Lazy Luddite Log

8.6.12

Word Limit

I want to submit something to the City Of Monash Wordfest 2012 Short Story Contest. I am yet to decide what to write but have a few months. For the moment I have just decided to write whatever comes to mind and this odd item is the result for now.

At a major university on a minor planet, a surprising and shocking discovery was made. A study was published entitled 'Data Limits Of The Cosmos And Proposals For Its Conservation'. The title was boring but the contents of the dissertation were of the utmost import. The basic thesis of the study? That the Universe was in fact composed of information and that there was a finite and diminishing quantity of such information. Once the media translated these findings into the vernacular it was a sensation on that minor planet, and on any world which had contact with it.

The implications were disturbing. Anything that ever happens can be deemed information. Atoms vibrating deplete the data limit of the Universe. Statements describing the movement of those atoms also contributed minutely to the hastening of the end of all things. If a tree fell in the forest and nobody saw it then that was information. If someone was there to see it then that was information. And if that person then blogged about it then that was information too. Every tiny thing shortened the life of the Universe.

The dissertation from that major university included projections of how long the Universe had to go depending on how much stuff happened from that moment on. It was noted that the consumption of the data limit had grown exponentially since the advent of civilization on all the many worlds. Sentients made more things happen and recorded and recounted those things. The conclusion of the dissertation was that less had to happen and fast. The Universe had only one Epoch left but if action, or rather, inaction was taken then that could be extended by possibly another two. Governments began to respond.

Those space-faring sentients who enjoyed accelerating the development of isolated worlds they made contact with suddenly embraced doctrines of non-interference and isolation for non-space faring sentients. What the Universe needed, they contended, was less exploration, and consequently, fewer epics and sagas written to glorify those experiences.

There were many other behavioural changes at a domestic level on many-a-world. Original songs were frowned upon or in some cases banned. Cover versions, preferably in the same exact genre, were deemed the only kind of song one could responsibly sing, if one was concerned for cosmic longevity. Literature and theatre and film were similarly denuded of originality by a desire to preserve reality. Academia also responded to the crisis.

The scientist who had discovered the problem had acted very responsibly by retiring. However he did grant one short interview with the media in the hope of driving home the importance of data conservation. One question he was asked was what the end of the Universe would be like. His only response was to say that "the Cosmos will end with an ellipsis rather than an exclamation mark."

It was generally understood that the end could only be postponed and as a result many aspects of life persisted. However a small but scared minority got very angry with those who continued to consume information by living interesting lives. They became militant. This militancy was expressed in violent fashion at what came to be known as the Poetry Slam Slayings.

A lone gunman walked into a bar hosting an exchange of live improvized verse and opened fire on all those present. Somehow his spray of laser-fire missed the poet currently at the podium. She looked back at him, with an expression of concern more than fear, and uttered a line that was telecast to a hundred planetary news nets - "They will sing songs of this bloody night."

That statement marked the beginning of the end. The callousness of the gunner and the wisdom of the poet put things into a new perspective for many. Why did life have to become sedate in the hope of prolonging the life of a Universe that was mind-bogglingly ancient? What value were epochs of enforced boredom? Was there any intrinsic moral value to eternity? And besides all that, it was apparent that inaction was just another kind of action. It was with such musings that the philosophy of a "Short And Sweet Universe" was formed and over a few generations became the dominant perspective.

That was many generations ago. Since then life has gone on and many more chapters have been added to the history files. Songs have been sung. Tales have been told. Many, many essays like this have been written. And much of history since has been one of positive improvements in the quality of life and interactions across the Galaxy.

It is as if knowing there was a limit to all this has made us sentients value what we have all the more. Nobody seems to mind that that final moment may come at any time as long as life is rich. 'Data Limits Of The Cosmos And Proposals For Its Conservation' has become one of the most referenced primary sources for essays such as this one. It is more than that however. In a way that its author never expected, that publication gave us...

Is that a pretentious way to end this story? Or witty and innovative? In any case I had fun finishing it in this way.

Cross-posted here.

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1 Comments:

  • I have submitted this under the title 'Ellipsis' to the Monash City short story contest (with a few spelling corrections that I need to make here too).

    By Blogger Daniel, At 06 August, 2012  

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