avatarRoman Newell


Newspapered Windows

Virtual morality

Photo by Rene Böhmer on Unsplash.

News papered over the windows. An unconventional way of keeping the light back. Like news actually keeps truth in silence. I mobilized from desk to computer where he worked wordlessly. I knew nothing of cyber-work and liked watching him play, cigarette dangled from his lips. His fingers performed ballet over the keyboard. Each line of code a command like children and computers might be the same thing. Both taught and raised to independence.

An intriguing idea. Swallow of coffee in the pouch of my mouth gone cold. I reflected its trajectory. It. Like a non-monogamous adaptable form taking sex to the world to reproduce digits. Information and opinions. So much of the thinking in 20XX. About the definition of reality and technology’s influence on morality.

In a culture rife with cancellation and metamorphosis how do we catch the fluidity of right versus wrong. I walked across the room to watch the programmer. Being too close to it made me uncomfortable. I took another swallow of coffee and wondered what happens when prophets become computers. When humans stop making decisions, cease thinking for themselves, and allow AI to set the rules for behavior? Just an idea. What happens when computers decide our ethics?

I looked at the stucco caked with grime and considered all we’ve fought for. Imagination and license. Freedom to create and cogitate. I sat down in a chair with frayed armrests and became internal. I thought about this a lot. What happens when virtual reality is as real to the brain as human reality? Henry calls it virtuality. Reality and virtuality. Is there fabricated morality in a virtual world? Should there be?

Laws might be designed to govern reality but character is made everywhere. Evil grows virtually. Just the same as this world.

The coffee was too cold to enjoy. I dumped it out and discovered the pot was also empty. Tossed the old filter with wet grounds. Replaced it and hit brew.

We had this way of talking about the real world. For several millennia it made sense to us. Before computers and internet and cyber. Now it’s hard to differentiate. When a man can create a program that looks just like his daughter with pigtails and —

It’s a lot alright. I tell myself. Don’t close your eyes. The questions come like lumber on green chain. When you have the material to build a structure you have an obligation to the unhoused and the material. The dark web proves you can’t regulate the whole internet. What do we do with an entire second reality?

I kick my right leg over my left and stretch my hip. Hip and knee both been bothering me lately. Like I’m old or wrecked or made of matchsticks. Impending storms touch my joints with invisible fingers to make me ache.

I look at exe. Alias for the man at the computer doing programmer acrobatics: a skill I know little about. exe. Lowercase. Like executing a program. Hacker name. Cool joint. Get no argument from me.

Would you look at that. Been in the present tense for the last three paragraphs. Did you notice? That’s how easily the change happens. In the same room with the same newspapered windows blocking the same illumination because news does what? Filters truth. Hunnnnhh. It’s a strange sound leaving my mouth cavern. I toss my arms behind my head and reset my glasses. Think how easily time refracts. One moment it’s the present. Next it’s the past.

I’m scared of it and don’t know what it is. Which is not the way to go about innovation. With fear. But a precise technology imprecisely anywhere is daunting. Ubiquitous. An intelligence existing in the network. Nowhere and everywhere all at once.

exe is tapping again after a short break. Going where he goes. Into it. A tear the size of a sliver in this reality to join with forces in that reality. The problem to my mind as I hover around this room (in the present) is that morality is somehow attached to reality, a figment of human design. When all this is floating around, in and out of consciousness. The way we partition reality into cubed devices and constructs, the way we cantilever ideas.

Fishing morality concepts from lakepools of man designed institution, hegemony, and mythos. The consciousness will always outlast institutions that try to explain it. The idea that morality is human evolution toward spiritual apotheosis. A conscious fabric made of all humans joined into one being sharing atoms, attitudes, modes of existing that support the larger organism. Our biggest error is thinking we are the peak of evolution and therefore separate. We are not the pinnacle of evolution and are therefore joined in common cause. Society is the organism above us in hierarchy.

I exhale several decades worth of false thought. I feel it slide through my nostrils. Out and down to the wooden slat flooring turned black with mud.

My mind goes to 20XX and God. To computers and complexity of realities competing for attention. Humans subject to physical laws don’t decide anything about reality. Or morality. Something all-encompassing. The consciousness knitting all together. Outside virtuality and reality the consciousness talks to us about our small ways of thinking. About cubing faiths and egos and ethics. Online. Another debate, another opinion poll, more humans naysaying other humans like they earned kingship to sermonize. I pull back and watch exe continue writing another world.

In it, I wonder, if we won’t contrast our colors all over again. Increase volume and resolution for greater clarity only to learn we are experiencing a standing reality alongside the others with the same limitations. Caught in a recursive loop. Realizing every reality is a product of our own design. Self-built and designed to propagate human separation so we never evolve.

I took a final look at the newspaper over the windows, yellowing beneath compulsive sunlight. Over time the paper faded, truth bent, reality added an additional paradigm.

Take a look at that. We’re in the past tense.

Roman Newell is hard at work on his debut novel — 20XX — a work in magical realism, which explores the complexities and conflicts in modern day societies amid confusing social norms, rapidly evolving technology, and impact traumas. Follow Roman’s Substack to be added to the 20XX contact list.

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