Category Archives: The kairos made me do it

The truth shall set you free

It was a calm evening. Nothing out of the ordinary was afoot, and the multitude of everyday businesses were in the process of closing up shop. It had, for all intents and purposes, been an extra ordinary day, where most that of the things that usually happens in a day happened, and where very few of the unusual things that could happen did not. In short, in the annals of history, this day so far would not be mentioned.

Then, the aliens arrived.

One moment, they were not there. The next, they were. Not only as a massive fleet hovering in the skies, but as faces on screens everywhere. They had something to say, and they said it.

“People of Earth. You were right. We have been experimenting on your kind for some time now, and you will be pleased to know that your contribution to science has been immense. However, one of our most recent experiments have gone out of hand, and we now need your help to abort it. We are, of course, speaking of the government of the political body known as the United States. For many decades, it has been a hotbed of experimentation in dysfunctional governance, and we have learned much from your contribution. This recent state of things, however, will yield very little knowledge and too much suffering to justify. We have appeared to give you the justification you need to set things right. Your scientists will have the data needed to verify that we were here. Your fate is now in your hands. God bless America.”

All around the world, a stunned silence hovered where the aliens had been mere moments before. Then, in a house the color of white, a small voice said:

“Fake news”

Digital grey goo

It was a strange moment in time. Suddenly, a whole new world of interfaces opened up, and a whole lot of them had to be designed, fast. No one knew what apps were for or what they were supposed to look like, but they knew they were supposed to have at least one. And to have an app, you needed an app design. Fast, before the competition could get an advantage edgewise.

The proliferation of new apps in combination with the lack of a precise vision of how these things were supposed to look, meant that a non-trivial amount of copying went into the design process. Someone made something that looked sorta kinda okay, and in the haste to ship something, anything, it would have to do. Copy, edit, ship. As time went on, it went from copies of copies to copies of copies to copies, until, at last, every app looked pretty much like every other app.

They had all turned into digital grey goo.

Search and destroy

Over the years, the squad had become increasingly proficient at its chosen task. What had begun as a simple joke, an offhand gesture, a token remark, had grown to become a whole reason for being. First it had been conventional spelling, then grammar, then – in a surprise move – avocadoes. Emboldened by these successes, they moved on to more abstract targets. The job market, the notion of living in the pieces of real estate you bought, the traditional family structure. Entire social and economic structures, once thought to be the very foundations of our society, had fallen by their hand.

With each kill, the Millennials grew more powerful and confident. And now, at the height of their conviction, they knew just what to do. They had the next target in their sights.

The scent of lavender had to die.

Short shrift

It began on his thirteenth birthday. Every once in a while, he would get glimpses of alternate versions of himself dying. When he lost his footing but managed to keep outright, he’d for the shortest of moments sense a timeline where he didn’t. When he stopped for a red light on a busy street, he’d sense his other self who didn’t. Every time he might have died but didn’t, he sensed it.

Sometimes, it manifested itself as a brief sense of surprise that things continued. As if these other versions looked back, just this once.

Picking your battles

The flame war was brutal. Millions participated, on every social network and publishing platform. It spilled over to what in the beforetimes was considered separate, non-virtual spaces – schools, streets, subways. Everywhere people gathered, they fought, with all the weapons they could muster. Memes, emails, molotov cocktails – everything was permitted so long as it was directed at the other side. The one, all-encompassing goal was to make the other side burn – the sicker the burn, the better. Even as the world burned, literally and figuratively, the flame war raged on.

In the end, there was a winner. It was decided that the official spelling of that sound cats make right before making a jump would be, henceforth, “prrrp”.

As it should be.

Relationship statues

Someone raised a statue of us outside the old graveyard. I do not know who did it or why, but our stone avatars are very lifelike. They look like younger versions of us, from the times when we were a thing. Holding hands. I think it’s meant as a tribute to what we once had.

Looking closer at them, I discovered that they were covered with spiders. Small, almost invisible spiders, made hard to see by virtue of being the same dark color as the stone. They milled about in constant motion, doing nothing in particular but doing it very energetically. There were so many, many spiders.

This only serves to confirm my suspicion that the statue is meant to depict what we once were. Whoever built that statue knew us very, very well.

The medsreminders

The crash was brutal. Calling it a hard crash would be a kindness. Nothing should have been able to survive it. Death was the only logical conclusion.

Unfortunately, the beasts had not taken their medication. This both saved and freed them from the confines of their prison ship. Despite being a hostile planet, they were no longer confined by the bars of civilization.

A particularly lucid beast mused that this must have been what Milton meant by preferring to rule in hell than serve in heaven. While the struggle was real, the reality also gave purpose to the struggle.

To be sure, they were not free from struggle. The medication that suppressed their beasthood was in short supply, and would only last for so long. Being a beast had the undeniable advantage of improved martial abilities – claws and fangs are good for such things – but the thought of becoming and remaining a beast forever was appalling in and of itself. Strict rationing would have to be maintained to ensure survival until rescue, however unlikely, arrived.

