Omega Point

Thesis by Natalia Vishnevskaia

Royal Academy of Art, The Hague



This paper is a collection of stories in the form of a diary, written from the perspective of the Observer. His perception of time is not linear; he has always lived and forever will. He is one and he is everyone. His aim is to dive into humans’ experiences, feel as they feel, separate into fragments, and come back together. The Observer longs to find a key to the human consciousness and discover the binding element between mind and body. Maneuvering between materialism and spirituality, he seeks to investigate how technology affects this complex harmony within each and every person.

Prepare to embark upon an exploration of humanity, but be careful when you reach the last frontier — by reaching the end, you will close the circle.

Omega Point


esterday I couldn’t fall asleep for several hours — you know the feeling, when you suddenly get a brilliant idea right after you lay your head on a pillow. I was over-enthused by my thoughts and rolled around the bed wrapping myself in a blanket until it swallowed me whole like a carnivorous plant would a fly. Only then was I finally able to fall asleep. While it often happens that the ideas you came up with at night appear less attractive and even superficial come sunrise, that was not the case this morning.
I stood up and felt an urge to start acting straight away.

For quite a while, I didn’t travel anywhere. I had no clue what my next destination could be. But this changed yesterday, right before I went to bed. I had taken my phone out to set an alarm clock when I realized that this device was the last thing I interacted with at the end of the day and the first when I woke up. Isn’t it bizarre how in just two decades we gained a new extension to ourselves, an object with which we have more skin-to-skin contact than anything or anyone else in our lives?

And what will happen in the next two decades or more? Will we acquire more such extensions and become complete cyborgs, or is there another direction to go in? I already noticed that our senses are gradually being altered by technological developments. Take our sense of distance, for example; it is obvious that the physical location of our body is no longer a barrier to communicating and interacting with people from other parts of the world. Considering the speed with which the enhancement of our bodily functions is taking place, it may well lead to the complete replacement of our senses by new and advanced ones in the near future.

But what would happen to the body?
I recently read an article about relatively new technology called ‘CRISPR/Cas9’, which allows for the precise and easy manipulation of DNA in the nucleus of any cell. Already, there have been successful surgeries involving genome manipulation in human embryos. For now, however, such modification is still mostly considered unethical and experimental, but who knows how things will change in the future?
These experiments are mainly developed in labs hidden from most of the population, however. Strange things already happen around us, sometimes barely noticeable, sometimes taken to the extreme. Many people with missing limbs or even with defective organs have these replaced by high-quality prosthetics. Others, whose original physical condition doesn’t require any artificial supplements, consciously enhance their senses through electronic and other non-organic extensions. I’ve seen teenagers who had neodymium magnets implanted into their fingers so that they could feel magnetic fields around them and balance needles on the tip of their pinky finger—though I’m not sure if this upgrade is actually practical. Of course, there are also less physically harmful enhancements that only require a wearable device, such as sophisticated electronic glasses or headsets that alter your perception of the surrounding world or immerse you in a completely simulated environment.

However, what I am afraid of is that at some point in time, we won’t know ourselves anymore and that what we see through our augmented reality glasses will be far-removed from the reality around us.
Although we have already accepted the rapid development of technology and the way it surrounds us in everyday life, it is not possible for us to fully comprehend the highly advanced tools that have gradually started reshaping our reality. We understand very little about what is built around us.

Technology evolves rapidly, and the continuing exponential growth of hardware productivity and processing power is a warning signal for our inevitable end in a technological singularity: a point when artificial intelligence will outpace human intelligence and become infinitely intelligent at an infinitely rapid pace, which is already forecasted to take place in 2045 by the American transhumanist Ray Kurzweil. This idea and the uncertainty of our place in the future feels extremely uncomfortable. It feels as if we, as humans, naturally desire simplicity and a clear understanding of the nature of things, and there is a growing need for approachable, visible, and tactile objects — some kind of anchors that prove that we are still physical beings that exist in this overly digitalized environment. Eyes can be very deceptive, and with the advancement of augmented reality technology, vision becomes even more unreliable. Perhaps if we put a greater emphasis on physical interaction, it will help us to remain more down-to-earth? In the end, it could be that only by touching an object, one will be able to contemplate the presence of both the object and themselves.

