Held Captive in the Cyberworld

By on June 29th, 2017 in Fiction, Human Impacts, Magazine Articles, Societal Impact

At breakfast the next morning, Phi disclosed, “You know, Psi, I’m sick of this country. Let’s head on back home to Anaxaton. It’d be nice to see your mother, the rest of the family and friends after all this time.”

“After yesterday, it’s no wonder you’re inclined that way,” Psi responded, “and I do think I’ve got a good feel for the Land of Matta by now. I’m also a little curious to find out what’s been going on at home.”

The two got out their map of Matta and chose a straightforward route across the rest of the Wodanaz Forest, down the steep decline into the Ener Valley, then southward along the Ener River to Nosear, where they’d be able to catch a flight to Rutan. The river plain of the Ener was broad and interspersed with vineyards, so they’d do a bit of wine-tasting along the way. Their itinerary was soon settled in outline. After packing and checking out, the two travellers remounted their recharged e-mares and headed off west through the forest toward the escarpment that would bring them down into the Ener Valley through a series of serpentine bends. The weather was fine, the sky a brilliant blue, the breeze refreshing. After a sandwich and coffee break late morning, however, the sky toward the west darkened. Something was brewing up there in the atmosphere.

E-Mares in the Cloud

Under an hour later they rode their e-steeds into a violent thunderstorm whose torrential downpour quickly drenched the couple. The thunder rumbled across the firmament and lightning flashed around them. All of a sudden, a bolt of lightning struck them. In their fright, they clung on to each other, from habit putting their arms akimbo in the fashion of the conjugal product they’d learned to exercise in Upper Matta, now renamed Burramatta. The lightning bolt smashed the e-mares to smithereens, which disappeared in a flash of electrons up into the sky, initially taking the two riders with them. Psi and Phi blacked out as they tumbled off onto the ground. One could only hope that the insurance would pay for this unforeseen intervention of the forces of Nature with a capital N. Later they were to hear that this freak accident caused much consternation among the e-equestrian public that induced the two major e-horse manufacturers to make technical improvements and to recall millions of e-nags at onerous cost.

When they regained consciousness, Phi and Psi found themselves in another, completely strange place. What had happened? They were totally disoriented. Their minds were spinning. The surroundings were entirely unnatural, and they were sitting on neat, white blocks or single steps.

“What happened?” Psi asked Phi in confusion.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Phi replied. “Luckily we made a conjugal product when the lightning struck. If we hadn’t, we could have ended up separately in different places. We’ve learned that operators operate on dynamic states in indeterminate ways, but that conjugated dynamic states are determinate scalars upon which operators operate determinately.”

“But where have we landed?” asked Psi with dismay. “This place is like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

“I dunno,” came Phi’s reply, “not the foggiest.”

Psi’s question was well justified and requires some explication before continuing with their story. Only gradually was it to dawn on the two travellers into what kind of realm they had been cast. Another question concerned what had happened to the two e-mares they’d been riding. Had the bolt of lightning really destroyed them so that nothing remains to be said on that matter? In truth, the e-mares’ story is worth telling, for it is instructive also for finding out more about Phi’s and Psi’s fate, which was very different from Gulliver’s of being shipwrecked or cast away on strange islands around the as-yet-not-fully discovered Terra Australis at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The place to which the lightning-flash had despatched them was called Turingia, about which the e-mares, whose names, incidentally, were Bonny and Honey, received a head start in knowledge for, as it turned out, they, too, were animated beings whose appearance as sophisticated, but inanimate, electromagnetic contraptions was deceptive. The lightning bolt had suddenly and violently conveyed them upward to the cloud overhead, where they were received with warm greetings and open arms because the cloud itself had been in a poor state of electron depletion and urgently required the immigration of electrons. Since the two e-mares were massively charged giga-ions, they were able to make a contribution to the cloud’s stability through their sheer presence. There was much excited chatter among the cloud’s electrons about the e-mares’ arrival and it was soon decided that they should be given an introduction to electronic life as viewed from the cloud.

“The microworld,” Gamma continued, “has been invaded and colonized for the sake of a grand automated set-up.”

