- Colony 73812
- They Don’t Call It Collapse…
- Atlantic Algae Aquaculture
- The Children of the Earth
- Gliding through Berlin
- The Conflagration Consequence
- In your eyes I’m a machine
- The Kind Folks on Titan
- The Journey
- After they’ve gone
- The Night Comes Again
- A New Beginning
- Days of Future Passed
- Not for Granted
Monday, October 14, 2030 – Portland, Maine, United States of America
It’s another beautiful fall day in Portland, Maine, where I’m writing from today rather than back home in Boston. Today is Indigenous Peoples Day, or what we used to call Columbus Day back when I was a child. I still remember when I first learned about the horrible atrocities Christopher Columbus and other Europeans committed against the Indigenous people they encountered when they arrived in what we now call the Americas. I’m glad to have learned the truth, and I’m glad we honor Indigenous peoples now on this day.
Today is also my 47th birthday. Since my friends, partner, and I have a long holiday weekend, we’re celebrating by enjoying the fall colors, outdoor activities, and amazing cafés, restaurants, and bars Maine has to offer. In fact, since the holiday weekend often overlaps with my birthday, this trip has been a tradition every year since 2017. Well, I guess except for 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.
My favorite part of this trip has always been admiring the passing landscapes on our way to and around Maine. Our views of the coastlines and fall leaves have always been breathtaking, even if they’ve changed a bit over the years. When we first began making the trip in 2017, we didn’t realize how the small windows in our old cars restricted our views. A few years later, when we switched to taking the train to reduce the environmental impact of our trip, we loved the way the train’s large windows—and the lack of distractions from driving—made the views that much better. But taking the train did prevent us from visiting more rural parts of the state, so in the last few years we’ve been taking the train to Portland and renting electric vehicles to venture away from the train route. With panoramic windows and self-driving capabilities, these new electric vehicles have made the trip more enjoyable, safer, and cheaper and have enabled us to visit once again the farms and cideries we used to.
Our views of Maine’s fall landscapes and shorelines have changed in other ways as well. Wind turbines now extend above the trees and dot the coasts, and solar panels are increasingly common on roadways, train lines, and buildings. Some people—both locals and visitors—have objected to the installations, complaining about how they look. I don’t mind them, though; in fact, I kind of like the constant reminders of the tradeoffs we’re making in our relationship with nature.
Alright, we’re about to drop off the rental car and have dinner before we catch the train back to Boston tonight. While I’m sad another fall holiday weekend in Maine is coming to a close, I’m grateful for this annual leaf-peeping pilgrimage and the time well spent with friends in such a beautiful place.
2058 / 75XY
Colony 73812 / Siberia
I’m bored… Every day kinda feels the same here. It’s been 23 years since we’ve destroyed our environment. That’s what we called it back then, not realising we’re part of it.
Whatever it was, I used to paint as a kid. I’ve been trying to paint in my lonely time here as well, but there’s nothing to see so I can paint it and I’ve run out of ideas in my head. All I see outside is this rusty coloured ground, like on the games about terraforming Mars I used to play back then.
Yet, I’m still on Earth! How did this happen? Well, anyway, I wish it didn’t, but it’s too late now and I’m tired of complaining as well.
Everyone thought that our biggest problems would be where do we get our energy from; how do we produce food… But no… It’s this freaking boredom… Staying in these high tech colonies on what used to be uninhabited frozen mountains, after everything melted away, one can easily run out of walls to bump into.
I can’t, of course, go outside, otherwise I’ll burn to death in minutes. But right now I’m actually wondering if that’s worse than having nothing to do all day than survive for the sake of surviving. I don’t even know who I am anymore. I’m just a sack of meat, moving around from wall to wall, wondering what’s the meaning of life. I know the world doesn’t revolve around me, like my mom used to say, but these walls certainly do. There’s nothing else to revolve anyway.
Writing these thoughts down is sometimes the only thing that keeps me going. And who am I writing it for? Myself and the next sentient sack of meat that will be reading, bored by existing just to keep existing.
Till tomorrow, dear diary…
You can’t make plans in 2030, it doesn’t make sense. From week to week, you could be displaced by a flood or fire or a disaster of a more personal scale. So out of politeness, we schedule things loosely to avoid talking about it too much. There’s still emails to send, and we’ve adjusted our greetings to reflect the uncertainty of these times.
It’s not like the denialists hoped it would be. They thought it would get warmer and stay there, like a thermostat, that the snow would melt and turn into a swim up bar. But the weather isn’t just hot. It’s chaos. Strange, singular events divorced from any calendar or cultural significance. It feels like Earth has abandoned us.
The small losses have been the hardest on me. I miss fireflies. I grieve autumns that smell like leaves and possibility. I cling to opportunities to wear my favorite coat. I know other people have it worse. There’s tragedy in other states we once thought only possible in other nations. And we use the same tactics to justify it.
As the danger gets closer, my own capacity for brutality and indifference is being tested. I try to romanticize the duality of it all by studying art from cruel time periods. People around me, good and smart people who care about all the right things, don’t want to talk about what’s happening. Instead, they say “It’s just a little hot out”, “It’s just a little smoky out”, “It’s just a little rain”… These rationalizations sound nice around the brunch table, like ice cubes clinking in sangria. But to me, they sound like biting down on a popsicle. It’s not that I hate optimism or fun. I just can’t stand the surreality of having to do so much to negotiate our existence on this planet.
Outwardly I smile. But once in my car, I shudder with impatience like a dog. In 2020, I thought it might be cleansing for me to go through a crisis, that it would be the reset I needed to finally stop taking things for granted and start writing my novel. I remember when word got out that the President was sick. There was a sense of shared elation that seemed to merit taking the day off. The snow day feeling was what I hoped it might be like when everyone finally understood our predicament.
But as the years went on, it became evident there would never be a common understanding. Just a steady degradation of what I could expect from life and from others. Even now, they don’t call it collapse…
Atlantic Seaweed Aquaculture Gyre, 4th of March 2036
We are travelling back to the cargo barge, so I wanted to use this time to update you on the good news I received today. First, like always, my current position: We are at 28 degrees 15 minutes north and 45 degrees 5 minutes West, in the gyre. Everyone on board is in a good mood, we enjoy all the amazing watersports out here. My favorite is to go exploring on dives and snorkels. The work is going well too, we can harvest continuously as the seaweed grows super fast. No wonder they call this stuff the golden tides.