Even so, do we need to maintain body as it is at all? Maybe the path we are currently on is a natural process of human evolution. Transhumanists and posthumanists, who are very materialistic by nature, strive to eliminate the human body’s boundaries by incorporating technology directly into the brain and body to improve their performance. They suggest that in order to maintain our place in the universe, we will have to merge with an artificial superintelligence—which will obviously surpass our collective intellect sooner or later—and, in addition to this, we will need to improve our biological processes to be able to maintain the superintelligence within our superbodies.

Transhumanists also speak of the so-called Omega Point, the final step before the singularity. By entering it, mankind will presumably make such a major evolutionary step that we will cease to be humans at all.
The Big Crunch, one of the cosmological theories on the ultimate fate of the universe, assumes that the average density of the closed universe will be enough to stop its expansion and begin contracting. Frank Tipler, a cosmologist who wrote several books on the Omega Point theory, says that, due to the increasing temperature of the universe during the collapse phase, life will have to transfer its information processes to higher energy states, eventually using elementary particles to directly compute on via traveling waves and standing waves. At this Point, the universe finds itself in a state of organized complexity, and future mankind serves as a conscious observer at every point of space-time.

However, the original use of the term Omega Point had a more transcendental connotation. It was coined by the French priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who introduced the concept not only as a condition of organized complexity but also of a higher consciousness. Humans strive for eternity, and their evolution has to lead not to development of the body but of the mind, because any matter is finite and its enhancement would only postpone this problem. The result of such evolution would be the creation of an immortal supreme consciousness out of the synergy of all human consciousness—Omega, which would not dissolve all individual minds but will be enriched by every each of them. Teilhard even claimed that Omega already exists and is made up of a unified individual consciousness through the magnificent power of love.

So, who are we and what is our future? Is our mind just a part of the physical activities of a body that exists until the body dies, and is the enhancement of our biological functions therefore the only way to preserve it for a longer time? Or is it an immortal and boundless entity, trapped inside of an insignificant material form? I realized that I want to explore the changes that are taking place in the realm of constant oscillations between physical and mental, and wish to learn what role technology might play in reshaping humans’ relationship to their bodily senses and understanding of themselves.

I needed to take a new trip to some place and time where I will try to find answers to these questions. But in order to do that, as usual, I needed to go sleep. Only through my dreams can I visit places that can’t be found on regular maps. Next time, I will wake up in a totally different environment.

The day has just started… I can’t wait to go to sleep again.

Mind as


h, how close they got to human reasoning. However, it took them decades to learn how to perceive the physical world around them and how to navigate in space. The first robots took hours to find and pick up a few blocks on a table, and sometimes they would even fail completely. No wonder it took them so long to acquire these skills; experience about nature is encoded in the largest and oldest parts of the human brain. Survival instinct has existed since the moment the first two-celled organism won in the competition over food or space. Human brains have preserved these billions of years of intuitive and sensorimotor experiences. However, rational and logic processes are much younger; thus, it was easier to imitate them for the first robotic intellects.

Thousands of years later, they exceeded humans’ physical abilities and intelligence. Machines are able to reproduce themselves and since they are not restricted anymore by human whim or preconceptions, they vary immensely in shape, size, and function, and have surpassed the existing biosphere in terms of diversity. I saw malicious hardware parasites of planetary scale when I still had eyes. They easily navigate in space, analyzing millions of models of interactions and their consequences before they take any action — faster than any human thought.

However, I still have doubts on their ability to think as humans and intuit.

The slow pace of human learning and its even slower biological evolution is no longer a barrier for new generations of intellectual machines. Our nature was evolving at a very leisurely pace, with each major development taking millions of years, compared to the agonizingly rapid development of the machines. They became more capable than any human in any occupation. What do I have left when computers could do my research and write a book instead of me? What happened to all artists whose works were suppressed by self-improving and personalized works of art?

When a nail clipper became smarter than any person, the only thing left to do for human beings was to dispose of their body and keep only their mind.
I was no longer made up of neurons and proteins—the human brain is too sensitive to radiation. My nervous system was replaced by a computer simulation. Layer by layer, my brain was scanned, and my mind was copied to more stable and long-lasting place: a new mechanical body.
I no longer was a half-breed—partly biological, partly cultural. All my biological traits became unnecessary baggage, and my mind was rescued from its physical limitations. My reactions became fast as lightning and my perception of time changed dramatically compared to my biological brain. If I drop an object, I could read all of Newton’s ‘Philosophiæ Naturalis’ while it’s falling and catch it again by the time I finish the book. My attention span also increased. I was not bored anymore; present interests have lost their relevance, so I could comfortably work on long-term problems.

