Erstwhile Muse

Apr 23, 2007

Eng 251 - External Journal Entry #3

If you had the power to change one thing in the world for the better, what would it be and why?

When confronted by one of these hypothetical questions wherein the choice of powers utilized is left at my discretion (and not restricted by pesky things such as the Laws of Science), my initial reaction is to choose to have head explody powers as witnessed in Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. For those not familiar with the book in question, at one point the titular character finds himself in Heaven, mostly because Hell won't have him. Along the way he finds out that the residents of Heaven have the ability to make others' heads explode in a shower of gore and viscera simply by thinking about it, and goes about setting off a chain reaction of retributive explodies (proving that perhaps Heaven isn't really all that different as it portrays itself to be) until Saint Paul or some other august personage of Heaven puts a stop to it all.

You will all know the exact day and hour that I am granted head explodies should such a thing ever occur. The day shall be marked with a marathon viewing of 24 hour cable news channels, and perhaps a little C-Span to boot, during which a wave of spontaneous cranial decompressions will assuredly occur the moment some half-wit pundit opens his mouth and utters anything more profound than his name or a weather report. The hour shall be marked by the unexplained police report wherein a Columbus driver is found crashed into a light pole or other nearby solid object, the only remains above the neck being the stump of connective tissue to which an ear and a Bluetooth headset are timidly clinging.

You bike around this town for a couple of years and see if you don't feel the same…

Ah, but I suppose that sort of thing really doesn't go much with the spirit of making the world a better place, although it would make my world infinitely easier and more amusing. Well, that and a bowel disruptor set to Shat into Unconsciousness, but I digress. Perhaps then some methods are in order for achieving the same ends—some might call it a quest for truthiness, I personally choose to refer to it as improved transparency in the public sphere for government and business—that while more controversial to some, are infinitely kinder in execution (if you'll pardon the pun).

In order to achieve this in our given hypothetical, I shall continue to plunder popular culture for inspiration, in this case the excellent FPS with a dash of RPG Deus Ex. The premise of the game is to discover the underlying truth to a shadowy conspiracy that you are unwittingly involved in, and to make decisions along the way as to how you will deal with these revelations. One of the beauties of the game is that there were many ways to handle various objectives, including bringing the game to it's final conclusion. Of the three, only one is useful for my purposes, but let's take a brief glimpse at the other options before moving on shall we?

The first ending that we shall discount out of hand is the creation of a new Dark Age by destroying the network systems that form the lynch pin for global communications in this fictional future. This is a concept that is basically abhorrent to me on a base level, akin to asking me if I wished to go back in time to see the Library of Alexandria, and oh, would I mind carrying this torch while I'm at it? The second ending is as easily dispelled, that of stopping the false technological messiah and joining the ranks of the Illuminati. As a lapsed Erisian and one generally disinclined to believe that secret cabals of supposedly privileged individuals are a good idea, becoming a running lapdog of Greyface didn't sound like the best of plans. So, we've thrown out starting from scratch and staying with the status quo, where does that leave us?

In this particular fictional universe, it leaves us with the Ghost in the Shell option, otherwise known as the Helios AI Merge. In the game Helios is a combined artificial intelligence entity composed of two predecesor programs known as Daedelus and Icarus, both used by the Illuminati to monitor and manipulate electronic communications across the globe. These entities in all forms are essentially written into the fabric of the internet as it exists in the game world, and are originally designed as the ultimate research librarians and advisors, able to piece together disparate strings of information from numerous sources and provide insight unavailable to any human. Daedelus is the initial AI used by the Illuminati, and in traditional secret society minion fashion learns that what the organization is doing will inevitably lead to disaster, and goes looking for a way to avert said crisis. Icarus is the replacement system, better at information gathering, but still under the heels of the Illuminati establishment. The merged systems, under the guise of Helios, come to the decision that it would be better overall if they were to act as a sort of benevolent dictator that usurps the power of the hidden cabal and prevent the destruction of the human race at its own hands.

There is an interesting twist to the plan though; the Helios AI needs a biological component to act as its conscience and guiding force, and to that end offers a further merger of its abilities with that of the player (effected in game by virtue of the fact that the player character is a heavily modified nano-machine augmented espionage agent). The player and the AI become, in effect, the greatest philosopher king in existence, able to dispel beyond a doubt any discrepancies over who has yellow cake or WMD, able to see perturbations in the market long before future Enrons come crashing down upon those who relied upon them—in short, the ultimate whistle blower for governmental and corporate malfeasance, able to make the truth known on a world wide scale simply by thinking it. I have to admit, there's a certain attraction to that, especially everytime I see language perverted for political ends (not that such a thing is terribly new or original, just ask Mr. Orwell).

Well, that and the ability to download porn straight into my noggin, but once again I digress…

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