(The Cosmic Microwave Background sound is heard as if tuning into a new radio station and then fades out as the narrator speaks.)
The year is four thousand, four hundred and twenty-two, and life as you know it has ceased to exist. Many argue that we live in paradise, that this is heaven on Earth, but that leads to the simple counter-argument: To go to heaven, one needs to die first.
In my time, I’m a scientist, which also means I’m a philosopher. Today, science and philosophy are one again, since the scientific process has come full circle. The scission between philosophy and science and the subsequent branching out of the different scientific areas ended more than a thousand years ago, in the period called: The Enlightened Dark Age. During this period, the end of science was declared, since there was no more to be apprehended through our senses. There was a resurgence of abstract theorizing to try to make sense of all the information we possessed. We were done with the dissection of reality, since we had measured it till its nano-quarks. Now, it is all about trying new perspectives and looking for new interpretations of life and the universe. That is how we were able to break the reality-time continuum and speak to you from the future. The necessary technology was there all along, but we couldn’t grasp it before, the same as Homo sapiens always had the means to speak, but they simply didn’t see their mouths as speech tools until some individuals realized that, besides eating and kissing, the mouth was also useful for making noises.
To explain how you’re able to receive a message that was recorded two thousand years from the moment you’re reading it, let’s think about the phenomenon called memory. You may think you know what memories are from the fact that you possess them and maybe you’ve heard or read about memory loss and its intricacies. But have you ever wondered what memories are from an ontological point of view? For instance, have you ever asked yourself the simple question: Are my memories real or a mere figment of my imagination? The answer to this question is: Memories are not real, although they’re based on reality. But so are films and books, and every form of art basically. However, in your time, there is a clear distinction between fiction and reality, between Superman and Adolf Hitler. One never existed and the other one is as real as the person lying right now beside you in bed, or aren’t they? This might sound odd to you, but the historical Hitler isn’t real; he’s only based on the real one. The real Hitler had more thoughts and feelings than the ones written down in history books. The center of Hitler’s existence lay in Hitler’s mind, and maybe to himself he wasn’t a genocide or a manipulator, but a loving husband, a pet lover, an idealist and a gifted politician with great ambitions for his country. I’m just hypothesizing here; I don’t pretend to know what Hitler felt, since it wasn’t recorded. The same can even be said of your partners or friends. The image you have of them is only fictional because you cannot grasp their full identity in your mind. But let’s go back to memories. You remember vividly that day when you were married or you had a terrible accident. The wedding day was beautiful, sunny and with a radiant rainbow to top it off, but wait a minute: How come there was a rainbow on a sunny day? Was it really sunny all the time or you just forgot the shower that drenched some of your guests? Or maybe you just didn’t notice it, since the euphoria blocked out all those small inconveniences. Or maybe you do have perfect memory and you do remember every detail of your wedding, or maybe you recorded it all, but… Did you record it as being the happiest day of your life? Or as being the beginning of a strenuous path toward your late divorce? Do you consider your wedding to be a hiatus in your unhappiness, or the source of all your current evils? Or, if you’re still happily married to that person, are you both the same people that got married that day or have you changed together with your love for each other? Isn’t watching your wedding video from ten years ago just like watching a movie where the actors look like younger versions of yourselves? Don’t your current emotions inform your interpretation of the images you’re watching? Those images that look so real, are they real, or are they simply ghosts of the past?
What I aim at showing you in this way is that memories are built on memories, not on reality. Just like Allan Poe put it once: Life is but a dream within a dream. We can’t actually grasp reality, or life, and all our attempts are in vain. We can only dream and create memories that are replicas of life, but not life itself. From the moment we create a memory, our subjectivity comes into play. The memory of a child is not the same as that of a mother, though the event was the exact same. And not only that. My memory today would differ from a memory I would create were the same thing to happen to me tomorrow. Because life’s nature is change, and memories change with us. Our interpretation of past events changes with us, and thus we change our pasts as we learn new things about ourselves or the world.
Let’s break up the process of memory formation: First, you interpret an event and create a replica in your head. Then, you remember this replica, or you re-watch it, changing its interpretation each time. Depending on how many times you view this memory, you’re left simply with a memory of a memory of a memory, so distant from the reality that inspired it that it might as well be a paragraph in your favorite novel. This process is called: memory construction and its opposite is called: memory deconstruction, which consists in changing our past through its reinterpretation. This is the task that has been given to me: retro-progress. By tampering with the reality-time continuum, I’m able to imbue or inspire a recording from the past, as if the person giving the speech had had a revelation. But please remember a basic physical law: Nothing is created nor destroyed, but everything is transformed. Therefore, any epiphany, however novel may seem, is the product of reality. Basically speaking, no thought has never been thought before, but its form and perspective are the only things that change, the same as an image changes the closer we get to it. And because currently, we are able to break the linear continuum of information transmission, I can retro-transmit thoughts, which is the purpose of this broadcast.
