Reality SoftenerIlya Osipov / Science Fiction
Copyright 2009 Ilya Osipov (Ilya Os)
Table of Contents
About Ilya Os
The author expresses his gratitude to Professor Alex Volinsky for the translation of this story and invaluable assistance.
“All of the true things that I am about to tell you are shameless lies.” Kurt Vonnegut.
Edward Groms, a 39 year old man was sitting at the podium. Groms looked 50 because of the grizzled professor’s goatee. The conference chairman asked him to comment on several projects. Edward answered evasively. It was his seventeenth annual Internet conference. Mumbling something stupid or joking could actually hurt his image. He was supposed to say something provocative, or simply defame the project. This is what he would have done in the past. However, he became too intelligent, toothless and harmless with age. For some reason Groms sympathized with each presenter and placed himself into their shoes.
"Of course your project sucks, it’s an old idea with a goofy spin. But I used to be this young guy myself, trying to do my best to present the project in the allowed five minutes. I tried to impress the investors sitting in the first row while catching haughty smiles from the colleagues in the audience.”
“Who am I?, Edward thought, Why am I better? I’m probably worse. They have the future, or at least they have a dream, and I don’t. Yes, I finished several successful projects. I’m really proud of one, but failed a dozen. Several times I faced a similar audience, trying to convince them that my project is the best, it deserves funding, peer recognition, and success with millions of users. Have I succeeded? Most likely, not! I’m better off lying to myself. Why do I need to draw a line here? Startups are quite boring, while the presenters don’t even see the big picture, only thinking about money and success. These snotty pimpled students with notebooks in their hands and naive unsubstantiated ambitions.”
In conclusion the chairman asked Edward to pick the best project, based on his authority and expertise in IT. Edward stood up slowly. The overhead projector blinded him for a second. He could hardly remember any of the presentations.
Several internet companies had exhibits in the hallway. Edward stared at the next version of the bulky virtual reality setup, when a short modest-looking young man approached him. The young guy in mashed sweatshirt and jeans, his everyday clothes, had a backpack on his shoulder. He looked about 30, maybe less, it was hard to tell.
- Uhm, Edward Groms? - asked the guy, slightly embarrassed.
- Yes, - Edward smiled politely, inviting the guy to continue the conversation.
- Can we please talk somewhere?
- Sure, I’m all ears.
- Right here?… - the stranger looked around and winced.
- Sure, you want to ask me something, or tell your story. What’s your name, what’s your project?
- My name is Sergey… Yes, project, for sure, - the guy calmed down a little bit. But, you know, I’m not one of those presenters, I have the real deal, the real project.
- Well, shoot, - Edward smiled. "What an honor," he thought with sarcasm.
- OK. But let’s move aside, - the stranger continued to look at other people around.
We went down the hallway; there were less people, but still no place to sit. Sergey put his coffee on the window sill and reached into his backpack.
- Here you go; - he took out a dark silver box made from thick plastic with the red button on the top. It was hand made, small enough to fit a couple of apples.
- What is it? - asked Edward.
- This thing is instead of the project. I approached you because you are into quantum physics and I read your blog...
- A bomb of some sort? - the guy looked like a killer or a lunatic to me.
- No, no! This is soft…- he mumbled and could not continue. - Reality softener, - he blurted suddenly.
- Softener of what?!!
This may sound strange, but after an hour of discussion Edward and Sergey were still arguing. Edward was quite surprised, if not dumbfounded; he missed the round table he was supposed to attend. Sergey, in contrast, forgot about his embarrassment and spoke while vigorously gesticulating:
- So I decided, since I have an idea, I need to create it! I’m a programmer, I write software when I have an idea, but in this case I had to use a soldering gun and a screwdriver to make the hardware, that’s the only difference.
- But listen, - I tried to ground him again. - If this reality softener allows one to choose any version of the world around him, then he will change the world all the time, the way he wants it.
- Everyone does this already! I already said this. You understand that the world is a system of the observer and the observable, and the world equally depends on both.
- So in your opinion, before there was an observer, or a human, there was no world altogether?
- There was, but as an empty abstraction. Numbers, for example, are an empty abstraction - one, two, three, four, five… And only we, the observers, make one liter of vodka the liter of vodka, we make something abstract very concrete. We are the mirror, in which the world is reflected and becomes concrete, specific, as a result. It was you who wrote about the bark beetle, and how it lives in the tree, and the holes it makes in the tree represent its world.
- Yeah, something like that, - said Edward, surprised how well this guy studied his work.
- There is no right or wrong. In our understanding the world is the world as we know it, and for the bark beetle it’s something dark, manifold and damp, and everybody is right in their own way.