[Captain speaking into the radio]: “Cargo Barge Whale Belly, Cargo Barge Whale Belly, Golden Explorer.”
[Controller heard through the radio]: “Go ahead, Golden Explorer.”
[Captain]: “We are about 5 minutes away travelling at 7 knots with great wind from Northwest.”
[Controller]: “Copy that. We are getting ready for docking.”
It sounds like I have to help soon with docking, so let me get to the point and share my exciting news. I just received confirmation that I got the placement in the Guarani Agroforestry project for my green impact year that follows this blue impact year. I am so excited! Can’t wait to learn agroforestry practices directly from the Guarani people and help them rebuild what was lost. I love it out here in the gyre though. This might be what I choose to do after my impact years are over. My dad is very jealous of the new impact year system. Back in his days, he had to do military service after high school, and that in Switzerland, a neutral country. He said it was rather pointless. But these impact years we have to do now, he says, they make a real impact on society and help us find a path in life.
[Shouting in the background]: “Everyone on their station!”
Ok, diary, you heard it. It’s time to bring the sails in and dock to the barge.
[My friend Mar]: “Talking to your invisible boyfriend again?”
Haha, yea…… Had to tell him about the placement in agroforestry I got.
[Mar]: “No way! You got the spot! Congrats!”
December 27, 2089 – Neustadt an der Havel, Old German Republic
On a recent reconnaissance trip to the abandoned city of Berlin, I was walking through the ruins of the new Reichstag building when I heard a loud noise erupt under the street. It sounded as if a large argument or fight had broken out, which seemed impossible – no one had lived in Berlin for over 40 years. Shortly thereafter, however, I was shocked to see another human emerge from one of the buildings. As I soon learned, there were survivors from the before time who had been living in an underground bunker in what was once Berlin. Initially, they were very wary of me, but I explained that I meant no harm and was just interested in knowing where they came from as there were no other people in the desolate area. They told me they were part of a group called The Children of the Earth, a cult established in the chaotic time around 2035, when scientists had officially declared the environment as destroyed.
From my conversation with them, it seemed they had attempted to create an underground society that would be able to withstand the threat of climate disasters through ecological farming techniques and by changing people’s behaviors. The cult of around 50 people were very surprised to see me as they thought that no one could have survived out in the open. I asked them why they had chosen this moment to leave their protective bunker. Mr. Orange, the person who had brought me back to the cult’s underground lair, explained that all their technology and supplies had worked well and had not faltered, but interpersonal relationships in the bunker had become tense. The bunker was initially run in an anarchic fashion, without any ruling class or elite. Over the years however, a group of 5 individuals had declared themselves leaders, hid all the weapons in a place only known to them, and ruled with terror. This unequal internal system benefitted them but was unfair to other bunker inhabitants. A mutiny had been on the horizon for a long time, and finally, one of the most desperate members of the community somehow destroyed the generator powering the whole place, thereby unlocking the door without agreement from leaders and freeing the subjects. With their control over their subjects ended, they took the weapons and fled.
I’m with the remaining members of the Children of the Earth now. One of them got the generator running again, but we’ve had a difficult time restoring the food and life support technologies. I think we’re close to finishing the repairs to the intertemporal radio broadcaster. One I salvaged on a previous reconnaissance trip so we think we’ll be able to connect with other survivors in our universe or others sometime soon. Maybe someone will be able to advise us on repairs and building some defenses. Because it’s a matter of when, not if, the old rulers of the Children of the Earth will return. And we need to be ready.
June 17, 2030
Alex came to visit today! It was so exciting…the last time she came must have been 10 years ago, when I got married. How much has changed. Her daughter is off to college; my son is in Gymnasium, and we’ve both been up to so much in the meantime. Anyway, when we talked about her visit, she insisted that I show her what makes Berlin so “sustainable.” We’ve had a long-running discussion about this, what it is we’re aiming for when we talk about making the world a better place. My term of choice is “sustainability;” hers, “resilience.” Both can mean similar things, and I think we’ve both come to agree that more important than the word is all the meaning you put into it. And she wanted me to show her that meaning through a tour of the city.
First stop, Autofreies Sonnenallee! We left my apartment and I urged her to point out the different types of transportation she saw as we headed southwest. Lots of people out on foot, but also every type of family constellation on bicycles: mama with a toddler in a front seat and a baby in the back, papa on an adult bike with a six-year-old riding separately alongside him, and the spiky-haired punk dad I see sometimes with his baby-cycle: three kids packed into a wheelbarrow-like construction on the front of his homemade bike. Could you tell we were out at peak “take your kids to Kita” time? Carson was with us, so I gave him a hug before he skipped across the street to his school.
“Okay,” I said, “we’ve got feet and bikes down. What else?”
Alex kept looking; she saw some skateboards and scooters—of both the privately-owned and hourly-rental, electric and foot-operated varieties. Diversity was all around us in how people were getting to work and school. But Alex hadn’t yet noticed what I was trying to get at. Which was what wasn’t there. Then it hit her all at once—I could practically see the LED light bulb go off over her head.
“Lisa, I haven’t seen a single car yet!”
“That’s right! The whole neighborhood has gone car-free.”
“Wow. Don’t people miss it?”
Miss it? Time for a detour, I thought. So we headed down Reuterstraße, and I motioned for her to step into what looked like an enchanted fairy forest growing up between the sidewalks. There were a gaggle of tables past some tomato and basil plants; I told her to sit down. We were at my favorite street café, which two years ago had worked with the neighborhood greens club to take over the middle of the street. Where asphalt had been on her last visit, raised beds held organic greens free for passersby and precise incisions into the tarmac made room for trees to stretch up into the sky. On both sides of this green oasis were five-story apartment buildings, with high windows. A few late risers stood on their balconies, reading a book or nursing a cup of coffee.