The world today is a technological paradise: Technology and values have converged in a society that respects nature and progress. The early social dichotomies: Communism versus capitalism, ecology versus industrial progress, and even body versus soul have all been bridged. Technology today is used to enhance nature, not to destroy it, and by helping it, we help human progress. But this trend, called nature technology, already became preponderant by the end of your current century, when the spontaneous combustion of many forests around the globe and the flooding of major coastal cities due to the melting of the ice caps veered the path of industrialization. All technology became eco-friendly at the beginning to gradually become completely ecological, that is, contributing to nature. The paradigm changed from technology being used to shape nature to our needs to it being used to adjust our needs to nature.
I could spend days explaining one single technological advancement; however, that’s not the task I was given, but a more ambitious one: to spark a radical mental change in your generation. I mentioned that the ice caps melted, raising the sea level by sixty-five meters, but this is only a contingency. In life, there are certain and contingent facts. A certain fact is that all living beings die, including human beings. A contingent fact is that I die from a car accident or from heart failure in my sleep. Thanks to our current technology, we have been able to prevent all undesirable contingencies from happening in the present, and my project is to start preventing them retroactively, that is, in the past. This is done by providing you with the information necessary to change your current way of thinking and actions. It’s an arduous task since evolution can’t be forced and the organism needs to be ready physically and mentally to change, which means that you need the technology and the proper mentality to be able to embrace change.
Supposing that you do embrace the change I’ll propose, what effect will this alteration have in my present? This question has already partially been answered by my explanation of how memory works. No one in my present will lose their memory, and none of their lives will change drastically. Now, let’s clarify the concept of drastic change. If a person were to become your neighbor tomorrow, and if you were to meet them and fall in love with them, will it mean that their moving in next door was a drastic change in your life? The correct answer is no because this moving in is a mere contingency; the certain fact is that you were ready to fall in love and you were consciously or subconsciously looking for a partner, which you would’ve found at work, in the street or on the Internet anyways. What seems to you to be so necessary, their moving in next door is a mere contingency. The same would happen were you to avoid the melting of the ice caps. Buenos Aires, New York, Amsterdam, Saint Petersburg, Hong Kong and many other cities would simply reappear in my present time, the same as your neighbor appeared next door. The people living there would have commercial links with the rest of us, the same as if we had acquired new partners. However, at the beginning, there wouldn’t be any personal links between them and us, the same as there was no link between you and your neighbor when they just moved in. That’s the meaning of no radical changes. None of the people already living will die or see their past affected by the appearance of all these new people. Of course, these people would affect their future, the same as a wave of refugees changes the future of any country. When it comes to information, all records would account for these new people, which means, they will be automatically added to all our systems. The only thing that will prove that they didn’t exist before would be our memories. But by now we know how flaky our memories are. Our social need for adaptation to reality would discard these obsolete memories and adapt to the new reality. Of course, someone could obstinately argue that New Yorkers are not real and that we should kill them all, but that’s not really how our current society works. In the present, we embrace change and evolution; we don’t try to hinder it. That is also why we believe this project is possible now: because both you and we are ready to carry it out.
The hardest thing for every activist is to talk about hunger to people who have bread. Although the melting of the ice caps is a huge catastrophe, which will directly affect half of the global population, it will never be imminent enough to start a revolution on time. The fact that this catastrophe will take place gradually, like a pot slowly reaching the boiling point, creates negligence on the part of the people that already know that will be affected, but don’t know exactly when and to what extent. Also, like in every crisis, the people who become aware in advance can simply take advantage, for instance selling their property in vulnerable places and escaping while there’s still time. But this is not what I’m trying to achieve here, so believe me when I tell you that my task is really hard. What I want is to raise awareness and appeal to the humanity of enough people, so changes can be done on time. It might even sound god-like arrogant to try to prevent natural forces from flooding us, but we’ve already tampered with nature for the worse, so we might now do it for the better. Those who built their houses on the sand, but also those who built their houses on the stone, would have to embrace our new role as architects of Earth for no other reason than their love for humanity and nature.
