Tokyo Damage Report

idea for a book

There’s a “performance enhancing smart drug” called PPP. The drug helps people “enhance their cognitive performance” and “help make difficult decisions” by “stimulating the part that helps you think outside the box and make new mental associations with old real-life (RL) referents.” However, if you take too much, you’ll have a seizure and hallucinate your ass off.
In practice, PPP is used by elites, illegal for everyone else. Classified as a “job-creating smart drug.” (the law works like this: only people who are making decisions which could seriously help the economy (generating jobs or GDP) are allowed to take the drug for inspiration.  Anyone poor caught doing the drug is abusing it because their “trip” won’t result in upping the GDP or improving business efficiency, therefore they must be just taking it to get high as shit, therefore it’s ABUSE.) (similar to the “big boy rule” of financial regulation)
So now there’s a certain few hundred incredibly wealthy/influential people who are in the throes of various earth-shaking business/scientific dillemas: (is the bubble going to burst this week? Should I go short and liquidate my $3 billion position? Should I move against my partner, is he screwing me behind my back? I’ve got this workable cold-fusion generator, everything is invented except this one particular bit of the process, and I need inspiration to solve the last equation!)  and they had these drug based epiphanies – a further side-effect of PPP is to convince the user that their “trip” contains the simple, final , correct answer to their dilemma . . .. BUT THEY CAN’T INTERPRET THE MEANING OF THE EPIPHANY. (This epiphany comes from the Original Trip, or “OT”) 
Even worse, it also gives you nasty flashbacks for months afterward, which a) disrupt your job performance and b) tease you beyond the point of human endurance: “Fuck! If I could only figure out what these hints MEAN! My subconscious is still trying to give me my problem-solving epiphany! If only there was some way to fit all the pieces together. . .”
This is a mysterious company that exists solely to help these hundred-or-so elites who are haunted by their PPP flashbacks. Anamorphosis refers to the type of optical illusion that sculptors sometimes make: where you see what looks like a bunch of random sticks sticking up from the floor, but if you stand in one specific point of the room – if you look at these random sticks from one specific perspective – the random sticks seem to auto-assemble into an easily recognizable object: a chair, a bicycle, or what-have-you.
 That’s the whole point  of AEOS: They implant their Client’s hallucinations INTO OTHER PEOPLES’ MINDS , and use the other people’s trips to give other points of psychological “perspective” from which to view the Client’s own trip.  So, from the Client’s mind, the OT (Original Trip) looks like a bunch of random sticks, but from the perspective of another person (called the Subject) in whom the same OT was induced, the sticks might resolve clearly into a bicycle or chair (i.e. a clear solution to the Client’s RL problem, the missing part of the math formula, a financial decision, etc.). Incidentally, the use of Subjects is the “outsourcing” part of the acronym.
How does AEOS implant the Client’s drug-trip into the Subject? And, more importantly, how do they keep the Subject from learning the Client’s super-secret and world-economy-altering dilemma along the way?
Short answer: AEOS invented a second drug QQQ: a PPP-derived drug that  (when mixed with a small amount of the Client’s spinal fluid), allows one person to experience the flash-backs of the Client’s  trip. But not the trip itself. You don’t experience any of the context or narrative of the Original Trip. In fact you don’t even know you’re high.  If you’re on QQQ, you don’t feel euphoric or freaked out.  If the Client’s trip revolved around incredibly realistic hallucinations of x,y,and z, the Subject on QQQ would instead experience a regular day where everything she or he saw would REMIND her/him of x,y,and z. In short , QQQ tweaks your mental associations of things to match or correspond to the OT. You don’t think that the tree has come alive, that it is talking to you, but instead you say to yourself, “Man, the leaves in that tree remind me of a face!”  Like a dream, little mundane things will jump out at you and seem significant, even if you're not sure why they are significant.
And here again there’s the theme of anamorphosis: a lot of the way QQQ works is ITSELF based on anamorphosis: it’s not the kind of far-out drug where you’d stare at a plain white wall or a clear blue sky and then see a puppy or Richard Nixon. You don’t even see a puppy or Nixon hidden in complex patterns on a rug or patterns in a cloud. You’re most likely to see the puppy or Nixon when you’re looking at complex things FROM A CERTAIN PERSPECTIVE: the leaves of a tree arrange into Nixon’s face just for a split second, just when your head was in that one position, and only then are you reminded of him.

