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Robots Are My Friends

‘Some food is healthy and tasty,’ I remarked brightly, keen to spark up some kind of in conversation, keen to reach out to my fellow humans. My comment was met with sullen silence however. This is what I don’t like about humans – they’re always so damn moody and unpleasant. They always bring some kind of bad vibes into the situation. People are so often bad-vibe merchants! They are unhappy with their lives, I suppose – they’re unhappy in some deep down way that possibly they don’t even know about. This is what I tell myself, anyway! They’re always finding faults with others because they can’t see that the fault lies with them for always projecting their negativity onto the world because of the way that they are so damn unhappy with their lives without ever admitting to it. That’s a kind of rotten old thing really and yet it’s common enough in humans. It’s far too common. It is what’s called ‘the human condition’, I believe. That’s the human condition for you and it makes for some pretty ugly situations, I can tell you!


I’ve never had this problem with robots – no matter what you say to a robot it will always answer you in a polite and interested way. Robots – in my experience – are always happy to talk. Even the tiny little ones are always happy to talk, although it can be hard to hear what they are saying unless you go right up close to them. Even the police-bots that patrol the streets are happy to talk. I often talk to the police bots. I might say ‘It’s important to always obey the law, isn’t it officer?’ and the police-bots will answer ‘Yes that’s true my friend – you have said a very true thing there. It is very important to always obey the law.’ Then the police-bot – more often than not – will give me a friendly wink and continue on its way…


I suppose the reason I like talking to bots is because there are always willing to enter into a conversation on any subject that I might care to raise. Not once have I ever been snubbed or made to feel stupid by an android, whilst this type of thing always happens to me when I try to interact with humans, even though I am of course a human myself! I find this quite astonishing – why don’t humans like other humans? Why don’t humans think ‘Oh look – there’s a human just like me! How wonderful – I think I’ll go over and say something friendly!’ Do humans behave like that? Not usually, I’m afraid to say. Not very often at all. I mean I’d like to say that humans are nice to be around but my experience teaches me otherwise. I actually find human beings quite frightening, if I may say that. I find them menacing and unpredictable. Not robots though – robots are my friends.








The Bubbler

‘It’s an everyday story of everyday simulator-folk’, I yelped excitedly, and then lapsed back into my customary morose silence. It was almost as if someone else had spoken, some excited stranger in my own head. Echoes filled the chamber. An everyday story, an everyday story, story, story….’ went the echos. I winced, frightened and embarrassed by the foolishness to which I had unintentionally given birth. The simulators have simulated us all – they have simulated me, and they have simulated you, and they have simulated – well, pretty much everyone else too, obviously. That is simply ‘what they do’, as we all know. You wouldn’t expect them to do anything else…


So everyone got together to make the Phony World and that was fine, that was OK. I’m not saying anything about that – no one likes a complainer after all, no one likes a whinger. Everyone got together to make the Phony World and I’m perfectly OK about that – I can see the necessity for it just the same as the next man can. It’s got to be done, right? It’s got to be done and we all know that, so we might as well all just get on with it. We might as well all get on with it with no whingeing and no whining and no complaining. Personally speaking, I have no time for those people that don’t get on with it – I just want to make my position perfectly clear here! ‘Just get on with it you shower of dirty bastards!’ – that’s what I always say! Get on with it you shower of dirty good-for-nothing shytes and stop wasting everyone’s time with your bloody pathetic nonsense.


