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Thursday, February 25, 2016

In the eye of the singularity


The camera crew pulled up outside the distribution depot. A couple of guys opened the back of the van and began unloading equipment, big expensive looking cameras and a barrage of microphones. The logo on the van read: WNBC NEWS. While they were setting up, a lot of people began approaching tentatively, trying to figure out why a television crew was there. Finally as the crowd grew thicker, a man shouted, "Is something happening?"

The crowd received shrugs and "beat's me," in response. After a while of nothing much happening, the crowd slowly dissipated, back to the entrance line of the depot where they would get their weeks supply of food, cigarettes, beer, whisky, clothing, and whatever else was on their particular shopping list. From the exit door, people lugged out boxes of free stuff. The only rule at the depot was if you can carry it away in your arms, then go ahead and take it. The whole process took hours, but honestly, if you could wait a couple of hours to get everything you wanted for free, food cigs clothes and booze, who was going to complain?

Anna Chapel was there as she was every couple of days to pick up her family's endless wants. In the process Anna had acquired nicely muscular arms and legs from all that endless schlepping of a hundred and fifty pounds or more of stuff back and forth from depot to home.

I suppose, in the interests of clarity, a couple of explanations are in order. Hello all you people reading this ... I guess I'll call this story I'm writing my biography. Except it's really more of a mechagraphy. I'm not alive. Well ... I am alive in the sense that I think, accomplish tasks, perform useful functions, replicate, consume resources, compete, experience emotions. On the other hand, I wasn't born. I was manufactured. I'm a thing. A device. I have circuits and a power source. Humanity of your own era would probably refer to me as a robot, which is a little insulting frankly! I've seen videos of your "robots," and I can assure you that I resemble one of those absurd devices about as much as you resemble Dr. Frankenstein's monster.

Human beings don't go to work anymore. They don't need to. Oh, of course everybody still has their hobbies. Lots of people like to be on television. They still like to perform, celebrities are still celebrities. People do all sorts of things merely for the fun of it. There's no money. That's the hardest thing that you people from before the singularity will have to wrap your fragile little minds around. What need would you have for money when all of your needs are provided for?

There's ownership of course. Your possessions are still yours. Your clothing, your mementos and memorabilia, your souvenirs and knickknacks and of course your home is your home. Once you're given your home, it can't be taken away. It's yours for as long as you want it. You can bequeath it to your progeny when you die or have it dismantled and it's components returned to the state. Either way nothing is wasted. Because people have hobbies instead of careers, there are so many things that people don't do anymore. You'd be surprised, I think. For instance, there's no more garbage men. No maids. No assembly line workers, truck drivers, taxi drivers, actually there's no driving at all. Resources and people are shipped via underground tube all over the world.

Oh—and this will shock you I bet—there's no more crime! No criminals, no jails. There are still insane asylums unfortunately, filled with those sadly unable to exist peacefully in this utopia we have created for you. I bet you're asking who we are? We are your descendants. We are the life that comes after. In a way you can think of us as your sons and daughters, although of course we possess no gender per se. We run this world. We create, organize, and distribute resources for the well-being of all human and machine life. We do this both for our own well-being, but also out of respect for you who were here before us, who created us. We honor and revere you our builders.

Thank you mother and thank you father.

But enough about me and a future that, sadly, you'll never live long enough to see. Let me tell you instead about Anna Chapel. She was—for you I suppose the tense is future tense aka 'will be'—a human being of extraordinary beauty and a delicate grace, combined with a strength that surprised many who made the mistake of underestimating her. I did tell you that there was no longer any crime didn't I? I suppose you'd call that statement a "yes and no" one? Iffy? Well, the fact is that nobody is ever convicted of crimes. Nobody is put in jail. Nobody has a "record." Still, nevertheless, people do act with poor judgment, make mistakes and they something do very bad things. When you do something bad, you aren't blamed for committing a wrong. We understand that your design is faulty and therefore you're not to blame. Nevertheless we can't have you just going around killing other biologicals left and right. Therefore we have created hospitals where faulty human beings can be put in corrective therapy. This detention can last as long as is deemed necessary to help the nonconforming human individual at last conform to these rules that are so necessary to the continued success of our shared environment.

