“ To lose ones self is essential for any transformation.” This had been the opening line of the flyer that had prompted my attendance at the seminar entitled “The Consciousness Singularity and Implications for Immortality.” It had been hosted by Metamind and, some months later, I sit in a waiting room of their huge lab complex. My hands rest in my lap, blue veins are visible under the pale soft skin of my wrists. I am dressed in a shapeless knee length white smock that had been handed to me neatly folded after my body had been through its final preparations.
I run my hands over my naked scalp marvelling at the novelty of it. A new sensation at the end of all sensation, I smile at the irony of it. I think of the remarkable devices that sit dormant within the surface of my brain millimetres from my fingertips. I have completed the final paperwork consenting to their activation, and I think how strange it is that my final act of submission to this program and its pioneering technology, should involve the aeons old and singularly human gesture of a signature on paper.
It had been impossible explaining my decision to mom
“It’s the ultimate liberation Mom” I had insisted as we shared a last meal together. “the next evolutionary step, maybe even the final one.”
Mom had insisted that it was a leap not a step, created in a lab by human interference with the laws of nature, and as such it was a bad thing.
“We should let nature take its own course Mary”, she said, “not manipulate it for our own ends!” She had a simplistic way of looking at the world which I usually found endearing, but tonight I desperately wanted her to understand. Her approval, though not essential, was still important to me.
“That doesn’t make sense Mom, we’re not outside of nature peering in and meddling with it, we are nature. This is the culmination of decade’s worth of social and cultural evolution. Collective consciousness is the next step up from collective intelligence, which, I hasten to add you don’t seem to have a problem with!”
Mom insisted that sharing ideas and information as a collective through her various social media accounts was different, that you could unplug and return to the material world, and that was important.
“Once you’ve given your consciousness over to those creeps at MetaMind there will be no unplugging, there’ll be no you to unplug, no way back to me“
Hearing the anguish in her voice was almost more than I could bare but I was firm in my resolve.
“To join my consciousness with a billion others though Mom, think about what that might mean, who or what else we might join with, what we might become! It’s the ultimate Fuck You to death; don’t you want that after all we’ve been through?”
She was crying now but defiantly held my gaze, how stubborn we both were!
“No more dancing to deaths tune Mom, we can be free of it, immortal, isn’t that what we’ve been striving for ever since….. I paused and she looked up, her eyes searching my face for the chink in my resolve that she thought I had inadvertently revealed
“Ever since what?”
It was cruel of me, but I held her gaze and continued “It’s our obligation to explore what that really means, to become something more than this, this fragile bag of bones that starts decaying just a handful of years into it’s short life, that can hurt and break and bleed. I need to be more than that!”
I had been born surrounded by death. The Euro War was in its second brutal year and over the next seven I would lose a brother and a father to its horror. I had found people too, usually buried beneath rubble, pale powdered hands softly reaching out to me, or limbless and staring into a void I grew more and more curious about. War makes you contemplate death, not in the casual way of peacetime where it’s an important but troublesome party guest, who you acknowledge politely and then spend the rest of the evening trying to avoid, but earnestly, as the only sure thing in a life of uncertainty. Mom had taken comfort in this, I had not. Mom was passionate about life, about people, about the here and now. She was always fighting for social justice and lost causes. I found such enthusiasm for life futile whilst we were still at deaths behest and I decided quite early on to spend the life I had left exploring ways to cheat that arrogant and conceited spectre out of his inheritance. Mom would often berate my attitude towards death saying “Stop running from it Mary, turn around and acknowledge it and maybe it will leave you alone for a while”
“I’m not running from it Mom” I would reply “I’m running towards it.” It was true; my sights were always set on the horizon, searching for its shape, its shadow. I have always thought it odd that people think you can run from death when your death waits ahead. If you are running from death then it’s not yours you run from, but those already taken, those we lost in the war.
Last night had been hot and still. The window across from my bed was open and framed the thinnest sliver of moon glowing brightly in an inky and cloudless sky. As she reclined gracefully I could see what should be unseen; a huge shadow at rest in her lap, her dark side. Venus had risen to take her place below her like a sentinel, and blinked as if contemplating whether to inform the moon of her indiscretion. As I lay there looking out at the night sky and its terrible beauty, I contemplated my journey to come and I realised with horror that there still remained, despite the months of preparation, a sliver of hope that some essence of me would continue, just one instance of my unique consciousness – or qualia – that would identify as the me lying here, this night. Irritated with myself and what I considered a lack of complete commitment, I banished these thoughts from my mind and got up, closing the curtains on the night sky
In the bathroom later that night, I played with two mirrors, holding them up in such a way as to create an infinite number of me’s going on and on and on through time. It was a game I’d been fascinated by as a child. Where did I end? Where did I begin? Which one was the real me? Sometimes I would sit my little brother Milo next to the sink, “Where’s Mary, Milo?” I would ask and he would stare wide eyed at the reflections for a moment and then turn to me and point with complete conviction “That’s Mary!” he would shout and I would laugh and lift him up, and he would bury his head in my shoulder and wrap his arms around my neck and his legs around my waist, and we would hold each other fiercely until we were perfectly sure and confident of each other’s existence. As I studied those reflections for the final time I thought of each image as qualia; each a representation of my unique experiences of the world. This one is the colour red, this one my father’s stubble against my cheek, this one the fire of mango chutney on my tongue, this one wind through the bamboo, this one my brothers screams, this one smoke and decay, this one the crack, ping and thump of gunshots against stone and metal and flesh. I put the mirror down eyeing the one remaining image impassively. This familiar face with its light brown freckles splashed over pale skin, its delicate brow drawn into a frown over clear grey eyes. I ran my hands over the small contours of my face, down over my neck, my breasts, my stomach, I wrapped my arms around myself. Mom appeared behind me, “You ok honey” she whispered, gently stroking my hair. That right there, that sensation, this one moment, this qualia, I would keep it, hold on to it with every atom of my being and never let it go.
The double doors to the waiting room swing open and a smiling lady in a lab coat comes towards me hand outstretched. I rise and shake her hand noticing manicured nails in a startling shade of red. We walk together along the corridor, me squeaking in plastic clogs alongside the measured click click of her black patent shoes. We don’t speak until we enter a room where I am told to get up on to a couch. The room is vast and there are rows and rows of others like me, reclining comfortably as if asleep. They are dressed in the same white smock, heads shaved, palms resting in laps, my infinity mirror. Soon I will be joined with them in an intimate and infinite bond; their qualia will become mine and mine theirs. I climb onto the couch, I am ready.
To lose ones self is essential for any transformation, these words bubble up from somewhere and pop pop pop behind my eyes like fireworks. I feel a sense of emergence, like a moth from its cocoon into the inky night; I am searching for light, for that sliver in the sky. Threads of qualia unravel around me and set me spinning like a bobbin, they form a current and move with a powerful force toward other streams of qualia that crisscross the void in an intricate tapestry. I am losing my self, transforming as each qualia becomes part of the Meta Mind. A single thread hovers before me and I am suddenly so overcome by emotion and longing that I cannot breathe. Language is starting to evade me but I am certain it has a name; it is love. Now that thread too is gone, finding its place amongst the billions of others that are weaving their way through infinity. Still I transform and as my consciousness unravels from the umbilical connecting it to death, I cease to exist. I become not I, and the not I becomes huge and boundless, powerful in its infinite potential, and the not I knows with complete and unflinching certainty, that even if this body were to fail and the implants power down, and even if the lights were to go out at the end of all things, it would endure.