Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Twitter, Tralfamadoria and The Church 2060

I’m sure that Headless Unicorn Guy could tell this story much better than me. But, try to follow me and let’s see where this goes.

Valencia awakens by the soft hum of her SF (slica friend) by the side of her bed. The SF is a state of the art all purpose electronic device. Besides having 5 terabyte virtual hard-drive and a blazing, 40 GHz CPU, it has a perpetual Internet connection adding a practical resource of all human knowledge, every bit of software that has ever been produced and almost limitless storage capacity. The Internet connection has a top speed of 5Tbps via a 3-d integrated wireless network. The device itself is about the size of a pack of gum with a sleek outer look fashioned out of a virtually indestructible titanium shell. It has an energy supply made up of a mere fifty plutonium atoms that will power it for at least 300 years.

After stretching a bit, she reaches over picks up a basket ball sized black object and slips it over her head covering everything except for the tip of her chin. Across the forehead of the ball is the logo, “Headwomb.”

The headwomb is a portable virtual reality device. It has a high definition, stereo sound system that cradles each ear with a soft, silicone cup. In front of each eye are stereo EHD (extremely high definition) screens. Even her nose and mouth are contained in a soft recess that can recreate not only a particular oxygen flow rate but also a wide palate of scents.

Within the front of the snug-fitting device (each one is tailor made for the owner) are micro-sensors that can detect her voice, facial expressions, eye movements and tears. In the scalp area are EEG (electroencephalographic) receiving electrodes. These EEG leads, and program within the SF, can not read brain thoughts (yet) but can read emotions and different stages of alertness. The inward “skin” of the headwomb also has micro-stimulators that can reproduce the sensations of cold, heat, sharp pain, dull pain and burning on one pixel or the entire surface of her head.

Valencia has programmed her SF to speak to her with the voice of her grandfather (for whom she has wonderful memories from childhood). She even calls her SF “Pa,” a loving name that she used for her grandfather until his passing when she was only ten. The SF comes on automatically when she puts on the head gear.

SF: “Good morning Valencia. It’s so good to be with you today. I hope you are feeling well.”

Valencia: “I am thank you.”

SF: “It’s Sunday morning . . . are you going to church today?”

Valencia: “Yes . . . I believe I will.”

She has the option of using voice controls or using her eyes as a mouse. By looking at menu buttons she finds the “church” menu. The EEG reads her intent to “click” and the church menu opens. At the top the words, “Bryce F” highlighted. This stands for the “Bryce Franchise,” which is her “home” (as in web home) church. It was named after a Pastor Bryce who started a huge church northeast of LA way back in the 2030s.

Concepts of church affiliations of course started even before the death of the Apostle Paul. Christians started to be identified with certain leaders . . . until Paul rebuked them. But later, the name of leaders materialized as handles before the church settled on the capitals of empires, Rome or Constantinople. Then it became men again, Luther, Calvin Wesley. Next came the era of being named according to styles, Presbyterian, Methodist or Baptist. By 2015, another era of names was ushered in, following the names of great pastors (Joel Osteen . . . jr) or churches (Saddleback-New York branch).

A book written by one of these great pastors in 2020, The Value of Life, finally broke down, what the author called the artificial walls of demarcation, between the commercial and spiritual interests of people. After all, he reasoned, if money = time and time is the building blocks of life, then money = life and life = money. He said, it is now the “business” of the church to shape the way in which our lives are “spent.”

Soon after this, the church affiliations became known as “Franchises.” Congregations, both those who were part of the church and those potential members (even the non Christians) were to be known as “Markets.” By 2060 everyone was comfortable with these terms.

The next major philosophical development came in 2035. A book, Finding God in the Spirit (which was soon declared by Time Magazine as the “Book of the Century”) was written by a popular Pastor from Chicago. In it, he argued that since God is only concerned about our spiritual state, therefore the material world is . . . well immaterial. Reasoning from that point, he went on to say that virtual reality was not only a reasonable alternative to reality but could be, in some ways, superior. A Christian could live more spared from the ills of this world if they spent more of their in a virtual world, which had been “created” closer to the ideal that God intended.