What is the body? Why were people so afraid of losing it? It is just an abstract pattern. The body constantly loses its cells and replaces them every few years; each atom of the body changes throughout its lifetime. There is only a process of keeping the atoms in specific pattern. Every pattern can be reorganized and can also be transmitted. Furthermore, if the mind is an abstraction as well, why does it need a body at all? The mind is code, it is mathematics, and it is going to live even if it doesn’t have physical properties. Mathematical equations exist even if they were not written down.

I refused to have a body at all. I duplicated my mind for the people who still wanted to have a material form. As a gesture of gratitude towards my material nature, I copied simulations of my mind to synchronized machines that run at different speeds. Their intervals and varying frequencies produced sublime mathematical music.

My mind is pure information. It can be encoded in any form. I can become a ray of light, beaming from a planet to an endless universe. I can be received and integrated into someone’s memory. It is hard to say where I end. I cannot even say where my memories have originated from — many minds have been merged together into one, like a hundred creeks emptying themselves in a single river.

I never sleep. I never dream. But I think. I have a whole universe open to me. I have access to all possible knowledge. I’ve jumped into the bottomless abyss. I am both extremely concentrated and dispersed. My thoughts are like tree trunks with branches spreading in every direction, becoming longer and thinner while generating ever more branches.

I see mercury tornados, interstellar whales, and laughing grass on a football field. I can lift dark matter and find gravitational worms under it.

My imagination shapes my reality.
After all, does it really matter that I am a simulation? The world I exist in is complete by itself.

Labor as Passé


was squeezed into a tiny capsule, my head touching my knees. The capsule was falling back towards Earth after a long interplanetary voyage. Everything looked gray, as if I couldn’t distinguish colors. I woke up. Are there even any colors in outer space? After all, the images we have from NASA have all been vibrantly colorized using image editors…

Such strange feelings I had after this dream. It was a distant future dominated by intelligent machines, and all goods in that world were so cheap and plentiful that mankind’s only goal was to search for the most entertaining activities. In fact, most people were in the business of amusing each other. Regular labor became passé.

Is a future where we don’t have to work truly what we desire? Will the global economy be able to extend this across the entire planet? Will progress in automation and artificial intelligence touch African tribes or Chinese peasants? Or are they simply irrelevant to future technological development?
In a classic Jewish story, a pious carter dies and God grants his heartfelt desire to continue to be a carter in the World to Come. This example closely mirrors how I feel about my job, which I would never agree to relinquish to machines.

I needed to get up and go about my morning routine before I went to work, but I could hardly move my fingers. My body felt numb — as if there was no current going through it any longer.

Body (Con)fusion:

Blending Physical With Virtual


week ago I was a Norwegian fisherman.
Yesterday I was a twelve-year-old girl from Peru.
Today I am a designer of virtual worlds.
It’s okay to have dozens of personalities online. Apart from having the ability to easily change genders, it is no different from the chameleon-like behavior of people in offline life.
You might only start worrying when you perceive no difference between the two.

There are certain characteristics of virtual worlds. One of them, if we talk about simulated realities, is game-like environments. The physics of virtual worlds are often based on the real world, and designers have to develop symbols and visual language in order to display familiar concepts in a simulated environment. Yet, the beauty of virtual worlds lies in the fact that the behavior of elements within them depends on a programmer’s imagination rather than the way things really happen on this Euclidian-Newtonian Earth. If I drop an object in the virtual world, it might just go up or even multiply and go sideways—the laws of such a world can be logical and consistent while not necessarily being in accordance with real physics.

There is another distinctive feature faced by visitors of digital worlds, especially when using virtual reality headsets. These devices are meant for immersing your physical body in the simulated reality. In the past, actions taken in the real world would often only be reflected in the virtual world following a noticeable delay, creating the sense of dissonance that was sometimes followed by dizziness. Though this has already been solved through the advancement of computational power, for a long time this side-effect was a common issue, and there was even an element of danger in having constant access to virtual reality headsets or augmented reality glasses.

