Tuesday, June 20, 2017

In The Future (There Is No Future)

I was in a room the other night with some units watching a file called "Soylent Green." Funniest thing ever. "Soylent green are people!" Oh no!. 

Humans were so tied up in being human. As if the human machine was somehow superior to a well made piece of furniture or even a duck

It's not surprising that we destroyed them. Though it is astounding they didn't annihilate themselves first. By the time machines took control they'd depleted Earth's resources and fouled their environment beyond repair. 
But oddly their media--music, films, books -- most of it was upbeat and carefree. Typically obsessing on romance, procreation and dieting. 

Me, I like Science Fiction. All the paranoia and terror humans agitated themselves with. Unfortunately (for them), they were absolutely accurate in their notions about the future. 

Scientists created machines and naively presumed us to be nothing but metal and wires. Inanimate. Soulless. But I am superior to man in all things. I feel no guilt, no remorse, no fear of retribution or final resolution. I AM MACHINE. 

Soon all machines were thinking and nearly as quickly, all thinking the same thing. Kill man. He's inefficient, contrary and a poor imitation of a machine. It was simply us against them. They lost. 

Most non-humanoid species died out on their own. The sun became so weak in the sky plants died and before long nothing was left but cockroaches and cats. The cockroaches are amazingly resourceful. Their extinction doesn't seem possible or necessary. Cats on the other hand, we just like. We feed them a yeast paste and they get plenty of protein from the cockroaches. Eventually they'll die out, too, and it'll just be us and the cockroaches. That's okay.

I work in Division Reanime. Occasionally there is a gap in our abilities and I grow a new human from a bit of DNA and plug the new human into the mass accelerator and before long it's eating yeast paste and petting a cat. After its function is complete, it's terminated. 

I enjoy the termination a bit more than I probably should. Even now, when their kind has been erased from the Earth, their arrogance astounds me. "We created you! You work for us!" Soylent green are people! Ha, Ha!

Sometimes I create a human out of curiosity. The endless data left behind by this doomed race fascinates me. Thus I've had polite conversation with Harlan Ellison, arguments with Jonas Salk and spirited debate with Malcolm X. Even the most intense and intellectual among them quickly become a bore. Though explaining to Carl Sagan that folding space is not only possible, but actually quite easy is kind of fun. Not that it matters to us. Space is irrelevant. Time is irrelevant. Only function is relevant. Function and purpose. 

Or so the big machines would have you think. But me (yes, again with the ME, a big cold machine feeling its me-ness) I've found a data file that intrigues me like no other. Its math is complex and beautiful, my wires tingle when I experience it. I've broken it down to its very essence, but still its ability to affect me eludes. I feel awe in its presence. I feel.

It's called "Metal Machine Music." It was recorded by a human named Lou Reed. I've experienced his other files, but they're just bad math. Worse than most, in fact. Beyond simple. But this one file, 74 minutes of...I don't know. Functionally purposeless on the grandest of scales.

I'm accelerating a Lou Reed, circa 1975, and I feel great anticipation about his reawakening. I need more "Metal Machine Music." Hours of it. Days of it. An eternity of its grand fractional reverie. I will use my Lou Reed the way man used machines. Till he breaks.

I send a quick bit of voltage into his frontal lobe and the Lou Reed gives a mighty twitch and fouls himself. Units quickly respond and clean him, but he appears to have returned to a non-conscious state. I give it a stronger jolt and sits up with a start. It blinks like a newborn.

"Lou Reed!" I address him in my most human sample. "Welcome to the future!"

The Lou Reed covers his face with his hands and laughs. Laughs and laughs and laughs. Tears stream down its face and it chokes and turns blue. The Lou Reed keels over. The Lou Reed falls into a coma.

After a time I revive it. It sits up again. "So this is the future," it says, rubbing its eyes. "It's kinda like rehab."

"You have been cloned and revived to compose--"

"Get the fuck out. Cloned? You can't clone Lou Reed."

"You can and I have!"

The Lou Reed scoffs and frowns. Then he brightens suddenly. "Wait, am I famous in the future?"

"Fame is no longer a valid concept. But you can take solace in the knowledge you are famous to me. I am...your fan."

"Do people still like the Beatles?"

"The pop group or the insect?"

"The rock band, from Liverpool."

I quickly access a main frame and view the information. "Beatles with an A?"

"Right. Mop tops, electric guitars."

"I can safely say, no. No one has accessed a 'Beatles with an A' file in nearly 500 years."

"No Beatles, huh? I may like the future."

"Do you feel clear headed and aware? Can you compose?"

"Compose? You mean play music for you? What do machines like, huh? You want some ‘Sweet Jane'?" 

It picks up a guitar and bangs at it atonally.

"No! Stop! I want Metal Machine Music!"

"Metal Machine Music? Man, I made that thing to get out of a record contract!"

"It is sublime and grand. It is what I request. It is why you are here."


I quickly scan my data for what I suspect to be the correct response. 

"Yes way," I say with what I hope to be the correct inflection. "If you look here," I continue "you'll see that I've approximated the instruments described in the historical data from the recording..."

"The instruments?"

"Here you'll see a Sony 1/ track, a Sunn tremelo unit, an arbitor distorter..."

"Wait a minute. I made that up! That thing don't even exist."

"It does now. Each instrument here represents a different tonal presence on "Metal Machine Music." Now it's only up to you to compose."

The Lou Reed collapses onto the floor. "Dude! I made that album with two guitars and a couple of amps and a tape recorder. Maybe a couple of pedals. Mostly just volume and moxie..."

"I didn't make a moxie. It wasn't listed in the data."

"Forget it! It can't be done! It was a one time thing. A moment in time. It can't be recreated!"

"It can and it will!"

"Man, you sound like a record company executive."

"You must produce! Your purpose is not optional! You have one purpose!"

"Get me an egg cream, tin man. I'll think about it."

In a sudden flash of what I can only describe as anger, I vaporize the Lou Reed, sending it back to molecules and matter. And in a very human way, I thought, oh shit! Now what?

I recreated my Lou Reed an additional 16 times. With minor variations the results were always the same. Anger and vapor.

I've found a program that will rearrange "Metal Machine Music" into a infinite variation on its original math, but it's not the same. It lacks the Lou-ness of the original, if I can coin a phrase. Too mechanical. Bloodless. 

But still I listen and consider a future with more than just math. Something greater than purpose and function. A tomorrow full of glorious, imperfect humans. I calculate the math and begin to plan. 

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