The thing is, it’s not just random mental associations, there’s always a pattern: you don’t just have random mental associations of random things until you sober up. You consistently associate every Real-life thing x (plants, say, or reflections on glass, or the patterns on the walls of buildings) with concept Y (which came from the OT).
Anyway, the AEOS business has grown so large that it has split into several departments, which are frequently at odds with each other.
First, the Client meets with the top management: ALPHA DEPT, and the Client tells Alpha what their (super secret, proprietary, potentially world-economy-altering) dilemma is (i.e. the dilemma that had them resorting to PPP in the first place). Alpha keeps this a secret from all other departments of AEOS. Then Alpha de-briefs the Client on everything about their OT: what their drug trip was like, and what their flashbacks were like. This includes not only what they saw, but their mental associations WITH what they saw. (this is important to interpreting the meaning of the OT, because two people can hallucinate elephants but if the elephants have totally different mental associations to each person (one good, one bad, for example), then the interpretations of the epiphany would be totally different. ) These mental associations are then put in a proprietary AEOS database called the MAM. (mental association matrix).
Alpha then prepares a report on this information (the trip, not the RL dilemma) and passes it to BETA DEPT, of which more later, and GAMMA DEPT.
Gamma is in charge of making sure the Subject’s trip will match the Client’s Original Trip as closely as possible. For instance if the Client’s flashbacks were audio, they’d want the Subject’s trip to be audio also, and not visual.
Here a further digression is necessary: PPP trips are like shamanic vision-quests: pretty much all hallucination. QQQ trips, in contrast, are like this: The QQQ user sees things in RL (called Stimuli) and then mentally associates those things with the concepts (called Referents) which have been implanted by the drug. (“I don’t know why , but every single cloud formation I’ve seen today makes me think of Egyptian Gods!” as opposed to HOLY SHIT THAT CLOUD TURNED INTO HORUS AND HE’S COMING RIGHT AT ME AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE) The Referents all come from the Client, and are different depending on the Client. 
Gamma does its job by choosing the appropriate varieties of QQQ to use on the Subject.
There are many different varieties of QQQ:  they all work with different real-life stimuli. For instance, if the original person’s flashback involved monkeys, you might take one strain of QQQ that would cause you to mentally associate monkey faces with plant formations, another strain of QQQ that would cause you to “see” monkeys in clouds (same referent, different stimuli), a third strain that caused you to project that monkey flashback onto patterns on walls, a fourth strain that would cause you to think that background noises “sounded” like monkey calls, Or a variety that makes you mis-read signs/words consistently in a certain way. etc. And perhaps yet another strain would be tactile: it would make the enamel on your teeth “feel” different ways. Nobody likes taking that one.
This is important, because if the stimuli doesn’t match the referent, if the Client kept seeing her grandfather in the clouds, but the Subject’s trip is more like “these Graham Crackers really remind me of Gramps, even though he never ate them in his life, what is up with that?!?” . . . .  it’s going to be harder for Alpha to assemble the client’s and the Subject’s trips into the final ANAMORPHOSIS. 
Finally, Gamma would prepare a report for the lowest-ranking departments, DELTA and EPSILON. This report would omit the actual content of the OT. The report would consist only of:  a list of all the Referents of the OT, the MAM of the Client, and the Stimuli of the OT.
Then, finally there are DELTA and EPSILON DEPTs, which are responsible for recruiting unwitting test subjects to take QQQ. 
The process of finding Subjects begins with a fairly wide net: first, Epsilon uses a front-company, such as a market research firm, to recruit low-income people and would interview them about their mental association of 200 things (all of which would have been carefully chosen by Beta Dept, to match things in the Client’s original trip: if the Client associates elephants with dread or fear, and the subject associates them with circuses and joy, the potential Subject would then be dropped.) Once EPSILON finds a Subject with a good MAM score, and GAMMA concocts a potion with the exact varieties of QQQ to reproduce the Client’s flashback in detail, then DELTA DEPT goes to work.
So what Delta does is set up front companies that offer poor people good money to test experimental drugs for things like coughs, sniffles, butt allergies, etc. These “clinical trials” are a sham, and the “experimental drugs” are just placebos or simple over-the-counter medicines. However the placebos contain a lot of QQQ. 
Since many PS (Potential Subjects) would either fail the MAM or not be interested in the drug trials, the whole recruitment process might involve thousands of PS, just for one Client alone.
