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The Tinkered Mind
A meditation app is forthcoming. Stay Tuned.
January 15th, 2023
Even though he’d now known these parents for years, Lucilius held it together while delivering the news. He left them with that solemn prognosis and did not return to his office. He found a secluded stairwell where he sat and buried his face in his hands. Lucilius sobbed, the image of the child’s face torturing his mind, his understanding filling with fire the story he knew was playing out behind that child’s face, in the blood. It was quite a while before he was able to collect himself, and when he did he was grateful for that reflex of distraction: mindlessly grabbing for his phone.
An old friend had messaged him.
Boy do I have something to show you! Wanna stop by tonight or whenever your crazy shift is over?
Lucilius tapped to reply, an excuse already lined up to bail and delay any potential meeting for some other time. But he caught himself. Thinking about the stress he was under - the news he’d just delivered and that despite all his knowledge and research he was all out of answers. He was at the end of his rope and there was nothing he could do.
Be over soon, he responded.
Lucilius slipped the phone back into the pocket of his long white doctor’s coat and stood, gathering himself further. He reflected again about how unfair it all was.
“I need a drink,” he said out loud to himself before turning to go button up his department and leave.
When the apartment doors opened he saw a black sphere sitting in the center of the loft. Thousands of wires bound in a huge rope snaked across the floor from a computer and split off, each wire reaching up connecting to a different point on the sphere.
Lucilius slowly walked toward the black sphere, wondering what on earth his friend had done. Circling the sphere, looking at the different lights as they blinked, Lucilius guessed the enormous sphere to be nearly 9 feet in diameter. Luckily the loft apartment had high ceilings.
Suddenly a strange shifting sound emanated from deep within the sphere and then a loud click. The top half of the sphere spun about half a foot and then the sphere cracked, the top half lifting, the wires bound to that hemisphere pulling their slack from the floor around the base.
Lucilius bent over to look inside and saw a man’s torso. The man bent and looked at Lucilius.
“Lucy, you made it!”
“What on earth…” Lucilius barely muttered as he watched his friend spread curtain of wires and gingerly step through and out from the narrow opening.
It looked like the man was wearing a pair of cycling shorts. Lucilius just shook his head, confused.
“You gotta try this out. Hold on, let me get you a fresh pair.”
Minutes later, Lucilius was crawling into the split sphere wearing just some cycling shorts.
“It’s better naked, but whatever.”
Lucilius gave his friend a strange and skeptical look. “Exactly WHAT is better?”
His friend simply wore a wide smile.
The ring of light around Lucilius began to shrink until it blinked out of existence and he was in complete darkness.
When the dark sphere finally split again nearly an hour later, Lucilius was in an amazed state of shock.
The face of his smiling friend was nodding in the ring of light where the sphere had split again.
“What did I tell you?!?!”
“Wha… how… This is incredible… What just happened?” Lucilius barely muttered, astonished, as he regained his bearings and crawled out through the parted curtain of wires his friend held aloft.
During that hour, Lucilius had been transported to another world. He’d certainly played video games before, but this was on an entirely different order of magnitude. He had actually been there, and now that he returned, he was under the impression that his body had been actually transported to the world he’d visited. The smells, the heat of the sun, the feeling of the grass between his toes as he walked around and down to the beach. The weightlessness as he’d gone swimming. His skin had been still damp when he was transported back but now he was dry, as though nothing had ever happened.
“Ok, explain it to me. Now!” Lucilius said.
His friend laughed with an extreme delight.
“Can you guess?”
Lucilius looked back at the dark sphere. “I mean it truly was like I teleported to another reality, but if I had to guess… I don’t think I actually left the sphere, nor this room.”
His friend nodded. But Lucilius shook his head. “I have no idea how this thing works. It just seems unlikely that you teleported me to a place I can’t identify.”
“The actual reality was just something that I generated with a Chaotic Diffusion Model. Nothing special there. That’s what they’ve been doing with all video games since Stable Diffusion got the Chaotic upgrade last year.”
“Ok…” Lucilius said. He was marginally aware of what was happening in the AI generated space and new that breakthroughs were happening all the time.
“Wait, so, you’re saying that entire experience was AI generated?”
“But… it’s more than the video game stuff. It’s not just a visual and spatial world, I could smell things, and touch them, and there was heat and cold and I even pulled at a few blades of grass and chewed on them because I just couldn’t believe how real everything was, but against all reason.. I mean.. even the grass tasted like grass. How… how does that happen with a Chaotic Diffusion Model that people have been using to just generate the visuals for video games?”
“It’s the sphere man.”
“The sphere? What the heck is it?”
His friend smiled. “The sphere generates a plasma that fills all the space between you and the inside edge of the sphere, and based on the world generated by the Chaotic Diffusion Model, the plasma will reconfigure to support and interact with your body.”
“Support and interact? What on earth does that mean.”
“So when you went swimming… you went swimming right?”
“Your body was actually making those movements. The plasma gets denser where you see water in proximity to your body, and when you were actually swimming, your body was actually making those movements inside the sphere, but the plasma move in accordance to your movement in the simulation. Or rather the plasma reconfigured in accordance to physical changes in the simulation so you’re body actually feels it. Heat, cold, texture, even light, the plasma is reconfigured for all of it.”