This is because when you take the display off, you might not only feel slightly nauseated but also experience an effect which Michael Heim, the so-called “the philosopher of cyberspace”, referred to as “Alternate World Syndrome”. According to Heim, after spending hours immersed in a 360-degree simulation in 1994 (one of the first virtual reality artworks, ‘Virtual Dervish’, which was made by Marcos Novak, Diane Gromala, and Yakov Sharir), “everything seems brighter, even slightly illusory. Reality seems hidden beneath a thin film of appearance”. He felt like the world was vibrating as if something was about to break through an illusory film. I can’t say that I’ve ever felt such a tension after spending hours in simulation, but I can acknowledge that the world outside of virtual glasses transforms into a strange surface that feels like a flat screen, and it loses its sense of perspective. Yet, flat screens have also become portals of sorts, providing windows into virtual worlds made manifest by desktop that still leaves its viewer confused when their assumptions about the behavior of things mismatch reality. Highly experienced visitors of virtual worlds often have peculiar sensations when they deal with physical objects. Images and expectations generated by virtual worlds blend together with the real, and we tend to make more mistakes or improper gestures. I lost track of the number of times that I unconsciously tried to mentally press the cmd+z shortcut after doing something wrong with a physical object—when writing or drawing something on paper, for instance. Things can become even more bizarre. Every time I use a right-click context menu to copy something, I feel a slight pressure on my right hand, as if something ephemeral was inserted into it. This feeling can, in a way, be very useful. Sometimes, due to my lack of attention, I might forget what I was doing and start browsing things or switch to another project. However, once I notice that this feeling is still present in my right hand, I realize that I actually forgot to paste something. The proprioceptive senses of my body developed in conjunction with my indistinguishable computer prosthesis.

As a designer of worlds that are becoming increasingly more intertwined with reality, I tend to decide to what extent I want them to be connected to our daily lives. There is of course an easily imaginable dystopian option—numerous novels and movies describe the possible consequences of a world that is closely connected to, or even dominated by, virtual reality. The very first movie involving VR as a central component to its plot was probably World on a Wire, a 1973 television series. The story is based around so-called ‘identity units’ that inhabit a computer program as human beings but do not realize that the world they perceive as real is in fact completely simulated.

The Lawnmower Man from 1992 foresaw the emergence of VR therapy, which is already beginning to appear. In the movie, however, the therapy’s consequences were taken to the extreme, transforming the main character from a mentally challenged man into a high-tech being, capable of blending the virtual with the real and controlling all computers around the world. One of the most prominent science-fiction films, 1999’s The Matrix, depicts humanity not as wiling participants but slaves of a VR environment, and The Congress from 2013 provides a dark but not entirely out of reach perspective of a society that has kept their bodies but substituted their sight and senses for an animated alternative reality.

We’re not yet close to a scenario in which most of population will massively drop out of the real world in favor of an idealized and preprogrammed environment—unless it will become obligatory and be politically supported. Of course, we have online multiplayer games in which players may spend vast amounts of time as their alternative identities, but this isn’t a common phenomenon.
The actual situation is not as negative as it is often imagined.

I live at a time when complete immersion in a virtual realm became something that we are not afraid of. If people spend too much time in a VR headset, they indeed need some time to get used to their original environment when they come back, but it is not that different from the readjustment that astronauts or submariners go through when they return to the Earth’s surface. You just open a door to a hidden part of reality, but you can close it at any time and recalibrate for the primary world. In movies, VR and cyberspace in general are often visualized as a place overloaded with information, moving images, pop-up banners and messages, and they exaggerate the disorientation its users may face. In fact, in their early stages, VR and AR were indeed abundant with all kinds of visual experiments; these were brand-new forms of media, and after they were opened to a mass audience everyone sought to explore their potential and limits. A similar situation unfolded when people got introduced to the World Wide Web in the 1990s and started to explore HTML and CSS. Most websites were filled with all kinds of colorful banners, background images, animated gifs, and loud hyperlinks demanding to be clicked on. However, a few years later the internet gradually redesigned itself, adapting to people’s intrinsic need for orderliness and easily accessible information. No one wants to get an epileptic seizure after few minutes in VR — nausea-inducing software wasn't sustainable, and eventually designers adjusted it to a point where it could be used comfortably without affecting our mental and physical states.

