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Break, Memory

by Richard Thieme

Part 1 appears
in this issue.

Beyond the Chomsky Chutes

The first thing we did was review the efficacy of Chomsky Chutes.

Chomsky Chutes are the various means by which current events are dumped into the memory hole, never to be remembered again.

Intentional forgetting is an art. We used distraction, misdirection — massive, minimal and everything in-between, truth-in-lie-embedding, lie-in-truth-embedding, bogus fronts and false organizations (physical, simulated, live and on the Net). We created events wholesale (which some call short-term memory crowding, a species of buffer overflow), generated fads, fashions and movements sustained by concepts that changed the context of debate.

Over in the entertainment wing, the most potent wing of the military-industrial-educational-entertainment complex, we invented false people, characters with made-up life stories in simulated communities more real to the Hump than family or friends.

We revised historical antecedents or replaced them entirely with narratives you could track through several centuries of buried made-up clues. We sponsored scholars to pursue those clues and published their works and turned them into minipics. Some won Nobel Prizes.

We invented Net discussion groups and took all sides, injecting half-true details into the discourse, just enough to bend the light. We excelled in the parallax view. We perfected the Gary Webb Gambit, using attacks by respectable media giants on independent dissenters, taking issue with things they never said, thus changing the terms of the argument and destroying their credibility.

We created dummy dupes, substitute generals and politicians and dictators that looked like the originals in videos, newscasts, on the Net, in covertly distributed underground snaps, many of them pornographic. We created simulated humans and sent them out to play among their more real cousins. We used holographic projections, multispectral camouflage, simulated environments and many other stratagems.

The toolbox of deception is bottomless and if anyone challenged us, we called them a conspiracy theorist and leaked details of their personal lives. It’s pretty tough to be taken seriously when your words are juxtaposed with a picture of you sucking some prostitute’s toes.

Through all this we supported and often invented opposition groups because discordant voices, woven like a counterpoint into a fugue, showed the world that democracy worked. Meanwhile we used those groups to gather names, filling cells first in databases, then in Guantanamo camps.

Chomsky Chutes worked well when the management of perception was at top-level, the level of concepts. They worked perfectly before chemicals, genetic-enhancements and bodymods had become ubiquitous. Then the balance tipped toward chemicals (both ingested and inside-engineered) and we saw that macro strategies that addressed only the conceptual level let too many percepts slip inside.

Those percepts swim around like sperm and pattern into memories; when memories are spread through peer-to-peer nets, the effect can be devastating. It counters everything we do at the macro level and creates a subjective field of interpretation that resists socialization, a cognitively dissonant realm that’s like an itch you can’t scratch, a shadow world where “truths” as they call them are exchanged on the Black Market.

Those truths can be woven together to create alternative realities. The only alternative realities we want out there are ones we create ourselves.

We saw that we needed to manage perception as well as conception.

Given that implants, enhancements, and mods were altering human identity through everyday life — routine medical procedures, prenatal and geriatric care, plastic surgery, eye ear nose throat and dental work, all kinds of pharmacopsychotherapies — we saw the road we had to take. We needed to change the brain and its secondary systems so that percepts would filter in and filter out as we preferred. Percepts — not all, but enough — would be pre-configured to model or not model images consistent with society’s goals.

Using our expertise in enterprise system programming and management, we correlated subtle changes in biochemistry and nanophysiology to a macro plan calibrated to statistical parameters of happiness in the Hump. Keeping society inside those “happy brackets” became our priority.

So long as changes are incremental, people don’t notice. Take corrective lenses, for example. People think that what they see through lenses is what’s “real” and are trained to call what their eyes see naturally (if they are myopic, for example) a blur.

In fact, it’s the other way around. The eyes see what’s natural and the lenses create a simulation. Over time people think that percepts mediated by technological enhancements are “real” and what they experience without enhancements is distorted.

It’s like that, only inside where it’s invisible.

It was simply a matter of working not only on electromechanical impulses of the heart, muscles, and so on as we already did or on altering senses like hearing and sight as we already did or on implanting devices that assisted locomotion, digestion, and elimination as we already did but of working directly as well on the electrochemical wetware called the memory skein or membrane, that vast complex network of hormonal systems and firing neurons where memories and therefore identity reside.

Memories are merely points of reference, after all, for who we think we are and therefore how we frame ourselves as possibilities for action. All individuals have mythic histories and collective memories are nothing but shared myths. Determining those points of reference determines what is thinkable at every level of society’s mind.

Most of the trial and error work had been done by evolution. Our task was to infer which paths had been taken and why, then replicate them for our own ends.

