Peter stared down at his tablet. It was a fantastic little machine, once the state of the art. It responded to his gestures, answered his questions, charged itself when he was moving, and could access just about any digital bit of information Peter wanted; which it turned out was quite a lot. It even had, upon its release at least, one of the best high definition screens money could buy.
That of course was last year. And that was why Peter looked at it now with some indescribable blend of nostalgia and contempt.
Time to upgrade. Time to fucking upgrade. He thought to himself, noting the little notification in the lower portion of the screen, jiggling away like prey taunting a predator. He had placed the reminder there last year, along with a link to his savings schedule, and a bunch of other well thought out plans, none of which had prepared him for this month. Angrily he flicked the notification off the screen with as much scorn as such a gesture could convey.
Sitting on the train, he slumped slightly under the weight of his techno woes, and gratingly rubbed his temple.
There was a slight bump there; an unnaturally hard and cold bump, resting a few millimetres below the skin. Not too cold mind you. But just cold enough to know it wasn’t a part of his natural flesh.
This piece of technology was also causing him some consternation, very much in line with the microcomputer sitting in his lap.
He remembered a year ago, waiting in line after saving up to be one of the first people to get a tru-flex version of the world’s most popular tech. He had had an unexpected windfall; some cash that had come his way suitably divorced from his having earned it, and so he was able to justify the lavish expense accordingly. After all, why not waste the money on something like this; it’s not as if he had worked for it. And who wants to blow a few grand just eliminating a bit off of one’s debt? No one that’s who.
So rather than pay more off his car or house loans, he shelled out the sizable sum of cash, and spent the next year falling in love with his gizmo.
The screen was a technological miracle, so lightweight that it could be printed on nano-fibres; so advanced that it charged itself. It had a resolution better than the average human eye. This is how tablet manufacturers had managed to get so much cheaper over the years. They had hit a benchmark with how well we could see, so all further research went into economising, and perfecting.
That is until last month. Last month when again Peter convinced himself that a decent sum of the money he had squirreled away might as well be spent on something he had rationalised as a tool to help his life get on track, rather than on any of the other truly rational uses for his earnings.
If I get these eyes, it will really help my job. I will be able to read better, to focus more, to do this and that and many other things, he had reasoned. Hell; it would probably help him get some of those hobbies he told people he enjoyed out of the theoretical, and into the practical.
So he did it, again front of the line, and again somewhat proud of the fact that he beat his friends there.
That’s what they called them, though the moniker was a bit out of date when compared with the actual tech involved. To tell the truth, most of what was installed in him was more biological than technological. But when a catchy name hits the population, it takes a hell of a lot more than facts to get it out. After all e-ink isn’t ink, celebrities appearing back from the dead in the forms of a hologram weren’t really holograms, and Iron Man’s suit certainly wasn’t made out of iron.
But bionic sounded cool, so bionic eyes were the new craze.
It was only too late when he saw the folly of his new found visual acuity; it had raised the bar again.
Suddenly there was a new line of products on the market. Hyper resolution screens; screens so clear, and so well defined that no human eyes could truly appreciate how good they were. Likewise cameras flooded the market that could take photos with more detail than any one eye could hope to appreciate.
And then just like that, he was out of date; his eyes were becoming obsolete. He watching in glorious hyper-definition over the coming year as new eyes hit the market. Eyes that could see Mach II hyper-definition. Definitions that pushed the boundaries of his lowly peripherals.
Things he didn’t even at first understand started to become deeply important to him. He wanted eyes that could see at certain DPI levels. No, he needed them! He needed them to such a degree that it no longer mattered to him that he had managed perfectly well of the majority of his life seeing only normal resolution.
Indeed the entire human population up until that point had managed fine. People had admired van Gogh’s The Starry Night in person without wondering if they were missing out on some details hidden in the ultraviolet end of the spectrum, or perhaps whether the minute structural details of the brush-strokes conveyed some important artistic merit that low-resolution viewings would miss. Yet go to the local gallery these days and you will find artists dabbling in the new medium of extended spectrum painting, and high-definition sculpture.
And what about these seldom viewed wavelengths at the neglected ends of the spectrum? The light spectrum stretched from 250 to 2500 nanometres, and humans could at best hope to see 13% of nature’s wonder! It was a crime not to upgrade; not to be able to see a flowers brilliant radiance in the ultraviolet spectrum in the same way as the honeybee sees it. Not to look at a rats infrared halo like a snake may do to its prey (or the slight glow around his fellow adopters temples as he noted their similar implants), and to see that there was so much more to the world than the thin slice of the sun’s rays would show the unaided eye.
But resolution and spectrum width wasn’t all he had realised he was missing out on. There were refresh rates. Why should he have to slum it through refresh rates stuck in the twentieth century, when he could get a neural-optic implant that would allow his brain to process the images from his bionic eyes at three times their previous (we don’t say natural) speeds?
Some of his friends used to make fun of his advancements; used to ask him why on earth he needed such pointless upgrades. Behind their backs he scoffed at them too.
