God and the First Verse

God dropped his shoulders, lazed back in his chair and raised his eyes to the angel standing before him.
“Fine Gabriel, I’ll do it if it’ll keep you quiet.”
Gabriel jumped for joy and punched the air in delight.
“Oh God you won’t regret this, it’s going to be so much fun! We’re going to create a whole universe. Ha, Luifer will be so jealous.“
“Any ideas on how we do it?” asked God.
“It’s all written down here in my presentation. We create some matter, blow it all up and whammy, universe!”
“Alright”, said God, not in least bit excited with Gabriel’s plan, “hand it over and i’ll get started. I want regular updates of what’s going on over there, ok?”
“God yes” said Gabriel, “I even included a concept of linear time, I’ll keep you updated every few centuries.
“Linear time? What the hell is that?”
“It’s an idea of mine. Instead of everything happening once like here in heaven, we’ll make it linear so things happen one after the other.”
“Sounds complicated, but I’m sure I’ll manage. I am God after all. Alright, I’ll get started after lunch”.

First God created time, but ignored Gabriel’s request to make it all linear. He thought it would be more fun to warp time around the objects and matter floating in space. He also added in some antimatter to keep the whole thing less predictable. After seven days his universe was all built. And it was huge. Gabriel wanted one sun and bunch and planets around it, but God couldn’t resist the temptation to make it bigger, a lot bigger! He was starting to enjoy building this universe and thought that perhaps he might build a few more. He named the universe G-verse. He said he named it after Gabriel, but really God named it after himself. Everything was in place. He even created a two creatures called humans that looked a little bit like him. These were special, these little people, and he gave them a beautiful garden to hang out in. He needed somewhere to store the source code for the universe and packaged it all up into little fruit sized parcels and put them on a tree in a corner of the garden with a sign clearly marked “Do not eat!”. He figured the humans would be obedient enough and not eat the fruit.

It came time for Gabriel to give God the first briefing, and it wasn’t good. Gabriel nervously approached God.
“Ahem, God?”
“Yes Gabriel, how’s the G-verse? Adam and Eve getting on well? Must be nice to just spend your days ignorant to what’s happening beyond your little garden. You know I envy those two. Living for all eternity in paradise.”
“Ah, well here’s the thing G-man, it seems Lucifer found a bug in the design and slipped in. He convinced them to eat some of the code fruit and now they know some of the things about the universe. They know all about you and how you built the G-verse, which by the way I still think is a really cool name and thank you for naming it after me.”
“Of course Gabriel, everyone know’s it was your idea, it was only fair. But what’s with this Adam and Eve thing. What are they doing now?”
“Well they’re hiding from you God. Frankly they’re shitting themselves. They kinda scared of you now”
“And so they bloody should be!” God boomed, “I’ll damn well kill them, they disobeyed my sign! No one disobeys my sign.”
“You don’t think that’s somewhat of an overreaction?”
“Fine, I won’t kill them now, but eventually. I let them live for a while, then kill them. I bet they’re wishing I didn’t create time now huh. Who’s idea was it to eat the fruit?”
“I think it was Eve’s” replied Gabriel.
“Right, Adam’s in charge from now on. Maybe he can bring some order to things.”
“Is that all, Gabriel?”
“That’s it for now God, I’ll update you if anything else happens”
“Fine, I’m off to create another verse, no people in this one, and no time. Just constant peaceful eternity.”

Several thousand years pass and very little is happening in the G-verse. God calls out to Gabriel, “Gabriel! What’s happening in the G-verse?”
And again Gabriel was forced to walk the corridor and deliver the bad news. “It’s not great sir, actually it’s pretty feral down there at the moment. Wild in fact, somewhere between mass orgy and open killing spree. It might be time for a little intervention from a fatherly figure.”
“Ok, I’ll have a word with one of them, let them know I’m still here and very much in charge. Lay down a few rules they should live by.”
“That’s it sir, take command. I have someone in mind, old chap, you’d like him, Moses. Pretty good with a crowd. I’ll draft up some rules and have a chat with him.”
“No, I’ll do it Gabriel, it’s better that they hear it straight from me. And after that I’m off to the pub, creating verses is thirsty work.”
“Yes, you’ve really taken to it sir. How many versus are we up to now.”
“No idea, lost count.”

Moses did a pretty good job laying down the rules. But not everyone was behaving as they should. Each time they stepped out of line God grew more impatient with them, he flooded them and starved them but nothing seemed to work. God decided on a new approach.