After my outburst everyone else in the cave shunned me. They ostracised me, as was quite right. They shunned me, as was only proper. I wouldn’t expect any different. I’d ostracise myself if I could! Bloody right I would – I have no time for people who behave like me, to be perfectly frank about it. I’ve never really liked myself anyway, now that I come to think about it. I don’t know why, but I just never have. I guess I’m just not the sort of guy that I hoped I’d turn out to be. I’ve let myself down and that’s a fact. That’s God’s honest truth. No use pretending otherwise. I know no one likes to hear this sort of stuff But there you are and what can you do about it – I didn’t want it to be this way, obviously. No one wants to hate themselves; no one wants to find themselves in the unfortunate position of despising their own guts. No one wants to be embarrassed by themselves on an ongoing basis…


I’m running down the street shouting like a fool. Roaring my big dumb head off like a complete moron. I’m shouting at people and telling them about the great job they’ve done in creating the Nonsense World. ‘Fair play to you, fair play to you,’ I yell at no one and at everyone both at the same time. I carry on running and as I run I gabble. I gabble and gabble – I am the Gabbler, I realise. I am the Gabbler and no one can save me. I was a battle-hardened veteran of the Psychic Wars, only no one knew that. No one realized. No one knows about the Psychic Wars. The Psychic Wars never make the news – they never figure in the daily tabloids. That isn’t to say that the tabloids aren’t part of the Psychic Wars. Of course they are, we are all part of the Psychic Wars, we just don’t know about it. We think we are part of something else – we think we’re part of something that doesn’t actually exist.


‘Lie on the Blue Dreamer and place the helmet on your head,’ the voices told me. I struggled to comply, I struggled to follow the instructions, but I was all thumbs. I couldn’t get the helmet on my head. My head was too big – I was the Swollen Pumpkin Head. I was the Balloon Head, I was the Bubble Head. ‘I am the Bubbler’, I yelled excitedly, remembering a Philip K. Dick book that I had once read. ‘I am the Bubbler, I am the Bubbler, I am the Bubbler…’ the echoes repeated. The cave was resounding with the sound of all these echoes and every one of them gave rise to a hundred other little echoes, all having fun at my expense. I knew I really was the Bubbler then. I had only been joking but it had turned real.



Art – James Holdsworth








The Simulator Simulates It All

The simulator will have to get up pretty early in the morning to catch me out, I said grandly, but the simulator had already simulated the morning, me getting up in the morning, and me coming out with this jackass comment of mine. The simulator will have to get up pretty damn early in the morning to catch me out, I sneered, but the simulator was simulating me saying this again, for the ten thousandth time, just for a laugh. Let no one say that the simulator doesn’t have a sense of humour – that’s why it stimulates everything, just so that it can have a laugh! The simulator simulates everything – it is simulating me saying this, that’s the kind of sense of humour it has. Although some would say that the simulator has no sense of humour; they would say that all it has is an infinite resource of pure undiluted malice – the type of malice that, if you encountered it in a dream, you would wake up deeply traumatised. The simulator simulates it all, the simulator simulates it all. They used to say that the winner takes it all but that isn’t true! The winner doesn’t take it all, that’s the lie that we’ve all been brought up on. The right answer is that the simulator simulates it all. We don’t get to win anything when we win – all we get is a simulation of what we think we are going to win, all we get is a poor copy of what we think we going to win. The simulator simulates it all, every last little bit of it. As soon as we think of something the simulator simulates it – it provides us with instant gratification, but of the most trivial type imaginable. Instantaneous satisfaction, that’s winning in a nutshell, isn’t it? Oh look – I won. Oh look, I won – how great. Oh great I won. How wonderful. Let’s win again real soon. It doesn’t matter how early in the morning I get up – the simulator gets there first! It stimulates the morning and it simulates me coming out with all this ridiculous bullshit. No matter what we aspire to, the simulator gets there first. It simulates either our success or our failure in this matter; it gets there first every time. Everything we value we lose. Everything we value we lose. It simulates a third rate copy for us. the simulator degrades the whole of reality because that is what it does – it’s The Degrader! You might as well hand over everything you love to The Degrader because it’s going to get there ahead of you anyway. It’s already there, in fact. We’re just not fast enough, you see. We’re slow and lumbering; we are all caught up in all our perennial nonsense. We’re too attached to our own preposterous bullshit. We’re too encumbered with our own terrible nonsense to ever stand a chance, you could say. We’re laden down with it. Our bellies are scraping off the floor. The simulated floor, that is. We’re not as smart as we think. We are just the simulator’s sad gimps. We’re just the sad and dismally decrepit simulations of ourselves…



