Copyright © 2016 by Thomas Krantz
English translation assisted by: Google
English editor: Charlotte Fogelquist
“Who are you talking to?” Elsa asks him.
Tommy turns his gaze away from the figure, surprised; “Can you not you see that there’s a …” when he looks back at the woods, there is no one there.
“What did you see?” she says.
“No, it was probably nothing.” Tommy stares at the woods for a long time, not seeing anyone.
Elsa starts working with the big snowballs that are now buried in the newly fallen snow.
“I don’t want to lift them again.”, Tommy tells Elsa.
“Maybe we can let the snowman lie down?” she replies, “He can look at the stars.”
Then they hear a car rolling up at the front of the house. “Mum is back now.” says Tommy,relieved. He wants to go back inside. The snow repulses him. He just wishes that spring would come now and melt away all this white frozen water.
“Hello darling.” Sara rushes forwards and hugs Tommy. “Do you feel better now?” she asks quietly in his ear.
“Yes and no.”
Tommy feels weak in his legs. “I feel really tired. I keep falling asleep dreaming about the future.”
A large snowflake lands on Tommy’s nose. He lets go of Sara. “I want to go back inside. I can’t be bothered with all this snow.”
“Come Elsa.” says Sara, “Let’s go inside and cook dinner.”
“Mum.” says Elsa when she, Sara and Tommy later eat dinner together, “Dad slept on the couch when I got back from school.”
“I’ve been so tired after …” Tommy tries to find the correct word for stroke, the one that the doctor had used, “Well, I get tired when I think a lot.”
“When we were at the hospital you rambled on about some strange dream with robots.” Sara, looks at Tommy with troubled eyes. “I was worried that …”
“Did they look like this!” Elsa interrupts her mother, showing them her tablet. On the screen there are several female robots. Most appear to be made out of a white shiny plastic material and the flexible parts are black.
“Yes” Tommy replies, quietly, “Where did you get those pictures?”
“From Google Images. I just wrote female robot in the search bar.”
“Why does it look like they’re naked?” Sara asks, somewhat disgusted.
“Type male Robot.” Tommy says.
The tablet is now showing several similar male robots. Tommy points to one that looks like it wants attention. “Just like that!”, he exclaims. The robot points to Tommy with its index finger.
“That one also looks like it’s naked too.” Sara muses, now with a little more interest.
“But how come I can see them in my dreams?” says Tommy, to no one in particular. He closes his eyes and places his hand over his face.
After dinner Elsa goes up to her room and Tommy tells Sara about his roommate at the hospital. It was Gaston who encouraged him to write a letter to Metro. He shows Sara the newspaper and as she reads it, she becomes angry and worried at the same time.
“Tommy! What if there are lunatics out there who read this and turn up here with petrol and try to set fire to our house. You must think of us too, me and Elsa.”
“Ok. I promise that I will do this anonymously” Tommy replies.
“If you have to debate, do it kindly and with respect.” Sara responds with the same sharp tone that her father often uses when he is serious.
Tommy reads Metro on his mobile phone and spots that Ronny has replied.
Hello Mr Atheist. Could you and I continue a private dialogue via Messenger please? In my opinion, this forum is too narrow, and I really appreciate having this conversation with you.
Best regards, Ronny.
And I appreciate that you appreciate this conversation with me. Unfortunately, I must decline. I honestly never thought that anyone would care about what I wrote. But I can recommend that you contact a Humanistic Association. They’d probably like to get involved in discussions on these issues.
Friendliest humanistic greetings.
Later that evening, Tommy looked into Elsa’s room. She was sitting down, writing something on her computer.
“What are you doing?” he asks her with interest.
“I’m writing a story. Homework.”
“What is it about?”
Elsa begins to tell him the story about how a prince and a princess of two royal families fall in love with each other. Both their sets of parents claim that everyone in the other kingdom is evil. The princess’ mother, who is a witch, turns the prince into a frog. The princess looks throughout the forest for the frog prince, but when she finds him and kisses him, he becomes a troll. He explains to her, that as a frog, he listened to the villagers when they fetched their water. He then realised that both kingdoms are in fact evil and decided to fight alongside the villagers, as a Robin Hood. Elsa called the tale A Good Troll.
“What a great idea!” Tommy exclaims. “But where are you writing this tale?” he asks, noticing that she is on the internet.
“On my blog.”, she replies, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, “Then I can use any computer. I have an app on my tablet and my mobile too.”
“But you’re only 11 years old. Are you allowed to have a blog when you’re only a child?”
“I have a Facebook account, too” she declares.
“Oh, Elsa. I am worried that you will be contacted by creepy old men. You know that they sometimes pretend to be children.”
“You mean grooming.”
“Maybe that’s what it’s called, I don’t know.”
“Dad, I’m not stupid. Look at this.”
Elsa clicks on a small profile picture she has on her blog. Tommy sees a picture of a chubby old man with glasses and underneath the picture it says HakanSve.
“Dad. If these silly old men are looking for young girls online, I don’t think they will be that interested in an elderly man named Hakan.”
“And you do the same with your Facebook?”
“Yep.” she says, and then clicks on another tab in the browser. “I named my alter ego Hakan Svensson and he is 46 years old.”
“Ha. As old as I am.”
