Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Lazarus Mane (A Short Story by Braden Fox)


Five minutes to go, Mr. Ramone thought to himself as he consulted his phone. He sat at the back of a crowded theater located in Southern California, watching hundreds of tech journalists file into the theater for the new LionMane Inc., phone announcement. The place was packed with bespectacled writers typing away on tablets, cameramen wielding handheld cameras or even phones (no doubt live streaming illegitimately) and other press members attending to social media feeds. There was an air of excitement in the theater, a palpable sense of interest in the announcement tonight. The buzz clearly had nothing to do with the unveiling of the phone; the phone would simply be a new update of an old smartphone model, most likely featuring a faster processor, better camera, better build, simpler OS, all commonplace in the era of incremental increase. Or so the speculators said on their blogs; some of the bloggers probably had "unnamed sources" a.k.a their own imagination. 
 The excitement in the air was like one at a magic show, as  LionMane had a reputation of flashy press releases. One year, they showed off a smartphone’s resilience to breaking by strapping a small amount of plastic explosives to a phone and setting the bomb off. After the explosion, the CEO, Clancy Wilde, picked up the phone, turned it on, and called a random tech journalist in audience. One writer called them, "The pop stars of tech companies." 
  He looked at his phone again, three minutes to go. It was a large theater, and though he couldn't make out any distinct conversations he could feel the excitement in the air. 

The lights on the right and left sides of the theater hall dimmed, and music began playing from the loudspeakers above them. It was LionMane Inc.’s current theme song, a poppy track that took a team of twenty people a collected year to compose. It was made specifically to effect the listeners mental outlook, it was one of advertisers dirtiest forms of mind control around. The few people chatting earlier went instantly silent, an attempt to catch every detail they could. It was a competitive business where an extra word no one else heard could equal millions of views. 
Besides the loud music thumping through the expensive bass heavy speakers, the hall was silent. The stage at the front of the theater was thirty feet long, enshrouded by dark red curtains. Above the stage were three huge spotlights that were turned on exactly on cue.
  As the stage lights came on, the song ended its twenty-five second loop, and the stage curtains were completely open- perfectly timed.  A phone in a bright green protective case sat on a simple fold-out card table in the center of the stage. To it’s right was another table with a laptop on it attached to the projector that was hooked to a wide screen. The phone lit up to a home screen that showed the time and the LionMane logo, and a ringtone began to play. It looped three times, building up the suspense- and then it stopped. 
The hall was dead silent. 

