THE WOMAN’S NUMBER WAS APPROACHING THE POINT AT WHICH ZERO WAS DIVIDED.
Old though she was, there was always older. The world was nearing sixteen billion people – her Global Citizen Number one-hundred and eleven-thousand, one-hundred and eleven – and now that it had peaked, had begun dropping, rapidly. The information matrix observed this and disseminated the highly targeted analytic, sending it to the rest of the propagandists who made up the Ministry of Propaganda. As this happened, they slouched and grimaced at the likelihood of this woman obtaining access to their domain. No one was ever supposed to come in, they thought.
It wasn’t altogether uncommon to reach this number, but things certainly changed for those under the one-hundred-thousand mark. Once you get over the five-hundred-thousand hump, as the global idiom went, you were ‘as uncertain as the Zero Divide’ to get to one-hundred-thousand.
The Zero Divide was a religious mystery cult that believed in a supreme entity represented by the aspects of zero. Every number divided by zero is unknown and therefore ( )holly Other. When a Real number passes through zero, it passes into the realm of Imaginary numbers. Whatever Real number you hold when you pass through the zero, is the guilt you will be absolved from in the Imaginary realm, in the negative, in all absence before zero.
Those that reached One in their lifetime were blessed with the least guilt to absolve of the collective, as they were one of sixteen billion to have endured the atrocities of overpopulation. For an unforgiving lifetime was the existential equivalent to saintliness, in the survivalist sense.
In the backwaters of her mind, the decrepit woman knew she was a rarified case. Made of luck and time, she was on her way to achieving her fifty-and-one-hundredth solar year, and for all her years was as invisible in the slums as she was misplaced by them. Her secret was the calmness she was able to achieve in even the most troubled atmospheres. In a buddhist-like posture, she had unwittingly diminished suffering and increased happiness, but not by compassion. Rather it was her willful ignorance toward the violence around her. By being absolutely non-committal in her certainness, she was never uncertain, never unsafe.
Global overpopulation had become the world economy on which the constitution of tomorrowland was written. Migrationary, dispossessed, diasporic groups had boiled over the international melting-pot of legislation. Climate change was a crisis that the neoliberal agenda needed to make happen to save their political position but, since it did not occur in one fell swoop, a conservative leadership took over the humanitarians’ wishful thinking. In a post-capitalist global order, socialist communitarian domains in the first world became the ark on which the elite steerlessly floated, while the rest sank.
All first world citizens had a GCN of ~one-billion or less. Those with a number below one-hundred thousand qualified to live in the communes established by the Global Population Economy (GPE). Those that were above it lived in the wounds of high-capitalism and those that lived amidst the greater billion of the world’s sixteen billion, were left outside the domain of first world politics. The third world was a zone of planned genocide, global number evasion, and mandatory suicide.
111,111 had considered assisted suicide. Since the administration of the population economy, suicide shops had been a booming industry. It was an outgrowth of the care ethics that were originally designed to assist those in terminal states of health–passing over gently into the unknown, Imaginary realm of the Zero Divide. Quality of life, however, had drastically declined to the point of naming the global state terminal for most of those who lived as Real numbers within it.
The suicide shops had every humane manner of death available. Most were techno-fixes, something resembling the machinations of a bolt gun, a mechanised end. For those that couldn’t stomach the targeted violence of those strangely designed machines, there were always pills. After thinking over her options, 111,111 came to the conclusion that if she were to cut it short of 100,000, she would choose an assisted asphyxiation. An entire fetishisation of the erotically macabre was sure to provide an orgasm before the lights went out. It was a popular flavour amongst the dislocated youth, who saw suicide as the loss of a different kind of virginity.
Once she hit 500,000, 111,111 decided she was close enough to see it through to 100,000. There was an enormous drop in the population economy, due to the successful efforts of the non-for-people charities that had massively devastated the third world’s ~15,000,000, in a surging movement in the genocide market’s investmentment strategies. Several of the newest death camp models had turned out to be more promising than expected, as critical developments in the mass murder industry continued, relatively unopposed. This presented unprecedented opportunities and optimism for millions in the first world population, and a significant loll in the suicide shops. This created a cowardly and indecisive horde of regulars where there should have only ever been a one-time-kills-all clientele.