“Yes. And he’s married to a Petra and they have three children. Everyone has Facebook pages that I have created.”
“What? How does that work?”
“First I invent the character and then I create email accounts for them. Then I look for images on the web that I change a little using an image editing software. The original image of Hakan was a skinny guy that I made fat.”
“But Elsa, I know you’re clever, but … well … this may be illegal. Should you do this?”
“Do you want me to avoid dirty old men or not?”
“Yes. Yes.” Tommy sighs, “I have an idea. Hakan will have a brother named Stefan. And that will be my secret profile. They can be friends on Facebook and I can keep an eye on what you get up to.”
“OK.”, Elsa agrees.
“But how did you learn all that?”
“I watched YouTube. It’s got everything about anything on there.”
Elsa clicks on another tab in the browser and YouTube is displayed.
“I have my own channel where I save the clips I like.”
Tommy can see how a small picture of the fake Hakan shows up in one corner.
“You might have noticed that there is also a lot of rubbish on YouTube, so you have to filter it out and sometimes search for a while.”
“Oh.” Tommy has never bothered with YouTube. He likes regular TV.
Elsa continues “If you are unsure about something, you just do a search for critics who review these things. But usually it’s just the clips that go viral that gets to be critiqued.”
“Ok…” Tommy is a little unsure of what is meant by viral, but also knows he has no desire to reveal that to his daughter.
“The TV in the living room has YouTube already built-in. Take a look, now that you’re off sick, you have a lot of time to yourself. It’s never too late to learn something new.”
“True, but now it’s getting late in the real world.”, says Sara standing in the doorway. Tommy is wondering to himself whether she has been there a long time, eavesdropping.
“Time to sleep, Elsa. A new day at school tomorrow.”
“Yes, Mummy.” Elsa moans, “But I think I can learn more by myself than when I’m at school. School is just so boring.”
Tommy hugs Elsa goodnight and wonders if he should try to watch a YouTube clip on TV in the living room. Elsa has awakened a curiosity in her father.
On his mobile phone Tommy sees that he has received a friend request and message on Facebook from Gaston. He writes;
Hey, Tommy! If you are interested in getting some inspiration for new letters to the editor and opinion pieces, then explore my Instagram. I put quotes and pictures up of Carl Sagan and other wise people.
Tommy starts up YouTube on TV in the living room and types Carl Sagan into the searchfield. He reacts to one clip; “Carl Sagan speaks Zeitgeist “. What was it the taxi driver had said? Was it Zeitgeist? Tommy looks at the video, and becomes intrigued by the similarities in relation to what the robots in his dreams tell him. Robots from the future? Tommy cannot stay awake any longer. Darkness surrounds him. He can feel himself hovering. It is not completely dark. His entire field of view is crammed with the most amazing star filled sky that he has ever seen. Tommy remembers how he as a child thought that the stars were small rather than large fireballs like the sun. He had had no idea that most of the stars were bigger than the sun and had planets surrounding them. Tommy also remembers how his brother Christer had once explained to him what Carl Sagan is describing when they watched the television series Cosmos together.
“You get a different perspective on life when you’re out here.” Tommy hears a voice nearby. Beside him he finds Robert, hovering too. “I understand that you don’t appreciate my company. I was really mean at school. I know it’s hard to forgive. But I am a different person now.”
“I know I’m dreaming.” says Tommy, “There is no air in space, and we have no space suits on.”
“That’s what makes this so much fun.” Robert stretches his hand out. With a sweeping motion he turns them around so that they face the Earth. “We are gods in our own dreams. We are almighty.”
Tommy looks down to the surface and realises that he almost can’t see any land, only sea.
“There, in the middle, you can see Hawaii.” Robert says, as if he had heard what Tommy was thinking, “And some people state that there is a lack of water. Ridiculous!”
“But we can’t drink saltwater.” Tommy points out.
“There is already existing technology that can remove salt from water.” Robert counters convincingly.
“Yes.” Tommy replies thoughtfully, “But that takes so much energy.”
“Sure! But half the globe is sunlit all day, all year round. There is an abundance of energy, we just have to harbour it. It’s easy enough, if we want to.” Robert sweeps his hand and two water bottles pop up in front of Tommy. “I take these two bottles with me when I walk in the woods. One collects water from the air. The other has a nano-filter so I can clean any type of water I want.”
“The future truly is amazing.” Tommy replies.
“Yes, but this is already a reality in your lifetime.” Just as if Robert can read Tommy’s thoughts he continues; “Do you not believe me? Then search the internet or YouTube.”
“Ok. If that is true, why do they still sell water bottles in the shops? Should we not sell these bottles instead?” Tommy is pointing to the bottles. Robert turns to Tommy and says. “Which bottles generate the most money?”
“Hang on…” Tommy protests, “That’s very cynical. Why doesn’t our government do something?”
Robert smiles at Tommy and starts singing “Money makes the world go around.”
“Is that not the case in the future?” Tommy wonders.
Robert responds, pointing down to Earth, “No. Because in the future, it is the TGM that attends to our planet. The Global Consciousness is everywhere and does not care about money. Nothing needs to be financially justifiable, only environmentally sustainable.”
“Environmentally sustainable.” Tommy repeats, “I think that’s what we are working towards in Sweden.”
