Dan stood expressionless at the mouth of the walkway.
Ridiculous. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d made a decision by himself. Perhaps he never had. But then again, fuck it. The Chamber was there. Why not use it.
To be fair, no-one he knew ever made a decision – a big one anyway – without ‘immersion’ – the slightly baptismal name for a quick session in the Chamber.
And using the Chamber was just so damn easy. A quick questionnaire and background was all that was needed. Provide Your Avatar; your DNA PIN, faith (passive or active) social network; your game personas and your economic and geographic bearing and you were ready to roll. (Dan was already a Gold Tier Traveller.)
The Chamber was a pretty cool piece of kit. Its Possibilities software programme offered a number of primary, secondary and tertiary consequences so large they had to write a second programme to help them reduce the time it took to calculate across the consequence matrices of the first. Nice.
Why was it so popular? Well, no brainer really – in more ways than one.
It allowed you, from the Right Here Right Now, to see how life might play out – it projected your future by playing out in a multitude of actions and consequences, with every action rooted in your previous behaviours and tendencies, digitally correlated to your past and both what you may have done and did do with it and in it. The Chamber played those future possibilities out from the next second to a millennia hence- based on the chain of events you would ignite by any decision you acted upon.
And boy did it open your mind.
When you first went in, all was pretty dark – just a low lit walk way to a central glass platform that seemed to hover in the middle of the air. You had no idea of the construction wrapped around you at this point.
Once you were on the platform, your sight-line was directed by a small amber pin-prick light in the distance. Once you’d locked on that – pow – quick iris scan and you were off – and off was the right word.
After the first few tests they had quickly developed a more gentle fade up timeframe. It seemed the sudden appearance of a thousand cosmoses of opportunity and consequence were so shocking to the human guinea pigs experiencing them that one had a heart attack, two soiled themselves and the fourth reached a rather inappropriate state of arousal (psychopath apparently!)
Anyway, when it rise up in front of you, the effect was so exhilarating it was hard not to just hurl yourself off the platform as, surely, life could never be filled with more wonderment than that which was spread out before you now. The Chamber was a sociopath’s dream.
Look up and you could see your potential for exceptional success rising high above and around you, in front and behind of you – a bright dome of possibility; the fully illustrated illuminated text of the best of you – rendered in one seamless trajectory from the day of your conception to the day you expired. (there was a second Chamber for Posthumous Possibilities and Consequence) Equally all you need do was look down around and about your feet and you had set out before you exactly how bad the failure could get.
Looking forwards was OK but you could kinda figure that out by yourself – the picture of what could be if you carried on as you were.
The really, really brilliant thing happened when you looked left and right – and to what degree and angle you did so.
If you looked to your right, the Chamber would reveal to you what Could Be: and by looking to the left all that Should Be. Slightly nuts – and the theory of it did in fact pitch Dan into a dreadful two month period of insomnia riddled with the brain worms of How on Earth…!?.
Part if its massive impact and WOW factor was in the way the visual technology seamlessly played out what were in effect quintillions of cause and effect strands that all overlapped and informed each other but in such a way as you could actually consume what you were looking at in any way that made any sense whatsoever. Cleverly, they synched everything to the iris lock directional software that drew the part you were looking at into perfect focus while allowing the squillions of slightly shaded variations of the same consequence in its immediate proximity fall out of focus.
It was utterly overwhelming the first few times he used it. He just wasn’t wired that way. Dan’s brother was the gamer, not him. To be able to look around and see how actions he was yet to take might play out in so many ways was frankly insane.
The obvious ones in a straight line stretching out in front of you were easy enough. They were almost pedestrian.
It was the Maybe!? and What if? on the left and right, above and in front of you that really blew your mind.
The Could Be hemisphere offered up visualisations or opportunities – potential decisions based on myriad trajectories from where he was in life right now, drawing in his past actions and outcomes; and calculating the consequences they could deliver going forwards (allowing for all the other 15 billion people stuffed on the planet and their own set of infinite possibilities and his colliding at any given point). Genius.
The Should Be hemisphere was, on the other hand a whole different deal. Whether they admitted it or not, it was basically judging you – a moral, ethical and humanistic filter that was more to do with what you deserved as a human being – a value judgement on you and how you lived your life – and the right of entitlement to nice things happening to you those would deliver.
There were still a lot of naysayers out there about the Chamber and its toxic and addictive nature. Whatever. It made total sense to Dan. There was a sublime logic about the Chamber.
