Jack had decided to use the new “switch avatar” system. The new service had been introduced on the market a few months ago, and the public had welcomed it. It was an implant placed in the brain that took over entirely or nearly wholly managing itself for short periods. The system could be activated for hours, days or at most a week. The authorities strongly supported the decision to make use limited in time before making it available on the market.
The “switch avatar” system was developed primarily to lower the stress level of workers. It made it possible to temporarily suspend the management and control functions, which are those aimed at assuming responsibility, making decisions, solving problems, planning and organization. In this way, it was possible to give a brief respite to thought and leave the consciousness of the person-focused in an abstract limbo of well-being. Also, the system was equipped with an additional “life coach” service which, if activated by the client with other expenses, made it possible to improve the functional area in specific areas of life, such as in the planning and execution of the physical activity, rational control of nutrition and addictions. For this reason, the research of the plant was financed with public health funds.
The plant was fully capable of quickly processing environmental information, making the safest and most profitable decisions with short and long-term advantages, in a rational way and without any interference from emotions. In this way, the client was left in the passive and reassuring observation of what was happening next to him, knowing that there was someone who took care of his interest at best. Soon, despite the excessive prices, the uses of the plant begin to multiply, even beyond those initially planned. Many activate the system to eliminate or inhibit stress, for example, in carrying out dangerous or unethical actions. The only drawback was the obligation to book it well in advance by the production company to adapt the system to the person, for an optimal control result. But the company was trying to reduce adaptation times. Besides, if booked several times, the execution of the system was even more optimal, allowing the system to specialize based on personal data enriched each time.
Jack had decided to access the “switch avatar” for a whole week. He needed a mental break, away from the worries of family and work management. His wife Molly was an understanding and fair woman only that being close to and managing the life of his twin daughters took enormous energy away from him every day. Even at work, he had utterly drained his creative resources after the problematic financial management of a significant client. The summer vacation days were still far away. A mental break was necessary for him to be able to leave again in a powerful way. But how to tell your wife that you want to be mentally “off” for a week? At work, it would have been easier. Probably his performances would have been lower, but he could afford it. For him, it would have been the first time, but some of his colleagues and friends had secretly confided to him that they had activated it to avoid difficult days or weeks in work and personal life. Officially, the company provided for a regulation of the use of the system through an official request for activation to be communicated to the human resources department. In this way, the management was informed and could supervise the performance of the worker. However, the system was so effective that many preferred to take advantage of it without risking career repercussions or leaving a trace in the dossier. Not all employers were enthusiastic about this innovation. The public discussion was divided between supporters, in favour of defending the human factor oriented towards mental well-being at the highest levels, and sceptics who saw the system as a degradation of the person, who lost control and therefore the temporary management of his life. Several broadcasts interview public figures and scientists to address the debate on the ethical consequences and the meaning of life that this new system introduced.
After a few days of reflection, Jack decided to take action. He contacted the company on Thursday and was called back immediately for an appointment the next day. Jack needed some other additional information and above all, to be reassured about his choice. The following day he goes to the new white building dedicated to the “switch avatar” office. A whole team of professionals takes care of him immediately. Jack passes several tests and interviews with doctors, psychologists, coaches and computer scientists. He also compiled detailed planning of the week in perspective, with specific indications and details at work and in private life. After two hours of confrontation, the team told him that everything was ready. He could proceed to insert the implant.
- “So where will my” me “be all week?”
- “Our technology is highly specialized. You will be like a viewer in a cinema hall, sitting quietly and enjoying the show. You will see the actions taking place in front of you without, however, the emotional charge that absorbs a large part of our life. The system allows you to inhibit emotions, allowing you to remain in a quiet and calm state without experiencing the stress that will instead be managed by the avatar. Your country of consciousness will be immersed in the full relaxation of well-being thanks also to the activation of serotonin which is injected regularly by the system, in a regulated quantity. All the actions of control and management of your body and the environment around you will be carried out on a rational basis and following your personality and attitudes, in a regular continuity that you will find exactly as you knew it at the end of the intervention week “.
- “What if there are events that I have not foreseen in the planning?”
- “Our system is specifically adjusted to your personality but, at the same time, it is also calibrated on a database common to a large group of people who have already experienced the system. So, it has specific and general action skills for dealing with unexpected events. How many unexpected events have you had in the past weeks?”.
