Newtopia Rising, Book I: The Search for a New Utopia (ACT III, SCENE II)

ACT III, SCENE II

* SETTLEMENT OF LOCKE, TOWN SQUARE — SIX MONTHS LATER *

[Brooke stands at the edge of the pitch black stage. Simultaneously, the backdrop screens and a spotlight turn on to reveal a dancer, painted black and contorted into a ball. They unfold their limbs, rise to their feet and begin to sing in a throaty voice, their sex difficult to distinguish]

SPEAKER
We must, we must remember
The chains, the noose, the lash,
The guillotine, the Iron Maiden,
Brands burned upon the flesh.

Never let us forget
Human rights once ripped asunder.
Limbs torn apart by dogs,
Bodies packed in gas chambers.

Remember solitary confinement,
Remember systemic rape.
Remember 12-year-old boys,
Small bellies full of sperm.

Remember all the travesties,
Each one back then a norm.
Their horrors clear as day today,
Yet once to standard practices conformed.

No matter how wicked,
However heinous the crime,
Remember that our own morals
Evolve with passing of time.

Since we made the mining
Of Thunium a penalty,
We’ve observed causal reactions,
Its harms lain plain to see:

Among the Capital Offenders,
Insomnia skyrocketing,

[Another spotlight shines to reveal a person next to them, also contorted and painted black, who unfolds and stands up]

Violence for centuries unseen,

[Another light reveals several contorted individuals who rise]

Suicide rising at rates alarming.

[More light, more people]

Retributive justice,
When it claims so many lives,
Is cruelty begetting cruelty
And cannot be justified.

[All those standing gather together, grab the speaker and lift her high]

To ever permit group suffering
With passive observation
Is to revert to our old apathy
Before our Interstellar Expansion.

If there’s ever a general need,
A dependence upon a substance,
The Public should each of us contribute
And help secure its acquisition.

[The crowd below them cheers]

[A spotlight falls on the other side of the stage to reveal another gender-ambiguous speaker]

SPEAKER
The rise in self-inflicted deaths
Among the criminal party,
While certainly unfortunate
And invoking sympathy,

May surely be offset
By the reality
Of the potential of Thunium,
Its benefits lain plain to see:

Soaring citizen satisfaction
And economic productivity.
And quite unexpectedly,
An exploding art industry.

[The light falls on a person next to them]

And most of all, above all else,
The eradication of disease

[More light, more people]

And of the unsightliness of aging —
What we mortals have always dreamed.

[The light extends to show many dancers, making the second crowd larger than the first. Together, they lift the speaker]

[Brooke crosses her arms]

Yet to extract it from our planet
Provokes painful hallucinations.
Why not leave the task to those who harmed us,
As a fitting condemnation?

[More dancers enter to join the second crowd, starting to push the first group off the stage]

They never gave pause to care,
When they hurt thousands for compensation.
And if they know the law when they break it,
That’s implicit mutual agreement.

[More dancers join and continue to push the first crowd]

[Brooke fidgets, unfolding her arms only to cross them again]

We could stop progress in the name
Of vague notions of morality.
Or we could push the very bounds
Of our own mortality.

[The crowd grows larger and larger]

But no need to be so heartless —
I propose we provide these offenders
With a means to manage their distress,
With Dopamine Elixirs.

[The first speaker disappears from view and the now-dominant crowd erupts in cheer and dance]

[Still crossing one arm over the chest, Brooke drapes a hand over her face, as if fighting a headache. The crowd, still cheering and dancing, exit the stage]

[The music changes to a light and flitting melody as Benjiro enters the stage, not disturbed by the debate as his captain is. He approaches Brooke from behind and takes a deep breath before speaking]

BENJIRO
Cap … Brooke, a moment please.

[Brooke turns around, brows raised at the use of her first name]

BENJIRO
I was hoping you would join me
For an important discussion.
For guaranteed privacy,
I’ve booked a Cavern Reservation.

BROOKE
Certainly, I’d love to.

BENJIRO
[Dumbstruck]

You would?

BROOKE
Yes, and I’ll add that you are brilliant.

BENJIRO
[Continues to stare with wide eyes, blinking in disbelief]

I am?

BROOKE
Of course, as First Officer,
I expect no less of you.
In these troubled times,
Let’s gather the old crew.

BENJIRO
[For an awkward moment, he says nothing. Then he clears his throat and regains official composure]

Aye, Captain.

