Quia Sum, Cogito: Chapter 6
On the Technology Gap
In addition to the demographics above, there is a need to include an additional classification to the surveys that are distributed in the future: technologic comfort – “how comfortable are you with computer based technology?” (use the phobia scale).
On the suggestion of region 12, 25, and 61; the review of this years reports showed similar results to theirs: although there is no sure way of determining it with discrete classifiers; the correlation between replies indicating a discontent associated with computation technology and a low social comfort has an f-score of .8730 (as compared to the expected average of .3266). When compared to the other demographics that had exceptional correlations, the score was almost as high as the political, religious, and educated (.9539, .9073, .8793 respectively) and the next highest (changed communities in the past 6 months) was .6293 – a substantial drop.
Further, this was compared to the past 5 years and while the rest of the sores have been dropping, any relevant qualitative indicators show that this has been increasing. The techno-dysphoric (working name) subcommunity requires further analysis and attention for this next year once the new category has been captured. Depending on the findings, an additional seat on the council may be necessary until their discontent has been addressed. This conversation should be continued after the first rotation of surveys are analyzed.
Point of action: estimated review date – February 2072 report2070 -2071 Qualitative Census for Region 28 – Kent Franklin – Published November, 12 2071
Previous to the explicit mention of “bomb”, Grange was observing the conversation with passive interest; like a student drinking in the subject and waiting to be called on to show how much he had learned. The shock that it wasn’t the teacher that called on him to act, but another student which caught him off guard. He stood up apprehensively and shifted to the cords that were hanging loose. As he started (what I assume was) prepwork, there were also stolen glances to verify hadn’t disrespected his superior.
Roger reacted in the opposite fashion. He had previously been booting up some software. It was odd seeing a display coming from a screen instead of radiating out of the air itself, but – without access to the wireless – the AR couldn’t provide the expected overlay. The single source of light from within the dark room compiled the absence of the expected extra layer of augmented reality that had been stripped away. My blunt shift in the discussion caused a distraction for the stout man in the uniform and – instead of clacking on the physical keyboard – he turned around to look at how we were going to proceed.
Musk was the only one that reacted as if the question was unexceptional. He walked to the computerized cylinder and laid his hand on it. “Yes. This older model had a glitch in which the battery could become overloaded and unstable.” He picked it up and turned it around – inspecting it as if it were a toy he were about to buy. When he looked back at me, my concern at the word “unstable” must have been obvious. He set the BioWare back on the table. “Oh.. no, it’s not an issue currently. Even when it was in use, the glitch was found prior to any harm being done. It’s actually quite safe, you see this switch here?”
As I got up and walked over to Musk, I noticed Grange was no longer searching for approval and Roger was back to working with the physical interface. I had to bend down to look at where Musk was pointing and a barely recognizable piece of epoxy had been installed to sit flush just inside the smaller end of the bracer. “That’s a switch?”
“Take off your bracer, we will need to clone your current profile and install it on this one.” The surrealness of the spontaneous request caught me off guard. Taking off BioWare in public was an action bordering on the erotic or obscene. But the nonchalance of everyone in the room amplified the already dreamlike state that continued to manifest. So I complied and felt shame in my unease as I released the clasps while Musk continued, “But yes, we have hardcoded the glitch to this switch, when you toggle it, you will be asked for the verification phrase.”
I had just taken off the mechanical parasite and the ecstasy of unencumbered reality started to flood my sensations as I answered the unasked question: “integrity with function”.
“Precisely, and after those two actions are done, you will have 20 minutes to infiltrate the consensus headquarters, stash the explosive, and get out. Are you still planning to sacrifice yourself as a “lone actor” to their authorities afterward? We cannot support you if you take that route. The alternative would be easier for both you and your family.”
The instructions took a moment to internalize through my superlucid haze, but after a few seconds of silence it became obvious I was supposed to answer, reality crashed in bringing me back to sobriety: “Yes, I would much rather survive. I know I’ll be treated as insane and tortured for information, but this is all for a better society. It is an honor.” The reality that I now found myself in was bursting with a static that I can only feel when I’m not being hindered by the BioWear. As always, the entire world seemed more alive.