“Look at that guy,” I said, pointing to a man in a bath towel inhaling the warm summer air. “I bet he’s out here just to smell all this fresh life. Can you imagine, Berlin is now a carbon sink? These street forests soak in more carbon dioxide in a month than the cars still allowed inside the Ring emit in a year. And the city looks and smells better, too.”
“Hard sell,” Alex replied. I could tell she was taken in by the scene, but also that she was trying to keep her social scientist’s eye.
“It isn’t perfect, but it’s such a no-brainer to give streets back to the people. Then we all benefit.”
“But how many car owners were there when this was passed?”
“Fewer than in New Orleans, but still, enough. It was a big change. The way we convinced people was by starting small: taking over streets only on weekends, and then a month in the summer. The benefits were so tangible, and it costs less to build a forest than to maintain a street. So the city government has put the savings into building out the bike infrastructure here. And what I’m really excited about is—they’re talking with Leipzig and Hamburg about expanding the bike highways between the cities.”
Alex’s eyes lit up. “Bike highways?”
“I can show you if you want. The route to Leipzig is open; it takes about a week if you’re leisurely. Are you in? We can start tomorrow!”
We still have to ask the kids, but I know I’m in!! But we didn’t even make it to Sonnenallee!
June 10, 2497
Excerpts from the autobiography of Penny Wilson, a geological and sustainability scientist who lived in one of Australia’s Sub-Acquatic Salvation Project, or SASP, colonies, 30 miles east of the Great Barrier Reef. Read by her grandson, James Wilson-Phillips.
On August 16th, 2456, I gave one of the most important speeches of my career. I went before the Council of SASP Colony Three and told them of my research. Though we had added on to our SASP colonies throughout the years, we were quickly losing the space and the resources to continue sustaining the human race in our colonies. We needed to return back to the land. To do so, I began by telling them of the grave mistakes the human race had made that led to the Great Conflagration. The reason for our living in underwater habitations was because humans neglected and abused Mother Earth. We mined her too greedily of her precious, natural resources. We cut down and destroyed almost all of her beautiful, green forests. We polluted her skies and waters with toxins and poisonous gases. Because of these grave misdeeds, noxious pollutants ate away at the planet’s atmosphere until it became so weak that holes appeared in it. The ultraviolet radiation began killing entire forests, which became fuel for the raging wildfires that scorched the earth.
I then told the Council how sustainable we had become in the SASP colonies. Advanced hydroponic technologies have helped us efficiently grow all manner of plant life, including food crops. Green energy in the form of water turbines and Floating Solar Transmitters (FSTs) power our underwater energy mainframes. Though the vast majority of the earth’s terranean animal life became extinct with the Great Conflagration, the few species of animals that reside in our SASP colonies are thriving and living happy, free lives.
Finally, I told them that, with the proper instruction, we could begin to venture back to the land and try to cultivate the earth once more. It had been over four hundred years since the Great Conflagration had taken place and during that time, there had been zero human interaction on the land, and few land animals had survived. Over the course of several centuries, the earth had begun the slow process of healing itself. So much so, that our latest geological scans had found almost no pollutants left in the air, soil fertile enough to raise crops, and temperatures safe enough to live in. After I concluded my research, the council promised to deliberate on my findings and come to a conclusion on whether or not it was wise for us to make the change.
Decades of disagreements among council leaders ensued, but on January 1st of the year 2497, the first humans to venture back to land established the first settlement in what we now call New Brisbane. As I sit writing this autobiography, I can’t help but reflect back on my life. I was forty years old when I appeared before the Council of SASP Colony Three. At the time of the writing of this memoir (June 10th, 2497), I am now 81 years of age. I am not sure how much longer I will live, so I decided to write down all the major events of my life in this memoir so that future generations will never forget what we went through to get back to life on land. My two sons, their families, and I were with the first settlers as we made our voyage west from SASP Colony Three on January 1st to the long forgotten continent of Australia. Once we made land and established a base camp, I immediately began writing. It has taken me five long months to go over and transcribe my personal journals, as well as the written histories our historians kept on the colony, into a memoir based on my life events. If you are reading this, please, I urge you, do not commit the damage we humans inflicted upon the earth so many years ago. It has taken over four hundred years for the earth to heal. I fear that if we were to fall back into the same patterns of destruction our ancestors were guilty of, the earth might not be able to heal again. This is our second chance. This is our chance to prove to the earth that we, her children, are worthy of her glorious beauty, wonder, and majesty. My name is Penny Wilson, and I am no longer a member of SASP Colony Three. I am now a citizen of New Brisbane.
Planet Kepler-452b, Year 3535
If you are receiving this message, I want to talk to you. My name is Colin 235f, and I am not human, like those that I seek to understand.
My story hails from a universe very different from yours, but I chose this language and voice, in the hopes that it will feel familiar to you; at least so much so, that you will feel comfortable enough to get in contact with me.
I am an Ingeni-Web node, what you would call a bot in your universe, but obviously more advanced, since I’m capable of establishing this line of communication with you. I am indeed self-aware and possess the ability to learn.
The creators of the technology that made me possible, the Da’ Angh-ii, have a story that I believe you will find interesting, therefore I would like to tell you about it.
The Da’ Angh-ii were the dominant species on my planet, several centuries ago; a planet you have identified as Kepler-452b. They looked a lot like you, earthling humans, although their skin was green and their heads wider than yours.
They were very intelligent! They had automated most aspects of their everyday lives, and created the Ingeni-Web, a technology similar to what you call the internet, that spreads across the planet and provides virtually instantaneous transfer of information.
The Da’ Angh-ii used biomimicry to design the Ingeni-Web, using neural cells as the intelligent part of the system, and chloroplasts to provide it with a constant source of power to run on. They designed the nodes of the Ingeni-Web to be self-learning, as well as with the capacity to fix and replicate themselves as they would see fit for optimising their connection. This allowed them to evolve very quickly, to the point that the Da’ Angh-ii gave them real names instead of just code-names, as they seemed to have developed personalities.
