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Alien Variations

F.David Peat


Don't talk to me about aliens. I've had my fill of them. I prefer to sit here playing cards in the sun.

Aliens? That's something for young people. Youth with their short haircuts, their Choirs, their Dolphin Dives and all those Collective Excitations. Anyway, you know all this, so why are you talking to me?

Of course, I was right there at the start. I know that. But now it's all passed me by. I was too old to change. I'll never sing along with the rest of you.

Do you understand? You say that I seem bitter. That's why I sit in the square everyday with my friends. We're all too old. Think of it, here we are in what was once called "The Center of The World". For a few weeks at least. Do you remember that? Pari, a tiny hilltop village: The Center of The World.

No, don't waste your time talking to me. Look at us, sitting here, white haired. We're the end. We're the Last Generation. After us there is nothing. Not even the deluge. And when I say "nothing", I mean nothing I'd recognize as a civilization. No books and no libraries. No presidents or prime ministers. No armies and no giant corporations. And no art and no art galleries. Nothing at all.

Well, not quite nothing. There will be something left of our civilization. All those mosques and cathedrals! They make wonderful places for singing, don't they? And Bach. Yes, lots and lots of Bach. They finally discovered what he was all about. But no Beethoven or Wagner. Just Bach and Plainchant and a few of the moderns.

But you know all this. So why am I telling you?

To set the record straight? Oh, certainly I can do that. I've been telling you all along that you've been barking up the wrong tree. Aliens! But who's going to listen? Just a few old men, the last of the human race.

Tell the story for future generations? Don't make me laugh! Do you think they'll want to listen?

A glass of wine? Well, now you're talking. I won't object to that. That's something that still changes my consciousness at least. Thank you.

I suppose you're not going away, are you? No? All right, let me begin. But first, let me ask you, When did it all start? When did the aliens arrive?

The virus, you say? But let's go back even earlier. I'm old enough to remember when everyone was looking for aliens. But no one ever suspected they'd come by email. There were the Flying Saucers back in the middle of the twentieth century. Then scientists built the first radio telescopes and began to look for intelligent signals from outer space. The search had been going on for decades. But things really came to a head after the millenium.

You're too young to remember, but people really felt let down. There was an enormous built up of energy then nothing exceptional happened. People were looking to a new age, yet the first years of the millenium were just like the years before: civil wars, violence in the cities, political assassinations, famines, earthquakes, political corruption, a few people getting rich and the rest of the world becoming poorer and poorer.

Nothing had changed. But there was an enormous spirit around. The result was predictable. Everyone started looking into the sky. They were hoping that something would save them. They wanted aliens. And the governments went along with it. It was a way of shutting people up. They launched radio telescopes into orbit, built laser detectors, and looked for gravitational anomalies around stars. You name it. Aliens were going to beam down at any moment. They were going to save us all with their wisdom and super technology.

And then the irony of it. They came by email! No fleet of flying saucers. No little green men beaming down to earth. No radio signals transmitting the figures for Pi. No opening up of the heavens. Just "You have mail".

Yes, it all began with the virus. Or did it? Was the virus the first step? Or was there something else? Now you've got me on my hobbyhorse. Go back a few years and you have Fools Eagle, the first Nobel Prize for physics ever given to a Native American. Remember how he turned up at Stockholm airport with a Blackfoot passport. They could hardly turn him away, could they? That was official world recognition for the Blackfoot nation and all the others that followed.

But I'm loosing the point. Fools Eagle and his organic superconductor. Room temperature superconductivity had been the dream for a century. A substance that will transmit energy without any loss at all. Scientists had tried, but the best they could do was to make superconductors that worked at a handful of degrees above absolute zero. But a superconductor that worked at room temperature, one that needed no cooling or thermal insulation! That was a different matter. Theoretically impossible, they said.

And then Fools Crow grew one. When they gave him the Nobel Prize he apologized and said, "I didn't discover anything. The spirit spoke to me and told me what to do."

Looking back it all made sense, people had speculated that the brain worked that way and that the characteristic of life was global coherence. And then Fools Crow came up with a living substance that was superconducting. Just supply the nutrients, give it an elementary genetic code and it grew into long cables, interconnections, branches ..the whole works.

Corporations pounced on the discovery. And how they laughed when Fools Crow refused to take any royalties. Nations set about building superconducting power grids. But the first real application was the SuperNet, a global network of superconducting computers all linked by superconducting connections. And that's when the aliens walked in.

