Sometimes the title to a piece comes first. Sometimes it comes last. This one came right at the end. During my week-long Devotion to Aergia what I wanted to write grew and became far more than I expected. And on the last day the goddess smiled and I understood that what I had in mind was science fiction.
Has anyone read Bob Shaw's short story, Light Of Other Days? That story and this one have a lot in common. Shaw's tale pivoted around a material called 'slow glass' that (what with light travelling through it at various 'slow' speeds) functioned as a window to the past. After assorted adventures the story ended with the CIA dusting an unsuspecting world with powdered slow glass. The dust in every room in your house, the dust mixed with the sweat on your brow, all of it, was a recorder visually charting everything everyone did. All the CIA needed to do was put it in a projector and play it back. It was the end of privacy.
Sure enough to slow light down in this fashion isn't physically possible. But this is! This is real and it's happening now. As things stand we're in clunkiness territory. But seriously, can anyone here not imagine how this will end up? The speed of technology is insane now. Record players barely changed for a century and suddenly in a few short years people have a thousand hours of music in their tie clip. So, where will ATR's mind-reading thing go?
With my science-fiction writer's hat firmly clamped on my head here's what I reckon - in the same amount of time it took to travel from the first VCR through to mobile phone cameras and youtube, a machine will exist that will allow a person to wander through another's head more readily than they can now wander through a hard drive. A head already has our operating system and you can talk to it, you see. And never mind those pesky permissions - the head-viewer will be super user. By merely saying a word, like 'murder', the viewer will see everything that person knows about murder. I expect memories will be listed in 'visceral' order. Murders someone has participated in will come first, witnessed - second, saw on tv - third... something like that.
But frankly, murderers will be the least of it. The greatest of them will never be subjected to this machine. Instead it will be for thought crime. It will be for us.
There will be no dissembling. The act of dissembling will be seen too. Whatever thoughts run through your head will be like the ticker tape running along the bottom of the TV screen. Or perhaps the voice-over? Either way there'll be nowhere to hide. Whoever has this machine will have it all.
So I read this article and a switch flipped in my head - "That's Fucking It! Once those fuckers get this machine it's all over. Time to start shooting people. Jesus!" Wait a minute, what about the obvious flipside? Imagine if we laid our hands on one of these machines and plugged one of the Rothschilds into it? Imagine a window into the mind of a fellow who views himself as greater than God? Imagine screening it to the public? Wow. There's the ultimate weapon right there.
The beautiful Aergia doesn't care for such riled thoughts. She's down with Buddha in dispelling fear and desire. Under her laid back guidance I realised I had everything wrong. This machine was not a thing to be feared. It's not a terminator robot that we either run from, or use as a weapon against them. It's far bigger than that. In fact, it might just be the biggest thing ever, with history dividing into 'before' and 'after'.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First up we must seize the ownership of this thing. It must be public. All research must be put into public hands with progress charted on the internet. We declare the machine is not a weapon. This is not the Manhattan Project and we are not at war with anyone. The machine is for all.
Initially the machine will simply be the means by which we determine who should hold positions of public trust. No one will be forced to be have their mind searched. But anyone who asserts that they are worthy of the public's trust will have to prove it. If you don't want to be subject to a public search of your mind, fine, no problems. But you're not going to run a child-minding centre. Or a church. Or a bank. Or a police force. Or a government. You'll just have to find some other means of making a living. No biggie.
Sure enough, this machine will be used on criminals who will not be volunteers. Okay, no problems. People may be involuntarily subjected to a machine but only by someone who has undergone it themselves. Using the machine is itself a position of public trust.
Under this rubric of 'public trust' the point isn't to search for saints and bodhisattvas. Mind you, if we find them that will be brilliant, an education for all. But forget them, we don't actually need saints. What we need are people who aren't corrupt, murderous, self-worshipping, paedophile motherfuckers. Is that too much to ask?
And for those out there thinking, 'Fucking hell. Do you know what wicked thoughts run through my head?' - you don't get it. It's you and everybody. Me too, sure. You plug me into it and it's all there - lying, cheating, stealing, committing violence upon people, and yep, even me perving on the endless parade of barely-teen bods hoping someone notices them on their way to the beach. I notice them alright. You would too. And?