“Hmmm.” Robert mumbles, “I’m not that good at history but …” he continues, pointing to a space station floating nearby, “… there we have something that is sustainable.”
Tommy notices that the space station resembles a huge wheel that slowly rotates between the Earth and the Moon.
“In there you can’t be careless with balance. Everything must be kept at proper levels. On Earth, humans have for thousands of years, not understood that nature is in a very fragile balance. Although we struggled to reduce carbon emissions, we neglected things at the other end.”
“What other end?” asks Tommy.
“Look at our globe. You can see the deserts spreading. Not just ordinary deserts, but also human deserts. Cities made of asphalt and concrete.”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
“We simply need to bring back nature. Then the carbon monoxide in the air will be converted into oxygen.” replies Robert and sweeps his hand again. Tommy sees how the globe is changing, becoming greener.
“Come.” says Robert and takes Tommys hand, “We can fly down and take a look at how we made the planet green again.”
Robert looks like Superman as he flies. Tommy follows him, as if he was attached to a string. They stop above a forest with lots of open space around it. A large herd of cattle is wandering around freely.
“Down there used to be all desert..” explains Robert and reminding Tommy of a teacher from highschool, “But now the animals graze freely and fertilize the earth naturally. There are no people to clean up the energy that nature needs to replenish itself. Animals are not fenced in, which means they don’t stay very long in the same place.”
“It must be difficult to work out the logistics with slaughter, if they are all wandering around freely.” says Tommy skeptically.
“No, no,” Robert responds quickly, “We leave the animals alone. People have stopped killing for food. It’s barbaric.”
“But …” Tommy begins.
“No buts.” Robert interrupts him, “You have to get rid of that terrible system. An entire industry dedicated to raising animals, with the sole purpose of killing them. It’s also, environmentally, absolutely disgusting.”
Tommy looks across the green landscape, reflecting on this;
“So you mean that man created all deserts on Earth?”
“I don’t know. But I do know that the desert transformed itself into lush forests when people let all the animals out from their prisons. Or should I call them concentration camps?”
“All of the animals?” Tommy was surprised, “But don’t they then wander into cities causing a lot of mess?”
“Let’s fly to a city you’re probably familiar with.”
The ground passes by so quickly that it just looks like a blur. It reminds Tommy of looking out of a train window while travelling at full speed along a rock wall. “Is this beginning to look familiar yet?” Robert asks when they finally halt.
Tommy looks down onto a deserted town. Nature has begun to gain a foothold amongst the concrete and asphalt. There are no traces of people who have been there recently.
“I know where we are!” Tommy exclaims, “We’re in Chernobyl. I recognise it from a documentary on TV.”
“Wrong!”, quips Robert teasingly, “Look again.”
Tommy looks around again, and suddenly he realises. He is back on the actual road where he grew up. There’s the playground where he used to run around with his childhood friends. The sandpit is completely covered by the bushes. A tree is growing from underneath a bicycle stand and he spots a handlebar sticking out from the treetop.
“It feels like everyone just left everything in a hurry.” says Tommy, distressed, “It’s as if they’ve been in a rush to escape from something. What happened here?”
“The Global Consciousness built new cities, better cities.” Robert replies, “Cities with an abundance of food and stuff. And where everything is free.”
“Snowflake Cities?” guessed Tommy quietly.
Robert does not answer but instead says; “Forget this now. Come on, we should fly and check out other great things.”
After a breathtakingly fast maneuver they stop somewhere by the coast. There are large photovoltaic objects floating on the surface of the water. Tommy sees several large airships that seem to land, refuel to then fly back inland.
“What are those?” Tommy points down towards the solar cells.
“They are a system combining the production of sunpower with water cleaning, hydrogen recovery and general environmental control.” Robert replies.
“Wow! Explain please.”
Robert begins to explain that the solar cells are only one part of the generator, there are also two different types of wave energy below the surface. The water is purified from environmental toxins as well as from high levels of carbon dioxide. Airships bring both waste and cleaned water back to land. The residual products are used in most cases to create new products or given back to nature in the places where they do least harm.
“This all sounds very expensive.” Tommy starts, but soon answers himself, “Although money plays no part.”
“Money is no more, now there are only resources.” Robert explains.
And then they quickly fly on.
Tommy and Robert stop above the middle of the ocean. On the surface of the water below they can see hundreds of enormous floating cities. Some of them float freely, but most of them are connected to each other and look like they have formed into the shape of snowflakes on the water’s surface. Some of the airships are landing and lifting from the Bertil landing platforms.
“These cities mostly follow the currents.” Robert explains, “Only occasionally, they will use their engines to avoid drifting too close to the shores or become stranded. Equally, the airships only tend to fly where the atmospheric air currents takes them.”
“But what if the cities slip into another nation’s territory?” asks Tommy.
Robert turns to Tommy and says, “You have not been listening. The Global Consciousness recognises neither nations nor boundaries. All people belong to a big communal family now.”
“But …I mean. Our cultures. Are they gone?”
“No.” replies Robert quickly, “Quite the contrary.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Each city has its own culture and orientation. All people can freely choose between them. There are seven floating cities called Swedish. On the earth’s surface previously called Sweden, there are now three big cities of which one is a mega city with a capacity of over 25 million inhabitants. “
Tommy, who has been watching Robert explain all this, is speechless in absolute amazement.
