The Dream Police
I double back on Park and cut through Grand Central again just to make sure no one is following me. It’s almost impossible to spot a tail with this many people on the sidewalks; my only hope is that I can disappear in the rush-hour mayhem. Thousands of people rushing to catch their trains and subways, coming and going of their own free will, without the slightest knowledge that they are little more than puppets by now. I scan the room quickly and bee-line-it towards the Vanderbilt Ave exit. I climb the steps two by two to the Campbell Apartment and grab the seat at the end of the bar, eyes glued on the only entrance. The bartender works his way down the bar and doesn’t bother to offer me the frilly drink menu, I guess he can read faces well; mine definitely doesn’t read “cosmo” right now. This former office of 1920’s mogul John Campbell is one of the few spots in the city that stocks my favorite single malt, Macallan MMXII , a limited release of 1,824 decanters. This particular one has my name on it, “three fingers, neat.” I say to the bartender and slam it back before he makes it two steps away. Keep em comin’, I need to think.
With my nerves temporarily numbed by the scotch, I try to think back to the point where we lost control. The ability to control the subconscious of a population is far too tempting not to abuse. I should have seen it coming. My thoughts drift back to my MIT days and my freshman case study that started it all. We were studying the sudden increase of epileptic seizures triggered by video games; Photosensitive Epilepsy as it was clinically known back in the 10s.
I didn’t even want to go to college. I just didn’t see the need, having developed and sold three successful web-crawlers before my 15th birthday. Google bought my first. The algorithm was rudimentary but better than the current data mining sequencing they were running. I sold it for $3mm. Version 2.0 was 85% more efficient and I wised up and played the big 3 (Amazon, Google and Face Book) against each other… it sold for $17mm. My third, and last version, which is still considered industry standard fifteen years later, sold for $55mm. That was the last thing I ever sold. I didn’t need the money and I secretly relished the knowledge that I had the best thing out there, and it wasn’t for sale. I had been continuously refining my algorithm, and it was somewhere in the ballpark of 2,700% more efficient than the lemon I launched for $55mm when we started to make serious strides in our research.
My parents pushed the college idea hard, they said I lacked social skills; imagine that. Sending me to MIT to sharpen my social skills is like sending a drug addict to Amsterdam to detox. They said I needed to socialize with people my own age; I was far more comfortable talking shop with 30-something wanna-be’s and patent attorneys than kids my own age. I officially matriculated at MIT at the age of 16; I started taking their on-line classes when I was 12 so I was familiar with most of their staff and its shortcomings. What MIT had that I didn’t was the raw power to run large-scale analytics. They possess the largest raw computing capacity in the public sector. Google uses 260 million watts continuously across the globe, the second closest thing (and it’s a far second) to that capacity can be found at MIT, so I figured I’d give it a go… at least it would get my folks off my back.
I met Cassia my second month in Boston, we connected immediately and became almost inseparable. She was the first girl that I could converse with intelligently who wasn’t a total zero in the looks department; she was stunning. We both shared a passion for large data, although Cassia’s was skewed towards medical advances while mine was simply a convenient outlet for the constant stream of equations floating around my mind. She wasn’t the first girl I was with, but she was my first, and probably only, real relationship.
Three years later, after countless clinical trials we isolated the particular light sequence that set off neurotransmitters in the brain that cause seizures. Towards the end of trials, we succeeded in eliciting responses in 90% of test subjects; an amazing feat considering it was previously thought that only 3-5% of the population had epileptic tendencies. None of our work was published. My senior year and first two years towards my PHD were spent isolating various neurotransmitters. At the time only about 100 neurotransmitters had been isolated, and those were barely understood. Big Pharma spent billions, (and made trillions) in masking neurotransmitters through the use of opiates, antidepressants and stimulants; but no one was able to actually control the firing of the synapses that regulated the neurotransmitters until we made the breakthrough. Cassia and I utilized my algorithm and the computing power of MIT’s cloud to identify and isolate thousands of individual neurotransmitters. We adapted our research from the photo epileptic studies and coded a particular sequence of light to trigger a corresponding neurological response in a test subject.
Our first trials came in the form of sleep studies, and I was the test subject. I had long suffered from insomnia, and over the years, tried just about every known treatment, pharmacological to Zen breathing techniques. None worked, and I eventually adapted to live on 4 hours of sleep. Our studies didn’t tackle the problem of getting more sleep; it focused on the need for less sleep. We had isolated the neurotransmitter that induced REM activity in the brain, and through photo-stimulation, we were successful in achieving lucid REM activity in a conscious subject. 2 minutes of exposure to the light sequence equated to 8 hours of deep REM sleep.
We did these studies and many others almost completely unknown to MIT. Cassia treated each breakthrough with cautious reverence, while I took a more capitalistic stance on our work and pushed for real-world applications. Cassia insisted that our next trial again be focused on medical applications so we focused our studies on addiction. The various forms of addiction proved too complex to isolate, so instead we tackled the common theme of all addictions; insatiable craving. The mind produces the desire and the body elicits a corresponding response. Many of these desires occur at the subconscious level. We adapted our photo sequencing exposure to elicit neurological reactions that lead to physical cravings in subjects. The next logical step, or so I thought, was to substitute ideas and emotions for cravings.
To be continued