Now that we’ve built computers, first we made them room-size, then desk-size and in briefcases and pockets, soon they’ll be as plentiful as dust—you can sprinkle computers all over the place. Gradually, the whole environment will become something far more responsive and smart, and we’ll be living in a way that’s very hard for people living on the planet just now to understand.
An old sign on the main gate said BEWARE OF THE DOG, beneath which someone had scrawled, “Why single out the dog particularly?”
“Yeah, well I’m not talking about that, am I?” said the cabbie, irrefutably. “I’m talking about the power of the media to selectively distort reality. That’s what I’m talking about. I mean, when it comes down to it, we all live in our own different reality, don’t we, I mean when it comes down to it.”
(I wonder if he lives on an anarcho-syndicalist commune.)
“Listen. In the past, people would stare into the fire for hours when they wanted to think. Or stare into the sea. The endless dancing shapes and patterns would reach far deeper into our minds than we could manage by reason and logic. You see, logic can only proceed from the premises and assumptions we already make, so we just drive round and round in little circles like little clockwork cars. We need dancing shapes to lift us and carry us, but they’re harder to find these days. You can’t stare into a radiator. … All we have to stare into is the white noise. The stuff we sometimes call information, but which is really just a babble rising in the air.”
“But without logic…”
“Logic comes afterwards. It’s how we retrace our steps. It’s being wise after the event. Before the event you have to be very silly.”
Normally, if you were tailing somebody, it was a problem if they unexpectedly jumped onto a bus, but it was almost more of a problem if you unexpectedly jumped on one yourself.
He had collected a representative sample of the newspapers of the last few weeks from under the dog, under the sofa, under his bed, scattered around his bathroom, and, crucially, had managed to secure two damp but vital copies of the Financial Times from an old tramp in return for a blanket, some cider, and a copy of The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.
Dirk stood up and took a deep breath. What the hell was going on? He felt that his whole world was spinning very slowly in what was, as far as he could judge, an anticlockwise direction. That prompted a vague recollection that the last time he had drunk any tequila, it had made his world spin slowly in a clockwise direction. That was obviously what he needed if he was going to be able to think about this clearly.
“You would tell me if you thought I was going mad or anything, wouldn’t you?”
“That’s what friends are for.”
“Are they?” mused Dirk. “Are they? You know, I’ve often wondered. The reason I ask is that when I phoned myself up…”
The odd thing about this was that the cat seemed quite unaffected. This is not to suggest that he had learnt to live with his sad affliction, or that he was courageously making the best of things. He was, quite simply, unaffected. He didn’t seem to notice. Not content with ignoring the normal requirements of biology, the cat was also in clear breach of the laws of physics. He moved, jumped, promenaded, sat, in exactly the same way as if his rear half were present.
Before launch, the material structure of this section had been battered, rammed, blasted, and subjected to every assault its builders knew it could withstand, in order to demonstrate that it could withstand them.