a curious case of Victor Bauman.
Did I ever mention you my friend Victor Bauman?
I’ve met him by chance in this very lounge some time ago. November snow paralysed the airport, my Delta flight to Quebec was postponed. I climbed up here, sat by the bar and ordered a whiskey. Victor saw me first. He missed his flight to Lima. He looked tired, we probably both looked that way, we’re not so young anymore. He changed of course, but not as much as one would expect after seeing him the last time somewhere at the end of primary wearing a school uniform. A sporty, alert type, bald like an Oscar statue and looking American; saying „O.K.” constantly and smiling shiny white teeth. He was somewhat tense, I recall.
We’ve had a lot of fun together as kids, riding our folding bicycles around a prefab neighbourhood, pretending we were flying in spaceships. It was always summer for us, thus not for our parents: the communist system was falling, it was a big hustle to make both ends meet. They left the country just before first free elections, his papa getting a university position somewhere in States. So we sat by the counter, I’ve proposed him a drink, he said, he’s avoiding it and asked for a mint tea. He has always had a weakness for that, even as a kid, I reminded him of this, he smiled. Then we talked of our golden years. He seemed nostalgic. So I asked him, about his life, work, kids and all these things that forty year-olds have on their back. He looked straight at me, like an X-ray, as if I didn’t know something obvious. Then he looked down on this reddish carpet, at his brown golf shoes. I felt stupid, what a faux-pas.
The same blonde lady you see there with a badge “Juliette” bough our drinks. He glanced up at her breast, suddenly interested but intimidated. Not much of a Romeo, I thought.
Then he told me his story. He had studied philosophy and architecture, then programming and robot design at MIT. Whilst still a student he opened his first software design company in a garage, as most of these guys do and in a couple of years he was really big, it was a through market he said. His company name was Mastermind. He was obsessed with developing a software enabling a rapid, direct link between neural impulses in the brain and CNC machines.
A direct creation tool: you think and the software analyses all problems related to your act, and it’s transmitted to machines that execute the object. For instance, you want to build a hotel, you think of it, the program puts together all branch designs, electricity, plumbing, all that fuzz, it comes out with conclusions- it visualises in your head and in a couple of hours machines; from bulldozers, cutters, concrete pourers to brick layers and carpentry makers build it for you. If your unhappy with the effect, you can turn back the actions and edit the whole thing mentally and physically.
A Godly thing! Think of all the sectors where this kind of technology could be applied!
After a billion dollar investment and hundreds of specialists involved they had it. They wanted to market it under the name of Fountainhead: good name. Before launching it on the market, he planned to build a new city on a plot they acquired in Southern India as a living publicity for their product. The board agreed: India was hot at the time. The city was composed of 26 districts differentiated according to various incomes of the inhabitants. Each district had a code name, like in a phonetic alphabet: Alpha, Bravo, Foxtrot, etc. The whole process was to be recorded neurally and on-site. This is when the tango with the devil started, he said. He was stressed, overdosed with coffee and uncomfortable with the chips he implanted in his brain.
His thoughts were transmitted online, eight hours a day, parallel to the streamed image of machines working on new streets, installations, parks and buildings. His head was burning, even after work, when the chip was disconnected.
The first sign appeared after two weeks. One morning he realised he’s forgotten to disconnect the chip after work the day before. He entered the wardrobe to pick up his work suit. The suit slipped down from the hanger. He thought “Undo,” as people do after to many hours of editing on a computer. The suit moved back on the hanger by itself; he froze in fear. That day they made a medical check up on him. Something was very wrong with the chip, but he didn’t agree to having it removed from his brain.
The Doctors told him to relax as much as possible, people from the board told him to think it over. He remembered to disconnect the chip when leaving his office. The next morning telephone rang, his assistant, a guy called Mike, said something had gone wrong with the machines in the city. Victor ran to the laptop: which showed the machines in the Sierra district building forms that he had never conceived. Victor needed to destroy them instantly.
He reconnected the chip and took back control, thinking that the glitch would soon be ended.
That night Victor had nightmares. He dreamt about machines erratically building things in Kilo, Echo and Zulu districts. The telephone woke him, ringing in the darkness. Mike was hysterical; the machines from Kilo , Echo and Zulu had gone crazy. Fifteen minutes later Victor was in a cab to the airport. What if the next sectors rebelled against his will? When he finally arrived at the building site in India his assistant and most of the board were there. He saw a giant, flat plateau flooded by light with thousands of yellow machines standing still in the ruins of his city. Only a few were still in action, stoically laying bricks to form low fence lines, like lazy workers in the sun. He did his best to restore order to their actions, but he had lost the control over machines.
It didn’t take long for the board members to get rid of him. They gave him papers to sign in his chestnut panelled office. He received a generous severance pay and goodbye flowers from his most loyal colleagues. Poor Victor: he ended up visiting all possible mental gurus around the world to fight the depression. “Are you better now? What about that chip?” I asked as Juliette brought another tea and left. He wanted to reply, but suddenly hot tea spilled onto his trousers from the tea pot. He shouted and closed his eyes. I saw him open his eyes and focus: immediately the wet patch of tea patch disappeared from his trousers. He seemed relaxed. Oh, I’m o.k. now, thank you. replied Victor smiling his incredible Yankee smile.
Bio ~ Jakub Szczęsny.
Jakub has a name that can crack the teeth of everyone who’s not Polish.
It’s Szczęsny and when said correctly it sounds like mashing some cooking foil.
To complicate things more, he is not a regular architect that many mothers would see as a perfect potential husband for their daughters. He designs VERY narrow houses, floating platforms that purify polluted water, fake mountains containing hotels and family houses overgrown by trees. You can see some of his buildings, objects and art installations on the website of Centrala Designers Task Force ( www.centrala.net.pl ) or go straight to New York’s Modern Art Museum and take a look at his project called Keret House. He happily lives in Warsaw with his large family and an allergic chimp named El Loco.
Greetings from Warsaw, the capital of new catholic-national-socialist state!…