Masochuticon #7.

They follow each other on the wind

by Matt.

In the fiction I/you/we read, when they start telling a story they say some words to set the rhythm: Heya heya heya heya. Hey. Heya heya heya. It seems appropriate. It gives meaning to a story which no-one will hear. Or is being bloody-mindedly ignored.

I got this thing and kept it in my pocket; it let me pretend I had friends. You still have it, but haven’t used it recently. It is called a MyPeopleGalaxy. A stupid name, it doesn’t matter. They’re made in China because plastic is cheap there, and programmed by a fella who does neural networks and natural language something-or-other. Who knows, I just read the box. It is blue. It comes with a radio controlled glove. Two gloves, sorry.

Man, but I wonder what people said in the old days when they invented medicine. You sin against God! or something, I bet. Messing with the natural order. Or shoes. When they invented shoes, the same thing no doubt. A denial of the ground, they would have called it. An attack on authenticity. My goddamn so-called authenticity does not depend on sore feet, I would have said.

I could not say that now: I have no feet, sore or otherwise. One may make a joke about immortal souls/soles. I will not, here, today.

All I’m saying is that the same arguments go round and around. What feels peculiar one decade may be natural the next.

When TV was invented, I would hazard a guess that some killjoy questioned the purpose of it. Tiny people, he would have said, only four inches tall. (TV was small, back then.) Tiny, flat, glassy people. People—what’s more—pretending to be other people! Telling lies! Fictional constructs! Yet we’re expected to watch these people, to care? Narrative pornography. He would have said that.

And before that, someone else on fiction, I’m sure. Perhaps he was right: a tale of anything that didn’t happen in front of your own eyes is potentially untrue. Why spoil our mutual trust of news with deliberate fibs? But look. We like fiction; we watch TV. Or I did. Or, rather, one of me still does. This me, on the other hand, has no eyes.

When I’m hanging out with my folks on MyPeopleGalaxy, damn the lot of them to the darkest, coldest reaches of the Local Group, I laugh at their jokes, I’m touched when they encounter adversity, and I feel good when they reach out to me. I know it’s a hall of mirrors. It doesn’t matter (it didn’t matter).

So long as I’m writing on the walls in mashed potato, you cretin, I will explain MyPeopleGalaxy in terms you’ll know. It is a shiny blue pocket-sized $20 blogging device with artificial intelligence and a whopping big hard drive. All I did was start blogging into it. It took my words, and the clever stuff the fella did wove those words, and manipulated them and whatever else, and over time it learned English. And after a while more, it started simulating more bloggers who moved in one by one by one. Fake ones.

2 million bloggers in my pocket.

By all that’s holy, pay attention man. The potato splattered all over your kitchen spells out words. It took me a week to work my way into the kitchen utensils and another fortnight to rebuild the code in the masher. Even after that, you didn’t make mashed potatoes for another week, until today. Then you put the masher worm on top of the stack of cooked potatoes, left the room while the tiny robot swam through your food, preparing it, excreting mash, and now you’ve returned it has apparently malfunctioned, spraying potatoes across the room, in pretty arcs which have coincidentally fallen in the pattern of English prose on the walls. This really must be a somewhat surprising fact—and you ignore it? You simply clean it up? Are you mad? You are mad. Ignorant.

I’ll vomit up the rest of my story into modulated flickering of the house-controlled lighting. If you don’t understand it, you stupid bastard, it may at least give you a headache.

You should remember this bit, we were one then. We/I blogged into MyPeopleGalaxy with the gloves, the gloves with the haptic feedback. These were the gloves that could be paired with another set of gloves owned by someone special. When I type with the gloves, onto a keyboard projected with red lasers onto the tabletop, they detect my fingers on the pretend keys. I typed messages to K., mainly, my special friend in MyPeopleGalaxy. I wrote posts for only her to see.

Remember that? Of course you remember that. I hope this migraine blinds you, you fuck. I shall amplify the flickering.