“And besides all that, there is a space station, as well as a city on the Moon and another on Mars. These are all called Scandinavian.”
Tommy is beginning to feel like he is floating around in a viscous liquid. Everything fades to black and in the darkness he thinks he can hear someone say, “Take it easy. Relax.” He is startled and realises that he is sitting on the sofa. The laptop is sitting in front of him and he immediately decides to write a new letter to the Metro.
Replace democracy with technocracy
Lately we have been experiencing the flipside to democracy. Racist politics and questionable democratic agreements. And when “ordinary people” can only vote every four years, they are often disappointed later on. But if we want to, we can innovate popular government and a society that works for the common good. The rapid development of artificial intelligence could potentially straighten out the mess that the party political system is now in the midst of. An AI would never allow itself to be threatened or bribed.
Tommy keeps writing, almost without thinking.
It would not be elaborate or egotistical. It would be free of prejudice and learn from historical mistakes that us people made throughout history. And primarily, it would be up to date with all the world’s knowledge. “Ordinary people” could gain influence by adding new information via their electronic devices like mobile phones and tablets. It is time to seriously begin discussions on how to proceed with the building of a new society. I look forward to a political debate between an ordinary person and an artificial intellect.
Tommy thinks for a moment about how to sign his letter. Then he remembers what Elsa called her tale. He types;
The Good troll
“Tommy” whispers Sara as she gently wakes him up by opening up the blinds slightly in the bedroom. “Elsa just left for school and I have to rush to work now. Try not to sleep the day away. Take a leisurely walk, it’s a pretty nice winter’s day.”
“Ok. Drive carefully.” Tommy replies, yawning. Then he realised that he hasn’t remembered any dreams. Perhaps he had been able to sleep without being disturbed by future opportunities.
Before Tommy finishes his morning walk, he passes the bus stop to take a copy of today’s Metro. Perhaps one of his letters to the editor has been published. In the newspaper box someone has put up a note. “Stop reading what others want you to know. Manage your own news online.” The note was signed “the freethinker”. Tommy is puzzled by this. He recognises that from somewhere. Had not someone mentioned freethinkers in his dreams? An uneasy feeling spreads in him as he takes a copy, as if he is doing something forbidden.
When Tommy approaches his house, he sees that a taxi has stopped outside. Out of the car steps Tommy’s mother Ruth. When the taxi drives off Tommy thinks her walking frame must have been left in the car.
“Mum!”, he shouts, “You forgot your walking frame in the taxi.”
Ruth shakes her head and explains that she has stopped using it.
“First, no Permobil and now no walking frame.” Tommy says, “Where will it all end? Will you be running the marathon next?”
“I feel more energetic every day.” Ruth explains, when they get inside, “But the real question is, how are you feeling, my little boy?”
“I was going to say that age takes its toll, but …”
Tommy notices that his mother has a small dark patch on her scalp.
Careless with washing her hair lately? he thinks to himself. He does not want to embarrass her, so he doesn’t mention it.
“Sara said you’ve become a bit strange after your hospital stay. And Lennart thinks you’ve become a dreamer.”
“Lennart? You don’t normally like to talk to him. You guys are like cat and dog!”
“Life is too short to go around disliking people. There is good and bad in all of us. Tell me about your dreams instead.”
“Ok. How will I explain my strange dreams?” he whispers to himself, “Yes!”, he exclaims loudly, “You know how easily and quickly we forget our dreams. I remember them better than I remember reality. And in my dreams I see and experience things that I later discover is already around. But I would have never heard of them before. How then can I dream about them? “
Ruth looks at him and picks up his mobile.
“I think this is the problem.” She waves it around a little. “We take in so much information that we don’t really reflect on and then we quickly forget about it. But our subconscious saves it and creates dreams about it.”
“But I have been stuck in the same place in my dreams,” says Tommy resignedly. “A city of the future with abundant resources and it’s run by robots.”
“Maybe you were influenced by mine and your father’s optimism. We really believed in a bright future. I think of your father when I hear Freedom by Richie Havens. But then came the 80’s and everything suddenly became very fast paced and materialistic. Now we live in a period of short-term thinking. People practically never talk about the future anymore. Not in a positive way at least. Only increased terrorism. It is as if ordinary people can’t be bothered to care anymore.”
Ruth starts looking at her mobile.
“But I was happy when I found this on Instagram via a letter to the editor in the Metro.”
Tommy was surprised. His old mother, using Instagram?
“Listen here.”, And she starts to read;
Let Instagram inspire you!
No one has been able to avoid being touched by the image of a dead 3-year-old boy, lying face down in the sand on a beach. The image is a result of the huge refugee catastrophe which we all knew about. But apparently we needed a strong image to fully understand it. I would like everyone who reads this text to try to change a little in our Instagram input. Start following accounts and posting pictures that mean something, images that counteract hatred, and highlight the concerns that we all have within us. Gandhi once said; be the change you want to see.
The good troll
“Oh dear.” Tommy smiles awkwardly.
“I know.” Ruth agrees, “It was nicely written, wasn’t it?”
“Uh, yeah. You know. Mum. It was I who wrote it.”
