A imaginative future society roaming in the space.
Competition Entry for OUTER SPACE 2020
Responsible for the visual design. Collaborated with Wen XingYue, Wenyi Zheng, and Steven Dai.
The Space is a self-contained ecosystem enclosed and protected by the membrane. There is Space that is inside of the membrane, and there is outer space, which is outside of the membrane. Outer space is devoid of light and very little of visible interest exists. A few generations ago, our people came into contact with Proxima Centauri. In my generation, we have not come into contact with any object in outer space, saved for a few rubbles. There is little value in going outside of the membrane beyond regular maintenance work, so for the most part, we remain inside.
There will be a party today. At the transition between the orthogonal hive of the residential compounds and the undulant topography at the outskirts of the compounds, a party would take place and I was hosting it.
My eyes flew open as light began to permeate my surroundings. The Space is getting brighter and the terrain has begun to glow again. I activated the implant on my palm to loosen the attachments and they converted back to the membrane. During the dark hours when I sleep, those attachments prevented me from floating in the Space. I found free-floating highly disruptive to my sleep and I preferred to secure my body to the terrain during sleep. I felt a gnawing emptiness in the pit of my stomach. The first task of the day is sustenance consumption. I travelled out of my quarters, towards the public commons at the center of my residential compound. The public commons is where I gather, socialise and consume with my people. Activating the implant, I morphed a pod out of the surrounding terrain and slipped in. I slid the pod through the terrain and arrived at the public commons in no time. After dissolving the pod back into the membrane, I tugged at the terrain beneath my feet and, with a gentle flick on my implant, altered them into my sustenance for the day.
All one thousand of us residing within the Space possess palm implants, which connect to the organic chip in our cerebrum. Both the chip and the implant were inserted in us at birth and that would remain till the day of our departure. Neural interface on the cerebral chip establishes a communication channel between our nervous systems and the membrane that forms all of the terrain of the Space. The chip is integrated with the membrane, allowing me and my people to manipulate the terrain directly, at will.
The relationship my people share with the membrane is extremely intimate - we play a part in each other’s biological cycle of life. We are derived from, fed by, and housed in the membrane. One day, our bodies will disintegrate and return to the membrane, igniting a new cycle of transformation and renewal.
After fulfilling my hunger pangs, I travelled to the transition. The terrain constantly changes to suit our needs and wants. At this moment, I would be terraforming the terrain for the party. This party would be my first time meeting the historians. I wanted to create a setting for us to gather and exchange ideas. I parted the ridge and smoothed out the terrain to form a huge, flat screen. Then, I tugged at the terrain to create a larger structure framing the screen and moulded furniture to place around the screen. Satisfied with the set up, I looked out to the outskirts.
I enjoyed taking in the irregular, undulating terrain of the outskirts. The terrain is rich with age-old information. As I floated within the terrain scanning its uneven peaks and troughs, I gaped at the blinking blue and green light that blanket the entire terrain, as data pulsed through nanobots retrieving stored information and receiving new information. I marvelled at the beauty of the membrane. It is from the membrane that we construct the dynamic terrains of the Space and from which we obtain sustenance. It is also the membrane that stores and displays our data. I dreamed of traversing the entirety of the Space and perusing all of the knowledge stored within the folds and creases of the terrain.
---The membrane stores all of the information that my people have ever produced. Our information is written into the organic nanobots which make up the membrane. Each nanobot consists of a neuron processor, with limited computational power, that responds to an organic chip located within our cerebrum and stores data, and a bioluminescent lipid pixel to display our data. To maximise data storage, data is mostly localised.
As I inspected the data displayed on the peaks and troughs, I bumped into a historian.
“Are you here for the party?” I asked.
“Yes, I am. Thank you for the invite. I am surprised that you futurists would meet with us since that unfortunate debate.”
I looked on quizzically, “What debate?”
The historian laughed, “Oh silly me! I forgot that you do not care for what has passed. Do you remember that some generations ago, our people realised that the membrane could no longer store any more of the information we were trying to upload. A debate ensued and we were split into two factions. You are part of the futurists who believe old information is outdated and not worth keeping. I am one of the historians, who stand by the stance that history cannot be destroyed. Do you remember at all?”
I can not recall such an event. All I knew was that the futurists and the historians each occupy half of the Space, so each can use a half of the membrane to store the information they found worth keeping. Nevertheless, I questioned his insistence on preserving centuries-old information in the terrain, “Is it not better to focus on the future than to live in the past?”
The man countered, “History is a part of us. When our past is encoded into the physical topography of the ship, we will not lose our histories. It will always be there.”
“But why is it so important that we keep our past in the membrane? The membrane is finite, so it is limited in what it can store. Should we not delete old information to make way for new ones?” I challenged the historian.
“Because history is important. All of our habits, traditions, the units of time, they were from our past. Why do you think that we had defined a day as 24 hours in the Space? Day, hour, minute, they are not arbitrary units of time”, he argued.
I was intrigued. “Are they not arbitrary? I have always thought that we defined these units so our lives can be better organised.”
The man swiped across the membrane he was standing on, and brought up an image of a blue marbled sphere revolving around another fiery orange sphere. He explained, “Well, in the days lost to time, generations of people before us lived on this planet that revolved around that star. The duration the planet took to rotate once on its own axis is the duration of 24 hours, our day. Since we originated from that planet, our bodies are still in sync with its rhythms. That’s why we sleep for a third of our day, and that’s why we need darkness for sleep.”
“That is interesting, but I am still not convinced. The transformative nature of our terrain encourages exploration and creation. With the versatility of the terrain, we can constantly generate new ideas in any discipline, be it science, fine arts, literature or philosophy. Our society will constantly evolve, and the terrain has to constantly shift its configuration along with the newest advancement of society. That means, and I believe, that the membrane has to constantly update its store of information as well.” As I asserted my stance, the historian nodded along with a knowing grin.
“You mention disciplines. Our disciplines are also derivative of their historical counterparts. Our bodies, the sustenance we consume, the matter within this Space, even our ways of thinking - they were derived from a time older than the Space on this planet called “Earth”. The historian pointed to the blue sphere and continued, “This is where the people before our people lived, where the technologies we depend on were developed and where the Space was built. We are now far from Earth, but neither distance nor time would ever sever our connection to this place.”