You enjoy your classic frame rate films then guys; enjoy watching the latest action blockbuster in what was now practically slow motion to me. One might as well watch a flip-book! He thought to himself and laughed.
Now he was attending a different movie theatre; the only one in town that had the sense to upgrade to a projector that included Mach-III resolution, frame rates measures in Mfps and even temporal quantum sequencing. Seriously, he didn’t know how people could enjoy movies that only gave a single representation, and in such blurry resolutions!
At one point along his way to self-actualisation, Peter began to worry that he was going too far, that this constant upgrade, innovation and redundancy cycle was going to run him dry. But then he upgraded his neural firmware, and deleted these worries. Like the red queen in Wonderland, he knew he had to keep running if he wanted to stay at the top of his game.
His friends and family had raised their concerns to him, but felt their pleas fell on deaf ears. They couldn’t be more wrong. Peter’s ears were now able to pick up more than the most alert jungle cat. His perception stretched not only past infrasound, but also into the electromagnetic spectrum so he could hear the thrum of mobile networks as he caught the train to work each day. Wi-Fi spots to him were gentle humming data points, where he could connect to the never-ending stream of information that encircled the globe.
Eventually the constant status updates fed into his mind from his family and friends wishing to interact with him in person started to get to him. While he was more than happy to chat online with anyone, or even to utilise his newly functioning echolocation and infrasound detection senses to send and receive information over regular airwaves; the puzzling need for people to actually physically be in the same location with you was becoming a drag.
His various sensors had been updated, his bio-hardware was still keeping up with the curve, if only just; fuelled on by his increased productivity at work after he had installed a patch that allowed him to relegated a lot of his regular duties to an automated subsystem stored somewhere in his subconscious. So while his co-workers chatted throughout the day, he remained silent, his mind elsewhere as he earned more money; money that had already been earmarked for the latest upgrades. Upgrades that he hoped would help solve his social interaction problem.
The considerable chunk of Peter’s brain that was still devoted to his own consciousness was now focused on the impressive operating system enhancements being made available to suitably compatible brains. He read about cloud services that allowed you to utilise processing power stored outside of your brain, in order to free up your natural resources, and accomplish more. There were even advances in brain technology that allowed what they were calling parallel thought processing, which apparently would help users to better connect with other users.
Not wanting to fall behind the curve, and forever fearful that his hardware wasn’t being fully utilised, Peter signed up for the beta test, and set his work algorithms to maximum efficiency.
On release day, while his brain was receiving its operating system upgrade, his mind was uploaded to one of the company servers. Giddy with excitement at the possibility of a tandem core brain stem, Peter had programed a series of subroutines to take some of the pressure off of his daily life. The new multitasking feature of his upgraded brain allowed this to happen. So where in the past the idea of being able to do two disparate tasks at once was all but a fairy-tale, today it was to become a reality.
He activated the social interaction app, and was amazed at the result. That night he sat at his family’s dinner table, regaling his relatives with a story saved and recalled from his youth. Peter watched a recording of the night and smiled as his mother and father beamed back at him, enjoying the time they finally got to spend with their son, who had been worryingly distant of late. After reviewing the night highpoints, Peter was satisfied.
His subroutines had worked perfectly. The artificial intelligence in his personal assistant module had managed to find the most appropriate jokes with a 75% amusement factor (so at least four of his five present family members got the joke each time), and was able to properly cross reference any of the families anecdotes with his own personal views on the subject. He had entertained his family, while also strengthening their social bonds; a metric he was able to study later while he read the overall statistics which had been beamed from his body through the new wireless node implanted at the base of his brain stem.
He reviewed this all the following day, never having to actually be in the room with his family (at least not mentally).
So while Peter’s body was able to go about its business in the real world, his mind was free to wallow in the cloud. He experienced what it was like to soar through the clouds in one of the new wingsuits being worn by the body of another fellow uploader. He smiled as another tech fangirl from Spain gave birth to her firstborn son. He felt the dizzying high, without any need for the physical pain which had so often plagued women before the latest neural upgrade rendered such crude bodily notifications obsolete.
Seriously, Peter thought (and simultaneously uploaded as a status to the twenty odd social networks he was a part of); who ever thought that pain would be the best way to inform someone about what was happening to their body. Within seconds he had replies of affirmation flooding into view as fellow early adopters around the globe weighed in on his personal thoughts. Each night (though Peter didn’t really follow the diurnal clock anymore, considering the sleep bug had been patched a few months back), Peter would review how his hardware was faring, he would look at bug lists, and set about trying to fix them, or eliminate them through upgrade. He noted that his sister was having a hard time with her husband, and added a scheduled bout of sympathy for tomorrow night’s dinner. The weather forecast for the day also called for a brilliant sunset, so he programmed in a walk to work that would pass by a beautiful landscape he had found on someone’s feed recently. A simple tweak of the settings ensured that his body would stop and take it all in for around 21.5 seconds. Later his personal feed would be filled with selfies centred on his smiling face, with the brilliant golden sunset shining radiantly behind him.
During that nights review, Peter was amazed at the quality of the images, and favourited all but one, where he had inexplicably blinked. In his daily journal he noted the need to upgrade his eyes to avoid this in the future.
