One year. 100 articles. So we're having a Reader's Party. Come along to Upsidecrown.
Roboto il Diavolo
3 July 2000
So. I'm lying on my belly in the playroom/study/home worker's Xanadu, playing idly with my Fisher-Price civil engineer's kit. And let's get one thing straight. There is nothing effeminate whatsoever about civil engineering. No. It's what men do. With other men. When they want to do things with other men. Which they don't. Ever.
So, anyway, there's me, and I've finally sussed how to get the torture victims into the arms of the badinage drones without affecting local transport links. Quite an issue - nothing so unpleasant as finding the only seat left on the bus is next to a guy from the flensing lines, wearing an ill-fitting suit made from his own skin. A golden age beckons, of City Fliers unbesmirched by left-over body fat.
Then, suddenly, I lock up. If you receive an e-mail with the subject "Badtimes", do not open it. Total immobility, as I am assaulted by a sudden and painful hunger to know the name of the little blue kid from Ulysses 31.
Viral memes. With the pollen count high and the wind low, they're spreading on the breeze, carried by the bees. Nobody is safe, except arguably Brian Sewell.
Of course, you apt pupils know all about spontaneous memetic transmission, morphogenetic field resonance, all that crap. If a hundred silverback gorillas learn something, suddenly every silverback gorilla in the world knows it as well.
Very impressive. Let's see what happens when there are less than a hundred silverback gorillas left. Not going to be so smug then, are you, you loveable forest-dwelling primate shitbirds? You might even learn the value of a little hard studying. For five points, spell "extinction".
All of which is fine and dandy when you're transmitting something like "If somebody is walking towards you with a metal tube, he wants to grate your penis for medicinal purposes. Don't be tempted by that second Belgian waffle." It's slightly less all-singing when survival has become such a piece of piss that there is no vital, in the exact sense, information left to communicate. The transmitters and receptors still work, but there's nothing to transmit. Which is why some days you can't stop thinking about Thundercats.
Well all right, I ask myself, idly picking up a scale-model replica of Enkidu's Eats'n'Treats ("For service that'll make you go Ur!") and swapping its position with the King's Arms Transplant Hospital ("Hard-working livers for hard-living workers!"), thus destroying a carefully-balanced commercial infrastructure, so, if these memes are so all-pervasive - Panthro, Tigra, Lion-o, Wilykit, Wilykat, Snarf - why can't we see them? Why is science powerless to explain?
Because they exist as conceptual entities? Because they are intrinsic, ethereal constituents of that ka, chi, prana, soul that makes us human?
Or, because they're very, very small?
Some of the greatest achievements of science and magic have been by accident. Some might believe that Dr. Alexander Fleming was trying to brew up a batch of lethal melba toast when he discovered penicillin. If it weren't for a full and frank apology from his breakfast buddy, we'd have a cure for cancer.
Such idleness cannot stand in the way of a true visionary. So, a quick reconfiguration of the old civil engineering kit for more bijou work, a little hard work and there we had it:
The world's first nanomeme. A tiny, quasi-intelligent machine, no bigger than a breath through a mobile phone, able to replicate itself endlessly within a human host, generating crystalline lattices of utterly pointless information.
Why? Why Everest? Why the Moon? Why automated flensing solutions? Maybe, just maybe, if you hadn't been so wicked tiresome with your tedious, emotionally adolescent fixation on the minor media of your youth, this needn't have happened. All you need to know now, grasshopper, is that soon you won't be able to leave your bunker without total synaesthetic trivia overload. Then, a lingering death as you lie, retinas burnt out, repeating dialogue that lost all meaning even when your mind still functioned, whispering it through bubbles of black slime, through cracked lips.
Prepare for the pop-cultural assimilation of Earth.