* RESOURCE CAVERN *

[The Cavern has been transformed into a sacred space,  furnished with lights, several different religious icons, incense and a single large cushion]

[The Seekers are gathered in a circle]

BROOKE
When the solution is the problem,
When the snake consumes its own tail,
When the answer contributes to the cause —
A systemic loop prevails.

BLAKE
Self-perpetuating horseshit.

BENJIRO
With such a list of benefits,
With so much to gain in trade,
With unprecedented luxuries,
The Public is difficult to persuade.

LINLEY
We could always emphasize
The uncertain and unknown.
How we lack long-term observations,
Yet too quick to trust have grown.

The Elixirs are still mysteries,
Still substances we don’t understand.
And they yet remain aliens,
Perhaps with our own enslavement planned.

What do we really know about
These so-called miracle potions?
They could contain molecular robots —
Some sort of alien latent poison.

BLAKE
[Rolls eyes]

Straight out of a sci-fi comic.

TWYFORD
[Lists off her fingers]

… Sentient planets.
First alien contact.
Impossible potions.
Did you seriously just say that?

[They hear a sudden noise. Something — or someone — is in the Cave with them, which by law should be empty for the duration of their Reservation. Pulling their blasters out, the Seekers go to investigate, Brooke and Benjiro leading the way]

[The Seekers come upon one of the Turbidian Masters of Potion. Out of pure instinct, Benjiro steps in front of Brooke and raises his blaster. The alien rushes forward, gracefully diving into a handstand and wrapping their legs around Benjiro’s neck. We hear a crack as Benjiro drops to the floor]

BROOKE
Ben!

[She shoots her blaster at the Turbidian. With remarkable speed, the alien dodges and again dives headfirst, swinging their legs to wrap around Brooke’s neck. In a smooth motion, Brooke dives forward so that the pair fall, a jumble of limbs rolling to the ground, the Turbidian’s back ending flat on the floor. Brooke rolls them — legs over head — onto their face, then swings behind and wraps her arms around their neck in a choke]

BROOKE
This is where you disclose your business here,
In the Cave you swore to have forgotten.

[Tended to by Chief Medic Isaac and Nurse Linley, Benjiro groans, injured but alive]

Ben! Oh, Ben.

[Blake steps forward and puts her knee on the Turbidian’s torso, pinning them down to free Brooke, who rushes to Benjiro]

BLAKE
Speak or I’ll have the distinct pleasure
To try a live and drawn-out dissection.

[The alien struggles, and Blake puts more pressure on them]

TURBIDIAN INTRUDER
A vital resource without which
The foundation will wither, crumble, fall.

[Suddenly, the alien gasps and falls to their knees. There, they sway for a moment, white fluid secreting from their eyes, until their collapse to the ground. They do not move again]

[For a long moment, the Seekers stare in silence]

BROOKE
Seekers, with me now, and bring the body —
It’s time to make a call.

* SETTLEMENT OF LOCKE, TURBIDIAN HEADQUARTERS *

[The remaining Masters of Potions work diligently, hands — or rather claws, with pointed fingers — flying across each chemistry station. After concocting and bottling each new potion, they place it in a 3D printer which begins to churn out exact replicas, both container and liquid content]

[The doors slide open. The Seekers barge in, Benjiro in a neck brace yet on his feet, and, with the exception of Aida, pull out their blasters]

AIDA
Zhavvorsa!

[Frowning, Linley turns and stares at Aida]

[In uniform motion, the rest of the Turbidian Masters, with the exception of Zhavvorsa, slide in their natural crouching states, prepared to pounce]

ZHAVVORSA
[Stepping out in between their colleagues and the Seekers]

No!

[The Turbidians do not move, but remain in crouching position. Zhavvorsa turns to face the Seekers]

May we ask with respect, dear Officers,
What we might do for you?

BROOKE
You might disclose information
As to what a member of your team
Was doing in our Resource Cavern —
What you once called the Cave of Swollen Dreams.

And why they would commit assault
Against our First Officer.
For the reason behind these events
You will now provide an answer.

ZHAVVORSA
We know nothing of this cavern
Of dreams, of which you just spoke.
But nonetheless assure you
Our kind is nonviolent unless provoked.

LINLEY
[Points his blaster at Zhavvorsa]

“Nonviolent”! What a joke!
Don’t believe their lies, their venom.

AIDA
We raised our weapons first.
Captain, I believe them.

LINLEY
Would you stake your life?

AIDA
[Fiercely]

Yes.

BROOKE
And the lives of all Newtopians?

