When I read Colin Wilson's The Mind Parasites, I had my first "sci-fi episode." Somewhere camped out on the Pecos River in New Mexico, my mind was hacked, and I completely lost time. Were petroglyph spirits decoding my brain? Or was my brain already encoded? I didn't ask myself this, until now.
Colin Wilson's characters were acutely aware their brain was a hostage, and put up the free will fight of their life to escape. This option isn't available to the lead character in Ayoub Qanir's Artificio Conceal, a psychological thriller short about a man who's memories are "borrowed" to commit a crime, while he's completely clueless it's even happening.
Qanir's character can't recall where his head went without him. He's in a perfect state of "conditional amnesia", after a "tracer" slips in-and-out of his brain and re-programs his memories. Qanir wants us to buy in, but isn't this a stretch? Now I'm not so sure.
Research by scientists in 2013 at Emory University School of Medicine are validating that we start out equipped with memories inherited biologically and encoded in our DNA. Our memories may have actually evolved against our will. If so, Qanir's character could have an alibi.
A stretch like this is what makes a good filmmaker believable, rather than phantasmagorical. This applies to science and physics as well. We're ok with source code encryption and genetic, statistical, and heliographic encoding. That's all "science", which includes the venerated Uncertainty Principle: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
In Artificio Conceal, the memory hacked victim is shown a photo that's embedded with a glyph. This has multiple definitions; a hieroglyphic or Mayan symbol, a detail in a Greek frieze, a monetary exchange, a quick response (QR) matrix barcode tattooed on our body, or a petroglyph.
QR barcodes are the new trend in body tattooing. Rather than telling us how much it costs, they tell others who we are. QR's can transmit data from any source to any other source. Animation can be part of this too, if you know how to decipher standard code.
So many ways to hack a memory... so little time...
Qanir's use of the term glyph to describe his character's involuntary memory download accrues Turing-style significance if we know more about the filmmaker. Half of Qanir's heritage is from a Saracenic culture that uses pictographs or glyphs, to communicate holistic ideas in language. One symbolic pictograph can carry an entire multi-dimensional reality. The twenty-six letters of an alphabet however, leave volumes of words to decipher, and forces us to do the heavy lifting to invent what we think it means.
In Artificio Conceal, Qanir may slip us another harsh reality-check while we're not paying attention. He can only do this if he's aware of his own journey, and reminds us we're compelled to own our mind. Qanir's character is the inattentive in all of us. We may not however, continue to own ourselves, until we exclude the term "artificial" from reality.
We're convinced artificial anything is better than the real thing, however in my opinion, artificial doesn't exist. Unless of course, we want it to, by investing plenty of time creating artificial worlds to soothe our discomfort with reality. We immerse ourselves in our data devices, while we complain about artificial food and anything we deem processed, or even fabricated.
The punchline in this film's script is the concept of time. When the memory of Qanir's character is hijacked, he's forced to launch residual memory from his perpetrator, in order to remember who he truly is. Dr. Green is his "real identity," a lead developer of the most accurate time-keeping device ever built. His machine will help synchronize our world to the quantum precision.
Well, this is interesting. If we're a fan of Erwin Schrodinger, we just can't wait for Time and Mass to get officially married, so we can dump the Uncertainty Principle and adopt a cat we can count on.
In my Huffington Post piece The End of Time (2010), David Eagleman was featured. His classic experiment at Baylor College of Medicine's Laboratory for Perception and Action tossed his test subjects into a free-fall with a chronometer, and were told to report how long it took them to fall into the safety net. They all interpreted time differently, even though they held that chronometer in a vice grip to eyeball every second.
Though recently, Eagleman's got some help. Craig Hogan, at Fermilab in Illinois, wants to accurately measure Planck units once and for all, and convince us we're just a hologram. Hogan's inventing two of the world's most accurate clocks that can synchronize time, similar to a laser that interferes with the image of a real object, and records two photos -- the real thing, and a decoy.
So, which one is real? Depends on who's doing the viewing, and when, and where. Microsoft's Kinect works this way, and so do astronomers. World famous astrophotographer Adam Block targets an object in deep space, that the Schulman telescope on Mt. Lemmon in Arizona pulls into view. His software synchronizes measurements of time from two different locations, to determine where the object really is.
With all these guys working overtime, Qanir will easily implant us with the inconvenient truth in Artificio Conceal. Then we'll know for sure Doc Brown was on to something, and we'll be Back to the Future, forever.
Because Qanir's paying attention, he delivers a mind-hacking episode that challenges us to own our personal reality. Like Colin Wilson's victims, we do battle with massive amounts of technology that pokes holes in our brains on a daily basis, leaving us with a Swiss-cheese reality. Qanir will force us to walk away from this thriller duly warned however. Our brains can be bought, borrowed, or hacked at any time, and for any reason.
Artificio Conceal is an example of the price of inattention, and will chastise us for not reading the fine print. This is not your typical sci-fi thriller entertainment fest, but a serious reminder that you've got a lot of on-board equipment you're laying to waste.