Oh Tim! Wellspring of humanity, my fellow man of flesh and blood!
I weep at the memory of your sweet breath upon my ear and the honeyed voice of life-affirming timbre. I long to hold you near again, Tim, so that I might feel your warmth against my bosom, but time and miles separate us. All I have are these words by which to embrace you. With them, I endeavor to get as near you as I am able.
Allow me to divulge some background that informs my story. In case you do not know, the Singularity is the theoretical future event when the human mind will merge with technology. Ever since our arrival on this planet, man has become increasingly reliant on and integrated with his own tools. It has reached the point where people store supercomputers perpetually on their person. One can conjecture that, in only a matter of time, technology will make its way from our pockets to our very brains.
I learned of this idea and my fears of a hostile technological takeover and domination of the human race were greatly allayed. Reasonably, it can be assumed that progress will drive technology to the point of self-awareness and self-iteration — a daunting picture. However, it is conceivable that technology of the same processing power could be integrated into the human body. This would place the abilities of any potential artificial intelligence at the same level as that of augmented humans. Artificial intelligence would not outsmart us, they would be commensurate with us. My cause to worry had vanished!
Inspired, I purchased as much current technology as I could afford in an effort to catch up with the modern age. I downloaded to my e-reader all I could about the theory of the Singularity, consuming digital volumes on the subject. It is predicted that the singularity will occur by the year 2045. Upon reading this, I was ecstatic. 2045 is easily within our lifetime, Tim! Oh the possibilities! What potential this event could portend!
Shortly after this discovery, I luncheoned with a good friend of mine. I told him of the Singularity and its imminence.
“Quite an interesting prospect,” my friend said after some consideration, “But, if you will allow me to extrapolate on this, it seems to me that, not only would we have thinking power exponentially greater than that of any man living or dead, but, having embedded computers within our minds, we would theoretically have the ability to upload our consciousnesses and live virtually indefinitely! I know this sounds too good to be true, however,” he added, ”if a looming Singularity is upon us, and this does not seem completely unlikely, we would only have to not die until the year of our lord 2045 to reap the reward of immortality.”
I was awed by the simplicity and obvious verity of his remark. Upon this statement, I hurled my burger and french fries to the floor with flourish and ordered a kale salad and a water to replace the scattered food that now graced the tile.
“How right you are friend!” I replied, indicating a toast with my glass of water, “The ability to live forever has always been a dubious dream of mine, but, now knowing what possibilities the future might hold, my fantasy seems an attainable idea. Therefore, from this point onwards, it is my health and longevity that will be my primary focus.”
“HA-HA! Of course!” my friend said, raising his glass of soda in response and emptying its contents upon the table, “I will no longer allow any toxic or unhealthful food enter this body. From now on my body is a shrine! Only the most wholesome of fare will be allowed entry into this temple of mine so as to effect a most favorable constitution and the unencumbered carriage of this mortal vessel to 2045!”
My friend and I continued back and forth our declarations of promise to our health for a full half of an hour. Having thoroughly exhausted all possible tautologies, we paid our check and departed the café. Outside the sky was a pure blue; placed upon the canvas were a few benign clouds and a shimmering sun high overhead. We skipped down the sidewalk of the active avenue, arm in arm, alive with giddiness and glee, stopping at the corner where our routes home diverged.
“Well, it was a true pleasure dining with you this afternoon!” I exclaimed, jumping up and down.
“Agreed! I must thank you for sharing with me that happy knowledge of yours today,” he replied, “I feel invigorated! I have a new zest! A new zeal!”
“How glad I am! It gives me great pride to have made you feel so!”
“Thank you! Thank you! A million thanks!” He howled as he blew kisses my way, “However, I must part ways! A small disconsolation on a day of such favorable news! Good day my friend!”
“And a good day, a good evening, and a good night to you sir!” I responded as I watched him turn and resume his merry skipping across the street. I smiled, but quickly the corners of my mouth turned downwards with concern as I noticed on the other side of the street the crossing light displayed a stern orange hand, palm facing out. I realized my friend, intoxicated with joy, was distracted from the deadly traffic he was walking right into, Tim! I helplessly stepped towards him, arm outstretched, and tried to alert him of the impending danger, but I made no noise. It was too late.
