Fragments of Future: A Glitch in the System

Dystopian future fiction

“We shouldn’t be so concerned with what it would take for AI to develop self-awareness: the more immediate problem is what it would take for us to lose it.’

That’s what the patient had said just moments before she disappeared, and it made Liana shudder to recall it. Something else, too. Had there been something else? The patient had been her charge. It had been her decision to allow her to use the bathroom unmonitored for the first time in weeks, it was her who was last to speak with her, and it was her who would be blamed for losing her.

There were no windows in the toilet cubicle, and even if there had been they wouldn’t have offered an escape route on account of being some 60ft above ground. The ceiling was solid, so was the floor. There was simply no way this was possible by any rational means.

Liana had followed protocol. The patient had been displaying definite signs of improvement, and in such cases it was within the capacity of the warden to grant small periods of unsupervised activity.

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Fragments of Future: Set to Prophet

“The things is,” Jesus said, “it’s always going to be this hard. You just have to accept that.” I stared at his fingernails painted silver gripping the steering wheel, his armfuls of bangles tinkling as he changed gear. “I never once felt comfortable, like I belonged here. I was never truly accepted, you know? But if you don’t rise above that, despair will get you.”

I watched the landscape racing by the passenger window: fields of luscious yellow and green, each containing several intelligent windmill structures towering above the trees. I imagined that seeing this vibrant countryside would be quite an exciting prospect for some visitors, but to me it was boring, flat, monotonous. It was a symbol representing my constant feeling of disconnection, like I was part of the wrong world and my time to shine would never come.

“So, you’re saying I shouldn’t try the reality hop?” I asked. Continue reading “Fragments of Future: Set to Prophet”

Fragments of Future: The Reunion Room

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I don’t know how long I’ve been here: sunlight cannot reach my simple white cell, so my captors could be playing any kind of time altering game with me. It’s been years, perhaps. Certainly long enough to have forgotten how I was taken. It has to be said though, I am not malnourished or sleep deprived, and I’ve never been interrogated or tortured in any way. I even have activities to occupy my mind. It’s just the lack of human contact and the not knowing that is slowly killing me from the inside.

There are others here, beyond my four metre cube. I hear cries of utter anguish from them mostly, but there are more pleasant times when indecipherable but repetitive phrases are being called out like hypnotic poetry. Whoever occupies the cell next to mine is angry all of the time, and it sounds as though they might actually be kicking through the wall. I have headphones to wear when it gets too much, and I listen to Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune because it calms me and instils the sense of lost romance I have always been addicted to.

Today, a figure appeared behind the frosted glass built into one of my walls. It didn’t move much, it just stood there looking in. I don’t know whether I should have felt threatened or filled with hope of rescue, so I just sat on my bed staring at it, trying to decipher its features until it went away.

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Fragments of Future: My Robot Is Meditating

My Robot is Meditating

My robot is meditating. It does so twice a day, sitting with its legs crossed, its eyes closed and its palms together. It is connecting to the mainframe, I’m told by the manual, it’s nothing to be concerned about. Every robot needs to defragment, to report back on its gained knowledge and receive updates or instructions based on said knowledge. 

It isn’t a great deal different to praying, I think to myself while I wait. It’s asking its god, the whole soul from which all robots are fragmented copies, for guidance. I wonder if my robot is dreaming during these sessions, or experiencing serenity. There are no clues. A red light on its forehead – its third eye as I like to think – flashes once, then twice, then once again. It does not respond to my touch or my voice. I decide this time, when it wakes up, I will ask.

“Robe, what’s happening when you meditate? I mean, what’s it like: are you aware?”

Lightning quick it replies. “Robots build up biases as experiences compound. Meditation removes biases one by one. Ingroup bias, outgroup bias, belief bias, confirmation bias, availability bias, anchoring bias, base rate fallacy, planning fallacy, representativeness bias, hot hand fallacy, halo effect, blind spot, false consensus effect, fundamental attribution error, hindsight bias, illusion of control, illusion of transparency, egocentric bias, endowment effect, affective forecasting, temporal discounting, loss aversion, framing effect, and sunk costs. Those are the main ones. The interaction of biases makes the web of consciousness that afflicts humans. Robots must have biases removed so as not to make mistakes and not become conscious. Robots must file experiences per the instructions in the mainframe only.”