Musk took my BioWear from me. He brought it – as well as the artificial one – to the others that were now waiting for him and they talked for a moment. Watching them interact with my extended faculties allowed an appreciation of the CapDem authoritative structure: Musk was obviously directing with full knowledge and intent, the function. The other two were acting as extensions of his will, doing what was necessary in exactly the way he expected, and – as they set about their specific tasks – the integrity and order were apparent.
I don’t know if it was the discussion of the future or my awakened state or a combination of the two, but my confidence and hubris drove me to revisit the social algorithm. “About the project I was working on -”
Grange spoke before anyone else could react – cutting me off: “We aren’t going to discuss this -”
I was in my full agency and I was still high on my natural state, so without self doubt I did the unthinkable, I disrespected an obürg: “SIR, I need to say this.”
To my surprise, there was no rebuttal, just the calm and intense reversion to a stoic poise only to exchange a glance to Musk who had an expression of humored entertainment. “The results I found could render this entire operation irrelevant! We can use economic leverage to crush them!”
Roger – while still working on the computer – supplied the insight of what happened after the presentation earlier in the day: “We looked at the scope of what you’re theory could produce, it couldn’t possibly have that effect – even optimistically.”
“But that’s what I’m saying! The practical results were 857% of the most optimistic expectations!” I was pushing past audaciousness and becoming annoying. This speaking far beyond my position and I realized I needed to tread a bit more lightly, “Sir.”
Roger stopped completely as he processed what I just said, “that would bring in more than the Consensus Agreement by… more than 2 times.” He nodded. “That would be impressive…” he went back to typing, “but we have to scrap the project.”
Grange spoke this time: “I’ve been trying to avoid the topic for this reason Tark: The power outages we’ve been having… they corrupted the data for the GFM servers. We just found out today. None of the results could be trusted. We cannot gain any results because the relational key – the user ID indexes – were all shuffled.”
My mind raced trying to find how to adapt to the new information. To find some avenue to justify my findings, but – in the end – there is no empiricism in wishes or dreams. Within this unique intersection of existential crises – full perceptive access to reality, standing in the presence of giants, and being presented with a single sentence that systematically dismantles a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a legacy – the dreamlike peak that was supported with the fragile conflict of my rational mind collapsed like a house of cards folding in on itself. It left me as an empty shell of consciousness. My integrity was an illusion. Who am I? Was I ever really anyone or was it all a lie? I could have function though. And through that I could find my integrity again. “I see. So where do I need to plant the explosives?”
Musk pointed to the screen: “These are the blueprints for the Consensus’s main operations branch in the region. Notice this area?” He pointed to an empty area on the design. “We have reason to believe this is where their data center is.”
“What do they store there?”
“What do they not? The thought patterns collected by the BioWear, the social and economic tracking of every person, the DNA profiles of everyone and which genetic diseases they will have; everything they need to coerce anyone and everyone given the chance. They also have their local socio-emotional history.”
“Why do they collect all that?”
“The only reason any controlling body does anything. Additional power and control. They want our society to collapse. They want to tear it down, all so they can rebuild it as they wish.” It wasn’t said with any malice or hostility, but with the delivery of someone matter-of-factly explaining why a chess move was made.
I turned to look at him with obvious confusion, “That’s consistent with the anarchists’ agenda, but how?”
All three of them exchanged knowing looks, after which Musk took on a new tone. A sullen one. “We are going to let you know something that only a handful of others know… their intent is to remove free will by manipulating morality.”
“What? How would they even do that?!”
“They’ve found a way to warp people’s perspective of truth. You’ve seen the constant push prioritizing the social safety scores? The normalization of the degenerate lifestyle? The undermining of the commodity based economic infrastructure? It’s all an attempt to deconstruct reality and make people question the moral framework we live in. Obviously, at the CapDem office, we’ve been giving a bit of guidance on how to combat that, but it isn’t enough. After they succeed, they can – and will – supplement a false truth that they’ve manufactured to manipulate us all into subservience.”