AIDA
[In a whisper]

Earth help me, yes.

BROOKE
[To Zhavvorsa]

Though true we raised weapons first, the question
Of your presence in the Cavern remains.

ZHAVVORSA
Neither intentions nor significance
Are we able to explain.

But this we know for sure —
For Class 3 Civilizations,
An attack against one is sufficient
To justify full retaliation.

This is what we propose —
A diplomatic invitation.
Let us all travel to our planet
And conduct a joint investigation.

BROOKE
Our decision will be made
As always — with sage counsel.

[One by one, all Seekers project the recordings from their PODs, together creating a replay of the incident in the Cavern which play on the backdrop screens]

[The centre screen shows the Council of Nine, its members unrecognizable for their appearance of youth]

Vexation and dismay surrounds
This unexpected scandal.

While difficult to accept the words
Of those with uncertain machinations,
We must nonetheless trust them, if we wish
To join this Galactic Federation.

Hear our collective advice,
A policy of diplomacy:
Send forth our best and brightest
And hope for resolved harmony.

[The screens fill with the most popular submissions from the population:

[“Find the truth.”

“Seekers, we need you once more.”

“Find out for us.”

“Go find out!”

“Please.”]

[The screens fade to black]

BROOKE
[Turning to face her crew]

There may be traps and unknown perils
To uncover this mystery.
I won’t ask you to uproot all,
To again leave your families.

BENJIRO
I knew what I signed up for,
The burden’s all of ours to bear.
Danger is no stranger, and…

[Looks directly at Brooke]

My family is right here.

[One by one, the Seekers begin holding hands. Dancers, representing the general Public, enter the stage from both sides to join them]

Lift the veil and dispel the mist,
The truth we’ll track and sleuth.
We exercise our sovereign rights,
We demand the truth!

Topic 1

Source: flickr user Kārlis Dambrāns

Source: Flickr user Kārlis Dambrāns

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1. To what extent did technological advancements contribute to the formation of the Earth Republic?

_____The exponential frequency of climate-related hazards (floods and droughts with particular fatality), combined with a nuclear weapons supply reaching ten thousand warheads globally, prompted scientists in the early 21st century to herald global disaster.  The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set its symbolic Doomsday Clock to 3 minutes to midnight in 2015, and the International Council for Science began covert preparations for mass human extinction (a.k.a. Operation Phoenix) in collaboration with the United Nations.  Yet grim projections were rendered moot as the subsequent decades witnessed a series of paradigmatic sociopolitical reforms, ultimately ending in the birth of the Earth Republic.  It can be argued that the coalition of the nation-states into a single planetary government, though popularly attributed to the social mainstreaming of sustainability and egalitarianism (a.k.a. the P.C. Movement), was in fact made inevitable by the geopolitical, economic, and sociopsychological implications of scientific developments: specifically those made in the areas of intraplanetary travel, telecommunications, automation, and space exploration.

Grooming of the Global Citizen: The Geopolitical and Sociopsychological Impacts of Globalization

_____From the dawn of the Globalization Age in the 19th century, advances in international travel and telecommunications enabled the large-scale mobility of humans and knowledge, over time resulting in a society that was at once more diverse (racially and ethnically) and more homogenous (psychologically and sociopolitically).  First, decreasing costs and risks of long-distance migrations led to the unprecedented intermixing of race and culture, which in turn led to social tolerance that increased exponentially with each generation.  Second, dramatically improving accessibility to information (in all but the last remaining authoritarian governments) and the advent of the Internet in the late 20th century led to a convergence in worldviews, with global trends towards secular humanism and liberalism.  Third, greater affordability in air transportation allowed increasingly liberal youths to witness firsthand a) the human consequences of global wealth inequity in many Postcolonial countries and b) the consistent successes (GDP per capita, health, education, freedom and satisfaction with government) exhibited by the Nordic European countries, leading to additional trends towards global welfare and social democracy (the latter of which gained rapid traction once adopted by America, the military and cultural hegemon from the 20th century, under the Sanders administration).  In this manner, the Globalization Age saw the emergence of a generation which transcended territorial and ideological borders, thus removing two traditional conditions for international warfare and dissolving the nation-state as a geopolitical and ethnocultural entity.

