Sight11 Jan 2013
It was Veleriy Zyvotov’s work that finally brought an end to the AI winter. The Z-papers, as they became known, were a tour de force in cortical theory and marked the beginnings of the Brain Decade. For the next dozen or so years scientists would scrutinize and map every nook and cranny of the human neocortex in an attempt to emulate all of its quirks. The visual system was naturally one of the first to be dissected and trivialized. It turned out to be fairly easy to get a feed, an image that is, of what a person saw in their mind’s eye.
The tech quickly caught up with the research and the first HoloSight came out less than two years after the academic research. All you had to do was tuck the thing behind your ear, remember something vivid, and poof, there it was, in colorful holography. Problem was, most people don’t remember too well, so the pictures often appeared fuzzy, faceless, or distorted in a myriad ways. Still, there were a few whose memories held perfect impressions of reality and whose imaginations could paint fiction just as clearly. They were called Seers and they became the Beethovens and Mozarts of the modern world. Some were classically trained, having had to retard their vision with a wooden brush and a pastel set, but most were simply dreamers who would have never survived the urban rat race had they lived in the decades of past.
As the demand grew, Sight became bidirectional and could pump all five senses from one person to the next. You could chain together a few or broadcast to millions, as long as there was enough bandwidth and memory to maintain the integrity of the feed. Virtual Worlds became a dime a dozen and many liked to jack in and tune out. They wanted to own suburban homes and have four kids, not live in Megablocks, breathe polluted air, and have to win a lottery in order to copulate. Sight gave them the escape they dreamed of and for a while they went back and forth between reality and utopia. They worked for food and lived for Sight. But something strange began to happen as more and more addicts checked out while on the wire. Some of their avatars persisted, the machines having had enough time to reverse engineer their identities, their souls. The bodies died but the minds kept on living. It was a welcome feature. Soon enough regular folks began taking their own lives, some even took their families with them. There was a suicide streak that went on for years and for the first time in modern history the population plummeted.
Do you know what happens when three quarters of the world’s population takes a dirt nap? You’d think it would be a catastrophe but it actually turned out quite alright. The religious nuts were the first to go. They called it “Heaven on Earth” and didn’t wait long to follow their beloved ministers to an imaginary Salvation. The oppressed, the cynical, and the power hungry went next. Everyone now had a choice to make, and those who stuck around all had something in common. They were motivated and ready to start over. After a while, clean water and air stopped being a commodity and there was enough food to feed everyone. With a universal single mindedness we began to terraform, bringing the Earth back to the way she was when the dinosaurs roamed, blue and green, not red and grey.