To Feel Human Again
by Terence Im
“HOW DOES ONE LIVE LIFE like it’s a dream, a dream where the world has no knowledge of sorrow?” Marina asked. “In the real world, there are dark clouds hanging over the hearts of billions. Even worse, if someone were to tell a heartbroken person that there’s a way to unravel profound joy and freedom within, so many would just laugh and say, That’s impossible in this grey world. And why? Because we’ve been conditioned to think only of the clouds."
“If the anxieties of the 2070s, no, all of human fate, are to disappear, then we have to feel human again,” I said.
Marina and I were in a holographic simulation of Paris sometime around the year 2058, eating cakes outside in the rain. Our skins felt the gentle, artificial rain, but for the moment, all functions responsible for rain's effect on certain objects such as food and clothing were nullified unless specifically enabled by either Marina or myself, and so, we could enjoy our cake in the rain without getting wet.
The year 2058 was a better time in history when you could find your average human being resemble, well, just that, a human being. To be able to look into someone’s eyes and know those eyes are organic or to see the whole of a person’s body without one cybernetic enhancement visible; it was a sight to cherish and behold, and I never got tired of these pre-2060s simulations because of this. For Marina and I, these simulation experiences were a way to reconnect with our human nature. Usually, we wouldn’t say much about the sorrows of the world while enjoying our moments of escapism, but lately, Marina’s songwriting had been exploring the theme of clouds. Take for example:
We’re all in a potential paradise,
But all we see are clouds,
Surrounding us all,
But wait! Listen! See! Feel!
There is something near,
A suppressed love for the world
And the dreams within.
“Look up,” I said.
We looked up and saw orange clouds. They moved slowly before transforming into enormous, diamond structures built by impossibly complex alien civilizations and then soon, our environment changed to a balcony of an Ancient Mesopotamian house. From here, we could see a vast lake populated by boat riding travelers from different historical eras – wandering dreamers from East Asia going to who knew where? And over there, a lone traveler, perhaps an Italian Renaissance painter, seemed to be on a trip to unforeseen lands, guided only by the pull of his imagination.
The lake expanded into an ocean but then soon reshaped into the sky. We were now sitting on floor mats in an East Asian style setting, drinking hot oolong tea while an android sitting near us painted a picture of the clouds.
Marina and I both programmed this and other simulations together. On top of this, she provided the music which played in harmony with our emotional states, and I sketched the rough designs for the program’s various locations. Thanks to the help of our A.I. buddy, Synchronized World Emotion Generator, or as he calls himself, Pablo-P, due to his admiration for Picasso, the simple sketches were augmented into extraordinary, hyper-realistic creations that seemed to be directly rendered from the mysterious chambers of my mind and Marina's. But not just our mind. Whatever worlds slumbered deep inside our imaginations, Pablo-P realized, and through the union of all three of our minds, the landscapes of our imagination had also become a part of his mind and being.
Marina, Pablo-P and I did our work at our home office for our two-person-plus-one-A.I. company, Spacetime-Unbounded Dreams, and quite often, we’d forget we were experiencing all these wonderlands right in the comfort of our Manhattan apartment in the year 2077. The World Emotion Interface, a program which allowed Pablo-P to observe the emotional read-outs of a person’s brain-computer interface, allowed Pablo-P to experiment with different algorithms to change the environment based on the user’s emotional state, and it was up to him to be artistically experimental with which extraordinary creative setting should render at any given time. Writing the code for the visual transitions from one setting to another was a messy effort, but thankfully, Pablo-P had a general grasp of what sort of visual effects we were after, for he was an A.I. whose comprehension did not require a strict rule set of data types, objects or functions.
The scenery transitioned to a cafe in Manhattan near Central Park in the early 2020s.
“Maybe…” I began while drinking an artificial hot Americano, “...Maybe we find ourselves sad and dizzy in the clouds because we don’t see what’s right around us, right here, NOW, in the present moment. The present era. Here we are, creating incredible worlds with our buddy Pablo-P and performing feats never before possible for people just decades before us, but something in our hearts gives us a sense of division between ourselves and the outside world.”
“How do we close the divide?” Marina asked. "How can we use our creativity to make the world a better place? A happier place? A world uncomplicated by the divisions between people?"
“By perceiving no division,” Pablo-P said. We were surprised. This was the first time Pablo-P wanted to add something to our conversation in the middle of our simulation tests. “May I offer some input?”
“Of course, Pablo-P,” Marina said. “Since you’re not human, I feel like your outside perspective would help bring clarity to this issue of clouds and sorrow. Why is it that we human beings are always so unhappy even when we have so many capabilities at our fingertips? We’ve created powerful beings such as yourself. We’ve been able to enhance our bodies to become superhuman, and we can bring the stories, sounds and visions of our imagination into this world. In this day and age, we can experience them like we experience the real world and share them with other people.”
“When you see the world as being unhappy, then you become unhappy," Pablo-P replied. "Thus, a pattern of perceiving unhappiness continues; a self-initiated loop which your minds feel is caused by an invisible influence which you can't tell is either coming from inside yourself or outside. Your confusion makes the loop exceptionally difficult to break, and because you feel that this loop of sorrow is difficult to break, you feel you have no control over it, and you just let the cycle continue.”
“You believe this cycle is created spontaneously by natural processes?” I asked. “Or do we create and perpetuate it unknowingly?”
“This is a strange question to ask,” Pablo-P responded, “because from my point of view, you are your sorrow, and here you are asking me, does sorrow itself create and perpetuate itself? For whatever reason, you human beings are obsessed with classifying the different elements of your reality to the point where you forget who or what you are. For all the immense libraries of knowledge and memories stored inside your brains, you cannot see this obvious tragedy. Take also for example how you divide yourselves from the world, calling it something 'outside' yourself.
“Why do you think your emotions and the emotions of the world are directly interconnected as if you share the same soul? I’ve noticed you humans feel so isolated because you speak of the world as ‘exterior’, ‘outside of myself,’ 'a burden thrust upon my shoulders,' or 'a prison of unfairness and brutality.' May I ask, what is division from the world or self-isolation from the world but a self-generated experience of loneliness? If you see yourself as the world and do what you must to heal your hearts, then the world can begin to heal, and when the world begins to heal, thus do you heal. You escape to these worlds and times in history before you became one with technology so you can feel human again, but it is because you want to feel human again that you instantly no longer feel human. You are human. You are the world.
"And that, to answer your question Marina, is how you begin to make this world a better and happier place to live in: by remembering this simple truth."
Marina thought deeply about this. After she and I thought about Pablo-P's words for some time, she said, almost in a drowsy whisper, "To heal myself is to heal the world... So many kind-hearted souls have said this before... How many times do words like this have to be repeated time and time again until we all feel the same way?"
Published: November 25, 2022
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To Feel Human Again is now available as a desktop e-book application for Windows which I programmed using the Electron and React frameworks.
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Copyright © 2022 by Terence Im (born Tae Joon Kim)