Imagine, if you will, that all of government and the production of food have become automated. The machines have told us that we can only have so much. It is sort of like the Soviet Union, but the machines govern it all. No human is permitted to have more than another human because the algorithms have optimized life for us. Each of us has access to the precise amount of nutrients we need, and we never hunger. We don’t remember days of eating t-bone steaks, because our ancestors’ memories were wiped, and we were told that humanity was ported to a facility on Mars that is regulated by machines. When we read of people eating t-bone steaks we know we can’t have any, because we have been made to believe that we live on Mars where the only meat product available is grown in tanks. When we look up in the sky through our dome, we see a convincing night sky as it would look from Mars.
We are, however, free to pursue mathematics, read and write poetry, and make movies, and exercise and have sex and take carefully metered doses of psychadelics for our amusement.
The space we occupy takes about a week of walking to cover the entire perimeter. There are many dark places inside the dome where the machines will build homes for future human beings, if necessary. Although, for the most part, our levels of reproduction have been stabilized. Most of us live to be about the age of eighty-five or so, which seems to be about the limit the human form can take in this environment. For each human death, a human birth is required, and a male and female are chosen at random by the machines to have their reproductive organs rebooted into production mode. If they are unable to produce offspring after two weeks, the machines run diagnostics and determine which of the couple is defective. The defective person is returned to the community and will not be selected to reproduce again. Any males or females caught tampering with their reproductive organs–having unauthorized surgeries and the like–are placed in black boxes where only food is pushed to them and their waste eliminated. No one is put to death directly by the machines.
Since we have all been raised with the certain knowledge that cameras are rampant throughout the entire dome, almost no one attempts to thwart their reproductive mechanisms anymore. Occasionally, someone who is desperate and unbalanced might convince a fellow human known to be learned in medicine to sneak away to the dark quarters of the dome for surgery, but as far as I know, only a few have ever succeeded.
We all share an uneasy relationship with our machine overlords. They have been our parents and teachers. They feed us, nurture us, give us drugs, fix us if we break a bone in some manner of rough play. They keep us safe from imbalanced fellow humans, and keep our world clean. We want for nothing in our world because of them. Yet, we are all full of the certain knowledge that the machines never attained the level of sentience and self-awareness and ability to empathize with us the way that we humans have attained these things.
Some of us have devised complicated codes and schemes to hide communication about what the world beyond our world might be like. These codes are left in plain sight, sometimes taking the form of art or pornography. The machines are perfectly fine with us making and viewing as much porn as we like–they have only qualms about us messing up our ability to reproduce and finding out what the world beyond the dome is really like.
Too many of us long for the earth of our ancestors. We imagine that whatever terrible pollution caused humanity to set up this colony and automated system of governance and food production–such pollution has subsided, and the earth is a wonderful place again. The machines will not permit us to go back, though. Others of us are convinced that they can somehow hack into the the system and network that controls the intelligence of the machines, and the ones who have attempted such hacks have been blackboxed.
It really is the good life, though. We have access to every single sporting event that was ever recorded on film or video. We read through the writing of the millions of earth writers who blogged throughout the 21st Century, and read the books of hundreds of thousands of more individuals who have left behind a mark of some kind during their time on earth. As for our time here on Mars, most of us don’t write a whole lot. There are a few graphomaniacs who write obsessively about every last little tic and twitch that goes on in their brains, but the rest of us have been too steeped with the certain knowledge that we will never be able to write a single sentence that hasn’t already been written down before.