National Novel Writing Month

In Empires of the Mind on November 7, 2011 at 4:33 am

I’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month. I’m way behind, and participating to begin with was stupid considering how busy and uncompensated I am, but I figure it’s time to try being sloppy. Anyways, here’s a randomly-and-hastily-assembled excerpt from the 5,000 or so totally unpolished and vomitous words I have so far:

It was always thought that time travel would be a quantitative thing; whether or not scientists thought of it that way, certainly the culture did. I guess in retrospect, it became clear around the early 2000s that time travel would take on a qualitatively different character than dude gets in machine and goes somewhere, and it was obvious even before that if you were one of those rare people who sits around all day thinking about the future of personal electronic devices or fab labs or harvesting trillion-dollar asteroids.  

I remember my own childhood when a family friend who worked for the air force came by to talk physics: we would spend hours discussing the potential pitfalls of travel through time or at the speed of light – radicals in space hitting the ship hull at super-high effective speeds and gradually poking little holes in the hulls until one day all of a sudden you’re very far from home with a very serious air leak, whether time travel would involve actually going back (or forward) and screwing up things or creating alternate realities, and would these alternate realities by super-focused, i.e. holding everything but properties relevant to some particular goal as constant. Anyways, we’d have these conversations, imagining these wildly different possibilities for future technologies that none of the science fiction writers or Time journalists had been anywhere near.

Well it turns out that out of the ashes of the first genomic revolution back just after the human genome was decoded came the phoenix of realizing that all of that genetic noise as it was called then – or the stuff that they didn’t really understand – was actually a very, very detailed record of the past for that particular individual’s genome; and it was this, combined with increasingly larger processing power and the new emergent engineering that started coming out of Stanford around 2030 or so, plus the entrepreneurial vigor of the Bay Area’s young residents, plus the new propensity for the public to voluntarily upload all sorts of intimate personal details onto the Internet, plus neuroscience shit, plus some other stuff which I’m probably leaving out and advanced mathematical techniques, and social forces pushing towards cooperation – am I getting too preachy?


Good. Anyways, all these forces came together to give us chemical time travel, what is essentially a genetic reagent that realigns synapses to allow us to experience what were likely the experiences of our past ancestors and what will likely be the experiences of our future descendants.

Now, there are all sorts of issues raised by this, as I’m sure you’re just racing though. So, I’m gonna tell you, as amazing at this chemical time travel sounds, most of it, at first, was marketing. At first, only really primitive areas of the brain could be affected, so whatever vague euphoria or pain of death of whatever I felt was probably very similar to that felt by a lizard, BUT, it was, empirically, the experience of my father when he once felt vague euphoria or pain of death. And this in itself is fucking mind-blowing. For the curious, chemical time travel was highly coveted and we all tried it, and we all found it quite boring and infinitely exciting at the same time.

The next generation of the stuff came a few years later, and by this point you saw it starting to be marketed, and the government starting to get its slow tentacles moving towards either making it illegal outright or trying to take some money from it. This time around the obtrusive effect was the sudden realization of epiphany of something, like, how to make silver from scratch in people named Silversmith or the proper procedures for planting sorghum in people who’ve lived their entire lives in cities; and it was random like that because who knows what one’s ancestors were doing. Complications started to crop up at this second generation too, due to the statistical errors compounded by removal of each successive generation. Like, it was easy enough to learn about my mother without taking drugs, so why go through the effort when I might wind up experiencing childbirth or your dad having an affair or something. Let me also add here, that at this time too experiences were still totally random. They hadn’t figured out how to chemically code qualitative differences in what kind of experiences the user is looking for.

At this point too they discovered the viscosity of time, which it turns out is not really an issue locally; i.e. parents and even grandparents; but can fuck *psycho*chrono*nauts who venture too deeply. Still, once in a while you’ll get lucky and wind up at the dawn of civilization or the age of exploration or somewhere and the experience will seem to drag on for days or even years and really it’s just been thirty seconds. Your brain’s time regulators go into crazy overdrive or something and you invent an entire world, like the best most realistic dream you’ve ever had, except that it’s real, or, it was real, for someone who is no longer on this earth and whose only remains are encoded in your DNA.



I know what you’re saying. And the philosophical implications of this are the elephant(s) in the room. Fate – still doesn’t exist. There’s been a lot of argument on this topic since chemical time travel first came out. The reason the times where the pill puts you in the brain-states of your own future descendants suck so much is not because everyone’s future sucks and is mundane and emotionless and the same for everyone. It’s because it’s more difficult to predict what will happen than to know what has happened. Especially if it’s recent, you get a pretty accurate representation, at least compared with the accounts of actual living older relatives of users in double-blind, controlled experiments.

The stuff has only been around for so long and it still hasn’t really made it mainstream or at least as mainstream as I seem to think it could get, which is like whole world, brain-in-a-vat mainstream; so there hasn’t been much empirical data on what kind of predictive power there is. But can you imagine, if like we know who the President is and we can give some chemical time travel to his relative and find out what the Russians are up to in 2063, how awesome we’d be able to diplomate?

So what’s this stuff that we’re about to take?

This is pretty heavy sensory material. Controlled hallucination type-stuff, third generation, post-intuitive stuff. I guess we never really covered this in my introductory talk on what we’re doing this weekend. So they found ways to program sensory experiences into chemical time travel combined with the intuitive grasp of random facts and experiences that the second generation stuff had the effect of doing, which is really what any good drug does, right?

But are we even taking drugs? This seems different.

No, I agree. I mean Harvard professors do this shit, and it doesn’t make you eat off your own arm or rot your brain or anything. There’s definitely some stuff that you’ll lose in the process, like one guy I know suddenly forgot how to tie his shoes right after he came back from it, but he lucked out and had an awesome experience playing in the NBA Championship – I guess it turned out one of his ancestors was a basketball player or something – so that was worth having to relearn how to tie his shoes. But, this other guy I know is a translator from Portuguese to English, and he completely forgot Portuguese.

  1. This is a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us! I hope to read more of your post which is very informative and useful to all the readers. I salute writers like you for doing a great job! International Move GA

  2. That's a nice excerpt and you think that this was a product of being sloppy? Come on. This is a good article. Anyway, I still don't think that time machine is a good thing and even if someone can invent it properly, I won't even try it. Would you?

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