I’m Having a Cynical Episode – Post 005.

This friend of mine, Victor, is both cool and fucked-up simultaneously. Once upon a time, he was suicidal, and now I think he’s using societal involvement and mainstream media as a sort of outlet for old, buried feelings. I don’t blame him.

Victor advocate for the same violence the movies do, the same explosions the posters display, the same downfall people smile when imagining, but in reality fear, because what if everything just turns into shit and blood and fire and you lose control over all bodily fluids? Not pretty.

These days, movies and TV-series are a bit ridiculous, in a strange way. At least 50% of mainstream entertainments are Star Warsian—honorable rebels fight the evil empire. Mr. Robot is about hackers taking down the huge conglomerate Evil corp—no subtlety in who’s the villain, there. The Rule of the Bandana is a crappy comedy about insurgents doing a half-assed job at just about everything, but having fun in the process. And the latest movie I saw—”Aristokratin – Fallet”—is literally about fighting the SSS, Samhällets Säkerhetsstyrka, Sweden’s dominating private security force.

Victor watch all of it. Every series, every new movie: he’s seen it. And he knows every detail about the economical climate—who owns what and whom, which city is dominated by which cooperation, and so on. Society is mapped out in his mind.

And he’s one of those people who bring their anger to the streets. If I allow myself to be cynical: I think the overall subject matter of today’s entertainments purposely give people an outlet for their dissatisfaction. But it doesn’t work for everyone. Last week, Victor left for Stockholm, to participate in a protest against the “militarisation” of neighbourhoods—SSS, patrolling the streets, especially targeting minorities, as is custom…

The so called buy-ups around here involve the streets too. If a corporation owns most of a block, they like to enable their security force, almost always SSS, to patrol the streets, too. And I will not lie, seeing these corporate money-cysts spill their puss all over the streets makes me feel sick.

But seeing Victor return home with red eyes and with clothes drenched in pepparspray and lungs filled with tear gas doesn’t make me feel better. I’m exaggerating, but you get the picture.

When younger, Victor and I used to build forts by the closest tree-line or some great oak or birch tree. We gleaned planks and old scaffolding from construction sites, liberated some trees of their less sturdy branches, and found plywood and plastic sheets and barrels by the dump. Rope and cables prevented the thing from falling apart. One of those forts still stand, in a grove behind an apartment complex a few blocks from where I live. The fort looks a little like a miniature radio tower, with it’s old antenna attached to the top, and broken LED-lights like christmas decoration, gleaming red in the sun.

Victor tend to use me to vent. He’s a talker, I’m a listener. And I like him, even though he somehow makes me… mean. Whenever we spend time together, I start throwing extra cynical shit around me, all the time. Yesterday, we met up again, and went back to the old radio tower fort. Two kids were there, climbing the tree and doing whatever kids do. I roared at them. Told them to screw. Get lost. Fuck off.

They ran.

I rarely enjoy movies or TV-series. I don’t watch Mr. Robot or similar shit. But I enjoy spending time with Victor. Like, really enjoy it.

He climbed the tree and sat on the branch from which he used to sustain his endless monologue, while I worked on the fort. From there, Victor said, “Sure, protect property all you want, but don’t waltz around our streets beating up everyone who looks fishy. And even when you’ve managed to do what you are supposed to do, catching burglars and robbers and shit, I’ve heard about you immobilizing them and beating them with batons, and pepper spraying their genitals and shit. SSS, you treat people like animals, like something sub-human.”

I peeked inside our fort. It stank like it did under the sink when no one has taken out the trash for weeks. I could make out the contours of an old bioputer in the dark, which made me not enter. What the kids were doing with that, I don’t want to know.

“And now, SSS, they rule every single street in all of Stockholm. Basically. There’s some free zones. Not that SSS cares about that. The protest was all about the streets. Sure, rule your buildings and stores and whatever, but the streets, they belong to me. I walk them every single day. That, if something, is public property.”

Victor laughed, and stared up the apartment complex in front of us, towering far up into the low white sky.