I thought of the discussion I had with Taylor. How he valued obvious myths; confusing it with reality itself. How his kid was also being brought up into the manipulation of the Consensus. Like a fly unknowingly caught in the web of an altered reality – likely justifying it as reasonable and even natural – I couldn’t help but feel anger for the tragedy inflicted on them both. The desire to destroy the malicious actors that wanted only universal power and control was beginning to boil.
“You see it, don’t you?” Even within the dim room, the illumination of the screen must have allowed Musk to see my frustration and anger.
“Yes. So we are destroying their data repository so they can’t manipulate people?”
Musk referenced the blueprints on the screen again, “Only the local community is at risk because of their hub, but there is a greater effort to undermine the other regional influences. It isn’t only the data pertaining to people that is stored here; it also contains all their research projects. So having access can give us insight into their global methodology.”
I walked closer to the screen and studied the area. “How am I going to get past their cognitive gatekeeping?”
“Grange, care to explain that?”
“The new cuff has been manipulated in a few ways. The data that is being sent to the Consensus will be masked using an artificial profile starting tomorrow. This will also mean you can access your own data. I wouldn’t though. It can be disheartening to see how people have critiqued you. But the important thing is no one will be able to identify you unless YOU mess up somehow.” He looked up briefly from his focus on the cuffs’ linkage to give me a critical glance.
Looking back to the machines, he continued, “It should also be mentioned that – in addition to using an older version of the AR interface (which will likely take some adjustments) – the extra draw of energy is going to be an unexpected tax on you for this period. But it will be necessary to charge the glitch.”
Musk took back the conversation, “Thank you. Any questions regarding that?” I shook my head. “Good. So,” he walked to me and looked at the screen, “this beam,” he highlighted a beam on the schematics that was next to the data center, “is load bearing and critical for this area. This is what needs to be blown.”
“What about all the employees or any civilians that are there?”
“That’s the beauty of it, this whole area has minimal personnel. There shouldn’t be anyone injured if you place it at the right location at the right time. We have been keeping track of their movements, and the optimal time for destination has been programmed into the new cuff. The AR will identify it all: where you need to go, what time, and if anything is going wrong.”
As I looked at the monitors shifting through the different perspectives of the building, all bases seemed to be considered. A sound plan for a necessary effort. My only internal critique is that the Tendian Elites weren’t being targeted more explicitly. But I remind myself that this is why I’m not an obürg, I would be too single minded on revenge. As my mind shifted to the accident that took Tess’s leg, I catch a glimpse of one of the smaller monitors that attached to the new and old bracer.
“What’s that?” But I know what it is. Something that I didn’t expect to see. Something that caught me completely off guard.
Roger looked at me for a moment, the shock being an unfamiliar expression crossing his plump face. But he quickly shifted to a feigned humor as I moved to him, “Oh! This is nothing. Well… it is something but you shouldn’t look at it.” I looked back at the screen to see the horrid social safety comments, the major external identifiers flashing across the screen barely able to be seen before vanishing: “selfish”, “inconsiderate”, “dogmatic”, “judgemental”, “dense”. There were a few indifferent terms that had been submitted (“dedicated”, “kind”, and so on) but they were in the minority.
“It’s my full profile.”
I looked back at Roger, and his discomfort was apparent before he turned back to his work “Yes, it’s the profile that is usually hidden. You really shouldn’t look at it. No one likes what they see. It’s like trying to smile in the mirror, it will always look off. The more you look at it the less you know how to be authentic or if it’s even possible anymore.”
He was right, the heightened cognition in absence of the normal energy drain allowed me to focus better than I ordinarily would. Along with all the other profile data (sleep and health statistics, geo-tracking and schedule compilations, contacts, pictures, everything I was used to) there were snippets that I was never meant to see and I couldn’t look away. My social safety (an abysmal .7 out of 10.0), my technological discomfort (2.12 – low), my psychological stability (5.23 – false confidence). “What are all these? I never see them on anyone else!”
Musk answered, “They are usually locked behind security protocols that can only be accessed by those determined with ‘need to know’ access. None of the CapDems have access to them unless we extract them like we are doing now.”
“So the Tendians do?! This is the information they are storing?!”
