The Professor's Experiment
Civilization is digressing lethargically on it's way down hill. High-tech media sources are gone, as is any televised programming. The more advanced a technology was, the quicker it went down. For a brief time, newspapers came back into existence. The were published at random intervals, but even that was a short lived venture. When you can get a rare fresh newspaper or, more frequently, their government sponsored reports, you can read that there is a little dissention among experts in various fields about when the Final Collapse will occur. There is no disagreement in the prediction that it will occur.
Some have been bold (or stupid) enough to proclaim it to be a matter of days. One of these, a Pre-Embryonic Psychologist, even went as far as to specify thirty-eight days from the time of his announcement. When the Collapse did not occur as scheduled, he claimed that it did indeed occur but people (other than himself, of course) pre-consciously chose not to perceive the event. Most of the predictors were far more vague and generalized in their calculations. The estimated time resulting from their speculative equations ranged from months to decades.
The story I set down
here is the result of extraordinary events. I think any story worth being
put down in concrete form for posterity should be necessarily so.
Perhaps, though, to contrast it with every day events surrounding and
leading up to it might be in order. Since I have no idea who may find my
manuscript, I must put everything in a proper context. For the reader may
be completely unfamiliar with our civilization's history.
From what I understand through a basic, novice anthropological knowledge, we took millions of years to progress from Perception-Level Beings to Conceptual-Level Sentients. Then, thousands of years to move on to Industrial-Level, then, hundreds of years to Digital-Level. >From there, only decades to Purecarbon-Level. Each phase taking, obviously, less than the last. Because we have had no contact from conscious beings originating from off of our own world, we have no idea how normal or abnormal this rate of progression actually is. Some intellectuals are saying that the advanced exponential growth we went through was an unavoidable Historical Necessity. And likewise, so is a Final Collapse. This, of course, fits in nicely with the doom-filled predictions and prophecies of religious leaders and factions the world over.
Last month a group of physicists published a paper that claimed this can all be understood through the application of Iandlepough's Uncertainty Principle. This Principle states that we can't obtain specific knowledge of the sub-atomic objects smaller than the smallest wavelength of light. Scientists use light to indirectly observe the workings of these extremely small building blocks of the universe, so, obviously, anything smaller than our smallest tool is unobservable. Using this Principle as a major premise of their paper, the physicists inferred that because we can't observe the workings of the fundamental building blocks of reality we can't have any certain knowledge of reality in general. Therefore, Cause and Effect are subjective illusions created by people foolish enough to think that they observing sense and order when they look at the world around them. Ultimately, they surmised, we are at the mercy of these sub-atomic particles that we can have no knowledge of. These particles whiz around doing or not doing or doing and not doing at the same time (this part was referenced by some extremely complex mathematical equations) what they do and/or do not do and we are simply dragged along helplessly and unwittingly for the ride. I am certainly no scientist or philosopher, but it wasn't too hard to imagine how pleased most people were to learn they aren't responsible for their thoughts and actions.
I wonder if it is the same on other worlds.
A very small group of philosophy professors issued a response paper. They pointed out that the ancient philosopher Bericoles' Principle of Identity says that an object is what it is regardless of whether or not it is observed. This Principle, they said, means that even if we can't observe what these sub-atomic particles were up to, they had to be doing something definite. If these particles (indeed, anything) do in fact exist, then they must be independent of the observer and certainly couldn't be doing something and not doing the same thing at the same time in the same context. Moreover, they retorted, Bericoles' Principle of Cause and Effect is a logical next step from the Identity Principle. If something exists, it has a definite identity and therefore defining characteristics that give it's existence a possible and not possible range of action. Finally, they pointed out, the physicists own paper made use of the Principle of Identity. In fact, for anyone to claim anything it was necessary to use Bericoles' Principles. Even if the physicists wanted to claim people can know nothing, that too is an absolute statement.
This paper was in turn responded to by a much larger group of philosophy professors that point out that the Theories and Principles of the other major ancient philosopher Quakelo were in direct opposition to Bericoles' ideas. For more than two centuries the opposing ideas of these two major philosophers set up an irresolvable conflict about our understanding of the fundamental nature of reality. But, Bericoles' ideas could not be taken seriously now in light of the fact that Quakleo's ideas had been once and for all proven to be true. No one ever publicly said, but I thought it was odd, that these physicist and professors were claiming that they had "proven" that The Truth was that there was No Truth to be found. Nevertheless, this effectively silenced any further opposition on the matter.
I fear most people are somehow glad that everything is crumbling to dust.
The experiment started
as most do. The entire thing began with no publicity or even much
administrative acknowledgment. It was simply one more scientist quietly
at work on one more hypothesis, in one more laboratory, mostly unknown to
the rest of the world.
The premise was to measure the operation of a brain for total energy output under various circumstances and stimuli.
The scientist in charge of the project was a Professor Lasdyknasd. He had quite a bit of tenure, stature, prestige, connections and pull at the university in which he worked. He was easily able to procure the latest in technological measuring devices and instrumentation for his experiment.