The Subject would be dosed with QQQ and then released to go on about their average schmuck day. And here we have to discuss certain institutional problems with the Gamma Dept. management: Free-Range Gammas vs. so-called Stimulus-Led Gammas. 
Sometimes with particularly difficult assignments (where the Client’s original trip consisted of stimuli that are fairly rare in RL) , A Stimuls-Led Gamma team might arrange for the Subject to be in a specific place at a time when that place is filled with x,y, and z  IN REAL LIFE. The idea being that the real-life stimulus would “lead” the Subject’s trip to more closely correlate with the Client’s OT.  Since Delta is not allowed to know the contents of the OT, specifically to prevent them from doing this sort of tampering, the Gamma team would have to surreptitiously send their own agents in (often on lunch-break) to follow the Subject or influence him or her.
The majority (AKA “Free-rangers”) believe that if the MAM and the QQQ-strain are well-adjusted, that the Subject would VOLUNTAIRLY depart from the course of their everday life and actively seek out RL spaces with x,y, and z. Furthermore, Free-Rangers believe that any attempt to interfere with the Subject once she or he has been dosed will compromise the whole assignment.
The Subject will spend a full day full of very small, seemingly mundane, events that they all happen to mentally associate with the same certain 2 or 3 things.
 And when the Subject comes back from taking the drug, they’ll say, “Well, it didn’t cure my sniffles but I did have some weird experiences where the bushes around my apartment, when I looked at them from certain angles, I kept being reminded of the faces of my grandparents.” 
And the “sniffle-medicne researchers” would say, “Well that’s too bad it didn’t fix your sniffles. But these perceptual changes could be, well chances are they’re not a side-effect, but just in case, we’d like to interview you in depth about them – were they frightening? Or reassuring? What mental associations did you have with the grandparent-faces? Did you only see them in bushes, or did other things make you think about your grandparents as well? When I say the word “bushes” , what is the first thing that comes to your mind? When you took the anti-sniffle drug and went about your average day, did you do everything as normal, or did you wind up impulsively taking some other course of action? We’re a caring company! We’ll  set up a weekly counseling session, and pay you double your current pay to attend it.” And so on.
Just like with Gamma, there are also institutional problems with Delta and Epsilon, namely that they’re lowest on the toem pole and they know it. They are excluded from even basic information, like the nature and context of the OT. . . .for sure they can guess some of the original trip based on the screening questions which Beta Dept has written, if not then they definitely can infer the original trip from the exit interviews with the Subjects. Of course, a lot of these trips are totally failures (i.e. the Subject’s trip was totally off-the-mark (which is usually blamed on Gamma Dept for assigning the wrong drug, although Gamma is quick to point out that they never get to talk to the Client themselves and can only go on what Beta tells them, so fuck Beta, and fuck Delta too for goddamn screwing up the goddamn screening process!)) (the point being that even though Delta people, being the most left-out-of-the-loop group, love to try to guess who the Client is or what the Client’s trip was, often the Subject’s QQQ-trip is so far off-the-mark that Delta’s guesses wind up being hilariously wrong also)
Also a problem with the AEOS model: you've got these average low-income schmucks walking around, totally unaware that the fate of empires hangs on their shoulders. What happens if a schmuck just doesn't feel like coming back in to complete the process? In theory you could just keep draining spinal fluid from the Client and have 100 Subjects simultaneously doing the assignment. But that would radically increase the chance of one or more Subjects having a trip which was TOO CLOSE to the Orignal Trip, and perhaps an unusually bright Subject could then deduce the REAL LIFE dilemma of the Client, or infer the Client's top secret proprietary information ("Wow, I spent all day staring at clouds and thinking of cold fusion, and now I have this incredible itch to spend all my savings on stock in this obscure tech company I never knew about!").
After debriefing the Subject, Delta would then prepare a report for Beta dept, which details all the subject’s effects of their QQQ trip. And also how the subject felt about it, whether they were motivated to act a certain way as a result, their mental associations, etc.
Beta Dept’s job is to see the results of the Subject’s trip, and then try to see how well they could make the Subject’s trip correlate with the Client’s trip. They would comb through all the referents, stimuli, real-life decisions, and mental associations, try to find correspondances, coincidences, isomorphisms, metaphors, etc. There would be a baffling and pseudo-scientific system for numerically ranking all these correspondances, etc. assigning them numbers. Beta would prepare a written report for Alpha Dept.
