Maria did not bother to answer. She knew Mason was not asking. She felt just like he did. What had happened to the dream? Just five generations ago getting a chip put in your brain to make you super smart, a polyglot, polymath, or Virtuoso on any instrument seemed to be so desirable. The next Evolutionary step: mind, matter, machine, all converging in a symbiotic relationship. Everyone wanted one. Everyone got one.
Stella, George, and Harry had stubbornly refused to get a chip put in their heads. They thought it was not only unnatural, but unsafe. Stella put it best:
“It isn’t nice to play God, or force nature. One of the two is going to get mad.”
When the first few brave (or maybe stupid) volunteers got their Chip put in their heads, wired directly to their brains- it did not take long to see the advantages pop out. Within weeks, sometimes only days, the brain seemed to understand the limits of the Chip, and vice versa.
The first thing to pop out when a chip was put in was the change in color perception. A simple white wall would keep a “Chipper” entertained for hours. (“Chipper was the first nickname for a person with a Chip in their heads…and the most sadly Ironic misnomer ever.) White... for Normal human minds…could be several shades, from egg white to parchment paper. For a Chipper, white came in seventy five million shades.
And that was just white.
After a few psychotic breakdowns, the technology and insertion teams learned how to isolate new Chippers from sound, light, touch, smell, and tastes. Easing the new Chipper into a world of perception and sensory input as far beyond that of a Normal Human as Chess would be to a bacterium. Normal Humans lost touch with Chippers within weeks. The sounds that Chippers made were almost electronic, the colors they wore would blind, or bore a Normal human to death. Drab was not a word that fit in a Chippers vocabulary or experience.
Next to pop out when you got your chip was the loss of reflexes. Chippers react with intent…no longer having to compromise processing power and speed, for thought. Chippers saw a glass fall over the edge of the table, thought about catching it…and did. Chippers were always in full control of any physical action their body took. Reflexes were a thing of the past.
Chippers changed everything. Humanity lost its individualism…for Chippers could learn anything another Chipper knew, experienced, or felt- the instant it happened, was felt, or learned. The need for physical contact of any kind, from a hug to a sweaty fun tryst in the old haystack…gone. Physical feelings were so predictable, and so limited, that after the first few contacts with another body, all the permutations were known.
Yet people still wanted to become Chippers. To be the New Humans. To be able to speak any language at will, to pick up an instrument and play at Virtuoso level without any practice, to stand in front of a blank white wall…enraptured. To be connected to all the other Chippers in a Social Media frenzy orders of magnitude beyond FACEBOOK, or Twitter.
The only thing Chipper’s got right, was not forcing everyone to get one. Enough Normal Humans remained…well…normal, to continue the species. Make no mistake, Chippers were a different Species. They probably could mate with Normal Humans, if they could tolerate the slowness of their minds, bodies, and thoughts, but they didn’t.
Some of the so called benefits of becoming a Chipper faded almost immediately, like becoming a Polyglot. Sure the Chippers could speak to a Normal human in whatever native language that Normal Humans spoke, and without an accent too. Normal Human speech was slow, bulky, imprecise. Chippers spoke…Chipper. An electronic sounding language that included clicks, whistles, burrs, and puffs of air. A Normal human speaks at about a 105 word to 120 word a minute pace. Professional Speakers utter words at a slightly faster pace, around 145 to 160 words a minute. Auctioneers leap up to several hundred words a minute.
A Chipper speaks a thousand words…a second.
No. They do not want to talk to you…if you don’t have a Chip.
The gulf between Chippers and Normal people grew wider. When Chippers outnumbered Normal Humans by a large margin it became almost impossible for them to interact. Both camps became certain that the other camp wasn’t Human. Chippers took over the big cities in a natural (HA!) progression, while Normal Humans took over towns and rural areas. That seemed to work out just fine.
Stella, George and Harry didn’t want to become Chippers. So they did not. Like most Normal Humans they migrated to a small town to get away from the Big City they grew up in. That city by the lake was filling up with Chippers…almost forcing Normal Humans to exit as soon as they could. The three of them ended up in a tiny town in Ohio called: Zoar. A sleepy historical town next to the old Erie Canal.
