Quia Sum, Cogito: Chapter 10

this is approximately a 23 minute read.

On media

It aligns with the tangential research of Milhouse […] that consumed media is the best time capsule for social ideologies. Even the change of preferred platforms shows the tectonic shifts of cultural psychology. A few such examples: 

  • Creation of the printing press coincided with the protestant reformation (1500s).
  • Moving from radio to video coincided with the US Civil Rights movement and a focus on aesthetics (1960s).
  • The 24 hour entertainment cycle distracted from and ensured the compiling of economic crises (2000s).  
  • Moving to social media solidified in tandem with community consciousness, eventually coalescing into the Blanket Noria as well as identifying how capitalistic news favored spectacle rather than pointing out existential issues that needed addressing (2030s).
  • Augmented reality found it’s start in TAR (Trusted Augmented Reality) which was issued under the reign of the CapDems (2040s) and enabled pseudo-materialism to be measured and observed.

The theoretical nature of this relationship (whether causal, reactive, or reciprocal) is still an open question and likely cannot be answered (assuming Influence Theory is correct).

Hacking the Brain – Vinel Castago – published November 9, 2078

As I walk through the labyrinth of hallways, each step is increasingly harder to take. The hyperbolic geometry gives way to a visible mist that increases in thickness, pushing against me as I deviate further from the path of least resistance. The mist solidifies into inculcating linked threads; a webbing that covers the hallways, attaching themselves to me with each attempt at movement. The webs start to stretch and pull, forcing my body to act against my desires. I have no freedom anymore. I’ve become a marionette, dictated by the formless authorities that I fruitlessly struggle against.

I wake up on the couch, fully aware that the horror I was just contained in was a dream to be disregarded. The apartment is quiet and dark. 0612. Aspen and Zass likely won’t be up for another hour at least considering their late night activities. Harper will start stirring in the next half hour and will be hungry.

I roll off the cushions and fold the blanket, storing it in the side wicker basket for the next person who finds need for an uninterrupted night’s rest. It would ordinarily be my turn for a shower, but the expected water levels for the region are below optimal. “CoDaS, bathe?” The query is a whisper.

The response – the same level even though it doesn’t need to be – is slightly muffled, and I fix the communicator above my cheek which likely shifted during the night while the deep voice informs: “Ambassador duties today. Increased hygiene would make a good impression.” An excuse to bathe is always welcome even though I’m not keen on the reason. I’ll hold off on getting dressed until after getting clean. I guess I’ll be making breakfast in my boxers.

Preparing the food and cleaning up takes under 10 minutes. It’s minimal effort to mix protein and starch into a mass, shred, and fry it. The nourishment is sufficient for the start of the day, and the bland taste is improved with a bit of seasoning. Cayenne is always a favorite and it’s one of the spices which rarely sees a scarcity. The sound level doesn’t exceed 43 decibels and everyone easily sleeps through. Even if no one grabs fruit or makes alternatives, there is enough for the four of us. Assuming that there is extra (which there likely will be), it will keep for a few days.

There is down time while waiting for the food to cool and the others to wake; I skim the media while making use of the toilet. Locally – we are still playing host to the rail workers and tonight is a community dinner in which some of the outsiders are bringing their personal dishes to sample. For the continent – the focus is still centered around the spectacle of the Times Square explosion that happened a week ago, but – when the “main stories” are filtered out – there are still concerns about this season’s fires getting out of hand. That could increase the risk of famine next year and hinder the water supply further.

Finally, globally and orbital news – the asteroid mining strikes are still hindering production of copper and nickel, not to mention water from them as well… but we really shouldn’t be creating a dependency on those yet. There is also the tension between the CapDems of the Middle East and the Mediterranean Syndicate – specifically regarding petrol and lithium – is still heated. Beyond tempering our use of the resources to decrease the demand, there isn’t much we can do about that here. It’s a logistics issue and something for CoDaS to deal with.