I was one of his laboratory assistants and had been for close to three years. He, of course, had many student assistants. However, they were only around for a semester or two, then, off to other classes, professors, labs, experiments. Even when they were available for long enough to be present throughout the full run of a project, they often lost enthusiasm or interest. Especially if the project was simply part of a pre-requisite class or something that had little or nothing to do with their chosen field of specialty. Therefore, the university paid a few people, like myself, to be full-time lab assistants that the professors could always count on being present.
The experiments started without any surprising or unpredicted results. The regular assortment of university students came and went, all very pleased about the procedure of this particular project. They were mostly students trying to earn a little extra money as they worked through school and quite happy with earning that money by simply sitting in a chair while little wires with electrodes attached unobtrusively to their heads monitored brain energy output.
They were shown videos, pictures, engaged in small talk as well as intellectual conversation. Some were given difficult problems in math or physics to work out while being monitored. A wide variety of activities were employed.
Then, one day a completely astounding result occurred.
A colleague of the professor's stopped by the lab. We were in between subjects and the two professors discussed the project's progress. The colleague suggested that the professor employ the use of a sub-atomic energy-to-mass-ratio spectrometer. The unit was set up in the lab, along with all the other equipment. The very next subject tested produced the astonishing result.
The new equipment setup showed clearly that the subject's brain was putting out more energy than was possible according to the mass of his brain.
More subjects, male and female, old and young, low to high intelligence were tested subsequently as a confirmation of this result. Everyone of the subjects tested produced this same unbelievable finding.
Finally, the next day, I showed up early wondering if the energy-to-mass-ratio spectrometer was calibrated correctly. Not to my surprise, I found it was off by quite a bit. I was getting ready to re-calibrate the unit when Professor Lasdyknasd showed up. I told him what I had discovered and said that it was probably why yesterday's subjects recorded such ridiculous results. Then, I told him that I was getting ready to calibrate the machine correctly.
He became immediately enraged and told me I was fired and to leave the university premises at once and never return under any circumstances. I was shocked.
At first, I thought perhaps the professor was mad that I had attempted to work on such an important and expensive piece of university equipment. I guessed that he would want a more qualified technician to work on the unit, or that he might want to do it himself.
However, I have since learned, discreetly, that the machine was never re-calibrated. Surely, the professor was intelligent enough the know the unit was out of whack. After all, he was an important, well-respected scientist with a great deal of prestige. I was filled with terror as the truth slowly occurred to me: the professor didn't want the machine to produce correct results.
Somehow, he got other scientists to go along with the idea that the incorrect settings on the machine were in fact the correct settings. All similiar units were re-aligned to fit the professor's settings. The world of physics, celestial and sub-atomic mechanics was turned upside down in a matter of weeks. Consequentially, the impact was enormous on the world of philosophy and psychology and, in due course, on the world at large.
The professor claimed
that the results of his experiments proved that the abstractions created
in the mind had not only mass, but a measurable mass. Furthermore, the
calculated mass of the abstractions observed in the experiment was larger
than would apparently fit inside the subject's skull. How could this be
explained? The solution proposed by the professor was that the excess
mass of the abstractions that could not possibly fit into the subject's
head was 'connected to something' outside of it. This 'something' was
quickly deduced to be empirical data that validated Quakelo's Theory of
This Theory said that there are at least two realities. The superior reality contains the Ultimate Objects of Existence and we live in an inferior reality in which we only perceive shadowy glimpses of the Ultimate Objects. For example, in the superior reality there exists an Ultimate Triangle. In our inferior reality, the only one we can perceive, all triangles we observe are merely sub-standard reflections of the Ultimate Triangle. The excess mass of the brain, the professor claimed, therefore must somehow belong to Quakelo's superior reality. Perhaps, he said, part of it was The Ultimate Triangle.
Philosophy professors from the other side of the campus were informed of this situation and quickly took quite an interest in Professor Lasdyknasd's experiment. They refined some of the many variations on Quakelo's Theory and presented a more or less unified front behind a published formal paper to the effect that The Theory had been proved once and for all to be The Truth. The central theme of the paper was based on Professor Lasdyknasd's findings that the total energy and thus the mass of the measured abstractions was indeed greater than could fit in a brain. Therefore, that concepts existed as literal objects in the universe and outside of, apart from the mind. Evidence of The Ultimate Objects had been found at long last. This seemed to solve the ancient debate between Quakelo and Bericoles that had been, until this point, seemingly irresolvable.
Even if this were true, I found it unsettling that philosophy professors (and even the few living, published philosophers) almost all came to such quick, uncontested agreement. They had spent most of history making a living by bickering amongst themselves over the smallest deviation in theories, and engaged in full scale verbal and published word wars over large scale differences. Why the sudden camaraderie?
The few dissenting philosophy professors took the side of Bericoles and thereafter followed the battle of ideas and published papers that I mentioned earlier. With the weight of Professor Lasdyknasd's (faulty) findings, the Quakelo's defeated the Bericoles' hands down according to every public opinion poll taken on the matter.