“Gabriel, I think I have an idea to sort things out on the G-verse.”
“Go on G-man, what are you thinking?”
“A son!”
“Ah, a son? Not sure what you mean.”
“I’ll send them a son of mine.”
“Ah, sir you can’t have sons, how will you send them a son?”
“They don’t know that. I’ll knock one of them up and tell them it’s mine. Then he can tell them what to do. I’ll give him some extra powers, that’ll freak the people out and they’ll listen to every word he says.”
“Ok, you’re the boss.”

In humble surroundings the son of God was born on earth. To a loving mother Mary, and a somewhat jealous father Joseph. For the most part they were good parents, although they did almost lose him a couple of times. He roamed the world, healing sick people and talking of the wonders of God. God was pleased with himself.

“Gabriel! How’s the G-verse” God boomed down the corridor toward Gabriel’s office. “Jesus sorted them all out? I knew he’d do it. Great idea of mine that one. I didn’t get to be God for nothing you know.”
And for the fourth time Gabriel walked down the corridor to God’s office and took a seat at his desk and prepared to deliver bad news.
“Yes, about that. It turns out the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
“How do you mean?”
“Like father like son, as they say down there.”
“I’m still not following Gabriel, you’re speaking in riddles. What’s happening?”
“It turns out Jesus has become a bit of a party boy? Him and Mary have been doing the wedding circuit, turning water into wine and generally living the high life.”
“Well that’s disappointing. Still, as long as everyone likes him we should be ok.”
“He’s not exactly liked by everyone sir. Some people actually want to kill him.”
“Kill him!” God slammed his fist on the table “nobody kills my son, i’ll just make him come back to life. Honestly, what’s with these people. Why they can’t be more like the folks in other verses?”

Unfortunately for God that is what he had to do. The people killed his son and God was displeased. He shook the Earth a little to show his anger. But it was mostly for show. He’d gotten quite fond of the idea of having and son and was secretly pleased to be having Jesus join him in heaven. He was looking forward to a beer with his only son.

He continued to receive updates from Gabriel on any major events on Earth. But these became more and more bleak. Wars and famine. On one hand people were believing in him more and more, but on the other they also became more barbaric. He lost faith that he could make a positive impact on Earth, and besides, he had other verses he could attend to. Verses with much nicer people than the people of G-verse. People who looked after each other.

He showed a rare bout of anger at his son on hearing people were burning other people who believed that the Earth was round “Jesus! Why didn’t you tell them some of this stuff when you were down there?”. “It never came up”, was Jesus’ reply. God thought about intervening when the humans built enough bombs to kill all the people in Earth. “Where’s the logic in that?” he asked Gabriel over an end-of-week beer, a tradition God had initiated after he created time in the G-verse. “God knows” was Gabriel’s reply. But God didn’t know. The people seemed determined to continue to fight each other no matter what he told them. He thought about making another appearance to the people of Earth, perhaps another disaster or catastrophe. But they seemed to be used to chaos and disaster by now. Nothing God could do could shock them anymore. He could get them to love him or each other. And that is the story of why God abandoned the people of Earth. And the people of Earth became the sole occupants of the G-verse, floating alone in space. In a forgotten one of God’s many verses.

Potential Realities. Chapter 1: The Pill

[Potential Realities is a fictionalised view of technology's (possible) impact on our future lives. Each chapter introduces a new technology and weaves it into the story.]

Lucas peeled back the seal on his second pill in two days. He chased it down with a half dozen smaller tablets his body needed to process it. In one of these was a sleeping agent that would kick into action in a few minutes and knock him out for the next 10 hours. He lay back, and waited for the sleep to come, anxious of the information overload his brain was about to take.

Early that morning he’d woken up after dosing on a BM-LJ4 pill. This linked a pathway of neurons and axons in his brain to form those of a fluent Japanese speaker. At midday, after his headache subsided, he was keen to try out his new language skills and ventured out for sushi. The plates of uni, tako, chūtoro, shirako, and ebi prompted his declaration of “Oishii!” to the itamae behind the counter. Rising from his stool, he nodded at the chef, “Arigato gozaimasu, sayōnara” before leaving the tiny restaurant. He was happy for his new abilities, but they hadn’t done anything to increase his appreciation of Japanese food. Sea eggs and fish sperm had never been high on his list of things to eat. Knowing the English translation wasn’t necessarily a good thing. And so for his last dinner at home he ordered a takeaway cheeseburger and fries. ‘Now that’s Oishii!’ he muttered to himself.