And Jimmy Carter 'sinned in his heart' did he? Well shit, eh? Ain't no one who hasn't. Not that that stopped the hypocrites from wagging their fingers at poor old Jimmy. Well, a tuppence for that. The machine will change everything. Anyone who wants to make out that they're free to cast that first stone can prove it. They step up to the plate and plug into the machine. Showing up hypocrites is a thing worth doing sure, but it's nothing compared to the bombshell of seeing that our sins, which we imagined as very terrible, are actually run of the mill.
This fear we have of our innermost thoughts being seen is nothing, a wisp of smoke. We only imagine that no one thinks like we do. Being unmasked is only scary if no one else does it. Sure enough, fear of being nude in public makes no sense if you're in a nudist camp. Only an idiot would be embarrassed when everybody has their yayas out. Not forgetting of course, that no one is forcing anyone to go to this metaphoric nudist camp. If you don't want a position of public trust you don't need to lay yourself open. It's all voluntary.
And so... fuck it - I volunteer to go first. And yep, everyone can go nuts at the filth in my head. And then the next person, and the next, and the next, until eventually the filth in my head is seen for what it is - simple daily grime, ha ha.
MInd you, there'll be people whose disappointment in me will know no bounds. "You never loved me." "How can you think that about my daughter?" "You're just doing this out of politeness." Yep it's all true. But whatever - this blog has already caused some of my friends to disown me. Never mind - eggs is to be broken and fears are to be dispelled. We'll all just have to get used to it. I wonder if it will be cathartic? Confession is, you know. The Catholics haven't used it for centuries for no reason. The machine will be the ultimate version of getting something off your chest.
What tripped me over the line of fear in this matter is the fact that the machine as I imagine it wouldn't be selective. It would not show my sins in isolation. It will necessarily show how I view those things now and why I will never do them again. It will make clear the nature of my relationship with those not me, and what guides my actions. It will all be there.
That's when the beauty struck me - this thing will be the Redemption Machine. It will enable people to confess their sins fully and find complete forgiveness. No one will have anything to fear from it. Even for the most wicked man in the world, redemption will be an undeniable possibility - real, true, honest to God, redemption. Anyone who can display a cannot-be-faked understanding of the wrongness of their previous self-serving mindset will be welcomed by the rest of humanity. Remember, bullshit is impossible. The conversation in your head that says, 'Ha, that should fool them, suckers!' will be publicly broadcast. The wicked will fear this, sure, but the possibility of this as a process of redemption is massive. What are people going to say? 'I don't want to be redeemed'?
Eventually the redemption machine will reach a tipping point as it goes beyond a minority and becomes normal. Finally a useful purpose for peer-group pressure! Who knows where this will go? It occurs to me that eventually the redemption machine will be a piece of software on every computer in every home. People will plug in daily to have full honest communication with each other. Parents and children. Husbands and wives. Whomever. Perhaps we will go on the net to share our minds. Would that work?
I can imagine those who refuse to share their minds as eventually being driven into a tiny, shunned and beset minority. I also imagine a daily haemorrhage from the ranks of the wicked as individuals overcome their fear of redemption and join the rest of humanity in acknowledging the obviousness of right behaviour.
Dig it, it will be like Star Trek's Borg but instead of casting off humanity and becoming machine-like, the hive mind would function in the opposite fashion. Joining would be like falling off a stage and being caught - caught in arms of love, understanding, and forgiveness. Participation will be the ultimate declaration of humanity. Everyone who joins will be taking a large individual step (and a small collective one) towards one-with-the-universe.
This collective mind will address problems like poverty, pollution, and population (and alliteration!). Many many things, from technologies such as GMO, to stories and narrative based on us-and-them, will be abandoned as worthless. Me, I'll be pleased because I reckon the rightness of behaviour based on selflessness as the single determinant will become obvious. Complicated proscriptions of sin will fall by the wayside. As will false religions, false isms, hell, falsity in general. The world will never be the same. An extraordinary future is possible with all of man's preceding history being viewed as the Age of the Closed Mind.
Sadly, we're still there. Our minds are still closed and we have to share ideas by way of second-rate things like speech and the written word. Still, it's not too terrible. Words serve a purpose. Why don't we put those words to good use to light a fire in the minds of those head-down, arse-up scientists in at, where was it? Oh yeah, the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Japan. I think we need to blow their minds, to let them know what they're in amongst. I address them -
Boys and Girls, we all know that this thing is coming regardless. Ain't nothing anyone can do to stop it. But you're in amongst something bigger than anyone can imagine. It's possible that you just might be saviours who can deliver the redemption of mankind. And yep, it doesn't get much bigger than that. Get it right and the love and esteem of the world's people will be yours. I wish you well.