#09 Paradox And Caffeine

| r |

Dear Nana, Dear Internet,

As I wrote you the last time, I’ve really tried to find great grandfather Ben, but there’s only so much I can do without involving the authorities. When I arrived in 2018, I woke up in his time capsuled studio, but the place looked a mess, probably caused by my arrival. These things weren’t broken in my time, I wonder whether they are still in one piece in yours.

Something was very wrong.

I didn’t remain in the rubble for long. I was confused, hurt and when people entered and started asking me questions it became obvious something was very wrong. In any case, I don’t think he was there. Since Arjin couldn’t help me either, I tried to find other friends he might have, but he seems to be a lone wolf. I’ve been in 2018 for a couple of months now, but I really didn’t want to go back to his studio for fear of meeting these people again, I think they were his neighbors. But I am running out of options and communicating with you, brave people of the internet, gave me motivation to have another look. If there is any clue to great-grandpa Ben’s whereabouts, it must be there.

So I snuck in last week. The door was hardly an obstacle, even before the explosion. He probably thought there wasn’t anything of value in there. In the future, this door will be replaced by something worthy of protecting a time capsule, I’m still not sure by whom though. For now it’s something you can open with a proper lever, like the screwdriver part of a Swiss Army knife.

I am still a stranger to the technology here; the interface controls seem especially bulky. If I was back in my time, it would take me just an hour to access enough data nodes to find Ben, provided he didn’t want to disappear. I am a pretty good researcher, I believe. So even with just Internet, I am confident I’ll figure this out eventually.

There are some thoughts about my journey here, that I keep going back to and they all have to do with the paradoxes. Firstly, I have to solve the continuity problem. If I am now part of a closed time-like curve, it would mean that Ben’s things are still intact in my starting point in2107. Everything I do in this timeline reverts back to that continuum once I leave the curve.

Secondly, if my actions have consequences beyond the time frame in which I make them, I might not be in a curve but in a divergent reality aka a parallel universe. In that case, I might come across other things that are different from my timeline, in addition to my own arrival.

Thirdly, I might be part of a paradox loop where my consciousness incorporates the changes of events into a new narrative, but that is highly unlikely given that I clearly remember the intact time capsule I left, while also knowing that I messed it up upon my arrival here. So, is the future art studio fixed? Broken? Is it Schrödinger’s cat all over again?

People are doing Zombo-jobs
and people are doing Nothing-jobs.

There is a distinct possibility that Ben’s disappearance has to do with my arrival. A few of the things I saw back in the time capsule in 2107 could very well be science instead of art. You would think I would notice if I had stumbled across a time machine in an art studio. Well, you might be mistaken. From Ben’s body of work that I was looking at in my time, I could tell Ben had distinct overlapping interests. I saw technical and botanical drawings, a lot of books on philosophy and history. I think he dabbled in all sorts of things. Could they be a distraction from his own demons?

Oh, I haven’t told you the most exciting part! I found one of Ben’s notebooks in the rubble. Since very little else survived,this will be my starting point. I am thinking about posting a transcription as soon as I find the time, even though they seem like a mixture of notebooks and diaries. I feel bad about intruding on Ben’s privacy. If I publish his notes, it will be despite the fact that he encrypted some of them. However, I am grasping at straws and this is the only lead I have.

Working at the coffee place is still tedious and such a waste of time, but I get to talk to the patrons a little and I get to clandestinely listen to their conversations. It paints a partial picture of what’s at the heart of the era. Mostly bad politics and short lived hypes and trends that I didn’t have the mental capacity to remember from my history lessons and that never made lasting changes anyhow.

It’s still a better job than a lot of the ones I’ve seen. People are doing Zombo-jobs and people are doing Nothing-jobs. (A Zombo is a machine without a conscience, by the way.) It really defines this society as much as anything and it will take a long time for that to change.

My biological father Claude was actually one of the last supervisors in an almost completely automated factory. He was a pretty introverted guy so he didn’t mind the alone time. Work days in my time are 4hours maximum 3 times a week, but supervisor jobs are less common because no one can focus on something so monotonous for that long. After a while Claude wrote a program that minimized the necessary oversight to a few hours a week, so he and his colleagues could move on to more human friendly activities. While you can already see the first steps of automation, it’s still seen as a threat rather than a promise.

A lot of my coffee customers talk about their jobs and the existential angst over the thought of losing them, the stress of having them, poisonous work environments, little dramas to stress over, and soon. Usually they introduce themselves like that as well: I am this, I do that. Their job, however taxing it may be for them, is a big part of their identity. This makes it easy for a boss to manipulate them with the torture that is corporate identity.

A few voices are working on avant-garde problems, however, things that are still shaping my generation. Environmental points of view in particular are very exciting to hear, because even if a lot of it is based on flawed early studies, the general interest in saving the planet from man-made destruction is present in a lot of people. It’s like watching a baby take the first steps, like a junkie giving up one addiction at a time, starting out with the smallest one.

Plastic is a big topic right now, and so is coal energy. If they only knew we had to do so much more than use tote bags and install a few solar panels. But capital still has the upper hand right now, so they will have to wait until after the /hack to find out what else is possible and essential.

Getting better at making coffee and friends.


2 thoughts on “#09 Paradox And Caffeine

  1. Dear R.,

    your post makes me feel optimistic, at least regarding our future work environment. You have grasped our current situation very well.

    I write to you as an employee and works councilor. Something like the works council, meant a chosen representation of interests, probably is no more in your future or is it?

    I just recently read a report on four possible future scenarios on the topic of work and digitization. It was created by two Berlin institutes. Are there still institutes as we know them in the future, or do I have to imagine all this digitally and cloud-wise? Do you know any these terms at all (institute, cloud …)? The forecast with the four future working realities in the context of digitization looks like this:

    1. Increasing pressure to perform leads to a polarization of employment relationships and a competition between man and machine. (jep – we still say something like „man and machine“)

    2. In conjunction with state standards, digitization ensures more personal development and individual creative freedom at work.

    3. The work is negotiated with certainty so that efficiency gains and good work go hand in hand.

    4. The drastic loss of jobs and an increase in precarious and inhuman employment.

    Do you know how it came to the 4 hours a maximum of three times a week? Was it a logical step that no one questioned, or was it preceded by long discussions and struggles by unions and employees?

    Best regards from the open-plan office,


    1. Dear A,
      I am happy you draw positive conclusions from my observations!
      You are right, representative positions have declined, as has bureaucracy in general. Safer technology and higher living and education standards have brought with them also a higher level of direct participation.
      There are still people voted in charge for certain things, but the nature of work and distribution has changed as have the hierarchies.
      Future studies in my time are very important, though of course their focus have shifted. A lot of worries are about limiting the destruction of climate change.
      Communication is, like today, partially digital, partially face to face, depending on your physical location.
      In a way all four of those prognosis came to pass, only in different parts of the world at different times. A lot of different events influenced the work/care balance that I grew up. Digitization has played a part in favor of people, actually. But only after work became disconnected from wealth. I know UBI (universal basic income) has recently become a topic, which is another stepping stone into more equality.
      I am sorry to be so vague about this, but the future is entropic. The short answer is, equality wasn’t achieved without a struggle, but it became easier over time with a change in public opinion favoring progress over tradition.

      The work you are doing right now is very important for what is to come!

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