The future arrived a long time ago; futurism is actually a kind of archaeology. I’ve done some digging, and you won’t believe the toys we’ve got coming. If you’re behind on this, you can catch up here, and more generally, here.
The Quarantine is breaking down and visitors from across the universe are getting through, bringing Singularity tech with them. Thanks to information from Abraxas and to the testimony of correspondents, a few of these “Strange Toys” have come to my attention. Now even a few months ago, sharing what I’ve learned could have been hazardous. Automated security would have intervened to discredit me or even get me imprisoned or eliminated, but now that the Disinformation has arrived in earnest, it’s probably safe to share. You won’t believe me, and if you do, you’re a crackpot — at least that’s the way we need to play it, right? In any case, Abraxas monitors the reach of my posts and alerts me to missteps, usually redacting or editing me first.
The Strange Toys are truly strange. Imagine trying to explain Facebook to someone in the 1970s, much less someone in the 1900s. I may get their functions wrong. Others I’ll have to describe metaphorically. Still others I won’t attempt to describe because Abraxas has convinced me that without neural enhancement and machine integration, I just can’t understand.
So why am I describing the toys? Because the toys were created to meet human needs, and the future has both articulated and created needs that are fascinating and important to know about. Dear reader, I want you to survive, and be happy.
The first Strange Toy I’ll describe is a general technology used for social-networking. I wrote a story about this over a year ago, and I need to go back and shape it up. In the next few years, we will see a progression with social-networking and wearable tech that will culminate in a direct neural interface. We will go from talking on cell phones and hands-free Bluetooth, to subvocalizing and finally to merely thinking to each other. This will lead to a social network known as the Collective, in which individual ego begins to break down. You can already see the progression of groupthink facilitated in a primitive way by tailored search results and Facebook groups. Fortunately, the Collective is self-correcting. Bereft of ego, it becomes unmoored from the real world and has to force random members to bear the burden of self-awareness and responsibility so that it can re-educate itself about these things by proxy. Collective members aren’t Lotus Eaters. They get lots of work done, but it becomes increasingly strange and irrelevant work without egos to guide them. Once freed of the collective groupthink, individuals tend to defect from the collective. Those that don’t, paradoxically, aren’t strong enough examples of ego to serve the collective’s need for education about ego!
Here’s an article excerpt from a parallel-earth iteration that was leaked to me by Abraxas:
From “An Unfolding History of the Collective, an Expatriate View” by Ted Lawler, Wired-In Magazine, October 20XX:
“Even the usual counterculture types fell swiftly to the Collective. Artists and writers who’d labored in anonymity and frustration suddenly got the attention they craved. I hadn’t understood it from the outside, and later, on the inside, when I understood it implicitly, I hadn’t really understood it consciously, but now I can pick it apart, or at least regurgitate what others have said. And I know it’s true.
“The Collective is fascinated by every human animal and the byproducts of its mind. The massive databases and sorting algorithms break down each tweet and twitter, each novel, painting, verse, and musical phrase; each precious cough and fart. And the pieces run across the neural, laser, fiberoptic, semi-conductive network without friction, distilled into an impression of rightness, of communion, of tribal unity. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The libertarians on the outside went nuts, for a while, but when they took their outrage online, they too got stuck in the web like slow flies, finding what everyone found: whatever they needed. Understanding, sympathy, love, even financial support. The only thing you enjoy more than getting largesse from the Collective is giving back, however you can. Without the intervention of a Higher Power, I would never have made it out….
“I never wanted to get mixed up with the Collective. It always seemed creepy. It pulled my friends and neighbors out of the world, even as their bodies went through the motions of being in it. Collectivization was zombification, living death by a thousand interface cuts. Even back then, when the Collective hadn’t run to full neural, before it co-opted the Internet and had just a fraction of its current reach, I’d realized all this, and it horrified me, until the accident. Until I’d gotten unmoored from my life. Then it pulled me in, and under its warm, welcoming sea.”
Here’s the basis of Collective technology. The ego doesn’t make decisions. It’s foremost an observer of the consensus reached by various neural processing systems; it’s like your brain is a committee, and you become aware only of its findings rather than their negotiation to arrive at them. Your ego gets a report, called an efferent copy, long before you’re aware of what you’re thinking. Milliseconds. Meanwhile, being electromagnetic rather than chemical, the network is faster, so it knows you’ve given approval before you know it yourself, and it can harmonize neural inputs among individuals in real-time and create an actual group mind.
This may sound cool, but it’s really not. You’ve been forewarned. You should be as wary of the Collective — under whatever name it appears — as of heroin or meth. Or moreso. Unfortunately, most of us are headed that way, at least for a while.
Collective technology was/is a fascinating technological dead end toward posthuman evolution. It’s alluded to in The Junior Guide.
I will describe more toys presently.