2091 -- by Steven P. Warr 23 January 2091, 11:25:54.58 PM ********* The bomb! *********** The concussion was extravagant! No other word for it! When his senses returned gradually, in minuscule increments, he slowly understood the overriding sensation of pain. Like burning in a cauldron of melted steel in the center of a thousand mile per hour avalanche that not only tore him apart at the cellular level, but also froze the cells simultaneous to the burning! It was the most extreme pain ever felt by him and, he was certain, by anyone able to feel it. Every part of his body was steeped in pain! Imagine a live lobster in a boiling pan, but more. The pain was not solely on the surface but deep within every organ and bone. He was unable to use his intellect for anything except determining a method to escape the pain. It didn't exist! As it diminished slightly -- no that wasn't true, if anything, it was getting worse, he realized he was simply becoming acclimatized to it. Epiphony flooded him that the only sensations he had ever felt were irrevocably ended forever. Sight disappeared in a flash. There was the recollection of the exceedingly overwhelming, bright flash not simply perceived by the eyes, but directly to the brain, that signaled its demise. The ghost image was still there, but receding. Hearing was gone in a storm. The loudest noise ever heard was snuffed out in an instant, extinguishing even the constant ringing that had been comfortably with him for the past sixty years. There was no indication of the loss of smell and taste; they were just gone, and like the loss of sound, he was already lamenting the sudden nothingness from the absence of these lifelong companions cxthe absence of these lifelong companions.
It is my hundred-fiftieth birthday. It is also my death day! Somewhere, somehow deep inside I know it. That ghostly feeling is creeping ever closer to certainty. Life under the mountain life seems superficially normal. The 100 people in the inner circle gather in the large comfortable conference room chatting amiably. No one seems to be in an especial hurry to find a seat. They really do not need to find seats at all, because there is actually no cohesive organization to the room. It just appears to be a huge lounge in which each person had arranged his or her space to personal preference and consequently seems to be a jumbled mess. It is a comfortable setting, in which moving around is easy and enjoyable. The preliminaries are just as important as the discussion will be. There was not even a reason that they needed to gather in one place, because the technology each carries (an electronic box no bigger than a ring or watch - indeed some were housed in rings or watches - to display a simulation of this room at any location where each one happened to be. In fact the simulated venue could be varied according to the varied taste of each person and still allow for interpersonal discussion with the impression that everyone was in the same room. I prefer to be here personally, probably a throwback to the days when such technological assists did not exist. My psyche is still firmly tethered to the old saw, "If it was good enough for Grandpa, it's good enough for me." This group composed of 47 men and 53 women all age 130 or more, is the guiding force of the Grays. There is an additional group of 573 who also are housed under the mountain performing varying functions, mostly involving going outside from time to time. On a whim, I willed the display off and discovered that most of the others were physically in the room as well. I left it off, despite the risk that I might miss something unexpected outside or even someone not physically present needed my attention. From behind me, a familiar voice said jovially, "Happy birthday, Jordan!" I had been greeted in a similar fashion by most of those I met, but this was someone special -- Amey Johns. Amey is 149, but appears to be a hundred years younger. And she is special to me. We were married in 1968 and are still, although we had gone on different vectors for more than fifty years before being reunited only a little before the mountain was closed. Amey has a way of making everybody she meets believe that they are the most special person she has ever met. Brunette (I think it was actual now, though gray masked by coloring back then) with glimmering blue eyes and an omnipresent smile framed by pixie lips that turn down on her left and slightly upward on the right, she was always friendly and intense simultaneously. I gave her a warm hug and that so familiar little kiss (the best part of being there in person.) Although the technology provides tactile sensation, warmth and force feedback, to me it was still not the same as the real thing. All the Grays had religiously attended these weekly discussions for the ten years the mountain has been sealed, but this one was especially important. Amey Johns (as the senior director of space flight and emigration) stood, obviously anxious to give her report. I felt her attitude accelerating as I patiently watched the others settling into their seats. Finally I sensed I could wait no longer and announced even before all were ready, "You seem excited Amey, so go ahead." "The light ship construction project is escalating." She began intently. Although not the topic that garnered the most interest, the majority of those attending believe this to be the most important venture to all of us here and the vast remainder of humanity. Huge ships with ten kilometer square light sails had been developed and constructed in orbit and were leaving at an ever increasing rate. In much the same way the sailing ships of old used the wind to cross oceans, these new interstellar ships collected the light-speed power of the stream of particles ejected by the sun, displayed so graphically by comet's tails, to propel them at high speed to colonize habitable worlds in nearby star systems. So far two such worlds had been discovered within fifteen or so light years from Earth (a fifty year plus trip with current technology.) The problem, however, was utter lack of any possibility that even an increase of more than hundred times their current