Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Superblog 3

I'm so sorry this has taken so long! It was kind of a bit of a struggle to write this piece, because it ended up being way bigger than I intended. Anyway, I hope it was worth the wait!

Nobody ever saw it coming. Nobody had any idea that something like this was even possible. Names like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer were suddenly in the headlines again, though this time for completely different reasons. No, this time the news was cause for celebration.

Disney had been toying with the idea of sentient and intelligent animals for years, but they lacked the imagination to bring those ideas to fruition in the real world. They only thought about how to make them cute and witty, not useful. No, it took the brains of a bored college student to figure out how to tap into the psyche of animals and make them like humans.

Michael Williams was a first year graduate student in biology, and had, for some strange reason, decided to spend a year in Antarctica. He was part of a project which microchipped penguins so scientists could track them better. He had been on the project for about 3 months, and all the glamor of living in year-round freezing temperatures had definitely worn off.

It was a snowy (big surprise) afternoon when the idea hit him. What if the microchips that were being implanted into these penguins could be altered? What if they could control brain synapses in the animals, force them to think human thoughts? These creatures could solve problems like world hunger, or the global economy, or anything! That would be totally awesome! Then, like any college student stuck inside during a blizzard, he went to his computer and completely forgot about that idea.

Another month passed before the extreme boredom hit him again. He was supposed to be organizing the data and preparing supplies in order to go into the field the next day. Instead, he was sitting in his chair, legs thrown over one of the arms, and twirling one of the microchips in his hands. He got a little too excited in his twirling, and the microchip suddenly flew from his hands and skidded under the filing cabinet by his computer. Thanks to the existence of a meter stick  in the compound(because, for some reason, every science lab has at least one meter stick, even though it rarely actually gets used), he managed (after a good 10 minutes of trying, mind you) to slide the microchip out from under the cabinet. When he finally picked it up off the ground (and did a little happy dance at the averted crisis), he looked at the chip, and immediately saw a problem.

These chips represented a significant investment from the government, who apparently decided that penguins were worth this much money (perhaps they were just the guinea pigs for the tracking chips, and the humans were the real primary target, we’ll never know). Now imagine that you just broke a very expensive gadget, and you only have a limited number of these very expensive gadgets, and you can’t afford for any of them to break before they were even used. Now imagine you’re a 23 year old college student who just broke a gadget while you weren’t even supposed to be touching them. You’d probably do what Michael did: he tried to fix it.

Like any good scientist, Michael got the original schematics for the chips, as well as his own pen and paper so he could right down exactly what he did to fix it (for his own mental sanity more than anything). He tweaked. He soldered. He did this and that, until he finally fixed it. It looked just like the others, as well as matched the blueprint schematic, so he quickly placed it with the others and started on the task his boss told him to do three hours before.

The next day, everyone got bundled up and headed out for the penguin colony. It was pretty much your average day for scientists living in Antarctica: take a penguin, sedate them, put a chip in their heads, and set them free to live the remainder of their lives the exact same, albeit a little more trackable. Everything was going just swimmingly; none of the penguins were having any negative reactions. They only had 10 more chips for the day when it happened.

There was a sudden noise from one of their penguins that had just woken up from sedation. The scientists were baffled to see a penguin start soulfully singing scat like he had been born to skiddowopawannabeedoobedoodoowopshewannawanna. It honestly felt like a cheap knockoff scene from “Happy Feet”. Poor Michael felt such shame when he figured out that it was probably the faulty chip that was causing this penguin’s sudden musical aptitude. He thought he had wired it back together correctly. Apparently not. He confessed his error to the head of the research project, expecting the worst. Instead, he was pleasantly surprised that the chief scientist was ecstatic over this turn of events.

“With this technology,” said the researcher, “we can unlock so many secrets of the animal kingdom. Hell, we can even learn the secrets of the human brain! This is the best discovery made in recent history! Of course, that is if you can replicate it.”

When Michael showed him the detailed step-by-step instructions that he wrote down, the boss practically kissed him on the lips. This was the beginning of a brave new era, and the human race was changed forever.

It turned out that different animals were affected by the chip in different ways, some more beneficial than others. Penguins had an affinity for jazz music. The original prototype (named “Chip” after the microchip in his brain, because scientists have a very punny sense of humor) actually ended up getting a recording contract, and several of his songs topped the chart during his long life (that was another concern that animal rights activists had: the longevity of the animals’ lives that had the microchip implanted. It was a very smug day when the scientists could successfully conclude that they had no ill effects whatsoever in regards to the animals’ life span).