Short term memory, for example, is wiped out when a crisis occurs. Apparently whatever is happening in a bland sort of ho-hum way when a tiger attacks is of little relevance to survival. But reacting to the crisis is important, so we ported that awareness to the realm of the body politic. Everyday life has its minor crises but pretty much just perks along. We adjusted our sensors to alert us earlier when the Hump was paying too much attention to some event that might achieve momentum or critical mass; then we could release that tiger, so to speak, creating a crisis that got the adrenalin pumping and wiped out whatever the Hump had been thinking.

After the crisis passed — and it always did, usually with a minimal loss of life — the Hump never gave a thought to what had been in the forefront of its mind a moment before.

Once the average lifespan reached a couple of hundred years, much of what people remembered was irrelevant or detrimental.

Who cared if there had been famine or drought a hundred and fifty years earlier? Nobody!

Who cared if a war had claimed a million lives in Botswana or Tajikistan (actually, the figure in both cases was closer to two million)? Nobody!

What did it matter to survivors what had caused catastrophic events? It didn’t.

And besides, the military-industrial-educational-entertainment establishment was such a seamless weld of collusion and mutual self-interest that what was really going on was never exposed to the light of day anyway. The media, the fifth column inside the MIEE complex, filtered out much more than was filtered in, by design. Even when people thought they were “informed,” they didn’t know what they were talking about.

See, that’s the point. People fed factoids and distortions don’t know what they’re talking about anyway, so why shouldn’t inputs and outputs be managed more precisely? Why leave anything to chance when it can be designed?

We knew we couldn’t design everything but we could design the subjective field in which people lived and that would take care of the rest. That would determine what questions could be asked which in turn would make the answers irrelevant. We had to manage the entire enterprise from end to end.

Now, this is the part I love, because I was in on the planning from the beginning.

We remove almost nothing from the memory of the collective! But we and we alone know where everything is stored!

Do you get it? Let me repeat. Almost all of the actual memories of the collective, the whole herdlike Hump, are distributed throughout the population, but because they are staggered, arranged in niches that constitute multisided life, and news is managed down to the level of perception itself, the people who have the relevant modules never plug into one another! They never talk to each other, don’t you see!

Each niche lives in its own deep hole and even when they find gold nuggets they don’t show them to anybody. If they did, they could reconstruct the original narrative in its entirety, but they don’t even know that!

Isn’t that elegant? Isn’t that a sublime way to handle whiny neo-liberals who object to destroying fundamental elements of collective memory? We can show them how it’s all there but distributed by the sixtysixfish algorithm. That algorithm, the programs that make sense of its complex operations, and the keys to the crypto are all in the hands of the Masters.

I love it! Each Humpling has memory modules inserted into its wetware, calibrated to macro conceptions that govern the thinking and actions of the body politic. Because they don’t know what they’re missing, they don’t know what they’re missing.

We leave intact the well-distributed peasant gene that distrusts strangers, changes, and new ideas, so if some self-appointed liberator tries to tell them how it works, they snarl or remain sullen or lower their eyes or eat too much or get drunk until they forget why they were angry.

At the same time, we design a memory web that weaves people into communities that cohere, spun through vast amounts of disconnected data. Compartmentalization handles all the rest. The Hump is overloaded with memories, images, ideas, all to no purpose. We keep fads moving, quick quick quick, and we keep the Hump as gratified and happy as a pig in its own defecation.

MemoRacer, Master Hacker

Of course, there are misfits, antisocial criminals and hackers who want to reconstitute the past. We devised an ingenious way to manage them too. We let them have exactly what they think they want.

MemoRacer comes to mind when we talk about hackers. MemoRacer flipped through niches like an asteroid through the zero-energy of space. He lived in a niche long enough to learn the parameters by which the nichelings thought and acted. Then he became invisible, dissolving into the background. When he grew bored or had learned enough, he flipped to the next niche or backtracked, sometimes living in multiple niches and changing points of reference on the fly. He was slippery and smart, but he had an ego and we knew that would be his downfall.

The more he learned, the more isolated he became. The more he understood, the less he could relate to those who didn’t. Understand too much, you grow unhappy on that bench listening to your neighbors’ prattle. It becomes irritating.

MemoRacer and his kind think complexity is exhilarating. They find differences stimulating and challenging. The Hump doesn’t think that way. Complexity is threatening to the Hump, and differences cause anxiety and discomfort. The Hump does not like anxiety and discomfort.

MemoRacer (his real name was George Ruben, but no one remembers that) learned in his flipping that history was more complex than anyone knew. That was not merely because he amassed so many facts, storing them away on holodisc and drum as trophies to be shown to other hackers, but because he saw the links between them. He knew how to plug and play, leverage and link, that was his genius.