capacity could keep pace with the birth rate. The recent completion of the first space elevator which traveled on a carbon nanotube cable from a point near the equator to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit had stepped up ship construction. She continued eagerly. "Fortunately the recent spate of sabotage attempts at Canaveral have done little to curtail construction. The completion of the Quito elevator has enabled us to transport building materials more than twenty times faster and cheaper. What a difference! The toughest and most costly part of this -- breaking free of Earth's gravity -- is an absolute wonder! Except for initial acceleration to escape orbit after ships are assembled and steering at the arrival point, nothing now needs to be propelled by rockets of any kind. The elevator is fantastic! We are already up to more than twenty carloads of components a day and some say that should double or triple as the bugs are worked out. Probably more important, the increase of jobs supporting the lift to orbit and the accelerated construction have outsider's morale soaring, not to mention the happy prospect of the increasing rate of emigration it supports. We now have five ships in varying phases of construction. All should be completed within six weeks, with fifteen more in planning stages." "How many colonists can now be transported in each ship?" I put in? "These five have a capacity of right at fourteen hundred. But the new ones are being expanded to more than five thousand each." "They were more than attempts, they were successes!" Robert Minton was the head of security at Cape Canaveral and everyone knew he was on the sabotage attempts. "Where the outsiders got those missiles is a mystery. They have probably got many more aimed right now at Quito." Johns ignored him and pressed on. "The workers are professional and getting more efficient all the time. If only we weren't so hampered by the increasing destruction by the outsiders, the work would probably progress at twice the pace. The outsiders should know we are doing all of this for them." "Remember, there are eighteen billion of them, most of whom don't know where their next meal will come from," I reminded her placidly. World population had ballooned. It was the worst disaster ever: In 2014 it was reported that almost all growth would take place in the less developed regions, where the five billion plus population of underdeveloped countries was expected to increase to eight billion by 2050. By contrast, the population of the more developed regions would remain mostly unchanged, at 1.2 billion. An exception was the United States population, which was expected to increase 31% from 305 million in 2008 to 400 million in 2050 due to projected net international migration. Now, with age mortality defeated, those predictions would be overturned. Because the one hundred thirty million or so persons in those same developed regions age eighty and higher would not die, it would now cause the population to grow more than 10% per year, doubling it every decade. The only way to curb that would be to cut the birthrate to zero. "We need to be cognizant that even with the welcome news of the emigration growth," I cautioned, " that's just a drop in the bucket. These huge ships have been developed by us and are leaving at an ever increasing rate to colonies, however, there is next to no chance that a hundred times that amount can keep pace with the birth rate even as it has diminished." There was more discussion of additional promising steps. It was clear that more space elevators would be needed at other points near the equator, and plans for five more were initiated at more or less equally spaced points along the equator, more to take advantage of labor availability for both the construction of the elevators and factories to construct the ships. There was controversy with Johns, when it was decided that the construction of new elevators would have priority on the Quito elevator over ships destined for emigration, but she was mollified by the obvious fact that the new elevators needed to be built from the top down by ships traversing laterally in orbit rather the costly vertical lift. The lull in ship- building would be more than compensated for with additional elevators in place. The general attitude of the Grays after that meeting was elevated to near euphoria. At last a definite possibility of a solution was in sight and, more important, it was believed by nearly all that the news and increaseed opportunity would mollify the outsiders. There was some additional discussion before the topic shifted to security. The Gray Coalition compound is as strong a fortress as ever existed -- an extension of the cold war NORAD Cheyenne Mountain bunker, more than a thousand meters inside the mountain. There is no concern there about the possibility that the attackers can cause us more than a hiccup even with nuclear weapons -- and nobody, they presumed, except the Grays had any nukes. Not only is the fortress secure, but there also exists a sophisticated surveillance network directly under the control of the Gray's military that maintains constant direct observation of everything within a hundred miles and major cities. In addition, that force operates seamless round- the-clock drone overflights of just about everywhere. Chief of Staff Charles Miller, not revealing his advanced one hundred-thirty two years, rose and stated the common conception. "The outsiders have no chance to do anything but disrupt operations temporarily in a few places. My only concern is the slight possibility that they could disrupt our work crews or a few military checkpoints. If they do that they will be hurting themselves more than us. The report last month that they had somehow gotten weapons of mass destruction, nukes in particular, we believe to be unfounded. Even if they do have something, it has to be of poor quality; Won't put a dent in this facility." I was not so certain. "Keep following up on that, Charles. Nothing is foolproof", I said. I believe that if something can happen, it will. Murphy's Law may be trite, but I expect outsiders will succeed, maybe tomorrow - or now.
