Saturday, November 22, 2014

Threshold.

I fall from sleep into a warm tangle of clean white sheets and the comforting weight of a real blanket. Even before full consciousness embraces me I am aware that this is an important day. The luxury of the enclave, even here in the induction centre, still disorientates me. The few days since the acceptance of my employment contract and my acceleration into the realm economic viability have taken on the cast of a dream.

Involuntarily I reach up and touch the spot behind my left ear where they will perform the procedure. In a couple of hours, dependant on the queue, I will be implanted with a Sensenet module and become an official citizen and be allowed to move past the induction centre and into the enclave service zone.

A citizen. Economically viable. Another life. A real life on the other side of the razor wire and drone swarms.

The Sensenet module allows wireless, direct-brain access to the Sensoria Network. The Sensenet module makes you a complete person. Not content to be the sum total of all human knowledge, the Sensenet aims to present the potential of all human experience. Information is accessed realtime, downloaded to the brain, and overlaid on data processed directly by the central nervous system. Networked information has become as sensual as it is ubiquitous.

Ubiquitous in the enclaves of the economically viable at least. Outside, in the streets where I had been for so long, life was half-lived. Through peripherals, screens, and interfaces of abstraction our sensory data had no context. Social relationships don’t exist outside, you have no way to know who your friends really are out there. There is no way to really know who you are out there either. Your metadata is patchy and unreliable.

In the ontological gap between user and network occasioned by the interface devices required for the unimplanted the analytical engines can slip a cog, unable to differentiate between sarcasm and honest opinion or misattributing clicks and keystrokes to the wrong user. With the network interface placed between the apprehension of the nervous system and the activity of the mind the feedback loop of our interaction with the world becomes tighter and cleaner. The image of self we construct in Sensenet is unmediated, a pure multifaceted crystalline structure of our individuated opinions. As the slogan goes, ‘You are only as real as the information you share.”

Beneath the shiny black eyes of CCTV pods I walk barefoot across the cold concrete floor into a hallway that smells strongly of hygienic cleaning products. Perhaps once they would have attempted to evoke the freshness of pine but now the scent has no real analogue in nature. At the end of the hall is a small self-serve kitchenette and dining area where a few of my fellow inductees sit around beneath a wall-screen showing a cascade of images of life in the enclaves. Green grass, white families, security turrets in matte black. A place where the gutters don’t flow with blood and broken glass.  This will be the last screen we will ever see. Once on Sensenet visual input is fed directly to the optic nerve, overlaying what we see with a context that we have been missing. Clouds of information will appear to cluster around nodes in the world alerting us to the real proprietal and social location of objects and people in the enclave.

The enclaves have real plant-based coffee, redesigned to grow in local conditions. I mix myself a cup out the thin brown powder and stir in an off-band sweetener/whitener combination and sit in the corner. Half watching the parade of peace and prosperity on the wall screen I try to push away the lingering memories of how I got here. If life in the induction centre feels like a dream then my life before, outside in the streets, is now like someone else’s nightmare. Full of fire, hunger, violence, desperation, and the kind of acts of survival that you don’t want to remember when staring into a mirror. So I choose to forget. I choose to forget all the bad things because I can’t remember any good things at all.

But Sensenet can help with that too. While processing and augmenting experience as it is lived the module also records and uploads experience for playback later. All the good memories you can revisit, live through again, and pick up on all the details that you were too excited to notice the first time around. As for bad memories? They don’t make bad memories in the enclaves.

A couple of inductees are called through to receive the procedure while I sip my coffee and slip back into a calm happiness just to be here, on the threshold of citizenship.

I am swirling the dregs of coffee in the bottom of my plastic cup when the orderlies come in and call my number. They lead me down another cold, clean hallway occasionally glancing at me in that unfocussed way that they are reading the Sensenet data clustered around the facial recognition algorithms that assure my identity; confirming the details of my medical profile. We go through a security check point with an armed guard and I am momentarily startled by my distorted reflection in the polished faceplate of his riot helmet. I can hardly recognise myself anymore. This is good.

Beyond the checkpoint is the implant room. Bright plastic walls, the cold concrete floor, and pure white light. A large hydraulic chair occupies the centre of the room and the articulated arm of the implant gun hangs from the ceiling next to it. I take my place in the chair when I am told, settling back into the crinkling plastic of the headrest, and one the orderlies swabs the skin behind my ear while the other runs a check on the implant gun.

When they are ready, the orderly with the gun rests its metal barrel against my skull. There is a quick pinprick of pain as local anaesthetic is administered and then the most peculiar feeling I have known as self-directing nanowires burrow through my skull and weave themselves through the spongy flesh of my brain, assembling the neurological circuitry of the Sensenet module. For a moment it feels as if my head is about to burst like an overfilled balloon and a wave of ineffective nausea rocks my body. I loose track of things for a moment and then an orderly is shining a penlight into my eyes.

“Well we’re done, you’re all wired up. Now we just gotta boot up the system and you’ll be one of us. Congratulations.”

The other orderly is working a control panel folded out from the arm of the implant-gun. For some reason I feel slightly disorientated and can’t focus on her. It takes me a second to register the words when she says, “Here we go.”

There is a sensation of warmth, a humming sound, a sweet smell, and a bitter taste as the room is filled with information circling me with indescribable complexity. The floor disappears and I pitch forward into an infinite space of logos and eidos forever writhing, interbreeding, and consuming each other. At the edge of perception I think I hear someone say, “Oh fuck.” And I fall from sleep into a warm tangle of clean white sheets and the comforting weight of a real blanket.

Even before full consciousness embraces me I am aware that this is an important day.

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