“Maybe two hundred people there, and we instantly got pepper sprayed and gassed with something that wasn’t tear gas. I passed out on the sidewalk before I crushed my first window. SSS must have taken me for a bum and left me there, when everything went on. Afterwards, I saw footage of maybe fifty people caught between two security lines. I saw them take rubber bullets and charge the security line. I saw a fucking tank-like vehicle slowly pushing people back, like cattle. Almost glad I passed out. And, never did it feel so good returning home.”

We used to say we would live here, in the fort. We said we would catch hares with traps, and steal apples from adjacent gardens, and find mattresses by some dumpsters somewhere, to sleep on. We actually found two once, several blocks away. We dragged them almost halfway here, saying, “This is the night, this is the night”, but it got dark and we got cold and scared, and ran home. In reality, the idea of living here terrified us. Still, every other day we spoke about sleeping here—going back and dragging the mattresses the last of the way—but we never did.

I think those protests are a bit pointless. People protest the SSS, the security force which occupy our streets, instead of the people who hire them. People protest pepper spray and rubber bullets and tear gas, but not what SSS protects. The movies and TV-series are no different. Evil Corp is the villain in Mr. Robot, but only Evil Corp, not the system. There’s no mention of capitalism. The Rule of the Bandana is nothing more than slapstick comedy. And “Aristokratin – Fallet” (Aristocracy – Downfall), which title suggest more, only disapprove of SSS—if only they used friendlier tactics, everything would be alright…

There’s nothing more behind the “movement” than having another outlet for frustration. Victor is renewed, back home. Instead of roaring at the movies or playing video games, he takes it to the street. And the worst thing is, I think it’s by design, us getting mad at SSS, to prevent us from seeing past them.

I told you Victor made me more cynical.

Usually, I don’t think much about all this. I find it pointless, especially since there’s more people living under Stockholm’s naked sky than people participating in the protests. Most people condemn violent protests. It’s only okay to stand in a line, holding hands, or whatever, to get your point across.

And, anyway, unless the experience is too horrible, people return empowered—they’ve done something to further  good cause. That’s what keeps Victor going, at least. I’m glad he has this.

***

One more thing: The Man with the Pig’s Heart and his twins are coming early next week. They are coming.

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A Short Essay on Bioputers

(Not really an essay. Also, picture from outside one of Magnoliophyta’s facilities, at night, real spooky.)

 

You wouldn’t think Sweden would ever win this race, or any race for that matter, but here we are. In urban Sweden, Magnoliophyta permeates everything. Different names are distinguished in other nations, but none of them are as established as Magnoliophyta is here. This is the bioputer playground. The test site.

As is with every swedish non-IKEA corporation, no one has ever heard of Magnoliophyta. But they were first to develop the technology. Probably some of their fucked-up employees did some sick experiments in their basement, and now we have bioputers. I’m not sure I want to know that origin story.

Anyway, Magnoliophyta have passed on the technology on their daughters abroad, who are now struggling to overcome the initial gross-out unaccustomed people feel when faced with a computer containing an actual beating heart, as in, with blood (sort of) and shit. But I’m sure the technology will take off eventually, and spread across the globe. People say these bioputers have huge potential. It’s something new. It’s some biopunk science fiction kind of shit. Everything new has huge potential.

Magnoliophyta is a bad name though. It means “Flowering plant”, which I guess could be a kind of neat company name, if it weren’t for all those syllables. No one has the time to pronounce them all. Surely there’s a story behind why they stuck with the name, but that story I haven’t heard. Anyway, people just calls them “Big-M” or “Magno.” Most people call them Magno. It’s even gone so far that Magnoliophyta themselves sign of their commercials with this shortened version of their name.

 

A living part of the home — Magno.

 

A beautiful shell and a beautiful heart, but nothing you should open up on your own. You shouldn’t need to. We guarantee that everything will just keep on pumpin’ — Magno.

 

A very advanced pet that does exactly what you want, all the time. It can’t walk though. Sorry about that — Magno.

 

(All quotes translated from swedish.)

I will henceforth follow their example and just write Magno, because I still can’t spell the full thing properly.

The commercialization of bioputers is a quite natural follow-up to the so called “provrörsdjur”, or “test tube pets”, that were hugely popular for a short while… What fur-texture do you like? Green eyes, maybe? How about a gene that spikes its intelligence? We have a sale on those at the moment… I too wanted a pet I could design myself.