Once Valencia was at the top of the Bryce F menu, she had several options. With just a look of her eyes and a mental “click” she could choose between among a variety of church experiences. Her default church was based on an early childhood experience in a contemporary community church back in 2020.

With her next mental click, instantaneously she was transported to a very real church setting. It was filled with people, many who looked familiar to her. She was playing the role of an adult, but her Grand pa (computer created) waved at her from across the sanctuary. Next to her sat her mother and her, now deceased, father.

The tall, handsome pastor looked across the crowd of four hundred and then directly at her.

Pastor: “Good morning Valencia. I’m so glad you are here.”

The service continues with professional quality singing by a virtual choir. The words of the songs began to take on life. Valencia felt herself flying up from her padded folding chair, up fifty feet, towards the tongue and grove pine ceiling. She floats right through the wood, the insulation, shingles and out to a brilliantly blue sky.

The choir and orchestra continues performing ( a song she had never heard before ) “Fly Valencia fly . . . up into the arms of Jesus . . . feel His love pouring over you . . . “ at those words she could see a very real image of Jesus coming down to her and embracing her. A cool wind blew across her scalp and her hair whipped across her face. Jesus held her tightly and they sailed upward through the clouds. She felt the moisture on her cheeks as real as any mist she has ever felt before. But soon the clouds were below her as she and Jesus raced toward the stars engulfed in flames.

Valencia had never had such a spiritual experience and tears, real tears were pouring down her face and dripping from beneath her vinyl helmet.

Soon, the pastor took the podium and looked directly at her. He read from John chapter ten,

1"I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Even before the words were done being spoken, Valencia is transported to the Galilean hills circa 30 AD. She could hear the bleeping of sheep, smell that strange sheep smell that she remembers from Pa’s farm. Then, she looks down and sees her own wool. She is a lamb. There is Jesus walking on the hill, behind him the sun setting on the grasslands below. “Valencia! Valencia!” She hears Him calling in a deep, safe voice.

I will continue this story in the next post but for now, it’s getting long.


pennyyak said...

It is unfortunate that I can imagine that this would be a satisfying "church" experience for many people. As for twittering during church services, I find that most bizarre.

I do wonder if personal technology will force another "separatist" movement (Amish, Mennonite), where adherent's lives will be devoid of tv, internet, and other electronic devices. Not such a strange stance right now, but in the future it might look very primitive.

Where is headless, anyway? Haven't seen him post anywhere lately, but I've been busy doing other things.

MJ said...

headless is around, but must be busy. Yeah, as a ScFi guy I thought he would have a better take on this.

Brian said...

Interesting... I look forward to the next installment.

You might find this an interesting read(like you have time, right?) :


or the more traditional :


It's a fictional look into the "utopian" future where neural implants provide constant net access, you can back yourself up, and then get downloaded into a clone if you die accidentally.

Anonymous said...

I’m sure that Headless Unicorn Guy could tell this story much better than me. -- MJ

Actually, no. I'm a Golden Age Space Opera guy. I've never been that much into Cyberpunk. For that, you have to look up Frank Creed, founder of the Lost Genre Guild, who started the subgenre of Christian Cyberpunk.

So far, it looks like it has potential. Just as Gnostic Pneumatics were able to detach completely from the evil physical cosmos into Pure Spirituality, so Valencia detaches into Virtual Spirituality.

There is a common motif in a lot of Cyberpunk of VR being used as Bread and Circuses. And one of "cyberpsychosis", where only the Virtual -- in Valencia's case, Virtual JESUS -- becomes real, to the point of total detachment from physical reality. And its accompanying reality checks.

We see a limited form of cyberpsychosis today in "Internet Addiction" or "Compulsive Texting" or "Compulsive Twittering".

What we see in this flashfic is "Just like Cyberpsychosis, Except CHRISTIAN (TM)!"