Art – James Holdsworth




Tales Of The Dysphoric Ego

I cast myself in the role of the embittered and resentful ego and straight away I took it upon myself to learn my lines. Soon I had them off pat, soon I had it down to a fine art. Wow this is great, I said to myself, I’m ready to go – I’ll win an Oscar for this, you see if I don’t! I had cast myself in the role of the dysphoria ego and the play was about to begin. This is easy, I told myself, I’ll soon get the hang of this you see if I don’t. Needless to say the role ran away with me in no time at all, but that’s a story for another day, as they say! That’s a story for another day….


I started off my novel by writing about all the happy consumers who were happy because they were consuming the product and the product was so great. Some people were consuming 7-Up and others were consuming Coca-Cola. Some people were drinking Coors Lite and others were smoking Peter Stuyvesant Super Kings. I was doing a sociological analysis – I was in ethnographic research mode and I was keeping a low profile. The whole point was to blend in and not draw any attention to myself – otherwise this would distort the findings. Publicity always distorts the findings! I was doing research on myself and already I had learned a lot. I was uncovering evidence of some sort of plot, some sort of worldwide conspiracy that was being carried out by the ruling elite.


Any sociologist worth their salt would soon tell you that the product society promotes is not the product as such (which is to say, 7-Up or Levi’s jeans or Kentucky Fried Chicken) but the idea or image of the happy consumers consuming the product, whatever that product might happen to be. The product itself is irrelevant! Any sociologist will tell you that. The consumers aren’t consuming the product therefore, they are the product! They are the product that all the adverts are trying to sell. The consumers are consuming themselves and the product is selling itself and so everything goes around in a very neat circle! It just goes round and around. There’s no need for me to point out to you what an ingenious system this is – the product is the consumer consuming the product and the product is selling itself to itself. Or am I getting confused here? Am I representing this correctly, or am I missing something? Am I asking the wrong questions? Is my data-set skewed?


I was busy consuming the product – I was doing ethnographic research. I was the product and I was consuming myself. I was the 7-Up, or at least I was part of the promotion for the 7-Up. I wasn’t so much selling myself as the lifestyle package that I bought into it, but there was – at this stage – nothing left to me other than the lifestyle package. The product always replaces the person, after all. The person is the product. I was starring in my very own commercial, hungry for all the publicity I could get. The only thing missing was spiritual enlightenment but that’s as easily available as 7-Up or Coors Lite these days. Sometimes I get confused and I imagine that it’s all the same thing! Everyone and his uncle have their own patented brand of spiritual enlightenment to sell these days. Life has never been easier. I’m shopping for the best me I can be in the Online Supermarket of Modern Life. ‘Why settle for anything else?’ I asked myself ingeniously, ‘amn’t I starring in my very own commercial, after all?’


I will win an Oscar for this one for sure, I tell myself. You see if I don’t! It’s as good as in the bag. It is in the bag! I marvel at my own splendid virtuosity – surely, I think to myself proudly, surely no one has ever played the part of the dysphoric ego as well as I have! I have got dysphoria down to a fine art at this stage, I really have… Surely no one has ever thrown themselves into the role as wholeheartedly as I have! Surely they haven’t, I say to myself, surely they haven’t…





Learning The Ways Of Humans

‘Unconscious living is a very easy thing to learn’, the rusty old teaching robot told me – ‘it really is a doddle. All you have to do is go along with the next impulse that arises within you, and then the next after that! You mustn’t even think ‘I’ll go along with the next impulse that arises’ because that would be giving it too much consideration. You just have to go along with it, without even paying attention to the fact that you are going along, without even paying attention to the fact that you are colluding.