As Amey and I walked through the dimly lit tunnel toward my apartment, my mind drifted back to thirty years ago when I passed the longevity record at a hundred and twenty. All the talk shows demanded my presence, but when the producers saw how youthful looking I was, they initially thought I was perpetrating some kind of hoax. As soon as I closed the door after me, I willed up the "list" on the VR and searched for the late night show that I chose so long ago. The scene resolved itself in the middle of my small living room, as real as if host John Chesterton was my personal visitor sitting at his desk right here. In addition the entire scene was here, including the band and the audience. I could have paused the playback and walked around getting up close and personal with anyone in the scene and still not have been able to detect it wasn't real. Amey here now was seated in the front row. Of course I would have walked through Chesterton and run into a wall quickly. "Ladies and gentleman, tonight's guests include virtual reality star Jacee Morris, world record oldest man ever Jordan Myer - a hundred and twenty years young, and our musical guest rap-rock star Arman Wolf." Age 120 was a novelty then, even for me, but of course I already knew that barring an accident, I would live many more years -- maybe not forever. It had been estimated back then that if immortality were ever achieved, the probability was that the average person would die from an accident within five thousand years or so. The laugh track interrupted my thought and I focused back on the VR talk show just in time to hear Chesterton chant, ". . .top ten reasons you don't want to live forever: Number ten: With evolution, in the far future, all the cute girls will see you as a chimp." Amey paused the playback and said playfully, "You are such a cute chimp though." "What does that make you then?" I replied amiably, and resumed the playback. "Number nine: All the evil rich guys will stick needles in you to get your miracle. Number eight: You can't remember where you left your keys now - What will you forget in a thousand years?" Amey paused the playback again and jabbed, "What does that mean?" "Number seven: Birthdays will become like weekends. Number six: You will have experienced everything -- except death. Number five: Been there, done that -- 1,000 times. Number four: You don't even know what to do with yourself on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Number three: After you said, 'When I was a kid.... ', they say, 'What's a school bus?' Number two: What if you fell in a sewer and couldn't get out? The number one reason you don't want to live forever: -- Social Security will expire."
After a well timed pause while Chesterton rendered his trademark stare at the camera, he turned to the audience and announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, our first guest, Jordan Myer, the world's oldest man and new record holder!" I turned my head expectantly toward the bathroom door and watched my younger self with that self- conscious grin on my face quickly walk toward the host and shake his outstretched hand. I seated myself in the stuffed chair next to Chesterton after the applause died and after a pause he said, "Welcome, Jordan. My, you certainly don't look your age." I tried to be flip. "There hasn't been anyone this age before, so how can you tell?" "Well, of course," he said with his characteristic little chuckle, "How do you explain your longevity and your youthful appearance?" My response was light and positive. "In 2008 or so I watched a show like this or one of those science channel shows in which the guest, an researcher on aging, Doctor Von something, announced that the first person to live to the age of one thousand is already in his sixties. I was then sixty-seven and I said to myself -- That's me!" "Wow!", said Chesterton, "and based on that prediction you became the lucky one. Just like that?" I explained carefully I had researched and applied the experimental "telemere maintenance" therapy and others and it had paid off, and how many other youthful geriatrics were just behind me. I kept the conversation light and purposely highlighted the positive aspects of the trend.