Today’s dose was highly specialised. It contained technical information for his upcoming business trip. He had ingested all of the wearable technology research his company had been doing for the last 15 years. Everything from micro quantum computer theory to the construction of a microchip injector — in both English and Japanese — was contained in the bulky pill. Climbing into bed he knew that next day he’d wake up with a thumping headache, so in preparation he placed a glass of water and some painkillers beside his bed.

Lucas’ alarm pierced his brain, ringing in his ears like a dozen microchip injectors. It startled him that he even knew what a microchip injector sounded like. After a few moments he regained his bearings mumbling, “Alarm off, reset two hours”. He reached for the painkillers, knocked them back and crawled under the comfort of his pillow, hoping for more sleep.

In the airport lounge later that morning his boss, Harrison bellowed, “Here he is! The million dollar man. How’s the head?”
“Morning Harry, fine, kind of. Nothing that some stodgy airport food won’t fix. Is that really how much those things are worth?” replied Lucas.
“Well, if we ever decide to sell them that’s roughly how much they’ll cost. The L-pills might be less now that we know we’re not the only ones developing them. But the I-pills are proprietary to us, so they’re kind of priceless.”
“I guess that makes me quite valuable. Hope the plane doesn’t crash. It would be an expensive company trip.”
“Nah, the company is insured. You’re expendable,” replied Harry with a wink.
“Really, what’s your knowledge of wearable sensor transducers like?”
“Yeah, limited. Good point Lucas, don’t die. I need your brain for the next week.”
“Speaking of brains, where’s Sarah?”
“She’s flying out later. She’ll be there in enough time to attend the first session. I need her brain for the next week as well.”
“How much do the Japanese guys know about the BM tech?” asked Lucas
“Very little, and don’t let on either.”
“Ok, but you don’t worry that they might think something is up when a sales guy starts talking detailed tech specs?”
“Oh don’t sell yourself short, Lucas. They’ll just see you for the very knowledgeable and smart guy that you are!” chuckled Harry. “Relax, they won’t suspect a thing. This deal isn’t big enough to get much attention. It’s a good trial for the pills and if it gives us an edge in this little project, then that’s a side bonus. Just relax and do your thing. Sarah will notice if they start to get suspicious.”

Arriving in Japan, Lucas and Harry headed to the taxi pick up zone. Their names were lit up on the side of a waiting car. Its door opened for them. Lucas jumped in first, “Kon’nichiwa.”
“Kon’nichiwa Harrison-san, Kon’nichiwa Lucus-san. Intercontinental Hotel desu ka?”
“Hai, tadashīdesu. Arigatōgozaimashita.”
“Listen to you Lucas, perfect!”
“How would you know Harry, I still can’t believe you won’t even take an L-pill.
“You know those things don’t work on me. My brain is too old.”
“As old as this car? What is this thing anyway?” replied Lucas looking somewhat bewildered at the square box he was seated in.
“This, my boy, is a retro fitted Toyota Crown Comfort. They’ve been driving these things around the streets of Tokyo since well before you were born.”
“They don’t think it’s time for something more modern?”
“Japan isn’t the sort of country that goes for change for the sake of change. They like tradition and reliability.”
Lucas moved his gaze toward the countryside. “Well, I’ll take modern European styling over Japanese reliability any day.”
Several golf courses passed by and Harry turned to Lucas. “What’s your golf game like Lucas?”
“I’m pleased you bring that up Harry.  It’s terrible. When can I get a G-pill?”
“Let’s hope that never happens. Luckily sport involves more than just neural pathways. It’s a bleak future if sport just becomes tech. Then we may as well have bots like our driver here competing against each other.”
“I didn’t know you were such traditionalist, Harry.”
Harry gave a small shrug and turned back to his window.

