http://bellthis.life/journal bellthis Jack’s Reservation
Had it happened? The point was endlessly debated by the infinite spectrum of cognizance that made up the machine over-mind. Many philosophers and technicians claimed we were “post-singularity” whereas, ironically enough, the AI avatars and cyborg humans claimed we weren’t there yet. The machines claimed that because the rate of technological growth was within their intellectual grasp that the term “singularity” was a misnomer. What appeared as miracles divine to the common man was merely another day of research and development for the Spectrums. And yet for all their self-denial, they existed: the post singularity machine mind. In all its incomprehensible brilliance and elegant genius, a being, or beings, almost worthy of the title God had been created by mankind.
The debate seemed pointless to me. I decided to avoid augmentation. Well, mostly. Like most of us mere humans, I couldn’t resist the medical miracles provided free of charge. A small, painless nanobot injection in the base of my skull. The little bots intelligently analyzed my entire genetic code, locating every weak link, every degraded sequence, every malignant mutation and set things right again. I am now 57 years old but my body appears like it did when I was 23. Cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s? It’s almost like no one remembers those maladies. They’re spoken of like a scary story about monsters that you just know isn’t true.
I’m walking down the streets of “Old” New York. Still real. Still physical. It was decided to be one of the human cities left in its natural state. Many complained that it felt like a human zoo or nature preserve but to those who chose to avoid augmentation; it became a welcome bastion of our shared philosophy. No matter the apparent benefits, we just decided to avoid joining the machine mind for whatever reasons suited us.
For me, I was terrified. You hear about some people who maintain their individuality within the ‘Net but it’s rare. Most people’s personalities are so weak, they suffuse into these “cognizant spectrums of intelligence” as they call it. Let me try to explain this.
Come to find out, people are way more similar than they used to admit back when people were still fighting wars. And once their minds began to touch each other on the most intimate levels in the virtual realm, they got stuck together and didn’t separate anymore. So you had the varying levels of individuality and similarity. The Spectrums say that they choose this way, that every mind is preserved yet shared. A feeling of ecstatic connectedness worthy of the most beautiful poems and songs.
I am me and I like it that way. Is it shallow? Yes. Is it egotistical? Most definitely. But I don’t care. They’ve gone so far without me, I’m not needed. I don’t need to sacrifice what I am to benefit others. After all, what good would the singularity be without people like me to take advantage of it?
I groaned at my own weak excuse. I was just trying to cover up my own fear. A taxi floating about 8 inches above the road whizzed by. I was lost in my thoughts and nearly walked into the street. Not that it would’ve mattered. My skin and bones are reinforced by those medical nanobots making me nearly indestructible. It would’ve just been a little mental shock to get hit by a speeding taxi—excuse me, a flying taxi. My, oh my, how the times have changed.
I was on my way to a blind date. I had a reservation at some swanky restaurant that served pre-singularity food. Steak from a cow, potato from the ground, and crisp green salad. I loved the old stuff. Nostalgia of an old man, I suppose. But I’m not old. I look 23. How do you even define old anymore? I’ve definitely got the urges of a 23 year old. Good old fashioned hunger and sex drive. In this world where people choose their fears, reprogram what they love, and generate inspiration mechanically; I relish my mostly natural desires.
Her name was Sarah. Another human v1.0 that lived in New York. We met online, a modern enough notion for me. She was blonde. I loved blondes. The concept of forming and having a relationship had become strange. It felt so inadequate relative to the bond that the Spectrums created. What’s more, while being an immortal person, something like marriage became a romantic notion that just couldn’t last forever realistically. Not with mere human sensibilities anyway. You would hear stories about how humans would still find someone so special that they would voluntarily shut off their cell repair, grow old together, and die together. But yet again, hearing about that was like reading Shakespeare. Something that used to happen, something that used to be real but isn’t anymore. Most especially not for me. I’ve never met anyone that special nor am I anywhere close to being ready to die.
I was nearing the restaurant, about two more blocks to go. I loved walking. Feeling real dirt and concrete under my feet. When virtual reality crossed a certain threshold it caused a lot of really deep questions about the nature of reality that I preferred not to think about. Every step I took gave me a modicum of reassurance that I was real and substantial. I loved walking.
I arrived a few minutes late. She’d already been seated. I took a moment to relish the surprise and excitement of not knowing what she looked like a few moments ago. Not knowing what kind of person she was. Not knowing. A rare sensation these days, only the biggest philosophical questions were left unanswered. These blind dates let mystery and curiosity back into my life. It’s amazing how much we had to give up to receive the Singularity’s gifts. She and I start a conversational exchange. My mind has been sharpened by medical nanobots to the point that I can easily maintain a bland conversation and think about unrelated topics simultaneously. I felt like I was always dwelling on this stuff. How the world had changed and how it keeps changing. I took a coward’s path. This human zoo would not suffice for much longer. Faced with eternity and immortality, these baubles and trinkets of a relatively ancient time would lose their allure eventually. How much longer would it last before I needed something more?
I hated myself for being dominated by fear. Fear of moving on and fear of being left behind. Focus. The date was progressing nicely. She liked me. I was the right mix of old school and accepting that she found pleasing and acceptable. Her approval gave me a reprieve from the emotional storm raging in my mind. Maybe I’m not so bad the way I am? If she likes me then I should like myself.
A nagging doubt still lingered, however. You only go on these dates for this feeling of approval. You can’t escape your fear, you have to face it. Spoken with the blunt force of one’s own conscience.
Dinner was delicious. There was no payment due, however. Everything was free. It twanged against my desire for chivalry instilled in me by my southern upbringing. She led me outside to a dark alley for privacy. There was no fear of danger from another person. In a world of resource abundance there was no more violent crime. Especially not in New York. A stark contrast to 20 years ago. She began kissing me passionately. I lost myself in my animal desires. So basic and simple. A glorious reprieve from the dense thoughts that plagued me. I knew where this was going. I welcomed it. This time of non-thought gave me the psychic healing necessary to face another day.
Is tomorrow going to be the day I crack? Will I go to the clinic and accept the augmentation? Will I leave this body behind and join the ethereal network? Sacrifice everything I’ve ever known about consciousness and reality and accept something alien and new?
She was kissing my neck. She had all of my focus now. I gave in to her soft, feminine touch. I’ll deal with all this tomorrow. I’ve got plenty of time to spare, after all.
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