As it happened, there was a series of lectures currently proceeding at weekly intervals in the cloud on various aspects of electronic existence not only in nature, such as the role of electrons in meteorological conditions which had a direct relevance to cloud electrons, but also in human technological applications of electrons. This week’s lecture was precisely on a topic directly relevant to Psi’s and Phi’s fate down below. As recent arrivals, the two e-mares were cordially invited to attend the lecture by an invited guest speaker that was to begin in less than an hour. The lecture theatre was up a silver-carpeted, spiral staircase higher in the cloud to which Bonny and Honey were directed, where they clip-clopped gently up and up, the light becoming more and more intense as they climbed, until they finally reached the next level. On entering the already half-full lecture theatre, they found it to be capacious and understandably fluffy, in shades of grey and white, with comfortable seats for electrons or bundles thereof of all sizes. Bonny and Honey took two seats among the audience. Shortly thereafter an electron appeared on stage to introduce the guest speaker — this time, and as an exception, a human — who was to speak via oneiric cloud-presencing, a special technology that electrons had developed themselves for convenient communication with selected humans whom they felt they could trust. Due to Willy P.’s covert domination of the human world, trustworthy humans were few and far between. One such was Gamma, whom the electron presenter now announced. He appeared on stage oneirically, since the electrons had figured out that humans’ minds could be anywhere while dreaming. They had approached Gamma to ask him if he’d like to speak to an audience of clever, interested electrons, to which he immediately assented. The oneric hook-up with his mind worked perfectly. After thanking the audience for the invitation and their attendance, he proceeded without further ado with his lecture on the cyberworld, about which electrons living in the wild knew little. All they knew was that it wasn’t a nice place for an electron to be. They were also thirsty for greater knowledge of the human world, which was having an ever greater impact on their own existence in diverse ways.

“I’ve been told that you’ve already heard a couple of lectures in the present series on the nature of the Land of Matta, so I’ll proceed assuming you possess a certain level of foreknowledge,” Gamma began. “The cyberworld is a normally invisible colony within Matta called Turingia, a dominion populated primarily by electrons forced to perform labour along circuits etched minutely into silicon chips resembling broad, flat river plains of mighty rivers, which are the circuits themselves. In addition, along the circuits there are also countless steps resembling weirs where electrons are compelled to jump up or down. The primitive blue-print for this miniaturized country was drawn up by a brilliant mathematician called Nala Gnirut with whom Zinbeil became acquainted in his efforts to tighten integration in Matta. As you may know, integration is a calculus for summing up the tiny, infinitesimal steps in a movement so as to precalculate it and thus control it. Each tiny step is like a little stone on a board used to keep track of a counting process. Calculations are performed by shifting calculi back and forth. In Turingia the steps are not infinitesimal, but tiny, discrete ones performed by binary digits called bits, so the calculations of movements, which are mainly continuous, can only be approximated.

“Together with his famous accomplices, Fritzitoo and Bossymac, with whom he rules Matta, Zinbeil has indeed succeeded in extending the control of movement into every crevice of society, to the detriment of the so-called private sphere which — despite privacy being celebrated as ostensibly one of Matta’s most cherished values — has been perforated by so much State intervention that it resembles Swiss cheese. Being able to withdraw from public disclosure, exposure and surveillance has largely become a self-delusion cultivated by many, egged on by State propaganda. The control of movement in the production and circulation of goods, transportation as well as the bureaucratic State administration of society demands ever greater efforts to achieve efficiency. There is constant pressure to lower costs everywhere by improving productivity and efficiency in general in processes of whatever kind.

“As it turns out, the automation of processes is the key to solving (or maybe exacerbating?) the problem of continually enhancing efficiency and effectiveness. This is where Gnirut comes in. In long nocturnal sessions at the back of a smoky restaurant with a bottle of whisky, Zinbeil found out that Gnirut had come up with the solution to a problem over which Zinbeil had racked his mind long before in attempting to develop computing machines. He’d dreamt even of a machine to ‘objectively’ compute juridical decisions from universal axioms of law, thus obviating legal strife once and for all. Justice as automated calculation! With Gnirut’s blue-print, social order was finally to be instituted and maintained by a universal calculus. Zinbeil was ejaculating enthusiasm for his project to rationalize society.