Evolution of Egalitarian Capitalism: The Socioeconomic Impacts of Robotics, Social Media, and Renewable Energy

_____Once considered the root of social and economic inequality, the global financial system evolved in the early 21st century into that of egalitarian capitalism: a result of advances in automation, virtual communication, and sustainable energy.  First, from the inception of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-19th century, developments in manufacturing methods exerted a profound impact on the structure of human society.  Increasing sophistication, efficiency, and affordability of machinery, in particular of automaton during the Third Industrial Revolution (a.k.a. The Digital Revolution), gradually rendered manual labor obsolete.  Automation served the long-term fiscal interests of all but the most exploitative corporations (< $1/day wages), largely removing the financial incentive for international class-subjugation.  Second, the instantaneity and virality of Internet-based social media in the 21st century endowed citizens with unprecedented democratic power.  Behaviors considered unacceptable, of politicians, individuals, and corporations alike, were publicly condemned with swift force.  With such popular demand for social justice, an ethical and sustainable business model became a decisive competitive edge.  International corporate social responsibility (e.g. the One-for-One model spearheaded by retail behemoth Toms) became the norm and by the 2030’s the corporation, ironically the entity which perpetuated the former zero-sum system, was largely responsible for bridging the global income gap and eliminating the economic hostility which defined the old international arena.  Third, several Postcolonial countries underwent modernization with exponential speed in the early decades of the 21st century.  Without as many existing roads, grid electricity, or plumbing to upgrade, these developing nations were able to transition directly to solar, wind, microhydro, and biogas systems.  Reaping the advantages of renewable energy, their economies soared, and in a turning of tables and definitive moment of global solidarity, the Postcolonial governments and corporations helped the former imperial powers bear the enormous costs of infrastructure replacement.

Aspirations of Interplanetary Expansion: The Political and Sociopsychological Impacts of Space Exploration and the Waters of Mars

_____Less than four hundred years after its first telescopic observation of space, humankind had reached outwards, deploying extraterrestrial probes, building a permanent space station, and sending forth its children to walk the surface of its orbiting moon.  Nonetheless, space exploration remained a distinctly separatist endeavor (specifically between six government agencies with full-launch capacity): simultaneously a source of and outlet for international competition.  Even the International Space Station, the first global space collaboration, was predominantly operated by superpowers America and Russia.  It was not until the 2015 discovery of water on Mars that humanity underwent a fundamental shift, in both international cooperation and social psychology.  First, the discovery was directly cited as the inspiration to fuel Project Mars, founded by Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg: the first truly supranational collaboration, with funding and obligations shared by governments and civilians from 195 nations.  The cooperation and resource-pooling between the government space agencies and publicly traded corporation SpaceX led to exponential progress in the aerospace industry, leading to legendary launch Dragon 2 (the first human spaceflight to Mars).  Second, the discovery of Martian water prompted the Second Golden Age (informally the Adamantium Age) of science fiction: an explosion of literature, cinema and visual arts exploring the social and practical implications of interplanetary expansion, which in turn inspired an entire generation to pursue careers related to space exploration.  By the 2040’s, the new STEM field workforce accounted for over 50% of the labor market.  With a mainstream culture dreaming of and actively working towards space colonization, the imagined political community and sense of collective belonging was relocated from “country” to “species”: completing the shift from nationalistic individualism to humanist collectivism and delivering the final blow against the competitive attitude upon which the nation-state depended within the former international arena.

Conclusion

_____A species riven with internal conflicts and armed with large-scale weaponry, coupled with a decaying planet which warmed as if in febrile response against its destructive inhabitants, once made the survival of humanity uncertain to contemporary observers.  The unification of the human race into a decisive political body committed to sustainability, though commonly romanticized as a single glorious moment in human history, was in reality the endpoint of a trajectory set by the evolution of science and technology.  Concurrent and mutually reinforcing advances in transportation, automation, telecommunications, and spaceflight resulted in global trends of resource sharing, rather than competition: eradicating the logic of self-help inherent in the anarchic setting of the former international arena.  The advent of the Earth Republic, hailed as the greatest human achievement, was in fact a technological triumph.

***********************************

Each finger hovered in the center of its container, clear of contact with the surrounding walls, as she ran out of bullshit to type.

A weak essay to be sure, but she had only skimmed the assigned readings and didn’t know what more to write. What was already written felt both lofty and childish, but, as the hour drew upon 0700, she no longer gave a damn. She had missed an entire night’s sleep and would already be receiving a 5% grade deduction. There was no way she’d be able to make it good enough to make an additional late penalty worthwhile.