“Light? Wait are you saying that it generated all the light I was seeing?”
“Yes, but it’s optimized just around your eyes. 99% of the sphere is dark but there are two hemispheres cupped around each of your eyes where the plasma generates light. And of course heat and texture, hence the feeling of sea water on your eyeballs when you open your eyes under water.”
“Holy….this is… crazy.”
“Well a lot of it has to do with my advanced access to Chaotic Models. The publicly available models can’t generate much beyond the visual spatial world. But the one I’m using is cutting edge since I’ve been developing the plasma sphere.”
Lucilius thought for a moment. “Wait, that was a pretty basic world. How fast does the Chaotic Model generate?”
“Oh it only takes a few seconds. I actually figured out a way to make it make further renderings based on what the person inside the sphere does.”
“Can I try to design a different Chaotic Model?”
“Oh for sure, it’s pretty wild what you can do with it. Just over here, type whatever.”
An idea has pierced Lucilius’ mind, and the single-minded determination that dominated most of his working life had come alive. He rushed to the computer and started typing away. His friend looked over his shoulder, brow furrowed until it went soft and his eyebrows lifted.
“Oh yes,” Lucilius said. He stood up from the computer having generated the model and walked back toward the sphere.
“Are you sure you…”
“-Yep, I have an idea how this might help my work.”
“Lucilius, it’s not tested for that kind of - “
“-I don’t care. I’m out of options. Fire it up.” Lucilius said as he crawled back into the dark sphere.
“Are you sure you’ll be ok? This is a…I haven’t tested it for anything like this.”
His friend turned back to the computer and with a few keystrokes the sphere began to contract, the ring of light shrinking until it blinked into darkness.
The next day, Lucilius knocked on the front door of a house he’d never seen before. The door opened and a woman was started to see him.
“Oh, uh, doctor! Um what are you doing here- - I’m sorry, please come in,” she said, swinging the door wider for Lucilius to enter.
About half an hour later, with the child safely out of ear shot, the parents finally understood what Lucilius was trying to say.
“A.. mystical experience? But a placebo?” The mother said.
Lucilius nodded. “I know, I know it sound like pure fantasy. And I cannot promise that it has even the slightest chance of having any effect, but as you both know - painfully - we’ve tried absolutely everything, and despite how fast modern medicine is progressing and how powerful it is, we simply won’t have a cure for this any time soon and when tested against any drug that hasn’t proved to be a complete cure, placebo still works better. As amazing as that fact is, and this kind of experience could induce a placebo-like response. Your child is still young enough where the realms of the real and the realm of the imagination are still blurry enough that he might. Just. Truly. Believe it. But in order for this to work I need to do some very unorthodox things. He’ll need to be sedated, transported, and all of this is not within the scope of my medical license, but I of course I don’t care. If you understand and you’re willing to try…”
The parents looked at each other and then back at Lucilius. “Yes, of course we’ll try anything,” the Father said. “We’ve trusted you completely, and we’ll trust you till the end.”
“If this works, there won’t be an end,” Lucilius said.
Several days later the sedated boy was placed within the dark sphere, and it slid shut. The parents held each other as they watched it close.
Lucilius had spent the intervening time working on the Chaotic Diffusion model, designing it, fine tuning it with the help of his friend.
“Are you sure the boy will wake up?”
“Of course, general anesthesia has come a long way in the last two years. It’d been fully vetted. He’ll wake up in exactly…” Lucilius checked the count down on his phone, “almost exactly 2 minutes. And he’ll fall back under in exactly 62 minutes.”
“Ok,” his friend said. “Well, let’s see how well this experience that you designed… works.”
Although Lucilius was now working as a medical doctor and researcher, he had spent years studying the varieties of religious experience. It had been a hobby of his for many years before he’d decided to become a doctor and he was quite well versed in the kinds of perspectives and experiences that people had prior to the rise of scientific rationalism. For all it’s tremendous advances, there was still something within the human mind that contained a strength and a power that could not rival medicines that were short of cures. Lucilius knew this on a truly deep level, and he had designed a tremendous experience for his young patient, one that explored every facet of mystical experience Lucilius was acquainted with. He’d not just read and researched the topic. Lucilius came from a very old tradition of experience, and he drew upon this deep memory to design an experience that would reach deep down into the very core of what made the boy human, and shake it. It was vital the boy would be convinced it was real, hence the need for timed anesthesia. The boy would wake up in a world that he recognized, his room with his parents, and then it would slowly, effortlessly transform into something Lucilius truly hoped might reach into the deepest recesses of the boys brain, with the aim of triggering the body’s most far-reaching powers. There was just so much that Lucilius knew science had yet to uncover. He knew that a cure for the boy’s condition was perhaps only years away given the incredible advancement of medical knowledge using machine learning. But it was still a couple years away, and the boy Lucilius raged to save had mere weeks at best. Lucilius knew this. The parents knew this. And with no hope in any of the traditional nor cutting edge solutions that Lucilius had tried, there was nothing to loose. It was a hoax, but Lucilius knew that a hoaxed believed with the power of a human mind behind it could alter the reality of that boy’s body.
“It’s going to start in 10 seconds,” Lucilius’ friend stated.
“You have readings on body position, right?”
Ten seconds later, Lucilius’ friend stated. “The boy has woken up. Its starting.”