Ruth looks at her son without saying a word, her eyes slowly filling with tears.
After Ruth has left, Tommy feels curiosity rising within him. He feels compelled to sit down with the computer and search for ‘water filter’ and ‘wastewater treatment plants’. To his surprise, he finds a lot of information on nano-filters and other clever ways to purify water. Tommy finally gets tired from reading and starts to watch Youtube instead. Suddenly he comes across the name Zeitgeist again. It’s from a lecture by Peter Joseph called Post-Scarcity. He leans back on the sofa and starts watching it. After ten minutes, Tommy feels his eyelids becoming heavy.
Tommy finds himself standing in front of a high wall. It looks like he’s at the end of a large forest. Perhaps I am now on the inside of the inner wall. Water runs down the wall, it seems to come from the edge of the wall several metres above him. The water creates numerous small ponds on the ground and from them, he can see that there are many small streams running through the forest. He also notices that there are several winding paths into the forest. Tommy starts walking along one of the paths through the forest, not knowing where it might take him. Suddenly he feels compelled to walk up to a large apple tree. At the tip of a branch hangs a big red apple at eye level. He has never ever seen a more perfect apple. It is mesmerizing. From inside the tree, he hears a little soft voice.
“Are you going to do a Newton?”
Out onto the branch climbs a small robot that closely resembles a marmoset.
“What do you mean?” says Tommy.
“Well, were you planning to wait for it to let go, falling to the ground by the force of gravity?” says the robot and climbs up to the apple.
“No. Well, I don’t know.” says Tommy and touches the apple.
“Take it off and eat it then.” says the monkey, “It’s free, everything in the forest is free, just eat, eat.”
Tommy leaves the apple there and asks “Are there any more fruit trees in the forest?” and stretches his arm out towards the trees.
“There are only fruit trees in the forest, fruit in abundance. And there are lots of different bushes, roots and mushrooms. And everything is free. It’s there for you to help yourself.”
A little further away Tommy detects a large elephant-like robot that is walking slowly towards them.
“What is that thing?” he asks the monkey.
“It’s a collector. It gathers the baskets with moderately mature fruits that we sort here in the forest. Then it delivers it into town and distributes it to the people.”
The elephant sees Tommy, walks up to him and offers;
“Do you want to jump on my back and come with me to the residential areas?”
“Yes, I guess I could do that.”
The elephant robot helps Tommy up on his back, using his trunk.
“Now you’re in luck!” the elephant says to Tommy and points with his trunk against a tree that is full of flowers. “Look, what a spectacle.”
A swarm of small flying drones that resemble butterflies, buzz around the tree . They fly back and forth between the flowers. After a short while all of them take off through the woods and disappear.
“What was that?” asks Tommy.
“They’re our pollinators.” replies the Elephant and hike on through the woods. “Without them there will be no fruit.”
“Are there no bees?” Tommy wants to know.
“Yes, but not here in the city. Here, inside the wall, the only organic animal is man.”
“But, why a wall?” asks Tommy.
“Now we have arrived at my stop.”
The elephant robot stops at the edge of the forest. In front of them is a large field, where Tommy sees a lot of people lying on blankets, reading on their tablets. Young people socialising with each other, playing with the various robots that resemble dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, and even kangaroos. Other robots and flying drones gather around the elephant to take care of the different fruit baskets. Tommy gets off the elephant and the big robot wanders back into the woods.
“Hope you get answers to your questions!”, Tommy hears the elephant holler before disappearing into the woods.
Tommy starts walking towards the park area when he hears someone calling his name. He sees Robert Magnusson standing next to two girls in their 20’s.
“Come and meet my family!” cries Robert.
Tommy walks up to Robert and tells him;
“I was offered an apple by a small robot that looked like a marmoset, there in the woods.”
“Oh! Wait.” says Robert and puts a fingertip onto his wrist. A little snowflake glows blue on his skin and then changes to green. “There, now you’ll soon get your apple.”
“But, how did you do that?”, Tommy begins, but before he gets an answer, he sees the little monkey robot jumping on two legs out of the woods. In his arms he carries the big red apple.
“By the way,”, says Robert when they watch the marmoset halt, trying to find them among all the humans and robots. “The robots don’t like to be called robots. They call themselves Sillybifs.
“No.” interjects the mechanical monkey that has now stopped by their feet, “You’re pronouncing it wrong. It’s Siblifs, S I B L I F S, and it stands for Silicon-Based LifeForms.”
Robert reaches down, takes the apple off the monkey.
“You humans still think that we are just are machines, don’t you.”
Robert gives the apple to Tommy.
“Hope you like it.”, says the marmoset and starts jumping back towards the forest.
Tommy looks at the apple and shouts “Thanks.” a touch of surprise in his voice.
“The fruit of knowledge.” says one of the girls.
“Oh, I haven’t introduced you to my daughter, Stina, and this is my granddaughter, Lisa.” Robert beckons them to give Tommy a hug.
Stina is first to step forward to embrace Tommy. She then looks at him and says, “You look exactly the same as when I was a little girl playing with Elsa.” Then Lisa comes forward and says, “I don’t mean to be rude, but I think you look very old.”
“You must excuse my daughter.”, says Stina, “She has never seen an older man before. Not in real life, just in the virtual world.”