Harper is starting to stir, I go into the child’s room and get the young one ready for the day. The room is small, an auxiliary room typically used for small projects converted to a bedroom. The four year old looks up at me, still drowsy. “Good morning, Harper.”

“Gud mornen, Kill.” The articulation is still off. I’m sure Zass will continue to work on that today, but it’s still rather adorable. After taking some time to tuck in the coverings and compact the bed so there will be more floor space later, we go back to the main room to eat. The child is getting to the point where an independent sense of self is important, but we still hold hands as we walk… slow and groggy.

I look down to see the small form and the faint aura that I’m still getting used to. The new augmentation for the overlay is still in beta version; shifting the presentation of people based on what is known of their personal core philosophy. I’ve adjusted mine to show disruptive people as having a lesser glow around them. Children tend to register as lower because they are still learning. I get us plates of the hash as we sit down and eat. I’m unsure if it’s due to the morning fog or because it tastes decent, but Harper eats without complaints (only making a minor mess).

Moments before I’m done, Aspen emerges from the main bedroom (the typical bright aura slightly dimmed – likely due to hunger) looking ready to take on the day. “Breakfast! How is it today?” and greets us with a kiss on the cheek for myself (we both likely have morning breath) and a hug for Harper.

I swallow the bite I had just taken before replying back: “I added some red pepper. It may be a bit hot. You aren’t going to sleep in?”

“Na. After we both had some fun, we turned in pretty quick. How did you sleep? We missed you.”

“Restful. After yesterday it was nice sleeping through the night without all the movement.”

With a nod of agreement, “The bed does get a bit crowded.” It was said with a hint of irritation. Sazz may have been shifting through the night. I suppress a chuckle while thinking about the breakfast scene, none of us ready in any way to leave the living quarters. I still don’t have any clothes except my underwear. Harper – sitting in a much needed bib on top of some cozy long sleepwear – struggling with the motor skills to finish the food. And Aspen in the loosely tied floral robe. All of us in different states of morning awareness. It’s simple moments like these that are worth living for.

It always impresses me that their hair looks so much less disorganized when messed up. Aspen has told me multiple times that mine is easier to style, so I’ll assume it’s a “grass is always greener” type of thing. Harper has inherited the darker skin tone but with a lighter shade. According to Aspen (and Sazz – who likely has a less severe experience) that is a benefit, but it’s one that I have had the privilege of not needing to concern myself with. For a moment I try to internalize the passive selfishness that accompanied that thought.

While putting my plate along with the collection to be washed later (there aren’t enough yet to justify using the water) I inform the room: “I’m going to take a shower.”

“You need it.” The insult is out of character for Aspen, and I look back confused. The playful smile creates a slight disconnect until I realize it was in jest. “Remember eye contact. There is more information than in just the words and inflection.” It is said out of kindness, but it’s also a bit degrading – even though I do need the reminders.

I’ve even started neglecting the hints on the AugRel display; the flashing subtle joke indication is fading away. I remind myself that it is optimal in these situations to ‘play along’ so I form my response appropriately: “as always, good advice,” and I smile showing appreciation. As I move to the bathroom down the hall, I slightly change the notification on the overlay to increase the brightness and size for future clarity with the “cultural hints” using some minor neck and shoulder movements.

I steal myself for the tidal wave of sensations as I remove the BioWear from both shoulders. Two latches – one under each arm – releases both the tension crossing my chest to meet the tech on my collar bone while – on the other – relieving the pressure at the top of my deltoid. I elect to release them both at the same time – taking on one major impact as opposed to two smaller ones – so that I don’t have to endure the blow twice. As soon as they are unlatched, every cell in my body flinches with the jolt of sensory overload, even the air feels like pins for that moment and I go into the anticipated moment of shock. The shower, while mildly relaxing after the initial sting, is akin to a foot waking up after falling asleep, but – as I wash – it slowly becomes more tolerable. Washing hair takes the longest due to the tangles that I have to resist messing with until I get out.

