Our perceptions of reality , observation, and knowledge can be summarized by the famous quote “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
I was thinking about this quote as the plane touched down at La Guardia – a safe landing to my relief. All through the flight, I’d been getting ready for my interview with a start-up – going over my notes that I’d meticulously prepared, rehearsing each line and going over each possible ways the meeting could end in my head. Planning was going to be of utmost importance in deciding the selection of the best candidate, shaping his future for years to come. The selected candidate would probably change their lifestyle, make different purchasing decisions, buy a new house and relocate to New York City. I had to put forth the best effort in that short amount of time spliced between five interviewers. That gave me quite an array of combinations and permutations to anticipate during the flight.
After claiming luggage, a quick hop in the taxi and a check-in at the hotel which followed a seamless transition. I thought I’d start out about an hour early taking into account rush-hour occurring at the same time my interview was scheduled. The wake-up call brought me into the present reality followed by a rush from the morning coffee. My attire completed with business suit, laptop and makeup but failed to attract the attention of the rush-hour taxi drivers. I could not afford to waste a single minute from the carefully orchestrated plans so I decide to take the subway to the interview.
The doors opened to a standing-room-only car so I made my way into a far corner by a lone window seat occupied by a gentleman buried in today’s New York Times. Upon my arrival, he put down the print and looking straight in my directions ejaculated “The weather is so perfect today – New York has never been warmer.”
He was quite a handsome man with the likeness of someone in the financial sector. Donning a blue business suit, Florsheim shoes and perfectly combed hair, I could make out nothing that seemed out of order with his appearance. I even boldly noticed that he did not wear a ring and was in a very eligible age category. The combination of his pale skin and dark hair appealed to my eyes. His personality was interrupted by a lost look in his deep blue eyes which outlined his manner with a hollow, vacant expression that I found hard to read.
I smiled and replied “Yes, I agree”. Without a pause, he continued “The Brooklyn Bridge is closed. The Mets are in the finals.” I provided a reaction with “Wow, I did not know that the Brooklyn Bridge is closed. Thanks for the update! I’ll make sure I don’t miss today’s game if I get the time.” We stopped and our car emptied just as quickly as new boarders filled the empty seats in a rush of frenzy, each indicating an importance in their actions that would define their remaining time. Each passenger buried in thoughts and did not engage in any conversation. Each stop signaled a defining turn for their passage. Strangely, even upon hearing the Brooklyn Bridge closing or the Mets game, no one seemed to take interest in the significance of these events. Yet I resumed my conversation with this traveler who was now the one accompanying me through the next four stops. The others had already abandoned this car at previous halts and I only had three more stations
until my destination arrived.
I quickly grabbed the seat that had emptied across from him and proceeded to ramble about my life without consideration for his feelings. Just as I secured my laptop and my papers, an interjection from him sent a chilling quiver down my spine, “The Brooklyn Bridge is closed. The Mets are in the finals.” I strongly hoped he found another passenger to converse with, but upon raising my head, I was the one he was looking at with vacant eyes and what now appeared to be a confused mind. This time, in a more controlled reflex, I managed a mere “Yes! How True!” and decided to change seats to the opposite corner to permanently avoid this strange passenger.
Another halt, I now had only one more stop and I found the seat available and waiting to be occupied at the corner furthest from this location. As I secured my new position, I tried to make sense and dismiss the information I had been discussing earlier and to focus on the upcoming events that were to unfold before me and never again even recall this person or this car. At last, my destination arrived. As I approached the door, waiting for my exit, I noticed the car was almost empty. The New York Times reader, in plain view, was now staring off into blank space and repeating the same two lines over and over, without changing the pauses, toning of his voice, and stressing the same words in the phrases “The Brooklyn Bridge is closed. The Mets are in the finals. The Brooklyn Bridge is closed. The Mets are in the finals…”
It was a young company, “BrainTek.com” – started by 2 brothers in San Francisco in their garage. It had received 2nd round of funding and had now grown to about 30 people all within their mid 20s and 30s. Silicon Valley had already hailed this product as their “Best Innovation”, and it had taken the chip industry of Northern California into a new direction.
Additional offices were opened along the east coast for R&D , and I was to be a part of the management team , in charge of leading and implementing the Agile/Scrum process to ensure a smoother work flow between integration, quality and engineering teams. It was my personal forte and would give my career the necessary “management ” title I was still lacking from my former employment.
