Kofi shuffles forward. ‘你好吗?’ asks the mango seller. Kofi’s earbuds translate it instantly. “I’m fine, thank you,” he replies. He gives the seller a few coins. Five Bolga, the local currency of Bolgatanga, a small town in northern Ghana. Kofi cuts a few notches in the mango with a Swiss army knife. He pops the pit out. He scoops out the flesh with a spoon. Deliciously juicy and sweet.
He sees Angela walking around the corner. Kofi feels her mood immediately.
He still has to get used to the Feels, his smart earplugs. Even more than fire, the printing press, the steam engine, or the internet, Feels has radically changed life on earth.Professor Obiku of the Xi University of Kinshasa, together with Huawei, launched the first version five years ago. The instant translation function is nice, but the other functionalities? Those were really groundbreaking. Professor Obiku had found a way to convey feeling, the so-called Stems.
Kofi regularly visits Obiku’s Stems. In them, you hear the professor talk about her ideals and the reasons why she never sold her invention to the Western capitalist tech behemoths like Amazon, Meta, Alphabet, or the American army. Technicians, scientists, and consortia from all those companies and institutions have analyzed, scanned and disassembled the Feels countless times. Much to their frustration and with no result. No one could crack the mechanism.
Kofi hears her voice: ‘This was what humanity needed. Nor can you discover it with pure rationality, with numbers or algorithms. All I did was materialize my vision.’ Kofi adds the modality of feeling to sound. Phew, that hits hard every time. He feels in his gut and chest what Professor Obiku means. The impact is huge, especially with the Stems of animals such as the hippopotamus or whale, and the Stems of natural areas such as the Amazon and the Great Barrier Reef. It was the first time that Homo sapiens could feel what animals experienced, or what it is like to feel the complexity of an ancient rainforest. It was as if an essential link in the collective consciousness of humanity was being turned.
We stand no longer above nature. We are one with nature. On the deepest level possible.
The transition is not always smooth. In the former First World, capitalism still had its convulsive lashes. There were reports in the media that the Feels would poison your mind or kill you sooner. In some companies, you were fired on the spot if you wore the Feels. It made no sense. The benefits of Feels were too great. Like a virus, people lit each other to use this revolutionary technology. From language translation to sharing your feelings with other people, and especially the feelings of others, whether they are humans, plants, animals, or natural areas. Suddenly everyone could see it: we are no different and everybody is worthy to live their life.
Kofi is startled from his thoughts as Angela hugs him. ‘How was the mango?’ she asks. `Wait,’ says Kofi. ‘I saved the flavor. Here it comes.’
This short story was submitted to our Time Capsule by biohacker and futurist Peter Joosten. Peter Joosten M.Sc. (1984) is a biohacker and futures scenarist. He investigates the impact of human enhancement, human augmentation and transhumanism in his keynotes, on his blog Superhuman Talks and YouTube channel.