All of our agricultural
and synthetic food production have for several decades been an automated
procedure. People are only required to 'run the machinery'. When the
machinery was finally designed, built and fully in place the government
started to regulate it in order to minimize waste and insure that every
person would be fed properly. This was regarded as an infringement of
freedom by a few small groups of food producers.
As soon as the professor's paper was accepted by the philosopher's, philosophy academians, intellectuals and influential thinkers, they in turn pointed out that the next logical step would be to assume that the rest of Quakelo's Theories should be put into practice. After all, they conjectured, The Theory of Ultimate Objects is the foundation for the rest of the ideas in his body of works, therefore if the foundation is true the rest of it must also be true. According to the political section of Quakelo's works the government should run all industry and means of production. The government promptly assumed control of all remaining private food production lands, machines and facilities. Any opposition was effectively silenced. Who were food producers to argue with scientists, philosophers and political leaders?
Production of food was turned over to governmental scientists who were very eager to try their newly discovered theories and ideas in this area. The computers that instructed the food production machinery were reprogrammed according to a quasi-statistical model of The Theory of Ultimate Objects. The following harvest was the first indication that the public, at large, had that things were not working out according to plan.
Some places grew an inedible cross mating of two or more different plants. Others grew larger than normal mutated plants that, while pleasing to the eye, were poisonous. Still others grew plants that died before ready for harvesting.
Many places had simply grown no food at all. The synthetic food production fared no better.
A great deal of finger pointing and blame assigning occurred. Emergency conferences were held. The scientists were greatly encouraged by the wealth of strange (though inedible) new information they had to manipulate. The politicians were engaged in many lengthy debates over which group of scientists with which variation on The Theory might be more valid. The philosophers blamed the scientists and the politicians for not properly practicing The Theory which was True and, therefore, could not be doubted.
There are rumors that some small groups of people in extreme rural, isolated areas are growing their own food. Rumors have alternately confirmed and denied this information. No one has publicly come forward with any evidence to support these claims.
The old physicist Fenstan came out of retired silence to make an appeal to his fellow scientists everywhere. He called for an end to this ridiculous flirtation with disaster. He said what was needed was a return to 'reason and objective reality'. Several intellectuals responded by pointing out that Fenstan himself a few decades ago was proposing that the world be run by one large government with wide ranging powers. Not to mention that he had obtained his current venerated position with his work on Relativity, in which it was proved that everything was relative to everything else and therefore, nothing could be absolute and objective.
Fenstan then issued an uncharacteristically harsh statement to the effect that these intellectuals were twisting the meaning of his work and applying it's ideas to other areas completely out of context. By this time, of course, old Fenstan was being laughed off of the scene as an 'obviously' senile old man that had not kept up with 'modern ideas and ways of thinking'. Anyone on Fenstan's side of the argument was silenced when one of his old colleagues was quoted in a widely circulated government report.
In this report, the physicist Iandlepough came out of retirement briefly to remind people that his own Uncertainty Principle proved conclusively that the fundamental nature of reality was ultimately unknowable. Therefore, the people should have patience with the new and wonderful work the governmental scientists had done in the food production field. Just because the previous food producers were lucky enough to be able to manage consistently growing food, he said, did not prove that we were worse off now.
This, of course, didn't stop the following year's mass waves of starvation, violence, destruction and insanity.
Ever as the failures continued in food production, all means of production in other fields were taken over and run in a similar fashion. I heard about one case involving a shoe manufacturing plant. Apparently, the automated machinery was fed it's new instructions and promptly started producing only left footed shoes. A few of them were the standard width but over a meter long, Most, however, came out of the machinery about four and half centimeter in length and twenty centimeters wide. Theoreticians from many fields claimed that the new programs instructing the shoe making machinery were anticipating an evolutionary shift in people's feet, so there was no problem. There was merely the inconvenience of people not catching up to evolution quickly enough.
Not that any lack of new, properly fitting footwear will make much difference. I suppose the Collapse is upon us. It actually happened much more swiftly than anyone imagined that it would. My own meager supply of food is nearly exhausted. I would go out scavenging or bartering for more, but I fear the random outbreaks of deadly violence that are occurring more and more frequently. Last week I traded all of my furniture and most of my clothing for a time capsule I intend to place this manuscript in when it is complete.
In closing, I feel a painful need to make of this story a warning to whomever may find and read it. It may seem strange that a small handful of people (scientists, theoreticians, politicians) led by the ideas of an even smaller handful of people (philosophers, philosophy professors and intellectuals) should have had such an extreme impact on the whole of our world and civilization.
I wonder, with a longing sadness, how things might have been different. I wonder why Professor Lasdyknasd wanted to advance the erroneous results of his experiment as truth. I wonder why so many supposedly intelligent philosophy professors, scientists, theoreticians, intellectuals and politicians accepted this falsehood. I wonder why most people were so eager to go along with the whole irrational disaster. I wonder why that ancient philosopher Quakelo proposed such bizarre and ridiculous theories.
I wonder why no one on our world seems to want to live.
Statement of Policy.
Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.