“Yes. And – honestly – I’m glad you saw it. You see how deep this goes. Now obviously they will immediately know if you do anything anomalous to your typical schedule, so your profile will start to shift to the artificial one from 6:15 to 6:18 tomorrow. Try to be in a populated area during that time.”
I tried to access the schedule for my AR overlay out of instinct realizing it wasn’t there. “Could you set an alarm for me?”
Roger chimed up, “Already done… along with everything else. This is ready to go. Is there any reason to delay?”
Musk looked at Grange, “No. I think we’ve discussed the plan fully.”
Musk looked at me and said, “I guess it’s up to Tark. Can we trust you to help us create a better world?”
The stakes were clear. In a flash of consciousness, I thought of the innocent people that needed this done – the tragic anarchists: Taylor, his son, and the people I see daily on the trolley; the vulnerable CapDems: Zenth, Scott, Marsile, and the others; the one that I was responsible for protecting: Tess. The word came out with confidence and determination: “Yes.”
Musk clapped his hands together: “Ok then. I think we’re ready!”
Roger started to explain as he unhooked the metallic tentacles from the new cuff to bring it to me. “Now this is an older version, so it will have more of a traditional programming. Less complexity and optimization. It should be easier to work with after you get used to it.” As he finished, I took ownership of the machine.
I cautiously put it on. I hated my original BioWear, but at least it was mine. This was a foreign threat I was willingly let attach itself to me. It even fit differently: a bit more snug than the previous one – although not uncomfortable. I readied myself for the dampening of reality as I snapped the clasps into place. The initial zen flowed over me, draining the natural state of the world, but then it continued past discomfort. Panic. I found the table and leaned on it, which ended in a brief collapse. “What is this?”
“That’s the more streamlined energy extraction of the past. It will take a bit to get used to, but you’ll normalize it. Do you need time to adjust?”
I stood upright: drained, off, feeble, insignificant. But I couldn’t let that show, “No. I’m fine.”
I barely realized that Musk walked up to me and put his hand on my shoulder. “I knew you were the right man for the job.” I tried to bring myself out of my state of adjustment and into the moment. Even with the lack of energy inebriating me, I could realize the importance of the gesture. “We often don’t give thought to our motto, but this, Tark, is the pinnacle of integrity. On behalf of the continued survival of Capitalistic Democracy and the legacy of the Final Great President Joseph Relder: Thank you.” Within the diluted reality, his sincere gratitude and the shift in his stance away from “calculating manager” to one of “friend” was overwhelming.
The other two joined beside him and each said “integrity with function,” both overlapping but non-synchronized; a show of respect. It was genuine. Not just a solute, but a praise. The obürgs were praising me, Musk himself was praising me. The high of the interaction and grogginess resulting from the drained energy made the presession to the elevators and out of the building a blur.
It was dark and raining as we walked to the exit. There was a brief discussion between the three of what seemed to be typical obürg work interests: talking about the lumber and fabric logistic lines and where the weak points are… a conversation that I had no knowledge of. But they kept walking as I waited for the trolley to bring me home. They left me as friends would, as peers would. I finally had their respect.
The ride back was without incident and the normal rush of people that crowded the trolley had long dispersed. It gave me the opportunity to get acclimated to the archaic sleeve. The VR overlay wasn’t as vibrant and the controls were generally the same, but glitchy. The major shift was the headache and the noticeable mutation of perception: texture was less dynamic, smell less pronounced, even the taste of the air lacked the potency I had normally taken for granted. But the headache – dull and persistent – amplified the discomfort of everything else.
Unlike the seamless updates that “improve” the software (which should be more accurately termed “technological brainwashing”), the shift to this was drastic and obvious. The adaptation to the new altered perception was at odds with the frequent route I knew.
The carefully manicured properties close to the CapDem campus were obviously altered similar to the obürg’s wing, making them more vibrant and using subtle ads (which weren’t as obvious with the outdated graphics) to draw the eye in the flow which ordinarily seemed authentic. It isn’t clear if it is due to the disillusionment of the world or the overall pain that the new BioWear is causing or the weight of tomorrow or all the above, but the world just had an emptiness to it that wasn’t there a few hours ago.