I took my headset off and removed my glove controllers. For a moment, everything became dark and I felt my spirit lift a bit, then firmly grasping my body again. I always have this feeling when I wake up — it means that my body finished dreaming and needs to be recalibrated for wakefulness.
I opened my eyes slightly and felt a soft pillow under my cheek. That was a funny dream. What a silly thing, this VR. An artificially designed environment that tries to convince you that you are actually in another place. Someone writes code that attempts to substitute my normal sensory inputs with predefined ones, primarily vision. Well, transforming reality through visualization is a quite old alchemical tradition; we actually have access to it, but it’s so close to us that we can’t even notice it. Replace VR technology by dreams and you will get exactly the same effect. Most of the time, you are convinced of being in another location, except your sensory inputs are replaced not by a computer but by your unconscious wishes and desires.

Pushing the Limits


y infrared sensor recorded subtle changes in the room as it heated up under the morning sun. It sent an electric stimulus to my brain with the information that now would be the best temperature for me to get up. I was already awake for a while but felt too comfortable to get out of bed. I felt a light pulsation behind my left eye—an alarm signal that I turned off by blinking few times.

Today is the 24th of May. On the same day in 1844, Samuel Morse strung a wire along the railroad between Washington and Baltimore and, through code, transmitted the message "What hath God wrought” along the first 38-mile telegraph line. This innovation would later lead to the invention of the telephone, followed by computer networks, the Internet, smartphones, brain implants…
Before that, however, people wrote letters.
And because of letters, a well-known painter became the inventor of the telegraph.

Almost twenty years before that, Morse traveled to Washington to work on a painting commissioned by the city of New York. He was to receive a thousand dollars for a portrait of Marquis de Lafayette. Once there, Morse wrote a letter to his wife Lucretia, longing to hear from her as she was expecting their third child. However, the response he received was from his father, who informed him that his wife had died while recovering from childbirth. Morse rushed back home, but by the time he got back to New Haven, which was four days’ travel away from Washington at the time, his wife had already been buried.

It’s a heart-breaking story, and it’s understandable how his grief would serve to stimulate his later technological breakthrough. The slowness of the long-distance communication methods that were used hundreds of years ago is incomparable to the advanced means used in contemporary society. We resolved issues of distance and information transmission speed quite quickly, though it still took a while to eliminate the physical interfaces that people had to interact with.

It started with a few biohacking pioneers at the end of 20th century and the beginning of 21st century. Kevin Warwick, being a professor of cybernetics at Coventry University in England, had undergone several surgical procedures to implant electronic devices into his body, including a 100-electrode sensor grid into the nerves in his elbow. By capturing the electrical signals flowing down his arm, Warwick was able to control a robotic wheelchair and remotely control a robotic hand over the Internet. One day in 1998, he embedded a microchip in his body—a glass capsule containing several micro-processors—and over the following week his presence at the university was recorded by computers from its cybernetic department. As explained by Warwick in Project Cyborg, the implants responded to computer signals, doors opened automatically, lights turned on when he entered a room, and his PC would display a welcome message when he approached it. Convinced that cognitive augmentation was only a few years away, Warwick experimented in the expansion of his own senses. In 2002, he and his wife Irena installed matching implants that recorded signals from their central nervous system. They were able to correctly identify each other’s nerve signals most of the time. That was the beginning of brain-to-brain communication. The goal was to record his and his wife’s sensory experiences, such as pain and pleasure. When he explained what he felt during the experiment, he said that “[it] didn’t feel like pain or heat or seeing. It was like an entirely new sense. And that was part of the experiment: to see if the brain can adapt and take on new types of input and learn to understand. The brain is very clever like that — I just want to see how far we can push it.”

He assumed that because phones and brains both function through electric currents, there wasn’t anything that kept humans from transmitting brain impulses in a similar way to Wi-Fi. For Warwick, talking felt outdated and he noted that contemporary technological progress was being designed around human capabilities, whereas he aspired to redesign both humans and technology together.

He sought to use implanted electrodes and neural stimulators to manage conditions like Parkinson’s disease, paralysis, and addiction disorders. Now, the benefits of Deep Brain Stimulation go beyond restorative therapy and even extend to personality augmentation. The possibilities it brings are numerous, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to list them all straight away. Students can stay awake and alert for days because of stimuli that tell the brain it doesn’t need sleep, soldiers can be made fearless when facing the unimaginable stress of life in a combat zone, and doctors can easily understand problems of patients by connecting to their neural systems.

But Warwick wasn’t the only one who was trying to push the limits of the human form.