Jack thinks for a moment. In the last year, it seems to him that his plan has always had control over his future. Apart from a few minor events related to the girls’ lives, her weekly routine was relatively regular and quiet. Jack had been won over. He had decided.
- “You are right; we can proceed”.
The implant was inserted with a faster operation that was not expected behind the ear. It would be activated on Monday morning.
I go home to enjoy the weekend with his wife and children. He was looking forward to the activation of the system on Monday morning to enjoy his well-deserved mental break. He adored his family, but he had been married for more than ten years, closed in family life. He had never made a betrayal to avoid endangering his social position. The girls were adorable, and he had spent most weekends on them for the past five years. He deserved to be “elsewhere” for a while, to get back on track after the experience. On the internet, I look for videos, forums and blogs to testify the use of the “switch avatar”. He discovered that many had experienced the experience as a magical moment of religious awakening. The plant was designed to live as separate from reality and take distance from the events of everyday life, in which one quickly became prey.
Many had realized that “enlightenment” that various religions had talked about, finally making it accessible to the mass. Jack was long intrigued by listening to the testimonies. He had also read about those who now used the system regularly, managing their lives in a new way with surprising effects. For example, some had started professionally playing sports, thanks to the control guaranteed by the application that decision based on physiological data and not motivational ones. Or some had deliberately participated in violent events, such as volunteering in war, to come out indifferent. Some professions had authorized the use of the plant to ensure an emotional detachment that is not always easy to obtain, as in the medical work or the intensive farming industry.
A vortex of new uses and possibilities could be glimpsed shortly, in a contagious and creative enthusiasm. Jack belonged to curious little users who just wanted to escape from the routine of everyday life for a while, without great expectations or revolutionary desires about their life or career.
- “What are you reading?” Molly asked as she finished making some sweets for the girls’ party.
- “Nothing I ask about a new product; you know you never stop discovering new inventions”.
- “Yes, I have seen new robots for helping in the kitchen. We should buy automatic robotic arms sooner or later. My friends have had it for some time, and they have a great time. For example, with a robot I would have already finished making sweets for the girls’ birthday, but who knows if they would have turned out so good … “
- “Birthday? I had escaped! “
- “But how? So, you don’t forget the birthday of the twins! Dad has his head somewhere else, huh? “
- “You are right. You take care of the gifts, right? “
- “Yes, yes, we talked about a dance internship, remember?”
- “Yes, you’re right, love, I’m a bit distracted this period. Too many things to manage even at work … “
- “This is why I had thought of booking next weekend just the two of us in a romantic SPA”.
- “But …”
- “Don’t worry, I’ve already thought of everything. You will just have to relax…. “.
Two events he hadn’t thought of already, Jack told himself. He was beginning to wonder if he had been right to choose this week, between the children’s party and the romantic weekend with his wife. “I should have consulted Molly before deciding, damn schedule,” Jack thinks. By now the contract was signed, he just had to relax and let the plant do everything. He would have lived the birthday experience in a new way for once, and he told himself to justify his forgetfulness.
He went to sleep early, to his wife’s surprise. He was a bit tense and didn’t want to show it. He fell asleep with difficulty and pretended to sleep when his wife entered the bed next to him. Then it was darkness, silence, peace.
In the morning, he opened his eyes with anticipation. The world finally seemed to him a new place. The night was as restful as ever. “No stress for a Monday,” thought Jack. He realized that he was getting out of bed, without precisely having wanted to. Actions begin to follow each other without being aware of it. He watched himself act, but he didn’t pilot his own body. The control of his hands, legs, face and mind was now entrusted to the implant
- “I’m fine; I have positive feelings. I think I’ll do … “
His thought stopped suddenly. He had stopped thinking, planning, evaluating all the information that came from himself and the outside. For the first time, he felt the sensation of peace, including the expression “to make the void and silence in his mind” and silence the voice that was continually speaking inside his head.
- “I don’t think so, I observe, he told himself”.
His conscience irregularly returned for very short stretches; it was a small bug in the system that would have been deleted in the advanced version of the system, he had been communicated to the office during visits with the specialists. But they were moments so rare and brief that they would not compromise his experience. In any case, if the stream of consciousness could be active, that of the emotions was utterly shut off. Nothing could then upset his mental break. Jack quickly got used to the new cognitive system he was experimenting. He was as present and distant at the same time, not involved but intrigued knowing that what he saw and what he said was produced by himself. The sensory filters were active but reached him attenuated, so everything was perceived pleasantly and serenely. He began to appreciate the flow of what he saw and heard. He rested like a viewer on the sofa at home watching the same movie for the umpteenth time with a happy ending.