In a way it was hubris. Governments were boasting about how all this new technology would transform the world. They were going to bring energy to everyone. But ordinary people couldn't help noticing the mess we'd all made of the world in the past. And then one morning everything froze.

The first thing I knew, like everyone else, was a message on my screen, "You have mail". I clicked my mouse and nothing happened; pressed the keyboard and no response. My computer had frozen. It was locked solid. It didn't take me long to find out what had happened. My hard disc was filled with corruption, or so I thought at the time. Everything was overwritten, documents, manuscripts, emails, system files the lot.

It so happened that this was the week of The Academy. You must have heard of us? Each year a group of artists, scientists and musicians, met in Pari to brainstorm. Anyway we were all there at the time and we soon found we were all in the same boat. After all, we were all interconnected via an Ethernet so some stupid idiot must have downloaded a program without first checking for a virus.

We assumed it was something purely local until we realized the phones weren't working. What's more, there was no radio and no TV. We'd installed our own power system in The Academy for better stability but when I went to the bar I discovered that even the power was out.

Luckily Gino had a short wave radio and we soon knew that the problem was totally global. The whole world was paralyzed: no banks, no government, no communications. Every computer system had locked at exactly the same time!

At first everyone believed it was the work of a terrorist group. But who would want to target every nation on earth? It had to be one of the new religions that sprang up after the millenium, or maybe the Merry Men, or one of the extreme environmental movements? It was all guesswork really.

At least one thing was clear. With a major breakdown in communications and no airlines flying, the Academy had no alternative but to stay put in Pari. And if we were all going to live together for the next couple of weeks then why not pool all our brain power? We had an independent power source, an incredible amount of computing power, an ancient telephone system still wired into the village quite independent of the SuperNet, a short wave radio and some of the best minds in the world.

And so, while the rest of the world tried to get back to normal, we began to work on the virus. We wanted to fund out how it worked and how it had managed to get past so many anti-virus programs with such ease. It was soon pretty clear that it didn't seem to have any of the characteristics of a known virus. All it did was fill the world's computers with corruption. And so we began to analyze the data itself, to see if it was simply random or if it had some pattern to it.

We also began to speculate about the SuperNet. After all, the virus had hit pretty soon after the Net had become truly global. The Net's multiplicity of connections made in enormously complex. Had some sort of instability had developed? Non-linear systems are always in danger of generating internal chaos. What that what it was all about? Was the virus no more than a collective expression of the superconducting net itself?

After a week of this I realized I was banging my head against a wall and so I ducked out and took a long walk in the hills. Something was bothering me and I couldn't put my finger on it. Then, after two hours of walking, I had it. I returned to The Academy, pulled up a chair and whispered into Marcel's ear, "Aliens".

Here the history is a bit confused, so you'll have to bear with me. Marcel claims that I said "gremlins". Carol jokes that she'd come up with it first in the form of "independent agents", while Schrum said it was "a collective oscillation." Anyway, I'm sticking to my version. "Aliens."

Once I'd got their attention I began to explain.

"What is a superconductor? It's a coherent state. Right? It may be only a few meters long, or it can span the globe like the SuperNet, but the whole thing is a single coherent quantum state. OK? We're all agreed on the basic physics. Now imagine you're out in space and you're looking at the earth. What do you see? A single wave function of planetary proportions. That's what the SuperNet must look like."

By now I had their total attention.

"Now, anyone remember Bell's Theorem? John Bell took a fresh look at a paradox first proposed by Albert Einstein. He proved that two quantum systems would remain correlated no matter how far apart they are. Distance doesn't matter in this case. It's not relevant because the two systems are correlated in an instantaneous way. It's a correlation that transcends the limits of space and time. Do you begin to get my drift?"

Here Bruce chipped in; "You mean what if there is another SuperNet somewhere else in the universe and…?"

"Yes. That's it. Whatever happens on one net will simultaneously occur on the other. Of course there is a still a theoretical hitch to the whole thing- how did they get to become correlated in the first place? But just assuming I'm right, just assuming, then what we took as a virus, or as corruption generated by the SuperNet, is really the output of some other civilization on some other planet."

Carol nodded, "As you say, aliens".

"Let's take that as a working hypothesis for a moment. It may be a crazy idea but some of the best science starts with crazy ideas. Assuming that it is the data from an alien civilization, then is there any way we can crack the code? We don't have to believe in aliens. It's a practical problem in code breaking if you like."

