The Supplement

I tell the machine what I am thinking. I think for it. I am it. It is me. I don’t know who is in control. It’s all so fast and yet the shift seems to go on forever…read more

I look in the mirror. Mostly at my hair. My scalp.  At the bald patches. The ones that look red and slightly burned. If I was good enough, better,  I could move on.  They always promise you can move on, but who ever moved on. No one I knew, not ever. No one was ever better or good enough. I think they might be lying.  Most of them-us- move on, but only to the burns unit not anywhere else, or their minds suddenly fail. They get slack jaw. They start drooling. Their body stops responding to their commands. They get carried out.

I bounce on the balls of my feet. Tell my legs they must keep working. I look carefully in the mirror for signs that my mouth might be drooping. Does it look lopsided, more lopsided than yesterday. They keep saying it’s getting better, they are learning to manage the heat being generated, it is not as bad as it use to be. It’s not like before- when they had to make incisions into people’s skulls and put the electrodes on the actual brain. There were infections. It was unhygienic. People died at their desks back then. Infection spread from person to person. They don’t do that anymore. Now there are just burns and burn out.

They hook up the wires -electrodes-to our scalps. They have to have good skin contact, hence the bald patches. And they are truly bald patches. I have no hair follicle left there. It is all gone. It was not an entirely pain free procedure. I will look like this forever. If people move on how come I have never seen someone out there who has bald patches? Maybe they can replace it. After all look at everything else ‘they’ can do.

They tell us it is noble work, for the good of humanity. That humanity is being improved, the lives of human beings being improved by what we do. They are not specific though. How exactly does what I do, do that? There are never any clear answers

I am a supplement. That’s what they call it. The computer needs some of my neurons, my electrons. There are things it can do but there are also questions it can’t answer and to answer those questions the quickest and most efficient thing to do is to plug in a human brain. There are offices full of them – us-we-supplements- everywhere. You can always tell a supplement by the hair cut and the bits where they put the electrodes – the hair around it is often slightly singed. There’s also the slightly difficult position in which they-we-us-I- hold my head. For most of the day when I am ‘hooked up’ my head is held in a cradle so my neck muscles have slackened. It is not an attractive look, but there is still a fetish website. Some people like them-us-supplements- nearly completely gone, just before our minds actually give up.

The truth is, well you know what the truth is. It is not getting better. It is not going to get better. I don’t even know what the machine that I am being plugged into does. I can think through the questions it asks me, make human value judgements for it but I cannot, in the time frame that I have, understand what it does. The decisions have no context. Sometimes it is like it’s feeding off me. It is sucking all of the ‘me’ out of me. It works so much faster than I do. It calculates, pulls together data, calculates even more, and I answer the more difficult questions. Mostly I can’t even remember what they are. There is no camaraderie, no atmosphere, we are all afraid. We cannot talk to each other. We are like a hive of collective thinkers. We are like ants or bees or something. All our energy for the day goes into the machine, into the analysis for which we exist. I am sure though, bees and ants must chat, must like each other. We don’t even know each other.

I remember all the empty promises. In the future, you will be able to upgrade your mind, you will be able to function at a higher level. That is not what happened. I remember it is not meant to be this way, the machines are going to supplement the humans and not the other way around. It did not happen that way. The machines got better, but they reached a limit. And then with the flick of a switch we were supplementing them and not the other way around. Our neurons increasing their capacity and not vice versa. I was alive for it and I don’t even know how it happened.

What’s it really like, I will tell you. I get up and I put ice –if I can get ice- on the bald patches. The theory being that if I can cool them first they won’t get so hot. It is just a theory. It jolts me first thing. Wakes me up, gets my brain working. Then I have a caffeine fix, usually via an injection. I am entitled to caffeine although its monitored because they want my brain to be stimulated but only to a certain point. I have regular tests for caffeine and lots of other chemical levels whilst working. They want to keep my brain at maximum capacity for the 10 hour shift. They will top me up intravenously if they need to.

I work out because I will be sitting all day. All day. They care nothing for my physical health unless it affects my mental health. They can and sometimes do ‘inject’ me with a ‘workout’. It lets my brain get all the benefits of a workout without actually doing the workout. It’s another trick they have. I like to occasionally do the workout.

I go to work. In theory I am supposed to put the drip that will feed me into my arm. I am supposed to willingly put my head in the cradle. That is not quite how it works. No one is willing. It is all very ‘assisted.’ The electrodes that I plug into seem to have a mind of their own. I watch them every morning snake out from the console towards me. I want to stop them, to move my head, to turn and run. But the cradle that is holding my head- is actually holding my head. Someone roughly or gently depending on their mood will have hooked me up to the intravenous drip that will feed me. No one will toilet me or its unlikely they will and by the end of the day the smell will make me want to be ill. At least it did at first, now I am used to it and I simply go and shower at the end and wash all the shit and pee away.

I sit there for 10 hours and I answer the questions I am asked. I supplement the machine and all the time it is getting hotter and hotter. I can hear the fan whirring trying to keep everything cool but it doesn’t work. It never works. I can feel my skin starting to redden. My face is red. If I could see my arms they would be red. But my head is held in one position all day and I can only look at the dead screen ahead of me. There is nothing on that screen, all day, everyday. There is nothing there. I just stare. And something else uses my brain, fires questions at me. I have to answer them. Quickly. I never feel like I am in control. I don’t know if I am willingly answering the questions or being forced to use my brain to answer them. I am physically trapped but I don’t know if my brain belongs to me or not. It is no wonder our minds go.

It starts to feel like my blood is boiling about half way through. I will be sweating. I will have wet myself. I will still be working despite the physical discomfort. I have not got the time to be thinking about the physical discomfort. I supplement the machine. It does not supplement me. I don’t know if I am doing it myself or it the thoughts are just being taken from me. I don’t know if I am in control. I am imprisoned physically but I don’t know who owns my mind in that time. I can’t think about it at the time. It is only afterwards that I know what has really happened. All the time, hour after hour. Neurons firing, electrodes prompting. I don’t know if I am in control. I don’t know whether it is controlling me or if I am being controlled. Hour after hour. I will become so hot. My skin will itch but I won’t notice it. The stench is probably overwhelming but still I take decisions. I tell the machine what I am thinking. I think for it. I am it. It is me. I don’t know who is in control. It’s all so fast and yet the shift seems to go on forever.

I will do this for hour on hour. I will smell my hair becoming singed. Sometimes you can hear someone groaning but mostly we are quiet and still. No one ever finishes a shift at the same time, that way we can never talk. At the end I will struggle to stand. My body will be in a kind of torpor from 10 hours of just sitting. I will have had all my nutritional needs met intravenously but I will still be hungry. My trousers will be filthy. I will wash them in the shower and dry them overnight and wear them tomorrow again. There is no point in doing anything else. I don’t know if my mind is mine. I can’t even be sure I am real.

They tell us that when we are good enough, fast enough, when we have helped the machines to understand the human mind, when that has happened, we can move on, all of us can move on. Sometimes my burned hair falls out of my head. Where are we moving on to? I examine my mouth, perhaps it is beginning to droop. Perhaps that is just the sadness. I know, I am plugged into the machine, that giant organical, mechanical hive, I know. I know. There is no moving on. I don’t know. I won’t ever know. That is probably the truth.



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