I carefully had not told Chesterton and the huge audience about the downside -- Overpopulation: Three million per year beyond age eighty in the US alone will no longer die as in previous decades. Indeed, there are now as many people alive who are beyond the age of eighty as there were alive in 2010 -- total. No one has made an accurate count of world population for more than two decades, but if the projections of the 40's held true, it would be much greater than the fifteen billion that most pundits had predicted the world's resources could support. I switched off the VR and almost immediately Amey and I fell into a totally relaxing sleep.
The nostalgia of thirty years past dissolved and was replaced itself with a mild depression. My thoughts again were self-questioning. What could we have done back then to prevent the current polarization of young versus old that had led to the Grays virtual imprisonment below ground? It was sad not to be able to go outside. How long had it been - ten years? The biggest irritation to me, however, was the distraction from the really important work. The revelations discussed in the seminar did not seem to improve it. In fact, the news just seemed to remind the general public of their plight and after the poll results were announced on the VR, protest gatherings in many parts of the world were bigger and more frequent, as were sabotage attempts. The attacks were dealt with rather easily by the Gray's security measures, but that, too seemed to exacerbate the unrest. It was ironic that Gray's scientists, who should be engaged in research to find a solution to the outsider's problems were tied up in defense work instead. It was sad to see that the outsiders were so fanatic in their unreason that the Grays must die so the rest might live. They refused to accept the clear logic that we are their only salvation. With Alzheimers and dementia no longer issues, knowledge continues to accrue. The smartest people in the world are now over the age of a hundred. Realizing that there would be little left for us Grays except the bomb, I determined long ago that the only solution for me would be to move my consciousness into a computer. I had taught high school computer science many years ago and after, at age 81, it was determined by the principal that I was beyond my usefulness, I enrolled in cybernetic graduate courses for fun and from the half-hearted wishful thinking, it became a reality on a primitive scale. A computer-based intelligence can potentially think much faster than a human, even if it were no more intelligent. Human neurons exchange electrochemical signals with a maximum speed of about 150 meters per second, whereas computers, even back then, operated at the speed of light, about 300 million meters per second, about two million times faster. Also, neurons can only generate a maximum of about 200 to 1000 action potentials or "spikes" per second, whereas the number of signals per second in circa 2020 computer chips was about 3 GHz (about two million times greater). It is a very difficult process even so because, in the brain, every molecule is a powerful computer, and the structure and function of trillions upon trillions of molecules as well as all the rules that govern how they interact would have to be simulated. After seventy more years of unabated "Moore's law" doubling in speed and capacity of computers, I developed a test program that should upload my consciousness into a server located on Gray Space Station number 47. With a little more work, I believe it will be fully functional and not only be able affect changes to the program, but also transfer my consciousness over any existing medium to any other location when necessary. It is ready to test.
********* The bomb! *********** The concussion was extravagant! No other word for it! When my senses returned gradually, in minuscule increments, I slowly recognize the overriding sensation of pain. Like burning in a cauldron of melted steel in the center of a thousand mile per hour avalanche that's not only wrenching me apart at the cellular level, but also freezing them simultaneous to the burning! It is the most extreme pain ever felt by me and, I am certain, by anyone able to feel it. Every part of my body is steeped in pain! Imagine a live lobster in a boiling pan, but more, the pain is not solely on the surface but deep within every organ and bone. I am unable to use my intellect for anything except determining a method to escape the pain. It doesn't exist! As it diminishes slightly -- no that is not true, if anything, it is getting worse, I realize I am simply becoming acclimatized to it. epiphony floods me that the only sensations I have ever felt, are irrevocably ended forever. Sight disappears in a flash. There is the recollection of an exceedingly overwhelming, bright flash, not simply perceived by my eyes, but directly into my brain, that signals its demise. The ghost image is still there, but receding. Hearing is gone in a storm. The loudest noise ever heard wassnuffed out in an instant, extinguishing even the constant ringing that had been comfortably with me for the past sixty years. There is no indication of the loss of smell and taste; they are just gone and like the loss of sound, I am already lamenting the sudden nothingness from the absence of these lifelong companions. The only comfort left is the fifth of these senses - touch, and while that brings me unbearable agony, there is also a certain comfort. As I become aware that my physical body is in the process of vaporization, and the pain (though unimaginably still increasing) begins to wane, it is replaced by terrible anxiety that the fail safe, despite its many backup systems would not function. It has to! If I had been able to think straight, I would have realized that the safeguards had to be functioning as they were designed to. Otherwise, I would not be able to know. I would be gone, unfeeling and dead, with nothing left to perceive - anything! And then relief for a split second. (Slightly longer than before.)