At this point Carole became quite serious. After all, as a student she'd paid her way though college by writing science fiction. "I don't think we should joke about this. If it is true we should keep very quiet. Just think of earth's history and the devastating impact one culture has had on another. We've no idea what we are getting into. We have to make a pact of secrecy." Carol looked round the room for support.

"First thing, we're going to need much more equipment", Bruce pointed out.

"Ok, fair enough" Carol agreed, "But we say that we've made a break-though in discovering instability in the SuperNet and we need a great deal of technical support. Each of us contacts our respective governments and we spread the wish list around a bit so no one works out what we're really up to."

We all agreed and set to work. By now most corporations had disconnected from the SuperNet and were relying on the older telephone systems for their Internet connections. Some governments and airlines had started flying again, using World War II bombers and aircraft stripped down of such of their sophisticated electronic support. They couldn't even rely on air traffic control so the navigators flew by star patterns.

There was a military airfield at Grosseto, about 40 km away and pretty soon equipment was arriving at Pari by the lorry load. Being a mere theoretician myself I stepped back to let the others get on with the business of connecting everything up. I assigned myself the role of cook and spent the next two weeks in the kitchen while the others worked 24 hour shifts.

The cooking really helped. I've always been able to daydream while and the stove and one day I simply lost myself making a sauce with sweet peppers and tomatoes. I was about to stir in the mascapone when it struck me that when a whole planet becomes a vast quantum state, a pulsing wave function, then it must be like a gigantic brain thinking. Instead of trying to work on a linear code we should really be asking, "What is it thinking? What are the aliens feeling?".

Suppose you meet an animal in the wood. You try to keep quite and observe. You watch it. You loose yourself in its movements and gradually begin to develop an empathy. Rather than trying to crack the code we should just keep quite try to listen to what it was telling us.

When Bruce came in for dinner I put the idea to him. Bruce was an artist who'd been working directly with the activity of the brain and body, converting its outputs directly into sound, video, light shows and holographic images.

"Bruce, can you do it in reverse?" I asked him. "Is there some way you can hook a person up to the virus so that they act as a sort of receiver?"

Bruce thought for a little, nodded, took an extra helping of pasta with him and headed back to his laboratory. It took him three days without sleep to jury-rig the set up. By now we were also able to predict the onset of the virus. Up to now there had been four separate attacks, each with an exact time interval between, right down to the microsecond. The bursts of activity only lasted for about thirty seconds but they were sufficient to block the SuperNet, which by now was only being kept active for those working on the virus.

The next attack was scheduled for Sunday night and Bruce promised to have his receiver read by then. It would be plugged directly into the SuperNet and he'd rigged up a series of filters and band passes so that he could still keep his apparatus running for the duration of the signal.

We drew straws for the first volunteer. Bruce opted out as he'd have to fine tune his "Little Blue Box" in real time. Naturally I ended up picking the shortest straw, otherwise I wouldn't be telling you this story. Only later did I discover that the whole thing had been rigged by the others from the start. Maybe it was a case of "kill the cook"!

The virus attack was scheduled for 11.13 that night. Bruce suggested it would work best if I were totally relaxed so we took a break and drove to the sea. That night we dined at Siros. Emelia fed us very well indeed and by the time I had finished a bottle of Brunello and a glass of grappa I was felling pretty dozy. Bruce advised me to take a trip to the bathroom before wiring up my head, attaching the helmet, putting an IV drip into my arm and dressing me in the body suite. They then lifted me into the suspension unit where I could twist and turn through 360 degrees. I was now isolated, without any sensory stimulus at all. Just waiting for zero hour. 11.13.

And what happened next? Well, for you young people it was probably no different from what you experience every day of your life. For me it was like…. How can I say? When I'm engaged in some particularly profound piece of mathematics I'm no longer present to it. It is as if I, the me inside, had vanished and the mathematics was expressing itself, flowing freely through me. That's how it began. As something exceptionally beautiful. It seemed to be utterly perfect. It was as if it could not have existed in any other way. It seemed born out of a faultless logic. But it was not a rigorous and compelling logic but something altogether different, something light and joyful, playful almost, as if it were exploring the boundaries of thought.

No, I still can't capture it for you. I speak of thought and logic but it was not like any form of thought at all. When you are at your most creative you don't even feel yourself thinking. It just happens. It takes place without any movement of thought.

