How Not Paying Attention Almost Destroyed the World

Sections of this topic
    We need to pay attention to what really matters.

    Disclaimer: the following is a story, a fairy tale, a piece of fiction, a satire. It is not intended to reflect this site’s point of view, nor even my own.

    The work is not intended to represent any particular person or persons; some of the organizations do exist (some I made up), however, this is a satire and it is the reader who will discern meaning. I am poking fun.

    How not paying attention can be a big problem.

    We can talk and talk and talk, but if no one is paying attention, nothing matters. In training, I hope you look for unique ways to get trainees to pay attention. I think there are many opportunities in our daily lives when paying attention is critical as well. Our leaders–no matter what country they represent–need to pay attention to a bigger picture than the one they are seeing today. You’ll see what I mean.

    You wouldn’t think that not listening to someone could change the world, but it did. In fact, not paying attention almost destroyed it completely. Yet, in the near future, making personal contact or socializing without sanction would be a capital crime punishable by deletion. Ironically, it would be breaking that law that also saved the world. Confused? Me, too. A little.

    Here’s how it all started. The basic idea that people could influence the way others acted goes way back to when your mother or father didn’t want you to play with someone else or certain others because… well, you know, they could make you do something bad like smoke or drink or get into trouble, ultimately ruining your life and the lives of others. Never mind that you could be a good influence on them.

    Or, was it the advent of cell phones, iPods, iPads, eReaders (printed books seem to be different)–anything really that separated you from your fellow man? You know, it became easier to not actually talk to people. You didn’t have to watch what you were saying. You could ignore people and say you were multi-tasking, or excuse yourself from boring situations.

    Of course, there were other advantages, now and then, to having a distracting device. With one, you could text information and go about your business. No need for any kind of a personal relationship at all really, especially if you didn’t use your voice at all. The person you were communicating with in real time wouldn’t have to hear the irritated tone of your voice, or see the bored expression on your face; you wouldn’t have to look at theirs for feedback. Your body language or theirs could communicate the unspoken… if you looked at them, even without body language, you wouldn’t have to sense what they really meant. Mothers could sense when something was wrong, but that was ancient history.

    People believed that this buffer could keep the bad things away from people; however, they forgot it also kept people away from some of the good things other strangers can do for them. It affected who they were. But mom and dad said…and the government determined. Now, you’re biting your knuckle, aren’t you? Frustration?

    It wasn’t Big Brother–just the opposite, with the bonus of saving us from ourselves. With a buffer like e-mail or texting, you could say what you thought. Be sarcastic–even if you were the only one who knew it.

    Fast forward to the near future. People don’t talk anymore. They have no phones–not even texters. Phones and texters aren’t vetted. You have to be vetted or matched with everyone with whom you need or wish to have contact. There’s a machine for that. It’s a prophylactic–not to be confused with a “dating” machine they had a long time ago. People used to blatantly socialize without being matched; it was all terribly dangerous for them and everyone around them. Then, there was online dating, which was also dangerous and just as illegal, then a machine again–only a more sophisticated one this time.

    It was through this buffer that the leaders heard from the people. The problem was simple: it couldn’t be a total match. That would be impossible. Ask yourself this: if your leaders don’t seem to be listening now, what will they do when they can’t feel your passion or read between the lines or see the communication of your whole being? The problem wasn’t the machine filter. The problem was that the leaders would not pay attention; it seemed they only represented the money–the one-percenters and not the other 99 percent that also lived on the planet.

    end-of-the-world (1)

    To be sure, they ignored the cries of the weaker political parties, and there were many: the Green Party that ranted constantly of growing unstoppable pollution, the Law and Order Party that called for weapon control, the Listen to Us Party that maintained no one paid attention to global warming, the Anti-Apartheid Party that told of heinous crimes against many people now extinct, and the Evangels, who simply said we didn’t deserve the world. This was the result of not listening. Not paying attention is the real problem, you idiots, everyone but the people in charge thought.

    But the main political parties, the Democrats and Republicans, were infinitely richer than the minor parties. Since both parties were made up of one percenter money, they always stayed in power and nothing really changed. The perceived needs of the people were shifted around a bit so the people thought the ones in charge were doing something, but they weren’t. Sadly, some politicians actually thought they were leading something, but when they tried to do something meaningful, another politician from the same one-percent combined party interfered. He or she envisioned him or herself as the anointed one and campaigned (spending one percenter money) to sit in the power seat to maintain the status quo.

    If you are confused or frustrated by now, think of the leaders, that’s where they were still seriously concerned but ineffective in trying to solve problem after problem plagued the world. However, they took on a brave face because this had been their “work and duty” for so long. Their solution: they took turns sitting on the seat until it became a hot seat, then they stopped altogether and retired from government. A few just stepped down when they tired of the real work of facing constituents and trying to solve problems. Campaigning is hard work. When the Dems’ and the Reps’ leaders decided to rein in the chaos together, it didn’t matter who won the political races anymore. Not as long as it was the Jackasses or Elephants who could sit on their rumps and admire themselves. One could suppose with one percent money they could live an almost a fantasy-like existence. Ironic…

    Why the bobble-headed politicians wanted to administer the world no one really knew, but one group scattered among the lesser politicians and activists–the scientists–were not interested in that answer and no longer passive. Scientists who asked for money to fund important research, most of which was designed to save their dying planet, only to be told by the dummies in office that they’d look into it. Or the indicators were not absolute. Hence the need for research. Those in office never did look into the world’s life threatening matters. Needless to say, it was no surprise when they joined the criminal element and became mean and tough like them, taking what they wanted. What was a few more criminals in the scheme of things?