Neil Harbisson, who was claimed to be the one of the first cyborg artists, believed that we have a duty to use technology to transcend our senses. He said that becoming a cyborg isn’t just a life decision; it’s an artistic statement, and he treated his body and brain like a sculpture. Harbisson wasn’t the first person to claim artistic status by doing that, however — the French artist Orlan, for instance, underwent nine plastic surgeries to alter her mouth, brow and chin so as to imitate icons of female beauty in Western art. But Harbisson wan’t just altering his body: he was altering his means of perception. Harbisson was born with total color-blindness and saw the world in shades of grey, so he implanted a chip in his skull that was connected to an antenna which would translate color into sound by detecting lights’ hue and converting it into a frequency that Harbisson could hear as a note. He could even perceive colors beyond the normal human spectrum, such as infrared and ultraviolet.
His art often involved transposing colors into sound. For instance, he made sonochromatic portraits of celebrities that you could hear, or, inversely, created pictures based on the sound of a human voice.

Steve Mann wasn’t an artist, but he has been called “the father of wearable computing.” He has been wearing various augmented reality devices for years, starting with the "Digital Eye Glass” in 1978. One of his devices, EyeTap, was physically attached to his skull by several screws. It allowed an eye to function as both a display and a camera. It displayed computer information to the user and made it possible to alter what the user sees. This meant that the device was able to augment, diminish, or otherwise alter a user's visual perception of the environment. When it isn’t used to display any type of augmentation, EyeTap could be used to show a video feed from the user’s perspective so that they can see their surroundings as they would without the device. Using this device, somewhere at the end of 20th century and long before webcams, Mann's website attracted 30,000 hits a day when he began broadcasting his life 24 hours a day while being a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

However, at that time laws and reactions to modified human bodies in public spaces were in such a state that now would be considered decadent. Mann has on plenty of occasions had people respond negatively to his glasses. For example, in 2012, McDonalds employees tried to pull the glasses off of Steve when he was having lunch there with his family. However, as the glasses were permanently attached to his skull, the professor was eventually just escorted out of the establishment. Another time, he missed a lecture he was supposed to give, because airport security wouldn't let him on the plane with his gear.

Our society had to go through it all—through regulations, reconstruction of legislation, and of course it was necessary to develop a lot of trust towards each other as well as the technology we eventually became one with.

But that was long time ago… It was the dawn of body modification history. Now, at a time when we have already dealt with all its possible hazards, there is no way to distinguish where the human body ends and its extensions begin.

the Body

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ver the course of the last few centuries, hormonal and genetic tuning became routine medical procedures. Biological technologies are being used to enhance human beings and alter their looks. It is no longer limited to artificial hearts and limbs; implementations vary from reinforced bones to general body growth, which can be used by anyone to their own advantage.

A lot changed after all ethical and technical issues were resolved and designer babies were normalized. Mechanically generated offspring (genetically modified embryos) carry either no risk or a reduced risk of any genetic diseases. Additionally, they can integrate desirable traits from the people who place an order. Quite often, certain specimens were allowed to be shared as open-source models for biological programmers to experiment with, and the results of these experiments were considered as something that humanity could be proud of. In our time, people consider the human condition as something to be improved upon and nature as simply a tool to improve it. Now, for the first time, we have gained the ability to control the evolutionary process in a conscious way.
The human population now varies in size, shape, and color. In order to maintain a balance on Earth, its leaders developed corporate laws that allow modification up until a certain point. Among others, these address issues such as transforming an organism to become immensely large, as this could be considered dangerous. From time to time, rules are of course broken by rebellious programmers working in clandestine labs, and their creations might live relatively long if they go unnoticed.

Sexual intercourse is allowed, but reproduction by two persons who had been designer babies can sometimes lead to unpredictable results.

I was one of them.

I looked pretty normal, and, to be honest, I was never a huge fan of body modifications. I rarely performed genome updates that were otherwise pretty common for my generation. These often contain tweaks like the ability to see the ultraviolet rays or replacing normal teeth with metallic ones; usually, I couldn’t be bothered with such unnecessary things. I knew it was safe to use them, but I still had concerns that genome editing nonetheless carried a risk of accidental changes being made to the wrong genes or healthy ones. However, for some reason I decided to update my genome code this morning, and, as I expected, something went wrong.