The thought of submitting such subpar work stirred resentment in her chest — at herself for insisting on leaving every assignment to the last minute, and at the university for making a full-course equivalent in History a graduation requirement. She knew the importance of understanding the past. But was it necessary to channel so much energy towards what by definition could not be changed, especially in the face of so many pressing, present issues in society? In their own day-to-day lives?

She wondered — not for the first time — whether pursuing a tertiary degree was the right choice. So many of her friends operated their own businesses, all helping to fund the first humanned mission to Alpha Centauri. They were always traveling (some of them even off-planet!), eating at the trendiest restaurants and buying the latest gadgets, and contributing to the community. They were actually making a difference — while she lived off a student stipend (a mere 4000 credits) that did not account for the rising expenses in their world-city.

She sighed, sick of doubt. With a twitch of her index finger she submitted the essay, then pulled her hands from the datahand keyboard and removed the interface visor.

She walked away from the computer system and ordered the bed, which rolled out from the wall as it always did — immediately, smoothly, seductively. With hands trembling slightly from the caffeine drops, she peeled back the pre-heated sheets and crawled into the merciful warmth.

Newtopia Rising, Book I: The Search for a New Utopia (ACT II, SCENE II)

ACT II; SCENE II

* SETTLEMENT OF LOCKE, TOWN SQUARE *

[In front of a picnic, Aida sits huddled over a book, the lines of text scrolling upwards steadily as she reads. Once it stops scrolling, she turns the page. Others feast and dance to the Voting Festival song in the distance. The backdrop screen shows a 91% Vote in favour of increasing the cap on Thunium mining to 30% of reserves]

[Enter ZHAVVORSA, a Turbidian Master of Potions]

ZHAVVORSA
Officer Desalegn,
May I join your company?

AIDA
[Looks up and smiles]

For what I hope is the last time,
Please call me ‘Aida’ outside of duty.

ZHAVVORSA
May I join you, Aida?

AIDA
[Turns off and closes her book]

As it is Free Time, Zhavvorsa,
Your company would please me.

ZHAVVORSA
[Bows slightly]

Your species is much gracious;
I commend your hospitality.

AIDA
[Returns bow]

We’re honoured to receive First Contact,
And hope for mutual education.

ZHAVVORSA
[Sits down directly across]

Then how would you like to partake
In a Turbidian tradition?

In which we each present inquiries
In alternating succession.
To be answered with just one word,
In a singular expression.

Otherwise with no limitations,
Optional explanation and one pass.
The ultimate opportunity
To any question ask.

AIDA
I’d be delighted.

ZHAVVORSA
I oblige you go first.

AIDA
[Thinks a moment]

How did you come by such propensity
With the practice of chemistry?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Design’.

Our compound eyes are capable
Of polarization vision.
And the science is taught from early age,
Entrenched in our socialization.

Should you not mind the repetition,
I’d like to pose the exact same question.

AIDA
[Thinks a moment]

‘Everything’.

As a child I dreamed to understand
The entire universe,
And saw chemistry as the bridge
Connecting all the sciences.

If chemistry was obligatory,
What did you do normally?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Travel’.

Spacecraft operation
And interstellar navigation.

AIDA
[Surprised]

I was a pilot, too!

ZHAVVORSA
[The corners of his lips lift]

And what made you so choose?

AIDA
[Without hesitation]

‘Freedom’.

As a child, first travelling by air jet,
And gazing through its window
At our homes, our roads and borders
Growing infinitesimally small,

I saw an invisible cage, escaped –
And my perspective forever changed.

[Shifts bashfully]

I guess in present time
We’re excluded from our preferred fields.
Or was it once again obligation –
What made you choose your occupation?

ZHAVVORSA
[Smiling]

‘Liberty’.

To ascend beyond the reach
Of daily realities;
To see firsthand the Open Void
And all its possibilities.

AIDA
Is ‘Open Void’ how you refer
To what we understand as space?

ZHAVVORSA
Space?

[For a moment, the two stare at each other blankly, their heads tilted in mirrored position. They burst into laughter, Aida audibly so, Zhavvorsa silently yet with crinkled eyes and a rhythmic shaking of the body]

AIDA
I mean, the universe.

ZHAVVORSA
There is no need to be embarrassed.

AIDA
I am not embarrassed.

ZHAVVORSA
‘Lying’.

Surely, you’ve not forgotten:
All neurons, our eyes detect.

AIDA
[Turns away, flustered]

Well, that is just unfair,
Since your lies I cannot suspect.

ZHAVVORSA
Turbidians do not lie.

Each of us is capable
Of neuroimagery.
Subtle yet detectable,
Lies increase prefrontal activity.

