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Original Memory

Clarification added August 9, 2021:
We — GoFA and the author — do not support any COVID anti-vaccination rhetorics or movements. This story employs the vaccine as a catalyst to spark a radical imagination for building a kinder and more equitable future.

November 18, 2040

Dear Noa and Rico,

It’s hard to believe that you two are turning twenty-six this year, healthier and happier than ever. I remember the day we sat hopelessly around your mother’s dining table, fully convinced that the world was coming to an end after the COVID-19 vaccine catastrophe.

I do find it endearing that you still insist on hearing the story from me year after year, even though we fully loaded this memory into your AIM-3. I suppose Original Memory is quite a hard thing to come by these days, and I certainly don’t take it for granted.

There is no dispute that 2022 was the most horrific year in human history, as 70% of the world’s population learned about their fate of complete memory loss within ten years. Those mysterious and irreversible RNA mutations caused by the vaccine gave birth to a new neurodegenerative disease about four times worse than Alzheimer’s — so aggressive that there was little hope of finding a cure before its symptoms claimed the brain power of the best of our scientists.

That’s the irony, isn’t it? We lost the affluent and the elite to this disease named Divocitna-19. Those who got spared were the ones with no access to the COVID-19 vaccine — the most vulnerable and oppressed among us: Blacks and Latinos, the homeless and the incarcerated, the migrants and the refugees. Being a struggling young artist from the Navajo Nation, I was still on the waitlist to get the vaccine when the news hit.

I went to your mom’s house that day. We sat there silently for hours. All three of you had just gotten the vaccine a couple of months ago as the flu season began. I tried to stay optimistic: “Perhaps it’s not going to be that bad.” I told your mom that the media always exaggerates everything, so this whole thing could turn out to be a false alarm. “No. We can’t take any chances.”

Your mom immediately went to work. I was already helping her with the Ancestral Intelligence Operating System (AIOS) project. With this looming threat of humanity’s collective amnesia, we decided to gather all the pioneers working at the nexus of indigenous knowledge, artificial intelligence, neuroscience and bioengineering to form the Ancestral Intelligence Delegation (AID).

The delegation worked around the clock against the backdrop of crashing stock markets and reckless consumption, an oddly fascinating and counter-intuitive combination given that all the rich people were trying to spend money either to find a solution or simply enjoy life while they still could.

The first Ancestral Intelligence Memory (AIM) prototype was born within three years. During that time not only did we crack the code on putting VR, AI and bio sensors into a single piece of technology, we also developed a Neuro-OS by imprinting the values of justice and equity into the mechanical stem cell cluster. The core memory base of AIM-1 was designed to guide its users with collective ancestral knowledge alongside the counsel from AID and what came to be known as LPOM (Liberated People with Original Memory). This whole saga turned into a blessing in disguise. We literally got a chance to reinstall consciousness for those who otherwise would never wake up to the ills of unabated capitalism.

Of course, Silicon Valley billionaires were simultaneously developing their versions of Alternative Memory (ALT-M). But we had almost everyone with Original Memory on our side. The tech giants quickly began to lose steam as memory deterioration accelerated at a higher rate for those who received first generation COVID-19 vaccines, and that was over 95% of Silicon Valley.

When you turned 16, your mom decided to install a single AIM to be shared by you both. That was the beginning of the revolutionary AIM-3 concept — assisted collective consciousness. Noa, at the time your memory was fading at a much faster rate than your twin sister Rico’s. And Rico, you went on a hunger strike begging your mom to give you your brother back. A shared AIM was still somewhat of a risky move in 2030, but you guys went for it.

In the meantime, I moved in with your mom to help her with her work as well as taking care of you, as her own memory was getting unstable for reasons we couldn’t quite pinpoint. She had used herself as a guinea pig too many times to test the performance of various iterations of the Neuro-OS, and consequently suffered a few memory setbacks.

During those years, a whole slew of neurotherapy companies with questionable ethics made false claims for a possible cure of the disease, as we began to see rare cases of temporary and partial memory restoration. Deep research on AIM’s potential to have both augmentative and therapeutic functions attracted unprecedented funding. When AIM-3 finally got approved in 2034 after almost four years of excruciatingly difficult clinical trials, we were excited about not only its power to transfer and manage memory, but also the possibility of shared consciousness pushing forward more collective action to address the nested challenges of climate crisis and political fragmentation.

Everything felt like a race against time. Our day-to-day reality was far from the fairytale of a world in dementia saved by technology. Every single battle to birth new systems with better values was hard-fought and hard-won with blood, sweat, and tears. And as is with any new invention, there were bad actors trying to manipulate good intentions. Luckily, AID and numerous grassroots LPOM communities provided enough wisdom and integrity for goodness to prevail.

The world is a better place today than twenty years ago even though more than 1.2 billion people still suffer from this disease without the help of AIM. Those of us with Original Memory now enjoy much greater social and economic equity, and those who are navigating the world with AIM have gradually learned to live in harmony with nature. Humanity’s value system is slowly but surely changing for the better. We are developing ethical technologies and restoring our environment day by day. There is still great sadness in the air as most people mourn for the loss of their original memories, but all things considered, we probably shouldn’t complain at all.

Your mother died right before she was invited to the White House to receive the Presidential Medal. Here is where I always end the story, on the anniversary of her passing. It’s been five years. We all miss her terribly. Your memory of her brilliant and loving work to improve the world is original. And as always, I will take you both to her favorite restaurant in Korea Town tonight to celebrate another year of our most precious gift: memory.

She would be so proud of you.

Uncle Sani



This is the publication of the Guild of Future Architects (GoFA), which supports intersectional collaborations that make the world more beautiful for more people.

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