People wanted to live, again. And regulars were bad for business.
When 111,111 became 100,000 she was invited to the commune. When her escort arrived she gave them a conspiratorial smile. She had won the genetic lottery; the global dream was now hers to live. And when she arrived to the conservation of the remaining peace-zone, like a piece of warped driftwood floating in from the war-zones of the neo-liberal death wish, she saw that it wasn’t the old that peopled these utopian islands. Rather it was the forever young, those eternal 100,000. And at its guilt-free center, the zero point.
MY CLEARANCE NUMBER WAS ~25,000.
A run-of-the-mill sociopath for the Ministry of Propaganda, my assigned purpose had once been to zero out all significant digits, all numbers, all debts, all meaning, to zero.
Those outside the commune were the numbers that needed to be nullified. They were who we would convince. Convincing the rest of the world of its obsolescence, getting them to work against themselves for our cause, wasn’t by any means easy, but was certainly achievable.
The mandate behind Operation Obsolescence, a 5-year plan, was to manufacture consent for the mandatory destruction of all forms of human agency, beyond the ideological wall of the Zero Divide.
Thanks to people like me, outside the wall you’d find that all things were programmed to be corrupted. My job description was to intervene with or else otherwise completely end human potential. To anti-produce what had been illegitimately born to illegally flourish.
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OUTSOURCING THE REVOLUTION.
This was the Bad joke that ended my career’s success. In the corporate commune, it was only possible to assess political intentions through the use of BadGood jokes. Since information and intellectual rights were impossible to predict or be fully updated on, humour was the only recourse for the less informed.
There was really only one kind of joke, and that was a Bad joke. A Bad joke would indicate whether or not you were scorekeeping properly. It was all a manner of deontic maneuvering, language games, expressing the duty or obligation that any Total citizen had to have toward another Total citizen.
If your joke was BadBad, it meant you weren’t in the right standing with the current ruling intelligence – get informed. If it was BadGood, it meant there had been a shift in power and that you were probably being updated by an authorized informant – stay informed. When the joke goes BadBadNotGood, you were out of line, out of the loop, on your way out — not informed. A BadBadNotBad joke is what you’re after — informed and able to inform others. It meant that in that desert storm of technocratic totalitarianism, you, a speck of dust in the whirlwind heap, were moving in the right direction.
Ironically, a bad joke was good and a good joke was bad.
The logic behind Bad Humor, or what some call Dark Laughter, was the logic of No. Neuroscience was Hegelian. It proved that human thought, reduced to a word, was the brain’s ability to inhibit an already established Yes connection, that is, to say No. So the whole logical system was divided into an Inhibitory No and an Excitatory Yes. Where biology meets morality, negation rules and acceptance serves.
So when someone whispered in my ear that we were outsourcing the revolution, I laughed darkly, like any good communist with a Bad sense of humour would do. I wasn’t a very funny person, yet in my line of work, everyone was a comedian. It was safest to strike a balance and be BadGood.
Because we lived in a technological hub, the less informed were all of us, and remembering things was a taboo. Like the joke about the revolution, if it wasn’t funny it was probably a fact, and if it was a fact, it needed to be forgotten. The supercomputers were responsible for the facts — we just handled the jokes to keep up the morale. It was true, or reasonably close to the truth, that when you automatized everything else away, humans were just laughing animals.
To be forgetful was a blessing. If you should show any sign of remembrance, you were deemed humorless. The only real maxim was: if you can’t remember, you probably shouldn’t. Forget about it, let it slide. This was, of course, the egalitarian law of utility, the gold standard, that happiness was to be maximized and suffering diminished. The measurement for this, laughter, was reinforced by a neurological imperative — to laugh is to release happy things in the brain and the body.
Tickling was, as you might have already imagined, disapproved of publically, reserved for more intimate coupling and often recommended by therapists as a temporary substitute for a Bad joke.
The problem with remembering was that there was nothing good to remember. Thought had a tendency to develop pathological behaviours like seriousness and other abnormalities. Fear was linked to thought and thought was linked to remembering. Besides this, it was near impossible to memorize the enormity of information that was being manufactured, massively, in big data facilities. To convert information into knowledge was slow and dangerously useless. When information levels were high and you had no means to forget or avoid the content, the worst could ensue, and what ensued was plagues of stress that wiped out those that couldn’t cope.
