by: Natalia YanchakImagine an artist, living in a near-future world that has been co-opted by technology. Here the socialnetwork is woven into a thick, dense fabric, a moral blanket that smothers humankind. Suffocated byrules and compartments into which all new works of art must fit, our artist struggles to find himself.Before a single note is sung or a chord is strummed, the artist's mind clouded by which tags to use,meta-containers to fill, source links to attribute even before it can be consumed, enjoyed or shared withothers. Art, music and culture are streamlined into a technological feed, updated in a predefined formatfor mobile devices or cyber-prostheses that many have chosen to have installed – like plastic surgery –into bodies, minds, neural networks.Our artist stands on a busy street corner holding a long digital unit as if it was a guitar.
There must bemore to life
, he wonders. A young girl stops to listen, tapping on her handheld device to pull up songlyrics, the musician's profile via a scan of a QR code printed on his road case. How does virtual flirtingoffset the butterflies, the undeniable flutter of love? She looks up and their eyes meet for a moment,exchanging nothing, an empty transaction.A closer look reveals the musician has eight fingers on each hand: fingers designed to perform morecomplex chords on a guitar-like controller with nine thermal-reactive notes – once referred to as“strings.” Acoustic instruments have long been relegated to museum archives: described andphotographed in 3D, represented only by an encyclopedic entry in the cloud then warehoused, never tobe held in a humans' hands again. In fact there remains no need for instruments of any invention, wheneverything imaginable is readily accessible within one's prothesis, on myriad devices or throughgaming consoles. Touchscreen keyboards, interactive chord generators. A portable-tablet symphonycomposed by an algorithmic-analysis of all previously-loved songs, is now regarded as the highestform of musical mastery.The population floats on, tending to daily responsibilities with dulled senses and unchallenged minds.The average human brain is used as a secondary processor, a basic machine useful only for simplefunctions. Individuals let their devices do the deductive thinking for them, they let the commentarygenerate itself automatically. Who they will be is imprinted in their genetic code: every last emotional,physical and psychological trait identified through a pin-prick test. A dot of blood and destiny, fate andfuture decoded then embedded into a Birth QR Certificate that neonatal nurses hand to parents alongwith their newborn babies.The girl moves away, knowing already she will never fall in love with our musician: that precariousunknown has been calculated for her. Hundreds of messages and video chats, pre-empted in the flick of a fingertip. She knows how he ranks on the dysthymia scale, before knowing his mannerisms or how hesmells; she knows only his emoticons, his half-obscured profile photos. Her only consolation is theresult of a program that has negatively assessed their 36 points of compatibility.Days later, a freak accident: another vehicle sideswipes our protagonist's motorcycle. His bodytumbling head over heels down the street alongside bits of engine, shreds of tire. He awakens to anurse's voice through gauzy ears. “...and the neural damage to your hand could not be repaired. Canyou hear me?” He's at a newer, corporate hospital. “We have done our best to restore...” and then hefades away, into a deep sleep.Our musician opens his eyes to find some sort of artificial appendage at the end of his forearm. Apivoting, three-pronged mechanical claw where his eight digits once were. This thing, this new part of his self, completes simple tactile movements with flawless precision. Pulling back the sheets, pickingup a fork to eat, a glass to drink, a brush to paint. He presses the button on a remote mounted to the siderail of his gurney.