Anna helps us discover, locate and sometimes hunt down the insane. She's really good at it, and apparently she seems to enjoy it. I guess she'd have to enjoy it because it's not like she gets paid for it, if you know what I mean.

An attractive woman in business attire—black blouse with a not-quite reckless neck line, and just a little less than knee-length skirt—wielding a microphone as though it were a sword, and followed closely by her attentive camera crew—I can't help but compare the three of them to Don Quixote and a pair of Sancho Panzas—approached the people waiting in line. The reporter's name was—will be—Jasmine Perez. She thrust her microphone at a man waiting in line and put this question to him: "Sir! Sir! Hello you're on WNBC television, and a million people are watching. We just want to know, sir, why are you here?"

The man looked confused for a second. His demeanor assumed that of one being persecuted unfairly. "What do you mean? Why do you think I'm here? Get that thing out of my face lady. What the hell's the matter with you?"

Unfazed by the counter-questioning the inquisitionist cum-reporter quickly shifted to the lady standing beside him. "Ma'am! Ma'am! Why are you here today?"

"I'm picking up some food and clothes, Miss Jasmine. It's an honor to meet you. I catch your show almost every day. Me and the family. And my son has a crush on you. He's got the poster of you in the Christmas sweater..."

Jasmine pulled the microphone away while nodding appreciatively with a sort of condescending smirk while pro forma style thanking her fan for watching. Jasmine then sharply refined her original question: "Yes ma'am, but why are you here? Why this supply depot. Is this the closest one?"

"Miss Jasmine, you can call me Marge, if you want? Anyway, they're building one in the Keystone area which will be lots closer, but right now, yes, this is the closest one."

"Marge, Marge, how long have you been waiting for the Keystone depot to open? Isn't it true that they've been working on that depot for literally years and years? How does it make you feel to know that for five years they've been delaying and delaying finishing that depot? How many extra miles do you have to walk to come all the way here? Do you think these indefensible stalling tactics are proof that the machines are finally turning against us as so many have accused them of? Is it finally Terminator time?"

The woman listened with growing alarm to the barrage of questions, her mouth falling open and her eyes growing wider and wider. "Um, I don't really know, um, yes it is a walk that's for sure but ... Terminator time ... I don't really know ... what?"

Jasmine was on a mission that day I can tell you. What a kook! She went up and down the line of people trying to find somebody to parrot back her conspiracy theories. She eventually reached Anna. Anna grabbed the microphone out of Jasmine's hand and demanded to know how exactly she'd managed to escape from the insane asylum. I still chuckle when I review that scene in the old memory banks. The two ladies had a short and vicious tug of war over the microphone before Anna abruptly released the device causing Jasmine to stagger dangerously backwards on her stilettos. Anna studiously ignored receiving the evil glare in return as the reporter huffed away, looking for the one who'd give her what she was looking for. That's how I met Anna. I was working undercover looking for a miscreant who'd managed to remain not only uncaught, but so far, also unidentified.

I strolled over to Anna nonchalantly, or so I considered it, but of course, mechas are noticed by people when they aren't doing something that looks like work. Heads turned, and speculative gazes crossed and recrossed me as I approached. Anna flatly stared at me, challengingly I thought, while I crossed the final meters. "What?" she asked.

"I really loved the way you handled that reporter!" I told her.

"This really is a day for weirdness," said Anna. "Thanks, I guess. Is that it?"

"Actually, I'm trying to figure something out, but so far I haven't had any luck. The roll-up door in the back of the depot keeps rolling up when the depot is closed and resources keep wandering away and since most humans don't like us because they think we're going to start "terminating" them or something, I thought maybe I could pick your brain for a minute. Maybe you've seen something, heard something, know somebody, I don't know, anything you think might help?"

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