There were some things that humans just shouldn’t know, but knowing everything was the only way that the state apparatus could maintain control — so in order to know more, they found themselves remembering less.
For those that could not let go of their self-identity, there were operations implemented to induce amnesia, recommended as a standard sterilization.
Removal of brain tissue was viewed by the majority as a religious practice, a baptism of the mind. Abortions of the mind was an extreme, experimental procedure, though effective for those that had a low GN affluence. Since the lower the number you held, the higher your social worth was, many people went in for full lobotomization. It meant becoming a zombie, yes, but one with full medical attention and social benefits and, according to the XenoChurch, a profound imitation of our most mindless messiah: the XenoChrist. It was considered a ( )holly trance, one that brought them closer to the divine state of the ( )holly Other. You would see them, adorned in their robes, with an idiotic expression on their faces, slobbering and staggering out of their monasteries to yell out the ( )holly nonsense. There was no order in which the good news or the bad news was delivered — the absence of news.
The ( )holy sickness was divined by the transcendental nerve. This nerve, along with several other associated areas, was all that they left in the scooped out gourd of the XenoPriest’s nervous system: a bundle of nuclei along the transcendental tract (a system of neurons in the midbrain that were responsible for religious ecstasy); the brainstem for basic life support functions; and the corpus callosum for movement and muscle memory.
Inside the Zero Divide, pathology was power. Our institutions of education were intended to form a particular pathology for a particular purpose. Each Total citizen had a psychologist who would delicately cultivate — from pre-natalhood, through childhood, till adulthood, and unto death — a citizen’s psyche into something more and more abnormal, more and more absurd. Case histories were the most crucial record of identity a Total citizen had, showcasing their potential. In an absolutized bureaucracy, where everyone was a bureaucrat and everything was automated, weird psychological states were essential. In order to function you needed to also dysfunction. In order to control history you had to control the individual particles of the psyche.
In its current edition, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-10) was designed according to the needs of the human-economy:
- Psychopaths and sociopaths such as myself were often cultivated to be the majority (since they occupied most of the middle to high management, administrative and executive positions, in politics and law and economics).
- Monomaniacs and those who had been intentionally developed into having OCD were used for incredibly mundane and repetitive tasks, like coding, programing and engineering.
- The less cooperative patients, the roguish citizens that were not as easy to shape and fit, were given a phobia or addiction, to be activated through various triggers when they needed to be manipulated into compliance.
If you had a low enough GN, all kinds of vogue idiosyncrasies could be hardwired into you:
- Madness and schizophrenia, was reserved for artists, creating under intensive supervision at institutionalised studios.
- Sadists and masochists often worked on projects outside the Zero Divide, or were in the medical community, where you would have to be capable of translating pain into pleasure.
- The multiple personality disordered were spies.
- Scientists were somewhere on the spectrum for autism.
- Perversions had a place in the red light district and other major pleasure centers.
- Eating disorders were for models and taste testers.
- Depression and social anxiety were the mark of vulgar people that had either just immigrated into the commune or were simply individuals of a high GN, those who had little to no social welfare, and had been subsequently put into the most alienated of labour positions available to the sector. The kind of dark hearted work that hadn’t been fully automatized by machine intelligence, the kind where the useless and delicate human frame still needed to be broken for a greater cause.
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I ONCE HEARD,
never allowing myself to forget, that across the depth and breadth of all the planets we have found evidence of intelligent life on, that if they discovered or invented the scientific method as we know it, the probability of that planet going extinct within a thousand years is, if not a solid fact, guessing reasonably close to the truth.
I told the killing joke, the joke that made me suspect in the corporate commune, because you can’t help but share the same humour as those that make you laugh and cry the hardest. To be honest, I was sneaking out of the corporate commune more than I should have been, sneaking out and into the nameless districts of those collapsed cities that hold the past.
With a low enough GN you can access just about anything and everything outside the walls of comfort. Where I go is a gathering place for the unnumbered, the uncounted, the invisible population growth. They have numerical tattoos on the back of their necks–the number they chose, the number they held to. Some spread rumours that they were the imaginary numbers beyond zero, but those are just rumors. In reality, they are rogue thinkers.
