By Joseph Pravda
Long before “cyberspace” became argot (owing to a certain expatriate author known as Gibson minting it), simulation was the hyper-spatial home of Daniel F. Galouye’s “identity units.” Fittingly, his tomes are not to be found on the bookshelves just before Mr. Gibson’s growing oeuvre in a “place” we know as three (at most, four) dimensional analog “real life.”
Arthur Clarke, perhaps without intending it, crystallized the issue: “Sometimes I think we’re alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the idea is quite staggering.”
Staggeringly staggering is the proposition that analog creatures can digitize themselves, leading to the greatest imponderable: what sort of entity allowed this to take “place”—and just how, then, to define that rearview mirror image of “real”.
Galouye (pronounced ‘guh-lew-eh’) undertook to become the Samuel Johnson of this new lexicon in “Simulacrum 3” (a runner-up to “Stranger in a Strange Land” from Robert A. Heinlein for the Hugo Award), first depicted by wunderkind German filmmaker J.W. Fassbinder for the, then, still new medium of television (aptly, in Germany, a still new half-nation, perhaps searching to, via mass communicative media, reunite itself electronically, as it were).
In April of 2010, this production, as “World on a Wire”, saw its 35mm world premiere at New York’s MOMA, and shown as recently as January 19, 2011, to reviews retrospectively remarking on its prescience, only casually recalling the tale’s authorship, not unlike praising Francis Bacon’s editorial/authorial genius portraying another long-forgotten author’s work, newly available as “The King James Version.” [From MOMA’s website, Film Screenings page, as it’s now part of their permanent collection: “‘MoMA’s Department of Film recently participated in a restoration of the film, and we presented the luminous new 35mm theatrical print in a weeklong engagement earlier this year. Working from the original 16mm negative and a digital transfer, Juliane Lorenz, director of the RWF Foundation, and Michael Ballhaus, the film’s original cameraman, supervised the making of the new print. The restored film had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2010, and is now part of the Museum’s collection.'”]
At that century’s last gasp, another German director, Josef Rusnak, deployed a much less derivative version via digital projection in the cyber-melodrama “The Thirteenth Floor,” whose release, much to its demise, coincided with “The Matrix,” an unrelated yet truer synchronous revelation of the questioning of reality per se.
As timely inheritor of Tesla-ized modernity’s newest capabilities, he saw the literal manifestation of the ‘truth as stranger than fiction’ aphorism as truism. In the same way that Gibson, conveniently alive, describes science fiction as “a narrative strategy” for reflecting upon the “incomprehensible now” in his interviews, Galoyue saw as yet nonexistent digital recreation as but a potentially infinite layering of meta-realities, the Russian doll nesting of one within another.
The American chronicler of the seemingly paranormal, Charles Fort remarked: “A social growth cannot find the use of steam engines until comes steam engine time.”
At the very incipient front edge of digital engine time was D.F. Galouye, finding uses only hinted at then— today, no less scientific luminaries than British Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and JPL’s Rich Terrell (behind such epoch-making scientific probing as Voyager) concur that it is highly plausible that you, reading this, and I are “living” within an ancestor simulation.
As you step away from your electronic quantum device du jour—perhaps to reboot your own central processor’s neural net—scan your surroundings, aware that, as those brave cosmonauts and astronauts have attested, I.e., there are no directions in “space”—ponder this: are “birth” and “death” carbon-based palliatives for the more accurate binary notions of “online” and “reboot”?
Cue the Swedish band from Rusnak’s “The Thirteenth Floor” soundtrack, The Cardigans’ “Erase & Rewind”… ‘Cause I’m changing my mind.’
“Game Over,” do you want to play again?