Nature Future Conditional

The story behind the story: Single layer I.T.

With a story that has a markedly seasonal flavour, William R D Wood makes his debut in Futures this week with Single layer I.T.. You can find out more about Will’s work on his website. Here, he kindly reveals the inspiration behind his latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing Single layer I.T.

Single layer I.T. happened on the way home from the store.

I’m a good driver and I don’t mean of the Rain Man calibre either. I take it seriously. Four kids and a few million miles under my belt keep me cautious. Even so, on the way to the store I was puzzling over a plot point for a different story and must have been distracted. I started to merge lanes without checking my blind spot. Luckily the driver of the other vehicle was well versed in the use of her horn, as well as dirty looks, both of which she shared liberally with me as she zoomed by.

What can I say? Oops. When other drivers make bonehead moves like I did and endanger us, I always tell my children not to take it personally. I’m quick to point out people act differently behind the wheel than they would face to face. The thin barrier offered to us by a ton or two of vehicular technology can transform us and not always in a positive way. Besides they could be rushing to the hospital, to some critical meeting or on their way to change the world. You just don’t know.

Minutes later, guiding my shopping cart through the aisles at the grocer, I bumped buggies with a lady at a corner in the dairy section. Not my best driving day. Another dirty look. At least this time I got to apologize. I was lucky enough to pull in behind her at the checkout too. I attempted some pleasantries but her expression made clear she was done with me and she would be obliged if I were done with her. C’est la vie. I meant well.

On the drive home, three things occurred to me. One, would we be so easily offended if we had a glimpse into each other? Two, the concept of linked minds would make a great little story. And, three, I get a lot of dirty looks.

The horror writer in me could not leave that one alone. With the line between biology and technology becoming more blurred day by day, suppose someone with the right multidisciplinary expertise decided to make sure we were all aware of one another. All the time.

The concept has been tackled with mixed success a few times on film and myriad times in print. Imagine the progress we could make if we were linked. The places we could go. I can certainly see the objective appeal. The resulting intelligence of a human singularity could propel us to the stars. But what might the cost be and what kind of growing pains might be necessary?

What kind of person is needed to take that first step and what kind of baggage might they bring to the project? I’m all about empathy for my fellow human beings but the loss of identity, the loss of self, especially against one’s will, is truly terrifying. Would the ends justify the means? With Single layer I.T. I hoped to scratch the surface and continue the dialogue. Something like the human singularity is coming someday alongside wonders and terrors our independent little minds can’t even imagine.

I have to admit, a few seconds access to the processing power of the human singularity might be helpful if I could be assured someone would pull me back into myself. As it happens, I still haven’t figured out the plot point to that original story.

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