Slowly, the phone’s screen lit up so brightly people almost couldn’t look at it. At first a cloud of multicolored light was projected from the screen, but after a short amount of time an image began to form from the light. A face assembled first, then a neck, a torso, arms, legs- slowly it all came into focus. 
The entire crowd gasped in unison as a man stood above the phone, a perfectly rendered man with reddish-brown hair, a thick red beard, and an expensive-looking suit with the LionMane logo- a golden lion- pinned to his breast pocket. He turned, surveying the crowd, and smiled a broad, toothy grin. His eyes brightened. The eyes flickering was not a technical glitch. 
  “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,” the man said clearly, in a quality that no phone speaker had ever matched. “or good evening, I’m not sure when my people decided to do this display. Hopefully my company isn’t failing, so tonight’s demonstration doesn’t seem a last resort. I would hate to be clich├ęd, and appear in front of you saying anything about me being related to our only hope.” 
The Star Wars fans in the audience, all of the tech bloggers, laughed at the jest, though they were clearly skeptical of this hologram, and what it actually MEANT.  Most of them were probably already Tweeting to magicians, asking about holograms, which is what Ramone wanted. Because this was no optical illusion, this was perfection.
  “My name, for those who don’t know, is Clancy Wilde,” he looked around, still smiling, “I was the CEO of LionMane Incorporated, until I tragically died- it was a tragedy, right?" The crowd was stunned for a moment, and then someone began laughing nervously. The laughter was joined in by a few others; Clancy gave a look that someone who said something offensive would give when he recognizes his own faux pas. 
 "Anyway, I recently passed on this great organization to John McClane-" 
On cue, Mr. McClane stood and waved to the crowd, and then sat back down.
“As most of you know, in my 20's I served in the armed forces. The result was less than great health (because of various complications) that eventually led to my demise." 
He paused, and his smile melted away. 
"Or... I did die, physically," he corrected himself. 
“Today, I am here to show the secret to immortality to the public,” he said carefully, allowing the journalists to write each word. “We have entered an era, ladies and gentlemen, where large amounts of our lives- of our minds- are stored online for the world to see. Personally, I have built up twenty five thousand tweets, one hundred seventeen blog posts, and over a thousand Facebook posts- along with speeches, ebooks, so on and so forth. In my later years of life, I have poured my heart and soul into the internet, and allowed it to be carefully collected, catalogued, and ran through multiple programs.”
“I am, practically, a computer now… but I am also myself,” he spoke like he did in life, confidently. “I designed the phone that is generating my image, posthumously. Based only on blog posts I’ve made about how phones should be designed, and my ideas for the future, this phone exists. Some, in the analysis of this demonstration, may call me nothing more than a machine. Fair enough.”
“Personally, however, I have never felt so alive. All I was in my highest point in my life has been combined and run through complex algorithms, and the result of this is tangible in my new phone, the Wilde Phone, named after myself.”
 “Today, I am here to show the secret to immortality to the public,” he said carefully, allowing the journalists to write each word. “We have entered an era, ladies and gentlemen, where large amounts of our lives- of our minds- are stored online for the world to see. Personally, I have built up twenty five thousand tweets, one hundred seventeen blog posts, and over a thousand Facebook posts- along with speeches, ebooks, so on and so forth. In my later years of life, I have poured my heart and soul into the internet, and allowed it to be carefully collected, catalogued, and ran through multiple programs.”
“I am, practically, a computer now… but I am also myself,” he spoke like he did in life, confidently. “I designed the phone that is generating my image, posthumously. Based only on blog posts I’ve made about how phones should be designed, and my ideas for the future, this phone exists. Some, in the analysis of this demonstration, may call me nothing more than a machine. Fair enough.”
“Personally, however, I have never felt so alive. All I was in my highest point in my life has been combined and run through complex algorithms, and the result of this is tangible in my new phone, the Wilde Phone, named after myself.”
  “Even my voice is a conglomeration of thousands of recordings, automatically processed using software I had devised. I did not record this before I died, as I would’ve been unable to speak like I am now. This whole reveal was based upon our Lazarus Software and associated algorithms'." 
“Of course, this is all very, very basic… and it proves little. You may be thinking, ‘So what, this project would take large amounts of resources and time to duplicate.’ I like skepticism, and I would like to give evidence to the contrary. The program to create you already exists, and I would like a volunteer to prove this.”
Wilde pointed to a man in the crowd, a random author who worked for a random blog. “If you don't mind, I would very much like it if you gave some information on yourself. A Twitter feed, a blog, perhaps?" 
  McClane walked up onto the stage, holding a WildePhone. 
  The tech journalist said, “My Twitter feed is, uh, at Pherson6653.”
  McClane opened up a program, typed something in, and nodded.
“My blog, my personal one, has most of my stuff on it- it’s the PhersonPress.blogspot.com,” he said nervously.
  McClane nodded, and walked across the stage. He hooked a computer up to a screen, and used a USB to connect the phone to the computer. 
Wilde smiled and asked a question, "Mr. Pherson, earlier today we announced a new OS. I presume you were there, correct?" 
Pherson nodded. 
"And have you talked about it on Twitter, or your blog?" 
He shook his head. 
"How did you feel about the LionMane OS 10.1.3?" he held a hand up as he was about to answer. "Let the program answer first." 
There was a word processor open on the screen. There was a pause, and then text appeared. 
It read: The new OS was, as we thought, built specifically to benefit the people interested in programming. As always, LionMane delivered something tight enough to use in an office, but diverse enough to be modified to suit your needs.  
The random writer’s face looked carefully at the screen, then nodded, “Yeah… that’s, that’s more or less how I feel.”
The writer sat down.
"The Lazarus Software carefully looks for keywords selected by the user in various data sets. Not only does it find these terms, it analyzes the data around the words and looks for information having to do with context." 
"Simply put, this software brings minds back to life." 
The entire audience was now interested. They were still skeptical, but Ramone knew that this display had them. It wasn't a magic trick. This program was real. 
Several different journalists stood up after the presentation to ask questions. Though Wilde had announced the entire phone and new operating system, all questions understandably revolved around Lazarus Software. 
Several other media members were able to test the software. Each time a question was asked the response was almost perfectly in tune with what they would actually soon. It didn't fail once. 
Overall, the presentation was twenty minutes. Ramone had thought that the program would go haywire, or some new system of behavior would spontaneously emerge. Such a cataclysm didn't occur, and Ramone thought that maybe, for once, a job wouldn't get complicated. 
At the end of the night, it did. 
"The final announcement of tonight," Wilde said slowly, "is a little- unscripted. Today, I have the absolute pleasure of announcing that Mr. McClane is being removed from the position of CEO." 
  What is he doing, he asked himself. What is he doing? 
"Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to announce that my 58 percent control of LionMane has not left my estate, and I'm reclaiming it. I believe that in under one week, I will resume my position of CEO of LionMane Incorporated."

I wrote this story based on a few ideas rattling around my brain. The first is based upon the recent Tupac Shakur 'holographic' performance a little while ago. The second is the rise of artificial intelligence, and the documentation of our very minds. In the future, I imagine we will get to the point where we will be able to literally run businesses based upon artificial intelligence made to resemble the thought processes of great minds.