Arasmus

Groupthink

Posted in Literary, Short Story by Arasmus on November 25, 2008


Something big is now gone. Each second feels amazingly new. I think. Is it just a matter of time before the Narrative returns? Where are we all going to go? What is this town? Former train-passengers now mill around the entrance to the station, neither leaving nor arriving. I smell coffee and wonder why the seller made it. I see a man with wooden tennis rackets in one of those square wooden vice braces with the wing nuts that you use to prevent the wood from bending. Is this Trieste or Sitges? It feels like it could be both, either, neither.  I look up around the station for signs but there are none. I try and tune into the words being spoken around me but I can’t detect the language. Everyone is understandable to me even though I know they are not speaking in English. They are all asking themselves the same question. Four or five people in addition to me have spotted the man with the tennis rackets and we are all speculating as to what he was planning to do. Someone recognizes the colors on his sweater as those of Oxford University. Another wonders why anyone has wooden tennis rackets anymore. Someone else thinks he might by Bjorn Borg. Two people think its funny to arrive at a place of not-knowing ready to play tennis. I feel on my face that I too am smiling. I fall back on the comfort of old habits and decide a coffee will help. The vendor rises to meet my eye as I walk towards him and he pours me a cup that reaches my hand in perfect timing as I arrive beside him. I feel the coffee is comforting. A large number of people turn, look at me and walk past me to the vendor. I head for the space opening up behind them. I can feel the observations of everyone about every detail of our location though no one seems to know where we are. The crowd moves across the tiled floor like a flock of starlings. I think about emergence. A tall, elderly man, with white hair smiles at me. I feel he is from Zurich, a professor, physics, quantum. He needs coffee. It is funny to see everyone drinking coffee at the same time. Are people talking? I don’t see mouths moving but I feel chatter, constantly. Where am I going to sleep tonight? Everyone looks at me. The crowd moves towards the exit. This is annoying. We are all sharing the same thoughts. Can I have a private thought anymore? Let me try and remember something. I remember drinking fresh water from a mountain stream and biting on a pine needle and how bitter that was. No one is reacting. Was that a private thought? It had no information in it. That memory is worthless to them – why should they react to that? Let me give them something they want. Oh look, there is a sign over there, its Milan, we are in Milan and there is a bus that says city center. I crane my neck forward looking to what must be West, given the position of the sun. The crowd moves in a rush. Someone drops a coffee cup as they run to catch up. Another steps on it. Okay so they heard that. The crowd turns and heads back towards me. They give me the look of death. Two people intentionally walk into me. Hmmn okay, I guess that’s what Google would call page-ranking. I begin to wonder if I issue a series of these false-thought messages, will the community’s ranking of me drop sufficiently that I will be then capable of having a free-thought since no one will pay any attention to what I say? (Did I read somewhere that Google does not even rank a majority of the internet?) In effect yes, but the thought will not be private, just not treated as credible – it will still be public. Damn. The Lear’s Fool strategy doesn’t quite work and I have already dropped some credibility points on that experiment.

This would be a good place for a new paragraph.  If the discovery of any opportunity is immediately communicated to everyone then either we find an opportunity that benefits everyone or communication will crowd out everything less than that. But. Communication is not the same as reaction. If I leave the crowd and discover a way out of here, with sufficient distance between me and the crowd they will be unable to take the opportunity before me. They know what you are trying to do – they will follow you. Only if I am credible and apparently I have just dropped a few points on that front so perhaps I can slip away. Perhaps it would work. More coffee. Four people beside me all put their cups out for more coffee. This is nonsense. The vendor in a single moment fills each one. If I am going to harvest the advantage of lost credibility then others are going to do the same. This room is going to rapidly fill with pointless gibberish. You’re such a pessimist. Okay, wait. There will be those that believe in open-source thought and those that do not. Those that open-source will lose every opportunity because they can’t extract a value for their contribution, in fact they themselves won’t be able to utilize the advantage they have discovered. At least those that wipe themselves out with a credibility-bomb have a better chance of finding a place to stay for the night. I think about a nice spacious hotel room, with fresh crisp clean sheets, an elegant relaxing interior, large bath tub, powerful shower and fragrant lavender scent throughout. The crowd sighs. And its upstairs for just a hundred bucks a night. A small group of people look disapprovingly at me. A few head to the stairs. One spectacled executive comes right up to me and asks if I am some kind of nut. I tell him I am a macadamia. I walk around the edge of the train station towards the exit. I notice a beautiful woman as I exit. She looks at me with a very matter of fact look. I smile until I realize she can read my mind. Awkward. I take the main road away from the station. In my experience these invariably lead to a city-center. Twenty people who still believe in me follow me down the streets. They are mainly young people, some techy-looking guys, a Goth, an up-tight looking couple and a girl in a Laura Ashley dress.  Behind them an old woman with one of those two-wheel shopping trollies hobbles along. I feel like I should go back and help her, but if I do then where will we go?  Jesus, what a following. Oh, sorry . . . I mean, oh whatever.

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