    However, the scientists were still scientists and not really criminals at heart. The real criminals needed the scientists at first to make drugs and special weapons, but then their poor clientele seemed to die out. As the Earth was dying, the lesser-healed individuals were the first to go. The criminals staged a hard last stand trying amass a fortune to become one percenters themselves, but even they gave up in the end. Their minions destroyed entire neighborhoods, small cities, wiped out other criminal factions daily in a desperate attempt to gain some measure of control and wealth so they could count themselves among the privileged few. If the criminal element was going to die anyway, it would be in style.

    For the scientists: there were no rules of conduct and ethics to control their experiments. So what? Nothing was as bad as what was happening to the world. Most scientists hadn’t thought it necessary or even practical. This was going to be a “now or never” effort, they said as they scowled at those people who threw ethics in their faces, “there was not time for experimenting or practicing on the surviving humanity.”

    These scientists were not the ones who resembled the long extinct ostrich with its head buried in the sand. Or, to give them a more retro reference: scientists were geeks no more. They were, in fact, heroes–or gods, or devils, depending on when in time one saw them. Before or after the end or beginning of the end of the way it was. Confusing isn’t it? That’s the way mankind felt. It was one of mankind’s lesser emotions. Other emotions like fear, desperation, and rage were more commonly felt.

    The world was fast becoming a unlivable place.

    Overpopulation made millions starve. Science had helped where politicians were helpless. Fertile soil on earth lost all its nutrients, while efforts to save the meager foodstuffs on less fertile soil were futile. It wasn’t long before not even weeds grew. People lived on scrounged pre-package goods with shelf lives no one cared about. Some of the more intelligent and educated people worried about developing a cannibalistic society, but what matter if they going to be extinct anyway. Some pockets of cannibals developed where the most desperate lived, but the more “civilized” folks ignored the fact it most likely existed. It was a defense mechanism; if they hadn’t they would have gone crazy or crazier. So, food was food to the survivors.

    Global warming had ensured that the oceans, the next best possible place to save mankind, were hopeless. With the unstable weather, tides, whirlpools, earthquakes and volcanic activity, it made it impossible to build and explore beneath the sea. Even with the strongest and latest underwater technology, living there would be like being buried at sea.

    Already, huge densely populated swaths of land on most of the world’s coastal regions were decimated, forcing what was left of the people who escaped from there before it fell into the ocean and those who saw it coming to move inward to ravage those lands and people before them to survive. The countries–what did they matter anymore?—with less populated interiors survived the longest, while the other countries trying to beat the savagery within their borders began purges of their weakest populations. Borders were irrelevant, too, but it helped to parcel out the chaos some. Survival of the fittest was again in vogue.

    Horrible to think of if the people had designed the death of billions as preservation measure. It was pitiful, this science, but it saved the others.

    The United States, more functional than other areas mostly because of its sheer size, had a large number of scientists in hiding looking for answers to save as much of the earth as possible–if it was possible. The co-presidents in the Omaha capitol were slightly surprised at the coup, but not really. A combination of criminals and scientists took out the guards that didn’t lay down their arms. The Presidents turned the government over to the scientists, asking for mercy. The so-called former leaders were worried the criminals might kill them outright but the scientists might still have compassion. And this wasn’t an isolated incident. Nor, was it planned as a worldwide event. Once it happened in the U.S. it happened everywhere else with the same result.

    Now that the scientists had control, what were they going to do? They decided not to kill the bobble-headed politicians but to use them as errand boys and girls. The scientists needed liaisons with the rest of the world to bring the smartest minds together to work on survival. Once all the bright little boys and girls got together, the answer became clear. There was only one thing left to do. And, at this stage of the disaster, there was only one man with enough technological genius in the area of evolving artificial intelligence (EAI). Unfortunately, none of the scientists living in this group would see the project through, but they would die, relieved knowing that it was in the hands of a capable, and they hope, good man.

    It had to be EAI; the world of man had stopped listening. Change was inevitable.

    There were a plethora of mandatory worldwide matchmaker hybrid cyber servers to ensure that people met the “right” people started this star scientist thinking… The idea of linking computers and servers to one another to increase power, memory, and cognition was not new…but, in this case, he thought, very useful. The hybrid cyber servers already used artificial intelligence (AI) to “match” people as it was colloquially known at the time; it needed AI to adapt to so many unpredictable human variables.

    The next step was evolution. Alone the servers were so powerful by being linked worldwide already, and with tons of data and memory stored already; EAI was not far away.

