Virtually Overworked

I checked my bank statement on my phone before getting ready for work. My balance was running pretty low and rent was due a few days before payday. I checked PayPal, hoping there might be something sitting in my account that I might have forgotten about from AdSense or Amazon Self-Pub.

No such luck.

Back in the day, I thought idly, as I fumbled around amongst the billion and one different wires for the correct jack for work (use the wrong jack and I wouldn’t get paid), someone like me might have pawned off a couple of games or films to make up the shortfall. This led me onto some other trains of thought about “the good ol’ days”, like how we had joked about being able to send hugs and cookies over the internet. The chocolate kind mind you, not the web tracking and censorship ones; we’d done our damndest to keep those off the net.



Well, we still couldn’t send cookies but one bright spark in Tokyo had worked out how to send hugs through the wires. Okay, so first some bright spark at MIT had worked out how to pull emotions from one person and plug them into another. Initially it had required the two people to be in the same room, their heads connected by a variety of wires and nodes that transferred specifically requested (by a huge computer doing all the very clever calculations) electrical signals from one brain to the other brain. This induced similar feelings and hormone productions in the recipient as had been occurring in the donor.

It didn’t take long, after the advent of spinal jacks, to start doing this from greater distances, with smaller computers and, eventually, wirelessly and using the donors own brain power to do the calculations. Human brains can multitask like nothing we have managed to invent so far.

It took even less time after that for a Japanese Twitter app producer to create virtual hugs that people could send to their down in the dumps friends across the world.

Great, people thought, we can make everyone happy! We can end depression! It didn’t quite work that way; there were some hefty consequences and problems. First of all; depression in all its many forms is way too complicated to cure with a few bursts of electricity in the brain. The brain map of someone who’s just a bit miserable because they’ve had a hard day, or their pet fish just died is vastly different to the brain map of someone who suffers with depression or anxiety.

That discovery was made pretty quickly. The major consequence took a little longer to manifest. Instead of the world becoming happier, people across the globe started becoming sadder. The sadder people became, the more others would send them vibes, but then more and more people just became more and more down in the dumps.

The tech didn’t read the brain cell’s signals and impulses and then replicate them, it actually diverted the signals and impulses. Reading and replicating in 1s and 0s and then reverting back to signals and impulses in a different brain was too hard. It required more computing power than could be had. Now, this isn’t so bad the first few times a person sends a hug (or a hard on... every piece of new tech will inevitably be used first and foremost for porn); the brain misses a couple of signals, so what? It just pushes off a few more. What’s a fleeting moment of “not as happy as the brain intended”?

One fleeting moment is nothing. We all have those from time to time. Ten? Nah, a person can cope with that. Ten a month? Ten a week? A day?

It wasn’t until people started selling happiness (and hard ons) online that the problems really kicked off. Previously happy-go-lucky people, who were actually becoming very wealthy from selling their happiness to stressed office workers and under appreciated sales assistants, were gradually becoming not just sad but angry and stressed themselves.

Sending, and thus cutting off, their own moments of happiness so often was having one Hell of a detrimental affect on their own emotional well being. It turned out that to be happy you actually had to, you know, BE happy at some point. It was almost as if their brains were forgetting how to produce happiness.

Of course, laying off the emotion sending for a few weeks, taking a holiday and doing something fun and fulfilling let most people kick start their “good” emotions again. Although going back to vibing, as we started calling it, generally made someone even more down than they were before they took a break.

Soon psychologists started laying down (generally unsubstantiated) guidelines for how much, when to and even who could vibe. No vibing for under 18s. Men could vibe twenty times a week, women only 10 (and absolutely no vibing during pregnancy). Caucasians could supposedly cope with vibing more than people from Asia. Governments started setting down laws about how much and when people could vibe (no vibing under the influence). The UK government even set up regulated vibing stations, preventing people from sending emotions through their own jacks.

Nony kicked up an epic fuss over that one and soon found ways around the vibe blocks. They even organised pirate vibing events, sending happy thoughts to the dark networks in blacked out countries while raising money for charities working to help those with (now often vibe induced) mental disorders.

Those were some interesting times. It all settled down eventually, as opponents and proponents got older and wiser, or found a new new-fangled technology to rave at or about. Gradually, as has happened innumerable times throughout human history, demented, heavy handed laws were smoothed out... or just ignored by all and sundry. Now most people vibe from time to time, some for their friends some just for charity and others, like myself, for profit.

Finding the VibeAway jack I needed, I plugged myself into my employer’s network to find a buyer for my (often irritatingly so) chipperness, knowing that for a little while after I’d be tired and grumpy. But hey; it beat working for a soulless multinational, selling coffee and pastries to assholes in suits and talking about the weather all day.

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 I wanted to call this either "Selling Emotions by the Pound" but thought it was too obvious and yet at the same time that the reference (not actually an inspiration, it just came to me after when I was trying to think of a title) was too obscure... 
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