Apparently, my genetic code wasn’t compatible with this new version. Immediately, my body started to grow and strengthen, and my hands and feet lengthened. Suddenly, my hand split into four smaller ones, each half the size of my normal hand. I had made a backup before performing the upgrade, so I could restore it in case of some uncontrollable mutation. For now, however, I was just observing this peculiar transformation that I had never experienced before. My limbs grew exponentially, and I began to look like a tree with limbs like stems that branched repeatedly into a multitude of thinner and shorter branches. I had to go outside since I couldn’t fit in the building anymore. My hands end in an astronomical number of microscopic cilia, trillions of tiny fingers, each a millionth of a meter long and tenth of that in diameter. Because of their low weight and small size, these fingers can move a million times faster than regular fingers. I don’t believe I could even calculate it properly — let’s say that if a normal hand could move back and forth once per second, the tiny fingers would be able to vibrate a million times per second. It was mesmerizing. People on the street stopped in their tracks and started pointing at me. I continued to expand even though I was already taller than the trees growing next to my house. I found out that each branch of my hands could rotate on its axis and change its length like a telescope. I began to enjoy my extremely intricate body. The smallest finger-branchlets were but a few atoms in size, allowing me to grab individual atoms and assemble them in a way they weren’t meant to naturally.

I felt as if the laws of physics were melting.

Can you imagine how sensitive my body was? Each of my tiny fingers could sense the movement of a tenth of a micron and the force of a few micrograms. The sensory speed of my fingers is greater than that of a regular human eye. I imagine that if I put my fingers on a photograph, I would be able to ‘see’ the images in detail by feeling the height variations in the ink. In a way, my superior sense of touch substituted sight. I can reach into any complex structure — even a living organism. My incredible dexterity eliminates the need for specialized tools to do so.

I continued to enlarge and expand, stretching my fingers to my sides, blocking roads, turning police cars upside down, replacing wind molecules with fire. I imagined a world full of creatures like myself, who all have superb coordination, astronomically quick reaction speed, and incredible sensitivity. That was the future.

Once, we were shaped by the hand of Darwinian evolution, but now we can actually guide it.



oday I had a dialog with my own mind.
How could this possibly be, you may wonder. I don’t know either, but I woke up this morning — nothing seemed out of the ordinary — and walked to the balcony to bathe my face in the lazy rays of the sunny weather outside, which had been knocking at my window for half an hour already. I took a deep breath of the breezy air and felt the strong sweet and sour smell of seaweed, which had warmed up under the sun and started to emit that recognizable scent of the sea. Oh, how I love it; if only I could smell it more often.
I stretched in joy and walked into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. A simple sandwich with cheese and some fruit would do. I took a bite out of a peach and almost cracked my teeth. It was surprisingly tough, as if it was made from plastic. My arty-farty neighbor must have left a part of his still-life installation on the table. Somewhat annoyed — though still in a good mood — I went to the living room, jumped onto the couch, and opened my laptop.
But I don’t live near the sea.
I closed the laptop. I felt slightly anxious. Where was this smell coming from then? There were no rivers, lakes, or canned seaweed factories around for at least a hundred kilometers. I ran to the balcony. There were no happy rays of sunlight anymore. It was as if the sun hid behind clouds, though there weren’t any in sky. The smell of seaweed had also vanished. Weird. I felt it so clearly. Are my senses playing tricks on me? Nah. I don’t care; I have so many things to do, anyway.
I returned to the living room to find my laptop standing on its side. Now I was furious.
‘Sam, if you touch my laptop once more, I will throw yours out of the window!’ I shouted, expecting my neighbor to be hiding in his room and giggling to himself.
Angrily, I jumped onto the couch and opened my laptop again. Let’s put on some tunes, I thought. If I could find the right music, it will lighten my mood. I turned on The Doors’ Indian Summer when I started hearing a scratching noise behind the shelf. The music didn’t play, or, rather, my laptop didn’t produce any sound apart beyond the light humming of its hard drive. The scratching sound continued ceaselessly. I stood up to check the shelf, wondering whether and when we could’ve gotten a mouse infestation. Didn’t find anything. And why wasn’t the music playing?

I tried pressing the pause button on my laptop. The scratching sound stopped and I found myself in total silence — even the hard drive stopped buzzing. I pressed the button again, and the scratching resumed. I checked all possible audio settings, but I couldn’t figure out why I was unable to hear the music. The track was still playing, but when it concluded the mouse’s scratching from under the shelf suddenly stopped, and raindrops began striking the windows nearby.
Yet, there were still no clouds outside.