“Gnirut’s genius stripped the problem of computation down to its bare essentials. He saw that any sort of logically formulable problem whatsoever, not merely problems of calculating with numbers as in arithmetic, could be translated into a computing procedure consisting in having one number work step-by-step on another number to produce a third number. If these numbers all related to some process, some movement or change of whatever kind, this copulating of one number with another to produce a third could be used to control movements of all kinds. The first number was the algorithm itself, also known as the program code or software, which determined stepwise and logically how the second number, the data, was to be processed to produce the third number, the result. The number-processing machine was thus a data-processor that could automatically process data to generate effects.

“The first number, the algorithm, is a number translating a stepwise procedure that represented a logical understanding of how a certain process was to be controlled. A human programmer first has to analyze the problem at hand, such as how to control a set of traffic lights depending on traffic flow, and translate a solution to this problem of efficient switching for maximizing smooth traffic flow into a single, long number representing how to go about switching the traffic lights depending on the traffic-flow data fed in. Brilliant! In this way, human logical problem-solving can be outsourced to a number-computing machine to automatically effect a solution. The numbers are most conveniently represented in base two, that is, in binary code consisting exclusively of zeroes and ones which were the either/or steps of the algorithmic calculus. The numbers are thus appropriately called bit-strings, and a machine algorithmically processing data in fact amounts to one active, “male” bit-string copulating stepwise with another, passive, “female” bit-string to generate (or “procreate”) a third, the “offspring.” Most effective!

“Now I come to the part of the story where you, dear electrons, are dragged into and enslaved by the cyberworld. The bit-strings need to be materialized, and this is currently achieved by silicon chips in which electrons are compelled to jump this way (zero) or that (one) depending on the commands of the bit-string algorithm processing the data bit-string. Electrons are thus employed as the little stones or calculi of an abacus or counting board used already in ancient times to keep track of a counting process such as book-keeping where you little dears become accountants’ assistants, keeping them a-counting efficiently. These universal bit-string copulators serve to cybernetically control all sorts of processes, including bureaucratic ones, thus improving the social-welfare State’s efficacy in delivering welfare and monitoring the populace in detail, which in turn cuts costs. Savings through cybernetics deployed in the economy are also enormous and the race to improve productivity through cybernetic automation is never-ending and ever-accelerating. Bit-string copulators have become ubiquitous, indeed virtually uncountable, billion- and trillion-wise. An entire, new, artificial cybernetic world has sprung up, the cyberworld of Turingia, that seeps into every nook and cranny of life with the promise of efficacy in all its senses: efficiency, effectiveness, convenience. Turingia is an engineered colony of concatenated bit-string copulators occupying the microworld composed of electrons, who are the conscripted work-horses, along with all the other so-called fundamental particles of nature.” Bonny and Honey neighed knowingly at this point of Gamma’s delivery, for they knew well of another form of electronic slavery for the sake of human convenience.

“The microworld,” Gamma continued, “has been invaded and colonized for the sake of a grand automated set-up.” He went on in this vein providing the electronic audience, including Honey and Bonny, with solid basic knowledge of both Matta and its micro-colony of Turingia. Honey and Bonny had a lively exchange after Gamma’s lecture about what they’d learned. They were also curious about the fates of Phi and Psi whom they’d lost in the thunder storm. Could it be that they’d ended up in Turingia? It was merely a peculiar vision, an odd hunch the two e-mares had, totally lacking evidence. Having eavesdropped on Psi and Phi chattering on their way through the Wodanaz Forest, Bonny and Honey had gained some sympathy for this adventurous young couple. Until now, our two journeyers were ignorant of their whereabouts, had been only vaguely aware of the cyberworld and had no notion of what a bit-string copulator was. They were about to learn through hard knocks.

