(With apologies to Vernor Vinge & Wim Wenders)
The Temple of the TRS-80 (who knows what 20 years will be like?)
The dust heaps of history (where every interface lies unused), keyboards and mice, monitors and tablets have been consigned.
Incredible progress in biology and neurology The next direct neural interfaces, finally abandoned when their propensity to cause oncogenes to decode – immolating the body in a flash-fire of cancers – became unmstably clear. Still, in our search for the perfect interface, we created many terrifying invasions that coaxed or rammed open the doors of perception; head mounts, caves, neurological interconnections, but one emerges in the 21st century, above all others…
Called “Hypnetic” interfaces;
bastard child of Ivan Sutherland and Franz Mesmer,
Places the immersant in a light trance state (had their beginnings as the brain synchronizers)
Information presentation by suggestion, Relying upon the essential subjectivity of perception Adds the spark of narrative to the fragments of sense Forming reason out of almost nothing at all. No two people see the same thing, yet they do.
This interface isn’t for everyone; older folks like me – in my fifties – find it difficult, tiresome. The young people say that we “just don’t get it” they remain hypnetically linked for hours While more than ten minutes bring us to the stressed edge of a stroke! We children of an overheated generation have a harder time calming down, opening up.
Following down to Ivan, born in the first year of the 21st century, now 17, and at home in the trance-mind. He’s in rapt communication with his friends: some he knows from the flesh, some are across the world, and some are synthetic ephemera, gaining in consciousness – or at least the appearance of it – as they interact with Ivan and company. This conversation is deep at a level we’re mostly unfamiliar with, the lowered barriers and ego-sleep of the trance stage encourage a collective being somewhere between friendship and soul-mates. Needless to say, friends are not easily made in these days – it takes a mastery of a common language that’s mostly extra-verbal – but they often remain friends for life.
They’re talking about the season finale if their favorite drama, a twisted epic of conspiracies, cover-ups and geopolitical power plays, set in the late twentieth century. One of the central characters, Pox Tudor, has apparently committed suicide, unwilling to be overcome by the forces of evil. Hypnetic dramas confuse the boundary between stage and audience, self and dramatis personae. Ivan recalls the scene; now he’s looking through the eyes of Pox, as the last fleeting moments of consciousness bleed away. Then he stands above Pox’s body and sees it lying there, lifeless. So do each of his friends. They see it, but they can’t believe it’s true…
Ivan excuses himself, a gentle disengagement of thoughts and feelings that trail into a mellow solitude. Time for him to go to work, training as a deep ecologist, so he reaches out to the Global Information Network, and in envelops him in waves of information, a gentle drowning. It feels like holding your breath underwater till he finds a pocket of air; his perch and point-of-view, an all seeing eye, far above the Earth. He always pauses for a minute to take in the ever changing features of cloud and land, the pinwheels of weather systems, the greening of spring, and opens himself more completely, blurring the boundaries between self and the reality of the planet, encompassing more as he makes himself less and less important.
The reverie-within-a-reverie ends; he pulls back into himself and focuses upon his work, this view from above now heavily overlaid with the data from thousands upon thousands of sensors, each telling a highly local story of heat and particulate and humidity and pollution, and Ivan plays this bright mosaic against yesterdays, and the day before, and last month, and last year, almost auguring the entrails of the biosphere, looking among them for the relations between this cause and that effect, which, allowing for the exceptionally subtle interplay of atmosphere, water and land is almost impossible to perceive, but – with some concentration, and a terrific point of view – the patterns begin to emerge, the subtle but undeniable tracks of the deep ecology, the paths that weave everything together.
Finally, Ivan quickens his breathing, and eases out of the Hypnetic trance; the Earth view fades away, looses focus, resolving out into the sights and sounds of the world around him – posters on his wall and the bubbling of the fish tank, which a moment ago had been so overloaded with meaning, now are just themselves. As he is just himself. Again.