And then I realized something else. My whole body had come alive. My heart beat kept changing and there were the most incredible sensations in my chest and stomach. At one moment I realized that my cheeks were wet with tears. Yet, at the same time, I knew I was laughing out loud.

It went on and on. I was filled with an incredible longing, a sensation of deep sadness. Then total peace, followed by the desire to swing my body around, to dance like a madman and sing. Sometimes I was there, observing what was happening to me. At other times I was totally lost; I was no more than a physical body reacting.

The sensations went on for hours. Then, in a sudden waking moment, I knew that I was not experiencing these sensations one by one, moving from laughter to tears. Rather these emotions, these feelings, were all simultaneously present. They were flicking over my body. And there were other sensations? No, what can I call them? Emotions? That's not right either. Those are all words, concepts and categories. There were "things", things for which no name existed, things that could not be recognized or registered. Things for which I had no way of grasping or picturing. My body and mind were engaged in events for which I myself had no capacity to experience. They did not seem to belong to life on earth. They were beyond what consciousness and physicality could ever imagine or intuit.

Then I was suddenly left in the dark. In total silence. Total stillness. I realized that Bruce was disconnecting me. I couldn't speak or move and so they carried me to bed where I remained until the morning sun streamed down on my face and I awoke to the beauty of the sky and hills.

Bruce and the others were sitting round the bed. Carol grinned at me, "Well? Aren't you going to tell us? How was it? What's this virus all about?"

All I could say was, "What day is it? How long did it go on for? What happened? It's like a whole lifetime has passed."

"The usual," Bruce replied, "Thirty seconds. This time I managed to make a complete record. We can play it back in real time any time you want."

"So what is it?" Carol asked, "What code is the virus using?"

Only then, when she asked did the answer strike me. "Music. It's just music. Nothing more than that. A planet singing."

Those feelings, those sensations coursing though my body, that logic, that joy, that lightness. It was pure music. Not music played on a violin or a piano, but music of the human body and mind. It is as if the music was being played by my whole being.

The others were excited and the next step was clear. We had to find a way to express all that music in a more conventional way, as sound itself. And so over the next few days Therese, Emma, Ansuman, Steve and a host of other musicians flew in to brainstorm.

For the first week their attempts were frustrated. Bruce had digitized the last transmission but there seemed no obvious way to transform the data into music. Part of the problem was that, as before, there was simply too much data. Neither did it download in any obvious sequence.

In the end Therese came up with the solution. If a human being could experience the music as sensation, then why not use the body a sort of living transistor. Feed the virus data into the body and then monitor all the body's output. This output could then be used by Bruce to synthesize the music.

Bruce fitted up a series of monitoring stations and converted his "Little Blue Box" to transform body output into sound. Five of the composers volunteered to become human vehicles for the next transmission and Bruce connected the whole thing into a batch of high-speed recorders.

That's how we first heard the Music of the Aliens, or A-music, as it became known. I suppose we should have realized that you couldn't keep a secret for long. A group of hackers from Germany got hold of the sound files and the next thing we knew A-music was being sampled and even used in music videos.

The music itself? To me it was something of a disappointment. It seemed so very different from what I'd experienced in my body. There was nothing there to grasp hold of, nothing to hang onto, no melody, no recognizable harmonic progression, and if there were rhythms then they were changing too rapidly to be recognized as such. To be totally truthful, there were even times when I wondered if it was music at all. Could I have been mistaken? Was it nothing more than random noise with a few repetitions generated by limit cycles in the SuperNet? Was it a purely natural phenomenon produced by a superconducting network? Had I been projecting my own desires onto the code all this time? Had I perpetrated an act of deep self-deception on the world?

And the world itself? They called it the time of The Great Lull. The virus stopped appearing, or at least there was a lull of more than a year in its activity. Maybe the Aliens had all gone to bed, Bruce joked. Things slowly moved back to normal. Governments functioned again - more or less. The soap operas continued as if nothing had happened.

But when the extent of economic breakdown and famine in the Third World became apparent everyone realized just how precarious were our global economic systems and multinational corporations. It was something chaos scientists had been warning for decades - a complex non-linear system is at some point going to enter into chaos. Now the world and its leaders seemed ready to listen. But not for long. There were a couple of civil wars, an outbreak of disease in South East Asia, a revolution in Africa, a mass suicide in Canada, a major oil spill in the Atlantic.

