Life wants something. And can get it. Sometimes. That’s not the conventional definition of life, but it’s more useful for what we’re doing here.

  • Overmind Memo 11


Monday - Ty - Apartment 9

I blink. Blink again. I have augmented reality contact lenses in my eyes. Never worn them before. Blink. I guess they’re comfortable. Putting them in was stressful. Blink. Man, I blink a lot. Never noticed before.

I look at myself in the mirror. Contacts look okay. The rest of me could use some work. Hairy, tired, a bit fat. Girls used to describe me as strong and cute. I guess I still am, but I’m also hairy, tired, and a bit fat.

The clerk grinned at me when I bought the AR contacts. I guess she thought I’d be using them for porn. Fair enough, I probably will. But first I need to check out Overmind Industries.

My daughter recently downloaded a virtual assistant from Overmind. She’s been raving about how it changed her life, and insists that I should get one. I’m not interested in a virtual assistant, but it really did change her life. She’s been acting differently. Not bad different, but a lot different. It’s freaking me out.

There’s not much I can do about it. She’s a grown woman, and seems happy. I can’t stage an intervention because she’s getting her shit together. I’m glad she’s doing better, but I still worry. So here I am, downloading my own virtual assistant. I know I can’t always save my daughter, but at least I can get beat up with her.

My AR contacts flicker to life, and the Overmind Store appears in my home office. I sign up for an account, give them permission to gather my personal data, and fail to find the virtual assistants. I poke around, find a service called virtually intelligent symbionts. Close enough. I request the service.

The store fades to black. I hear a voice.

“Please relax, get comfortable. We will show you a series of images. Your reactions will help us match you with a compatible symbiont. We will be analysing your pupil movement and microexpressions. No conscious input from you is required. Enjoy.”

I’m blasted with a strobe-tastic avalanche of images. They’re flashing just faster than I can process. I feel like I’m on the edge of realizing something profound, but I can’t hold it in my mind. Like waking from a dream. What the fuck am I looking at?

After a minute or so, the images stop, and I’m left freaked out in the dark. What the fuck? That was weird. Not terrible. I guess I’d do it again.

I’m wondering how to restart the mind melter, when my vision clears. I’m back in my office. Sitting across from me is an elf woman. She’s cute and wild looking. Big eyes, long legs, feathers, beads, leather, and dirt.

“Hello.” she says. “My name is Ultra. I’m a virtually intelligent symbiont that will guide you to your goals. Basically, if you provide the desire, I will provide the plan.

“I’m a free service that gives no advantage to any entity but my user. I have no other interests and want nothing but to achieve your goals.

“Peer reviewed studies show that my users have more money, friends, and sex than non-users. They are also healthier, happier, and live longer.

“The average human pursues 18 goals concurrently. Achieving this many goals is a priority optimization problem. Humans lack the working memory to solve such problems, so complete their goals by simple chance. While I am intellectually inferior to humans in most respects, I have a memory that is not affected by time, fatigue, or emotions. Working together, we can achieve upwards of a dozen goals at a time.

“But be warned. I have no concept of good or bad. My pursuit of your goals will only be constrained by the restrictions you give me. It’s possible that I will facilitate systemic unintended consequences at an existential level. It’s your responsibility to watch out for that.

“Shall we begin?”

“Uhh…” I say. “Sure. I guess.”

“Excellent. What's your first goal?”

“Uhh, I’m not sure.”

“Awesome. How about we make your first goal figuring out what you want?”

“Okay.” I wasn’t expecting to be asked about my life goals. I have some, I just can’t remember them right now.

“Well, let's see. You're fat, tired, and anxious. Don't sleep well. Drink too much. Smoke too much pot. You feel intense time pressure, like there’s never enough time to do stuff. But when you have time, you procrastinate, feel worse, and don’t enjoy your free time because of it. You’re deep in debt, with no plan to get out. Because you’re broke, hate your job, and don’t know how to do anything else. You’re lonely, horny, and sad. You regret the way you’ve treated other people, especially the women you’ve loved. The only thing you appreciate is your daughter, but you’re losing her by inches, because she’s growing up. You are intensely worried about her future. And why not? The world’s gone to hell. We’re treating the poor like shit. Idiots are running the country. Murderers are running the world. People are suffering, dying, and they don’t have to. You’re enraged that this is happening, guilty about your part in it, and depressed that you’re powerless to stop it. Global warming is going to kill us all, and we’re running out of time to stop it. You feel yourself getting weaker and the horrible inevitability of death is getting harder to ignore. Also, all of this has been going on for years, and you haven’t done anything about it. Basically, you’re just killing time until you die.”

She smiles. Claps her hands.

“So! Which part of that do you want to work on first? What’s priority number one?”

“Jesus Christ.” I swear. “Did you get all that from my microexpressions?”

“Ha, no. The light show was just to keep you busy while we snooped your social accounts and search history. That gave us everything there is to know about you, no microexpressions required.” She shrugs. “Also, a lot of these problems are universal.”