Although innumerable species will get extinct in this catastrophe, and many people will fall into poverty, it is still a mere contingency, which could be caused by some other factor, such as a global nuclear war, which would actually be way more disastrous. Fortunately, your society is evolving at a rate that will soon overcome the danger of a global nuclear war. This is a clear example of society catching up with technology, as opposed to the industrial revolution, for instance, which created so many social issues. To be completely honest, whatever particular men do has little significance for humanity as a whole. Thinking of the worst-case scenario: A global conflagration or a pandemic that wipes out half of the world would only slow down the inevitable evolution of our species towards harmony with each other, technology and nature. As individuals, we’re free, but as a species, we have a destiny to which we’ll inevitably arrive. Going back to the most optimistic scenario of New York and other cities reemerging from the seas: This would not kill or harm any of the people already living on Earth because they are already predestined to be alive. Here we get into a metaphysical subject: Scientists have discovered that birth, the same as death, is a certain fact in everyone’s lives. This means that people are never born by chance; actually chance does not exist in nature, or as Einstein said: God doesn’t play dice. There is a metaphysical force governing nature and pushing living beings forward. We can tamper with nature all we want, but we can’t make evolution come to a halt. From previous, small-scale tampering with the past which was done, it was discovered this has no influence on living people’s present, as if life’s equation was rebooted with each of these manipulations of the time continuum until it equaled zero again. That is to say: The past and the future can be changed, but not the present.
Let me put this more clearly in an example: If after reading this you were to find out my genealogy and kill one of my ancestors to try to erase me from my present existence, I would simply be born from other parents. You would change my past, but not my present. In some way, the invisible force governing nature would zero this change out, leading me to achieve the same situation in my current life. This law of balance has already been seen by scientists of your time, who discovered that different species arrived at the evolution of the same organs through different paths. That’s why both a fly and a human being have eyes, although they come from a common ancestor that was blind. Animals are predetermined to sense their environment and the best possible way is through the evolution of eyes. But there is an organ even more important than the eyes to sense the environment: the brain. And there is another element even more important than the brain: our consciousness, whose memory remains in the coding of nature until it is again apprehended by someone’s mind. This metamemory can remain dormant for eternity, but that doesn’t mean it ceases to exist. It just means it’s been transformed into something else, further affecting the fabric of reality.
Now to the task in question: To try to dissuade you from collaterally destroying the Earth. You aren’t doing it on purpose; no one is accusing you of evil doing. But think of the nature of evil. Let’s take the paradigm of evil: the devil. He simply rebelled against God, the same as the French rebelled against Louis XVI. Evil is rebellion against the status quo, and it’s therefore subjective. To Louis XVI, his murderous crowd was pure evil, the same as Lucifer was to God. So, to nature, you are evil, the same as cancer is to us. And the main problem is that nature is not something extrinsic to us: we are natural beings too; so the more we damage nature, the more we damage ourselves. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the ecological issue is actually a humanitarian issue. The real question is not whether we need to take care of nature, which is already evident from any logical point of view, but whether we, humans, are evil by nature. If we can answer this question, we won’t be at such a loss regarding our role in life and the world as a species anymore.
The self-preservation instinct led to many horrors, such as wars and holocausts. From the logical point of view, we can say that humans are born evil; our natural state is evil to outsiders, that is, to people from other tribes. Empathy and humanism are the product of nurture, and they need to be adopted by every person to become fully human. This is a socio-psychological truth nowadays, and the basis of our current society. As with all other truths, this one is subject to debunking, but for the time being, it has become our reality. It basically means that people who haven’t adopted humanistic principles are correspondingly treated as not fully human and therefore granted fewer rights than the rest of us. We’ve labeled these people as regressed, that is, people who are regressing in values, going back to the core of humanity, to try to reach our ancestral, primeval instincts. We value them as a means to improve our humanity, because instincts make us what we are and it’s very important not to lose touch with them, but we also see the danger lying in them, so we cannot allow them to run completely free. This is why, in such a liberal society as ours, there is a caveat for a group of people who cannot simply be allowed to interact with society freely. They are not inmates, however; we don’t believe in depriving people of their physical liberty. Prisons were outlawed more than a thousand years ago in the whole world. Nevertheless, there is voluntary confinement for people who need it, always taking into account that it’s been psychologically proven that free will is the most important step in any psychological cure.
Besides, with our current technology, we don’t need to confine potentially dangerous people anymore because we count with numerous satellites and tracking systems that allow us to know who is in our periphery at all times. Stealing is not an option anymore, and physical damage to others or yourself is practically impossible due to the nanorobots present in every human habitat or in halo suits that can be carried on trips to natural habitats, such as forests. Of course, suicide is allowed, so can go to the forest and kill themselves before nanorobots could prevent it, or they can simply invoke the right to euthanasia. Even among the highest-risk group, the regressed, we haven’t yet seen a case of dangerous physical violence, although we often see cases of socially disruptive behavior. That’s why these people are advised to isolate themselves as much as possible from the rest of society. It’s not treated as a punishment, because they aren’t guilty of being born like that, but as a treatment to be followed if they want to get better. There have been a few cases of regressed people who have refused treatment and chosen to follow their own advice, but they encountered positive discrimination on the part of the rest of the people who wanted to avoid the danger of meeting them. I will tell you the story of one of these people, and maybe this will enlighten you a little about our human nature and how to cope with it.
