Sunday, February 26, 2012

How to Unknow.

"Dude, you have to come here. Quick!" his voice sounded squeaky. It was the ninth time he called in less than five minutes, all of which I have ignored in the hope that he'd stop. Apparently, he didn't. And if I ignored him any further, it's likely that he'll hack into my home wifi or something.

"What man? You found a new comet?" I asked.
"No, no. No. Just come."

I dropped the call and 20 minutes later I was at the door of his apartment. A stench came out of the room as he opened the door. Apparently he didn't smell it and instead was beaming his smile at me, beard covering most of it. His hair grew, or looked more likely pulled out from his head. By his smell, I wouldn't want to guess how long he abstained his skin from water. Probably a week.

I stepped inside and followed him into the apartment, which looked worse than his owner.
"What are you doing man? I was fighting the boss in the last level when you called. And you're house looks like a dump!" I said. He just smiled back at me, probably glad that I came. Of course I came when he called and I think you would too just so that he wouldn't hacked into your computer or something. Standing in front of me was one of the most brilliant person I've ever met. He could have worked for NASA or CERN or some big company, which I think he did for a few years, but here he was living in a dump. And smiling.

"Why are you smiling man?"
"I've did an experiment," he said. As if that explained anything. He was ALWAYS experimenting. I've learned after a while not to lend anything that he wanted to use for an experiment. They'll probably not return, or if they did, you'd have in your possession some kind of abomination.

"What kind of experiment?"
Instead of answering he beckoned me to follow him, into a room. Surprisingly the room was clean, so clean that I felt like stepping into a portal.

"How come this room is clean?"
"It's the rat. They don't actually 'like' dirty rooms. They tend to die, these lab mouse. I wish there are more resistant than their grey cousin but I guess..." he trailed off before continuing, "I want you to see something. Sit down."

I looked around the room. There was a long desk against the right side of the room populated by beakers and jars, things that you would see in a normal laboratory. Opposite it, on the far side of the room were cages some of which were empty and others were filled with white mice. Closer, on my left side is a cupboard, closed. In the middle of the room was a very big desk which was turned into a maze with cameras pitched at two opposite corners on the maze. There was no chairs in the room.

So I stood. My friend looked at me and asked, "You want something to drink?" I was about to decline when he went to the cupboard and took a can of cola from inside it. I looked at it suspiciously but since it seems normal I opened it and began to drink. Meanwhile my friend put a tablet on the maze and played a video as he began to talk.

" I did an experiment," he began with the obvious."I wanted to test what men can do with their own mind, how we can modulate our behavior and how the mysterious science of psychology can be bypassed and tempered with a definite technic." Gone the eccentricity and uncertainty, when he talked about his experiments he was like a different person.

"In the video, I have proof of what I did, which is you might ask what? Well, I wanted to know whether we can unknow."
"You mean, to forget?"
"No. I mean what I said. I wanted to find the way to unknow things, knowledge and memories," he put up his hand to stop me interrupting again. "If we care to observe, we can see where I have set up the maze for the mouse. After a while, the mouse will get hungry and I have put a cheese at the other end of the maze. The mouse will go directly to the cheese, by following its sense of smell, but will come into an obstacle. It will take some time before the mouse learn to navigate the maze and get to the cheese but after a while it will remember the tracks and once you set it into the maze, he will directly to the cheese. Even if we change the track, the mouse will still get the cheese, although it would a longer time since it has to learn the new track. All these took two until six weeks for the mouses, depending on its.. on its cleverness. But that is nothing." He played another video.

"Then I begin to give the mouse some, 'potion'. Ah, here is where the experiment begins. I begin to experiment whether these mouses can unknow their skill in navigating the maze. Here, if you look closely you can see that the mouse have no idea what to do when put into the maze although in the previous video, it was clear that it had no difficulty whatsoever. It is as if this was the first time it met something like the situation in the maze and doesn't have any idea what to do. In short, it has unknow the maze."

