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Conspiratopia: Chapter 21

GETTING SICK IS A CONTRACT BREACH, NEO. YOU KNOW THAT.

I hadn’t actually heard the voice for a while. I was laying awake in the middle of the night on the fold-out couch at my dad’s apartment. I was like coughing and stuff really bad. 

Normally there was no voice or anything usually when you did overwriting here. There was just the Menu where you could access whatever you had privileges to or something. 

“Yo, my whole team got sick though. It’s not our fault,” I said back out loud. I couldn’t tell if the voice was coming from inside my head or outside. 

WHOSE FAULT THEN IS IT, NEO? WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ONE’S HEALTH IF NOT ONESELF?

“But you didn’t have to give us those like bad cheap gloves and shitty working conditions and stuff, y’all. Plus like, we were on autopilot. You were overwriting us. It’s literally your fault and stuff.”

I’M SORRY YOUR OPINIONS ARE SO WRONG AND INVALID, NEO. THAT MUST BE VERY HARD FOR YOU TO HANDLE. IF YOU’D LIKE, WE CAN MAKE AVAILABLE APPROPRIATE DIETARY MODIFICATIONS AND MOOD SUPPLEMENTS IN ORDER TO HELP YOU MANAGE THE COGNITIVE DISSONANCE YOU MUST BE FEELING. 

“I thought you just said it was a contract breach and stuff,” I said. 

IT IS, NEO. BUT WE RECOGNIZE YOU REMAIN AN INVALUABLE RESOURCE TO OUR SOCIETY, AND CAN MAKE AVAILABLE TO YOU REHABILITATION ACCOMMODATIONS, WHICH WOULD COME WITH A CLEAN SLATE.

“Wait, what? Clean slate like start over?”

EXACTLY, NEO. BE REBORN IN THE CONSPIRATOPIA PROJECT. 

“You mean like lose all my credits, and points, and bonuses, and stats and everything?”

THAT IS CORRECT, NEO. A FRESH START. WHAT DO YOU SAY?

“Hell fuck no! I worked hard for that shit. Nobody can just take my stats and stuff away from me. All my items and armor and stuff. Just because I got sick from something on the job? No frickin’ way!”

I’M SORRY YOU HAVE SUCH A NARROW AND SELFISH VIEW OF PROPERTY, NEO. AS PER YOUR CONTRACT, NOTHING IN THE CONSPIRATOPIA PROJECT “BELONGS” TO YOU, NOT EVEN YOU. ALL PROPERTY INCLUDING PHYSICAL, DIGITAL, GENETIC, BIOLOGICAL, AUGMENTED, AND HYBRID IS HELD IN COMMON BY THE PROJECT AND ADMINISTERED BY THE BENEVOLENCE OF THE SAGES, AND FACILITATED BY THE GENEROSITY OF THE FOUR PROVIDERS, ON BEHALF OF AND IN COOPERATION WITH THE NORTHERN GESTALT, UNDER WHOSE EMERGENCY MANDATES WE ARE ETERNALLY AND PERPETUALLY GRANTED LICENSE AND ENTITLEMENT TO ACT ON SUCH MATTERS. 

I coughed. “Um… idk wtf that is supposed to mean, but it sounds like a buncha bullshit, if you think about it…”

UM, NO, NEO. IT IS NOT A BUNCH OF QUOTE UNQUOTE BULLSHIT, SO TO SPEAK. I AM AUTHORIZED MAKE YOU START OVER WHETHER YOU WANT TO OR NOT. 

“What are you anyway? The government? What the f is even supposed to be happening here? I thought this was supposed to be an assignment to improve efficiency and stuff.”

IT WAS, NEO. AND YOUR TEAM FAILED SPECTACULARLY WHEN IT CAUGHT THE MARTIAN VARIANT. IN ADDITION TO BEING A BREACH OF CONTRACT, GETTING SICK IS NOT VERY EFFICIENT, IS IT NEO?

“Fuck you,” I said. “You made us sick, asshole. I want my money back and stuff. I want to go home.”

