A Market of the Senses

Fiction by Shuja Haider

Still b/w image from Fritz Lang's 1927 'Metropolis' shows a sleeping figure in a helmet with wires leading out
Screenshot: YouTube
The offsprings of painting stand there as if they are alive, but if anyone asks them anything, they remain most solemnly silent. The same is true of written words. You’d think they were speaking as if they had some understanding, but if you question anything that has been said because you want to learn more, it continues to signify just that very same thing forever.

— Plato, Phaedrus

You can still remember the early 2020s, when you had to reach over to your bedside table to pick up your phone. A “phone” was then considered a physical object, and “culture” was an amorphous category of various forms of human communication; the words are roughly synonymous now. Now there is the light, a color-tuned spectrum penetrating your eyelids with a building intensity. As the glow coaxes your drowsiness away, a terrible restlessness sets in; alone with your thoughts, despite the brightness, your mind wanders to dark places. The gap between waking and the commencement of your daily cultural consumption is brief, but it all too often borders on panic.

Your sleep-regulating eyemask is wirelessly connected to the network, and you bring up its graphical user interface by swiping a finger across the external surface of its semiconductor fabric. The relief is immediate. Like any civic-minded adult, you intend to begin your day by reading the news. But first, you check social media—and there’s nothing wrong with that. The X-Meta merger was not without its critics, but it did bring an end to the violence of the corporate street wars of the 2030s, even if the company’s leadership did not survive them. The feed lived on.

It’s a paywall, but a small one

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