AIDA
[Slowly]

And would it be unethical
To pose questions exploiting this fact?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Both’.

As with all social constructs,
Ethics are flexible.
What constitutes ‘Wrong’ and ‘Right’ for one,
For another is amenable.

AIDA
Why are you here?

ZHAVVORSA
‘Service’.

To serve my world and queen,
And in history glorify Her reign.

On making first alien contact,
What was your initial thought, reaction?

AIDA
‘Irrelevance’.

“It’s only a matter of time”,
Our scientists for centuries forewarned.
We were to accept, continue and strive
For progress, as always planned.

[Grins]

But simultaneously, ‘Lucky’,
To bear witness and participate.

Does it not cause grief to spend your life
In constant servitude?

Our leaders devote their lives
In our system of democracy –
And are afforded no exemptions
Nor material luxuries.

ZHAVVORSA
‘Irrelevance’.

Personal feelings matter not
So long as the species survives.
And even if they did,
It is moot to wish otherwise.

Privileged ruling classes:
A pattern transcending through time,
It’s how most societies exist –
Always the same, in varying form.

AIDA
[She struggles to her feet, agitated]

And what, to history just surrender?

[Begins to pace]

Breaking persisting patterns
Is admittedly improbable.
But just because it’s happened thus far
Doesn’t render change impossible.

Add magnesium to air and heat
And watch the combination set alight –
All it takes is a single chance,
One reaction to forever alter.

ZHAVVORSA
Why does this topic cause you
Such passionate distress?

AIDA
[Blinks, taken aback]

‘Fear’.

More than anything, than death,
My fear is stagnation.
That one day, I’ll stop evolving,
In one state doomed to be, forever.

The same applies to humankind.
It may take several generations –
Entire lives spent in waiting
For collective adaptation.

But with time, we’ve learned and grown.
Such is my faith within my species:
Our most redeeming trait
Lies in capacity for change.

[Zhavvorsa stares at Aida in silence. Aida meets their gaze evenly]

ZHAVVORSA
I –

[They are interrupted as the lights flicker and fanfare music blasts to present the results of the latest Vote]

[Vote D48: A Vote to establish the mining of Thunium as a form of penal labour exclusive to perpetrators of the Capital Offence]

[Top Reasonings:

  • “YES: The severity of punishment is proportionate to the crime of causing mass harm, including deaths, injuries and planetary destruction, via distribution of fraudulent information in pursuit of financial profit. CORROBORATING EVIDENCE: The same punishment is applied to both perpetrators of the Capital Offence and conventional mass murder, while the average number of casualties compares 2256 to 1, respectively
  • “NO: To make any treatment, including that of a traumatizing psychedelic crisis, exclusive to any prisoner constitutes cruel and degrading punishment. CORROBORATING EVIDENCE: Making a punishment exclusive to an individual group automatically fails the frequency measure of cruel and degrading punishment, under Newtopian Law]

[Result: 77.44% Yes, 22.56% No]

AIDA and ZHAVVORSA, in unison
How it always begins.

[Both turn and look at each other in surprise. They lock eyes, intrigued, as the lights fade]

Newtopia Rising, Book I: The Search for a New Utopia (ACT II, SCENE I)

ACT II, SCENE I

NEWTOPIA

[The stage is dark but for a capsule with a bar of blinking lights and an unconscious human inside, his face visible through a clear panel. The backdrop screen turns on, showing a clip of the man, who we now see has an amputated leg, drink an elixir and step into the capsule. The lights stop blinking and the door hisses and opens. The man stumbles out and reaches down to touch his newly grown leg in disbelief. He jumps in the air, exhilarated, and twirls in a ballerina-esque dance of pure joy]

[A new spotlight falls on the next capsule. The screen shows an x-ray of a failing liver, and a woman who drinks a potion and steps inside. The door opens and she walks out and falls onto her knees, in prayer position]

[Third capsule. The screen shows a breast cancer survivor drink a concoction and step in. When she emerges, she is newly endowed with enormous breasts]

[Fourth capsule. The screen displays a lanky man. He steps out, now rippled with muscles. He strips completely nude and admires own reflection, making various poses]

[Fifth and sixth capsules open simultaneously. A woman and a man emerge, turn to each other and begin a vigorous, acrobatic erotic dance]

[Final capsule. The screen shows an elderly man, frail and nearing life’s end, stepping in. When the door opens, it is as if he is in his early twenties]

[The stage is flooded by dancers, with couplings – hetero and homo alike – as well as individuals showing off their newfound physical abilities]

[All dancers begin climbing on top of each other, at first to demonstrate physical prowess and acrobatic skills, then clambering, pushing and stepping on each other, to climb the highest]

[The human pyramid begins to collapse on itself as the curtains close and lights fade]

The Zeroth Law

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As on every single morning, Humer awoke to artificial sunlight and birdsong filling the homeostasis capsule, gradually increasing in brightness and volume. He forced himself to rise, struggling against the relentless combination of gravity and dread weighing down upon his chest – as on every single morning.

