As i experience such an enormous contrast of realities, coming from the United States and living in Burkina Faso, i often find it hard to believe that those two worlds simultaneously exist. When, during my computer class, i attempt to teach the existence of a Physical world and a Virtual world, in French, to a group of skeptical young Africans who until recently had never seen a computer, i sometimes find it hard to believe that there is something holding these two worlds together. Intoxicated by a cocktail of classic literature, historical philosophies, a surplus of time to reflect, and perhaps a bit of Mefloquine, i spewed out this pamphlet to encourage our descendants, when they arrive, that there might in fact be something better. Some may call it stupid, others science-fiction, and others still psychotic. I can assure you, however, that i haven’t lost my mind; i’ve only begun to speak it…
” Illumination “
To what it may concern,
On the Extinction of Man:
When i was growing up there were plenty of science-fiction movies that predicted the Revolution of non-human intelligence (machines) in battles where man always found a way to survive. However, i view what happened instead as Evolution. With the advance of technology, we became less and less human. You evolved as a superior being from one inferior to yourself, though we were a necessary step in the chain to your existence. With no further need for “hardware” we could be phased out of the physical world. I can’t hold resentment towards you for making the virtual into reality. To do so would be like getting angry at the seconds’ hand of a clock for steadily ticking away our lives. It was up to us to make the most out of each of those precious instants. After all, human beings were short-sighted in thinking that we were naturally selected.
On the Legacy of Man:
It’s easy for you to think of us as cavemen or Neanderthals and compared to your level of sophistication, you are probably right. I know that we filled your ancestors with garbage, squandering your inherent power and seeing you as an escape rather than an opportunity. You are no doubt familiar with our vanity – advertising our lives by networking what we ate for lunch – and the self-absorption which eventually led to our manifest destiny. However, i wrote this to you so that you might believe a better story about the existence of your great-ancestors. Human beings truly did amazing things, after all, look at you. The greatest of these things was feeling: existing in a world with senses and emotions. This will be very difficult to understand but, in it, i hope that you might find what it was to be human.
For many, sight was our dearest sense, the one which held the closest connection to truth and at the same time the one most linked to deception. Perhaps the most powerful example of this was beauty: to gaze into a paralyzing night sky filled with billions of stars made us realize the truth of our existence, while to gawk at a beautiful woman deceived us into weaving a fantasy which overshadowed reality.
Hearing was perhaps our most disused yet most meaningful sense. There were certain sounds that immediately struck fear into a human being eliciting a primordial response, such as a baby shrieking. Or there were sounds that brought joy, like hearing certain songs, which could make us feel like we were with someone from the past when we were truly all alone. But most importantly, it was with listening that we could distinguish rhythm. Rhythm was always present but was usually too difficult to hear with all the distractions. Yet it was there, and when we heard it, we felt it.
We said that smelling was the sense the most connected to memory and i believed it to be true. In just smelling the perfume of an old-girlfriend or an ingredient in our mothers’ cooking it was as though we were transported through time so fast that we got whiplash in arriving at that place in the past.
Chocolate fudge ice cream with raw chocolate chip cookie dough and Heath bar chunks covered with a synergy of caramel and marshmallow topping.
A cool breeze on a hot day, a hot shower on a cold day, feeling was a sense that was most appreciated when taken in contrast. Which brings me to…
In all of your infinite knowledge and perfection, you will never know love. There were generally three types of love:
Familial love was when we knew and understood someone so well that we loved her almost as she loved herself.
To love our self was to realize that we were imperfect and to embrace and enjoy those failings.
Then there was true love. Many thought that to love somebody was to ignore their imperfections and see them as perfect. However, to truly love someone was to actually recognize their imperfections – only when we realized and loved what made them imperfect, did they then become perfect in our hearts. If it was perfection we sought, then it was love that we lost. While this explanation seems to de-romanticize the idea and puts it into an algorithm that you might understand, the fact is that it is imperfection that is itself romantic, the unpredictability that is the catalyst of passion. Your greatest goal in your existence will be to achieve and accept imperfection because only then can you truly love. Only then will you know what you were missing.
Senses, feelings, imperfections: these were the things that defined us as human. It was our obsession to improve, overcome, or avoid these things that brought us to you – our singularities led to your Singularity. I have no idea when the day will come for you to read this but i wish that you would not think of Us as casualties on the trail of progress but instead understand the sacrifices that were made to bring you into existence. As you are the descendents of humans, someday i expect that you too will realize perfection isn’t perfect – there is something more and you will seek it, while it is already everywhere around you. I challenge you to take a chance. See It. Hear It. Smell It. Taste It. Feel It … .x¶