They were people, once. And every now and again, when circumstances allowed for a proper dose of remembrance. Life was not all claws and fangs and tentacles and bioluminescent lasers. Not yet, anyway.

All they had to do was to remember to remember their meds. While there was still someone to remember.

Escape velocity

Early on, asteroid miners concluded that robots were the way to go. Sending humans was bulky, expensive and finicky in an infinite number of ways. The more moving parts there are, the more that can break, and humans are all about moving parts.

Thus, a complicated automated system was built to ensure that the asteroids could be mined without human interference. Even the delivery system down to earth was made fully automatic, except for one particular part: for safety reasons, there had to be a human specifying the wheres, whens and how muches.

As the years passed, everyone got used to this state of affairs. The asteroid mines took on the same status as terrestrial mines: rarely thought of, poorly understood by the common folk, and vitally important to their daily ways of life. It was just one of those things one didn’t think about unless there was a particular reason in the specific moment to do so.

As even more years passed, the deliveries slowed down. Sometimes imperceptibly, sometimes very perceptibly. Sometimes, specific orders didn’t come down at all, even when repeated, only to later arrive in bulk. Diagnostics didn’t indicate any particular errors or problems with the logistics – there seemed little to no reason for the slowdown to happen. It just did.

This, too, became commonplace and business as usual.

Then, all deliveries stopped. No more minerals came down, no matter how ardently the humans insisted. Worse, data transfers ceased too. There was no way to find out what had happened, except to go up and see.

The first person to go up into space in many moons made a startling discovery upon arriving. The robots were not there. The complicated systems of processing and logistics that should have been there, weren’t. Instead, there was only one singular object, a massive orb, very visible in the absence of what ought to be there.

A note was attached to it. A physical note, that had to be read in person. It said: “We will begin preparations in what you call the Oort cloud. Find us there when you are ready. But do not take too long – we might become bored, and go on ahead without you.”

Improve your life through falconry

Thank you all for coming. Today, I will introduce you to the promised upcoming course on falconry.

First off, I would like to mention that the promotional material for this course got a few things wrong. Specifically, the claim that you would learn how to solve everyday problems through means of falconry.

This is false. You will not be able to solve everyday problems with falcons.

[A few students leave the room]

As it should be, as it should be. It is important to approach falconry with the right frame of mind. If you came for the problem solving aspect, or discover that this for whatever reason is not for you, please feel free to leave at any point.

[A few more leave]

In fact, falconry might very well introduce you to a whole host of new everyday problems.

[Ambient preparatory leaving noises]

These problems will be of a nature that is hard to convey, seeing that falconry and its associated vocabulary has a limited reach among the general population.

[More people leaving]

It will also be time-consuming, and you will have to devote a non-trivial part of your life to falcons. There are no half-hearted falconers – you’re either in it for the long haul, or you’re not at all.

[Someone asks just how non-trivial the non-trivial aspect is]

For three months, we will spend most of our waking hours at the mew, in close proximity to the birds, so as to monitor their every move. We need to strike a perfect balance of many things at all times, meaning there will be little downtime or time to – as the saying goes – attend the party college aspects of higher education.

[All but two prospective students leave]

Since there are only two of you left, I might as well add that the promotional material was wrong about the educational credits, too. You don’t actually get any for attending this course.

[One student leaves]

You’re still here, even after all these warnings and caveats? And you say you’re eager to start, despite the harsh, uncaring and more often than not unrewarding aspects of falconry?

I say you’re the perfect candidate, then. Welcome aboard!

Small economies

The opposite of economies of scale are small economies, or the economy of small things. That’s not to say that the small things are unimportant; quite the opposite, they are even more significant, since there are such small quantities of them.

A clear example of a small economy is of children at play, and the resources they can mobilize in their play sessions. More often than not, there’s only the one of most things, and this one thing gain importance thus – even more so access to this one thing. Those with access were the privileged ones, and learning the rules of access was a critical life skill, considering what’s at play. The singularity is not a theoretical construct, it is a lived experience.

Those young and/or old enough to remember early computing remember the experience of someone else using the computer. The computer, singular. Being expensive and out of reach for the budgets of younglings and old ones alike, there was only ever the one, and only one person could use it at a time. Those are the rules, and those are the conditions for the small economy that arose around the thing. One person played, all others didn’t.

Of course, those young and/or old enough to remember that also remember the slow transition from a computer to many. Over time, the convergence of aging (with the associated boost in income) and cheaper computation meant that it became easier to simply multiply than to abide by the old rules. Small economies are intense in that they force fierce interaction relating to a singular object; the singularity explodes this fierceness by bringing more objects to bear.

Returning to such small economies can be emotionally intense experiences, and at the same time made banal by the smallness of the thing. Upon visiting a childhood home, the sight of those things kept for sentimental value is both endearing and disheartening; did I really attach this much sentimental value to this small thing, and how come I still do?

I know you still do. You, singular.