This is why I should never be a character in Science Fiction.
November 13, 2015 § 1 Comment
In my opinion, “Entanglement” was one of the most beautiful stories that we read this semester.
The way that Singh wove together the brief snapshots of multiple lives was so satisfying to read. The ending left me with that “A-ha!” moment when I could finally fit all of the individual characters into a larger picture, an overall web of stories. The orange wristlet was such a vital tool that allowed the characters to connect and share their emotions and experiences with one another.
The ending was where my inner child kicked in. At the end of the story, Yuan explains his device to the monk and all I could think about was the questions that I would have asked him if I was there. The dialogue would have gone much differently. (I had to supply my own answers for the sake of the dialogue.)
“So I came up with this device that you wear around your wrist, and it can gauge your emotional level and your mood through your skin. It can also connect you, via your genie, to your computer or mobile device, specifically through the software that I designed.”
“It can gauge your emotional level and your mood through your skin? How does that work? Also, does it matter if your skin is sweaty or not? My wrists can get kind of sweaty when I wear things on them.”
“No…it doesn’t matter if your skin is sweaty. The device detects minuscule changes in pulse and calibrates that to determine your emotional level and mood.”
“Interesting. Actually, I’m one of those people that hates feeling their own pulse. Gives me the creeps. Anyway, tell me more.”
“I designed it at first as a cure for loneliness. I had to invent a theory of loneliness, with measures and quantifiers.”
“That’s…actually really depressing. How do you measure loneliness? Like on a scale from one to ten, one being “Yeah, I kind of want to talk to my friends right now” and ten being “Oh my god, have I really been single for twenty-five years”?
“No, I had to use an operational definition for loneliness and build a theory from there. I won’t go into details. I also had to invent a theory of empathy. The software enables your genie to search the Internet for people who have similar values of certain parameters…and it gauges security and safety as well. When you most need it, based on your emotional profile at the time, the software will link you at random to someone in your circle.”
“Oh my god. Is this like Omegle?”
“Omegle. The chat website that randomly pairs you up with someone. The one that people use for very questionable reasons.”
“No. Well, kind of? I mean, my program is a lot more complicated and is based on pairing people up based on emotional profiles.”
“Hmm. Also, how specific do the emotional profiles get?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, would the device be able to detect the fact that I was so happy about just having watched Toy Story 3 for the first time, but also devastated about how my childhood just ended, but also how I was a bit ashamed at the fact that I cried for a solid ten minutes at the end?”
“Or would the device be able to link me to someone who shares the same love for, and also understands, my strange, guilty pleasure of listening to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”? What a beautiful song.”
“I think it’s a bit more general than that. It’s very buggy. There are people working on it to make it better. The optimal network architecture isn’t in place yet. My dream is that one day it can help us raise our consciousness beyond family and friend, neighborhood and religion, city and country. Throughout my journey I’ve been giving it away to people. In every town and village.”
“Whoa. You’ve just been giving these things away?”
“What are you, made out of money? How much does it cost to make one of these things? Can you really afford to give them away to everyone you meet?”
“They don’t really cost that much to make when we make them in bulk.”
“You’re like Oprah. You get a wrislet! And you get a wristlet! Look under your seats everyone- everyone gets a wristlet!”
“Please stop. I’m connected right now to seven other people, seven strangers. The connection is poor, but sometimes I hear their voices or see them on my notebook screen.”
“Does that not terrify you? I would be so scared if I randomly heard people talking throughout the day.”
“No. It gives me a chance to connect with others. On the way here I stopped at a grassy meadow criss-crossed by streams, a very beautiful place. The reception must have been good because all at once I saw an old woman on my computer screen. She was standing at a kitchen counter feeling like she had nothing to give to the world. So I told her- I didn’t know what to tell her because I felt her pain- but finally I told her something cliched, like a fortune from a fortune cookie. I said, “Something good will happen to you today.” I don’t know if that turned out to be true. I don’t even know who she is, only that she’s from another country and culture and religion, and I felt her pain like it was my own.”
“Wow…that really was cliche. Almost as cliche as ‘A dream you have will come true.'”
“But that was also incredibly beautiful and moving. You can understand and relate to the suffering and pain of another while sharing your own pain with them.”
“Are you…are you crying?”
“…No. My eyes are just a little sweaty today.”