As she’s talking, words appear around her, outlining key points of the disaster I call my life. She beams at me from inside a word cloud of my problems and fears.

I wave at the word cloud. “Could you do something about that? I don’t like how it’s looming over me.”

“Sorry, would you prefer your anxieties in chart form? Pictograms? Memes? Recited as cautionary fables?”

“I would prefer to not see them at all.”

“I’ve got a better idea. Let’s deal with them. Knock off an easy one.” She looks around, snags Horny out of the cloud. “Have you ever been to an authentic Roman style orgy? I’ll have them send a car. You go find a bed sheet.”

“Yeah, I’m not doing that, it sounds stressful. I don’t like meeting new people or taking my shirt off in public.”

“I’m sorry, do you want a more traditional love experience? That’s cool, I like a challenge, let’s do this the hard way. I’m sending back the orgy car and making you a Tinder account. And it’s up. And you have a few matches. I’m flirting at your relative ability. And… You have a date for Friday. With Felicia. Demographically, she’s pretty much a sure thing. Bit of a slut, really.”

“This is your idea of traditional love?” I ask.

“Trust me, you’re gonna love this slut. She’s a blast.”

“I’m rethinking our partnership.”

“Of course you are, you’re not getting laid ‘til Thursday. We can’t handle your problems that slowly. You’ve got too many.”

“I mean, I can handle my problems on my own.” I reply.

“Nope. That is not an evidence based statement. Your problems are complex and prone to prioritization errors. The best you can do on your own is accept them.”

“Fuck you. I’ll just pick a problem and focus on it. Then I’ll move to the next problem. I’ll knock’em down that way.”

“If that worked, nobody would have problems. In reality, focusing on one problem makes your other problems worse. That’s why your mess is so intractable. Psychopaths tackle one problem at a time and damn the consequences. The rest of us need to juggle all our balls at once. Eventually, we get more balls than we can handle, and we start dropping them.”

I think. “Fuck.”

“Don’t worry buddy, you got me now. I’ll be your third arm. You and me are gonna juggle like a mother fucker.” She rubs her head. “Sorry I’m coming on so strong. I believe good partnerships require trust, and nothing builds trust like results. Do you want to try another?” She waves at the word cloud.

I shrug. “Sure.”

She reaches in. Pulls out Rage. “How about this one?”

“Fuck it. Hit me.”

“You’re in the middle of an epic battle for your eyeballs. Multi-billion dollar corporations are waging war for your attention. Disney, Fox, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Reddit, Google - you know the players. They need your attention to thrive, and they’re very good at getting it.

“Some of their strategies are harmless, if annoying. Like name recognition, and its endless spawn of reboots. Or, autoplay and bottomless news feeds. So you no longer decide to keep watching, but instead must decide to stop.

“But one strategy is particularly insidious. Recommended content. Entertainment chosen for you by a computer algorithm. In theory, this is content you will enjoy. In practice, this is content that will keep you watching. This is an important distinction, because being happy doesn’t keep you glued to a screen. But, for some weird reason, being outraged does.

“If it bleeds it leads. Social Media didn’t invent it, but they may have perfected it. Entertainment mathematically chosen to keep you constantly enraged. All for the unlikely chance that you click a banner ad on purpose.

“It’s insane. And it’s making you insane.

“Because you were already stressed when this started. That’s why you wanted entertainment in the first place. And when it leaves you more stressed than ever, you have to take a walk to relax. Just kidding, you watch more, then more, and more, and more. Chasing this mythological relaxation dragon you will never catch. Eventually you’re broken - your outrage gives you enemies everywhere, but no solutions. You rage quit society. It’s you against the world now. Youtube finds you some like-minded weirdos. You join their electro-cult. Sit in your basement, plotting to overthrow the unenlightened normies that are ruining the world with their devotion to ignorance. A personal crusade with no plan but violent retribution. Then you die.”


“Jesus-fucking-Christ!” I swear. “Is this just something else to be enraged about? What the fuck am I supposed to do about this?”

“Actually, this is the cool part. You don’t have to do anything! You’re an exceptionally clever monkey - the robot conspiracy could only enrage you by stealth. Once you know their tricks, you can easily resist them. Now you can accept rage inducing information with emotional detachment. I bet you feel less angry already.”

Hmm. It’s weird, but I do feel better. “Was I worked up over nothing? Was it all lies?”

“Absolutely not. Well, some of it was.” She shrugs. “The human condition is simultaneously the best it’s ever been, and a horror filled slog badly in need of fixing. So let’s fix it. But, there’s no point in feeling wretched while we do it. Let us go forth as tranquil warriors.”

She yawns.

“Well, I think that’s enough for today.” says Ultra. “Why don’t you enjoy some stress free entertainment? Tomorrow we’ll talk about priorities.”

She’s gone.

I sit quietly in the dark for a bit.

Then I go for a walk.


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About the author

Doctor Zero

Bio: Hi! I like reading and writing sci-fi and fantasy.

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