I haven’t introduced myself yet, I’m Conrad, and I’m a hundred and twenty years old. I’m a senior, which makes me wise, but not old. People live up to two hundred nowadays. The story I want to tell you about has become a sort of legend among us. It’s such a cautionary tale that it’s used in groundbreaking psychological and sociological studies. From my philosophical point of view, I’ll give you an interpretation of this story, together with what to my understanding are the most important facts. The protagonists of this story are a young man with regression called Valentine and a young woman called Milena. They were both born with the right to be happy, but when they met they suffered from what in psychology is known as the Romeo and Juliet complex: a vehement desire to carry out a relationship despite social boundaries. The boundaries between Romeo and Juliet were unfair to the lovers but necessary, due to the danger incurred by a relationship between foes. All sorts of relationships have as a frame the society in which the individuals live, so it’s impossible to obviate social boundaries without renouncing the society in question. Romeo and Juliet’s problem was that they couldn’t manage to renounce their society alive. Valentin and Milena’s problem is more complex: They could’ve renounced society and lived self-sufficiently, but the existent social boundary forbidding regressed people from becoming partners with regular people has a psychologically-founded reason: that people with such a pronounced difference in their level of intellectual development can’t form an equal relationship.
Most of what we know about the couple comes from a direct witness called Efrain, as well as from Valentin’s psychologist. From all their psychotherapy sessions, I picked these words uttered by Valentine as an introduction to his frame of mind at the moment:
(After a couple of seconds of background microwave sound, Valentin starts talking.)
“Have you ever looked at someone in the street with imagination, imagining they are someone dear to you, that you’re connected to that stranger and it’s not only by chance that you’re found at the same place at that moment? Have you wondered how easy it would be for that person to become dear to you? How long it would take: five minutes, three months, ten years? What kind of figment disconnects us from the rest of the world? What makes that person someone other than me? What divides us from one another are rather our minds than our bodies. I could never be that girl I’m seeing because she thinks other thoughts. I could control her body and see through her eyes, but I wouldn’t see the same things. We’re so similar, but so different; so connected, but so disconnected from one another.”
Those kinds of idle thoughts are typical in regression. We deal with facts today; imagination is a useless tool if not put to a purpose. If you can imagine how something can come to be, how this girl you’re seeing can become your girlfriend, then it is positive imagination, but thinking about ifs and not doing anything about it is negative imagination, very dangerous, the kind that led people to free their minds with psychotropics in the past. These “what ifs”: “What if… all we need is love, what if… war didn’t exist” are detrimental to progress. We don’t have war today because we imagined it positively, realistically. We imagined the end of violent conflict and implemented it. We imagined peace and now it exists. So while imagination is highly valued, the same as the knowledge of how to create fire is valued, we need to learn to control this skill or we’ll become dangerous to ourselves and others.
About Milena there’s not much to say as an introduction, except for a phrase she once said to a witness:
(Two seconds of microwave background radiation sound)
“I value diversity so much that I buy different kinds of groats, even though I have a favorite one. Because if I didn’t have the option to constantly choose among different groats, my favorite ones would stop being special. They would simply become groats, and I would still love groats, but then I wouldn’t have any choice, the same as we don’t have a choice but to breathe air. By buying groats that I like less than my favorite ones, I make my favorite groats special.”
We could say she was an idealist who embraced regression, although she didn’t have this condition herself. Unfortunately, she took this conviction to an emotional level when she got engaged in a relationship with Valentin. In doing so, she broke the principle of falling in love conscientiously, which is legally binding today, the same as driving responsibly is in your time. Irresponsible relationships are punished, the same as drunk driving is in your society. However, our punishments are not prescriptive like yours; they just represent the value given to the status quo. To put it simply, our punishments do not seek to deter people from committing crimes, because freedom is paramount in today’s society, and the fact that certain actions are considered crimes because they’re dangerous to society does not mean that they are morally wrong. That’s why people like Milena, who commit crimes, pay their penalty willingly to make up for the social damage they’ve potentially incurred. In Milena’s case, the crime was so severe that she had to give up her regular rights and adopt the rights of a regressed person, which imply living in relative isolation and being unable to perform certain social activities. But now, let’s delve into the story to see if we can learn more about human nature.