Bill blinked twice. He’d been working on the problem for so long that he hadn’t noticed how small all the domiciles had become. Of course, being a high level contractor for the IA, Bill was well aware of the secret domestic downsizing project but this was the first time he’d witnessed the effects of its implementation first hand. It made him feel lonely. Drones hovered above the rooftops of the stocky community blocks delivering food to those who still opted to take their nutrition orally. If Bill squinted just so, he could imagine that they were pigeons or some other former city-dwelling birds that conveniently scavenged the refuse back when people still produced refuse for winged scavengers.
Inside their increasingly diminutive homes, people were all immersed in multi-faceted virtual realities whose sole commonality was the illusion in the mind of the citizen that he or she was the center of the Universe. Never mind that such a nucleus is impossible for a phenomenon without a definable circumference; nobody thought in terms of physical laws anymore — except for Bill and a few of his cohorts who worked deep in the belly of the Intelligence Apparatus, of course. And though their appointments had been announced with great fanfare, not one of them felt privileged to be among the few remaining people privy to the truth.
It was Bill’s fault that the VR fed into the domiciles had become so absurdly flattering to individual egos. In essence, everyone was having what felt like the experience of being God, impossible as Bill had proven such an experience to be. The IA decided to ratchet up the narcissism of the virtual life after Bill had — innocently enough — managed to finally and permanently disprove the very notion of a Creator. It all happened about a decade ago when he was tasked with solving the growing problem of suicide among seemingly well-adapted citizens. A contributing factor to this outbreak of hopelessness, of course, was the continued growth of the population despite the steady disappearance of habitable land as the world’s coastlines continued to inch ever inward. But back then, people were at liberty to choose their own experiences from a menu of popular scenarios. Not surprisingly, over 90% of all VR downloads purchased worldwide were of the sex fantasy variety. And since people still enjoyed a decent amount of living space, these pornographic excursions were invariably followed by the insertion of a real penis into a real vagina and this, of course, resulted in more and more real babies to ravage the Earth’s dwindling resources. In other words, due to all of that spontaneous and unregulated fucking, the human race now found itself completely and utterly fucked. The IA quickly ascertained the unsustainability of the situation and when the alarming suicide figures came to their attention, they turned to Bill for a solution, never dreaming that he’d actually find a way to make things worse.
Bill first had to identify the problem before embarking upon the search for a solution, and he quite accurately defined it as this: people had viewed themselves as separate from their gods — as other than their gods — for so long that it was now an unfortunate accident of birth to be immediately saddled with the instinctual illusion that every person is a mere plaything thrust into a brutally cold and unkind Universe whose indiscriminate machinations were governed solely by its capricious Creator. This accepted contradiction created an inescapable psychological double-bind in the minds of every man, woman and child. It caused them to feel simultaneously inferior and superior to their alien habitat and the other lifeforms therein, thus imbuing them with motivations that necessarily canceled each other out. Inferior because they were individually helpless to transform the physical laws that caused so much difficulty and discomfort and because they assumed that the god behind this situation was so sublimely inscrutable as to make interaction with his neglected children impossible. Superior because they also managed to imagine that such supernatural interactions are indeed possible because such a complex organism as man can’t have been created in any other image than that of its Creator. This gave them leave to treat nature with unmitigated aggression in a never-ending futile attempt to mold it to their image of heaven. When nature began its inevitable revolt against the actions of its most troublesome and cancerous constituents, people had no choice but to face the results of their collective misapprehension of reality. This is when people began jumping off of buildings and swallowing handfuls of lethal narcotics. This is when the IA called upon Bill for assistance.
Always methodical, Bill was certain that the first step in releasing humanity from its millennia-long dream was to attack it at the root; i.e. destroy the legendary notion of God The Father once and for all. As steps in the imagined process went, this one was child’s play. Here’s what Bill told the human race in a mandatory simulcast from the IA’s Information Service: A limitless, creative being with its own will and desires is a logical impossibility. Motivation, will, aspiration, self-expression — these all arise from an incomplete comprehension of reality. If a conscious being were to possess all of the knowledge that can be acquired, it would be incapable of desire or motivation. “All of the knowledge” doesn’t just refer to the collective discoveries of mankind up to this point — it means knowledge of every single minute physical and conscious activity in the process that is the field of the phenomenal Universe. It means an absolute intimacy with every simultaneous event of the past, present and future. It means having no questions to be answered or problems to be solved. It means, in other words, the death of creativity. A consciousness containing everything there is would cease to have a will. Thus, it follows that an ultimate limitless consciousness cannot possibly be the catalyst for a limited Universe.