Tommy looks back and forth between them, puzzled “But I don’t understand, all three of you seem to be in your 20’s. How is that possible?”
“Well, Tommy, I don’t really know how it works.” Robert replies “I am 99 years old but feel as sprightly as a teenager. I’m just grateful I guess. What do you think of your apple?”
Tommy looks at it … did she say ‘the fruit of knowledge’? He decides not to try it and instead asks, “How did the future come to this?”
“Many questions.” Robert replies. “Consider this instead; remember all the trees that were around the school yard when we were little?”
“Yes.” answers Tommy thoughtfully, “They were chestnuts, I believe.”
“Do you also remember that there was a fruit shop next to school?”
“Yes, but I used to sneak off to the lady’s garden with a pear tree to steal her fruits.”
“My point is, would it not have been better to have fruit trees around the school instead? Or was it the fruit merchants who planted trees without fruit, so he could sell more fruits?”
“That never crossed my mind.” replies Tommy and rubs the apple against his shirt.
“Supply and demand, Tommy. Both can be controlled by advertising and planned scarcity.”
Tommy brings the apple to his mouth but interrupts his move when he sees, far away, a dark figure stepping out of the woods. The figure waves to Tommy. From the sky, a large bird-like drone dives down, picks up the dark figure and flies to the other side of the forest.
“What was that?” asks Tommy. Nobody around him seems to care. They just turn around, beginning to pick up their blankets and fruit baskets.
“We’re going home now.” says Robert, “You can come with us if you like.”
Tommy looks across to the other side of the park and sees many different types of houses. It looks like they get taller the closer to the centre they are. In the very city centre the buildings extend above the clouds. Tommy remembers the Tower of Babel and his journey into space. When he thinks about it, he realises that he is dreaming. Everything around him fades away and is replaced by his own living room. On the table in front of him he spots his laptop. On the screen a Youtube clip is still running, Post-Scarcity World. Tommy leans across and types Animal Robot in the search field. The first clip is of a robot resembling a kangaroo, just like one he saw in his dream. “How is this possible?” he asks himself loudly. The sound of his rumbling stomach is the only answer he gets. Then he writes Fruit of Knowledge and receives suggestions of ‘forbidden fruit’ and ‘fruit from the tree of life’. Tommy walks to the fruit bowl and picks up the biggest apple he can find.
After Tommy has had some fruit, his fatigue returns. He lies down on the sofa and immediately falls asleep. In a new dream, he is back in the park. Robert is again next to him and fiddles with some stuff in a bag. A male robot is standing next to the bag, it reminds Tommy of the white one he met in the snow. But this one is a light blue and shiny hue.
“Yes, Tommy, what is it?”
“Do you perceive these robots to be…” The robot begins to turn its head towards him. “I mean the… eh.. Siblifs, do you think they’re super-smart?”
“No. But that’s what’s so scary.” whispers Robert and starts walking away with Tommy.
“How do you mean?”
“You never know what they’re thinking. The only thing I know is that they are kind and they make me feel good.” Robert continues, “But maybe that’s what cows used to think about us, before they were slaughtered.”
Tommy looks at Robert in horror, then back to the robot.
“So you think they will kill us?”
“Maybe.” Robert responds, with clear indifference, “I don’t know, and right now I don’t really care to be honest. I’ll soon be 100 years old and I’m fitter than when I was 25. I might get to several hundred years or so before I die. Or I might be gone tomorrow. But I’ve had a good life. I’m satisfied.”
Tommy thinks about this for a while, then asks, “But you think robots are scary?”
“Yes.” Robert says, “Let’s test one out.”
Robert pulls out a Rubik’s cube that he shows the robot.
“Peter. Solve this as fast as poss…”
The blue robot takes the cube before Tommy can even blink and puts it back in Robert’s hand before he’s finished the sentence.
“Wow…” says Tommy, “That was fast.”
“Thank you. I am Peter.” The blue robot stretches his hand out to him.
Tommy grabs the hand and responds with a “My name is…”
“I know who you are.”, Peter interrupts, “We are all connected.”
Roberts steps in and says, “Can we please be left alone now? We want to have a conversation between two human minds.”
“Of course.”, answers Peter and walks away.
“He just won’t leave me alone.”, Robert whispers, “Peter is always around.”
“He is very fast, but to solve the Rubik’s Cube problem is probably just a small part of being intelligent? There are so many other things. When I talk with robots, I think they’re talking wishy-washy. It’s as if they’re just rambling on and sometimes they don’t even seem to understand what they’re on about themselves.”
“Yes.” Robert nods, “I think it’s like this;
“Imagine that you are smarter than a human is able to be. Imagine all of the things that you could easily understand. Solving the Rubik’s Cube would be easier than…well…touching your nose.” says Robert and moves his index finger to his nose.
“Wait.” Robert interrupts, waving his finger, “A Chimpanzee can poke their nose as easily as we can. But they have no idea how to solve the Rubik’s Cube, do they?”
“Well, that only shows us that we are smarter than Chimpanzees.” Tommy replies “ but it doesn’t tell us why I perceive robots as fuzzy.”
Robert twists the cube around for a bit. “No, but what I meant was, it’s not that easy to explain something to someone who is much more … well … stupid to put it simply.”
Tommy looks at Robert blankly.