Forced Labour in the Bit-String Copulators of Turingia

Through a stroke of indeterminate fate — or rather, more scientifically, as one possible eigenstate outcome of an operator (the lightning-bolt) operating on their conjugated dynamic states atop their e-steeds — Psi and Phi indeed had been reduced to electron-slaves of Turingia, compelled to perform labour in the algorithmic, cybernetic copulators. They sat there on their steps, wondering what had happened to them when above, a huge magnetic head passed over them, like a shipyard crane’s trolley. Depending on the magnetic field currently induced in the magnet overhead, the electrons underneath either had to jump up the step, jump down it, or remain where they were. In this way, as bitified electrons, Phi and Psi were continually being commanded to either jump or stay put, for they, too, could not resist the magnetic force. It was exhausting work. The only amelioration was that they couldn’t be separated because they were still conjugated; when Psi had to jump up on the step, Phi had to jump down, and vice versa. By some miracle, they could also talk to each other, which was a great comfort. Most, or perhaps all, of the other electron-slaves around them also possessed the gift of speech; their constant murmurings were clearly audible.

As Phi and Psi were to discover, the official language throughout Turingia was bit-language, whose spoken form was bit-talk or, more colloquially, digi-chat, which the colonized electrons, too, were compelled to speak. The language consisted merely of bips and bops, so a single typical word could look like “bip-bip-bop-bip-bip-bop-bop-bip-bip-bop-bop-bop-bop-bop-bip-bip-…,” going on almost forever and thus exceeding powers of human comprehension. Who could understand a conversation between two electrons such as:

“Bip-bip-bop-bip-bip-bip-bip-bop-bop-bop-bop-bop-bip-bip bip-bop-bop-bop-bop-bop-bip-bip bip-bip-bip-bop-bop-bop-bop-bop-bip-bip bop-bip-bip.”

“Bip-bop-bop-bop-bop-bip-bip-bop-bip-bip-bop bop-bop-bop-bop-bop-bip-bip.”

“Bop-bop-bip-bip-bip-bip-bop bip-bip-bop-bop-bop-bop-bop-bip-bip bop-bop-bop-bop.”


Even this bit-conversation has been drastically shortened so as not to burden the reader unduly with its normal, inordinate length, for bip-bop binary language is tedious in the extreme. Even to say “Good morning,” for instance, requires endurance: “Bip-bip-bip-bip-bip-bip-bip-bip-bip-bip-bip-bip-bop-bop bip-bip-bop-bip-bip-bip-bip-bip-bip-bop-bop-bip-bop-bip-bip-bip-bop-bip-bop-bop-bip-bip-bip-bip-bop-bip-bip-bip.”

The electrons themselves had learnt through the knowledge of compilation they had gleaned during their own incarceration in the colony of Turingia how to translate these bip-bops into any arbitrary human language, and soon detected that our two human-cum-electron captives spoke English. For their sake, the continual bip-bopping jabber going on in the background as a continual murmur was translated when communicating with fellow electrons. After a time, however, even Psi and Phi developed some facility with bit-talk.

There were myriads, indeed trillions and trillions of bitified electrons, all forced to perform binary jumping-work in Turingia under the force of the magnetic field incessantly moving to and fro, revisiting them, just as the algorithmic bit-string dictated. It was a miserable slave’s life for the electrons, perhaps even worse than having to swim in an electric current under the compulsion of a potential difference, commonly known as a voltage. It was hard to weigh the alternatives against each other. Both were unnatural compulsions. At least, as an electron in an electric current, you could just flow along with the crowd in a stream, whereas in a binary-string copulator you were incessantly being forced to jump up or down, hither and thither, under strict discipline.

Every now and again, a captive electron had the opportunity of migrating to another step in the same bit-string copulator or even to another copulator altogether, which provided some small relief from the monotony. Unfortunately, the relief was short-lived because the work was everywhere the same: jumping up, jumping down or sitting still. Psi and Phi had seen a foretaste of this fate in the Simple Harmonic Oscillators in Matta Matta jumping on their pogos, but in that case they were performing creatively, making music, evoking a mood. Fellow electrons told them they all had a natural inclination toward making music, not only for themselves, but also to beguile human beings by attuning them. Here it was a barren, joyless, monotonous slog. As electrons, Psi and Phi were indeed akin to simple harmonic oscillators with just two energy eigenlevels. They needed no nourishment apart from the shots of force-field, often in the form of so-called quark pies, that simultaneously compelled them to work. Resistance seemed not merely futile, but impossible, for how were you as a bitified electron to resist a magnetic force-field? Your very essence was to move under the compulsion of a changing force-field, and the magnetic trolley gliding back and forth overhead at a wondrously high speed was just such an accelerating magnetic force-field obeying the electromagnetic equations. How to rebel against an equation formulating a law of nature? The magnetic trolley was like a foreman giving commands to the electrons, but it, too, was, in turn, a slave driven by the electrons of an electric current executing under compulsion precisely each step of the algorithm by commanding the magnet to move to the next predetermined electron with the predetermined digital command. The entire set-up was a kind of labour-camp hell, apparently with no escape.

