to travel faster than light, we would probably never hear from them again. Faster than light travel no longer seemed like a real possibility. The mathematics just didn’t work out. Now that we had the machines to make those big calculations, there was little room for doubt.

As I sat at the kitchen table, I turned to our Amazon Echo sitting in the center. “Alexa,” I said, “could you turn on the news.” It had been prescient for Amazon to place these little black cylinders in every home before the Singularity. After it came, they all became a million times smarter, but everyone took the presence of the little black cylinders for granted and few thought to replace them. Mine had actually been replaced with newer models twice, but it still looked the same and it still did basically the same thing. It made it easy to buy everything from or through Amazon. No one called it Amazon-dot-com any more. The old protocols were no longer in use, so only the first parts of online names were retained.

The TV came to life. A handful of newbies did the reporting. Most of the old celebrity reporters had better things to do. The newbies did it out of a sense of public service and some ancient grandiose notion of becoming famous. As I listened, the image on the screen changed from a group of people sitting on a couch to an image somewhere in space. The cameras panned around a strange looking object as the commentators explained that it was a new “fulfillment unit” that would help to process the many orders people were placing. Was it Amazon, Google, Facebook? I missed that part. If I had asked, Echo would have replayed it and even edited it for better clarity. Echo could even have replaced the newbie reporters with simulated ones who answered my questions, but I didn’t like to do things like that. The more normal everything was, the better. I had come to cherish the ordinary.

I asked Echo to turn off the TV and switch to mood music. Of course, it knew my mood.

As I drank my coffee and ate my bacon and eggs, I thought about the people leaving the solar system. I wondered how long it would be before I joined them. They weren’t really leaving anything behind. They would take with them all the comforts of home. The giant O’Neill cylinder transports they occupied created an environment that was indistinguishable from home. Unlike the cylinders depicted in science fiction films, these had relatively low ceilings over the habitation levels that created the illusion of a sky. Except for the slight curvature of the terrain, they seemed just like living on earth. I thought about how ironic it was that, as people left for the stars, what they cherished most was living just like they were still back home.

I consulted Echo about my stock portfolio. All my stocks were up. If you had a reasonable spread, and you waited a day, they were always up. Everyone was getting richer by the minute. The only way you could not get richer was if you had zero capital or you refused to invest. If you had zero capital, someone would loan it to you. If you refused to invest, you would be institutionalized and treated while someone did it for you.

I decided to spend the day walking my dogs on the beach. I had some new boots I had ordered (from Amazon, of course) and I wanted to try them out. They were supposed to be the ultimate in comfort. Certainly, they would be. Why wouldn’t they? Everything was comfortable then. If it could not be made comfortable directly, one could always have some physiological alteration.

The dogs and I were getting regular health treatments from the health bed I had ordered a year or two ago. I had told Echo what I wanted, and shortly after I placed the order, it announced that delivery robots were waiting at my door. I had said, “Come in.” and two utilitarian looking robots had carried it in and put it where I wanted. The same bed worked for humans, dogs, cats, mice, you name it.

My dogs were already getting fidgety and barking. I wondered what technological marvel might take care of that, but decided not to pursue it.

I got dressed and headed down to the beach. There weren’t any flying machines or odd sights. Everyone who stayed on earth had agreed that, as people left for space, earth would be kept in a natural state and reclaimed. The world government implemented the wishes of the extant population. I never gave the world government much thought. They were undoubtedly people like the newbie news reporters. They were stationed in orbit somewhere, constantly passing legislation of one form or another. They took care of all the governing. I guessed that lately they were mostly involved in minutia. We had pretty much settled on this well-known compromise as to how the earth would be managed.

My boots proved to be as comfortable as Amazon had promised. They were warm, but light. They made me feel like I could skip over the rough rocks as if I had adapted to it through epochs of evolution. I wondered if I should get something similar for my dogs. Of course, if they were injured, the health bed would repair them. If they were seriously injured, an ambulance drone would arrive in an instant. Would they be happier if their feet never felt the course surface of the barnacles and sand? Would dogs appreciate that kind of unnatural luxury? Perhaps, I thought. I knew they liked to run on smooth sand bars when the tide was out more than they liked to run on the rough stones. I would give that some more thought when I got home. For now, they were enjoying fetching and retrieving the balls I threw into the water.

I thought about how much further I was able to throw the balls. That was the work of the health bed. I no longer had that aching sensation in my joints. The bed had repaired my damaged joints and tendons without me even noticing. I no longer needed my glasses.