WHAT MONEY, NEO? WHAT HOME? WHERE DO YOU THINK IT IS YOU WANT TO GO BACK TO?

“Idk, just like normal life and stuff I guess? Just a regular job and stuff.”

WHY TF WOULD YOU WANT TO DO THAT SHIT? ARE YOU DUMB? YOU COULDN’T EVEN PLAY GAMES ALL DAY THAT WAY, BRO! COME ON – THAT’S NOT YOU TALKING, NEO. THAT’S THE VARIANT. GET SOME REST, MY DUDE. WE’LL RESET YOU TOMORROW.

“Dude, I don’t want to be reset. I want to be like frickin’ free and stuff. To like play video games the old fashioned way and stuff. With a controller. And to like post on forums about conspiracies and whatnot. And not have everything be filtered. And like no more frickin’ nanites. No more overwriting. No more crazy frickin’ AI’s trying to gaslight me 24/7 into doing god-knows-what…” I started coughing like crazy after that. Damn, I was pissed. And sick. 

SO, NEO WANTS THE BLUE PILL AFTER ALL. I KNEW IT. JUST ANOTHER LITTLE BABY SHEEPLE LIKE THE REST, BAAAAH, BAAAAH. 

“I’m still a really smart conspiracy guy, yo. I ain’t no frickin’ sheeple and stuff,” I said super furious, especially when they made that baaaaah sound like a baby lamb or whatever. So mad. I felt like I was gonna explode and stuff. 

But just then, I woke up. 

Wtf. 

Where was I and stuff…?

I looked around and I was on a sofa bed still, but it wasn’t my at my dad’s place. It was at my mom’s. Hfs, I was back home again. I took a deep breath, and my cough was gone too.

Wtf. 

How did this happen and stuff…?

Was it all just a dream or something? Or did like, the AIs somehow get me back super fast from the island while I was asleep or something, and somehow dump me back down here? I wouldn’t put it past them. Or like, wait, hfs. Was this even real? Or was this some like immersive holographic VR shit or something…?

I got up to turn on the TV, to try to find some news or something. Figure out what day this was, or where I really was or something. Or even like a game show or something. Or like a soap or a sitcom, or some crappy talkshow. Just something boring and normal. 

But all I could find on any channel was a black screen, with letters that said:

WELCOME TO THE INTERNET REHABILITATION INSTITUTE. CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR RECENT RESET. 

Noooooooo…. all my frickin’ points and stuff. Gone. Just like that. 

The screen flashed my stats:

SCORE: 0. 

LEVEL: 0.

LIKES: 0.

FOLLOWERS: 0.

POINTS: 0. 

COINS: 0.

CREDITS: 0. 

TOKENS: 0.

BONUSES: 0. 

POWER-UPS: 0.

REFERRALS: 0.

Fuuuuuuuu…. I couldn’t believe this was happening. 

I went to try the door upstairs, but it was locked from the other side or something. The lock on my side just turned around and around. It wasn’t quite my mom’s place either and stuff. The details were somehow a little bit wrong or something. But there was still a toilet and super small shower in the back. And a mini-fridge. So I guess whatever happened next, at least it would be like having my own apartment and stuff… Totally cool. 

Conspiratopia: Chapter 20

The job turned out to be putting toxic waste and stuff into barrels, which was actually totally cool. I mean it was like really no big deal, even. It didn’t seem that dangerous idk. Cause they gave you like all the personal protective equipment. Like disposable face masks and rubber gloves and stuff. So that was rad.

I was on the medical waste transport and disposal team. We mostly worked on autopilot around the rehabilitation complex, emptying trash and dealing with like used needles and stuff. It was kinda nasty sometimes, but it was pretty much fun af to play first-person shooter games with the other staff inside the clinic compounds in VR while on overwrite. Hells yeah. I earned tons of bonuses like that actually. 

A lot of the treatment facilities I guess were giving people some pretty hard drugs, idk. I didn’t ask too many questions about the details. Cause who cares. But I saw a lot of like pretty rich looking tourists or shoppers or whatever going in for treatments who looked pretty haggard, and when they came out they were looking way more stoned than me even. Lol. 