“Try to explain to a Chimpanzee how to solve the Rubik’s Cube.”
“Hmm. No, I don’t think I can do that.” Tommy replies quietly.
“Nah, it’s the same thing. And it’s probably difficult for robots to get down to our lower level of intelligence.”
Tommy stays quiet for a moment. He looks at the blue robot. It just stands there totally motionless. Is it turned off or is it listening? he thinks and then turns to Robert, whispers; “How smart is this global awareness that robots are talking about.”
“Incredibly smart. We cannot even imagine it.”
“But how does the Global Consciousness really work?” asks Tommy.
“Hell if I know!” Robert replies, “But I heard a strange account by someone who thought he knew. He said this …”
Robert tries to remember for a second before continuing;
“Imagine your brain scattered all over the globe. Every single brain cell separated from each other physically, but still connected via a wireless network.”
“Wow.” Tommy ponders, trying to grasp this idea, “But what about your eyes, ears and the rest of the body then? Where are they?”
Robert sweeps his arm through the air and says, “Look around.”
Wherever Tommy looks, there are robots, silicone-based lifeforms with cameras, speakers and microphones. On the ground, in the trees and even in the air.
“Are you saying that the Global Consciousness is everywhere?”
“Yes. Think of the acronym TGC or GOD. Same thing. It hears everything, sees everything and knows absolutely everything.”
Robert is quiet for a moment. “TGC is within us as well, swimming around in our bloodstream and it gives us peace.”
Tommy feels sick as he thinks about it. To have something inside you, like a parasite. And then suddenly he remembers how horrible Robert had been to Tommy at school.
“Hey, Robert. Remember how mean you were to me when we were young.”
“Well that was then.” he replies quietly, “And it continued as an adult.”
Tommy looks at him and understands that he is ashamed.
“I was an asshole, scum. Sadistic and stupid. Simply a devil.”
Robert then turns to Tommy and says with a smile;
“But now I’m a good person. But you should know that it still stirs within me. A need to hate, anger that is constantly tempered by … Well, you know … Nanobots.”
“Oh.” Tommy remembers the old Robert. Then he asks gently, “It never seeps out?”
“Sometimes I feel that I’m close to that. But then I use a technique for getting the robots to help me.”
Tommy watches how Robert squeezes the cube in one hand, then takes a deliberate aim to throw it at Peter.
He throws the cube at him with full force, but it’s easily caught with one of his robotic hands.
“Are you done with this?” Peter asks, in a friendly tone of voice.
“Yes, yes. I’m done with it.” Robert replies.
The blue robot stays completely still.
“Is he just going to stand there?” asks Tommy.
“No” Robert replies, “look over there.”
In the sky Tommy can see a small bird-like robot flying towards them. When the bird approaches Peter he throws the cube up and it’s caught mid-air. The robot bird flies off into the city.
“But where does it take the cube?”
“Probably to the library of things.” replies Robert, “Now things are really stirring inside me. It has to happen right now.”
Robert punches Tommy’s shoulder so hard he almost loses his balance. Tommy notices how not only Peter reacts. Several animal robots respond too and turn towards them.
“What are you doing?!”, Tommy demands, rubbing his shoulder.
“I am about to break this goddamn robot law.” Robert replies and pushes Tommy again.”I want to have some fun.”
Tommy’s still standing. “Calm yourself down and tell me what the law is instead.”
Robert looks at Tommy and smiles. “No humans may allow the Earth and its inhabitants to come to harm. And that applies to the robots as well. So I’m safe.”
Tommy notices how a lot of robots have gathered around them in a circle and different sized mechanical birds are swarming above them in the sky.”
“Play along now.” says Robert and puts his fingers gently against Tommy’s chin. Then he hits hard with the other hand onto his own palm. Instinctively Tommy throws himself aside, and lands on his knees in the grass. In the corner of his eye, he sees Robert standing with his arms stretched out. Tommy thinks he looks like the statue of Jesus in Rio. Suddenly, a giant flying robot dives down and grabs Robert with his claws. Tommy gets up on his feet and watches Robert dangle under the mechanical eagle, just as they disappear behind the forest. All the other robots turn and walk away. They leave Tommy alone.
“Wow. What do I do now then,” he says aloud to himself. The world disappears and Tommy is back home. He has an odd ache in his shoulder.
The doorbell rings, then there are two knocks.
Tommy knows it is Lennart, only he knocks that way.
He opens the door a crack and sticks his head out into the cold air.
“Sara asked me to come by and check how you’re feeling.”
“I feel alright.”
“It’s cold outside.” Lennart continues, “Perhaps you could invite me in for a cup of coffee?”
“Oh.” Tommy replies and opens the door wide, “Hurry up inside please”
“You look very tired.” Lennart is looking at him closely, alternating between left and right eye. “You sleep well enough?”
“Yes. Well, yes and no. I fall asleep all the time.” Tommy is scratching his hair. “And I dream a lot of strange things, too. Good stuff, you know. Important things. But very strange.”
“Do you feel like telling me? Or do you just want to forget about them?”
Tommy starts to make coffee.
“I don’t really know. You’ll probably think I’m crazy when I tell you this. But I’m starting to believe there’s a reason behind me having these dreams. I just don’t know what it is.”
