My name is Exaybachay. He Who Talks Loud, Saying Nothing.
Nobody (Dead Man, 1995)
It all did begin much earlier, perhaps on the third birthday of my eldest sister, but nevermind that. My spiritual foundation was laid on the day I went to third grade. Not because of school itself, but because of a present I received on my first schoolday. It was a book called Oliüks by an Estonian author Henno Käo – roughly translated to Therewasa. It was one of the first sci-fi books I read, with the titular hero riding around the universe in a saucer, not at the speed of light, but at the speed of thought! And one of the main antagonists was a big homogenous blob, which spoke pretty words in order to lure subjects of assimilation. I was nine years old and I read it in one day – and was blown away.
As time went by, I started to consciously look for similar literature. R.L. Stevenson was fun, but Bradbury was better. The nameless City who waited for 20 000 years still haunts me. My parents kept throwing gasoline to the flame – though we were still in the Soviet Union, we were able to see Hollywood flicks thanks to the Finnish Television. I was about 11 when I had already seen The Terminator, Star Trek and Star Wars, but also The Man Who Fell to Earth and Alien.
Beginning of the nineties, when my parents were out supporting the struggle for Estonia’s independence, I was at my friend’s father’s basement office, playing Lemmings in glorious VGA with 256 colours. About a year later my parents brought home a desktop PC AT 286, which they got from the US. I was twelve years old and I was done for. It was a time when you literally texted with your computer, the screen was black and white and the pixels were counted in hundreds. But I had Prince, Tunnels and Bad Street Brawler. Nobody had that at home. Almost none of my classmates understood any of that, aside from two. We weren’t popular. I didn’t care if i got kicked during the day. I had another world to live in at home.
I was in my late teens when I first read Asimov’s Foundation and it was probably the first time I started asking questions about the order of society. Mainly – why is the society not governed by scientists, but rather by politicians? Why not rationality rather than emotions? The question remains, though the emphasis has changed.
Inspired by an article in Estonia’s first computer magazine .exe, a friend of mine had bought the VHS of Blade Runner. Countless self-made pizzas were consumed in the bleak future with Deckard and the replicants. In my eyes, robots gained consciousness. A whole summer was spent watching a russian-dubbed version of Terminator 2 (and of course Pulp Fiction, which I preferred to Forrest Gump). I kid you not, the whole summer, every day. Robots became both friends and enemies. CGI entered my consciousness. I didn’t have Silicon Graphics, but I could see the future.
Fast forward to the new millenium. The culture pages of the biggest Estonian weekly newspaper introduced me to GITS and the world of manga and anime. It was the time of Kazaa and eMule and information wanted to be free. Fidonet stepped aside and gave way to the Internet – and the Net was vast and Infinite. Everything seemed possible.
There were whispers and recommendations of sci-fi superstar-authors and their extraordinary texts which were being translated into Estonian. The names Dan Simmons and Iain M. Banks entered my sphere of knowledge. Simmons’ Hegemony was a gamified democracy on a galactic level – an extremely interesting concept. But Banks’ Culture was an epiphany. It was a future which had hope and freedom on an unprecedented level, drawn out in extraordinary detail – though always in the background, always as a sidenote – as most of Banks’ novels took place outside the Culture and descriptions of the society were mere pages as opposed to the brick of hundreds of pages which consumed the stories themselves.
For the first time I read of a future worth striving for. The citizens of the post-scarcity society were able to control consiousness via enhanced glands, choose their home, activities, gender and everything else as they seemed fit – and change it all in spur of moment. It was governed by benevolent instances of AI, all of whom incidentally had good sense of humor. After all, why shouldn’t they?
It left the humans in the Culture free to take care of the things that really mattered in life, such as sports, games, romance, studying dead languages, barbarian societies and impossible problems, and climbing high mountains without the aid of a safety harness.
Iain M. Banks (Consider Phlebas, 1987)
And then there was the mysterious Pelevin with his Generation P. A truly surreal reading experience, which to me defined consumerism and capitalism as an omnipotent but non-concious and a neutral organism, with the sole purpose of assimilating everything into its homogenous soup, who we were all voluntarily feeding it because of the promises given to them. The antagonist of Therewasa sprung into my mind.
I have always been quite outspoken when it comes to the state of affairs. We can all see when shit’s wrong. And it’s always easy to be a critic. During the 90s we had fiery discussions on literally every topic imaginable with everyone who had a modem and access to Fidonet. It was there that a friend of mine told me – everyone can be a critic, but what would be the solution? This was a paradigm shift for me. In my search I decided to concentrate on the solutions, on a roadmap, rather than just critique.
I was about twenty when I wrote a onepager for a hypothetical direct democracy model inspired by the concept drafted in Fall of Hyperion. Internet forums and polls were the rage at the time and I saw that the model described in the Hegemony was already technologically achievable. One just needed the right algorithm to account for the weigth of the voice, proper societal fail-safes and application dynamics and it could show the equilibrious way the society would need to move (along with alternatives). It would be controlled via a gamified UX, with the tagline “Take 5 minutes from each day to rule your world.” It was a neat idea and I still stand for it. But time moved on and reality kicked in. Changing the ancient and outdated form of current representational democacy into something else was then and still is a taboo. It doesn’t matter what you offer instead.
Our goal is not to make life better. Our goal is to keep the society stable.
Sir Humphrey (YPM)
So what chances does one have at changing anything? Perhaps only through creation? My drawing skills have never been exemplary, though I am a firm believer of practice versus talent. Nevertheless, as my higher education was that of an advertising, I built my career on communication and public relations, whilst practicing 3D as a side quest. My professional interest was locked on public administration, all the while practicing and modelling mostly abstract worlds during my free time. I wanted to know how the world works and how it would be possible to bring forth the world described by the imaginative authors who helped form my self-consciousness. I never cared much for leading rather than learning and during my career I got to do a lot of learning. I witnessed birth of laws in the Ministry of Justice, a digital transformation of an economy, nurtured by Nortal in Oman and the highest level of public administration during my time in the Government Office when we were in charge of Estonia’s EU presidency. What I experienced ensured me to have utter trust in the human beings upholding the system. However, the system itself, is another story altogether.
And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds left to conquer.
Hans Gruber (Die Hard, 1988)
I have always been observing, with keen interest.
Visuals and knowledge. These two urges have always been competing within me. Learning gives me a kick of dopamine. Visualisation helps me understand what I’ve learned. Two years ago I decided to change my center of gravity. I quit my day job and started working as a full-time freelance visual producer, as well as a student of metal arts in the Estonian Academy of Arts. What else was there left for me to do than to start conjuring articafts from these non-existant worlds. How else can I communicate my belief that most challenges of a society can be overcome by technology – not politics. In fact, most progress in human civilization has taken place despite politics and due to technology. This is my narrative. This is my story. I am to bring forth my ideas into reality as objects you can touch and own. Objects that should ask their owners the same questions they are asking me. Puzzles, not answers.
Because maybe I am wrong. Maybe that’s not the way to go. But maybe it is? Maybe I am not alone. Maybe there are others who think the same – that we should be looking forward and not backward. Perhaps this is the way we should be striving towards? And that an essentially better future is not unattainable? Maybe I am not alone.