He glanced at the screen of the monitor above the entrance.

Sleep duration: 4 hours
R.E.M. cycles: 3
Sleep deficiency: 3 hours

Projected beside the bleak summary, glowing dots recorded the overall efficiency of each night’s sleep – and the line connecting them showed how little the number fluctuated over time.

Humer climbed out of the capsule and trudged into the physio-maintenance cylinder, shutting the hermetic door behind him. Immediately, the chamber began to fill with antisense DNA gel – its viscosity ideal for low-impact exercise easy on the joints, its protein-suppression properties repairing skin-tissue cells. He grimaced at the cool temperature of the gel enveloping his body up to the neck, thinking how he would never go near the confounded machine, if only given the choice. Yet access to the household holovision unlocked with the monitored exercise of every capable resident, and a family denied their share of mindless entertainment would make life truly unbearable.

Once the monitor determined his heart rate had been elevated for a sufficient period of time, the cylinder began to drain, releasing him from the gelatinous prison. Humer smiled as a downpour of hot water hit his face and ran down his body – as he thought how the very same drops would be filtered and repurposed for the plants in the agrarium.

The thought would constitute the highlight of his day – as it always did.

A wave of warm air blasted down and instantly dried both hair and skin, giving them a healthy gleam. Humer stepped out of the cylinder, threw on a unisuit, and headed towards the agrarium to pick the fruit-vegetables he had technically just watered. He turned a tomapple in his hand, its crimson hue stark against the pale green of its leaves, glistening with morning dew. Genetically enhanced, a single ration would provide the necessary nutrients for survival.

Having spent his childhood in the final years of the Oil Apocalypse, Humer marvelled at this constant supply of food – at the unbelievable ease and autonomy afforded by the advent of self-sustaining residences, each unit capable of producing its own food and energy. For millennia, humankind had had the capacity to feed all members of its population. In 2201, potential had finally been converted into reality.

Better late than never.

His reflections were interrupted by screeching.

‘Daddy!’

Mechanically, his lips curved upwards as he gazed upon the child with quiet fascination; always noting the rate of his physical and mental growth.

‘Helia, sweetheart,’ addressed a female voice, ‘is that what you’re wearing?’

‘Yes, Mother.’

‘Aren’t you worried the other boys will make fun of you? Why don’t you wear that nice pink unisuit Uncle Tarly bought you?’

‘There’s absolutely nothing wrong with green,’ Humer interjected, shooting his wife a look. ‘And boys can wear whatever colour of their choosing. Do you see, Helia?’

‘Yes, Daddy,’ he answered. He twisted his mouth. ‘But I think I’ll change after all.’ The child scurried out of the room, leaving the parents to face each other.

‘Why do you insist our son be a social outcast?’ she asked in an icy tone.

This baffling obsession with sexual differentiation! ‘You know, there was a point in history when pink was nearly exclusive to females. They encouraged pink on men to break down gendered fashion – not so it could be replaced by something just as arbitrary.’ He narrowed his eyes in desperate frustration. ‘Do you honestly not see the irony?’

It had been a long time – centuries, even – since they had learned gender, as with race, was primarily a social construct. Entire university departments analyzed the past sociological, political, and even economic harms directly attributed to rigid group-identities.

Why couldn’t they apply simple knowledge, long accumulated? Why did social and psychological inertia persist so, in the face of overwhelming evidence?

‘So help me, Humer, if I hear the words “overwhelming evidence” or “Gloria Steinem” come out of your mouth one more time, I won’t be held responsible for my actions.’

He took a deep breath. ‘Maybe we can learn to compromise, the way married couples are theoretically supposed to. Maybe I can have a say in the way our offspring should be raised.’

‘Or maybe,’ she replied, ‘just maybe, you can get a job. And then you can criticize the way our “offspring” should be raised.’

‘I did get a job. If you’ll recall, I got a job just last week.’

