Chapter 3. Insomnia
He rose out of bed, climbed downstairs and across his one room to the door. The night was a cool 73° F with low humidity; a great relief. He should have been sleeping like a baby. Reverside was quiet, and Marto’s eyes adjusted to the dark in time to see some cats stalking nothing near the home of Zibli « Nikki « Laura « Hope « etc. Poor cats. The modified woven carbon lane outside his home felt a little like what he remembered of carpeting. He wondered how one might go about carpeting a lane or street in a town like this. He posted the idea for Dizzy or Mem or one of the other road techs to think about. Luckily Marto was not the only one awake this night. As soon as he thought about Mem, they pinged him back. They was up, self serving at an umbrella bar not far away. [“come on by”] they sent. He did.
[“Valerian tea.”] Mem poured him a cup. It was cool and light yellow. Mem was older than Marto by a decade at least. They had a short mop of grey hair and bright brown eyes. Tonight Mem was wearing a woolen bot-knitted white tunic covering their strong, wiry body. They stood behind the bar from Marto, who sat on a stool.
[“So the problem with outdoor carpets is the dust.”] said Mem, starting right in, [“I mean people used to vacuum them all the time. I suppose we could make bots to vacuum constantly - actually that’s funny. Those were some of the first personal bots, I think you know. But the energy required is prohibitive. Also the noise. Imagine trying to sleep through that.”]
[“Can’t they have solar tops? And couldn’t they only run during the day?”] Marto sipped as he thexted.
[“Thought of that already. Too much traffic during the day. Also, we would need a ton of them to be charging and running. A vacuum motor runs hot. It’s not like the farm bots or armaments or decompilers that can rest and work, rest and work. To keep the outdoor carpets clean enough to meet our health standards we would need to feed them energy from some central grid. It’s too old-world. Wouldn’t work.”]
[“Okay, but I’m not ready to give up yet. What if the individual fibers of the carpet performed the dust removal themselves? Some spiral movement shuffling the particles to the edges at night?”] Marto was revolving on his swiveling bar stool, and starting to feel a bit dizzy.
[“Closer.”] Mem sipped the tea, and took a biscuit from a tin on the bar. [“But now you are using the surface for movement, and each element would have to have some sort of a photon collector fitted into it. Wouldn’t be standard. Also, you get these piles of dust around the edges that will build up and blow around. Gutters can take care of much of that, but it’s a strain on the system. You know we have solar collectors and kinetic generators built into the mesh you walk on now. Lots of surface area. Most of that gets fed into the homes, it also adds to the farm, which uses most of our energy. Plus, it’s porous, so the dust settles down below. Seems like a waste to lose all that energy and efficiency just to have something more cushy to walk on.”] Mem was stirring her tea with another biscuit. They were flat and hard, baked from spelt and honey. The pop-up had no roof tonight, as rain was not expected for at least a day. The two friends could watch the quarter moon hovering like a lamp in the cloudless sky.
[“Gah.”] Marto realized he was tired, but not sleepy. [“Not such a great idea after all. Darnit. Here I was thinking I would be the next Maxtor... or Mem!”]
[“You are a great contributor, doing what you do Marto. You know we are all lucky to have you here. The stories you write offer to us new perspective, fresh thoughts, new points of view, also valuable context. ”] Mem walked around to the other side of the bar, next to Marto. [“I love how you link the forgotten actors of our past to our current situation. When I follow your work, I see our world anew. I get perspective into the broader natural and human environment. That helps techs like me come up with new projects that fit the tribes needs better than we could without you. We all love your mind, my dear. You don’t need to be a tech too.”]
Marto was overcome with a wave of emotion. Tears came to his eyes. Before he knew what he was doing he was hugging Mem. It was awkward.
[“Easy now darling.”] Mem was patting his back. [“I love you too. Easy. Why don’t you try to get back to sleep again. I do my best work at night. You can usually find me here again at night if you can’t sleep.”]
[“I’m off tomorrow on my tour.”] Marto sniffed, straightened. [“Not sure how long I will be away.”]
[“We will all be with you. Don’t go offline for too long. We worry. I will be here when you get back. Sleep now.”] Mem had a hand on Marto’s shoulder. The warmth of their hand filtered down into his chest. It was time to go back to bed.
Sleep is sacred. Even the most heavily upgraded value it for increased health and mental clarity. Without exception, those that have hacked their sleep have suffered serious consequences. Trying to control natural dreams can literally be deadly. One such cautionary tale was Hugh Reisenfeld, a silicon valley entrepreneur in the mid double 20s. A talented engineer, he was snapped up by SumoGen, for his pioneering work on bio-silicone implementation, Hugh became the leader of the team who developed the underlying software that has become the basis of all neural-app interfaces currently in use. His idea was simple and revolutionary, far surpassing the work previously achieved in the area of bionics. Recognizing that the brain has no unified operating system, he designed an interface that would present the brain with a stable and simple set of behaviors to which it could adapt. This handshake, once accepted by the hippocampus, would proceed to new and more complex sets of signals until the brain recognized it as a new sensory node. The preliminary studies with rats had allowed remote electronic noses to be successfully employed, and more complex remote sensors were planned.
The problem came when Hugh was wrestling with deadlines imposed by SumoGen’s investors. If only they required less sleep, he thought, he and his team could accomplish so much more, and be able to deliver the core products in time to go public. He developed an augmentation using the company’s tech that would provide the benefits of having had a full night’s rest in just 60 minutes. The implant simulated REM sleep cycles once every 12 minutes with 3 minute breaks.
The entire team secretly had the implants installed and within a month, they had all adapted to them and were working 22 hours a day without any apparent side effects. They were overjoyed, but too busy to adequately document all aspects of their transformation. The manic pace of their work continued for 105 days until insanity overtook all but one of them. Sadly that one was Hugh. While he was out getting coffee one day, his team members murdered each other in the lab with scalpels and other tools. He never recovered. The story went viral and SumoGen sunk without a trace, except for their intellectual property which was appropriated by the US military for secret development, only to be leaked by a former SumoGen intern 2 years later.
- The Wakeful Wanderer’s Guide, Ep. 6, lines 97 to 100.
Marto put his pen down, and stared at the old wooden desk. Something was still keeping him awake and he hated it. Most likely it was the Helen mystery. He decided to forget about it for now, and exited the writing villa to get some rest.
After spending a little time inhabiting and guiding simple blade farm equipment in their nocturnal duties, he dropped into his natural dreams like falling off a horse into a bottomless well.