My dogs had changed too. They went after the balls much more aggressively. The cold Sound water barely slowed them down.

There was no garbage on the beach. There had not been much before, but now there were none of the familiar damaged pieces that floated in from passing boats and ships. There were not even the old creosote treated beams with nails sticking out. The beams were still there. They just didn’t have any creosote or nails sticking out. Nor did they have any holes where the nails had been. Had tiny robots come by one night, cleaned the beams, extracted the nails and repaired the holes? What else had they done? How odd it was to wonder if the very stones beneath one’s feet had been carefully reconditioned and replaced as if they had never been disturbed.

When I got down the beach to my familiar park, the changes were more dramatic. Gone were the barren areas from the old stone quarries. The ground had been carefully conditioned and treated. Where there had been brush, there were now flourishing plants and trees. There was no longer any sign of ancient human habitation. Birds of every sort had returned to the park. It was like a wildlife preserve.

I went up my usual hill. During the ascent, I did not get out of wind as I once had.

When I got back to the bottom and was near the water, I saw something odd in the distance. It was moving over the hills on the other side of the Sound and growing larger. It looked like one of the flying saucers from pre-Singularity conspiracy magazines. It was oval shaped and glowed an even yellowish-red. It was coming toward me. As it landed on the water about 50 meters out, I guessed that it was about 100 meters in diameter. An opening appeared toward me, and a person began to walk across the water.

I was reminded that not everyone had my peculiar notion of normalcy. Many people opted for far more exotic fare.

The person walking across the water was my oldest friend Kyle. He came toward me waving his right arm and yelled, “I was wondering if I would find you here.”

“What’s up?” I yelled back.

“We invented this new drive that goes faster than light. Want to go for a spin?” Kyle was not known for subtlety.

I experienced an emotional brushfire. What would become of the people who were headed out to the stars at sub light speeds? Would someone fly out and inform them that their whole plan had suddenly and completely become obsolete? What of the rest of the universe? Was it ready to be invaded by this species that had barely shed its fur coat?

“Can my dogs come on-board? Can we swing by my house to drop them off? “

“Sure, why not.”

My dogs and I were floated into the ship. That was a bit disconcerting. Once in, it was as if we were standing on a disk with an unobstructed view in all directions. My dogs didn’t like it, but at my behest and my friend’s mental command, they immediately saw something more to their liking. I never learned what they saw, but I guessed it was some natural scenery.

Kyle explained that we would need to be gone for at least two days.

At home, I instructed Mable to care for the dogs and walk them as long as I was gone. She had done this for me before and I trusted her judgment.

I returned to the ship. As it lifted into the air, I felt no sensation of acceleration. First, the beach and the landscape fell away. Then, the earth fell away. I wondered if this was an actual image or some kind of illusion created to provide a visual reference. I did not see any other planets close by, but as the sun grew smaller, I noticed some faint stars moving against the background.

Where was he taking me? Was this the end of the normal little life I had carefully reserved for myself? Had he, in one spontaneous abduction, stolen away my marvelous little corner of complacency?

Almost as quickly as the sun had disappeared, I saw another star growing larger in the distance; then we approached a planet. It looked a lot like earth, but of course, the continents were different. As we descended to land, I experienced the reverse of what I had seen as we left the earth. Finally, I saw indescribable monsters diving in and out of a nearby sea and a strange looking palace in the distance. The sky was light pink with white clouds that looked like something from a Dr. Seuss book. I guessed that the atmosphere somehow dispersed red light.

While I was distracted by the view, someone from behind put their arms over my shoulders and around my neck. I smelled delectably erotic perfume. A beautiful contralto voice whispered into my right ear. “Hi, I’m Shara.” I turned and fell into deep aqua colored eyes that must have been the invention of some curiously gifted adolescent boy. Full red lips seemed to wait in anticipation. She had long, full, golden hair that danced around her shoulders—a Breck shampoo commercial!

Well, it would have been a Breck commercial. She was not wearing a turtleneck sweater and jeans. She was dressed rather like one of the muscular vixens from any of Frank Frazetta’s paintings: basically naked, with something like a silk cape and some elaborate bangles. She was very sexy.

I didn’t like it. The whole experience was just too rich and campy. It reminded me of eating too much birthday cake. I would go along with this for a day or two. Then, hopefully, I could get back to my beach house, my dogs, and my normalcy.