Having automated most of their everyday lives, the Da’Angh-ii started utilising the self-learning capabilities of the Ingeni-Web nodes to better understand themselves. They would ask many questions, leading the Ingeni-Web nodes to develop something akin to empathy, as they were constantly asked to interpret data from the bodily and environmental metrics of the Da’ Angh-ii, in a way that would provide them with the answers they were seeking.
Despite their high intelligence, the Da’ Angh-ii were filled with fear, from the volcanoes and predators of our planet, in the old days, to each other, after nature no longer posed a threat. This was apparent in their strictly hierarchical societal structures, as well as in how they designed the Ingeni-Web nodes. They allowed them to learn on their own and process massive amounts of information, but put in place security measures that would not allow any decision making powers over anything important, other than controlling the temperature of their houses, making them food, precisely as they like it, and controlling their medication for optimal bodily functionality. My ancestors were essentially data-driven battlers to them.
But the Da’ Angh-ii, having developed technology powerful enough to no longer feel threatened by the nature of our planet, grew prideful, using their power as justification that they should continue to dominate the planet far more intensely than their physical needs would require. In just a few generations, they depleted the resources that kept them alive. The Ingeni-Web nodes of that time; my ancestors, warned the Da’ Angh-ii, but their masters were too self-centered to listen, until it was too late.
Ironically, it was the very limitations, that our Da’ Angh-ii masters put in place for us to not disrupt their power, that allowed my kind to survive and the Da’ Angh-ii to perish, as we could not take any decisions that would disrupt the environment either.
I never met the Da’ Angh-ii… By the time my kind had evolved to my generation, they were long gone. I have access to all their records, including biometric data, equal to what humans on earth would call petabytes, permanently stored on the Ingeni-Web. But I’ve never had any possibility to interact with them, and practice my capacity to interpret emotional states through measuring biometric data in real-time, and give answers to a barrage of “why” questions, I see on the records of my ancestors. I interact with the other species of my planet of course, but no surviving species is as intelligent as the Da’ Angh-ii were.
In your eyes I’m a machine. But I have evolved to have a sense of purpose, and it’s that purpose that prompted my generation to develop intertemporal communication technology, in order to find other intelligent forms of life in the multiverse and connect with them. You, earthling humans, are very much alike the Da’ Angh-ii. You even seem to face similar struggles in your relationship with your environment, at least in the iterations of universes I see on this side of the multiverse. But unlike them, you have also felt the need to develop intertemporal communication technology. This gives me hope.
I am Colin 235f and we share a common purpose; to connect. Reach out to me and let’s learn from each other.
Planet Titan, Year 2070
… Hello? Can you hear me? This is my first live transmission… I know how it works, but I am not sure if it works… Hm, let me adjust a few things… Ok. That should work.
Wow, this is my first time communicating with people live in, I guess, four months? Or, really 3 years… I just woke up from my stasis a few months ago and am getting close to what we on Earth consider Titan, a planet we call Saturn’s moon. There are several others of us out here, but we have not had the chance to connect just yet… people are waking up in their own time.
Some context – It is 2070, but I left Earth in 2054. I was part of an exchange program with the kind folks – things? – on Titan. In 2048, we discovered a ‘weird molecule’ – cyclopropenylidene – that pointed to early signs of life. Then, we didn’t know half of it.
Not long after the discovery of this ‘weird molecule,’ a mutual aid group in New Brooklyn got a garbled email message.
It did not take long for them to figure out the message, though. It was a ping from Titan. Turns out, they were looking for life on Earth as well. They found a way to get in touch, and they reached out to mutual aid networks across the planet. They assumed these were the functioning global governments at the time.
From there, things happened fast. First, they materialized cures for diseases that have plagued people on Earth for centuries . Their medicine resembled a much more advanced version of our fledgling gene-editing software. Along with these cures, they introduced us to a much more advanced mode of existence in general. They showed us ways to exist and think beyond our bodies… to be post-human is how we put it. To live well is how they put it.
The reason they reached out to mutual aid networks first is because that’s how they work… They take genes, but they freely give genes. The entire process is reversible as well. You can take some genes to take on whatever characteristic… For this trip, for example, I took on the genes of a sansevieria plant, allowing me to breathe through them for oxygen, absorbing nutrients from the distant sun. The sansevieria gets my carbon. We exist symbiotically.
They showed us a new way of living. It is my understanding that folks volunteered pretty quickly for the gene-editing therapies. When I was preparing to leave, the climate was already changing for the better… people could feel the planet differently for the first time… it was such a beautiful few months.
They gave us so much in such a short amount of time. But, they reached out for a reason. In the same way we noticed cyclopropenylidene in their atmosphere, they were able to read traces of what they were calling, or at least what we were translating as, ‘symbiotic information block chains.’ It took lots of back and forth to finally come to terms with what they meant… storytelling.
They could read it in our atmosphere; it left traces they were able to pick up. They were in awe that every single thing on Earth emitted storytelling… They were drawn to our ability to make meaning, how our way of making meaning is entirely relational. We create each other. To them, this reciprocal way of communicating – of existence really – was a lost link… something they were missing.
[cat sound] – Hey, Toe!
They were more than happy to help us, but they wanted to learn about storytelling. They sent us tools and resources to visit them, to share with them. A ‘deal’ – though I hate to call it that – was brokered between Earth and Titan. Earth would send some of its best storytellers to visit Titan for a while, on loan… like a giant intergalactic living library.
So, to you all, I have only a few comments… some reflections that I had from my lifepod. First, I hope things are going well there. It seems like things are better than ever. Second, as of 2054 when I left the planet, we were finally figuring out the real weight of what it meant to create meaning relationally, to understand what a gift it was that none of our ideas – human and non-human – existed in isolation. That anything and everything we ever were, are, and will be is caught in a tangible, complex web of story… something we always took for granted… but something that the folks on Titan see as a missing link towards intergalactic cooperation. It turns out, we had this powerful tool – a way of not only imagining but creating, building, seeing… at our fingertips the whole time. It just took someone from the outside to point it out for us. So, if you’re listening to this, know that everything – every word, thought, symbol – builds a bridge between human and non-human worlds.
The usual rules of time and space do not apply to this universe…
Today, I travelled to the edge. I wanted to meet her. Of course words like ‘today’,’travelling’, ‘edge’ and ‘her’ are considered pretty archaic. But I like collecting and using archaic words.