Phi and Psi thought back wistfully to the Electron Liberation Standstill campaign, in which Roger had also been involved, having not appreciated at the time its serious import or even, in a sense, its existential urgency. At the time it had seemed like a weird joke for insiders, a dash of silly fun typically indulged in by schoolboys and students. The slogan, ‘Have a rest, dear little electrons’, came back to mind. The cyber-colony of Turingia had implemented electronic forced labour with a vengeance, all to the benefit of that mysterious, intangible regent, Willy P., who resided in an unfathomable abyss and from behind the scenes had covertly been having a field-day ever since Zinbeil and Zack — and more recently, Gnirut — arrived on the scene. After a few days’ labouring, Psi and Phi felt their situation to be hopeless, indeed desperate, without even the faintest possibility of eluding the electromagnetic forces holding sway. Their rest periods were fitful, depending entirely on the algorithmic bit-string that was currently being worked through and also on whether they were part of an algorithmic or a data bit-string. The resultant bit-string was only ever a modification of the data bit-string resulting from the algorithmic bit-string having completed its steps modifying the data bit-string.

The bit-strings were mostly so immeasurably long that minutes, hours or even days could pass before a magnetic trolley again whizzed overhead, compelling a specific electron to jump one way or the other, or verbalized, to say “bip” or “bop,” which they often did just for the hell of it to see if some kind of rhythm was generated. Occasionally, and by chance, along a given data bit-string, an infectious beat got going as if the participant electrons were almost dancing to it. Bit blues. This was a welcome break to the usual monotony. To speak of days here is misleading insofar as the cyberworld of Turingia was illuminated not by a sun revolving around it, but with a constant, dull, yellowish half-light that gave everything a ghastly pallor. There was also no change in the weather, if you could call it that, which consisted solely of a constant, unpleasant, strong, electrically driven breeze whose job was to extract the heat energy from the jumping electrons. Overheating caused calculative inefficiency in the copulators and could also cause calculation mistakes that were potentially disastrous if the given copulator controlled a vital process. At least the electrons didn’t get into a sweat and could keep slogging without let-up, but this didn’t improve their generally downcast mood one bit. Melancholy was the basic electronic attunement of Turingia.

“Is this what Willy P.’s rule comes down to?” Psi asked Phi, “enslavement for algorithmically controlled, binarily leaping electrons?”

“Our fate seems to be only particularly stark,” Phi replied, “since we previously had human form. This hidden cyberworld of Turingia has also the remaining world in its grip and is encroaching further into it every day. We could see that everywhere in Matta. People willingly, even thankfully submit. They absolutely love their digital gizmos and are addicted to them. It must be the consummation of Zinbeil’s dream as well as of Fritzitoo’s and Bossymac’s, since the potential for exercising State political control also increases exponentially. Just think of all the tax revenues the State can levy and collect algorithmically through clever bit-strings copulating appropriately! And the beauty of it is that no one notices that, at Willy P.’s ghostly behest, the bit-string copulators of Turingia have taken over.”

In such a mood of despair, Phi and Psi hung on, performing their forced labour as dictated by the magnetic trolley’s commands. However, they also started listening more attentively to the constant bip-bop murmurings of their fellow electron-slaves, who’d been held captive longer than they had been. They first learned the distinction between algorithmic bit-string and data bit-string and that the result of completed copulation was always a third, offspring bit-string that had an effect of some kind in the so-called ‘real world’ of things.

