Somewhere, it doesn’t matter where, a twenty something tech-billionaire takes the stage of some large conference hall full of journalists and that vanguard class of people turning money into software into culture. This young man is there to deliver remarks on his success, and dresses in gray and black, a fashion statement that understates the inevitability of attention. Flash, color, striving for notice, these are the concerns of lesser people, whose utility is wasted in its efforts, the effects… inefficient. His image is broadcast everywhere at once, and this veritable child speaks with the authority of money and power and crass dissembling. Nevermind the discussions of tech leader as cultivator of chaos and disruption. His voice is trembling, it is an ongoing shakedown of the old world. “I was an only child, and I was neglected I suppose by my parents who wanted only success for me, from me,” begins his speech, in a room so full of silence. His voice is the quavering of a pubescent humanity.
“They neglected me in the sense the attention they gave me was not once superfluous. I don’t have memories of spending time as a family, only of them off busy with business. And sessions where they chided me for not delivering high enough grades, or performing well enough in scholarly pursuits. The ribbons I brought home though never earned me more than material thanks. An allowance bonus or some cursory congratulations, letting me know this would deliver for me in some future, which was what it was all for. The sole purpose of my childhood, being sent to the nicest schools and tutors, it was all a waystation to some spectacular result of success that couldn’t but grow hollow as the studying and moral lessons brought truths that revealed history to be a long march by mud-covered serfs.”
This is not disruption any longer, but the succeeding of a permanent revolution entering onto the stage of mass culture, a journalist will reflect on the event, as success and achievement meets the prospect of an arrested development dream of eternal youth.
“Humanity, you see… We are the prodigal son. And those who go seeking their fortune, they choose so-called riotous living, as it says in the bible story, because the steady path is boring and does not pay. It does not satisfy a nature that thrives on chaos and upheaval. When each man is given the option to seek their fortune, most will choose the wayward path. As long as there is youth, as long as there is joy and chaos. And so, our inheritance, with the power technology as accrued to us, is spent forthwith, and a famine falls soon after upon the land. And those who were once the chosen, find themselves among the pigs, eating with the pigs.
“I was this chosen son, is why I am telling you this. My parents, though they didn’t like me watching horror movies or reading certain books, they deigned to give me one thing in particular that I could use. They bought me a top of the line personal computer every year, before every household had access. In 1989, because some business magazines told them computers were good for giving children a leg up in the world, at five years old I had access to realms where I would soon make my own world. This, apart from what I do consider neglect…” He laughs in front of the audience in the auditorium. “I built originally what was to be my revenge. But now, you know me as the creator of the first true virtual reality. Fully immersive, a world inside our first genesis. I have the responsibility of that father sending their child out into the world, seeking their fortune. And I want to tell you, our conservative neo-Luddite critics are dead on the money in saying, there is no dream world unless the reality we are given is paltry and insufficient. So I have nothing but thanks for my own parents and all that they did not provide me. It is in this spirit, that I give to the world, a new realm to contend with. Go, make your fortunes. I introduce to you now, EDEN 2.0. Where all may seek their pleasure, and pick their poison. Under the watchful care of our artificial intelligence, the Manticore. Part Minotaur stalking the labyrinth, Part Guardian angel. It’s important to me that this technology does not foster mankind’s dissociation from its own being. So the Manticore is a kind of Schopenhauerean lighthouse, to keep your ship from wrecking against the existential rocks of the maelstrom that is the will, that is the being of the world.
“The A.I. under whose aegis all interactions within our virtual worlds take place has at its dispensation all the recorded literature and art of human history, as well as a knowledge of internet trends and cultural movements. We wanted to give it a very strong heart-beat. It’s making choices, so it needs a compass. And that will of necessity be moral. It’s like that Edgar Allen Poe story ‘A Descent Into the Maelstrom’ – or the Philip K. Dick essay “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later.” You know, if you look at the internet objectively, it’s just information. It’s a whirlpool, and seeing it through the eyes of an A.I. made it just that much clearer what it all could mean.
“The rays of the moon seemed to search the very bottom of the profound gulf; but still I could make out nothing distinctly, on account of a thick mist in which everything there was enveloped, and over which there hung a magnificent rainbow, like that narrow and tottering bridge which Mussulmen say is the only pathway between Time and Eternity. This mist, or spray, was no doubt occasioned by the clashing of the great walls of the funnel, as they all met together at the bottom — but the yell that went up to the Heavens from out of that mist, I will not attempt to describe.”
That’s Poe. He was a romantic author, and they were big on imagination. And the Romantics, when you bring them into the tech world, you need very good programmers. Because IMAGINATION is viewed as a way to coalesce contradistinct dualities. So, try writing Romantic poetry, using only math…” He paused, smiled and shrugged, and the audience laughed. “And you begin to see. It’s basically a way of saying we long-hand programmed the human spirit and its connection to the infinite… God, if you will, into our V.R. software. I wouldn’t expect anyone to do less if they deign to take the human soul into their… ahem.. Virtual.. Care.”
Someone in the audience shouted out just then – “Shungyosai! How- How does it work?”
“Alright,” Shungyosai said, “In any normal V.R. simulation, with a multi-user experience, the users can view, interact, and direct the action with forward momentum. What we felt had to be done with our full-immersion experience, which reinstantiates the experience of embodiment into a digital world, well.. We’ve inserted a new element whereby the apparatus, interpreting the brain signals of the user – are now, in re-uptake, used (via quantum entanglement)- to change the narrative before the user has even made decisions. It’s often been said that the world, the ‘real’ world, that is, is somehow ‘alive’. So say many a philosophy So, In other words, the narrator of our interactive story, needing to play at this level, seeing into, knowing the players hearts and minds, affords them destinies.
Our hardware is equipped with S.C.Q.I.D. – a SuperConducting Quantum Interference Device – to help smooth the user’s immersion-level. This is what lets a person ease into the simulated environment without an abrupt consciousness lurch. This is our proprietary tech, which we patented in the early days of residence at The Needling Ego, a dingy club where some daring pioneers took some deep plunges into the landscape of consciousness expansion and V.R. research to get us where we are today. That’s where Manticorp was born.
“Why Manticore, Shungyosai?”
“Named after the mythical beast the Manticore. A monster with body of lion, face of a man, and three rows of shark-teeth. This tech is monstrous, and I don’t want anyone to forget this. It can be used to destroy reality, and make all creatures slaves. We chose the manticore especially for the way Pliny the Elder described the Manticore in ‘The Natural History’… ‘Very swift he is, and mans flesh of all others hee most desireth.’”