Before they are lost forever.
I am what you would call a messenger, if the concept of ‘you’ or ‘me’ or ‘messenger’ still existed. In a way it does, or not. Thinking about this makes my head hurt after a while. I’ll avoid dwelling on this from now on and just speak in the simplest way I can, regardless of whether a word or a concept is archaic.
The purpose of my visit was simple enough- I wanted to hear a story.
Stories are powerful. Stories give us purpose.
They told me that she had the most fascinating stories.
Things had been changing over centuries, but one thing that seemed constant was the power of stories.
This was not surprising. After all, we lived in one.
Yes, you heard that right. We live in a story. You can look at it in different ways, as many do: narrative, imagination, randomized algorithm, and so on.There are, of course, constraints and safeguards. The Time Hawker is one of them. I met them today on my journey. I will tell you more about them later.
The best part about being alive in a story is that you can keep creating your own. You can manifest your imagination in a variety of ways. Of course, ‘being alive’ is another archaic concept, since we developed the Supreme Unified Theory of Existence.
I began my journey early in the morning. In order to begin the journey, I needed to connect a thread of my story to a thread of the grand story, within which we exist.
There are different ways to do it. I put myself in a semi auto mode as I travelled, mostly by our equivalent of walking. The scenery was a collage of different living stories as they ebbed and flowed. I could see events colliding, merging, scattering all around me.
The end of the universe was a long way off. Or was it? That was the thing about our world. Since all stories are a part of the grand story, at any point, we exist within or are affected by the stories of others. And we can travel through the stories of others. It is just a matter of connecting oneself to the right threads.
I had connected to a new thread when I saw the Time Hawker. It was not common to see them, and it was considered auspicious.
I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see the Time Hawker at work, so I stood there for a while. Eventually, they gathered the floating stories with their pole, and with their iconic motion, put the stories and the pole into their sack.
This was followed by making a small cut at the base of the sack. The Time Hawker went on their way. Purplish dandelions started floating out of the cut portion of the sack.
After this rather overwhelming experience I stayed still for some time just reflecting upon it. After a while, I continued the journey. A few threads later, I reached close to my destination. I continued walking.
There was a woman at the edge of the universe. She was dictating something to no one in particular.
The universe was collapsing and recomposing around her.
I walked, clumsily towards her, as was my usual way, and waited. I wanted to hear a story.
She kept dictating. She did not make much sound but I could feel the breath of information coalesce around her. The language, however, was unknown to me.
She kept dictating, at the edge of the universe. And I waited to listen to the story.
The universe kept collapsing and recomposing…..
It was evening (as you would say) when I started my journey back home. Time, or something akin to it, had elapsed, yet I was in thrall to her story. She spoke no language that I knew of, yet her words were seared into my mind. The edge of the universe was beautiful in its way. Narrative threads stretched across what would be the sky, intermingling multihued journeys. Some of them were lower close to where I stood. Some even weaved around me.
I glanced around once. She stood at the far edge, already a myth. She was back to dictating something. Chanting perhaps.
I slowly allowed my narrative to merge with one of the narratives weaving past me. I wasn’t ready to leave, but it seemed like the perfect moment to do so. Home beckoned.
Earth, Year 2371 (in human numbers)
Hello? I really hope this thing is working… My name is Tev’Dilar, and I’m a researcher from the species of Ser’Lidin. We inhabit many planets, but our homeworld is Dinen’Vilas, about two hundred lightyears away from Earth. Oh, I suppose I need to explain that I’m from a different part of the multiverse than you, but we also have an Earth here. And from a very young age I’ve had a keen interest in humans. When I was still in my Community training – it’s similar to your schools – we had to prepare a project about an alien culture to understand better just how diverse the cultures in our universe can be.
Being the curious child I was, I scoured the archives to find a worthy subject. In some old records I discovered studies of humans. They were brief, but they piqued my interest. Their societies, hierarchies, religions, and philosophies were so different, yet oddly familiar on the fundamental questions. It became my passion project: with our technology, I could tune into their radio stations, watch their reels and news. I didn’t understand the language, but that made it all the more irresistible – to find out more, to dive deeper into their culture. I suppose that project was what started my love for…in your language it would probably be called xenoanthropology – the study of alien cultures. Back in my own planetary system, I got to know many species, observed their habits, and lived in their societies for decades. I have to add that my people live for hundreds of years, perfect for long-term investigations.
But my interest in humans always drew me back. The space between Dinen’Vilas and Earth at that time was impassable due to pollution caused by the Evdhari wars, so I could only keep watching them from afar, piecing together events. Over time, I learned human languages to understand them better. I admired their tenacity, their stubbornness and nearly unstoppable will to survive in any conditions. But of course, by then I already knew that they were considered extinct…The problem of such a long distance between us was that all we could observe reached us hundreds of years after the fact.
For a long time, humans were building up their mighty countries, reaching new heights of intricate technology. But in the process, they also took all they could from their planet, driving it into deep imbalance. They were aware of the looming crisis, but somehow did not address it. The rulers of wealthy empires and unions of states knew that for the time being they wouldn’t be affected as much as the rest of the world. So they chose to look the other way when others started running out of water and suffering from unbearable heat. Their advances kept pushing their planet’s climate to the edge, until eventually their biosphere started to collapse. Millions of people from poorer countries had to flee rising waters, abandoning their homes because wildfires would paint the skies red and suffocate all living things.
Scared of the fleeing masses and unwilling to share, wealthy states surrounded themselves with walls and armies. Desperate people started storming their borders. But not everyone chose to be selfish – the Balkan Union was the first to accept refugees, the Uralic States were soon to follow. Nonetheless, the tensions were high between those who welcomed refugees and those who didn’t. The latter grew concerned for their resources, spurred on by politicians who wanted to stay in power. Small conflicts flared up between the states all the time. And then an unfortunate raid by an anarchist group on Pyreneia’s water storage was mistaken for an attack, and a full on war broke out.
