Dystopian fiction and images by Sam Wood
Tuesday, 08:00, 2090
The day the analogue world ends. Not with a BANG, but a *beep*.
The screens turn on. Each of them instantaneously. Every wall and object illuminated by them. In the bedroom, interactive lights flash and a disembodied voice wakes you.
“This is an automated message, kindly head to your local network centre, so long as you have paid your digitisation fee.”
“We are aware that many of you are yet to pay. You unfortunately will not be permitted entry.”
As you wake, your tablet grasped in your hands, you wonder whether if humans survived long enough all feelings would migrate to our fingertips and our eyes.
“Please bring your reference number along with you and ensure you remember your 30 character password. Technology is privilege.”
You sit up. Finally, the singularity is here, you think, struck by the voice you were barely listening to.
The screens strobe at a rate intended to stimulate your hippocampus. What was your password again?
TH3 GARD3N 0F 3ARTHLY D3L1GHTS
A good choice you thought at the time, unlikely that anyone would guess.
At the network centre protesters fill the square outside. They are radical people, post-modern Luddites, with apocalyptic signs made from recycled materials. The Security App implements the procedural crowd control; parting the protestors like the red sea by introducing non-lethal-irritant-inducing levels of oleoresin capsicum into the atmosphere. All within legal bounds, leaving ample space for you and the other paid-up subjects to enter the centre. As you walk you feel the rain on your face and the asphalt under your feet. You look at the statue of Atlas outside of the complex, straining under a wrought iron globe.
As you type in your password and reference number you feel strangely light.
Inside the room you and the others are wired up by the staff and given sedatives. They hand you a small pamphlet as you drift into unconsciousness. It reads:
PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR VIRTUAL BEING
It will take you some time to get used to this.
Do not worry, there is no time here.
There is no body, no space, no mass.
Once you are accustomed to that, your memories will s(t)imulate a world, around you…
As the sedative takes effect, a machine starts up, you hear it and think:
Then you realise that you don’t have eyes anymore. The pain haunts you from the past, like a phantom limb.
All of your corporeality has been removed. There is no sense of time in cyber space. You no longer need food, or sex, or birth, or death.
What will you think about now?
A BLINDING FLASH
Blankness. A pale grey.
Images and shapes begin to form.
EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING AT ONCE
You try to think but it is hard - your brain is used to linear time - and sight which had until recently appeared to you through your eyes. You feel tired but immediately realise you do not need sleep, and never will again.
You’re not even sure you are awake. You look down at where your feet would be and see nothing. Only triangles hastily tessellating themselves into ‘real’ forms.
You’ve got a long time to think about it now, within this eternity, outside of time.
YOU ARE OMNIPRESENT IN THE SIMULATION
The voice becomes decipherable again:
You can move around, free of gravity. You can enjoy the views. You can change them at will using only your thoughts.
The transcendence is gone however. There is no feeling of awe when you look at it. No feeling of beauty. It is only an algorithm, you had once thought — Life that is. Eventually you were right.
And in this mathematical reality that stretches out beyond the digital horizon of your consciousness — have you discovered the platonic ideal? Only to find it empty.
You wanted to find the others.
Text appears before you:
Your avatar is ready now
It shows your face fragmented and distorted, a message pops up:
Don’t worry, you can change your appearance just by deciding to. Here you can be anyone. Or anything, up to you.
You decide to remain shapeless.
As you move through the uncanny valleys, you see one of the others in a cave. They are creating their own utopia, you try to approach them, but they ‘block’ you and remove you from their reality - they disappear. They didn’t care what you wanted to say, they just wanted to live in their own digital imagination.
Disembodied you wander the deserted landscape.
The digital diaspora of consciousness has begun.
What you will discover in this technological utopia is a new horror: the horror of absence in the face of eternity.
The singularity is a digital desert.