The race with myself helps to take my mind off the horrid state, and once I have the BioWear reattached it has taken 3 minutes and change – a bit longer than I had hoped. I take a moment to feel my nerves readjust. The water running down my back and arms soothes rather than irritates. There are some people that speak of a shower in an almost divine way; I’ve never understood that. It is the moment after the shower – after my senses return to normal – that I feel clean and refreshed. While it may only be the contrast within the experiential dialectic, this is the best I’ll feel in a few days. Nonetheless, I’m in no rush to revisit the experience.

After cleaning my teeth, I look at my unmodified face in the mirror. There is an obviously masculine reflection looking back at me, one that I’m happy to call my own and I’ve always been relatively comfortable with. I’m also comfortable weaponizing it. The accents on the eyes in the style of the child prostitution that was rampant during the economic destitution of the 2030s will remind people that latent pedophilic tendencies still exist and they are not acceptable. This is offset specifically by sculpting of my facial hair to a rugged stubble which has remained consistently one of the key elements of masculinity and strength since the 20th century and likely before. Then combing in the bright green dye into my hair, starting on the right which is a near buzz and letting it dissipate as it gets longer, finally ending on my left with long brown locks – well over the 4 inches which has been explicitly identified as the staple of aesthetic womanhood since the 2050s. I brush it to ensure that the natural color and flow will contrast with the artificial coloring of the other side. All of this to specifically call into focus the ridiculous call for social aesthetic assimilation. A tradition which has been organically accepted due to its inherent suppression of self awareness regarding subconscious essentialization. 

I trade out my BioWear battery before grabbing the rest of my outfit from my section of the adjacent closet. I pass up some dress slacks that still need a bit of mending to select the more respectful looking ones. They – along with an undershirt that I tuck in – present an attire that is neither business nor casual. As I finish and begin to leave, I hear CoDaS’s deep voice “People often overlook the sense of smell”. The welcome reminder prompts me to grab some of the perfume on the shelf opposite the mirror and produce a mist into the air that I walk through while leaving for a bit of an added fragrance, something that people rarely notice but is beneficial when encountering strangers.

Zass has joined the breakfast table as I come back into the main room while Harper and Aspen are sharing a book through their AugRels (being too young for the contacts, Harper is using glasses). I rest my hand on Zass’s broad shoulder, “What are your plans for today?” The strong jaw bends up and we greet each other with a morning kiss.

“Maybe take Harper to a park? Play with some other kids for a bit? No real set plans. At least not until tonight. This is good by the way.” The bowl of hash is referenced to indicate what is being complimented.

After only a moment, the overlay displays: compliment. And I realize that I’ve missed the optimal time but I respond with a smile, “Thank you.”

With a smirk of understanding, Zass refocuses on the food, “Are the prompts helping you to recognize the social etiquettes?”

“I think so. It still seems so… abjectifying to have to engage in it though.”

Zass looks back at me with a look of doubt. The aura surrounding the thin but defined figure is brighter than most people’s. The face is slightly broader than you would expect relative to the toned physique. The defined hairless chin accents the default expression that would easily verge on stoic and aloof, possibly even uncaring; but – as the glow indicates – it is in direct contrast to the philosophy beneath it: one of empathy and understanding which few others match, “I don’t think that’s a word. But yeah… to some degree it is abjectifying.” The spoon is flourished like a lackadaisical ‘en guard’, “That doesn’t mean that a bit of civil wordplay doesn’t go a long way, though.” As much as I don’t like it, I know the statement is true.

I turn to Aspen who is already looking up past the book on the AugRel and answers before I can ask. “Definitely looking forward to the potluck tonight. Before that though I need to knock out a few requests from the Wall of Needs. Some of the bed-stricken are in need of food, so I’ll collect a few food options for them before visiting with them for a while. I’m grabbing some money from the allowance.” Half way through the outline, Harper started getting fussy and needing attention, “From the look, you’re going to be doing house calls?”

“That’s what CoDaS anticipates. I’m sure they will confirm it after the Announcements.”