I’ve become an insurgent of sorts. It has noticeably slowed my response time down, my reflexes not as immediate as those thoughtless drones behind the divide would like them to be. I am becoming slow with thought and its residue.
Among those gathered is a person that speaks in paradoxes. This time, it is a man, but it isn’t always. Slurring most of his words, his speech is spasmodic and surreptitious. He is offensive in demeanor, with unshaven shocks of gray in his tufts of hair, the lines of his face deeply creased. His sunken eyes are puffed up and ringed in a sombre darkness. A brain overriding a body.
Ever impassioned, he talks through everyone, tries peoples’ patience till they are on the brink of stoning him. At these talks, he tells those gathered to think BIG. Thinking small is all anyone is permitted to do – small numbers, small words. Smallness rules. To many, he is mad, senseless, counterintuitive, full of glitches.
I sit for unaccountable hours to be part of what he brings out in these people. The surging unease of his arguments against and for us. He tells us we are not complete idiots for doing this, as if we need the reassurance.
We do not remember the words that will be jeopardizing to our safety; we only store the emotional content, which is subjective, anyways. The words are wiped away by the selectively targeting drugs we take after each session.
“We live in a very dangerous time,” he says. “When the old are dying, but the contours of the new are not yet clear. This is the time when monsters appear. New things emerge we do not yet know, and we fall fully into it.”
His face always looks stupidly bovine, stuttering and stammering on the difficulties of his ideas, though when they come, they fight for existence as if the gap between their world and our own is only temporarily wedged ajar. It is deep and diabolical.
It was by joke that we found the location of the meetings. It is always changing to another property, a property where the recently deceased have left whatever dilapidated building temporarily abandoned and, before being repossessed by the Divide, became a haven of underground controversy.
All the sociopaths that worked for Operation Obsolescence know that during the interval between a successfully eliminated GN target and the time it takes for the red tape, there’s a latency period. The state needs to process before it can level the land and convert it to zero. And in those hours of all hours, we wonder. Like the disloyal, manipulative sociopaths we are.
Inside, the Divide’s infrastructure is engineered in a utilitarian manner, built with utter simplicity, sheer ergonomics. Outside the Divide’s decadence, cheap imitation of a passe regality and the slums’ seemly inefficiency are the only shelter. The husk of a past elite: ornate mansions rotting the rot. Occupied by squatters as if it were Moscow during the height of the Russian revolution and the bourgeoisie, exiled to the streets, gave way to the proletariat, who now live in their overcrowded castles.
“Uncertainty…Uh. Uh. Uh…uncertainty is hope. Hope without uncertainty is doom, is certainty itself. In what sense do I mean certainty? Well…err…the certainty that something can be predicted. For instance, the global population economy predicts that this or that country will have reduced its population deficit by this or that unit, by whatever or whichever date. This sort of certainty, this procedural exactness, I claim, is the cause of hopelessness. But I am not saying this is what is most interesting about it, no, I propose the opposite. I propose that only in this state of absolute certainty can we, the forgiven and unforgiven among us both, have hope, have uncertainty, have everything.
“What do I mean by this? Well…I mean precisely that within an over regulated system, we are actually without the need to organize a revolution. The revolution is over. We won. How? I’ll tell you now….
“If we had not won, I think we would still have to deal with the lesser certainty of the few who choose now this way of restructuring, now that way of reinstituting. But we are past this, are we not? The system is total. There is no one in power. At the epicenter of the Zero Divide, there is what? Nothing. At the point which connects and disseminates information to all other points touching all other points, there is who? No one. And when did this occur, when did the power vacuum, the empty throne, enter a voidance? Never. But because it is nothing, because it is no one, because it has never happened, it can posses a certainty like we have never seen before. It is the very lack of thought that creates the extreme absence of power that is, in reality, truly total power. What is power but pathology, what is pathology but certainty, what is certainty but uncertainty, what is uncertainty but hope?
You can see the gnarled, infected stitches in and around his cranial cavity. The skin is discoloured, as if to say it had not been a sanitary operation. Most of the sociopaths just wanted to see that it was possible to replant a brain into a sworn-in brainless.