Because he didn’t fit, he called for revolution, crying out that “Memories want to be free!” I guess he meant by that vague phrase that memories had a life of their own and wanted to link up somehow and fulfill themselves by constituting a person or a society that knew who it was. In a society that knows who it is precisely because it has no idea who it is, that, Mister Master Hacker, is subversive.

Once MemoRacer issued his manifesto on behalf of historical consciousness, he became a public enemy. We could not of course say that his desire to restore the memory of humankind was a crime. Technically, it wasn’t. His crime was undermining the basis of transplanetary life in the twenty-first century. His crime was disturbing the peace.

He covered his tracks well. MemoRacer blended into so many niches so well that each one thought he belonged. But covering your tracks ninety-nine times isn’t enough. It’s the hundredth time, that one little slip, that tells us who and where you are.

MemoRacer grew tired and forgetful despite using more Perkup than a waking-state addict — as we expected. The beneficial effects of Perkup degrade over time. It was designed that way so no one could be aware forever. That was the failsafe mechanism pharms had agreed to build in as a back door. All we had to do was wait.

The niche in which he slipped up was the twenty-third business clique. This group of successful low-level managers and small manufacturers were not particularly creative but they worked long hours and made good money. MemoRacer forgot that their lack of interest in ideas, offbeat thinking, was part of their psychic bedrock.

Their entertainment consisted of golf, eating, drinking, sometimes sex, then golf again. They bought their fair share of useless goods to keep society humming along, consumed huge quantities of resources to build amusement parks, golf courses, homes with designer shrubs and trees. In short, they were good citizens.

But they had little interest in revolutionary ideas, and George Ruben — excuse me, MemoRacer — forgot that during one critical conversation. He was tired, as I said, and did not realize it. He had a couple of drinks at the club and began declaiming how the entire history of the twentieth century had been stolen from its inhabitants by masters of propaganda, PR, and the national security state. The key details that provided context were hidden or lost, he said.

That’s how he talked at the nineteenth hole of the Twenty-Third Club! trying to get them all stirred up about something that had happened a century earlier. Even if it was true, who cared? They didn’t. What were they supposed to do about it?

MemoRacer should have known that long delays in disclosure neutralize even the most shocking revelations and render outrage impotent. People don’t like being made to feel uncomfortable at their contradictions. People have killed for less.

One of the Twenty-Third complained about his rant to the Club Manager. He did so over a holophone. Our program, alert for anomalies, caught it.

The next day our people were at the Club, better disguised than MemoRacer would ever be, observing protocols — i.e. saying nothing controversial, drinking too much, and insinuating sly derogatory things about racial and religious minorities — and learned what they needed to know.

They scraped the young man’s DNA from the chair in which he had been sitting and broadcast the pattern on the Net. Genetic markers were scooped up routinely the next day and when he left fingerskin on a lamp-post around which he swung in too-tired, up-too-long jubilation (short-lived, I can tell you) in the seventy-seven Computer Club niche, he was flagged. When he left the meeting, acting like one of the geeky guys, our people were waiting.

We do this for a living, George. We are not amateurs.

MemoRacer taught us how to handle hackers. He wanted to live in the past, did he? Well, that’s where he was allowed to live — forever.

Chemicals and implants worked their magic, making him incapable of living in the present. When he tried to focus on what was right in front of his eyes, he couldn’t see it. That meant that he sounded like a blithering idiot when he tried to speak with people who lived exclusively in the present. MemoRacer lived in a vast tapestry of historical understanding that he couldn’t connect in any meaningful way to the present or the lived experience of people around him.

There is an entire niche now of apprehended hackers living in the historical past and exchanging data but unable to relate to contemporary niches. It’s a living hell, because they are immensely knowledgeable but supremely impotent and know it. They teach seminars at community centers which we support as evidence of our benevolence and how wrong they are to hate us.

You want to know about the past? By all means! There’s a seminar starting tomorrow, I say, scanning my planner. What’s your interest? What do you want to explore? Twentieth century Chicago killers? Herbal medicine during the Ming Dynasty? Competitive intelligence in Dotcom Days? Pick your poison!

And when they leave the seminar room, vague facts tumbling over one another in a chaotic flow to nowhere, they can’t connect anything they have heard to their lives.

So everybody pretty much has what they want or at least what they need, using the benchmarks we have established as the correct measures for society.

The Hump is relatively happy.

The dregs skulk about as reminders of a mythic history we have invented that everyone fears.

People perceive and conceive of things in helpful and useful ways and act accordingly.

And when we uplink to nets around all the planets and orbiting colonies, calling the roll on every niche in the known universe, it always comes out right.

Everybody is present. Everybody is always present.

Just the way we like it.

Copyright © 2008 by Richard Thieme

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