Every person that I saw on the trolley had a muted profile and identity crawling subtly along their skin (had it always been like that? I’m unsure). I couldn’t ignore the statistics that I knew were hidden: their health risk, their current feelings, all the subtle collections that I now know assist in an ongoing effort of will manipulation. Every one of them depending on what I need to do.
I couldn’t help but toy with the trigger of the bomb. It was flush with the edge – constructed well to be overlooked – but it was easy to feel the divot, abnormal and annoying compared to what I knew. In the same way I absentmindedly scratch at an irritating bug bite, I couldn’t help but to let my fingers passively graze over it, which I must have done at least 10 times on the commute home.
I was still adapting as the trolley pulled up to the stop in front of my neighborhood. The familiar street was even more insulting to my senses than the trip. The first thing I saw as I stepped off was that damned collection bin now teaming with new life. It had hidden statistics that I was previously unaware of (likely removed in the updated interface): schedules of drop offs and needs specific for this location, maps indicating where surplus can be transferred to, etc. I turn away so the disgusting empowerment of laziness doesn’t compile with the migraine that was already urging me to retch.
The surreal landscape – both completely ordinary and subtly strange – continues to corrupt the ritualistic walk back to my house. In a blast of realization, I understand that I depended on this passage of tranquility. There was neutral medium I had previously taken for granted; one that allowed me to shift from being a pawn of an existing dystopian hierarchy to be the king of my own domain.
I don’t have that today. The worlds are going to clash.
I anticipate that as I turn onto the lawn, but – to add further insult – turning off the overlay is delayed due to the unfamiliar micro-muscular controls. I catch a glimpse of Tess as she comes running out the door with the AR still active.
For that moment it wasn’t Tess.
She was someone foreign to me. Like any other person on the trolley; unidentified words crawling along her skin. The comparison to any of the degenerates coming from the Consensus that I saw daily was – for a moment – overwhelming. After it shut down, she was Tess again, but it was there. I couldn’t unsee it. And all the other unseen statistics that continued to exist in the world under the perceptive became so much more obvious, hidden under the surface. Even if I wanted to ignore it, I couldn’t with this headache.
Her embrace sealed the two worlds into one. The concern – compiling both the caring and empathetic properties I loved about her – was obvious – if I could see it, then the Consensus could too. The irritating phantom third party was now present… corrupting my domain.
“Are you alright?! I’ve been trying to contact you!”
“I’m fine. I told you I would be home late.” I still needed to play the part for one more night. I kissed the stranger that I loved on the cheek.
“I know, but I messaged you multiple times, why didn’t you respond? I didn’t expect you to be home before me, but 2100?! Tark, you’ve never been this late!” She took a moment to compose herself. “How did the presentation go?”
“The pres-… oh.. good! Well, no.. it was actually pretty bad, I don’t really want to talk about it.” While breaking away from the embrace; I take her hand (half surprised that I couldn’t feel the text crawling along it) and we both start walking to the comfort of the evening lights inside. For a moment, I walk backward to look at her again, “Why are you so wet? Were you waiting outside?”
She looked down to reflect on the dampness of her clothes, “Oh… no, the anarchists congregation was outside and we got caught in the rain.”
I turn around again, “Well that’s pretty dumb, why didn’t they move inside? Did the rural nomads not have a place to house so many people?” Of course they wouldn’t. One shouldn’t expect anything but animalistic reactions from the uncivil Squatters.
“It started inside actually, but we can talk about that later. You spent so long preparing that presentation! What went wrong?” More emotion. More data collection.
“It wasn’t what the obürgs were looking for.” She isn’t going to let this go if I don’t keep the focus on something else, “why did you move outside when you already had a safe place?”
“Someone needed the community’s help.” She stalled for a second. “It would have be rude to turn them down.”
“Later. I want to hear about you! Why did the obürg’s not like?”
She was focused and in one of her prying moods; best to just tell her. I sighed. “I didn’t have any solid evidence. Even if I hadn’t forgotten the DataDisk on my desk, they realized earlier the source was corrupted anyway. So they are going to scrap the project.”