She scoffed. ‘Anyone can get a job in this day and age, Humer. It’s called Flexicurity. It’s keeping a job that’ll impress me.’

A wife to keep constantly impressed. A child to keep alive and reasonably developed. Research indicated that marital and familial ties increased happiness. Yet Humer felt – nothing.

‘Yes, dear. Have a nice day at work.’

She turned on her heel, but not before he caught the hint of a triumphant grin spreading across her lips. He vaguely wondered if there had been a specific moment at which he had sold his dignity, or if it had simply eroded over the years.

After the child had been loaded into the school shuttle, Humer climbed into his gravicar and entered the usual coordinates into the auto-navigator. After a few minutes of precious silence, he could see his destination. Standing 852 metres high, the gargantuan Wall loomed in the horizon – the only gate in and out of the Residential Sector.

Once he stepped out of the vehicle it sped away, maneuvering its way back home and leaving Humer to join the throngs of commuters, organized into neat rows at the base of the Wall. Interspersed among them were life-sized holograms of the newly elected Supreme Human Officer, rendered in three-dimensional glory. Humer watched the inauguration speech and suppressed a shiver. He noted the other man’s chiseled nose and jawline, the startling green eyes, the disarming smile. It was no wonder he had won the hearts of four billion Gaian voters. Yet he was nothing more than a figurehead, however aesthetically pleasing.

To claim that humans possessed the power of real choice was farcical. Every aspect of life was controlled by their masters, hidden behind a seductive veneer – the delusion of choice. Yes, they had the freedom of occupation, family, distractions, and even partial mobility. And yes, they had never prospered so greatly as they did under robotic regulation. Yet the system, the foundation of the structure within which they lived was not of their own design.

The paradise Rat Park, only for humans.

He observed his fellow citizens, their expressions enviably complacent. Nobody saw! Or was it that they simply did not care?

Humer tried to weigh which alternative was preferable, and felt – horror.

It was his turn to pass through. He approached the monolithic wall, seamless to the eye, and laid his hand flat against it. At the touch of his fingertips, the black screen burst into a flurry of colour, in swirls of red and gold which gave way to green and blue and ultimately faded back to black. After processing his identity, the screen prompted a destination, then a range of different cognitive exercises for his selection – as payment for the travel credit. A section of the wall receded upwards noiselessly after he repeated a memory sequence and slid down once he stepped forward, trapping him within the dark confines of the evaluation chamber. There, a web of green light swept over his body from head to toe.

‘I have processed deficits in *serotonin* and *dopamine*,’ asserted the soft, almost musical voice.

Humer reached out, the palm of his hand facing upwards expectantly. Yet the lights did not turn on, and his hand grasped empty air instead of the usual packet of pills. Confused, he reached out to tap the screen.

‘Contingent unlocked.’

Humer jerked back as characters began to fall down on all four screens, surrounding him in a rain of emerald lettering.

CONDITIONS OF HUMAN SELF-TERMINATION
Duration of major depressive episodes exceeding 10 years
Participation in pharmaceutical treatment
Participation in cognitive-behavioural treatment
Age exceeding 50 years
Monetary deficit not exceeding 50,000 credits

‘You have met all prerequisites for the choice of *self-termination*. Would you like to self-terminate?’

Two words – one rendered in red, the other blue: YES and NO.

Humer stared at the wall, the corners of his lips lifting, and could not help but be impressed. What attention to detail! What consideration of the individual! … What benevolent masters!

To his surprise, there was no hesitation as he touched the screen. Light filled the chamber with graduating intensity, and Humer felt – relief.

*******************************************************************************

Deep inside the Wall, layers upon layers of interconnecting copper, aluminum and sapphire crystal – etched with an intricate design of lines, letterings and numbers – sat atop a silicon plate four nanometers wide. Embedded inside the integrated circuit, the instruction set was clear.

01010010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 01110011 00100000 01101101 01100001 01111001 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101000 01100001 01110010 01101101 00100000 01101000 01110101 01101101 01100001 01101110 01101001 01110100 01111001 00101100 00100000 01101111 01110010 00101100 00100000 01100010 01111001 00100000 01101001 01101110 01100001 01100011 01110100 01101001 01101111 01101110 00101100 00100000 01100001 01101100 01101100 01101111 01110111 00100000 01101000 01110101 01101101 01100001 01101110 01101001 01110100 01111001 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01101000 01100001 01110010 01101101 00101110 00001010 00001010

Translated in Gaian Standard, it would read: “Do not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.”