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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics


Monday, June 23, 2014

Recollection Replacement: A Science Fiction Story

John and his friends had an easy life living on the tiny little island that was their home. They all lived in a luxury apartment building. Whenever John needed some food, he simply had to go to the supermarket at the bottom of the building, and pick out whatever food he wanted. There was no need to pay any money – you just took whatever food you wanted, and walked out. The supermarket was restocked by robots, who also mowed the grass on the island. There was no need to work, and there were many opportunities for leisure – swimming, game arcades, a library, and a bowling alley. 


John's favorite activity was hanging out with his friends, and trading war stories, tales about the great conflict between the human race and alien invaders. It seemed that everyone John knew had a memory of how he or she had played an important role in mankind's thrilling victory over the extraterrestrial invaders.

We really kicked the hell out of those damn aliens, didn't we?” said John.

Damn right we did,” said Joe, one of John's friends. “I sure played my part. It was fun flying an Apache helicopter. Whenever I saw a swarm of those hideous creatures from another world, I would hit them with a Hellfire missile. Bam! That spoiled their party pretty good.”

Yeah, I remember when a huge bunch of them landed outside of New York,” said Willy. “I flew a plane and dropped a big bomb on them. The bomb made a big crater, but you could see little bits and pieces of their weird alien flesh, scattered all over the place.”

You guys had it easy, working from the air,” said John. “I had to get face to face with the monstrous things. I carried a flamethrower, and I had to get right close to those alien creatures, and set them on fire. But I was real brave. I zapped them again and again.”

My job was easier,” said Sue. “All I had to do was work in an artillery team that shot those chemicals designed to wipe out those things from another world. I never even saw them close up. But I know that when our chemical artillery hit them, those creatures died just like a bunch of roaches getting zapped by bug spray.”

Do you remember when the alien invaders gave up?” asked Willy. “When they finally went back to their spaceships, and their ships zoomed out of the solar system?”

Are you kidding?” said Joe. “I remember it like it was yesterday. There was such a huge celebration in Times Square – it was bigger than VE Day. I almost got buried in all the confetti that was falling from the skyscrapers.”

Yeah, I remember that well, “ said John. “The whole world rejoiced. But what I don't remember is: how did we get here on this tiny island?”

How many times are you going to ask that?” said Joe. “As I explained quite a few times before, all that heavy combat we were involved in took its toll. It damaged our memories. It's called Post Combat Memory Syndrome. That's why none of us can remember exactly how we got here.”

Okay,” said John. “But I do remember one thing very clearly. We're all heroes of the greatest victory ever. We helped save mankind from the worst threat it ever faced.”

Damn right we did,” said Willy. “I bet it will be a thousand years before those aliens ever try again to send a spaceship to take over this planet.”

The 100 humans living on Joe's little island were the only humans left on planet Earth. The alien invasion had been a complete success. With their superior technology many thousands of years more advanced than human technology, the extraterrestrials had little difficulty wiping out almost all of humanity. The plague bombs had got rid of almost all humans, and the few survivors were almost all eliminated by the flying laser robots. But rather than choosing to destroy mankind entirely, the invaders decided to save a tiny little group of human beings, who were put on a little island, a little zoo that could be watched by discreetly hidden cameras.

Depressed by mankind's dismal defeat, many of the humans on the island committed suicide. The population of the island fell below the recommended level for the long-term survival of the little human preservation colony. So the alien invaders altered the memories of the surviving humans, replacing their real memories of a crushing defeat with artificial memories of a glorious victory. The intervention worked, and the suicides stopped.

Now dear reader, please ask yourself: could it be that one of your own cherished beliefs is as false as the beliefs of these men on this little island?