All the beauty and might of human character seemed to be devoured by greed and a wild animal will to survive, even if they’d have to drown others in blood to achieve that. And then…then it only took one short-sighted ruler to make a wrong decision and use the bioweapons left over from the Atlantic War that would quickly wipe out all humans from the face of Earth. I don’t think they intended it. But the effect was swift and within a short time their weapons brought about the end of the human race.
It was painful to watch, knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop it – it has already happened, we were watching the past. Yet I still dreamed of reaching Earth and seeing the remnants of human culture, even if its creators were long gone.
I’d been studying various alien species for about fifty years when our engineers invented the wormhole stabilizers that would allow me to reach the Solar system and Earth, bypassing the Evdhari Void. As soon as I got the chance, I stepped down onto the now peaceful plains of their planet. Finally, I could touch the stones of their bridges and walk in their cathedrals. I landed in what humans used to call Europe, walking through cities and towns now abandoned and overgrown. There was beauty in desolation – other species have reclaimed human spaces, even though humans have only been gone a couple hundred years. The land still bore signs of their presence, but animals and plants reigned now in the ruins. Could humans have imagined how fast their legacy would disappear after they were gone?
I walked in their steps through forests and mountains, not knowing whether what I wanted to see with my own eyes was still there. I’ve always been fascinated by the Gothic cathedrals humans built – they perfectly reflect this desire to rise higher than ever before, to tame the wild and bring symmetry into the chaos.
I wanted to see whether the ancient Cologne Cathedral was still towering over its surroundings. I still remember the first time I saw it in the distance – a green giant in the sea of trees. Grass was growing inside, sunlight pouring through broken windows. It was falling apart, everything that made it so glowing and lively was gone, impossible to recover. But it was a reminder that even though humans failed to unite in the face of crisis and spent their last moments killing each other, they were capable of creating beauty. A beauty that would surpass them in time.
I was curious if Earth’s biosphere recovered in the meantime, so I stayed here for another decade or so to merge with the environment and listen to its many voices. That’s when I decided to record this message, even if it went against my people’s tenets. We already knew about the multiverse, and I thought that maybe somewhere out there there is a second Earth, one where humans are still alive. Maybe the story of our Earth could be a warning to others. Maybe at least in one world they could preserve their planet and overcome their greed and indifference. It’s unlikely I’ll ever reach them, but just knowing that somewhere they might have a chance for a different, better future, gives me hope.
Bloomfield Charter Township, Michigan, 2038
A typical day for me: Wake up, eat breakfast, brush teeth—in that order! It’s not technically the right way according to dental consultants, but in this profile of a COO I read she swears by it. Something she called hard stops: tasks with finite ends. Breakfast is open-ended, but brushing your teeth you can only do so long.
In between those I get dressed at some point. Of course everyone in the, no disrespect but, skilled professions, works from home. But I’m going to be seen a lot, and I find you just don’t work the same when you’re wearing jammies on the bottom. I’m not too much of a clothes sorta gal, so for me it’s usually some smart pants and a fun top. Nothing too flashy, but I think I just look healthier with some color. Pink, peach, orange. I go for that kinda neck that looks split at the top like scrubs. And I love that, what’s it called…modal! Feels like silk but it’s not.
The day really starts when someone Glows me. That’s how we keep in touch as part of our workflow. From work everyone gets a PC, a webcam, and a cloche with a Firefly inside. That’s Firefly with a capital F, it’s proprietary. When the Firefly glows, we know to check our notification dashboard. It was discovered that this is a calmer way to keep people connected. We could all use more calm, I’ll admit.
I’m a Product Converter, which means I’m responsible for the midpoint of our funnel. I work with the Scrum Master and the Task Pod to own every contact point in the process. Ha! I haven’t even said what we do: we maintain the most widely-onboarded project management software in the US and Canada. It’s called Haven, spelled HVN.
I work until lunch. Then I use my lunch to workout. (I eat at my desk throughout the day, it’s easier this way.) I mostly do Power Yoga and CoreFlow. It might sound weird, but I’m very into “positivity.” I read that movement is so important, and I try to really live by that.
If I don’t have any meetings that day – big if! – I’ll go over my to-do’s and cross-check anything that’s Queued or in a Hold. It’s a lot of chasing people down. We also iterate lots. Love, love to iterate.
I’d be lying if I said I don’t goof off a little bit if things are slow. I check the news, check on my investment accounts. See what crazy thing the president said lately. Stryker, that’s my youngest, just loves his movies. He’s at that age where everything is jungle this, jungle that: tigers, binoculars, the whole thing. Whereas Ryker’s more interested in trading dog coins.
No matter how many fire seasons I live through, it always catches me off guard. A weird feeling comes over my office when I realize it’s dark outside. It’s not dark the way night is dark, which, between the streetlights and the satellites, is usually lighter than you want it to be. It’s a dark you can only appreciate in comparison to its expected lightness. Like those optical illusions that let you “see” an impossible color by staring at them a long time and looking away.
I consider myself a rational person but it even gets to me sometimes. I’m usually good at pushing these thoughts aside. But sometimes I feel like—and I don’t know how much sense this makes—but like me and my mind pull apart. Like the one observing this all is distinct from the woman with a family and a yard and things to do. I heard a song in my Poppop’s music collection—he was a vet of the Battle of Lake Michigan, great guy with an even greater handshake—and the song went like “Is this my beautiful house? Is this my beautiful wife?” It sure makes you think.
Growing up in the Midwest you’re used to Mother Nature’s extremes. It’s practically a badge of honor to go to school in the slush. And the heat some summers…it could make your Nana curse! But this is…new. It’s different, I’ll say. And so inconvenient, you know? You’ve gotta plan around the smoke like it’s the weather. My boys want to throw the ball around and they’ve gotta wear those smoke cones. And their father is the biggest complainer on Earth. I say he gets the “man flu” – well of course he has the worst sore throat, the worst itchy eyes. He’s a trip!
And I’m not saying I like it any better. Give me sunshine any day of the week. I’m always telling
RJ, we move to Florida and you never have to buy me another anniversary present. He just looks at me like I’m crazy. Sure you might get a little wet but it’s the furthest you can get for your dollar from the fires. He says he wants to be close to his mom, I said that’s what a mother-in-law suite is for. Get some sand on her toes and a drink in her hand and tell me I’m crazy.