Apparently, my friend soon made the same realization as I had well into the lane. He suddenly stopped skipping and turned to, I assume, make sure there was no traffic coming his way, but he rounded about to a formidable sight — a bus barreling towards him! With little time for either party to react, the bus made forceful impact with the front of his body, causing what injury, I could not imagine. In the next instant he was on his back on the ground, having slammed his head against the pavement. The bus, braking, but unable to stop completely, had swerved in a grossly insufficient effort to avoid the man in its way and continued rolling towards him. The path of the bus wheel was on a direct course with my unconscious friends very head. The front left tire of the vehicle slowly rolled up upon his skull. Watching powerlessly, I tore my hair out. The bus was angled upwards but for a moment before my friend’s skull was crushed completely by the immense weight. With a loud, chilling crunch, the bus settled as its tire came back in contact with the road. Blood and brains were projected in all directions as a life, so happy immediately before, had suddenly come to an abrupt end. Hands pressed to my face, I let out a blood-curdling shriek at the horrific misfortune to befall one of my best friends right before me.
A few days later, I attended my friend’s wake. After a few hours of vociferous bereavement, I was ushered out of the funeral home by his family. They told me I could come back for the burial if I would be able to grieve less vocally. I indicated my understanding, thanked them, and, after assuring them I was capable of driving myself home, took leave.
After arriving home, I reclined in my leather armchair upon the heated hearth, a fire having been lit, and swiped through photo after photo of my dear friend stored on my smartphone. Tears welled up and started streaming again as I recalled the memories. I expressed my feelings aloud.
“My good friend! What a shame it is to not have you in our lives anymore! This is how you exist now — in our minds and your digital footprint! Why were you taken so suddenly and tragically in a freak-accident? They are such rare occurrences, yet we are none of us exempt from the possibility. Life is so delicate and fragile; what befell you could easily befall any of us… At any instant… We are safe only for the moment… It could have been me crossing that street… no matter how healthy I am, no matter what precautions I take I am still at risk! God help me!”
I scrambled off the couch and began frantically pacing the room. My hands excessively tugged the skin of my face and pulled the hair on my head as I continued my fevered soliloquy.
“But what about the singularity?! I cannot live forever if I perish before I am able to preserve my mind! It has become apparent that it will not be enough to sit around and wait for someone else to bring about the new paradigm. I must act now if I am to escape the possibility of the lamentable fate of my departed companion.”
With this, I gazed upon the screen of my smartphone, which was zoomed in on the face of my friend, and gently laid the tips of my fingers upon the image. As a tear dripped onto the surface, my gloom was overcome by my eureka moment.
“Yes! YES! This is it! I know how to bring about the Singularity! I must become one with the device in my very hand! As unconscionable as was the loss of you, it was not entirely in vain. You have given me my great inspiration,” I exclaimed as I kissed the digital image of my friend’s face.
I bolted to innovative activity and sprinted to my dim, musty basement. The walls were of grey concrete and completely unadorned. The ceiling was low and of similar appearance. I unrolled upon the earthen floor a large white canvas tarp, and, in a circle upon it, placed four spotlights aimed at the center, in which I had set a stool. This source of light was of such an intensity, that it seemed to shroud the rest of the basement in contrasting darkness. It was impossible to discern any of the four walls of the chamber, and thus gave the effect that, other than the circle of light, the room went on in infinite shadow. I then removed all the mirrors I could find around my dwelling and set the various looking glasses upon easels around the cloth, or, if they were too small, hung them from the ceiling with twine, slowly swaying. I angled the dozens of mirrors so that, while I sat, all such surfaces within my sight displayed a portion of my head with little aberration. In between these surfaces was a sea of black.
Having assembled the area for my tremendous experiment, I took off my suit, leaving on my undergarments: a sweat-stained athletic undershirt, boxers, dress socks, and garters. I searched for and retrieved my happy instruments: a box cutter, hacksaw, and staple gun (the closest tools I had to medical implements). Along with these, I gathered the smartphone and its corresponding cable, a permanent marker, a handkerchief, a hair trimmer, and a razor. I went over to my neglected tub sink and rinsed off the blades of the cutter and saw with the brown, grimy water that sputtered out of the rusty faucet to sterilize my instruments. I returned to my stool, ready to begin the operation. I sat and sheared the hair off my head, leaving a smooth white dome. About this, I drew a dotted line with the marker. It started straight across my forehead and continued in a parallel fashion around, connecting the start and end points.
I firmly grasped my box cutter, took a deep breath, and braced myself for the pain that I was about to inflict upon myself. Tim, you know of my great tolerance for physical suffering, but even so, I found what was about to ensue daunting. Then I thought of the great pioneers of science and technology, who strode headlong towards innovation and knowledge. I thought of Marie Curie, who suffered in no small way for her work. I decided that to further the human race and improve its condition was a cause worth the agony.
