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The Tinkered Mind
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November 8th, 2020
Every new start began with a party, and that was the one thing everyone knew they’d gotten right so far. There was usually a few dreary moments before the celebration, filled with failure, as with this last iteration where everyone’s memory was still seared with the flash that ended it all. Lucilius breathed a sigh of relief. He was overjoyed to still be alive.
He got up out of bed and ruffled his hair, scratching his scalp, always marvelled by the accuracy of the sensation. He hobbled the few steps to his computer and pulled up the stats. This was the 121st iteration of the Global Existential Solution Experiment, or as it was commonly referred to as, The Gese. The last iteration had not lasted long, and the simulated world ended in global nuclear war, hence the flash seared in everyone’s waking memory. Lucilius had a feeling that the first day’s celebration would take a while to get started as it seemed that everyone always had a bit of the blues when an iteration of The Gese ended in such a morose way.
The people would celebrate because The Gese afforded humanity another chance to figure out a way forward. Early in the 21st Century, as the number of potential existential threats piled up on humanity’s shoulders - from trouble with the climate to nuclear war, viruses and Artificial Intelligence - Lucilius had presented an idea to the United Nations that was universally welcomed within just a couple of weeks.
Lucilius had been working on brain-interface technology for quite a while and had developed a pod in which a human could essentially hibernate while living in a video game. Biological life was essentially suspended while the mind stayed active. Lucilius proposed building 10 billion of these pods and loading everyone into a simulated version of the world as it stood at the time with the hope of serving 2 purposes: one is that humanity’s time away from the biosphere would give it time to heal, and second, the video game world which was a near perfect copy of the real world, would give humanity the opportunity to figure out the best way forward with less risk. With every iteration still lodged in everyone’s memory, the pure futility of nuclear war was now quite clear, particularly after the latest iteration. Lucilius was pretty sure there would be a global consensus to dismantle all nuclear weapons later that night during the celebrations. It had happened several times before during previous iterations that started when another ended in that iconic flash and heat.
Lucilius checked the stats and wondered how many times humanity would have to get swept up in the frenzy of fear that lead to nuclear war before it became permanently lodged in memory that it never ended well. Briefly, he wondered if it was causing harm to the human psyche - this reassurance to start over. Would that reassurance falsely remain when The Gese Experiment was over and humanity had to navigate reality for real?
He shook off the thought. By all measurements, things were going well. Lucilius, along with any one else in the simulation who was interested, had access to a view of the outside world. Before humanity had taken the digital plunge, they had united to create the most efficient system to support The Gese experiment. Hibernating humans needed far fewer calories than when fulfilling the functions of a fully operational planet, and so the automation of food systems was far less intensive for the requirements of The Gese experiment.
The biosphere was regenerating at an incredible rate and with a total collapse in the production of greenhouse gases, the climate problem was on track to be a self-correcting climate solution within two years. Other problems also benefited from the set up. Scientists were able to continue their work within the simulation, activating remote laboratories and equipment that existed outside of the simulation in the real world, and their data was honored across simulations without loss. Lucilius had taken a few such liberties. Social media was wiped of course, but any substantial writing that anyone had done was honored, and Lucilius himself had taken the time to write a few books, despite is main job being the maintenance of the systems foundational to The Gese.
He was still daily astonished that humanity had gone for it, and even despite the often terrible endings of iterations, Lucilius felt that overall, humanity was - perhaps for the first time - having fun.
He picked up his fresh brewed cup of coffee and took a sip, gratefully. And as he put it down and the mug clacked back, Lucilius heard the first distant pop of fireworks to celebrate the new day. Lucilius smiled. He picked his coffee back up and walked to the window. There was another pop, but he could barely see it.
He considered for a moment. It was technically against the rules, but, he didn’t think it was too much of a risk. He tapped his phone until it brought up global simulation settings. He placed a finger on a slider that was currently set to maximum and paused to perhaps think better of it. But in that moment he hear another pop of a firework getting launched into the sky. He pulled the slider all the way down and instantly the bright sun rolled out of view and the entire midday sky became a nightscape of stars. . just in time for the brilliant explosion of color to fill the sky’s canvas.