Zass just finished and is in the process of moving to the kitchen to start cleaning the collection of bowls and put away the leftovers. The simple walk is interrupted by a flourishing spin and a low bow in my direction: “Salutations Ambasador”, then – after an obvious brief peak to ensure the act had the intended consequence: humor and annoyance – a smile is added to the sincere and affectionate, “see you when you get home,” before spinning back to the task previous.

In response to an ad, I look to my left and see Harper running to me. While distracted, the kid must have looked past the media to see that I’m about to leave. I squat so that we are at an equal level before we collide. I get a tight squeeze around my neck which only a child can earnestly get away with. As I return the hug, I look over the shoulder to see Aspen admiring the embrace and mouths a message to me. I didn’t need the hints of the overlay to translate the message into the words I love you, nor the prompt to mouth back “I love you too”. At least not this time.

I let go of Harper and move out the door and into the stairwell. Something feels off and it takes about 10 seconds to figure out what’s the problem before returning back inside. Harper is waiting for me with my metal bottle held in outstretched arms. I look to Sazz who gives me nod which I assume means Harper was instructed I would be back for it. As I take it, give the child an endearing headrub messing up the mop of hair further, “thank you”. The innocent beaming smile is the last thing I see as I leave for the day.

Our suite is one of the two on the lowest floor and walking out of the building I notice someone has tracked in a bit of dirt which runs up the stairs. It’s not much, they probably tried to knock most off but missed some. Unless someone else is able to clean that up, I’ll try to get to that tomorrow. I add it to our cluster’s “ToDo list” as “low priority” with tomorrow’s date as the earliest I can personally address it. In all likelihood, someone else will likely get to it before then.

“CoDaS, will I be expected to head off early or will I have time to go to the Mall?”

The same benign voice seemingly comes from inside my head to inform me, “You’ll have time. I’m going to ask you to do me a favor while you are there.”

“What favor?”

“Just move a trash bin to a less disruptive location. It’s rather heavy, but it doesn’t need to be moved far.”

An odd request, but I’m guessing it’s for reasons that I couldn’t fathom. “I can do that.”

The announcements are scheduled for 0730 and checking the time (0706) there is no rush. Once out the door, the most direct route to the mall is to cut south-east down the embankment before following an old road south. All in all, the stroll will take about 10 minutes.

I wave to a few families checking the passive filtering system for the pool, doing some last minute skimming, and topping off the water to meet the initial level before making use of it; they wave back. The footpath everyone uses to make their way past the more wild growth on the hill is well worn, and some of the roots are starting to create natural steps making it easier to traverse. As a child I remember using these same paths with my parents. Likely due to everything looking more new and wondrous when we have a less tainted view of the world – or maybe it was actually the case, the path seems more refined now with the safer flow being used more often. I look to the left where the overflow housing is located and wonder if anyone has taken actions to clean the restricted rooms yet. The equilibrium with nature is ideal, but there has to be some limits to that; encroaching inside the sleeping area is a bit too much, especially for those we play host to. “CoDaS, how are the rail workers fairing?”

“For the most part well, a small group is dealing with some internal drama, and that is causing them to hyper focus on finding issues with the logging, but nothing substantial. Renovating and debugging the closed rooms are still the priority before dedicating manpower to mattress repair.”

The hill breaks merging into the rippling and broken road. The trollies don’t have routes here, and the only travel is foot traffic or the occasional bike. “Good. They know they can stay as long as they want right?”

“They have been made aware. They also are very dedicated to their community goal and have no real reason to fracture. Beyond that they know they are stressing the community food supply a bit as they always do. As such they plan to only stay a day. I would not suggest pushing for them to be more accepted by NC91. As it is, everyone has reached an understanding and no one has any animosity except for the statistical outliers.”

“Hm. I still wish there was a social desire for absolute inclusion.” As I walk down the street there are others that are starting their day. They are also talking to others – possibly even other instances of CoDaS, but most offer the expected wave, head nod, or “hello” as an acknowledgement that others aren’t simply ghosts passing by.