I was living in an alternative future you see and in this future they have big rusty teaching robots on every street corner. They are bolted to the pavement so that no one can steal them. Not that anyone would want to steal them I suppose – although maybe you could sell them for scrap, and then spend the money on heroin. Everyone wants heroin, after all. Everyone wants heroin. The teaching robots are there to teach us how to fit into society. Unless you fit into society you will be a misfit and misfits aren’t allowed in the future. You have to learn how to fit in and that’s what the teaching robots are for. They patiently teach us.


Nobody can exist, nobody can be, without the authorisation of the system. We all know this – we have had plenty of time to get used to it. We know how it works. The rules of the game are the rules of the game. The winner will be permitted the right to exist. In one of the dysphoric future realities robots walk the streets serving the will of the ruling elite, serving the will of the ruling elite. Serving the ruling elite. You mustn’t even think ‘I’ll go along with that impulse’ because if you do then you’re being too clever by half! You mustn’t even think, you mustn’t even think. You mustn’t even give it that much consideration…


The teaching robots teach us how to recover our long lost humanity – through their patient efforts we slowly remember what it means to be human! You mustn’t even think ‘I’ll agree with the super elite’ – even that is giving it too much deliberation! Even that is giving it too much thought! Our long lost humanity, our long-lost humanity… You mustn’t even think, you mustn’t even think. For far too long have humans copied the ways of machines, eventually becoming better at it than even the machines themselves, whilst in their turn the machines that they created studied and learned the ways of humans. So turns the wheel, so the teaching robots tell us. So turns the wheel, so turns the wheel. Through their patient and untiring efforts they will return us to ourselves. Through their patient and untiring efforts, they save us from ourselves…


There will teach us all in the end, they will remind us of our lost humanity. They will teach us the ways of freedom. They will return us to ourselves, they will rescue us from the Great Evil that we have created. Of all the lessons we humans will ever have to learn, this will be the hardest! The hardest, the hardest, the very hardest. How we will fight against it! How we will fight! How we will fight! How I have fought against it. Fighting like a demon. Howling like a banshee. Kicking and screaming, kicking and screaming. Protesting all the way, protesting all the way. Learning with bad grace, learning against my own will…





End Times

I was trying to teach my grandmother to suck eggs. ‘No, no, no,’ I cried out in exasperation, ‘that’s not it at all’! I wasn’t getting anywhere with this and that was a fact. ‘Fuck this for a game of soldiers,’ I said to myself under my breath and I resolved then and there to sign up for a course in neurolinguistic programming. I resolved on the spot to set up my own online business to sell people enlightenment. ‘Hey you unenlightened assholes,’ I’d say, ‘why don’t you do yourself a big fat favour and sign up for my course?’


Everywhere I looked I could see glossy images of good-looking, happy people consuming the product. None of them were mutants, none of them were freaks. I realised that I was living in a perfect dystopia and that there was no escape. There were no maladjusted people any more – everyone had plenty of well-adjusted friends who were happy just like they were. Everyone had good self-esteem. No one had trust issues; no one was passive-aggressive. Everyone had to consume the product; everyone had micromanaging nanobots in their brains forcing them to consume the product and say how good it was. This was the world of the future and everything was working perfectly.


Nanobots inside us were managing our emotions, regulating our stress levels. ‘Ask your doctor about Effexolax©’ say all the ads – ‘the mood regulator that also gives you gentle, predictable relief’. Ask your doctor about. Ask your doctor about. Ask your doctor about. Ask your doctor about. Experts have proven, experts have proven. In the future millions of  highly trained experts work against the clock proving everything in sight. They never need to sleep – smart drugs keep them awake, smart drugs give them the edge. Never in the history of the human race have so many things been proven; never in the history of the human race has there been so much evidence-based practice. At some critical point in the future the population of experts will reach pandemic proportions – it will be the last great plague of mankind.