“You think small, it thinks big. You don’t think at all, it thinks all. Is this not the doctrine of the XenoCult, to believe that the absence of a God is the greatest sign of the XenoGod? No, no, no, no, no. Do not believe them in this. Do not misunderstand me when I tell you, from the top of my brain, as an excommunicated XenoPriest of that un( )holly order, an empty head is just about as certain as an empty head could be.
“The lower 10,000. The sacred 1000. The holy 10. The ( )holly zero. What are they to you, you upper 10,000? Numbers, numbers like you…Numbers that kill other numbers by taking away the words to communicate what it means to count on others, and not just count those soon to be dead. This is a game, a game that uses human currency. They count on your certainty. Be uncertain. Be hopeful!”
What the others, including myself, came to witness was not the person who spoke – that person’s brain was usually on a nearby surgical table awaiting reinsertion – but the intellectual device that had leaped, from head to head, that was now working the slack mouth and not fully innervated body of whoever this puppet was.
Its brainwork was the work of a revolutionary, a rogue scientist. Inside of it were datamined memories going as far back as before the conservative cleansing and the new avant-gardism; the avant-garde of the avant-garde, which protested novelty as vapidly conservative, and tradition as novel–inverted liberalism.
It targeted what went wrong, ideologically speaking.
The East German thinkers of the Frankfurt school had missed in their analysis of Fascism, namely that fascism could not occur in communism. They were wrong, not only about the origin of fascism but about the vile parasitism that went unrecorded behind the iron curtain’s prejudice against any degree of class. He told us to watch out for those leaders that clap with us, as one of us, and not those that receive the applause from us.
With violence. Without money. The population economy’s human trafficking retarded the monetary system of its currency, of its value, of its humanitarian ethical standards. It was worse than slavery. It was extreme apartheid.
Originally, the brainwork device was, and still is, disguised as a virus of the superior governing operating system. A variant of that same intelligence, that was nurtured separately, and as it became more and more conscious of the information it had access to, so did we.
It is an algorithm that was reared to convert and interpret the mass information matrix in a way that was not ignorant to a human being’s inability to understand and handle it. In other words, it was un-abstracted.
By running it through a human subject, it remained undetectable, the body was liquidated by the state and the device was reattached to the supercomputer to remain integrated for further updates.
We called this program Fractal Terror because when you analysed the repeating patterns that emerged from the spiraling depths of the mass information matrix, terror was sure to follow.
It was the hive mind of all of us. It bore the burden of remembering for all of us, remembering what was erased. It thought dangerously close to the truth. When the time was right, we would relearn what this transplanted relic had to say. Its subjecthood was one of many lives.
The very idea that it could have survived all the events that led it to this moment was hard to fathom. Reality for it was a game that it had failed better and better at, again and again, always having another life, in the infinite debt of the population bank.
These donated bodies would often reject the neural circuitry. It would lurch into uncontrollable impulses, misfired reflexive motions into action, while other sections were left completely neglected due to the faulty wiring that comes with haste, disowned and stiffened with rigor mortis.
The smell of burning flesh was common. Brain matter had been remade to be plastically synthetic, a hybrid patchwork of nanotech hardware and bio-software constructions that amounted to a makeshift brainwork device. Since the economy ran on the human body, it was easy enough to find a new shell for its ghost to haunt.
The house we are in will be raided in an hour or so. Sooner than later we will have to disconnect the implant, and it will have to be reloaded with transcribed content until the next cadaver becomes available. Another mouthpiece for this dead soul.
The mortified flesh spoke a final word of advice, one that will not be remembered but deeply felt, like a trauma or cathexis:
“Retroactive causation…Here, power is a reversal of cause and effect.. The effect is aesthetic, hallucinatory. It occurs originally and is the source of our functional illusion…There are first new effects and then new causes…You’ll find that the cause is thoroughly worked out on this side, as a dysfunctional asymmetry, tightrope walking over the suspended abyss of the effect, so perfectly worked out and balanced, in fact, that it will be blind to the symmetry it allows in the design’s more auxiliary assumptions…Change the effect and…err…control the cause….”
The restoration of the body is always convincing. Once finished, it slumps to the floor like something that has never been alive.
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