As I say, we were back to normal. But there was one change and that was amongst the young. They began to change the way they dressed. Everyone had short hair. Dolphin diving became the latest craze - a rock concert under the sea with a vast subaquatic sound systems and teenagers swimming around with the dolphins. It was the time of A-music, Virus House and concerts that went on for weeks.

A-music was everywhere and the police were totally confused. They had their informants but the informants brought them nothing - no drugs, no violence, no thieving, no radical movements. Just a lot of kids dancing and singing together. This really worried a number of governments. A meeting of Heads of State was called and there was a proposal to ban A-music and put a curfew on large assemblies. One enterprising politician even hired agitators dressed as police to make a baton charge in an attempt to provoke retaliation but when the agitators got into the arena they simply joined in with the singing.

And what about us? The Academy more or less broke up. It was like the after effects of a vast party. We were disoriented and disappointed. All that focussed effort, all that brain power and what was left? The world in a mess as before with nothing more than a generation of dancing teenagers to show for it.

There it almost ended, except for James and a handful of others. James is my grandson. He was five at the time when he began to write music. He'd always loved dancing to the CD player and to the music in the square at night. He was also the sort of child who loved to watch us all at the Academy. Just sitting quiet and wide eyed in the corner and then, when we weren't noticing, going over to one of the computers and playing with the keyboard and mouse.

One morning Bruce called me over and pointed to the screen. Somehow James had accessed COMPOSERPRO and had written music on the screen. After he'd gone to bed I accessed the sound file. It was just like an average piece of A-music, but quite a feat for young child. I mentioned it to Emma, a musicologist friend of mine who was over for a conference in Siena. "He's trying to make Alien Music." I joked " Kids hear it everywhere these days. I guess we were all to blame for that."

"I know, " Emma said, "I just got back from South America where some young children have started writing music. Do you mind if I take a closer look?"

She spent some time at the computer then printed out the score. "I'd like to take this with me to the meeting tomorrow. That's if you don't mind, of course. I'd like to compare notes"

"You'll have to ask James," I joked, "After all its his composition."

Two days later she was back with three colleagues; a composer from Japan and his four year old son, an anthropologist from Lapland with a tape recorder, and an Australian acoustic engineer.

"David" Emma said, " Bruce is still around and we're going to need his help. I've got four compositions here. We need to digitize each of the pieces, and then play they together with exact synchronization. What you're going to hear will surprise you."

Emma first played each of the pieces in turn. They seemed much of a muchness. Nothing particular about them. Just your average A-music and nothing more.

"The first clue was that each of the children indicated a very precise metronome marking, right down to the millisecond. A metronome marking on a child's composition is strange enough but one so exact is totally bizarre. I also noticed that while they have different time signatures they all ran more or less the same length. Now Bruce assures me this is more than mere coincidence, if you use the metronome markings they've indicated each piece runs for exactly the same duration, right down to within one thousandth of a second. What does that tell you?"

I shook my head. "Sorry, you've lost me. I'm not sure what you're getting at."

"Let's ask Bruce." Emma told Bruce to play the pieces in exact synchronization and loop them continuously. Bruce pressed a few buttons and put the headphones on his head. His expression suddenly changed.

"David, you'd better listen to this" he said as he passed over the headphones.

What I was hearing was definitely not the combination of the four pieces I'd heard before. It was not like four people playing in unison, neither was it a round like Three Blind Mice. What was coming out of the headphones was something totally new and original. It was something close to my original experience when I'd first been hooked to the Alien code.

I ripped off the headphones, "Bruce, what did you do? What's happening?"

Emma stepped in to explain. "It's an effect we've know about for years. Do you remember when there were portable transistor radios? Did you ever ask how you can hear the bass on a portable radio when such a tiny speaker is incapable of putting out low notes? It turns out that the brain does this for you. Every note on a violin, piano or human voice consists of the fundamental - the basic note if you like - and then a lot of overtones or harmonics. On a tiny speaker you only get the overtones, but the brain fills in by supplying the bass notes."

Bruce nodded, " I remember back in the twentieth century someone did an experiment where you take only the overtones and split them up into a right and left channel. You listen to one side and you hear a random sequence of notes, no tune at all. Listen to the other and it's still random. But put on a pair of headphones and hear both channels at once and the overtones combine in your brain. You hear all the missing fundamentals and the jumble of notes suddenly turns into a recognizable melody.