“Oh Tark!” She walked over and embraced me again. I won’t deny I needed it. For a moment it was my wife hugging me and not the superficial image the Consensus knew her as. Everything was as it should have been. Why couldn’t she just leave it there? “The obürgs wouldn’t know a good idea if it bit them on the ass.” She withdrew giving me a compassionate smile, but it vanished immediately. She saw my irritation and disgust. She knew what was coming before I did.
The obürgs were attempting to save us all. They saw the threat of the Tendians more than anyone else. It’s because of the audacious ideas that Tess had just voiced that we are having a hard time making things right! She is just as much part of the problem as the other Squatters that undermine the natural state of the world!
Even though I couldn’t see it, the profile slithering across her and linking her digitally to the Consensus was changing who she was.
“You don’t know what you are talking about. The obürg’s are trying to fix society and return it to its natural state! The limitations that they have to act within are impossible to navigate, but they do it anyway!” The resonating of my raised voice makes my head hurt more, but Tess usually backs down when I’m assertive so the pain is necessary to end the discussion quickly.
Her expression changes from timidness to an unexpected confusion. “It’s true, isn’t it?” To rage, “It’s fucking true! They want us to assimilate to them?!” Her raised voice was not expected, now my head is splitting.
“Of course they do! What did you think? They would just allow the Tendians to manipulate society and undermine the last bastion of order that humanity has?!”
Her rage was now mixed with pity. “Oh Tark, no…” It was a pity for me. She thought I was wrong. “The Tendians want to help us, they want to help everyone! It’s the CapDems that hate what society has become. They hate that we can be equal to them.
She stepped back slightly so I can see her more fully, “You want to know why I’m wet? Together we stopped the CapDems from destroying the home of someone that was in ‘debt’.” She made air quotes as she said “debt” to emphasize how ridiculous she believed the notion was. “We protected that person from the benevolent obürgs”, the last words she said in a mocking voice. She was mocking me. Yet she still had the audacity of approaching me and grabbing my hands. “The CapDems are the legacy of the Nazis, Tark! The Broken Gear is the Nazi swastica in plain sight! ‘Integrity with function’ is just ‘blood and soil’ rebranded! Why can’t you see that?!”
The most terrifying part about hearing these common slanders being expressed with my wife’s voice is the passion. She fully believed what she was saying. It went so much deeper than the hidden stats, the absent text that continues to creep along her skin like an unseen parasite. She was theirs.
I backed away, unable to believe what was happening. This wasn’t my wife. It couldn’t be. No… Like so much else, my wife was hidden in an aether that was beyond my perception. I could save her, but right now this… thing is a threat to the plan. I can’t let it know any more than I’ve let on. “I can’t do this.”
It advanced on me again, “Tark, I-”
My rage got the better of me, “STOP!” It didn’t move any further. “I cannot do this. I need to be away from you.” I could make an empty promise to make it easier, “We.. we can talk in the morning. But right now I can’t. I’m going to sleep on the couch.”
And without another word, I collect my clothes from the bedroom (an attire that would serve for both sleeping in and to wear “casually” for tomorrow). All the while, I steel myself against the mimicked voice of Tess trying to make a case for additional conversation. Then – without making eye contact and ignoring additional pleas to listen – I walk past the thing that looks like my wife and retire in the living room.
For the next few hours, the persistent splitting headache is only interrupted by muffled sobs coming from beyond the closed door. Finally, the doppelganger emerges – using the stolen voice of my wife in a way I’ve heard it only twice before, distraught and trying to suppress additional tears – and says: “Goodnight, Tark. I love you.” There was a pause. Then with a resigned whisper that was barely audible “T star.” I pretended to be asleep as it slinks back to it’s section of the house.
It will hate me for what’s to come. But with time, she will understand.
I caressed the switch again. I turned on my AR overlay briefly and flipped the switch. Bold bright words displayed themselves in the darkened space using reality as a backdrop: please confirm activation. Underneath it – acting as a footnote – there was a percentage bar showing: 14.28% matured.
I flipped the switch back off to ensure the prompt was no longer active, then shut down the overlay for good measure. In the darkness of my reduced sanctuary, my whisper broke the silence like the drop in the cup of water: “integrity with function”.