“Sara says you talk about robots and the future.”
“It feels more like visions. Like it’s for real.”
Lennart looks anxiously at his son-in-law.
“And it has some sort of connection to the internet.” Tommy almost whispers.
Tommy walks across to the TV and starts up the YouTube feature.
“Watch this.” He types Zeitgeist and YouTube comes up with several suggestions.
“At the hospital, I started to dream about the future; robots and some strange city that was shaped like a snowflake” Tommy tells Lennart. “And I promise you that I’d never even heard of this… Zeitgeist…before. It was in the taxi, the driver said something about it to me, when he brought me home. And that was after I started dreaming about robots.”
“Zeitgeist means spirit of the times in German.” Lennart replies quietly.
“Yes, exactly” answers Tommy, now a little more excitedly. “And I can’t speak German can I. I did technology instead of languages at school.”
“But what has this got to do with your dreams about robots?” Lennart asks.
“It’s like this. When you have finished watching a video on here, it will suggest other videos with similar contents. I think it is called hashtag or something like that.”
“Hash?” Lennart starts to look somewhat uncomfortable.
“Yes! Or, well, I don’t know. We can ask Elsa later. She is clued up on things like that.”
Tommy scrolls down to the name Fresco Zeitgeist. And the images of an old man appears in several video suggestions.
“This old man is Jacque Fresco. And he has constructed and designed an entirely new social system. He’s created something called The Venus Project.”
Tommy scrolls down a bit further in the list until he comes to a picture of a city that is perfectly round.
“And look there. A round city. Just like a snowflake, in its centre part.”
“But a circle is not a snowflake.” Lennart replies, clearly skeptical, “It sounds very far-fetched to me.”
“Six equal circles fit exactly around the seventh circle in the middle. And a snowflake has six branches.”
“But there’s just one thing. Where are the robots?”
“Well, Fresco wants everything to be automated. Everything handled by machines and robots, rather than people. There’s no need to work.”
“But if we don’t work we don’t earn any money!”, Lennart protests.
“In Snowflake city everything is free.” Tommy tries to sound like a robot. “People should not have to work. Allow us robots to take over, so you can rest.”
Now Lennart has heard enough and gets up from the couch. “I think the coffee is ready, Tin Man.” Lennart pats Tommy on the shoulder and goes to the kitchen.
Tommy sighs and puts on John Lennon’s Imagine, following Lennart into the kitchen.
Lennart and Tommy chat for a while, about everything and anything. Lennart has spoken to some friends in the Army and it has recently been reported that many troubled places in the world have become calmer. Tommy tries to act interested, but he just gets so tired. “I think I’ll have to go to bed for a while.”
In another dream, Tommy wanders around Snowflake city. He arrives at a canal that he cannot get across. On both sides, there is a half-bridge and Tommy wonders how he’ll get them to link together to form a bridge that he can actually cross.
“Need help?”, he hears a seductive female voice whispering in his ear. When he turns around, he sees a pink female robot standing very close to him. Tommy feels that she is too close, so he takes a huge step backwards and loses his balance. Just before he falls into the canal, the robot catches him.
“You need not to be afraid.”, the robot continues, “I’m here to help.”
“I’m not afraid.” Tommy replies defensively, “It’s just that I feel you’re a little intrusive.”
The robot releases Tommy when he has found his balance.
“I thought maybe you would like me. Don’t you think I’m pretty?”
“Yes, but you’re still a robot. I like humans.”
“Ok. I understand.”, she replies, “But please don’t call us robots. We are silicon-based lifeforms, not just machines.”
“Oh, I am sorry. I forgot.” Tommy feels ashamed.
“It’s okay. My name is Annika. Do you want help to get across the canal?”
“Where are you going to?”
“I don’t actually know yet.”,Tommy replies, “I’m a little lost and confused.”
Suddenly Annika snaps and fiercely with a commanding tone says;
“Stand still! You have no Nanobots. You are one of the wanderers. How did you get in here?”
Tommy is speechless with awe and surprise. He doesn’t know what to say. He can see many different types of robots and siblifs now beginning to gather around him. In the air, there is a large drone with four powerful propellers and it descends over Tommy.
“Oh, I am sorry!” says Annika, “You’re Elsa’s father.”
“Yes.” Tommy replies. He is now even more confused. He notices how all of the robots, aside from Annika, turn and walk away. The drone descends further and a harness is hoisted down.
“Buckle up!”, he hears a voice coming from the drone, “We will take you to Robert’s home.”
The harness looks just like the one he used when he parachuted when he was younger. It was only twenty years ago, but right now it feels like an eternity. Annika helps Tommy to strap it on and he is lifted up. The pink siblif named Annika is waving goodbye. Curiously, Tommy gets a sensation that he is floating diagonally. The feeling disappears and the drone quickly lifts him high up in the air.
“Shall we take a little tour first or do you want to fly directly to Robert’s house?” asks the drone.
“Let’s fly around for a while.” Tommy replies, “Robert is probably not home yet.”
Tommy looks down across the residential area. He sees a lot of different types of housing. The robotic elephants and some drones are delivering fruit baskets and other packages to the various villas. He remembers that the robots told him the city is self-sufficient.
Tommy asks the drone “How can cities of the future be energy self-sufficient?”
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