Lucas sat buckled over his knees. He was not used to sitting on the floor of a tatami mat and his legs started to cramp up. He was not sure if he was drunk, tired after three days of meetings, or a combination of the two. But the sake and beer seemed to help the discomfort in his legs. Mr Nakamori reached over the table to pour another sake into Lucas’ glass. The two of them had been seated opposite all night but the din of the restaurant made conversation hard. Lucas was somewhat nervous occupying the prime seat across from such a senior person, and Harry was a little put out that he’d been placed at the end of the table.
Mr Yakamori leaned to Lucas. “You know Lucas, you have a great knowledge of what we do. I think this will be a great partnership.” Lucas raised his heavy head and smiled at Mr Nakamori with a little bow of his head.
“Tell me Mr Lucas, how did you get such technical knowledge? You seem to know a lot for a young man in sales. Did you study engineering?”
“No, Nakamori-sama, I just work very hard, I study and I learn.”
Mr Nakamori gave Lucas a broad smile and raised his glass toward him, “Combi Lucas!” He  knocked back his glass and continued. “You work hard young man. We respect hard work. Hard work and dedication. I think you and I will get along well, Lucas-kun”.
“It’s all part of the job Nakamori-sama.”
“Now eat Lucas, it’s been a busy few days. You need to eat.” He passed several plates of grilled yakatori towards Lucas’ side of the table.
“In Japan part of the job is also whiskey.” Mr Nakamori reached across the table and picked up an unopened bottle. “This is special whiskey Lucas. Our company has a distillery. This is our special company whiskey, for special events.” He opened the bottle and poured out two glasses, raising his own and toasting, “To new friends!”
He then leaned in a little closer, “Lucas, young man”. He leaned in further. “You know Japan produces the best products in the world. Our distillery was voted best whiskey in the world!”
“Is that so! I’m looking forward to building some products together Nakamori-sama, but I’m not looking forward to tomorrow morning. I have a feeling I might have a headache after the sake.”
“Ha! It will be worth it, for all of us. You’ve done a very good job for your company this week. And besides, this is the best whiskey. Trust me, no hangover!”

Lucas arrived at the home to find his BMW missing from its parking spot. A char mark on the concrete was evidence someone had fried the electronics and wheeled it away. He cursed for a minute but was too tired to care and headed in to get some sleep. The following morning he called the police and his insurance company.
“Mr Rand, we can replace your car today. You can go out and buy whatever you want. Will it be another BMW?” the insurance rep asked.
“You know, I’ve always wanted a Japanese car. I’m thinking maybe a Toyota, something efficient and reliable,” replied Lucas.
On the way home the car speaker buzzed, “Carl calling Lucas-sama.”
“Answer.”
“Lucas, welcome back! How was the land of the rising sun?”
“Hey Carl, great my man! Mission accomplished, and I’m sitting in a piece of it now.”
“Huh?”
“I’ll show you later. I bought a new car, a Lexus.”
“Buying Japanese Lucas, I thought you were all European?”
“Carl-kun, Japan produces some of the best products in the world.”
“Ok, whatever man. Still keen to watch the game?”
“Absolutely! I’ll grab some beer and come over”.
That evening on his way to Carl’s Lucas stopped his new car at a local sushi shop for sushi and sake. He also stopped at a liquor store where he instinctively reached into the fridge for a six-pack of Asahi beer.

The Premise:
I first heard of the idea of a language pill from a talk Nicholas Negroponte gave at the MIT Media Lab. He covers the idea in a TED talk. The idea of enhanced learning has been explored by several research groups, this for example, although this has related mostly to hardware. But I wanted to explore a little further the idea that if knowledge could be ingested deliberately then maybe it could also be ingested without one’s knowledge. Creating a pill to learn an entirely new skill like a language would probably be easier (relatively speaking) than changing existing pathways, or forming competing pathways. But could our opinions and knowledge be influenced without our be aware of it happening. Food for thought, so to speak ;-).

Paris Chairs

Earlier last week, before the chaos, I was walking through Paris and in the Tuileries Garden there are lots and lots of these public chairs. I took a photo of one. And then another. And then I started to wonder, how did these chairs get to be the way they were? Who put them them there? What stories do these chairs tell? And in my mind I started to make up stories and then in my head a story came, Paris Chairs is my storyline of what I thought maybe could have happened, over days, weeks, years or maybe in just one day. I didn’t move any chairs, I just took photos as they were.

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#1 — Staring at a French ladies ass

The first time we met I was walking through the park with Marie, she knew you and stopped as we walked by. You were hunched over a stretch book and pencil. You said it was a break from class. After talking and flirting, we turned to walk away, I asked if you always stared at French ladies butts, you said smiled and said ‘yes’. And 20 yards later, I turned, and caught you. You kept your word. Embarrassed, you pretended to be cool, raised your pencil as if to size up proportion, you shrugged, shook your head and turned away.

