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"Upgrade" was inspired by my fascination with psycholinguistics, and in particular the Meme theory of Richard Dawkins. I wanted to use narrative to show how powerful language is in shaping our thoughts, and explore the possibility that some of those ideas we think of as ours, as Dawkins suggests, are in fact using us to survive and multiply. This led me to crash painfully onto multiple rough surfaces. Turns out that getting out of the box created by talking about the box you're trying to get out of is a bit like tying your shoes together while running. It makes more sense, of course, when aliens much smarter than us do it, even if they bungle up a bit.

By the time you finish reading this sentence you will be infected with the image of a single red balloon that has just been released and floats up into a clear blue sky. Do not be alarmed. This infection is not harmful to you or your community.
The red balloon supermeme is a virus designed to rectify problems in human software that were engendered by our research. Once it has been fully absorbed through the process of reading this message, things should improve for you on a daily basis.
It is with some chagrin that we acknowledge our failure to anticipate negative results of our experiments. Perhaps we were blinded by the early success of projects like 'thoughts-are-your-own-and-not-gods-speaking-in-your-head' and 'helping-others-is-good-even-if-you-don't-individually-benefit.' Truth be told, though, when 'the-rational-mind-is-a-resource-for-change-in-the-universe' came into such intense conflict with 'the universe-is-perfectly-governed-by-a-cosmic-intelligence', we should been alerted to certain risks.
After extensive debate in the ethics subcommittee, and over strenuous objection from several leading scientists, the red balloon supermeme was devised in order to reduce negative long-term effects of our work, and enable your species to progress more peacefully. Unfortunately, it also means the end of an extended and relatively fruitful research program.
As your new system software takes effect, you may experience disorientation and some discomfort. Certain changes are inevitable as ideas that worked for you before cease to function. The enhanced fluidity of your thinking will have impacts on your daily life as well. You may find yourself losing interest in habitual diversions, seeking more private time for reading, contemplation or creative activities. These side effects are nothing to be concerned about, however, and they will not be result in any permanent damage.
It is not at all necessary for you to believe in the supermeme for it to function. The red balloon rising up into the blue cannot be stopped. It is already far beyond your reach. Even now you are becoming more free. As the balloon shrinks to a tiny red speck, you are becoming lighter as well. Freed from the gravity of ideas that have kept you bound to a tiny planet, you are realizing that beyond that horizon, a universe of the possible is infinitely expanding. You are lifting off into that larger universe now and the sky that seemed so inarguably blue to your eyes, no longer limits you by its visual illusion.
If these changes create anxiety, it may be helpful to know that the red-balloon upgrade is engineered with safety in mind. Its non-bonding shell has been designed to avert outcomes such as that which occurred when 'show-love-and-compassion-for-all-other-people' merged unexpectedly with 'my-group-is-really-the-best-group', leading to extensive conflict, murder and enslavement of an undetermined number of your kind. Similarly and more recently, we were disturbed by the intense effects of 'we-can-all-share-equally-in-the-resources-of-the-world' interacting with 'you-deserve-to-have-it-all', resulting in wars which, though they have helped in population control and certain technological innovations, have also generated extensive suffering.
Is the little red balloon winking out into infinity now? Once it has disappeared, your upgrade will be fully absorbed. Certain basics of your operating system, like your deeply felt need to be right, will shift and fade. Soon, perhaps, you may even become a carrier, helping others to evolve by passing along this note.
Some of you will prefer to resist this change. Fight to hold on to your legacy software. This, too, is a natural part of the process. Letting go of the concept-chains which held you prisoner is difficult for many of your species, particularly those who have reached sexual maturity.
You are, of course, free to resist this transformation. To continue believing that the assumptions of your operating system are essential and inarguable products of independent and unconstrained reason. It is possible to resist this change, even as it is possible to deny the vision of a round Earth, or a star-centered planetary system.
We philosophically support self-determination as well. If you prefer to decline this upgrade, then, you can abort the process right now by employing the yellow balloon protocol. All that is required for this, is that you avoid thinking about a balloon which is yellow and then prevent yourself from reading to the end of this message.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, July 30th, 2020

Author Comments

Eduardo Robert Vega is a poet, author, playwright and social scientist. Alternatively, he is the accidental extrusion into this world of a nerdy musician from the universe next door. His works seek to colorize the human possibilities of past, present and future, while challenging conventions of language just like this. He lives in Los Angeles with an invisible black cat named Schrodinger.

- Eduardo Robert Vega
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