And finally Beta would use the numbers to construct a physical model (the way high-end architectural firms make models of the proposed buildings to wow their clients), which model would show how closely (or not) the Subject’s trip (and its accompanying mental associations with the things seen/heard, and the real-life decisions that the Subject made based on those mental associations, etc.) matched to the Client’s trip. This often takes the form of a tower or two towers that are intersecting at such-and-such an angle.
This physical model is not just something to flim-flam and impress the Client, however. It is the heart of the whole AEOS system. Remember, Anamorphosis is a visual thing: by looking at the “random sticks” from a different perspective, they seem to self-assemble into a bicycle. And by assembling the two peoples’ trips into a physical model, then Alpha Dept and the Client can physically see the anamorphosis, which sometimes helps to determine the epiphany. 
The institutional problem here is like this:  Beta Dept is going to look bad if there’s no correlation at all, and (unlike Delta), they DO know the content of the Client’s trip, so they have an incentive to massage the statistics and spin the results of the Subject’s trip to match it. However, if they don’t accurately report the Subject’s trip, it will defeat the whole purpose: shitty or massaged data would make it impossible for Alpha to deduce the “true meaning” of the Client’s trip and give the Client his/her epiphany. So Beta is always walking a very fine line.
So, to sum up, the AEOS system is like an onion of secrets:
The first layer (Delta) is supposedly a clinical of some random cold medicine. But really it’s a way of dosing the Subject with QQQ. The Subject has no idea what they’re really being dosed with, and the Delta members themselves have only the vaguest idea what the Client’s original trip was!
The second layer (Beta) is to plot the correlation of the Subject’s trip with the Client’s trip, the way that a sculptor might physically decide where to put different sticks in a room so they look like a bicycle from a certain perspective. But unlike the sculptor, Beta has no idea what the finished thing ought to look like. They don’t know the Client’s original dilemma, just the contents of her/his trip.
The third layer is Alpha. Alpha takes the physical model and report prepared by Beta and shows it to the Client. Alpha has prepared a separate report where they try to use the “new perspective” from the Subject , in order to definitively say THE ANSWER TO YOUR REAL-LIFE DILLEMA IS TO DO THUS-AND-SUCH. Yes, short the market right now. No, don’t wait. Yes, you need to stab your partner in the back, she’s been robbing you blind. Here’s the missing inspiration for your science project that your subconscious has been trying to tell you. And so on.
And here again there are serious institutional problems: AEOS’s Clients are, by definition, people dealing with ideas which risk billions or trillions of dollars, or which could alter the balance of power of entire countries. For security/privacy reasons, of course,  only the Alpha dept. has access to this.  But Alpha members are only human, and might want to influence the Client to choose course of action A over B. Especially since the Alpha members themselves – being very rich owners of the AEOS Enterprises Corporation –  usually have some conflict of interest: they might own some of the stocks that a Client is debating whether to short. They might own some oil wells in Iraq that would go out of business if the Client was able to – thanks to AEOS – invent cold fusion. And so on. Or maybe they are just morally appalled by what the Client is debating to maybe do. 
Also, even more than the Gammas, Alphas tend to an extremist version of the Free-ranger thinking: even if the things the Subject did/saw/mentally associated are radically different than the OT, that doesn’t matter. Despite the deltas/betas’ obsession with exact correspondence, Alphas are more likely to consider the final Anamorphosis the priority – sometimes the MORE different perspective is more necessary to seeing the true meaning of the OT. This is expressed in the Alpha slogan, “The Subjects  go where they NEED to go to answer your question. He was SUPPOSED to do that.”  It’s unclear if they really believe that or just use that to flim-flam the Clients.
This brings us to, The fourth layer. The layer that not even the Clients know about. Just the Alpha dept.   There might be something funny in the PPP drug that the clients are taking. Something that influences them or puts them in the power of AEOS. Not sure exactly what, but it’s the logical extension of the first 3 layers. Maybe it’s just a rumor – some black-humor circulated amongs the mid-level AEOS staff.

2 Comments so far

  1. sephim October 15th, 2012 6:33 am

    Is that just the idea or the entire book?

  2. Zenichi October 15th, 2012 7:12 pm

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