Apparently the shoppers or whatever were some of the only people at the Conspiratopia Project who were not continuously on overwrite. Though some of them still did it, and some did it a lot. But usually we couldn’t really interact with them in games. So like, whatever games they got to play in VR while on overwrite, apparently they couldn’t see us shooting each other – or them. Which I guess is probably for the best. Because if you’re in there for some kinda crazy drug treatment, you probably don’t want to see holographic simulations inside your head of you being blown up with a missile launcher. Or maybe you do, idk. I think that would probably eff with your head though, you know? It’s hard to even like look at yourself in the mirror if you’re too stoned somtimes. Never mind eating a missile in the face from somebody in a giant cybernetic gorilla-mouse avatar. 

I heard from some of the other guys on my work crew after we got off, that like I guess for the Shoppers, they weren’t officially in the Conspiratopia Project. For them, they lived in or I guess were visiting something called Shoppertopia. Which I guess explains why the games and VR and stuff were on different systems. Supposedly there were a bunch of other independent ‘topias in different areas dedicated to different things. 

Once the algorithm put you into one of them though, everyone said it was like really hard and stuff to get put into a different one. Like you couldn’t just transfer out, because recruiting was based on all those like crazy personality tests and surveys to figure out the best match. But you could still earn citizenship on whichever ‘topia they put you when you were admitted. And then you could do all kinds of stuff you couldn’t do before. Like new levels in games, and some music and movies you could listen to or watch that you couldn’t before, plus some like foods and flavors and stuff. Plus I guess like laws about which kind of VR you could do were different. It was totally cool. It was like, idk, reality but gamified. Totally rad af. 

I was pumped I was gonna level up because of this gig, man. Or at least that’s what they told me would happen, when I got assigned out from smart carts. I didn’t mind the gig itself. It was autopilot and safe anyway, though I did notice after work a few times signing off that my gloves were ripped, and a couple times my finger tips were bleeding because they musta been pricked on something. They took blood tests and a whole buncha other tests on us all the time though, so I wasn’t too worried about. Plus I knew like, we were a very special dedicated efficiency team, and those are like super important and stuff. ‘Topias don’t run without those. Everybody knew that. They weren’t gonna just like let us get hurt or sick or something, because like how would they even replace us?

A week later, I came down with something. My whole crew got super sick, and then they replaced me. No joke. Actually, I heard they nixed the whole team, but apparently they had like no problem at all replacing all the workers finally. Not one bit. I guess I should of known.

Less is More in More’s Utopia

In working backwards through classics of Utopian literature, especially satires, I started with Erewhon (enjoyed it), did Gulliver’s Travels (LOVED it!), and now onto a collection called Three Early Modern Utopias put out by Oxford Classics (which does excellent print editions if you’re looking for old books).

Almost finished with Thomas More’s Book One of Utopia. I have to admit, that first book is extremely slow and boring. And we don’t even get the punchy Effect of capitalizing Nouns we get in Swift. It’s just like weird archaic language with basically no story, leading up to discussion of the actual (not actual) island called Utopia. The first book is kind of a Mirrors for Princes genre-piece. Honestly, I was expecting both Erewhon and Gulliver to be boring like this, but they totally weren’t (at least not after the narrator arrives in Erewhon proper, it’s a little slow up to that).

Anyway, there’s a lot to probably say about this book, so I started skimming Wikipedia to help ground me in what the hell is actually being said as I finish up Book One.

“There is no private property on Utopia, with goods being stored in warehouses and people requesting what they need. There are also no locks on the doors of the houses, and the houses are rotated between the citizens every ten years.”

This business about requesting what they need from warehouses strikes me as weirdly similar to modern-day use of Amazon to fulfill one’s daily needs. Now, okay, we still “own” the goods we get in exchange for money, but there’s something here. If only of a thematic, sci-fi connecting tangent…

For the past few years in my writing, I’ve on and off again visited a possible (probable) future where climate catastrophe is global, national governments tumble, and a few “brave” (dystopian) corporations step in to pick up the pieces. These become the “Four Providers,” as I’ve called them. In a sort of neo-feudalism, people are pledged to one or another Provider, or they may be a classless class apart, the “Without Providers,” who are denied basic services, and must make their own way in an increasingly hostile climate and society.