Lions, on the other hand, became a bit problematic. They immediately took to the rock star life. It started off simple enough: They looked at a time when there were some prominent animal-named bands, such as The Beatles, the Monkeys, etc., and decided to form The Lions. The music was simple, yet inspiring. The band made over 100 hits, 45 of them becoming number ones (this is really only the most famous case. Several other lions tried to roar their way to the top 40 charts, but they ended up succumbing to their addictions, as many young rock bands do).

The band struggled constantly with drugs, however. At first, they experimented with acid. This led to a very trippy feel, as well as a lot of very…interesting experimental music.  Soon after, however, they moved on to a more hyper and techno-sound, as well as a good deal of cocaine. When they got bored of that, they moved on to a grunge scene with a heroine twist. Many PETA people were very concerned about the well-being of these lions. Some brave soul even attempted to remove the microchip from the brain of one of the band members (the bassist, I believe). The carnage left over from the poor animal rights activist sent a very clear message to all others: leave the intelligent, sentient lions alone. Though it seems obvious in retrospect, it wasn’t until the stage lives (as well as their natural lives) were past that the scientists and anthropologists realized that the correlation of drugs and pop music cycled through the history of rock and roll in a more condensed way.

After lions were banned from sentience due to paranoid legislative executives, the fad quickly lost steam (the ban was lifted 5 years later after one of the few remaining sentient lions joined forces with a group of penguins to campaign for lion rights). Out of sheer morbid curiosity, a particularly mad scientist decided she wanted to talk to a cow before it became a hamburger. She implanted the chip, only to discover that the cow desperately wanted to live a wild and rowdy life. The scientist also discovered that cows absolutely loved to be milked. It was almost as good as sex for them. After reporting her findings, the scientific community rejoiced, as they now had a reason to see if all the cows were just as party-bound.

As it happened, cows do have a massive party streak to them. Most of the cows ended up getting multiple piercings (mostly on the udders), and branding quickly became a huge fad in both the cow-world and the human world. The bulls, unfortunately, took an unfortunately similar path. They decided to imitate the Jersey Shore bros. They’d roll in the dirt for that awesome fake-tan look, and they had tribal tattoos carved into their horns. They even had a special clothing line produced so they could wear the polo shirts with the popped collars. Let’s just say that rodeos from that point on were very interesting…

The greatest success for these chips was when they were implemented into giraffes. A scientist decided that giraffes were docile enough creatures that they wouldn’t harm anyone if they became sentient (this was during the great lion ban, so people were extra cautious), and he’d always loved watching them move around at the zoo when he was a little boy. So he commandeered a small tower of giraffes and implanted a chip into their brains.

The result was magnificent: they decided to pursue law. It somehow makes sense that giraffes should wear little brown suits and glasses and carry briefcases. Their minds were absolutely brilliant for upholding the law and interpreting its intent. Everyone wanted a giraffe to represent them (there was even one crackpot who brought in his own giraffe during one case. Unfortunately, it didn’t have a chip, so it didn’t do a very good job).

Their truly remarkable moment was when they represented the case that threatened to overturn Roe v. Wade. Thanks to their legal prowess, the legislation wasn’t passed, and choice remained legal. They also countered the potential illegality of birth control and helped to pass laws implementing the permanence of these options.

The only quirk (as it seems every animal has its own idiosyncrasies) was their choice of names. They decided to take already famous names (or infamous, rather) and change their connotation to a more positive one. And who is more infamous than serial killers? So they chose names like Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Gary Ridgway, etc.  The serial killers still living weren’t too happy about the commandeering of their names, but since they were in jail, there wasn’t too much they could do.

Eventually, every animal got a chip. Most reactions were mundane, or what you’d expect (cats were aloof and dogs were clingy, etc.). Every once in a while, something extraordinary would happen. I’ve listed the most remarkable examples. Eventually, humans wanted microchips as well (“We could be even smarter than we already are!”). Of course, this eventually led to the great mental takeover of 2055, but that’s definitely a story for another day… 

Hope you enjoyed! I'll be (hopefully) posting more frequently now that school's out forever!

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