- “Good morning, love”.
- “Good morning, dear, did you sleep well? A stressful week too? “
- “No, no, it will be a clear week. Thanks, sweetheart”.
He had breakfast in a full presence. He tasted with stillness the milk, the coffee: everything delicious. He never had such a flavour-centred breakfast. No thoughts on the traffic, on his colleagues, on the files had come to disturb him in his conscience.
- “You seem happy this morning, don’t you?”
- “Yes, my love. I go now. Good day to you”.
His wife returned a sweet smile of complicity. The idea of a weekend together was a charming gift to both of us. This idea was suggested to him by a friend of hers, who had tried the wellness package last weekend. “Maybe Jack was just waiting for a little well-being. Ah men, how easy they are to please, ”Molly said to herself, taking care of the girls to take them to school.
Jack was surprised by the correct guidance that managed the plant. He was like the passenger sitting in the next seat. Psychologically it was as if he had just stretched out his feet; everything came by itself. Arriving at the office, he greeted everyone cordially and went to his office. Endorphins were sent in smaller quantities to the office to avoid getting into a hilar state of mind. He saw himself managing the files with competence and distance. He watched, read and recognized the numbers, but as if in a drunken state where he had no real understanding of what he was working on. I attended a meeting and listened to questions being answered, while mentally smiling like an idiot all the time, immersed in his chemical well-being.
He noticed that some new intern at the office was watching him out of the corner of their eyes as they passed his office. He had never known he was a sexy man, after all. His well-being grew exponentially in him, while from the outside, the only thing that appeared was he bent over his desk professionally managing a tedious amount of dossiers. In the brief moments of consciousness caused by the system bug, he began to plan the “post-implant”:
- “I will not miss the other opportunities. That intern is charming, I don’t know how I could not have noticed earlier. And then I’ll have to do … “.
Consciousness was immediately interrupted to ensure that the experience was lived to the full and avoid conscious recourse to the ongoing planning to which the human being is condemned. I spent the day in an unexpected state of well-being. He returned home, and before dinner is seen looking for gym shoes to run.
- “You have the energy today; love!”
- “Yes, I’ll go for a run, and I’ll be back within half an hour, okay?”
- “Sure, my love. Dinner will be ready for later”.
He could feel his body moving and his endorphins escalating. How he had deprived himself of all this well-being over time, Jack thought. The dinner was heavenly, and at night he saw himself making love with his wife, inebriating himself with well-being. Before going to sleep, he had time to think that it was fantastic to live like this, managed by someone else and he was only able to collect the feelings of well-being that came through the chemical or spontaneous way — the week passed in a river of endorphins.
On Friday, he lived his daughters’ birthday with detachment and observed them through the patina of well-being that immersed him. Then the weekend he let himself be guided by the plant and his wife, both at his service to make him happy. On Sunday, he arrived earlier than expected, and on Monday morning, he opened his eyes. A feeling of vomiting suddenly came over him. He had time to lock himself in the bathroom. The device was off but still behind the ear. He would go to take it off today, as expected.
- “Hey love, are you okay? Did something hurt you? “
Jack was disgusted. He felt unwell. Resuming reality suddenly had the effect of shock on him. He gets ready for breakfast.
- “Hey, Molly, the eggs are overcooked. Couldn’t you have pulled them from the fire first? “
- “Love, but they are cooked as always”, Molly answered surprised.
This breakfast is awful, thought Jack pushing the plate away with his hands.
- “Love, I wanted to tell you … We had such a beautiful weekend and the whole last week was also beautiful. You’ve given me more emotions in a week than in the last ten years,” Molly joked.
- “Thanks dad, for making us all have fun at the party,” the two girls added, “getting up and kissing him on the cheek.
Jack didn’t answer. It was he who had spent a good week, away from everyone, including her and the girls. Jack’s mood was extreme. The feeling of well-being experienced had disappeared to leave him immersed in reality. He had not foreseen that the implant would give him so much. “Molly thought of my well-being, not yours,” thought Jack as he got into the car. The state of chemical well-being in which he had been immersed for a week was already lacking. The traffic to work was incredibly long:
- “Do you want to move or not, damn it!”, Jack shouted several times to the other cars in line.