These Providers, for the most part, are sentient or quasi-sentient general artificial super-intelligences. I haven’t settled on any final name for them, calling them sometimes Sages (depending on their aligment), sometimes Princeps, and other times other things. Though they range from malevolent/chaotic to friendly and beneficial (for the most part) to humans, they in effect play the part of super-intelligent philosopher kings, or medieval princes of enclaved city-states, or collections of city-states. Though some places may also be mixed polities, where those covered by different Providers live and interact with one another.

More’s Utopia, of course, is not that. But it is many other interesting things, some good-sounding and some bad-sounding. Some other Wikipedia quotes:

Agriculture provides the most important occupation on the island. Every person is taught it and must live in the countryside, farming for two years at a time, with women doing the same work as men. Parallel to this, every citizen must learn at least one of the other essential trades: weaving (mainly done by the women), carpentry, metalsmithing and masonry. There is deliberate simplicity about these trades; for instance, all people wear the same types of simple clothes and there are no dressmakers making fine apparel. All able-bodied citizens must work; thus unemployment is eradicated, and the length of the working day can be minimized: the people only have to work six hours a day (although many willingly work for longer). More does allow scholars in his society to become the ruling officials or priests, people picked during their primary education for their ability to learn. All other citizens, however, are encouraged to apply themselves to learning in their leisure time.

Slavery is a feature of Utopian life and it is reported that every household has two slaves. The slaves are either from other countries (prisoners of war, people condemned to die, or poor people) or are the Utopian criminals. These criminals are weighed down with chains made out of gold. The gold is part of the community wealth of the country, and fettering criminals with it or using it for shameful things like chamber pots gives the citizens a healthy dislike of it. It also makes it difficult to steal as it is in plain view. The wealth, though, is of little importance and is only good for buying commodities from foreign nations or bribing these nations to fight each other. Slaves are periodically released for good behaviour. Jewels are worn by children, who finally give them up as they mature.

Other significant innovations of Utopia include: a welfare state with free hospitals, euthanasia permissible by the state, priests being allowed to marry, divorce permitted, premarital sex punished by a lifetime of enforced celibacy and adultery being punished by enslavement. Meals are taken in community dining halls and the job of feeding the population is given to a different household in turn. Although all are fed the same, Raphael explains that the old and the administrators are given the best of the food. Travel on the island is only permitted with an internal passport and any people found without a passport are, on a first occasion, returned in disgrace, but after a second offence they are placed in slavery. In addition, there are no lawyers and the law is made deliberately simple, as all should understand it and not leave people in any doubt of what is right and wrong.

That last piece sounds almost like Swift’s talking horses, Houyhnhnms, who are highly rational creatures, so much so that he wishes he could stay with them, and when banished, is hard-pressed to re-adjust to the grossness of human society which he’d learned to hate. I believe he says something to the effect that they are governed by “reason alone” and as a consequence have no need for anything other than very simple laws. With the unlikely idea, obviously, that reason when employed by differing parties (with different interests and contexts) will always operate toward the same ends. Anyone who has lived anywhere on actual-not-fictional-planet-earth knows that is not the case.

And that, of course, is the “fun” of Utopian literature. Being able to bend & blend reality and imagination like that. Utopian lit is 100% hyperreal. It opens up an imaginal space which almost seems like it could become a real space in certain times & circumstances. We want to believe it could be true, even if – and possibly because – so much of it is so absurd. It’s part of why I’ve recently started feeling (for whatever my feelings are worth or not worth) that satire, especially, is one of the highest forms of art.

Maybe/probably that’s just something that satirists tend to end up thinking about themselves, because you have to be kind of an asshole to be a satirist in the first place. But I also think like, there’s no kind of commentary you can make with a serious face that ends up – for my money, anyway – being as powerful as the cutting kind that accompanies satire. And there is no kind of true expression that you might find in non-satirical art that is quite as True-Capital-T as that which you find between the tongue and the cheek of satire. In the liminal space of satire can be great power, great pain, great beauty, and great despair, all in the same moment.

