State Of Unknowing

Entry by: Octopoda

17th November 2017
State of Unknowing

She ran and ran and ran until her throat burned and her legs felt like they were about to buckle underneath her. It was early. The sky looked as blank and crisp as a sheet hung out to dry on a cold morning. A delicate frost cloaked the parked cars lining the suburban streets. Everywhere was still, everything lying in wait.

The silence was eerie. She tried not to flinch every rustle of leaves or snap of a branch. She had to stay focused. No one knew her here in this town, the knock at the door meant they had found her. Climbing out of the bathroom window of her flat and down onto the roof of the shared bin store, she made her escape quickly and quietly, past the private garages and through the maze of the neighbouring housing estate. Now the roads were more open, the houses bigger and the streets wider. She felt exposed. She needed to get on the next bus she saw. The map was nestled safely in the inside pocket of the small rucksack she had on her back. The bag had been packed months ago for this very moment, and had sat by her bedroom door waiting like a loyal pet. She ran through the contents in her head as she looked out for the warm glow of approaching headlights.

Every bit of information she carried was written down on paper. She carried no phone, no data, nothing that could be traced. Refusing to carry a phone was one of the first things that initially singled her out for observation at work. The office approved mobile devices were like an extension of the body: her colleagues were never seen without them. When she declined the ‘voluntary’ implant, that had been offered free of charge by the company board of directors, she knew that her details had been submitted to higher more official channels. The implant was marketed as a safe technological interface that would seamlessly incorporate itself into the brain to benefit the ‘user.’ This convenient tool allowed the recipient to access anything from the office coffee machine to their data files, wirelessly. Her colleagues hadn't realised how easily they had handed over their body, their mind, their autonomy.

However, it was her open criticism of the escalating presence of artificial intelligence in the company that eventually got her fired. She was not alone, anyone who refused to work with AI colleagues or refused to incorporate the increasingly experimental technologies into their own bodies were fired. A term was quickly established by the state to describe those people who questioned the officially sanctioned technology: ‘the unknowing.’ They dismissed people like her as cowards who wished to remain wilfully ignorant, choosing to deny advancement by denying the increasing melding of human with machine. When she wrote her first article on the subject in a small independent zine she had hoped to connect with like-minded people, she had never imagined how dangerous her opinion would be, or how far her research would take her. Since then, she has tried to publish anonymously, but she knows this is almost impossible. It was only a matter of time before they found her.

Many of her friends and contacts had disappeared. One such friend had given her the map. He claimed it was a map to a location ‘off the grid,’ where an underground community was building a network, a resistance. At the time the story had seemed far-fetched to her. He had nervously whispered the information just before they ordered their desert at a small but busy Lebanese café around the corner from where she used to live. No one appeared to pay them any attention. The room was filled with the sound of other people’s conversations. Waiters hurried around them as chefs called orders from the kitchen. Her friend had pushed the folded map towards her under his napkin. His eyes had widened: he had looked hunted. “If things get dangerous,” he said, “try to get to this place. They are trying to set up a new territory, a new set of rules, a new state. They are starting again, from the beginning.” She leant forward as he whispered to her, “they call it the State of Unknowing.”