Edward smiled at how assertive Sergey has become.
- Sure, but nobody can know what the world is for real.
- Sure, we know! The world is a system of the observer and the observable. Really, who cares about the billions of years that have passed before humans appeared? Was there any value in the every split second that formed those billions of years?
- Hmm, - Edward was getting tired. - So what’s with the softener?
However, Sergey couldn’t stop talking about his favorite subject.
- I proclaim that every living creature affects the world around it, just like the world affects the creature. For some reason people don’t use this opportunity. There is no cause and effect here. I’m convinced that our mere life is our impact on this world. But once we appear in the world, we are turned off, mesmerized by its complexity and loose the ability to change it.
- So you are saying that we are an accident? - Edward started to feel sorry for the young man.
- Exactly! Think about the possibility of you appearing in this world. In order for you to be born in this world, and not somebody else, the chromosomes of your parents had to unite in a unique way, on a particular day, particular millisecond, when a single sperm cell out of millions, fertilized the egg. At the same time all your numerous ancestors also had to do it at the right moment, millions of times. Each of them had to leave an offspring that didn’t die until procreation. I don’t even consider the probability of life starting on the planet Earth, since just in our galaxy there are over 100 million planets. Do you believe in God?
- No. However, I’m not an atheist, I’m an agnostic.
- OK, so you will not explain your existence by the God’s will.
- Well, we can use anthropomorphic factor to explain this. By the way, the probability of the event that already happened is always unity.
Anthropomorphic factor is not sufficient, as we are talking about you in particular, and not about humanity as a whole. The fact that the probability of the same event is one proves the universal subjectivity. It turns out that the probability of the same event depends on the reference point in time in any particular case.
- So, what do we have in the end?
- If we soften up the reality just a little bit by making it like a jelly, we can change the world around us with our thoughts as we wish.
- But then every person would change the world around them all the time, every second.
- You are forgetting about the fifth dimension.
- What is this fifth dimension? - Edward felt exhausted.
- Dimension of possibilities. Please understand that we are located at different points of this dimension. I’m transforming the world for myself, and you change it for yourself. Then if you throw out the old paradigm that we have common reality, you can see that every person sees the world individually, as every person exists in his own version of the world. This is why there are no contradictions.
Edward threw away his cigarette. This is absurd, he thought. Give me your device.
Once he got the box in his hands, Edward continued:
- If I understand this correctly, you just make a wish and press the red button?
- No, there is no need to make a wish. Just press the button and it will be easier for you to transform your reality according to your wishes. Believe me, you are already transforming your reality, every person does this intuitively. But the process is very inert, and it happens very slowly in small increments, like in a viscous jelly.
- So we move in the fifth dimension by the power of our thoughts?
- Exactly right. This thing just makes is easier.
Edward pushed the button. The box was empty or filled with some sort of Styrofoam. It was clear that the box misfired.
- Well done, - Edward returned the box and paused smoking nervously. There was nothing to say. It was a good idea, but unfortunately fake. This guy should be in the nuthouse, but Edward didn’t want to be rude.
Then Edward asked:
- Have you tried to press the button?
- Sure I have.
- So how come you are not the most famous and richest guy in the world?
Sergey hesitated slightly.
- Well, it’s hard to explain. Actually, I am rich, famous and very successful. But not in this reality.
- In which one?
- In mine.
- And now you are in whose reality?
- Now we are in your reality.
- What do you mean?!..
- You are looking at me from your reality, and naturally you see your own version. I’m telling you what I would have told you in your reality and I look like I would have looked in your reality, and so on. In my reality I have achieved everything you are talking about.
- Listen, dude, - Edward lost his temper. - You really should be in a nuthouse.
- Excuse me, but I don’t want to continue this conversation in this tone, - Sergey put the box into his backpack. - Shoot me an email if you change your mind, - said Sergey, giving his business card to Edward.
The young guy walked towards the parking lot. Edward looked at the business card, which said: “Sergey Brin. Founder of Google. firstname.lastname@example.org”
“Who is Brin? What is Google? Never heard of it, and probably will never hear again. How come this lunatic managed to waste so much of my time?!..” Edward tore the business card into pieces, threw them on the clean sidewalk, and went in the opposite direction.
About the Author
Ilya Os (Ilya Osipov, born January 6, 1975) is a Russian IT businessman, media manager, blogger.
Ilya Osipov won Russian renown as the founder and owner of one of the largest Russian Web sites, NN.RU, which he sold 14 years later to Hearst Shkulev Media/InterMediaGroup. In 2006–2008, he was the director of the Moskva.com portal, and in 2009–2011, the owner and general director of the Birzha Plus Publishing House.
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