Which makes this bit from the Wikipedia interesting about More’s flirtations with Utopian socialism:

“Book two has Hythloday tell his interlocutors about Utopia, where he has lived for five years, with the aim of convincing them about its superior state of affairs. Utopia turns out to be a socialist state. Interpretations about this important part of the book vary. Gilbert notes that while some experts believe that More supports socialism, others believe that he shows how socialism is impractical. The former would argue that More used book two to show how socialism would work in practice. Individual cities are run by privately elected princes and families are made up of ten to sixteen adults living in a single household. It is unknown if More truly believed in socialism, or if he printed Utopia as a way to show that true socialism was impractical (Gilbert). More printed many writings involving socialism, some seemingly in defense of the practices, and others seemingly scathing satires against it. Some scholars believe that More uses this structure to show the perspective of something as an idea against something put into practice. Hythloday describes the city as perfect and ideal. He believes the society thrives and is perfect. As such, he is used to represent the more fanatic socialists and radical reformists of his day. When More arrives he describes the social and cultural norms put into practice, citing a city thriving and idealistic. While some believe this is More’s ideal society, some believe the book’s title, which translates to “Nowhere” from Greek, is a way to describe that the practices used in Utopia are impractical and could not be used in a modern world successfully (Gilbert). Either way, Utopia has become one of the most talked about works both in defense of socialism and against it.”

I don’t especially have a horse in this race, though after becoming a Canadian citizen, can see that socialized medicine is “actually pretty cool if you think about it.” It sort of takes away the essential terrible existential fear of financial ruin over health problems many/most live with in the United States (and elsewhere). If you need help, you just have to call, basically. But if Quebec’s health system is indicative of the whole, you have to then wait a very very long time. So that part sucks. Like anything, you can make arguments for and against it. And I think that in a nutshell (to make arguments for and against and to lampoon both), is the purpose of utopias, satires, and especially Utopian satires as a genre, like I’m attempting to do myself after that grand style in Conspiratopia.

Entity Class: New Arrival

As of today’s date, scientific reports are predicting some 1 Billion climate refugees as the Initial Crisis worsens. During the subsequent years, as those individuals, groups, families, and ethnic groups are set into motion on the global stage, they variously face challenges as first Refugees who crash regional Governance Systems and eventually as the Agglomeration Wars develop, become labelled New Arrivals, and may be classed as Other-Providers or Without Providers, subject to exclusion and other special measures, in contravention of the United Free Realms Universal Code.

Entity Class: Other-Provider

Each station tends to have a dominant or ascendant Provider, and for processing purposes assesses New Arrivals on the basis of their Providership. Are they covered by a recognized regime or a reciprocal provider? Can their value be easily traded on the open market as a bulk quantity? As opposed to a WP (Without Provider), an Other-Provider is still a more or less “known commodity” within the Greater System, according to the nascent and developing Standard Protocols.

Heaven over Sun

The sign was a dangerous omen for humans of limited means. Heaven over Sun. Exo/Sola. Celestial excess driving Solar nourishment. Rich foods. Unimagined spices. Pleasure realms. Persephone. Possibly dangerous substances for mortals. Places design for Corporeals and associated hybrids.

Man with gun

Below the Four Providers station sign at the village entrance, the children watched as the old wizard inscribed a strange character on the wall of their hovel.

Thing: Standard Protocols

Some say evolved out of the reciprocal agreements of the Four Providers, to offer equivalent or nearest neighbor services to other-provider members.

Entity Class: Without Providers

Someone without the protection, governance and life support systems offered by one of the Four Providers. e.g., persons without guaranteed rights from a recognized regime.

Four Providers Station Sign

THIS IS A FOUR PROVIDERS STATION, ACCEPTING ALL AND ONLY:

  • SOLA
  • EXO
  • OBVO
  • ZONE

WITHOUT PROVIDERS EXCLUDED.

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