Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Wire-Head


Hello to all of you who read my blog. I've been reading a lot of interesting philosophy lately (mostly David Benatar's 'Better Never to Have Been') and have some pretty interesting blog posts/rants planned. BUT for now I'd like to humour you with a side-project of mine:

I want to write a play.

I'm not a playwright.
I'm not a particularly good creative writer.
My knowledge of theatre doesn't extend past senior drama.
But I'm going to try and write this thing nonetheless.

Needless to say, if anyone has some sort of 'dummies guide' or similar book that they'd like to lend me I'd be very appreciated. Initially I had the pretty grandiose idea that I'd write it all, tell no-one about what I was doing, and then one day just bung a big ol' manuscript on the table and say with an air of nonchalance "Oh yeah, plays. I wrote one of those". That'd be pretty cool.

But now I've decided it'd be better if I actually share the process with some people. This has the benefit of:
a) Actually getting my ass motivated to write this thing, and;
b) Giving people the opportunity to comment/ give feedback/ offer to help write this thing.

What I've got so far is essentially what goes through my headwhen I've read far too much on trans-humanism, the abolitionist movement and Aldous Huxley's novel 'Island'. It's a sort of dystopian, futuristic, tragedy. I guess if I can stay motivated to write this thing I'll post each new scene up here on my blog. SO HERE'S WHAT I'VE GOT SO FAR. . . Comments and criticisms are both wanted and welcome.


THE WIRE-HEAD (Draft 1.0)
By Andrew Bloyce.
BACKGROUND:

Since the present day science has continued to develop quickly. One of the new technologies allows humans to directly stimulate the pleasure centres in their brains through the use of a small computer chip known as a wirebot. Wireheads (people who wear wirebots) can manually control their levels of happiness at will with no negative consequences; the pleasure they receive is pure and non-diminishing. Despite the cheap financial cost of having such a device installed not everyone is a wirehead. About half of the population have serious problems with wirebots - These qualms finding origin in religious and philosophical arguments. Hence the population is divided into the wireheads and the 'real people' (as they like to call themselves). This division has become so deeply ingrained into society that the wireheads and the 'true people' live separate from one another, only coming together to make political decisions that apply to the whole country. The 'true people' look upon the wireheads as hedonistic, shallow, and even sinful creatures. The wireheads see the 'real people' as misguided and look upon them with pity; they claim to have discovered fulfilment and meaning in life.

The blissful state of the wireheads makes them easily manipulated into doing the bidding of the 'real people'. Thus the 'real people' have, over the period of a few decades, managed to confine the occupations of the wireheads to what would generally be considered unpleasant jobs. The wireheads perform manual labour, they work in factories and generally function as servants to the 'real people'. Nevertheless the wireheads are blissfully content in their positions due to the constant endorphin supply that they experience. The 'real people' are reliant upon the wireheads to manufacture the goods that the they consume. The 'real people' are, like much of the current western world, slaves to consumerist culture. For this reason the 'real people' fund the surgeries required to install the 'wirebots' into the brains of willing volunteers. The expertise required to create the 'wirebots' can only be found in the 'real people' - long term 'wirehead-ing' impairs intelligence - so the 'real people' have a monopoly on the production of the 'wirebots'. They ‘real people’ treat the wireheads as simply a 'means to an end' - The 'end' being the production of goods.

The wireheads are slaves to the pleasure producing devices that the 'real people' provide them and the 'real people' are slaves to the tangible goods that only a workforce of productive, blissful, wireheads can produce. Thus, even though both ways of life are strikingly different, both are reliant on one-another for their wellbeing. 

MAIN CHARACTERS:

Samantha Davidson (Referred to as 'Sam'):
Sam is a student in her final year of schooling. Sam is a 'real person' and attends one of the schools exclusively for 'real people' like her. Sam is a highly inquisitive, sometimes arrogant teenager who has problems accepting authority. Nevertheless she is highly intelligent. She is attractive and confident. Sam is the daughter of Davidson and falls in love with the wirehead Alexandra.

Alexandra: (or Alex)
Alexandra is a wirehead. She is 20 years old and lives in a wirehead commune. Alex has plans to run for leader of the 'wirehead alliance' in the near future and is, with the help of her family, planning her campaign. Alex wants wirebot technology to be adopted by everybody and frequently expresses her confusion at the 'real people' for avoiding it.

Davidson:
Davidson is the leader of the 'Real People Party' (RPP) and is the current Prime Minister. He is also the devoted and protective father of Samantha Davidson. Davidson is well-spoken and persuasive and seeks to find ways to further use 'wireheading' technology to benefit the 'Real People'. Davidson is well-intentioned but narrow-minded. He is the product of over a century of capitalist, consumerist society. He, like many others, determines his self worth through his social standing and the amount of desirable goods that he possesses. Davidson wears overtly branded clothing and always arrives at public events by limousine. The 'real people' admire Davidson very much. Despite this, however, Davidson yearns for more and more material possessions and admits that he won't be truly happy until he has a theme park built in his honour (a lifelong goal of his). 

