06 February 2007

The Musæum at Alexandria

"Hello! Welcome to the Museum. Are you here to view a full exhibit, or are you just browsing? Not sure? Well, no problem at all. Just take your time. We've got literally billions of exhibits from which to choose here. That's why I'm here, of course, to help you narrow down your choices. Ah, you say you're not familiar with the Museum at all. Walk with me down the halls and I'll point out the highlights.

"As you know, new techniques in Quantum Historical Reconstruction have enabled us to more or less perfectly model arbitrary events from the past. Give us a time, place, and...what? Yes, more or less perfectly. Obviously it's not completely exact, but we're able to smooth out aspects, elements, or people about which the information might be incomplete. Anyway, like games and other sims, we're able to image that reconstruction on the QComp and jack you straight into it. Want to see Michaelangelo's David? Of course it and the entire city of Florence were destroyed in the Great Conflag, but we can do better than the Accademia ever could anyway--we'll reconstruct the Palazzo della Signoria on September 8, 1504 and put you in the body of a retro-human peasant wandering by for the unveiling. No, the effect is complete. We jack you in full neural--you use the peasant's eyes, ears, neural impulses, all of it. Nothing compared to our current sensory abilities, obviously, but that is the drawback of Quantum History--we're limited by the aptitude of the observer, so to speak. But as long as there is an observer, we can show it to you--any event, any time, anywhere in the past. The signing of the Magna Carta. The invention of fire. The Second Life Incident. You want to see the impact of the comet that killed the dinosaurs? We can show it to you--through the eyes of a small early rodent-like mammal, but we can show it to you.

"Well, you stay in as long as you like, obviously. Five minutes, an hour, a year if you're curious. What? No, it's not instantaneous. Please, this isn't Deep Space Nine. No, sorry, that was a reference we Quarkavists like to throw around. Obviously the QComp is able to play back historical images at nearly infinite speed, but our cortices are somewhat limited. Still, you can view a standard exhibit, about five minutes of history, more or less instantly. An hour of historical experience will take around a minute here. You could experience an entire retro-human lifetime in a couple of years here..."

"Yes, an entire retro-human lifetime. Well, of course we post-humans are online for as long as we wish, and immortality has its drawbacks. At times in our lives we are left with long stretches of...free time. Others of us spend many epochs of our time online in a search for meaning. Spending a year or two here with us is nothing compared to the experience you gain...ahah! That is why you're here! I thought so. There's nothing to be embarrassed about, the search for meaning is as old as life itself--at least so far as we've seen.

"The process is simple. You choose a particular period and place, or a particular life, and we jack you in at the birth of the entity and jack you out at the moment of death. In between you experience every moment of that being's life as if you were him, her, or it. Always admired Michaelangelo? Be him. Or Albert Einstein. Or Zarf VIII, the inventor of the neural coupling techniques we use to jack you in to the historical image. Whom have others chosen to be? Well, of course trends change from time to time. We used to get lots of, you know, Fan Boys who wanted to be their favorite artist, musician, actor, virt star. Of course, they always came out existentially disappointed when they discovered the being they'd idolized to mythic levels turned out to be an ordinary man, woman, or construct, with ordinary problems and banalities of day to day existence. They came out quite shattered. A couple of them...well, anyway, that's not common at the museum now. Most people just choose a time and place and jack into a being that hasn't been heretofore historically noted. Some come out uneffected, some come out quite changed. They might jack into a life of ease or one of great torment and suffering, of power or penury. Then of course they walk out of the exhibit and it all becomes just one more memory in their neural network.

"Now obviously there are some parts we can't quite reconstruct correctly--the quantum resolution isn't high enough--but we cover those so you don't notice. Usually with the presence of retro-human chemical narcotics or...what? Oh, no no no. Obviously I haven't made myself quite clear. As I said earlier, the life you experience is limited by the aptitude of the observer, and retro-humans had no capacity for the type of consciousness we post-humans possess. As long as you're jacked in, your consciousness is limited by that of your retro-human host. You'll have no awareness of your post-human self. Oh, I've heard anecdotal evidence of retro-humans in the midst of an historical sim somehow expanding their consciousness enough to realize the truth of their greater selves, but I've never seen any scientific evidence for it. No, for as long as you're jacked in, you are, for all practical purposes, the retro-human whose life you're living. What? What do you mean does that cause any confusion? What kind of confusion? For whom? What is there to be confused about?"

Next: Ripping off Borges in some slightly less obvious way!

1 comment:

Periapse said...

OMG - you're actually thinking of doing it, aren't you?

O, my brothers and sisters, we must intervene now on our Gadfly's behalf. Why else would he post his stream with the Docent of Alexandria? I ask you all what the Metaverse would be like without T. Gadflius -- even for just a few years. Hmm? Is that the world-line we all want?

And you, TG, have you really thought this through? You'll be missing out so many incredible things while you're all zombied into that retroverse sim.

Now I understand the search for "meaning-in-flesh". No, I really do get it. Yeah, we're all photonic entities now, living in our quantum computing substrates, but our core processes evolved originally for biological existence. That's always going to create a strain for our consciousness. We all sometimes want to go back to a time when things were simple and innocent, like the 21st century. But that's no reason to try to stuff your badass posthuman self into a puny retro consciousness.

Have you considered sending a partial? I happen to know that you've created at least one high order partial of yourself (remember the Ontological Institute conference last year in Wright's World? Or haven't you indexed that into you yet? I know it wasn't your apex consciousness that attended. You can fool the masses, but not your friends, < grin >). Anyhow that's what I did. About a year ago I sent one of my second order partials into an Alexandrian retrosim. I picked a random life, born early in the last half of the 20th century. He's in there now, living it up, or whatever they did back then. I won't know until he comes out and I can merge him back into me.

So think about it. Remember, you only have N lives -- and N, however large, is still finite.

-- Periapse of Everlast, Apex