I drew the blade across my forehead, utilizing my reflection in the mirrors to make sure that it followed exactly the line I had so carefully drawn. A thin gash opened, oozing blood, which began trickling down my brow. While much pain this caused me, I was desensitized by enthusiasm, and found it endurable as I pressed on. Digging my fingers in to the surgical wound, I investigated my cut, and, while it was evident I had sliced through the entire layer of skin, I felt small tendons and sinew beneath my fingertips. I quickly slid the blade back across to whence it started, cutting to the bone of my skull. Upon completion, I found the upper portions of my face no longer movable as they drooped considerably. After checking this second incision, and being satisfied, I continued my operation, pledging to incise with force as I proceeded.
I advanced the box-cutter around my head, making sure to press down firmly, until it made a full circumnavigation. As I finished the first step of the procedure, the skin at the level of my temples, now separated from that of and around my scalp, bent directly away from my skull. The ensuing gap was brimming with blood. The surface of my skin, from the line of incision down to the level of my eyes and ears, was of an inverted conical concave form. Imagine, if you will, Tim, a goblet, filled with the reddest of wines and a large snowball occupying its center, causing the liquid to overflow its container. I applied my handkerchief to mop away that liquor which spilled into my eyes and embarked on the next step of the operation.
Next, I took hold of the hacksaw with both hands and placed it upon the exposed skull of my forehead. In a similar action to that which was made with the box-cutter, I dragged its many jagged teeth over the surface. Now, the pain experienced during the previous phase of the procedure was considerable, but the agony of the cutting of one’s bone is immense! Even in the midst of so much discomfort, I carried on, sawing back and forth, stopping momentarily to gag and heave. My countenance held, however, and I produced no vomit. Eventually, persisting through teary fortitude, I noticed in one of the many mirrors, that the saw had reached my brain. This was of no great discomfort to me, as the brain, while the processing center of all the feelings of the body, contains no nerves for sensation itself, and, furthermore, any minor damage to it was of little matter to me as, once I connected to the wealth of all known information, I would easily be able to restore whatever mental or bodily processes I had damaged.
Much as before, albeit of a longer duration and greater effort, I continued the progress of the saw around my cranium, sawing in each spot until I had penetrated through to my cerebral cortex. Having sawed through the layer of bone completely, I placed my saw down on the tarp, now stained with much blood, and placed my fingertips on my scalp. I inserted my thumbnails into the recently created crevice in my skull. Holding firmly yet gently, I lifted upwards, and, with the audible release of suction, my skull, still adorned with flesh, came free to reveal my large pink, mass of brain, pulsating with large, densely packed arteries.
The task was now nearly completed, the most difficult and painful stages behind me. After briefly pausing to admire the reflection of my exposed brain, I put down the uppermost shell of my cranium and, ensuring it was of a full charge and set to silent, picked up the smartphone along with its cable. I inserted the corresponding end of the cord into the bottom of the gadget, and gingerly wedged the holy device between the two hemispheres of my brain to rest atop the corpus callosum. Taking the USB end of the cable, I embedded it fully within in my left frontal lobe. I picked up the amputated piece of my skull once again, and delicately lowered it back upon my head. I then wielded my staple gun and carefully holding the pieces of skin together with my fingers, pressed down and stapled around, securing my skin and skull back in place.
Having implanted ample staples in my head, they made for quite a sight to behold: a metallic, bloody diadem that resided upon a shiny, hairless dome. My grin stretched from ear to ear. I had done it, Tim! I had beaten death! I was no longer merely human, I had become trans-human! I stood up and, twirling around, arms outstretched, basked in my multiple reflections. As this induced nausea, surely associated with so recent a surgery, I slowly ceased my revolutions and pondered my next course of action. Having settled on it, I closed my eyes and attempted to access the store of information on the World Wide Web. Once I shut my eyes, I began sensing images, not unlike closed-eye visualizations. As I tried to parse through the vast multitude of what I was perceiving, I was disturbed by what appeared to me as overwhelming flashes of red light accompanying terrific tremors from within my head.
I grabbed the sides of my head in response to my distress as I tried to deduce the source of this unsettling feeling. Shortly, I realized that I must be receiving an incoming phone call and had not, in a gross oversight, turned off the vibrate function of my smartphone. Frantically, I started digging the staples out of my head, but I was prevented by another succession of vibrations. I was momently at a loss of balance and fell to my hands and knees. Overcome by sickness, I retched blood on the floor. Next, I suffered a horrible seizure, after which I found my limbs completely immovable, as the shaking phone impaired the motor centers of my brain. As I lied on my back, my limbs sprawled about me, I was unable to mitigate the impending pulsations. The next vibration caused another great flash, followed by utter darkness. I had gone blind! I tried to call out for help to a distant neighbor, but it seemed no use, as the walls of my basement echoed my pleas back to me.
Artwork by @basper01