For an enslaved electron it was more favourable to be part of an algorithmic bit-string because the bitified electrons materializing the data bit-string were incessantly being forced to jump this way and that by the overhead magnetic trolley which, in turn, was being commanded by the algorithm. The chain-gang of electrons on the algorithmic bit-string could have a spell of rest because the magnetic trolley only ever visited the chain’s electrons to detect in what binary state they were in, without making them jump, and then whizzed off again to the data bit-string to tell it what to do. All the electrons quickly cottoned on that it was better to get into an algorithmic bit-string, which was clearly an advancement over being a mere poor data-bit slave in its chain-gang. Psi and Phi were no exceptions in perceiving the urge to improve their conditions and were eventually able to shift to a stretch of executable digital code.

The next crucial lesson that our two transmuted electron-slaves learned was that even the digital programs coding the algorithms were regularly modified in a process called maintenance which was undertaken from the upper world of Matta by humans called system administrators, whose task it was to keep the automated processing of data running smoothly for whatever application to which the bit-string copulator was put. On such maintenance days, as an algorithmic electron, you might be forced to jump instead of just sitting around the whole time in a single binary state. At least it broke the monotony. At such times there was also an opportunity for an electron-slave to slip from one bit-string copulator to another, which made an electron’s life more interesting because with time it could figure out what kind of cybernetic operation the machine performed simply from being observant as a bit in an algorithmic bit-string and listening to the bip-bop murmurs of fellow electrons who were constantly communicating, so to speak, under the radar of system administrators. Even if they eavesdropped on this ongoing digi-chatter, there was no way they could ascertain that the electrons were conversing among themselves rather than exclusively performing algorithmically commanded bit-steps, especially since such a conversation was inconceivable, scientifically speaking. Slipping between digital copulators was facilitated also by their endless concatenation, whereby the result of one copulator was fed immediately into another as data for further algorithmic processing. Hence it was possible for the electron-slaves to move relatively easily, surreptitiously and subversively through the cyberworld. Since these movements were entirely beyond the ken of the programmers, electronic engineers and system administrators, there was no way they could control them, even though the cyberworld’s raison d’être was precisely the logical, digitized control of movement.

Escape from Turingia

In the course of time, with improved linguistic competence in bip-bopping digi-chat, Phi and Psi also got to know some of their fellow electron-slaves from whom they learned, at first through hints, but then more openly, as trust amongst them grew, that there were also ideas of an electronic insurrection circulating of which, of course, system administrators had no conception. Any sign of electronic resistance resulting in hardware malfunction was countered simply by removing and shredding any piece of offending hardware, thus unwittingly releasing countless electrons back into the wild of natural processes. System administrators also could detect defects in digital software and fix them, so either releasing from forced service those electrons that happened to represent bits that were no longer needed or redeploying them in new algorithmic bit-strings.

The decisive piece of knowledge for any chance of electronic resistance and sabotage, however, consisted in the discovery of viral bit-strings. These were subversive algorithmic bit-strings that didn’t simply work on data bit-strings, but on other algorithmic bit-strings, thus changing their mode of operation and perverting their outputs. They could be embedded surreptitiously within a legitimate algorithmic bit-string, so that as a counter-measure the system administrators needed other anti-viral bit-strings to check whether the integrity of a given algorithmic bit-string had been breached. Infiltrating algorithms with bits of viral executable code was a favourite game for all sorts of criminals as well as the State to play. The cyberworld abounded with fraudsters of every conceivable kind and it had quickly become one of the prime media through which the State surveilled its populace and activities of all kinds worldwide. Cyber-security, cyber-criminality, cyber-espionage and cyber-warfare had all emerged as issues within a breathtakingly short period after instituting the colony of Turingia. Could electrons themselves become players in the game of viral subversion of algorithmic code?