Mr Grey:
My grey is a teacher at Sam's school. He is the professor in modern history but has an uncommon interest in philosophy that makes others view him as eccentric and outdated. Mr Grey is one of the few 'Real People' that does not support the dominance of the 'Real People' over the wireheads. Mr Grey has a profound influence upon Sam's outlook on the world. Mr Grey also doubles as the Narrator in certain scenes.

Laura and Ron:
Laura and Ron and the joint leaders of the 'wirehead alliance' and are both wireheads themselves. They are a married couple. They stand in opposition to Davidson. They loosely resemble hippies.

Senior Scientist:
The senior scientist is a 'real person' and is the leading designer of 'wirebot' technology at a company called 'Wire-Tec'. He/She receives his orders from Davidson. The Senior Scientist is introverted and is intimidated by Davidson. He/She is a perfectionist with a great deal of knowledge about human neurology and robotics.

MINOR ROLES:

Mrs Davidson: Davidson's wife. A proud 'real person' like her husband Davidson.
Alexandra's Family: This includes a mother, father, and brother.
Assorted wireheads
Assorted 'real people'
Assorted Scientists

PLOT SUMMARY:

Sam, a 'real person', finds herself yearning to learn more about the wireheads after having her interest sparked by a passionate lecture from her history professor Mr Grey. She admits to Mr Grey that she would like to try and meet some wireheads and Mr Grey is supportive of her. Because of the taboo that surrounds non-professional relationships between 'real people' and wireheads they do not tell anybody about their plans to interact with the wireheads. They arrange a time and place to infiltrate the wirehead camp in secret.
Meanwhile Davidson is busy working with the Senior Scientist trying to develop new wirehead technologies that will increase the efficiency of the current workforce. The scientists are worried any attempts to alter the current wirebot design would risk causing the wireheads irreversable brain damage and spontaneous death. Davidson is impervious to these concerns and implores the scientists to continue with the research project nonetheless. 

Due to the harsh penalties that can be enforced if a 'real person' is caught associating with a wirehead Mr Grey and Sam decide that they should try and disguise themselves as wireheads before entering the wireheads' commune. The wireheads are unconcerned with fashion and dress only for comfort. The most common item of clothing is a large loosely fitting dress that is worn by both men and women, although many wireheads are nudists too. Mr Grey volunteers to keep watch for police officials while Sam explores the commune in disguise.

Inside the commune everybody is blissfully happy and Sam's arrival goes unnoticed. Some people are talking and eating, others are dancing and singing, and some are simply lying on the grass. A group of wireheads are in a choir performing to the locals. Their song has no words - only long sustained major chords with the occasional triumphant suspended fourth chord resolving to the tonic. Both the singers and their audience are at the pinnacle of human ecstasy. Homosexuality and polyamory and common in the commune and sexual acts are often practised in public spaces.

Sam explores the camp and meets Alex, a wirebot of similar age who is furiously scrawling notes on a piece of paper. They talk and Alex explains that she is planning to run for leader of the 'wirehead alliance'. When asked about herself Sam desperately tries to weave an elaborate and intricate back-story but her lies are easily detected by Alex. Alex, however, feigns belief in Sam's story in order to learn more about her. They find themselves becoming increasingly interested in one another and when Sam goes to leave Alex hints that she knows that Sam is an imposter; nevertheless, she asks her to visit again anyway.

Alex returns to Mr Grey and admits to him that she has developed a sudden infatuation for the wirehead Alex.

The Senior Scientist and their team discover a method a to increase the effectiveness of the wirebots; this technology allows for an unprecedented level of bliss and in test subjects has shown to increase compliance to orders by 150%. The scientists proudly demonstrate the device to Davidson in the laboratory. The test subjects are so deliriously happy that they often laugh uncontrollably, but they are also indeed very efficient in completing tasks, handling even the most demanding physical labour with joy. The scientists warn that the device might cause a slow degradation of the users’ mental capacity but is otherwise completely safe. Davidson expresses a brief concern that the testing phase has been long enough to ensure that it is safe. The scientists assure him that the testing phase has been perfectly adequate. Davidson is delighted, promises them all pay rises, and vows to implement the new headsets as soon as he can.

Davidson goes home and shares the good news with Alex and the rest of his family. He explains the new headset and its side-effects to his family who, excepting Sam, congratulate him heartily. Davidson, in his joy, can't help but proclaim how triumphant the 'real people' are in their clever domination of the wireheads. He delivers a small monologue about how a life well-lived is more than the merely chasing the simple pleasures that the wireheads pursue. A life well lived, according to Davidson, is a noble life; a life in which one is rewarded for hard work and virtue. He soon becomes distracted again and excitedly fantasises about the things that he will buy with the money he expects to make from this discovery. He proclaims that he will begin the construction of the Davidson FunPark next week.