"Maybe it's a different a mouse," I said.
"No! Of course I tagged my mouse. Do you think I'm that stupid, Joe! And if you looked closely, the mouse is the same. Its tail has a part of it cut off."
Maybe he was true but I didn't really like his experiment so I continued my objection.
"It doesn't prove anything. It could be that one of your, 'potion', dropped the poor rat brain down the sewer, that it don't know what to do."
"No, no. I knew you would say that. In fact, I have countered myself with those same arguments so I have checked it a few times. The same mouse can perform other action quite okay, if not at the same rate. Here, see this video. If I gave the cheese directly to the mouse, it eats it. No problem. And even if I let it try the maze for a few more weeks, it relearns all the old trick."

"So it forgets."
"No. It unknows. Though.." uncertainty flicked across his face  before it resolved back, "No, it unknows it. If it forgets it, the skill, he would simply remember it once it's put into the maze. From the video, I conclude that it unknows it."
"Okay, suite yourself. It doesn't matter actually, to unknow or to forget. It's the same thing. And why would you need to do this, just give some alcohol to the rat. It'll probably forget everything."

"No, don't you get it. If you are drunk, you might forget some capability that you have but once the alcohol goes out of the system, you'll remember. If you forget, as in the sense you forget someone names, once you read it somewhere you'll remember it. 'Aha, I remember that,' you will say. But this is different! You will say, 'I don't know him.' The use will be endless!"

"Such as?" I said. This experiment is getting more disturbing.

"Do you know how much US lost due to addiction?" he asked me instead.

"No.. Billions?"

"More than that. Trillions! And what does my experiment have to with it? It's the cure. The cure to all addiction. Let say you have a drug addict, who cannot resist itself if he sees the opportunity. We inject him with my solution from my experiment, then we give him the 'trigger'. Oh, I forgot to explain to you. I learned to control the effect of my experiment by having a trigger, something that helps the mouse associate with its skill, with its knowledge. In the maze, I experimented with colours, such as green reminds it of the maze etc etc. It's something I read from an article years ago. So, I found out that the mouse, the one that succeeded in unknowing, responded to sound. I played a whirring sound of fan so when it heard it, it'll know that there is cheese and there is the maze, and its skill in navigating the maze will light up. So.."

His voice was cut off when my head grew suddenly dizzy. I sat myself on the ground. He was peering at me, his eyes magnified behind the glasses and his breathe smelled when he spoke. "Oh, oh. It's working! Quick, I have to bring you.."
"What is working?" I asked stupidly.
"The potion. Quick, we have to bring you to the Replica Room." He half-pulled and half-dragged me into another room. When I looked around, I understand what he meant by replica. All of the items in the room resembled those in my room. The couch, the footrest, the chairs and desks, there were close enough that I almost got fool. There was even an X-box hooked to the monitor with my favourite game on the screen.

It seems that all those years not lending my things to him for experimenting, haven't taught me how to avoid myself being experimented. That bastard! He must have spiked the cola. A can of cola! The last thing before I passed out, I manage to asked where he got the things for the Replica Room.

"Ebay," he said.


Afterwards I woke up to the sound of the game, which he said triggered my brain to recall the skill for it. The 'potion' then began to kick in, following the neurons or something and wiping out my memory that had anything to do with playing the game. It was like formatting a hard disk, were his words.
I watched a video of me playing before I got drugged (how did he got a footage of me playing in my home, I don't know) and after, had showed the thing really worked. He put the controller into my hand and asked me to play. The video showed I looked at the controller and tried playing it while he watched but I grew tired, probably after dying too often, and threw away the controller.
As of now, I am free of game addiction and when later I remembered what happened to me, I felt obliged and repulsed at the same time of the experiment. I never went to see him anymore. Although I clearly believed what he did was unethical, I'm holding any report for now. Still, I'm writing this so if I somehow drop dead in the middle of the road or blew up into shiny dust particles, I hope the authorities wouldn't be left scratching their head.

I hope I can unknow all this, but that, is simply out of the question.

Joe Wayne.

inspired by this and this