Peter had long ago accepted the terms and conditions required for a decent percentage of his neural needs to be relegated to the cloud, so anyone was able to search through his own personal files. At work however this was not the case.
So he couldn’t solve his current work woes with an update to his software employee settings. Luckily, there were more upgrades available that could help in a different way.
Much of his earnings were spent on two main parts of his life; food to keep his body charged, and maintaining a residence to ensure he could dock at the end of each day for his body’s standby mode. The residence problem was easy; he simply sold his house and rented a storage locker. He no longer required any additional rooms, as all of his dietary and exercise needs could be handled during his subconscious gym visits.
A quick upgrade to his appetite and palate proved very efficient in solving his other problem. No longer did he have an aversion to those foods best suited for a healthy lifestyle. Suddenly fresh vegetables were the most amazing thing he had ever eaten, indeed when he had first fiddled with the pleasure settings on his new appetite, he was alarmed to find the act of eating prompted a response that could only be described as NSFW. A few tweaks later and his mealtime reclaimed its PG rating.
At the end of the day however, he decided to uninstall the appetite and palate app altogether. It was more efficient, he reasoned, to simply move the act of eating from the suite of personal enjoyment programs that governed his tastes and preferences, and move it into the utilities program that handled the rest of his body’s vital systems. Now he ate much like he visited the bathroom; regularly, methodically, and without emotional attachment.
Months later Peter received a notification. He felt it, but this time he didn’t feel it as a vibration against his thigh or a gentle tapping on his wrist. Now he felt it as an indescribable part of his existence; like an idea come into being, or a memory successfully recalled. The notification was a simple one, and a familiar one.
Time to upgrade.
Peter was especially excited for today’s upgrade. He had been spending so much of his time and effort ensuring that his hardware was continually upgraded in order to match his advanced software, but today he hoped to try and leapfrog over the barriers imposed by the physical limitations of hardware itself.
Total cloud integration.
For the first time ever the corporation that handled his specific ecosystem of apps, subscription services and external storage plans was offering people the chance to upgrade their consciousness with a complete upload to the cloud. Doing so would ensure that the latest neural maps were available to all, and at a blisteringly fast rate.
By doing away with the body, the mind was free to advance at an alarming rate.
But like all upgrades, this wasn’t free. Peter would still need to be able to pay for the significant physical systems required to store a consciousness online, but he would no longer have a body out there working for him. Luckily those offering this upgrade had thought of that.
While Peter no longer had a body to work with, he still had his mind. Everything was moving into the cloud, people constantly told him, so why not employment also? For the low rate of 20% of one’s mind power, you were able to secure your place in the cloud. Not too much of an ask when you consider that the average joe working an eight hour day, and getting eight hours of sleep, is effectively renting out their own brain for 50% of its awake time. So to Peter it seemed stupid not to sign over a mere fifth of his mind per day.
So now his work place was the cloud. His mind, and the various other minds in the tech providers cloud service, was being put to use as a spare processor. Computing power provided by the very users of the service; it made perfect sense.
A fraction of Peter’s day was spent performing tasks which were exceedingly simple to him, but which nevertheless required some computing power.
He composed text based on external inputs, he identified images and logged their contents, he sent out notifications to other cloud users; those less dedicated to their tech, and thus still stuck in their obsolete meat bodies. He added numbers, divided numbers, multiplied them. He did everything that people struggling in mathematics classes were certain would never be useful in daily life. He did it all without really caring, without resenting the drudgery of a nine to five job because he could simply tune it out, let his mind run on autopilot for four and a bit hours a day and then jump back into the cloud and resume his daily activities.
It was heaven.
One day, after he had re-read all of Shakespeare in order to try and appreciate it from the point of view of the various deuteragonists, and spent the afternoon enjoying a families picnic somewhere in Argentina thanks to the neural implant in the youngest child’s head, he devoted a few minutes of his minds thinking time to sending out notifications to the small cabal of external users he was assigned to.
The last message seemed familiar, and for the few milliseconds that Peters attention was centred on it, his memory recall program registered the similarity in the same way that a past search history appeared as you type in a browser. But then, as his subconscious helped fill out the missing details and the notification was sent on its way, his focus shifted elsewhere, and the memory was gone; relegated back to the depths of his virtual memory.
The notification left the central processing centre somewhere is southern China, and sped across the globe. It travelled through high speed optical fibre cables strung under the oceans, was launched into the air, escaping the earth’s atmosphere and bouncing off satellites. Eventually it hurtled toward the surface again to be captured in the local mobile networks spread across the globe where it was rerouted until it finally found its destination; in the tablet computer of a man known to his friends and family as Peter.
The man looked down at his phone, the subroutines in his artificially ordered brain switching momentarily from family mode into service mode. It noted with some simulated excitement than an upgrade was now available for the tablet’s software. Then, with pre-programed precision, it tapped on the accept button.
The shell of what was formerly Peter’s body looked up, reengaged its family mode, and started telling his family about the time in their shared past most likely calculated to cause a warm feeling in his relationships hearts.