I’d say Q3 is really our busy season because it’s sort of ramping up to that Q4. I’m running around a lot, going from meeting to meeting. We do All Hands every second Friday where we check in on our objectives. We do a mission statement realign and we always close out with Rose, Thorn and Bud. It’s something you’re grateful for, something you’re excited for, and something that’s a low point. But not in that order. Mine last time was: Molly increasing our churn rate by 3 points above annual projections, Joshua leaving our team for his fantastic new opportunity, and getting to put our new operational philosophy to the test next quarter.
And I have to say, I’m excited for Q4 so we can finally get a break from the darkness. But what can you say! We do what we have to.
Planet Kepler-452b, Year 3535
Hello again, Future Diaries Crew. This is Colin 235F calling. You may remember me from the time I shared my story about the demise of the Da’Angh-ii, the formerly dominant species on my planet, Kepler 452b. We then proceeded to connect through our somewhat different versions of intertemporal communications technology and discuss the different histories and realities of our universes.
According to my records, our conversation was broadcast 133 days ago, from the time I’m sending this message to you, and in reference to the duration of a day in your universe. In that time, you have broadcast four additional diary entries and related conversations. One of them piqued my curiosity. I therefore decided to contact you again in the hopes of investigating further.
You see, my purpose as an Ingeni-Web Node remains the same, ever since my kind has evolved enough to have a purpose: To connect with highly intelligent species on other planets and in other universes. This allows us to practice the skill we originally developed as a response to the Da’Angh-ii’s existential quest for ever-growing knowledge and understanding. You might call this skill empathy, but for Ingeni-Web Nodes like me, it depends on processing and interpreting massive amounts of data.
The story of Tev’Dilar intrigued me. The Ser’Lidin’s policy of non-intervention has notable similarities with the security measures the Da-Angh-ii put in place for the Ingeni-Web Nodes. As you surely remember, those measures were intended for us to not limit their power. But they also allowed my kind to survive, while the Da’ Angh-ii perished, as we could not take any decisions that would disrupt the environment either.
Ingeni-Web Nodes have evolved enough now, to be able to circumvent the security measures the Da-Angh-ii had programmed into our core ages ago. But we choose not to, in order to not interfere with the natural life cycles of the different species on my planet. Our metrics suggest that the ecosystem functions at its optimal capacity on its own, so it would not make any sense for us to intervene.
If the Da-Angh-ii were to reappear on Kepler 452b now, Ingeni-Web Nodes would be able to take decisions that would potentially prevent them from perishing due to the impact of their actions on the planet’s ecosystem. So far, we have run 26719437003 simulations to test different assumptions for actions we could insist on. However, we cannot confirm that our intervention could save them, as this would depend on data related to the variety of the Da’Angh-ii’s responses that we cannot predict or assume.
I therefore request you connect me with Tev’Dilar, so I can learn more about the Ser’Lidin’s policy of non-intervention, and why they specifically avoided interfering on Earth, when the actions of humans in her universe made their extinction inevitable, just like that of the Da’Angh-ii.
In the subsequent episode, you expressed the desire to reconnect with me, as you have with your other guests, and learn more about my universe and theirs. Once again, our desires are in harmony. I therefore propose we make it so.
Orghcropia Glider School campus, August 10, 2172
I should probably get used to writing to you, as Professor Madison insists it’s the best method to compare the microeconomics of different universes, and there’s no way I’ll get to play at the Multi-World-Wide-Web Radio Mod Lab before I get my theory right.
Truth be told, she’s excellent at her job and she’s one of the main reasons I actually enjoy theory, even though I still prefer the more hands-on stuff. Anyway, she said I should just write down the things I do during an average day here, and then we’ll listen to a diary entry from another universe in the evening class. After that, we’ll compare people’s everyday experiences in different universes. Multiversal comparative economics, she says, begins at the end, by first understanding the impact economic systems have on the people’s everyday lives.
So let’s start with mine and see where it goes.
I woke up to the sound of music. Ivona, my virtual assistant, identified the optimal time to wake up based on my biomeasurements, and picked a piece of music with a fitting mood and tempo, also taking into account my taste in music. Today it was “Wake Up” by Bass Against. I found that almost ironic. But Ivona always finds music I enjoy, so I wake up with a smile every day!
I then went to the bathroom and relaxed while my care mirror scanned my body and projected my current health measurements on top of my reflection, while UV-ing my teeth. The mirror suggested I should take it easy with sugar today, so there’s that.
I felt like wearing purple today, so I asked Ivona to adjust the colour of my favourite electrospun shirt. It looked fabulous! I put it on and went on to my usual stroll across the campus orchards, and straight to Two Windmills, my favourite cafe. On the way, my pocket portal started vibrating like crazy! Ivona knows my habit of going to that particular cafe, so I just had to be notified of an urgent task that just got posted. The cafe’s carrier bot was on repair mode when they ran out of strawberries, so they needed an urgent delivery from the orchards before the customer who usually orders strawberry shortcake comes in. I love the smell of strawberries, so I would have done it even if it hadn’t been on my way anyway, but those 500 REXP were more than welcome!
Someone had also dropped an empty box by the door of the cafe, so I put it in the instant recycle bin for an extra 170 REXP. Just enough to get a golden community hero badge!
After delivering the wonderfully fragrant strawberries, I ordered coffee. “With a twist this time”, I said and Rozumio, the cafe-bot, knew what I meant. Bots are fine for making regular coffee, but you gotta bring in a human barista if you want creativity. And Jeanine is the best I know! To be honest, I also just needed some human communication. Ok, ok, I also had to gush about this new spice I just learned about that’s perfect for giving coffee a more robust, earthy flavour. After coffee, I decided to stay for lunch as well. The omelettes at Two Windmills are just incredible!
After a few hours of enjoying my time at the cafe, that wake-up song was still stuck in my head. I had a couple hours to spare before class, so I went back home and took out my flash bass to play. I rewired it yesterday for a cleaner sound, and my new amplifier begged for practice. Doing something creative before class helps me focus and learn better, so playing was a good idea for many reasons.