#2 Fall’in Drunk

Marie bought a bottle of Absinthe to the park. We sat and past the bottle around. When it was finished we all laid back and stared up at the tree, drunk, and fell asleep. I dreamt I was with you, when I woke up, your hand was on my mine. We were all covered in autumn leaves.

 

#3 Twisted

A pigeon seemed to fly straight at me, I screamed, ducked and twisted my ankle. You set up two chairs and lifted my leg onto your lap. You poured some water on my ankle, telling me it was magic water, that it would heal anything.

 

 

 

#4 Proposal

You sat me in a solitary chair beside an ageing flower bed. I knew what you were planning. You knelt beside me and pulled out a box. I said ‘yes’ and then pushed you over. “In a Paris park? Too cheesy”

 

#5 Making Plans

Satisfied at deciding our new adventures we placed two chairs in front us, we plonked our legs on them, happy in the world, confident in the future. Everything was in front of us. The world was our park to play in.

 

#6 Public intimacy

You set up the ultrasound image on a chair on front of us. And we both stared at our little future.

#7 Far enough

It was getting cold and I was getting tired, we stopped along the path and you got two chairs for us to sit in. People looked at us and wondered why we had sat in such a place. I wanted to scream “because I’m fat and pregnant!”. Instead I put my hand on your leg. And we sat. And watched the world go by, shoulder to shoulder. It’s nice to be fat and in love. No one else matters.

 

#8 The battle

You taught me how to play chess. But I beat you, every time, but once in 60 years…. I let you win.

 

 

#9 Memories

You made us sit down in the middle of the path. I thought you wanted a rest, instead you told our son of the time I was frightened by a bird and twisted my ankle. Laughing the whole time…. Until a pigeon on the tree above you pooped on your head. Timothy cried laughing at the two of us. “pigeons hate mommy and daddy!“

 

#10 Fear’is Wheel

It took us an hour of him crying before he would get the courage to ride it. It wasn’t until we sat and watched a full revolution did he believe it was safe. “You’re a brave little man”, you said. “Let’s go”.

 

#11 Jokers

We saw a guy in the park taking photos of empty chairs. I said that maybe he was taking photos to make up stories about how they got there. So I suggested a joke. We arranged the chairs in a line, too far apart for people to talk to each other. And then we hid as he took a photo. You could read it in his face, thinking, ”how did these chairs get here?”. Snot came out of your nose you laughed so hard; you’re a teenager’s mind in a grown man’s body.

 

#12 Love lost and gained over cheese

Timothy moved his chair away when you opened the cheese, “how can you people eat that?” he said, the rest of us ate it like it was our last meal. We lost a son but gained a daughter.

 

#13 Alone together

You got grumpy at us and turned your chair away. “Gossip” you said. But while you pretended to sleep, I knew you kept listening.

 

#14 Legs

My legs aren’t shorter than yours, they are just more efficient. Drink your wine.

 

 

 

#15 The dance

Timothy and you and I sat on one side, and Anne’s parents sat on the other. In the middle, Sophie danced her dance, her tutu was so white under the park light. She twisted and the leaves moved with her. Proud parents, and teary eyed grandparents.

 

#16 Parallel together

You insisted on reading a broadsheet newspaper. But to stay close you arranged our chairs so that the newspaper wouldn’t be in my lap. You’d read your newspaper and I’d read on my phone, my feet on your knees. Occasionally you’d lower the top half the paper, look at me and tell me a story from it. ‘Interesting’ I would say, never telling you I was reading the same story.

 

#17 The beginning ….. of the end

We walked from the doctor’s office and beside the pond, we sat and put our feet on the edge, I lent over and put my head into your shoulder. ‘Be brave’, I said, while my heart was crushed.

 

#18 We need to tell you something

 

 

 

 

#19 Tired

I took a pillow from the hospital and put it between your head and the tree. I placed my feet on a chair and a rug over our laps. You fell asleep. I wondered if I should wake you. And when I decided it was time, it was too late.

 

#20 Alone

We told each other that it would last forever. Forever wasn’t long enough.

 

#21 The path never taken

There was never an adventure I went on without you, no one told us what to do, we found our own way, but now without you, everything seems impossible.

 

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#22 Gone

And then there was nothing. Memories no longer owned. Ready to be blown away. Cleared for new beginnings.