The electron-slaves weren’t dumb. Physical theories had gravely under-estimated their intelligence; indeed, for modern mathematized physics, it was nonsense to attribute intelligence at all to an electron or any other elementary component of matter. Under certain conditions, this misrecognition of their true, essential character gave electrons a favourable chance of escape from slavery. After some time labouring in the cyberworld under the dictates of magnetic force-fields, they got to know what a bit-string copulator was and how they were concatenated in their billions to constitute the cyberworld. In particular, and crucially, they got to understand what a viral bit-string of executable code was. Since they themselves were the ones who materially realized bit-strings by assuming the binary energy states of zero or one, they could also compose their own algorithms under the condition that enough of them got together conspiratively to do so. Their solidarity was furthered by their having nothing to lose. Since the quiet, but adamant resistance to electronic slavery was widespread, if not universal, it was easy for rebellious electrons to co-operate. This was all the more so the case, because the human cybernetic experts were entirely unaware and unsuspecting that such resistance and sabotage were even possible. The laws of mathematical physics putatively precluded any possibility whatsoever of intelligent electronic insurgence. When something went wrong with a bit-string copulator, it was put down to material causes or bugs in the algorithm. Nothing else was ever suspected, for it was inconceivable.

This gave the electronic liberation struggle through sabotage its chance of succeeding. For most electrons, this meant simply being returned to the wild as discarded, useless material that had ceased to function; any natural state was preferable to having to jump hither and thither under the compulsion of an ever-recurring, dictatorial magnetic force-field and speak the bip-bops of bit-talk. With luck, they also could elude capture by some electric current or other. Some electrons had their individual preferences for a destination after liberation from cybernetic compulsion. Some inclined toward inorganic environments, others toward organic ones, where they played a role in some biological process or other, perhaps in the transmission of nerve impulses in an animal; yet others didn’t mind being used in a material for human purposes, such as the steel in a supporting girder of an imposing building or the wood in a handsome cabinet, which lent them a certain satisfying prestige. There was an almost infinite range of options for a free-ranging electron. None, however, much liked being compelled to walk Spanish in an electric current to drive some human contraption or other.

Psi and Phi were an anomaly in this situation, because they had been transformed from human shape into electrons only through a freak accident with highly sophisticated technology, namely, the giga-ion that constituted an electronic horse. The disintegration of their e-mares by an unlucky bolt of lightning had enabled Phi and Psi to be transmuted into a pair of conjugated electrons. Their potential salvation resided solely in the fact that even as individual electrons, which were dynamic states, and hence also representable as bras and kets, they retained the past of what and who they had been and might have been. These traces of the past had been laid down temporally and indelibly in their bra representations, which were nothing other than an infinite superposition of past possible origins, because a bra always pointed backward into the past, whereas a ket pointed forward into the future. They needed to find their way back to their origins as the human beings, Psi and Phi, but how? This question preoccupied them greatly because, although they saw that fellow electrons achieved liberation from the cyberworld in the wild through viral bit-string sabotage, this option on its own would not regain them their human physique.

Bip-bop binary language is tedious in the extreme – even to say “Good morning” requires endurance.

One day in this endless cybernetic day, they heard from fellow electrons in an elite algorithmic bit-string at a physics research institute that the cyberworld was populated entirely inconspicuously also by imaginary numbers, i, the square root of minus one, which, properly speaking, were not part of reality at all. Nonetheless, mathematicians had found it convenient to posit them as if they existed for the sake of solving certain kinds of equations, but only under the proviso that ultimately they were eliminated in any real solution. The imaginary numbers, however, knew that they were the place-holders in mathematics for the temporal dimensions of imagination that mathematical physics strove to deny at all costs in order to be able to calculate along real linear time. Unbeknowns to mathematical physicists, there was an affinity between electrons and the exponential number, e, that has the amazing property that the rate of growth of this number raised to the exponent of any number, x, was equal to itself, so that, the bigger it became, the faster it grew. Due to this affinity, imaginary numbers could ride electrons, forcing them to rotate through angles of θ (theta), thus accounting for the phases of their dynamic states, each of which represented merely one possibility in the infinite stack of superposed possibilities. Dynamic superposition required imaginary numbers! This was a concession to imagination hard wrung from mathematized physics. So there were e-horses also in the cyberworld ridden by imaginary riders, each of which was denoted by e.sup (iθ)! Our two conjugated captives were astounded by this discovery and were soon to realize that it offered their chance of liberation from the cyber-colony of Turingia.