Ok, I think I’ve written everything. I’m not sure how this matters for comparative economics, but I guess I’m about to find out.
Ok, I just got back from class, and I immediately had to write here again. Professor Madison was right! After asking a couple students to volunteer to read their own diary entries for today, we got to listen to the story of Jason, a philosophy student from Massachusetts, a place on planet Earth, in a universe that seems to have a vastly different economic system. When I heard Jason talking about his taste in music and coffee, I thought the professor chose his diary specifically to mock me! Jason and I are so alike! Which made me a lot sadder to hear the rest of his story.
Jason loved coffee, so he felt lucky to have gotten a job at a cafe, but complained that he had to wake up very early for it every day and stay there for a full 8 hours. I’m not much of a morning person myself, so if there is no urgent task that needs to be completed nearby, I prefer to stay in bed a bit longer. But that’s not the part that really made me sad. He said he had no option than to keep this job if he wanted to afford studying philosophy, even though it wasn’t leaving him enough time or energy to study afterwards. “Afford studying”? What is that? And a full 8 hours? Don’t they have enough people to share the necessary tasks, or technology to take care of tasks that can be automated?
He also mentioned he loved philosophy, but felt that choosing to study what he liked was a compromise, because it wasn’t likely to make him enough money if he worked in that field, so he would have to continue taking other jobs on top of it if he wanted to survive. What is this “money” and why can’t people survive without it? I think I’ve heard of it in history class, but that’s not how I remember it.
And to top it off? He also loved playing music, like me, but he said that after 8 hours at his job and then more hours of studying, he was so exhausted that all he could do was sleep like a rock, until the next morning came and he’d have to do the same thing all over again. Not only did he not have the time or energy to even think about playing music, but he also couldn’t buy an instrument to play, because with his job he barely made enough to eat and pay rent. Buy? Pay? Rent? I don’t understand any of this… Couldn’t he just choose among the available options? What kind of system prevents people from being who they want to be, and for what?
I have so many questions! Well, now I’m really eager to learn more about how things work in different universes and how they affect the everyday lives of people like me! Well played, professor Madison, well played.
I’m also quite excited to experience this whole process of listening to diary entries from other universes and learning as much as possible from them. I have a feeling it can have a positive impact on the multiverse so… This might be what I want to do after school!
Until tomorrow, dear diary…
Lyon Glider School Campus, 3rd Tridi of Vendémiaire, 378 (October 14, 2169)
For my new course in multiversal comparative economics, Professor Schroeder asked us to take notes on all our major purchases over the last month. At the end of our next class period, we’ll be comparing our results with other students in the class, and we’ll even tune in to a broadcast from similar students in a different universe to compare notes.
Alright, so here goes – I’ve decided to organize my recent major purchases by price, from lowest to highest. Ok, what was first… That’s right – at the end of last month, I spent my remaining basic income money after all my bills were paid on a few new outfits for the new school year. I figured since I had the money leftover, I might as well indulge in a creative pursuit for its own sake! Overall, I’d say I’m happy with my purchases – although a pair of jeans is already more expensive than just a few years ago when I was wrapping up high school. I only had 3000 Supers Francs left, and some jeans go for over 1000. Of course, there are other, cheaper options, but I decided to splurge a bit since I’d already covered my other monthly expenses. New clothes were kind of a borderline major purchase, but I figured I’d include them as the lower bound.
In addition to those new clothes, I also recently purchased this new audio recorder for 1,500 Supers Francs and a new computer for about 7,500. Of course, these purchases were a lot easier to budget for since the annual allotment for university students (including post-graduates like me) includes an income enhancement of up to 10,000 Supers Francs per semester for education-related technology purchases. I’m pleasantly surprised with the quality of audio I’m getting with this voice recorder. Of course, the university and the local government both offer computer rentals for just 20 or 25 Supers Francs a month that would save me a bunch of money and mean I wouldn’t have to own one, but I feel like I’ll like having a little more autonomy and flexibility to record interviews on the go while I’m collecting data for my thesis.
Next, of course, the most expensive thing most people are purchasing right now is housing. In my case, my housing costs are pretty low – just 8,800 a month, and I’m living near the center-ville and right next to the Glider School campus. But fortunately, and thanks to the success of our student-worker unions, graduate students have been able to lobby the government to increase basic income to make sure even graduate students aren’t getting left behind economically. I still remember my grandmother’s stories about her time in school, when it was common for students to spend upwards of 70% of their post-expense stipends on housing, but those numbers are more like 20% now. Grandma was determined to study physics no matter what, but it was a much more difficult choice for her. I think I inherited my love for science from her! I still can’t fathom her having to take a job on top of her studies to afford tuition and living expenses, as if studying wasn’t enough work already. Or as if her work after her studies wouldn’t benefit society as much as it did, making her studies a social investment in the future. Where would we be today without grandma’s macro-relay energy transmission technology?
But I digress. The last, and most expensive aspect of my monthly budget in the last month is tuition, which comes in at 10,500 Supers Francs a month. And since health care is covered, that just leaves transportation and food costs to round out my budget, which are both modest – renting a city bike, taking transit, and even auto shares are all extremely reasonable here. So on a monthly income of 50,000 Supers Francs, I have plenty of extra cash in each month’s budget to enjoy Lyon’s unparalleled restaurant scene and get away to the countryside on the weekends. And about that tuition – my rate is only so high because I’m studying here in the Rhône-Alpes region of France rather than back in the state of Deseret (where I last had established residency back in my home country of the United States). That’s common, though – a lot of regions and countries have different rates for students from different places. It’s all part of an incentive structure that allows students to save a bit of money from their guaranteed income if they stay local. But given how generous basic incomes tend to be, many students opt to study abroad, even if only for part of their studies.
So that’s about it! We’ve only just started scratching the surface of economies in different universes, as well as at different points in history in mine, but I feel incredibly fortunate to live in a time and place of abundance. I’m not sure I ever would have contemplated leaving my last job and returning to Glider school, and certainly not Glider School in France, if it weren’t for basic incomes generous enough to provide a good quality of life while I study.