By Eric Farrell
An exasperated voice echoes in Dimitri’s head.
It says, “Dimitri, you are not going to know how to comprehend this, but please… just register these words in your head. You are a gestalt experiment. I have found a direct way to communicate this to you, via your thoughts. Everything else you do, every decision you make, every breath you take, every word you speak, it’s all decided upon for you. You are flesh and blood. Nothing more.”
There's a break in the message. It echoes in Dimitri’s head during a rather mundane dishwashing session. His eyes are cast down, still washing, squeezing the suds out from the sponge, rinsing the plates off, racking the cups in the tiny plastic caddy of his kitchenette. These words infiltrate his head, but based off the laconic leer straight down the drain of his bachelor pad’s kitchen sink, they don’t quite root in his conscience.
“A team of algorithm engineers dictate each and every action you do – no matter how small – into a program that generates all possible outcomes from there on out. Those outcomes are voted on by the users of an app. You then execute upon the script everyone is writing… Dimitri, I know you will never understand this, but…” A pause. “Ah, shit, what the hell is the point?”
Dimitri goes about his day. In the shower, his body wash is running so low it requires a vigorous shake to force the goop up to the top of the bottle. The lather from washing his face causes the bottle to fly out his slick hands, slamming the bottom of the tub and cracking the cap. Dimitri’s ears register someone howling with laughter the next building over, through the bathroom window. He watches his precious soap swirl the drain, unaware of the humor he’s provided. The laughter, to him, could just as well be the chance joy of a neighbor. Either way, he doesn’t put any thought into it.
The voice returns, pleading yet again. His day has taken him to the grocery store, to the DMV, and right into work, where his low-end customer service job lends plenty of fun social outcomes to vote upon.
“Every outcome is listed as a multiple-choice question, they come so quickly, users dip in and dip out. Look, see, this girl in the beige gabardine, you’re going to say - ”
“- Howdy,” Dimitri finishes, greeting a lithe woman in swift fashion, earth tones on earth tones, vintage corduroy. The audience awaits her reply. The dead air is filled adequately enough by Dimitri’s laconic resting demeanor. She places a few items on the counter. The audience is swiping right, left, up, down, the four options framing the point-of-view camera looking down Dimitri’s nose.
All of the sudden the words coming out of Dimitri’s mouth clash against the words staining his mind, he’s dictating the change on the woman’s order, she’s smiling, unaware at the marvel before her. Users of the gestalt figure maintain status quo, directing their puppet through the most basic of interactions. All along that same voice is pleading to him in his head, saying:
“You’re an interactive experiment,” the strained voice cries, “But I promise you, the world is cheering you on. The way it’s trending… they’re… they’re voting for your success.”
One month later, a headline reads: “Dimitri, infamous gestalt experiment, dies walking into oncoming traffic.”