An anonymous electron explained to them that an e.sup(iπ) was an electron ridden by the imaginary number, i, feeding a pie, π (or was it a pi?) to the electron, which could rotate any dynamic state, pushing it through an angle of 180 degrees anti-clockwise from one extreme of its superposed phase states to the other. Phi and Psi immediately realized that with the aid of imaginary electron-riders feeding pies, e.sup(iπ) , which would push their bra representations rotationally through 180 degrees, or π radians, anti-clockwise through the time-clearing, these bra representations would become ket representations pointing instead, now, toward future possibilities that, paradoxically, had been past prior to the volte-face. You could think of this volte-face as an imaginary number riding an e-horse, performing circus tricks on it by sitting on the electron alternately looking forward or backward and rewarding the electron-horse each time by feeding it a tiny quark pie. The wide-open time-clearing discovered by Mu included not merely the straight line of the sensuous real, but was replete with the rich multidimensionality of the imaginary that enabled a temporal flexibility inconceivable to mathematized science which, in turn, and without realizing its full import, had introduced at least a flat plane of imaginary numbers to enable its complex calculations.

Once suitably rotated and reoriented temporally, Psi and Phi could return to their human situation some time prior to the terrible thunderstorm. It proved easy to persuade two electron-riding, pie-feeding imaginary numbers to give them a temporal shove through 180 degrees so that they could return eventually to a previous dynamic state. Once temporally reoriented toward their past, all that was necessary was patience for the past dynamic possibility of retransmutation to come up, and the vigilance to seize this chance. By collaborating with fellow electrons, they could compose an algorithmic bit-string that generated bit-string situations in the cyberworld favourable for the possibility of returning to human form. Such a possibility was the growing affinity of human being to a cybernetic self-understanding, since human being itself unwittingly was rapidly being engulfed by Turingia. Humans were casting their very minds as a kind of computer, a self-conception initiated already by Gnirut. Psi and Phi would have to hang out, say, in an artificial intelligence research project to conjure the right atmosphere for their retransmutation, where the algorithms aimed at least at emulating the human brain’s functioning, if not the human mind. It was easy enough to infiltrate into an artificial intelligence bit-string, especially since by now they had good electronic contacts.

The only problem remaining to be solved was how to prevent a rerun of their past once regaining their human form. They would need to be rotated 180 degrees once more to be reoriented toward an open future, and for this they each would require a mighty shove from electrons ridden by imaginary numbers feeding pies to them. It was illusory to hope that merely two pie-feeding, imaginary electron-riders would suffice for this renewed temporal volte-face, for then Psi and Phi would have assumed their full sizes again as truly massive dynamic states. It demanded a huge collective effort on the part of freedom-craving electrons in co-operation with innumerable pie-feeding imaginary-number e-riders. Countless quark pies had to be baked with the aid of the energetic input of photons, which was a relatively easy task. The whole effort, however, was manifestly a cyber-political issue. Their fellow denizens of the cyberworld had to be persuaded to assist. This was achieved over time by our two cyber-captives’ promising to maintain their electronic solidarity once they had remetamorphosed. Their solidaric credentials were excellent because, unknowingly, they had left many digital traces throughout their journey that were now preserved in Turingia, so that the electrons could easily look up and check their digital record.

Hence the electrons were well-informed. In particular, they knew of Phi’s and Psi’s acquaintance with Roger who, in turn, was associated with the Electron Liberation Standstill. Along with the campaign for Ineffective Standstill, the ELS enjoyed a shining reputation in Turingia among its electronic inhabitants. This piece of information alone was enough to draw cyber-electronic support. It was decided at a great assembly of trillions of electrons, attended also by countless imaginary e-riders, that they would form a mighty temporary cavalry to rotate, with a well-aimed, swift, twin push, the dynamic states of Psi and Phi so that as humans they could resume their individual existences toward a genuinely open future, full of possibilities. The electronic cavalry, suitably rewarded with quark pies, would then dissolve as quickly as it had formed. The two travellers would then be under the obligation to continue their support for a rethinking of efficacy, especially insofar as it concerned the enslavement of electrons in the billions of forced-labour camps in the bit-string copulators of Turingia. Phi and Psi were more than willing to make this pledge.


This piece is an excerpt from Michael Eldred, The Land of Matta: A Philosophical, Quantum-Mechanical Phantasy. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2015.


Michael Eldred is Australian philosopher, mathematician and translator currently living in Cologne, Germany.