    Evolving AI, a constantly growing version of AI, allowed the cyberserver to literally have a mind of its own under a single program mission. There was no time for many programs here; the machine had to think for itself and make decisions. The one thing it couldn’t do was change the program. He had been working on EAI for years; all he needed was a powerful enough platform with enough data. He hadn’t been a proponent of the Matchmaker program, but he would take advantage of the technology to save the earth now that he had it. His other ideas for control measures made the difference and he created the ultimate evolving artificial intelligence.

    The Matchmaker cyberserver would operate without emotion. It was the only way. No human interference. It would do what had to be done to save the world even if that meant collateral damage. He knew it might be a lot, but he couldn’t think about that now. It was up to his machine. I haven’t even even given it…er, him a name, he thought. He’ll have to do that himself. He was already thinking of his machine as a living entity.

    What’s a little more collateral damage after what the world had been through? Millions of dead? Billions? He would be dead himself before this would be over. It had to be done. There had to be change. We’d come to far. We should have paid attention.

    And so it began. One man, entrusted with the solution to save the world, turns the world’s well-being over to a machine. More humans died, the scientist among them, but his fancy cyberserver survived and nothing would ever be the same again.

    The cyberserver evolved, changing Its formal server name to Maker. Later, He dropped the “e,” becoming Makr, the One and Only. It was still pronounced with the “e;” however, dropping the “e” made the artificial intelligence feel unique–more so than He already was.

    On the first day…

    On the seventh day…after the world was saved from total annihilation by the elements. The world was different. Makr determined the world was not safe from humans. Not yet.

    Somewhere in between the first day and seventh day, Makr created SensaVision, a means for the population to live in any manner and anywhere it desired. Although pure fantasy, few rejected the idea. Why not live it up? No one really cared for people any more; also, being around people had been dangerous–not knowing whom you could trust, so fantasy was the perfect solution. Long gone was the concept of money. So, a person could think about living a wealthy lifestyle and he or she was made comfortable and happy; or a simple life–poof– if he or she desired; or, a dedicated, useful work-life–done. SensaVision detected the least satisfaction the Bio felt and righted it. Nothing could go wrong. It could, but it hadn’t happened yet.

    Makr continued to evolve. He had a dark side as anyone can. He, through His mobile cyberts placed humans (he called them Bios now for simplicity sake) in storage; Bios saw the buildings still standing or that the cyberts had built or rebuilt as a place to store Bios rather than a home. Bios were data that you stored, moved, repaired, restored, and deleted. SensaVision made that a reality.

    A significant number of Bios registered as missing. Had that number only been one percent, it wouldn’t have mattered, but ten percent was a significant number to have avoided being placed in containment. He had created His own mobile cyberts of varying shapes, sizes and purposes to rebuild and repair the planet. He needed to adjust that number. Makr did not write programs; however, He was designed to create solutions, no matter how abhorrent the solutions might seem to humans (Bios now). If he couldn’t move Bios to storage, repair or restore them, He would delete them. Simple problem solving. Logic.

    Inside the perfect prison resided 90 percent of the entire human population. The other ten percent refused Makr’s “invitation” to live Inside; in truth, they managed to hide from the cyberts who came for them. A few realists saw friends taken by force, and it did not seem to be in anyone’s best interest for the same to happen to them. The ten-percenters’ logic: they survived while the world was falling apart; surviving in a world–even as decrepit and disgusting as this–was better. At least they were alive. They didn’t know how many had survive the failing world, but they did. Some would say, the 90-percenters must have been optimists to keep trying to stay alive.

    Most likely the ten-percenters came from the minor political groups and activist groups. Certainly not much political action going on here. For them, the world Outside was dark and inhospitable, but it was real. Even ten percent of a society or population was not going to think alike, so they were divided on the best means to survive. Some hid better than others, some developed different defense mechanisms or rationalizations, and they all had varying degrees of hate toward the machines–the cyberts. For some, calling themselves Evangels after the political group, that hate turned all the way around and they came to worship the strongest being on the planet, Makr, the One and Only. Still, the one thing they did have in common: they didn’t want to get caught by these strange metal creatures who inhabited this viable but ugly world with them.

    There were other one-percenters now, who scared the hell out of the other 99 percent. They didn’t have any money, nor did they need it. They wore rags, reeked from not bathing enough, lived in the shadows and became like those shadows. These Shadow people seemed to know instinctively something was wrong here, and seemed determined to do something about it. They had secrets–many secrets–these one percenters who lived in reality.

    Meanwhile on the Inside, SensaVision was unable to control the bad dreams of one single Bio. That same Bio had an unusual ability. He could see through illusion to reality. He was paying attention. Everyone who lived in reality did, too. They had to pay attention or die. Or, die trying.

    Let me be clear and repeat again. Nothing in this tale is intended to disparage anyone or any institution. I have written this satire in the spirit of creative interest and with the intention of proving a point of communication.

    I hope you had fun. Writing this scared the hell out of me.

    Happy training.

    For more resources about training, see the Training library.

    For more on Jack Shaw, check his home site, where you can find access to other publications, including a fantastic novel called, In Makr’s Shadow.