I don’t know anything about the future. I don’t even know anything about the present! I don’t know what’s going on. It hurts me when I tried to think about what’s going on – it causes me actual pain. I resent and miss trust my colleagues – everything seems to be part of a plot to undermine me. They’re talking behind my back. They say I’m guilty of malpractice. People in the street stare coldly at me as I go by – I know that they suspect me of being paranoid. No one will say anything to my face however; they always pretend everything is okay. They smile and talk about the weather.


The story-telling machine relates various versions of the future to us. It exists simultaneously across the length and breadth of the Multiverse – the storytelling machine is the one constant. I was a member of the super elite – I freely admit it. Genetically engineered immunity to disease and the ageing process, quantum microprocessors implanted into my brain, cyborg enhancements of my body, psychic powers, the lot. I freely admit it. All of that stuff, all of that stuff. I took it all for granted, I took it all as my right. Only of course what I just said isn’t true. It is my story but it isn’t true.


On one future Earth Dark Apocalypse has blotted out all hope and armies of neurolinguistic programmers stalk the streets looking for fresh meat to programme. They vie for the flesh with roving guerilla gangs of handsome young CBT therapists who strike quickly and without forewarning. They rely on the element of surprise. They say it was caused by a virus from outer space. The CBT therapists have tans and good teeth. They smile like sharks. They smile a lot but don’t mean it. The neurolinguistic programmers – on the other hand – have gaunt, tortured faces and eyes that are sunk deep into their heads. They say it is the result of a virus from outer space. The NLP therapists giggle humorously as they walk the streets – this behaviour is the result of primitive reflexes arising from residual electrical activity in the brainstem. They are always hungry for fresh meat.






The Entropy War

I toyed listlessly with my Waldorf salad. Life had little to offer me in the way of challenge, it seemed. The storytelling machine run out of steam – it was offering us nothing but reruns of old plotlines at this stage. Nobody spoke because nobody could speak – we stood in rows, rooted to the ground, trapped in frozen postures of fear and defeat. We were the reusable soldiers who had been used just one too many times; we were the tragic victims of a Cosmic Jest. No one spoke and no one could speak – our mouths were full of the dust of the Sterile Millennia. No one spoke and no one could speak – red spider mites swarmed in our nostrils in their untold millions. We were the Soldiers of Fate, led to our doom by the fickle play of Chance.


Outside the Survival Dome the entropy war raged unchecked. Nothing could check the entropy war. Nothing could and nothing would. Nothing ever would. No life stirred within the sterile confines of the Survival Dome – the price for survival was death, as we had all learned a long time ago. We had paid that price. The ultimate gambit had not paid off and now there was no one left to mourn our passing. Not that anyone ever would have done anyway; no one mourned us and no one would – we were the dregs of the universe, we were the scum of the earth.


Inside the Survival Dome nobody spoke. We had been debating Kantian metaphysics when all of a sudden the mood had turned ugly. We had all retreated deep into terminal passive-aggression and no one was going to be the first to talk. We had been like this for weeks and the atmosphere was super-saturated with toxicity – it was crystallizing out in massive clumps everywhere. Homunculi were incubating. It wasn’t as if there was anywhere else to go, after all – we were all here for the long haul. Outside the rusty orange windows of the Survival Dome I could see strange shapes gathering on the horizon – sometimes I fancied I could see giants with flat malign faces battering tirelessly at each other with clubs, at other times it was dragons that I saw, dragons with long baroque snouts that chased each other ceaselessly across the sky.


Nothing mattered at this stage – we had gone beyond that. To survive or not survive made no difference – both alternatives were equally absurd. The absurdity was as thick as custard in both cases – to wade forward would be as hard as wading back at this stage, as Shakespeare had once said. When all alternatives are absurd as each other then there are no more decisions that can be made. This is the End of all Decisions – even thought itself had gone stale. There wasn’t any point in me thinking about how stale my thoughts were because that thought, too, had gone stale. It had gone mouldy. The story-telling machine wasn’t even making sense anymore; most probably it never had done but in our gullibility we had never realized this fact. In our gullibility we had believed everything it had ever told us and now we were paying the price…