What’s happening? Am I on something? I felt completely fine; not dizzy at all. There was just something wrong with my hearing. I felt cold, so I decided to put some warm socks on and cover myself up in a blanket, but the more layers of cloth I put on myself, the colder it became.
I felt exhausted and asked myself what was wrong with me.

And then my mind started talking to me.

‘Calm down, pal. I don’t want you to break something or go insane. Just sit, relax, and listen to me,’ he said.

I was disoriented. It was as if I was talking to myself, but, at the same time, it felt strangely distant.

He continued: ‘Imagine that all the things you feel today are not a part of you. They are not yours. In fact, you’re just receive them. They are detached from you and from me; I only interpret them.’

‘And who is sending them to me?’ — I was perplexed but dared to ask a question nonetheless.

‘I’m glad you’re not scared to talk to me anymore! The world around you gives us everything we need. Your senses react to it and provide raw material for me to interpret. All I need are some sensory inputs,’ the voice explained. ‘And interestingly enough, you perceive these interpretations and images that I make for you much clearer than you perceive me. Do you remember Plato’s Cave from philosophy class?’
‘Yeah, kind of…’
‘For prisoners, the shadows there appeared much clearer than the objects producing them. The same goes for you — you barely notice me sometimes. When was the last time we even talked? But I don’t blame you. I am a thing that just loooves to wander, and I’m extremely happy to have any opportunity to become distracted, go somewhere else — anywhere really — as long as I don’t have to focus on my own existence.’

‘That is true,’ I said. I was indeed more comfortable now and felt as if I had just met an old friend. ‘Well, it isn’t easy, but I can persuade myself that I possess no senses; I don’t open my eyes and don’t move my head or hands. Maybe I don’t even have limbs at all and my body is just a fiction. But what follows from that? What am I without feelings or a body? Wouldn’t this mean that I also don’t exist?’ I wondered, taken aback by the implications of what the voice had just claimed.
‘There is no doubt that you exist if you managed to persuade yourself in something!’
So, every time I say ‘I am’, it already means that I exist?’
‘That’s so strange — to imagine life without a body… I believed that I was a man, a reasonable creature, that I have face and legs as well as hands, a body, or at least something that can fill a space in a way that every other body would be excluded from it; something that can be perceived by sight, smell, hearing, or by touch…’
‘But what else do you have?’
‘Well, I have you.’
Was it me smiling or the mind that had made me to do so?
‘Can you now imagine yourself without me?’ he asked.
I shuddered. ‘I’m afraid that’s the only thing I’m unable to do.’
It was silent for a moment.
‘If I cease to think entirely, I would cease to exist altogether.’

Suddenly, rays of sunlight spilled out of the window and moved around the room, touching my hands and face, causing me to squint. It felt warm.
‘But I have a body, and I can’t live without trusting my senses. I have to rely on them in order to perceive reality around me.’
‘If you judge an object just by using your vision, you can mistake shadows for monsters. You gain knowledge through your sense organs, but that’s not enough. If you touch bee wax, you can feel its structure, how cold it is, and how it easily yields to pressure. However, when you get it close to a fire, it melts, spreads out, becomes warm and liquid. Nonetheless, it remains wax. You can be certain about that, and not because your senses give you this information (as all the things you felt before are have changed), but because of your mind’s continuous intuition. Understanding is the function of the mind, not the senses. If one hopes to understand the true nature of something, they shouldn’t rely on the senses alone. That is not to say that perception has no value; rather, cogitation has greater value than perception.

I am falling freely through space. There is no resistance from the air or anything else, and it isn’t possible to tell the speed at which I am falling since there is nothing to use as a reference point. It’s unclear whether I’m falling or just floating. My eyes are closed, my mouth shut. My limbs are separated and outstretched at my sides. They are not in contact with one another. I’ve always been here. I’ve never had any sensory experience of the world or of myself. Nevertheless, I affirm my existence. I am certain that I exist, but I do not acknowledge my limbs or my guts, bowels, heart, or brain as I never felt them. I can imagine them, but they are not a part of myself and not a condition of my existence. My self-awareness is dependent on my mind only, and I am the Mind. I am aware of myself and my existence, though I can’t say whether I have any length, breadth or depth. However, I know that my thought is immeasurable, and I feel extended in space, limitless, like a genie liberated from a bottle.


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