Bill had a crystalline reputation in his field of study and that’s why the IA broadcast his message without reservations. “Well, that’s been tidied up,” they told themselves until people began checking out en masse for no apparent reason. The reason, of course, was that their illusions had been shattered but nothing had been presented to take their place. Nature’s sudden dramatic backlash to their lifestyles was the first clue. Bill’s attempt at mitigating their distress was the proof of life’s cruel futility that they needed in order to give up entirely.
So the IA sent Bill back to the drawing board. For now, the wide scale implementation of V.R. Narcissus kept the masses safely indoors, quiet and content in playing God from the comfort of their cramped quarters. If a person should step away from the main screen, applications embedded in their telephones, wristwatches and eyeglasses kept the illusion alive with recorded and texted messages from imaginary friends and relations that reinforced the citizen’s feelings of infinite importance. No one ever suspected that these messages were generated at IAHQ and run through personality filters to fit the specifics of each particular VR experience because it was too tempting for an ego to enthusiastically accept and embrace such confirmations of its imagined supremacy.
IA sent Bill back to the drawing board because it was understood that the current situation was untenable in the long term. Virtual Reality demands actual machinery as well as perpetual maintenance and adjustment thereupon. Humanity needed a permanent solution to the perfect existential storm it was facing and one that relied on manufactured technology was by its very nature temporary.
In college, Bill had read a curious nineteenth century novel called “Flatland” by an author with the equally curious name of Edwin Abbott Abbott. The book’s central character was a two-dimensional square living in a correspondingly two-dimensional world. The square has a strange dream about a one-dimensional world inhabited by points (or singularities) who are unable to see him when he tries to interact with them, because their world doesn’t permit the discernment of more than one dimension. A short time later, the square is visited by a spherical being from our three-dimensional world but is only able to see this entity as a two-dimensional circle due to the limitations of his own world. Bill had found the book’s premise charmingly absurd at the time, but now he wondered if the answer to mankind’s dilemma didn’t perhaps lie in an inversion of its plot.
The dilemma can be summarized thusly: the Earth and its resources are finite and depletable but the human population continues to grow exponentially. Now that the effects of its history of consumption and multiplication have become apparent, mankind is beset by unmanageable guilt and anxiety. The God myth has lost all of its potency leaving its former adherents staring out over an abyss of nihilistic despair. Chin up, Bill, we know you’ve got it in you to sort out this little predicament, Old Chap! Bill stared out over his own abyss of nihilistic despair until that silly old book of geometric fantasy revealed the answer he sought.
Dimensions. We inhabit a world that displays itself through a dimensional quartet (if you include time, whose inclusion in the formula is indispensable to our experience of the phenomena it generates). Therefore, our environment is limited to that which can be experienced by a four-dimensional orientation. Quantum mechanics, however, has revealed a functional field of infinite dimensions beyond our perceptional capabilities. How might we access such potentially expansive realties? Bill pondered this question for several months, often trying the patience of his instant results-addicted superiors at IA.
This morning, Bill perfected the science of accessing higher dimensions. Satisfied at his hard-fought accomplishment, he climbed up to the roof of the IAHQ building for a breath of fresh air. There was none to be found, of course, but today, Bill wasn’t even mildly distressed at the scant breathability of the atmosphere. It simply reinforced his nearly unshakeable resolve. Holding a tiny quantum computer in the palm of his hand, Bill walked to the building’s ledge and looked down, wondering how those poor suicidal souls must have felt when they believed that they were about to deliberately snuff out their own lives. “Morons,” he scoffed under his breath, having lost all sympathy for the planned beneficiaries of his intellectual and ostensibly humanitarian breakthrough. “I’m going home and the last thing I need is a horde of insufferable simpletons riding my coattails.”
With that, Bill stepped off the roof into a higher dimensional plane. Just for fun, he wiggled his middle finger through the invisible midair portal before pulling it back into his newly expansive realm with an audible pop.
Trevor was quickly tapped by the IA to pick up where Bill left off in his work when he incomprehensibly disappeared earlier in the day. A smoker, Trevor’s first order of business after his brief orientation was to steal away to the roof for a quick puff. Lighting a fag while staring out over the motionless city, Trevor could swear he heard a voice in the wind. Subtle but persistent, it seemed to be saying, “Fuuuuuckkk yooooooooooouuuuu!” in a spectral voice that bore an eerie similarity to that of his predecessor. “If I don’t keep my wits about me,” thought Trevor, “this job may well drive me mad.”