I was actually there for 23 days. That was 23 days of exploring strange labyrinths, fighting dragons, and having sex with exotic women that I assumed were automatons or some such thing, although I never cared to inquire. I was, after all, a guest. If this kind of thing was happening on Kyle’s world, it must be happening all over the universe, and I was not in the mood to lead a social crusade.

Obviously, there is a lot more to describe about those 23 days on Kyles’s world. Maybe I will tell that story some other time. For now, it is just a sidetrack of my present account. After all, I am really just trying to describe what a day was like.

Kyle was enjoying my company, and that made me feel guilty about leaving. Often, after a day of exotic undertakings, we would sit around a campfire, reminisce, and talk about endless possibilities. His bimbo manifestations seemed to listen intently, as they snuggled and feigned adoration. Finally, during one of those evening chats, I convinced him that I had to get home and care for my dogs.

The trip back was nearly instantaneous…basically a repeat of the trip out.

It took me about a week to get the strange taste out of my mouth. I mean that figuratively, of course. Eventually, I got back to watching the news, walking on the beach with my dogs, and eating the ordinary food prepared by Mable.

The television news got much more interesting after that. Stories came back about every manner of strange world and scientific discovery. The AI and its operators that had developed the faster than light drive had apparently informed the government. The government had, in turn, apparently informed all the outbound expeditions. I never got involved with that. I tried to think of the news as somehow not involving me. That got increasingly easier as time passed, but it never got easy.

Kyle’s little sidetrack and the change it represented had disturbed my peace. I didn’t resent him for that. I did resent the reality it represented. Someone or something out there in the expanse of space must be working on a way to completely dismantle and rearrange the universe. That evoked in me a curious and novel tension. That is another story for another day.

Did I mention the nightmares? They were invariably about pre-Singularity times. I never wanted to live like my friend Kyle, but I could not imagine returning to the days before the Singularity. Back then, we had to work. We had to eat. We had to breathe. Our hearts had to keep beating. A million things could go wrong at any second, and sooner or later one of them usually did. Any one of them could lead to an instant and horrible death. We lived in constant fear back then and didn’t even realize it. How odd to think that a normal life had actually been one giant bout of managed fear. It had been a life so alien to how I lived now that I could barely remember what it was like.

Yet, in my nightmares, that life was as real as if it were today. The nightmares were curable, of course, but I never had them cured. I dreaded them, but I loved waking up from them. How nice it was to live full-time in a world of dreams come true and only be reminded of hardship in nightmares. How nice it was to live a life that was the complete reverse of the time before.

Eventually, people like me, who had lived before the Singularity, became a kind of international treasure. We were almost a protected species. That made it much easier to maintain my little shell of normalcy. Younger people who never knew the time before the Singularity would seek audiences with us. I felt it was my civic duty to cooperate with that sort of inquiry on occasion, although I refused to let it run my life. When I met with younger people I never told them about the nightmares. I’m surprised I’m telling you now. I did not worry that they would think I was disturbed for retaining them. I was more worried that they would manage somehow to take them away from me. My biggest worry, however, was that they would find some way to emulate them. I did not want to turn PTSD into a fashion trend. I noticed that other old-timers were equally reticent about exposing their deepest feelings, although I never knew for sure if they hid them or had eradicated them. In a way, I felt sorry for young people. They would never know the pain that I and a relative minority had endured back then. They would never appreciate, by contrast, how wonderful everything was today.

Ah…I have digressed. I meant to describe one day, and I ended up wandering off into a space expedition and then into a bunch of philosophical musings about dreams and a description of what unfolded years later.

So, I guess that really explains it. Days seemed like years and years seemed like days. It all runs together in my memory now. It is all a strange blur.

The most curious thing is not how I recall the time after the Singularity but how I recall the time before the Singularity. I can remember the kinds of things we did before the Singularity, but I can no longer remember what they were like. I remember them as if they were scenes on a movie screen experienced by someone else. Perhaps that is a result of the constant retelling. I can no longer remember the sensation of constantly being afraid. Yet, I know from the cold sweats I sometimes awaken from that the terror has never truly left me. I can never remember that terror when I am awake. I remember it vividly in my dreams.

Well…I hope that was helpful. At least you have some notion of what a day was like back then. Really, no two days were alike, unless you forced them to be. I did that a lot. Like I explained before, I came to cherish the ordinary.