The whole day was spent in a state of extreme stress. Everything made him nervous and made him lose control. He almost risked coming into conflict with his department head by calling him a fool. Then he apologized saying he was stressed out. A colleague took him aside and said:
- “The last two weeks have been difficult, I know. Too heavy. Too many things to handle at once. I was about to send everyone to hell too. So don’t worry, we’re all a bit stressed out this last period. But you were great last week. I’ve never seen you work so well, but how did you do it? The statistics you presented saved us an entire afternoon of work. You’re great! You did well to raise your voice for once, and you deserve more! ”.
Jack was perplexed. It was like spending the best week of his life, in a state of well-being that he had never experienced before. His wife was happy, the girls too, and at work, he was finally appreciated. A kind of selfish malaise replaced the pleasure and satisfaction of having been praised:
- “Slowly, slowly, there is something wrong here. What about the rest of the days? Am I nothing? Getting up every morning to go to work, calculating all day to be appreciated only for a week’s work. And that profiteer Molly! He likes to see me imprisoned to her, to please her. No one who thinks of me, of my damned well-being”.
Jack was utterly out of emotional control. He left the office in a hurry without saying goodbye to anyone and headed towards the “switch avatar” building. He needed advice. The team was once again at his complete disposal.
Jack let himself go and told all his confused emotions under the understanding eyes of the team of specialists.
- “We are here to help you. We are here for you. Our goal is not to make a profit on the activation time, which in any case remains exceptional and limited. Our greatest goal is to make well-being democratic and available to all, always. For this, we have a solution for you. We offer customized plans that provide for constant activation of the system, 24 hours a day. But it’s not legal. You can understand how it is an experimental action that, however, some lucky customers have already signed up. It is also economically advantageous, considering that the cost of the plant is deducted regularly from your salary, without major financial implications. Besides, the price of the system is designed to be directly amortized for the extra work, managed directly by the system and obviously from the complete cessation of your data, to be included in the system improvement project. In this way, your plant will be not only the constant source of your mental well-being but also that of financial and collective well-being, thanks to your sharing of personal data. Well-being will be a status quo for you ”.
Jack spent the week thinking about it. His routine disgusted him, annihilated him, made him nervous at every moment. He avoided his wife and child so as not to be violent with them. “I deserve my well-being, I deserve my happiness”, he repeated to himself. He immersed himself again in reading the testimonies and found blogs that spoke of an extreme experience of euphoria. People from lazy and passive had become esteemed, successful and fit as never before. Examples of efficient, excellent management, of a standard of living that a human being could only reach with great sacrifices, not always repaid.
After much thought, he finally decided to activate the option. He had nothing to lose. His life deserved to move to a higher level. A level he could yet afford. His dream of being rich, muscular, handsome, seductive and happy had arrived and was within reach.
The activation clicks came early Monday morning. Upon reached the awakening, Jack was happy again, and he would stay in this chemical happy state for the rest of his days. His stupid smile was there also at life events like the death of his wife in a car accident a few years later; the loss of his job due to financial failure and his facial paralysis caused by a heart attack when he was now more advanced in years.
Stuck in a chemical limbo of well-being, he saw life flow by his eyes, like a viewer, interested only in methodical good nutrition, regular sport, functional relationships and the standard execution of repetitive tasks. All were programmed to be the optimization of his mental, physical and cognitive resources.
The “switch avatar” had been withdrawn from the market where episodes of muscular ethical tension between supporters and opponents of the plant. Furthermore, a scandal had shown the administration of excessive amounts of endorphins to the brain in the first application. In this way, customers who tried it even once became dependent on it, returning to use and increasing the profit for the company. Following this scandal, the product was officially withdrawn even though it continued to be present on illegal markets.
Nobody came to collect his implant. Jack had wanted to take it off, but his state of consciousness was only alert for a few short stretches, which didn’t allow him to make and execute choices and decisions. In a moment of consciousness, he also tried to try to remove the implant himself from the ear, without however succeeding, interrupted by the implant itself, which immediately regained control of the body.
For him, the implant stopped working only a few seconds before his death, leaving him time to feel the intense pain of his loneliness, the extreme lack of affection, the wave of pain he never experienced for the deaf of her wife. He feels his failure as a father. He lived all his emotions in a huge wave. He lived in a few seconds, before dying out forever, the horror of having wasted his life so chemical happy.