Um, something seems to be up with the F5 Questionlog, since this week it put out another question by me:
I was rereading a short story by Orson Scott Card, called “Angles” (in the Silverberg/Haber Best of SF 2002 collection), when I ran into a machine that’s familiar to all of us, I’m sure. The trope is all too common in SF: the machine that can capture others’ experiences and let you experience them for yourself. Imagine if such a machine were built to capture the experiences of others, as they were happening, and store them for later re-experiencing by others (or, of course, the original “owner” of the experience). Imagine the memories were storable, saleable, reusable. Let’s leave aside questions of copyright and propriety and transparency and all of that, and concentrate on the experiences. Let’s say that you were going to test this machine out, for whatever reason.
What would be the five experiences of other people which you would choose to experience, and why those experiences in particular?
Or, alternately, if you think you would actually purchase such a machine, (as I suspect perhaps I might do, if it were affordable): Which five experiences of other people would you keep ready at hand,?and in each experience, what is the specific sensory detail most enchanting, bewitching, beguiling, or whatever it is that would draw you back to the experience repeatedly?
Well, that was a simple question. I really must try limiting my questions to one sentence.
Okay, here they are:
- A magisterial performance. You see, for me, most of the fun of playing music was in th actual feeling of playing it. Not just the crowd, not just the fact of performance, but the physical feeling of moving the saxophone keys, the actual desperate, rushing tingle in my brain when figuring out what I would play next in an improvisation. But I was never as good as, say, Branford Marsalis, or Anthony Braxton, or a young Ornette Coleman. Hell, I was never even as good as a young Christopher Holliday, but I sure would love to have the experience of playing a whole show inside one of these guys’ heads; or, rather, being in their heads while they play the show (or even just one song). I have no idea if I’d choose John Zorn, Pharoah Sanders, Dewey Redman, or who… but I would choose a saxman, of that I am sure.
- I’m sure that a spacewalk would be possible; I’m sure that, at the very least, NASA would market it as a fundraiser. [email protected], anyone? It’d be a great experience, especially if some little bit of me, in the back of the astronaut’s mind, knew that I wasn’t actually in space, and some little glitch couldn’t kill me.
- One of the experiences I think I would definitely have on my shelf early on would be Epics By Ear; I’d spend hours inside the heads of people listening to their cultures’ traditional epics in the original language, and I’d understand it. Or something. Maybe the narration would have to be subtitled, but it’d be cool to have multiple tracks from the subjectivities of different listeners; kids, adults, old people, male and female alike. I’d love to compare the images different people see when hearing the same thing, to see how kids’ minds work when they miss innuendoes, how adults react emotionally when they hear innuendoes they’re supposed not to acknowledge publicly, and so on. And of course, there’s be a MIX function where all the different subjectivities mixed and melded into a single, dreamlike, blurry cartoon image of the imagined scenes created from the combination of all available listeners’ subjectivities. Volume one would contain some selections from the Mahabharata, some of the stories of Wasakaychak, hunks of the Bible, the Odyssey (as listened to by some handpicked, very imaginative scholars, since normal people don’t speak ancient Greek anymore), and a room full of kids having the Chinese Three Kingdoms epic being told to them aloud by a good storyteller. Oh, and I suppose the Koran would be interesting! Finally, maybe some Aesop fables as read to kids of the videogame generation. (That’s not my generation, is it? We barely had them in our houses back then.)
- Altered States. Well, now, I wonder if this would be legal. I have always wondered what it’s like when people take all kinds of drugs which I would never, with even a ten foot pole wrapped in plastic, even think of touching. What is a good LSD trip like? A bad one? How about crack? Or methamphetamines? What does Ritalin do to one’s consciousness? And what about the effects of running a marathon on one’s brain chemistry? Of extreme sexual hyperstimulation? Of performing a heroic act? Or coming inches from death? I’m curious about all of these altered states, and this way I wouldn’t be using drugs, wouldn’t be damaging my own brain, and wouldn’t, I assume, be breaking any laws. (Unless of course the experience-recordings of illegal acts would be illegal themselves. I could easily imagine certain forms of it being illegal, and would support it, but if the recorded experiences were non-addictive, I can’t see why this particular kind would need to be illegal.)
- The most artful of the pieces I’d have on my shelfthe keepers, as opposed to experiences you just download and then delete when you’ve finished with themwould be the first installment of a series called The Seven Stages. Designed to cover the seven stages in human life, this one would cover infancy. Without anything too intrusive, you’d have some nice moments of cuddling with Mom, being breastfed (needless to say, the original experience would be devoid of sexual feeling, as it would be a real baby’s experience), learn to walk, get teeth, get potty trained, beginning to really speak, and so on. The ending of this first volume would be the third or fourth birthday, I think.
As for my opening question, I certainly hope experiences would come with royalties. Though I would fear that might drive an industry where experientspeople whose experiences are sold off for mass copying and consumptionmight have to do increasingly weird things with (and to) themselves just to make a sale.
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