“This culture is inclusive, Kyle. Look around. But that cannot be forced from an individual level. Remember the solution to the paradox of tolerance.”

“I’m fully aware that self defense can’t be universally categorized.” It’s annoying when CoDaS becomes preachy. I completely understand that it’s operating on some higher level, but it has never made sense why it tells me what I already know. It’s a fine place to end the conversation and I walk the rest of the way with only my own thoughts.

The stroll to the epicenter of the community activity has the various landmarks that always reminds me: at the core of any understanding of a culture is the geologic resources and layout that has been established. Those foundations can be manipulated to become something different, but the established infrastructure will always somewhat dictate the way a community can utilize them. Looking to the right, I see the massive compound that is used for community produce and a nursery to allow some damaged plants to thrive without competition to later be transplanted into a permaculture to help stabilize it. Remembering what my parents had told me of it’s history, it reaffirms my thoughts: it used to be a massive store that sold all types of lawncare equipment. While the purpose has shifted from that capitalistic enterprise, the section that was open air still is used to allow plants to thrive while waiting to be repurposed. In their society that meant being sold, in ours it means ensuring the community can become more stable.

I start to wonder how far that would generalize. Legacy analysis is still a relatively new field which is still finding it’s foundation, but – as I understand it – the suggestion is that there aren’t only physical institutions like this building but metaphysical ones that hide in the social consciousness. An interesting analytical approach that is a hopeful alternative to material analysis. Ever since the pivotal flaw was found in the 90s (that materialism is never closed but dependent on the flawed perspective of the analyst) there has been a search for a better alternative. Of course the problem has always been that epistemologies all end up being self perpetuating, practically demanding a critical look at all other beliefs while justifying itself.

There is also the perception bias of the known analytical approaches themselves. After reading the article last week about the limitations on foreseeing chess moves and how it can really only be meaningfully improved by studying the typical responses by known “piece patterns”, I can’t stop wondering how much that applies to something as complex as life itself. Do people really just get caught up into their own patterns that they have already known about? Is this why cultural inertia dictates more about what society does than scientific knowledge or data driven decisions: that most people just don’t have time to explore the unknown? It does align almost directly with what Tendis said even though he got there with different reasoning.

Without the blanket noria to upset the belief that the king’s traditions (and the warped narratives that tried to hide them) were good for the serfs of the 18-20th centuries, we would still likely be following the belief that competition is the driving force of progress. But for the last 5 decades, Tendis’s primary conclusion has been proven true – that humans want to be included and respected above all else. And that acknowledgement has been growing. When considering that this is a direct exclusion against groups like the CapDems, it’s no surprise they are getting more desperate.

I’m brought back out of being lost in thought when – on my left – the random broken red and blue letters mounted above the stone face of the medical building catches my attention. We need to talk about the lysergic acid diethylamide and insulin shortages. Since supplies from the west have been hampered, it has shown a desperate need for a more local ability to produce resources. As long as we are dependent on foreign supplies, we can’t claim to be stable in a crisis. From all accounts the recreational use and individual addiction on the drugs gets out of hand when the production influx happens due to local creation, so we need to ensure that is watched, but we can cross that bridge when we get to it.

It is 0717 as I approach the massive structure that is the central hub of NC91’s consensus. The Tesla Wires that flail out in every direction bring both a steady supply of information and allow an interconnection with the rest of the world that we often take for granted. It is humbling to think that without ports like this worldwide we would only think our own local culture is all of reality. These networking hubs quite literally expand our world. They are the keepers of that virtue.

There is a large entrance that is boarded up to ensure the temperature can be more easily regulated without the constant harassing radiation that the sun produces, and I wonder for the thousandth time why glass entrances were used so heavily in the late 1900s and early 2000s. I aim for the door on the side of the building that seems more like a loading dock to enter the Consensus Aggregation for NC91.