One main street, one red light, four side streets, and a big open space next to the levee. It was quaint, quiet, and Chipper free. It was their home. Five years after making it their home the first of the Chipper Refugees showed up. It was a woman Chipper, who had in tow two toddlers. Normal Humans. Her children. She wanted to have her Chip removed so she could be a Mother.
Stella took them to George. George took them to Harry. Harry took them to Maria and Mason. Maria and Mason were the only Normal Humans they knew of, who might be able to take a Chip back out of a Chipper. Maria and Mason, after all, were Normal Geniuses- and refused to get Chipped. They were both MIT graduates, and neurosurgeons (board certified by John Hopkins Medical School)…compared to a Chipper, they were Beta Models at best. Neither of them ever got a Chip put in.
The woman Harry brought in to see them used considerable restraint and patience to slow down her speech, speak in English and explain her dilemma to them in halting sentences:
“I want my chip out. I want time with my children. I want to hold them. I want to play. I want to watch them grow up. I need to slow down and smell the roses.”
That last phrase became the Mantra for Chippers wanting to get their chips removed. They would say out loud: “Time to slow down and smell the roses.” But that was later, for now, she was the first Chipper to voluntarily ask for the chip to be removed. Maria and Mason did as she asked.
The effect was immediate. One minute the woman was a Chipper with almost Supernatural intelligence, perception and sensory input, the next she was a Normal Human. As you might expect, it was a shock to her system. Eventually, it got a name: “The Crash.” The Crash could last as long as a week. Some…well…some never fully recovered. Some even died, unable to handle the loss of the chip. Or overwhelmed by the overload of ordinary life with an ordinary mind.
This woman was the first though..and the jargon hadn’t caught on yet. She crashed for a week. Then…she started to play with her children, read them stories, make mud pies, put them down for a nap so she could pee, or have a cup of coffee and some time for herself. She loved it. So did the children.
Word got out to the Chippers. At first it was mostly Mothers, and there weren’t many of them. Chippers didn’t reproduce by chance. But then, strangely enough, more Chippers came to Zoar…seeking Stella, George, or Harry. Soon Stella, George, and Harry were spending most of their day steering Chippers to the small clinic that Maria and Mason had set up.
Word got out to the Normals too. More surgeons showed up. More volunteers to help the flood of Chippers get settled in, both before the Chip was taken out, and after. “Crash Centers” became incubators for the Chippers to return to Normal Humans.
Maria and Mason were overwhelmed with Chippers wanting their chips out. They streamlined the process. It was virtually painless (physically anyway) to begin with. They invented a technique that took the chip out in only a few minutes. Then they had to modify the neurotransmitters to work with an old style brain. The Chippers themselves worked out that complicated process..and gave it to Maria and Mason.
Stella brought her ward (another Chipper) to Maria and Mason. “Not another one.” Was their first words. Stella smiled.
“No. This one wants to talk. Not have his Chip removed. He has an idea.”
The Chipper spoke for himself, and on behalf of all Chippers.
“About revamping how we use the Chips. We lost our Humanity when we opted for the Chips, but we also gained abilities and knowledge you don’t have, or wouldn’t understand. We think we have both. Chips and Humanity.
We want you to put these chips in, when you take the old ones out.“
With that, the Chipper handed a chip so small a hundred of them could fit on your finger tip.
Maria and Mason looked at it with genuine curiosity.
“What is it, what does it do?”
“It is a Chip just like this one (tapping his head lightly with one finger) but, it adjusts for being Human, having feelings, moods, joy, sadness…it restores our Humanity while allowing us to choose to Chip Up. We can access our Chips when necessary, instead of allowing the chip to interact all the time with our normal brains.“
Maria and Mason smiled. The whole future of Humanity was in that tiny chip. A chip that kept the best of both world views.
The chip of the future.
Stella got hers first. Then George. Then Harry. Then Maria. Then Mason. Then all the Former Chippers, got their new chips put back in. Slang terms developed. A “Chip off the old block” became the new name for the procedure to put in the chip that only activated when needed.
Humanity had evolved to become a chip off the old block.