Aphelion Issue 274, Volume 26
July 2022
 
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Loose Contact

by Sidney Toby


Corporate experience has taught me that committees are good for public relations and often raise morale. But they are inefficient and sometimes harmful if they wield real power. I set up committees which were little more than fact-gatherers but they channeled data to a higher-level committee which made decisions based on the information given them. This worked out well and I found my services as chief administrator were rarely needed and barely justified my large salary.

Eventually I found my activities, or lack thereof, unsatisfying and the limitations of my existence bothered me to the point that it was time to compensate. I began organizing some volunteer work. Serving in soup kitchens and distributing clothing was not my thing but I organized relief committees which covered a large area. Above these committees was a policy consortium which looked at overall economics, logistics and planning. The work gave me a sense of useful accomplishment but it also left me tired. One day as I was dozing off in an armchair I was conscious of being watched. Well, not watched, but having my thoughts read. I returned the thought to its possible source:

"Are you watching me?"

(There was an answer.)

Let me say that you have loose contact with an Observer.

"A what?"

An Observer; you have no corresponding phrase but might use the term Liaison Entity. Our activities are governed by the Controllers. I am glad you are concerned with helping your fellows.

"You are? Why?" (Stupid question, but thoughts go faster than speech. I did not get the reply I expected.)

It makes for less involvement (you would probably call it work) for us. We are extremely overcommitted.

"The Observers wish to avoid being overworked? That's hard to comprehend; it's such a human point of view. "

Of course. It derives from a similar mind to yours. There really is only one mind mechanism.

"In the whole universe?"

Yes, at least with reference to your sector (you would call it a part of your galaxy).

"Are things different in other sectors?"

I cannot answer that; I am involved in only one sector and do not know of other sectors governed by the Controllers.

"And so you encourage us to help our fellows."

We encourage a level of satisfaction with your existence.

"Or?"

Or you might destroy yourselves.

"Has this happened elsewhere?"

No, and we have made it less likely to happen in the future.

"How could you do that?"

By discouraging nuclear warfare. There was an unfortunate coincidence in your history. A knowledge of nuclear fission occurred at about the time as what you call a world war. Under such circumstances you devoted a huge amount of your resources to creating large scale nuclear fission. This would not have happened except in a world war. When we saw the direction your community was taking, we ensured that in comparable communities, elemental uranium would be extremely rare.

"That may have affected the invention of the atomic bomb but not the hydrogen bomb."

Without uranium, it becomes much less likely to develop large scale nuclear fission or fusion.

"I see... Other sectors may have more stable communities. But we could communicate with them. We could detect signals from other sectors and send them transmissions."

I do not think you appreciate the time and distances involved. You think electric signals and light move fast, but that is your limitation.

I tried not to be bothered by the put-down.

"May I ask another question?"

Yes.

"Why are we here?"

"Why" means What is the Reason? There is no simple reason: you are part of a process and in time you will be different.

"Yes, but are we part of a single plan?"

It paused! For the first time, it hesitated. Then:

No such 'plan' is apparent to me.

He/she/it talked in a somewhat smug and pedantic manner and in an unclassifiable voice. I realized why: it was probably synthesized, although at a very high level. This entity would have no trouble passing the Turing test to differentiate humans from computers. I pursued it farther.

"Do you conduct gross interference in the development of intelligence?"

I can say that there was a case where a large external object (a meteorite) collided with a planet where life was beginning to leave the large masses of water. This prevented the formation of advanced life on the solid surface and advanced life remained in water. The creatures were similar to your sea mammals: intelligent, but they killed only to eat.

"That's not a bad precept: Kill Only to Eat. Perhaps we should have enforced that idea."

I point out that in your community you did not even try to institute what you call that idea, let alone enforce it.

My, my, a real rebuke! I did not argue.

"I suppose so. Tell me; do you ever discuss the future?"

I am uninvolved but the Controllers probably discuss this.

"I assume there's a higher involvement above the Controllers.

Higher involvement? I know nothing of the status of the Uppers or of any higher involvement.

I could not conceal my astonishment. "Uppers? You mean our world is run by a committee?"

I know of no evidence to the contrary. There may be a set of Controllers for each sector.

"And the Controllers? Do they ever discuss the future?"

I am uncertain. There is debate about generation spread: the average variation. If too small, each generation would be almost an exact replica of the previous and there would be little change over time. If too large then any change would be chaotic. This introduces a level of unpredictability and makes the system harder to monitor. Optimal variation allows the advantaged to fare better over the generations. You do not appear to be concerned with the outcomes of the directions that your communities are taking, but we are. However, we do not control. We observe and recommend to the Controllers.

"You said some changes produce unpredictability. Don't you dislike unpredictability? I certainly do. "

We do not possess mind patterns (you might say emotions) but we do appreciate less involvement (you would call it --)

"I know: work. You also said that we're not concerned with our future. We certainly are; but we do not obsess with what might have happened. We do not worry unduly with 'What if?' musings."

You certainly do have such concerns. While you were expressing your thoughts, I searched the current literature in your sciences and found in a recent writing: "It is interesting to speculate on how different the history of the last sixty years might have been had a few excitation energies or cross-sections been different from what they are." Would you like the reference?

I was aghast. The creature was something to be reckoned with. While I was "expressing my thoughts", it calmly Super Googled what I had said. This was very intimidating. I hid my fears by changing the subject.

"No thank you. Tell me, do you routinely make 'loose contact' with us?"

No. I may receive a Controller Demurral (you would probably call it a reprimand) with my next directive for making myself apparent to you.

"Does this bother you?"

We do not possess mind patterns; you might call them --

"I know, I know: emotions."

It lacks emotions. Then it lacks the ability to understand and appreciate the great writers, artists and composers of our world. It is the long-lasting emotional effect of these creations that convinces us of the genius of those who made them. And this repository of virtual intelligence which lacks the ability to react to all that has made our civilization great, this desolate repository dares to patronize me, to address me with condescension!

At this point I developed a sufficiently disruptive mind pattern that I woke up. Or at least my agitation would not allow me to continue musing and I lost loose contact.

It has not happened again. Perhaps "Controller Demurral" is a euphemism for Observer deletion. Or perhaps the whole thing was a dream.

THE END


© 2008 Sidney Toby

Bio: Sidney Toby is a retired professor of Chemistry who has a number of non-fiction articles and few short stories in print or online...

E-mail: Sidney Toby

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