Sam decides to go and visit Alex again to tell her about the new headsets. When she arrives at the commune the wireheads are gathered around a large stage, on which two nondescript figures (one male, one female) are addressing the crowd. Sam recognises these people as the leaders of the Wirehead Alliance. The leaders passionately conduct a loud chant about the superiority of their people. Sam lingers towards the back of the crowd listening as the rally progresses. The leaders assert that they have found true fulfilment while their supposed superiors are slaves to their desires for material goods - slaves to market capitalism. The leaders explain that the 'real people' are infected with an arrogant belief that they are better than the beasts of the earth and it is this false supposition leads them to be unjustifiably disgusted by the open pursuit of pleasure. Their speech is philosophical in nature and posits that the 'real people' actually want the happiness that the wireheads possess but are too self-righteous to realise it. The crowd listens and sways to the tone of their voices as if they are in a hypnotic trance.

After the rally the crowd disperses and Sam manages to find Alex. Sam blurts out that she is a fake, a ‘real-person’ masquerading as a wirehead. Sam is unmoved by this information and says that she suspected it all along and and has wondered what it would be like to meet a ‘real person’ anyway. They talk about the separation of the people (wirehead/’real people’), about history, and about each other. They form a close and personal bond. Sam asks whether of not the commune have received a delivery of new replacement wirebots. Alex nods but says that they have not started using them yet. ‘There will be an official testing at the next rally’ says Alex. Alex tells Sam that every time a new wirebot is unveiled they all simultaneously test it out by turning the device up to it’s maximum setting. Wireheads look forward to these celebrations because they unlock new levels of human pleasure previously unimaginable.

Alex urges that everything that Sam heard in the rally is true – The wireheads are experiencing happier and better lives than the ‘real people’. Alex tries to convince Sam to trial one of the wirebot headsets on herself. Sam is apprehensive and worries that her family, particularly her father Davidson, will find out and resent her. Alex, however, is very persuasive and finally Sam submits. They both attach wirebots and turn their devices up slowly – notch by notch. Each step reveals a more intense level of bliss at the cost of a diminishing sense of self.  Sam and Alex find themselves passionately drawn to one another and without inhibitions. They become physically intimate on the grass in the commune.

There is a brief period where everybody is happy. Sam and Alex are experiencing the excitement and curiosity of young love; Davidson, the scientists, and their families are experiencing the happiness they derive from buying all the consumer goods they ever wanted, and the wireheads are experiencing incalculable levels of bliss.

In the first week of the implementation of the new headsets the entire wirehead population is, as planned, enormously efficient. Production has tripled and Davidson and the scientists become immensely rich. The scientists buy cars, boats, and other luxury items; Davidson buys the themepark he always wanted.

After a week, however, wireheads start spontaneously ‘blissing-out’ and dying from the new wirebot technology. The death is painless - orgasmic - almost desirable. Due to the sudden onset of this side-effect there is not enough time to recall the devices and within 24hrs almost the entire wirehead population is dead. (The risk of such devastating side-effects occurring was not revealed in the initial experimental testing due to the short testing phase –  The testing phase was only 24 hrs whereas the side-effects seem to occur promptly after 40hrs of wirebot use at maximum strength). These deaths claim Alex and her family too.

 Sam discovers that Alex is dead and, in an attempt to overcome her profound grief uses the wirebot device again. She is, however, too mentally unstable to control herself and despite knowing that she would probably die she turns the device up to maximum capacity and leaves it there. She has 40hrs left before she disappears ecstatically into nothingness.

Meanwhile, having only ever experienced life with the help of wirebot servants the ‘real people’ realise how dependant they are upon others to help them live their lives. Some news reports describe the unfolding of events as being a triumphant victory of the ‘real people’ over the depraved wireheads while other sources predict mass famines and homelessness because the production power of the world has suddenly stopped. There is mass hysteria amongst the ‘real people’.

Davidson is now left in the stressful position of salvaging the remains of the country but is understandably overwhelmed.

Davidson realises that he has achieved everything he had set out to do in life. He finally has enough money to buy everything he wants, the wireheads he despises are now gone, and he has the theme-park he always dreamed of owning. Despite these facts he finds himself morbidly unhappy. He goes to the themepark to try and cheer himself up. Davidson wanders around the desolate and almost mockingly joyous environment of the theme-park talking to himself out-loud in a personal and emotional final monologue. Unbeknownst to him his daughter Sam is also wandering around the theme-park having had chosen this location to spend her last 40hrs. They unexpectedly come across each other and Davidson realises that his daughter is wearing a wirebot. He desperately tries to turn the device off but it is too late – she is already doomed to die.Davidson collapses onto the ground wailing in an animalistic display of grief whilst Sam watches on with an eerie indifference.

<LAST SCENE: Narrated by Mr Grey whilst Sam and Davidson perform silently>

Sam wanders away briefly, and in her last moments of consciousness returns to give Davidson a wirebot headset too. It is apparent that Sam is suggesting that Davidson join her in the deathly bliss that is imminent. She offers the device longingly, tempting Davidson to go easily. Davidson pauses, looks at the headset and at Sam, and in a sudden and deliberate movement drives a nearby glass bottle into his neck. The play ends with the simultaneous cries of Sam and Davidson in the darkness: – Davidson cries out in agony, Sam cries out in ecstasy. 

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1 comment:

  1. Sounds great! I look forward to reading more. - Storm

    ReplyDelete