A few weeks ago, I had a pretty unsettling dream. It has stuck with me ever since with all its questions, validations, hopes, futilities and intrigues. I'll convey it to you as it appeared to me.
I'm waking up, but I can't see anything.
A picture of a body encased in plastic floats into my mind's eye. You can't move.
Someone is communicating with me, but it's not with words. It's with music, pictures and direct meaning. Well, I guess I can't move.
A scene of doctors in scrubs and masks. You're going to see doctors.
Don't be alarmed. Pictures of babbling brooks and peaceful waters bombard my mind.
Okay, I can deal with this.
You had an accident, and it's a miracle you're alive. Here's what happened.
That's me, falling off a 30-foot ledge, head-first into the concrete below. What I can only assume is the embodiment of my consciousness falls through the scene.
Rapid-fire images of friends and loved ones in hospital settings. Frowning, smiling, talking. They're visiting. They're visiting me.
Why can't I see my face? Why can't I see my head? What the hell is going on? Is that a diagram of my nervous system and my neural network?
Who are those guys in weird mascot suits? Is that cheering? Why are my coworkers here? Um, this is the Super Bowl, and I'm under the field. Oh, I'm going onto the field through an elevator. I'm in some sort of wheelchair. I use my will to move, but I get a wheel stuck on the edge of the elevator. My coworker, Jared, helps me get unstuck. I catch my reflection in the glass of the elevator. I don't even seem human.
Ugh, it's really cold. I wave to the crowd from the screen mounted to my chair, a cheery avatar of myself acting out my thoughts.
Darkness, stillness and waking again. Is that me? Am I that surgical armature? Smiling, proud engineers are finalizing connections on the machine. But the machine is me. My consciousness, my personality, my life in a non-human shell. I can feel the excitement in the room. The excitement is my own. Did I make this possible?
And now I'm in a dark box. In front of me, light seeps in as the wall folds down into a ramp. I have cameras. I can see myself. I'm a car. A really rad Nissan touring car. I'm a fucking real-life KITT from Knight Rider, and I'm making my debut at some demo event.
This must be the future. i guess everyone is kind of Tibetan/Mongolian in the future. I'm musing on the attractiveness of the quasi-Asian ladies surrounding me. They're giggling because my thoughts are projected for everyone to see. I'm embarrassed. But I'm a machine with human personality, consciousness and intelligence. Who am I trying to impress?
Wow, I'm cold again. Where am I now? I hear music. I see more Tibetan faces. It looks like they're uncovering my camera lens. How did I get buried?
Welcome to your first day on the job. That's the seeming message of the music piping into my thoughts. No words. Just meaning. Meaning and music. Why can't I open my eyes?
We need to run some calibration tests first. Can you move your fingers? Your hands? Now your arms. Now your hips. Concentrate on moving forward. Now on turning. Stop trying to use your eyes. We need to calibrate your infrared and radio frequency sensors first.
Over the course of the tests and the chatter of the music, I learn that my landing module has just dropped me off on an exoplanet outside our solar system. I'm a rover, and I'm here to explore on behalf of what's left of mankind on Earth.
Okay, this is fucking rad. But that means that everyone I've ever known or loved is long dead.
Nope, they're here with you. You'll always carry them with you. They are your thoughts, your memories, your experiences. You can summon them whenever you need.
You are humanity's emissary. Go out and touch the universe. And let us know when it touches back.
It's hard to laugh and cry at the same time, but that's what's happening in my mind. I'm alone. In space. To explore for probably thousands of years. Awe, shock, fear, loneliness and empowerment settle onto my head like a stocking cap. Except I don't have anything even resembling a human head. This is going to take some getting used to. But I guess I have plenty of time.
Let's give those optical sensors and locomotion a try.
My mind's eye lights up with new sensory input. There's a topography map, wavelength data, transmission readout. These new senses are overwhelming but oddly familiar. I guess I've lived longer as a machine than I did as a human. I'm ready for this.
I wheel and tread down the mountain, getting a sense of my bearings. The first conscious being outside our solar system. And I don't even know if I can call myself human.
It's a bittersweet immortality.