By the way, have you ever seen a dog race with ten genetically identical greyhounds—all modeled on some ancient master? No? Well, It’s a shitshow, and boring, I’ll tell you that. The most interesting part is how the owners shave them, or spray paint them, or whatever, to make sure they know which dog is theirs.

After a while, more interesting test tube pets got commercialized, like those tiny bear like dog-ish beings called “toy grizzlies”, and also “Löpplar”: the first life form with a 100% unique genome, not related to any other creature on earth, looking like a creation by Patricia Piccinini (https://www.google.se/search?q=patricia+piccinini&biw=1536&bih=735&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj-tJb8wsHRAhVFFSwKHV8mAmoQ_AUIBigB), and still extremely popular among certain people—mostly from the upper class—who found some pug-like cuteness in them.

It should have been the other way around, when you think about it. First bioputers, then weird Patricia-Piccinini-ish-pug-creatures. Especially since regular animals are scary now.

 

What makes bioputers so great are apparently their flexibility. They can literally morph their hardware into the desired shape. Some people call it “moistware”, which is disgusting. The entire thing repels me a bit. I don’t own one and have no plans on changing that. But I have friends who give informal lectures whenever there’s an update or some breakthrough or a cool new commercial. They say, “It won’t be long till the nutrient batteries are rechargeable. In the future, we’ll probably have nutrient solutions flowing in our walls, the same way we have water and electricity.” They also say, “Traditional electric circuits will not go obsolete, that’s a stupid remark. Imagine a biological computer screen. That would be ugly, and weird, and probably real messy. No, the key thing here is the cooperation.”

What I’m wondering is, why is this technology being promoted so heavily? The campaign is aggressive: you almost feel assaulted, going outside. Ads litter our streets. It’s also important to note that Microsoft owns Magno. Yes. And Microsoft have funneled obscene amounts of money into the development of the bioputer technology, which may be interpreted as suicidal, given that this technology may very well compete with Microsoft’s ordinary products in the future. Maybe Microsoft think they are ready to transition, maybe they see real prospects in this new industry, but one would think their entire infrastructure is all wrong for this kind of shit. Wouldn’t they make way more money by continuing with their traditional products.

One theory behind the aggressive campaign and money-funneling is that they—Magno, and Microsoft, and whatever unseen giants pull the strings in the background—believe they’re on the verge of discovering something truly world-changing, and they therefore need to establish a market for the technology, to fund secretive research.

What this world-changing thing is, I don’t know. There’s some batshit crazy conspiracy theories out there, theories that border on the supernatural, theories I refuse to go into.

Instead, let’s talk about the so called “gash in the neck.” In swedish: “Jacket i nacken.” It rhymes. This is what’s going on underground: people doing experiments in their basements, trying to connect their bioputers, or whatever haphazard system they’ve managed to grow on their own, directly to their brain through the brain stem. As you might expect, these attempts have all ended quite tragically. At the moment, here in Sweden, an epidemic of bold and vivid news articles make people puke all over their newspapers upon seeing pictures of those basements—dead biomass hanging from the roof, rotting nutrient solutions all over the floor, dying rodents crawling around, and in the center of the scene: a human being lying face down, with what looks like an umbilical cord coming out of their neck.

(Makes you wonder why the newspapers keep printing them.)

This is the dark side. And if this is happening in regular people’s basements, you know it’s happening in the grand basements of Magnoliophyta, too.

Let’s assume this is what the ad campaign is trying to create funding for. It probably isn’t, but let’s speculate. Now, imagine what this means. VR has been a thing for a long time, but what will happen when people are conditioned to want what’s even more real? Because, who wants a screen right in their face, right? Who wants headphones over their ears? Don’t we all want to see, for real, with the mind’s eye, and hear right there in our heads, and maybe even physically feel, whatever virtual reality we choose to visit?

Now imagine the future, where every Magno store offers the quick procedure necessary to use this technology, right there in the story, free of charge when purchasing for more than 1000 kr. Let’s just step aside to this bright room, for a quick “jack i din nacke”. It will not hurt at all.

Now that’s some freaky shit.

Also: imagine commercials, soft corporate voices, right there in your head. Imagine not being able to close your eyes to the big-M logo, or cover your ears to shut out that soft corporate voice, saying, “Thank you for choosing Magno.”