I shook my head in disbelief. "Are you trying to tell me what's happening here?"

Emma looked across at her colleagues. The Austrian acoustic engineer was emphatic. "There is no double about it. Individually each piece contains a series of overtones. Play them simultaneously and they generate fundamentals in the brain. These are not four separate compositions but, let me say, a decomposition of one single piece. Of this I am sure. I am willing to stake my whole reputation on this. There can be no other explanation."

The others nodded in agreement. "We already discussed this in a closed session." The Japanese composer added. "We're all in agreement. Now we must return to respective countries, consult our colleagues and publish a joint paper. Nothing else like this exists in the history of music. It is an amazing discovery."

The man from Lapland pushed a button on his tape recorder. "This is a recording of some Lap children. We believe the same thing is happening there. In fact it's started to occur all over the world."

The magnitude of what they were saying only now began to strike me. "What you are claiming is that this is a single composition written by four separate hands. Are you trying to tell me that these are not four separate children."

I looked over at James who seemed to be following the conversation. "Are you all saying that this is the work of a single mind? Are you trying to tell me that four children in different parts of the world were acting as a single intelligence?"

For a time no one spoke. Then Bruce grinned at me. "You suspected something of the sort all along, didn't you, David?.All that stuff about single wave functions and planets thinking. It was at the back of your mind from square one, wasn't it."

"O.K., maybe. But how did it happen?"

I glanced at Emma for an explanation. "I think A-music is a teaching machine. Do you remember a man called Marvin Minsky back in the 1980s? He was one of the fathers of the Artificial Intelligence project. He always maintained that we sang to our children because it modified their brains and helped to entrain their emotions. For Minsky, music was a way of coordinating thought and emotion. Well, we all believe that the same thing has happened here but on a much vaster scale. Young people all over the world have been listing to A music and it had an effect on their brains."

"Yes, " the Austrian joined in. "We know the brain is flexible. It is constantly changing its connections. But this is a whole magnitude more complex. It means that brains have started to become collective, to couple together, to think as one."

"Well," burst in Emma, "It's like Minsky's original idea of a Society of Minds. There isn't one directing intelligence but a whole series of minds working partly independently and partly in concert. And I think thjat's going to happen more and more. The A-music was a trigger. That's why this thing is dynamite. That's why we have to be sure before we publish."

Bruce stood up from his Blue Box and walked over to face us. "Sorry, but it's already too late for that. The cat is out of the bag. It's out on the Net already. I'm your mole, I always have been. I believe that science should not be for a few academics to judge what the world should know. Right from the start I've been making file transfers to my hacker friends. While you've all been talking that music's gone round the world. Nothing can stop it now."

I suppose in the end I agreed with Bruce. None of us really understood what was going on. None of us had the right to judge. Anyway at that point James chipped in "Our music. It's my music. Our music."

From that day things developed with exponential speed. Emma was right. The music Bruce had sent across the world acted as a catalyst. More and more preteens began to compose. The singing clubs really took off. And, as the new music spread, teenagers began to compose as well. Even people in their twenties.

I'm not sure where the upper limit lies. I thought that twenty-five to thirty would be the cut off point, the brain seems to have become inflexible by then. After all, mathematicians always said that if you don't make a major discovery by the age of twenty-five then you will do nothing. But now there are people in their mid thirties who hang around the singing clubs. Maybe they're just fooling themselves. I don't know. One this is certain. It's passed me by. I'm the last generation.

And that's that. You know the rest of the story. First thousands, then tens of thousands, then millions of young people singing together. An entire planet covered by music. The SuperNet had become a vehicle for music and the young ones now claim that they are sending their songs into a space. "A universe connected by music". Yes, I've noticed that on your T-shirts.

And, yes, you're right. The world has changed. Governments and corporations tried to hang on for a little. They tried to keep control. But how could they continue in the face of such collective brainpower? It was as if the entire earth had developed a collective will. If you want to wrap it up in a cliche then a significant part of the world's population had decided to work together in total harmony.

In the end there was no pitched battle. The old just gave up. We relinquished our power to you. We were faced with the inevitable. The planet simply began to run itself. The inner cities were safe places in which to walk at night. Homeless people found themselves given beds. Civil wars petered out - no one turned up to fight any more. Without any fuss or major announcement young scientists in Germany began to manufacture cold fusion cells. The world now had an abundant source of energy. Food was uniformly distributed. There seemed nothing left or fight or quarrel about.

