Saturday, October 11, 2014

36 Minutes

This might have happened to me. I don't remember but I do list a bit.

"The procedure only takes two minutes to engage the other persona. For about ten minutes your perceptions, responses and thoughts will be in your chosen alternate context."

"But I thought you said the whole experience lasts thirty-six minutes. That's what's written in the brochure."

"It takes a minimum of sixteen minutes to dis-engage the persona and reinstate full control to your psyche. The distribution of response times across the normal population indicates a possible maximum of twenty-nine point eight minutes so we use a buffered target for disengagement."

"Sounds like a lot of precise nonsense. It can't be any more serious than the virtual holographic environments on the Starship Enterprise."

"You signed the release. Did you read it? This is not game technology. Do you think we would spend the time to screen everyone to that level before allowing them to participate in the PersonaChange? You know how much trouble I would get into if they discover I let you try this without the proper psychoanalytical profiling?"

"Ok, ok, it's a big deal. I'll be good I promise. Now you've got me scared. What happens if takes thirty point two minutes?"

"Nothing, don’t worry, the margin is at least five minutes. The original study found there was no risk of sublimation before thirty-six minutes exposure."

"Subli-what'n? Never mind, I don't want to know. If we keep dissecting this, I'll never go through with it. What are my choices?"

"Normally you have none. The screener picks one for you. It's too risky to let people select their persona. They don’t understand the science involved and get all wound up in wanting to be Joan of Arc or Albert Einstein, or Hitler or some other horrifying monster. The point is to let you experience being someone else, not to act out your little private fantasies of fame, romance or tyrannical conquest. The entire time is programmed such that the range of stimuli is well within the average person's self-control. I'll give you two possibilities to pick from. These are real people, not historical constructs, but I think they provide plenty potential to explore regions of another person's psychodynamic experience. The first one was submitted by a former submarine captain in the Soviet Navy, who is an executive at the St. Petersburg Stock Exchange now. Do you get seasick?"

"That's ridiculous. I'm not going to get seasick from climbing around the hay loft of some ex-sub jockey. Anyway, I don’t have motion sickness problems. But how can I appreciate the perceptions of someone else expressed in a language I don't know, especially when it sounds like a tape recording played backwards?"

"Look, if I understood all this I'd receive the Nobel prize for medicine. Trust me, the brain stores all the sensory impressions your selection experienced throughout his life up to the time of his psychological download. They tell us that language will not be a problem. Your experience of the donor's memories and ideas will be associations which are universal whatever the words and alphabets used."

"Well, I guess working through the adrenalin rush of an underwater game of cat and mouse with a US Navy attack sub at my heels does sound pretty good."

"You may just as well experience the thrill of riding a ferry across the Volga when you’re too small to see over the gunnels. Or maybe you will relive the rapture of selling short a million shares of Yukos oil stocks and seeing your fortune in rubles quadruple. We can’t dictate the memories you’ll have as this other person, only that they’ll occur through the context of their thinking, their instincts, their training, their prejudices, their loves."

"Yes, well thanks. I read the brochure you know.  What's my other choice? Hey, do you have a profile for Phineas Gage?"

"I thought a bit of culture might do you some good. Uhm, the memories stay with you, you did read that didn't you? Your mind is not replaced or turned off, just put in its place, you might say. While imagining you’re the other guy, your own tape recorder is still running, whether it is forward or backward, however yours might function. So, I thought this submission from a classical musician would do you some good, if you have the guts to try it."

"How do you expect me to stay awake? That stuff makes my brain goes into a catatonic state."

"Well, that's interesting. Studies have proven that for a normally functioning cortex, classical music stimulates higher order thinking. Helps the old synthetic synaesthesia, if you know what I mean. Doesn't do much for the brain stem, though, which may explain your response. Do you know what syneasthesia is?"

"So tell me about this classic musician"

"Synesathesia is the experience of one sensation at the stimulus of a different one. A color is brought to mind by a sound you hear. That's the big excitement in what you are about to undergo. The associations of this other person can be completely different from yours."

"Oh, so whereas I get pretty jazzed when I smell a rose, ol' Captain Nemo might be barfing all over the place?"

"Yes, and I've never heard it put that elegantly before. You have a real knack for this you know. I don't think you will be struggling with staying awake as this musician. He's from India, plays the santur, a hammered dulcimer, constant striking of strings with little hammers, gotta be a lot of intensity there. 'Course you get a bonus in experiencing Hindu beliefs as well. What do you think?"

"Used to play the drums myself. Do you have any blues musicians? They really know how to live. How about old cowboys? There was this guy in my hometown called Rattlesnake Pete. He must’ve had some real adventures. Scared the bejeebers out of me just to look at him, still wearing his six shooters, SKs, ten gallon hat and a beard down to his belt."

"No, these are your two choices. They are brand new. All the others are already in the master files and any use of their profile is tracked. These are preliminary bios. They have not had the full screening so I can't tell you everything you are going to experience. That should put a little spice into your insatiable quest for adventure. Speaking of staying awake you will be lightly sedated to attenuate the effect of unexpected emotional responses, and to prevent reaction to the restraints. Here slip your arms in here will you?"



"You're going to be all hooked up. Swallow this and be grateful we don’t use an IV. You can't be thrashing about and ripping things off… you'll end up a psychotic wreck… so you best behave."

"How many of those sticky thingies you gonna weld on my neck and face anyway?"

"Almost done. Just be grateful this is not ten years ago when we had to shave each sticky thingie spot. Remember, normally you have no choice. Someone like you… they would probably match up with an old pteridologist, a geek who studies ferns twenty hours a day. They have liability concerns you know. Did you decide?"

"Let’s get going. I vote for Captain Nemonov."

“I'm ready. The lights will go out. Are you ready? If so push the green button by your right hand."

"What's the red one for? Makes me smaller or bigger?"

"Emergency stop."

"Oh yeah, we have those on the machines at work. Kinda spooky to see it here. Why do the lights go out?”

“All the visual stimuli come from the persona. Your brain can’t process parallel sets of reality.”

“Lights go out, I go to sleep.”

“That’s not going to happen. When you’re ready…”

“I know… well, here goes the green mushroom."

After twelve minutes, small violet lamps lighten the dark room like a pre-dawn sky.

“The session is over. Relax and let your mind adjust to its normal state.”

A glazed look in the open eyes but the shallow breathing begins to subside and the pupils start to focus. Suddenly, “You didn’t tell me he lost his leg down there!!” …wrestling against the constraints.

“It’s all right! You’re all right! Look: two legs. Relax!… relax, now. Breathe deep and let it out slow.”

Lights coming up halfway.

“Oh, man… torpedo came loose and crushed his leg! They had to amputate it above the knee and the wooden leg they gave him never worked. He always had pain.”

“Here, swallow this.”

gulp… “What was that?”

“It’s an antidote for the sedative combined with something for traumatic memory. Should keep you from having phantom pain.”

“Phantom pain? It aches! Feels like a sledge hammer's worked over my leg.”

“Takes a few minutes. Try to rest a bit more.”

“Ok, all signals are flat-lined, looks like you’re back to normal.”


Removing the sticky thingies.

“Don’t get your shorts in a knot. Everything is fine. There, you’re good to go, admiral. Now you can write the next expose on the politics of Soviet naval high command and win a Pulitzer. Off you go, quick, before anyone catches us in here.”

A syncopated cadence echoes down the hallway: ka-dup, ka-dip!... ka-dup, ka-dip!... ka-dup, ka-dip!