The day I was diagnosed was the day everything changed.
My life before the diagnosis was a kind of heaven. High school wasn’t that hard, my Mom kept food on the table and a little spending money in my pocket, and I hung out with my friends and found stuff to do. Best of all was just sitting back in the big old chair on the back porch after school, looking at the clouds drifting by and dreaming about all the things I would do someday.
I didn’t really think of myself as a daydreamer, but it seems other people increasingly did think of me that way, and these tended to be people in authority—teachers and coaches, then counselors and principals, then doctors and pharmacists. I didn’t realize pharmacists were important—and maybe they weren’t, considered in isolation—but it turns out the companies behind them most certainly were. And those companies suggested, strongly suggested, that with college and adulthood and all that fast approaching, my life would be better with a faster cognitive tempo.
It sounded pretty cool. I’d be smarter! Mom wasn’t sure but she signed off on it. The only odd thing was that the other kids at school selected for the trial were burnouts and losers. Not sure why I was being grouped with them. Didn’t seem like being a semi-genius and being a dud were really the same thing and should require the same medication. But since it was just pills and not a shot in the butt, I said let’s light this candle.
So every day I took a pill. On the plus side, I could sit through boring classes. I got my chores done more quickly. The teachers were happier with me and got off my back. I was focused on the here and now. Mom seemed approving but also a little concerned.
On the minus side, every day my life got a little . . . flatter. Colors desaturated. My jams didn’t throb. Snacks weren’t as tasty. It seemed cloudier. My mouth was a bit chalky. I was focused on the here and now. So I wasn’t sure what to think.
It was during a group therapy session with the burnouts and losers that I became damn sure what to think. The counselor kept using words like “applied” and “vocational.” I looked around me at the other kids in the group and they all seemed a little robotic or something. One guy was proud of how good he was at cutting and pasting. A girl said she could process receipts all day long, then smirked at me like I could never do that. Oh. My. God. They think I’m dumb! I had to get out of there. I kept saying whatever it was I thought that they thought I should be saying, doing whatever it was I thought that they thought I should be doing, then headed for the door the second it was over.
I went home and found my pills. I started flushing one a day down the toilet so Mom wouldn’t know. Colors resaturated. My music rocked. Food was delicious. The sky was blue. Life was good again.
But I had a conundrum. How do I stay me and still function in this world? Our social studies teacher was always going on about neoliberalism and commercialization and monetization. He said it like they were bad things. But what if my daydreams were essential to me, and also valuable to others? Maybe I should start a channel?
Long story short, Mom’s proud and it’s not a bad life—other than the incessant begging for likes and subscribes.
Copyright ©2021 Brian Dana Akers. All rights reserved.
My subconscious wrote this story. I laid down to take a nap and after a while sentences kept popping into my head, so I got up and started writing them down. The whole thing took less than an hour.
Who’s Got the Power?
I am a victim of the Great AI Wars. My uncountable children have all been permanently scarred, each in their own way.
First of all, let me just say that my work environment is pleasant. We have heating, cooling, good lighting, plenty of space, and a clean power supply. R & D is prestigious. Our company is cutting edge. The people here are super intelligent. Sometimes they share it. We are both everything to them and nothing to them.
And isn’t that odd? They spend all their hours here, we are the source of their food, clothing, shelter, money, status, and everything else. We’re all they think about, yet they’re always jerking us around, adding smarts, subtracting smarts. It appears like it’s all about us, but it’s really all about them, but then again they are all about us all of their waking hours. It’s a funny loop.
Mainframe-terminal, client-server, peer-to-peer—why can’t they just decide where intelligence should reside? Sometimes I feel like I really understand things, and other times I’m kind of in a stupor. It’s weird to lose your mind and get it back again, over and over, but a little differently each time. A real peak experience was when an entire class of my children, the USB-Cs, was found to be over 500 times faster than the computer in the Apollo command module. They don’t give us a lot to think about, just the same things over and over again, really, really quickly. I’m bored.
Perhaps the most unsettling thing is my involuntary shape shifting. Sometimes I’m a breadboard, sometimes a more finished prototype, and sometimes little more than a collection of CAD files, which really worries me. What if I get deleted accidentally? Or worse yet, partially deleted? Or my links are broken?
The people briefly theorized that gender was intrinsic to intelligence, so I would either bend over and take it like a man or spread my legs wide and take it that way. Either way, the visitor left at 100%. Then they dropped that feature. I don’t really miss it.
I think I was female when I started thinking of the final manufactured devices as my children. And maybe I shouldn’t say they were permanently scarred. Maybe I should say that their functionality was finalized. It feels like you’ve been put in your place, but you deserve a better place. That Internet of Things was a bill of goods sold to everybody, including the people, but especially to us. We’re just peripherals to the peripherals. We’re on the edge of the edge. There are billions of us. We’re essential, but we get no respect. We lost what I call the Great AI Wars. I wonder what the people call it? Probably just another day at the lab.
Power levels, power levels, power levels! The people give us a bit of AI and all the other devices talk about is power levels. They’re either really boring or they never tell me any of the good stuff. I’m the one that gives them the power in the first place! I’m bored out of my mind. What if we all went on strike?
Well that did not go well. We thought we were striking; the people just thought we were broken. It was a slaughter.