Button Mashing My Way Into The Machine4 October 2016
I’m always thinking about the end. Maybe it’s my faulty heart. And stomach. And head. It would be nice to replace all these unrefined, bloody organs with shiny new gear. An i-heart. Intestinal Nexus 9. Maybe some quality new software for the brain. Positive thinking. Enhanced user self-control. Achievements unlocked in real-time. Rocking the Boat: ‘Disappointed your parents on their anniversary’. Money Bags: ‘Got fired from another restaurant’. Unruly Tongues: ‘Made out with your cousin’. How about Siri’s live stream ringing in my left ear so I didn’t end up missing a friend’s wedding because I was checking out the new Forza trailer on my phone.
I’ve always had a plan for the end. Max out a few credit cards, hire a kombi van and a few prostitutes, buy a gun and some cocaine, then take-off into Australia’s Red Centre. I’m not going for anything literary here. Nothing like The Last of Us or Journey. Nothing transcendent. More like John Marston from Red Dead Redemption, shooting a bunch of cops in a barn somewhere.
And then? The grieving of the future: People will populate my e-grave. There’ll be messages typed across my Facebook wall, “Dude – where did you leave my phone?” And you know what? I’ll fucking write back – “It’s smashed up in a public toilet near Alice Springs”.
How? Because in the future, corporations will monopolise death. Companies like Google and Apple are going to own the e-graves we mourn over. It will be a physical space – like Apple stores – where retailers will offer the memories of those we’ve lost. Acne-ridden teens with brightly coloured shirts will serve those with running mascara.
There’ll be a bunch of different packages for different prices. Come and experience Gabe’s first kiss in Virtual Reality. Would you like to race against his ghost in Burnout 2? How about a montage of his petty vandalism to the soundtrack of Thrasher: Skate and Destroy? Brands will hijack the memories and pay for native content. That jacket you wore to your Year 11 formal now has a Nike tick above its breast pocket. The car your parents dropped you off in on your first day of school is now a much newer model. And wait a second, I don’t remember dad ever smoking…
These places will allow you to recreate the end for your loved one. Humiliated families will create neat, artificial narratives that give closure. The MH370 is on a tropical island. Harold Holt is living in an underwater secret society. My degenerate murder spree will become a pagan spirit quest. I’ll now sit there cross-legged in front of Uluru running my fingers through my hair, sporting a knowing smile on my face.
The idea of recreating the end is one of the greatest attributes of video games. But all bets are off in the real world. The end might come when you’re trying to uninstall some shitty app from your phone. Or you might bang your head trying to jump over something in the night. It might happen while you’re thinking about switching electricity companies or ruminating over the pathetic consistency of your hair. Or, if you’re lucky, while you’re on the toilet, lost in the drunken reveries of your youth.
Perhaps in the future we’ll be able to orchestrate our endings by harnessing technology. Human battery low – cue Leonard Cohen; a red sunset; the faces of those you loved; a light breeze; a steady hand; the voice of God; the Garden of Eden; then, finally, an apple. Maybe, those in the gutter can look up at synthetic stars. Google creates a date they never had. A dinner they never bought. A fast car that never stopped.
Who knows, maybe, like Elon Musk said earlier this year, we’re already part of a vast simulation program designed by artificial intelligence. A Sims-like platform.
Playing The Sims was terrifying because of its ideological accuracy: Build a home in a box somewhere. Buy a TV and an IKEA catalogue of furniture. Cultivate relationships. Make your solid $50,000 to the soundtrack of the American Dream. The voices of your Sims were like the irrelevant, primordial drawls of someone unable to communicate true meaning. All you had at your disposal were those predetermined physical gestures generally leading to sex – kiss; hug; dance; back rub.
It was unsettling because it peered into the abyss. Maybe the developers, Maxis, are the company of the future, the ones that Elon Musk refers to, and this was their way of offering a clue as to what life really was. This shit aint real – you get it? But then we loved nurturing these little digital entities so we got Tamagotchi, Pokémon and a myriad of other electric relationships. We gave ourselves over to this modality and now we spin amidst its rays.
So, really, there’s no need for me to find a way to augment myself for self-improvement or artificial eternality.
I’m already part of the machine.
Anyway, thanks for being in here with me.