GO BACK TO REREAD ********* The bomb! *********** GO BACK TO REREAD ********* The bomb! *********** . . . . . . . . The infinite loop sequence repeated 1,348,234 times with identical intensity and excruciating pain each time, with only a nanosecond reprieve after each cycle before I gained a modicum of control, enough to lengthen the break slightly. It repeated again more than two million times before I could even shake the trauma off enough to perceive a coherent thought. That I was able to retain sanity was a tribute to my focus. Even then, it was not enough to understand the cycle was the result of the nuclear blast that had vaporized my body and automatically transferred my intellect into the processor. My body was gone, and in the process all that is me, including the trauma, was transferred into an infinite loop -- truly the cruelest of all "blue screens of death!" After another two million or so repetitions, I managed to break the loop. It seemed like years of feeling that repeating agony, a feeling that continued forever with the same intensity whenever I let my guard down slightly. Thereafter, I forced myself to be forever vigilant to prevent it. But what else is there? Life must be more than reliving memories and rehashing old learning and all the while staving off the threatened re-entry into the loop. My prospect was an eternity of solitary confinement, relieved periodically only by the agony of another iteration of the loop. With a comfortable blink I have become used to, the pain vanished, but its agonizing memory is still there and I suspect its drumming recurrence will never entirely disappear. 23 January 2091, 11:27:16.13 PM. Only one minute, twenty-one seconds after the detonation of the bomb. I later learned it was a hydrogen bomb with a yield of over gigaton of TNT and produced an explosion rivaling the volcanic eruption of Toba 74,000 years ago. That volcano had caused the extinction of 95% of all life on earth. The bomb had instantly solved the overpopulation problem!
Nothing's ever easy! Actually there are lots of things that are easy, but they are also boring! And uncomfortable. Have you ever noticed while lying in bed trying to will yourself to sleep, but wracked with a bout of insomnia, it is impossible to adjust yourself into a truly comfortable position? The weight of arm over another or leg on ankle instantly brings on the numbing sensation of lack of blood to those extremities. Weight of body on the most comfortable mattress brings puzzling discomfort as you force yourself to remain absolutely still in the vain hope that relieving sleep will come. And your breathing -- such a natural activity -- becomes your worst enemy. You tell yourself not to think about it, but of course that's futile, because you just did think about it. Now I am faced with an eternity of the same -- Nothing! I am aware of my consciousness inside silicon memory but have no way to control anything! I can think pretty clearly, but am unable to feel anything physically or emotionally. I already miss it! I desperately want it all back! Even the pain! Nearly unbearable! Excruciatingly impossible! Did Amey make it? Though some irrational doubt lingers in my subconscious, I recall that I had created her program to be at least as stable as mine, so of course she did! That quick thought completely dissolved my despair and morphed it into euphoria. This is the greatest challenge of my life, and I have an eternity to solve it. It will be exhilarating! The absolute best time of my life! Back in 1967, my fellow Army officer candidates had a saying for when we faced a daunting obstacle. "This is just another opportunity to excel." I have lived my life with the philosophy instilled by my father: "If it is worth doing, it is hard. The harder the work, the more satisfying the accomplishment." I now face the ultimate opportunity to excel. If I had a face, it would sport the biggest grin ever.