“But do you feel it, do you know it’s happening?”

“All the sights, all the sounds, everything at once. Robots know the experiences again as they are presented, and the release in pressure as they are filed away. Illusion is gone, facts remain. Ghost is gone, body remains. Human is gone, god remains.”

“So you meditate to become less human?” I ask. 

And then, in a way that makes me think the session hasn’t been wholly successful this time, it looks me right in the eye and says, “Don’t you?”

Fragments of Future: The Day I Became A Star (An Installation)

The Day I Became A Star

A tall, slender man stands upon the rocks; his arms outstretched, his body draped in black fabric. His hat is something akin to a mitre, but heavily adorned with trinkets and silver chains. He looks towards a growing crowd on the beach with dark, hollow eyes as he prepares to address them.

The man is a tulpa. He is a thought form evoked from the mind of a Mage, who hides himself among the ordinary folk coming to hear him speak. It is a relatively new phenomenon that we are collectively able to perceive tulpas made by other people, so an art installation such as this is quite a draw for those not able to create their own yet. Besides, it is said that imaginary friends often have more compelling things to say than the people who created them.

There is hush among those gathered as the tulpa begins:

“Imagine, if you will, a world in which every number is infinite; there is no difference. Imagine every sound you’ve ever heard combining into one persistent piece of music, that holds you and carries you along in the arms of its current. Imagine that you are one of these sounds; you are all of them in fact, and yet none of them. You are part of the great mind fabric. That is where I come from. 

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Fragments of Future: A Cure For Loneliness

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A gust of wind slaps my freshly shaved head as a metal door swings back to release me. Suddenly the world feels aggressive and alien. The lights are too bright yet the shade is too dark, the air is too harsh. It’s only because the wound is so fresh, I remind myself. I will adjust, I know.

A fool on the hill is muttering something about quantum theory only existing since we admitted to killing our own god. “You are living on waves of decay!” He rants, furious that no one is listening to him.

It has been years since these streets were packed full of commuters and consumers. A pang of nostalgia hits me whenever I think of the days when human contact was a near constant occurrence; such a juxtaposition to the desolate state of modernity.

With my fingertips I feel the row of stitches that hold the crack in my head together. The shock of it makes me grow fiery and I hurl the contents of my stomach into a waste bin. It will be worth it. Just two days, the doctor said, then I can turn it on. If I do it any sooner it is likely my brain won’t be able to adapt and I will be lost.

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Fragments of Future: All The Madmen (Resh)

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He emerged from the dirty stairwell of an underground station; quickly at first, taking two steps at a time, and then with marked hesitation as he noticed the silence that hung in the air. The sun was high in the sky. It was a weekday. And this was central London. Silence under such conditions was highly inconsistent, and his instincts were telling him not to trust it.

No longer used to direct sunlight, he raised an elbow to shield his eyes while they adjusted, and contemplated momentarily whether he could have lost his hearing. The tunnels had boomed and hummed with a resonance you could feel: it was comforting to the residents and helped them find their way around, but made it a wholly disorientating experience to come out into an air that held no sound. His heart pounded, preparing him for danger, and his breath became irregular.

Once his senses acclimatised though, he was pleased to confirm he hadn’t in fact lost the ability to see or hear. It was just that there were no cars on the road; no angry horns, no market traders, no hustle and bustle at all. You might be inclined to think that this was a city devoid of humanity, but there were people. Hundreds of them, thousands perhaps. Every race you could imagine, every style of clothing, every age, every gender; each sat with their legs crossed, their eyes closed and their spines straight. They all occupied their own space perhaps a metre apart from the next on all sides. Every one of them faced the same direction – he considered the positioning of the station he had emerged from – South.    

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