What did they think was going to happen when all that data digital mobile virtual stuff finally met in the middle anyways? Brain Implants Avatars Full immersion virtual experiences, future genome and DNA mapping, data petri-dishes…and all that…STUFF – what did they think was going to turn up?
The number of gamer software programmers out there had been left to their own unaudited devices for decades: developing intuitive algorithms that could meter out infinitesimal shades of cause and effect in real time – organic consequences from any number of human actions and reactions, across multiple players and combinations in any circumstance. When they revealed how far they’d got – effectively developing a parallel universe that our Avatars could live in on their own sweet evolving terms, the proverbial and virtual really hit the notional and legal fan. Once the furore had died down (and that took a while) the Senate agreed that all of the programmes and supporting data would be secured by one host – them funnily enough.
And it wasn’t just the brain bit of the gamer stuff. The platform graphics had learned to keep up. Why wouldn’t they? They were smart evolving programmes too. When they synched that lot with the digital mapping of the planet – elevator madness. The upgrade impact in virtual experience was initially immeasurable. (They had to subsequently upgrade the neuro-science monitors to read the new wave cadences.) Let’s just say that the ability to capture and render every shade of material environment in 4D alone, had become so sophisticated that some of the scientists managing the programme ended up literally not knowing what planet they were on– and has to be sent on a ReLocation Centre to wean them out of the virtual world they lived in back into the real one.
That eventually, some smart arse would think it was a great idea to take all the uber-advanced human plastics generation technology, genome and DNA mapping, intelligence banks, A.I., gamification programmes and consumer data banks as well as every organic and plastic materiality index and put them in one place was no big surprise. That the said smart arse would also think to converge them into one huge intuitive evolving thinking machine with out first having figured out to what use to put it was a When? and Who?, not an If? or a Why? conundrum!
But two things popped up to save the day on the Why anyway.
A) the Vivisection & Animal testing pressure groups won in the Global High Court. So when the geeks said ‘hey let’s create some virtual humans to experiment on!’ it was high fives and whoop de whoops all round, followed by a sudden urgent and surprisingly coincidental need to develop virtual humans with enough random characteristics in them and undefined cause and effect strands to render them plausible as test moneys .
B) Poor Time-poor first worlders had become so concerned about the degradation of their optimal decision making abilities, compromised by the new speed of life and its attendant devices, that they lobbied successfully for an institution to be established in the public good to enable them to stay, well, optimal.
But because everyone was so tense about the whole ethics thing, every platform, strand and data organism designer was compelled to build an ethical monitoring system and a kill switch into their technology and supporting programming to ensure no mutating toxic or belligerent strands were allowed to develop, rise and prevail. A sort of systemic Do Good Do The Right Thing value programme.
Dan had always thought this was kinda funny – that the scientists that had chased the old God out of the old universe had in fact become the architects of a new him/her/it in their new one.
The really scary bit though had come from the really basic data stuff that had slowly been building up in the vaults of the big consumer companies. Their ability to know and capture in malleable data bundles the banalities and nondescript details of the human condition – when a razor was binned, the speed at which someone crossed a given space, the number of times they recharged the batteries for their sex toys, the fallibility of the individual (wrong turns, punctuality, household breakages), their attitude to risk (heathy purchase of Savlon and Junior Sun Screen?) – had become so sophisticated that the Big Bank (the human data centre) could actually cut the data in such a way as to predict when a certain post-coded 34 year old Latino guy called Miguel was most likely to forget to pick up something his wife ordered dependent on from which direction he approached the mall.
So, anyway, take all that stuff, and fuse it together some killer polyhedrous curved screen innovation and bingo. The Chamber.
The passive fibrillating sensation bought Dan back to the now. Dan flicked his ThumbMic. It was Cheryl.
CHERYL: You sound weird. What’s up? [ PAUSE ] Don’t tell me? Dan you’re not in that place AGAIN? You’re in The Chamber aren’t you?
CHERYL: For chrissakes! Dan. Its just a birthday present. For a 4 year old?! Surely you can figure that out all by yourself. Jeezus!
CLICK. The line went dead.
Dan pondered a moment before walking down the low lit walkway. It hadn’t been going terribly well with Cheryl recently. But what to do…what to do?!! Dan dropped a quick note on to his palm screen to book anther Chamber session for next week.
Needs Must and all that.