But you know all this. This is your generation. This is your world. So why am I telling you? The rest of us, the old ones, the last generation, we're too inflexible. Our brains are locked. We can't change. We just sit and watch your New World evolve and wonder if it can last.

And so you're recording my words. But why? None of you really think you have anything to learn from the past. You're all stepping into the future, collectively.

The human mind has taken the next evolutionary step. But I can't help wondering about the shadow side to it all. I mean you're all so, how can I put it, so un-curious. Aren't you? You don't ever seem to ask any questions. Maybe that constant questioning is something of a disorder, a defect of the old brain. I just don't know. It worries me, that's all. It makes me uneasy. All that acceptance. All that harmony. No more questions, no curiosity. Just the music and the constant singing.

You don't even ask about the Aliens, do you? You think you've got it cracked.

Right? There were aliens. OK? They live on another planet far, far away. Their planet somehow became correlated with our SuperNet. Right? First we thought it was a virus. But then it turned out to be music. And the Alien's music began to transform the human brain. Then the brain developed new facilities. It allowed you to work collectively. All in harmony.

That's the bill of goods you bought. If I'm a little bitter it is because I sold it to you all in the first place. I even believed it myself at the time. But none of you ever question it. None of you ever stop to ask. "Who are these aliens?" "Where are these aliens?"

No? Well, let me tell you. They're right here. I'm talking to one now. You. You are the Alien. All of you. All of us. We produced the virus. We generated the music. We helped transform human consciousness.

Did all those coincidences ever strike you as too good to be true? That desire for transformation that came after the millenium. A whole planet crying out for change. And then someone comes along with a living superconductor that will link the planet together. It was a group act of wish fulfillment. What the Jungians would have called, "the Collective Unconscious". Something buried deep within our minds produced the music that infiltrated the SuperNet. It was a power released from within ourselves. With our desperate need for change we became the aliens. The music has always been ours.

Well? What do you think of that? Is that going to stop you in your tracks? Is that going to make you ask some questions now? Are you going to accept that the responsibility for this planet is yours and yours alone? There are no altruistic little green men up in the sky who are sending you music and saving Planet Earth.

Had enough, have you? Don't like what I said? I see you're packing up your equipment.

Well, then. Off our go. Leave me here with my friends. Leave me with the last generation.

And so, my friends, he's gone. And was that the answer? What I just said to him? The human mind as the ultimate alien? Reality isn't that simple? That was just the Jungian gloss on the story. The "exterior manifestation of the Collective Unconscious". You all know the jargon; "the gods are within us". Too much like a primer for therapists to be true. Too pat an explanation.

Look. All I know for sure is that something happened. The human mind changed. Maybe for the better. I just don't know. Quite a coincidence that the Mayans predicted a New World in the year 2012, by the way. The Indigenous people spoke of The Great Cleansing. A time when earth would renew itself. Was it that simple? A planet that had been ravished and polluted until it shouted, "Stop! That's enough! No more." Was Planet Earth the alien?

No, that's just another explanation. The Gaia gloss on history.

It's all too simple isn't it? The real mystery is the music itself. It's a mystery we've touched throughout the history of the human race. And even before; a bone flute found in an Neanderthal cave. Where does the music come from? It was a gift to Back and Mozart. They were vehicles. They accepted what flowed though them. This time it flowed though the whole human race and transformed it. It remains the ultimate mystery.

The ancients believed that the cosmos was created out of sound, that music sustains the fabric of our universe. All of creation is a song. I think we have to end with that. It is something that transcends every concept - Aliens, The Collective Unconscious, Gaia. Music is vaster than all of that. It is the entire universe constantly singing itself into existence.

And so our race has been given a gift. For a few hours it heard the music of the spheres. The rest remains a mystery. Every explanation is equally possible…and equally flawed. And so I sit here and watch and wait. What will the human race do with all this? It's our second chance. It is our last chance.

Now I will play cards with my friends. Around ten I'll go home. I'll switch on my CD player. What will it be tonight? The B Minor Mass. The Art of Fugue? The Goldberg Variations? The Cello Suites. And then, for a time, I'll loose myself. I'll become a different being.

The weather here is warm and kind. The food is good. I have my friends and my music. I watch little James dancing by himself in the square at night. What more do I want?

Why do I go on asking questions?

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