Tuesday, November 9, 2021

From Artifacts to Simulation

We travel to have our senses amazed, to alter our perceptions and to renew our bonds. In short, to rediscover ourselves. During my recent trip I also got a glimpse of the future and I'm not sure I want to be here when it happens. There is no thing there. Not nothing, there’s plenty of something but it is weightless and carries no antecedents

In fact, the future has already arrived; it’s a country with a language in which I have little fluency, a land of fractals, digital and virtual. It has no materiality. We’ve traded artifacts for artifice. Books are gone along with the feel of a deckled edge. The book is on a screen and I miss the physicality of it, the dust jacket, the inscription, maybe a stain here and there of Ragu sauce or chocolate, signs of the journey it has taken to get here.

When this planet withers away from neglect and aliens come for the big dig there will be no evidence of human life. Only some Google glasses and a few pin numbers scratched in the dust.

This new world is glutted with options. Just put on the head set and dial up your menu. You want an apple? Here’s what an apple tastes like. Hold the mustard on my pastrami please.  How about a football game or trench warfare? No problem. The sensations can all be replicated. What about sex? I forgot to ask.

The talk at the table was all science fiction, my least favorite genre. A pack of what-ifs. True, much speculation is now our reality. I shouldn’t have said that such stuff is a failure of the imagination….but I did. In doing so I was revealed as a certifiable snob even though the longest word I know is delicatessen.

Sci-Fi strikes me as comic book, made movie, made series, all propelled by half-baked ideas. The present is extrapolated into dystopia into the apocalypse. The genre is a refuge for people’s grandiose fantasies and fears. Maybe my mind cannot bend around the corner; maybe I’m missing out but I’m not done yet with the actual. There is too much humanity as we know it yet to be explored and too many permutations of love. Why set up supernatural conditions to test our flaws and fiber?

On the other hand, true literature can occasionally happen as with Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein or Orwell’s 1984. It all comes down to language, that element hard to define but you know it when you feel its lift.

As Edward Abbey said, True magic inheres in the ordinary, the commonplace. Only petty minds yearn for the supernatural. Everything around them is pure miracle.

Maybe I’d be better advised to stay home and curl up in Faulkner’s world with the sound and the fury signifying nothing.  

Now it can be told. The above message wasn't really written by me but a robot impersonating me in a parallel universe from a subterranean lab as I was transported via a time machine to a distant galaxy.


  1. The metaverse is upon us and your humor regarding the tragedy of it is so welcoming.