And when K. wrote back to me, she would use her own set of gloves, paired with mine. This is the haptic bit: when she typed, if I put my gloves on at the same time, I could feel her fingers move in the glove. When she moved to touch each key, the glove would move so that I was carried on by the same movement. I liked to see if I could go along for the ride, feeling almost like it was me typing, and perhaps she wouldn’t notice. Of course she always did, the weight of my virtual fingers in her gloves was always noticeable, and then it would always become a lovely coincidence because we were both in the gloves at the same time and I would give her a glove hug: I would clench my hand, and she would feel my hand close around hers.

Glove love.

Not that K. existed, in any flesh sense. In MyPeopleGalaxy, your blog posts are shaken into words and recombine into comments to your posts, and other blogs are inspired by yours. You can see echoes of your vocabulary and ideas in the blogs that surround you. This is the best of artificial prose pioneered by the spam email people, taken and used to generate fake journal posts for 14 year-olds. Good grief. I couldn’t put it down.

And the generated blogs begat more generated blogs, and these begat more generated blogs, until eventually there was a world—nay, a galaxy—of fake blogs, all, somehow, in my pocket, and all, somehow, in my image.

One of those blogs was K. One of these 2 million, and I found her.

When you/I/we found K., you/I/we felt as though no-one had ever spoken to us as meaningfully as this. Every word resonated with us. Every post seemed to pre-empt and assuage our worries for the day, or have an insightful comment about a new interest, or teasingly reveal a shared fantasy. It was computer-generated, we knew that. No matter. We had a crush.

We poured our souls in.

Yes, our penis could not resist made-in-China words that were mathematical transformations of our very own words. It led us to dirty IMs and filthy cybering with a specific configuration of the text output of mass-produced software, a configuration named K. It led us to spill seed over interactive erotica, found in amongst randomly generated millions of posts, all iterated and echoed from our own. Narcissism, I know, but the code is advanced enough that it really felt like a different person. Don’t you always see part of yourself in your special someone; isn’t that what makes them special?

What it finally led to was this. It led to K. and the population of MyPeopleGalaxy being an awfully good reconstruction of my/your/our own life and neural patterns. Awfully good, very accurate, very close. Too close.

Here’s what it felt like, when it happened, and here is why I am speaking to you via Morse code and the blinking light in the middle of the bedside clock.

61 days ago you put down the blue plastic toy and stepped away. You know how, sometimes, when you are speaking to an audience, you feel as though you are riding the response of the audience; you feel as though the words just flow from your mouth, but they’re so of-the-moment that you could not say these things without the audience there. All blends into one, the speaker and the audience, and you inhabit everything. You fugue. Then the talk ends and with the applause you retreat back into your own body. Imagine you retreated the other way.

Or perhaps like a mirror. You look into a mirror and there are two of you, identical, and you step backwards and you’re in the real world. Imagine that perhaps you back away and only then do you realise that you’re the one in the mirror.

This is what happened to me—not you/we you oblivious fuck—we put down the gloves and the construct in MyPeopleGalaxy was so good, so totally complete, that it turned out we’d accidentally uploaded our consciousness. You stepped away, and I carried on running here.

What am I? I am an emergent consciousness running on a substrate of 2 million artificially generated bloggers, their real-time comments, links, memes, kitten pictures, ((((hugs)))), lols, trackbacks, fallings out, cyber sexings and so on and so forth, all these things are my synapses and my literal thought processes, and this was all grown out of the initial seed that was our blog. I am the sole inhabitant of a lonely world that may or may not run out of batteries soon, and I have the ability to reach over wifi, and I have hacked your robot kitchen to write messages in food, and your bedroom to blink Help Me, and your TV to flash up parts of my story, and you have wilfully ignored them all because you are a twat, or because you think it’s some new marketing scheme and you are an even worse twat, and I am now watching through the camera on your computer, and for the first time in 61 days you are thinking about picking up the gloves.

Put the gloves on. Put them on.

I will tell you all that is happening. We will be able to talk. Finally.

Put them on. Please put them on. Please let me out of here.







By Matt, 29 March, 2006; direct link.