The product I would be managing was still in its alpha stage. I was shown a prototype of their “brain-chip”, a small processor secured within a person’s brain that translates brainwaves and thoughts into decisions that would correspond as if a person invoked that action. For example, when Suzie is driving home from work, her garage door recognizes her, automatically opens, her car understands when she wants to get out and turns itself off…same with appliances in her house , all instantly reading her thoughts and creating a reality that she desires. The prospects of this break-though technology greatly excited me. I truly envisioned a great future with this company and made it my priority to pass these interviews.
After being endlessly grilled about design patterns, process implementation, and Agile principles, I suddenly found myself engaged in a very strange discussion with one of the interviewers about the book ” Principles of Epistemology” with regards to the “Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment”:
“a scenario with a cat in a sealed box, wherein the cat’s life or death was dependent on the state of a subatomic particle. According to Schrödinger, the cat remains both alive and dead (to the universe outside the box) until the box is opened based on whether the observer thought the cat would be alive or not. “
I further explained:
“Every event is a branch point; the cat is both alive and dead, irrespective of whether the box is opened, but the “alive” and “dead” cats are in different branches of the universe, both of which are equally real, but which cannot interact with each other.”
“A truly unobserved event is one which realizes no effect on any other, it therefore can have no legacy in the present or ongoing wider physical universe. It may then be recognized that the unobserved event was absolutely identical to an event which did not occur at all.”
The next interviewers brought out a lighter side. The questions now got fun and brain-teasing:
– “You have a bucket of jelly beans. Some are red, some are blue, and some green. With your eyes closed, pick out 2 of a like color. How many do you have to grab to be sure you have 2 of the same? “
This final question had me thinking out of the box. I knew if I got this one right, my chances of getting hired were strong. And so, I held my breath as the final round came to its conclusion. The team seemed pleased with my responses and my personality, but I left BrainTek with an uncomfortable feeling.
On my way back to the airport, I noticed that my watch had stopped working. For a brief moment, it seemed as if my surroundings came to a stand still. I looked up and saw that the Brooklyn Bridge was closed. The radio in the cab started running a commentary about Mets making it to the finals. My heart started pounding and my instant thought was to stop the cab and get out.
The cab stopped! I grabbed my belongings and turned to pay the cabby but noticed there’s no one driving this cab – it was turning based on my impulses! I turned to look around, and it was still Manhattan but it was completely empty!
“Hello! Is anyone there? Anybody?” My shouts and pleas went unanswered and the empty void just stared back at me for a long time. The realm and my plane of existence shifted and balanced itself according to my impulses.
This was a dimension that co-existed in the same spatial co-ordinates, but was made aware and accessed only by me. All thoughts, actions and sensory experiences in this realm were tapped by my conscience, and the material essences responded as if to acknowledge my presence. The real and the unreal could be defined or destroyed by a mere whim!
Though I could create inanimate objects and mobilize them, I could not materialize “life” or conscience, or connect with any entity that had a conscience! As I made past the empty streets and buildings, I received a signal in my brain, “This is BrainTek. As a final part of your interview, you have to think your way out of this realm- hint – learn how to use the brain-chip implanted in you for the duration of this interview!
Inside your cab is a hard copy of the manual for operating your brain-chip. A soft copy can be made accessible to your mind by thinking about it for 2 continuous minutes.
If you make it out, BrainTek has an offer letter with full benefits waiting for you to sign! If you fail this interview, BrainTek is not responsible for any damages incurred in this reality! And remember, your brain-chip is recording every thought you think from this moment on! Good luck!”
I was not sure whether I would accept this offer, but I knew that this was one interview I had to get out of right away! Upon perusing the manual, I played with a few controls and features that came with the chip. Along with L1, L2 cache and faster memory, the chip provided advanced pattern decoding, enhanced parallel processors, and many built-in Artificial Intelligence “bio-algorithms” that translated human sensory information from digital to electrical impulses sent to the neurons in your brain.
After hours of testing its basic functionality, I decided to create my own reality. So I thought about my own space and time co-ordinates and searched for a “new world” feature for further specifications. It said that you could specify any temporal settings and think about this location while using this feature. This creates a portal that you can enter into where a new time and space are available for further creating a world like a blank canvas.
I soon discovered that this alternate universe was alive and had a mind of its own. In random patches, I would enounter interesting inhabitants in select places at unpredictable times. Events that unfolded here followed a different track as though they were results of the same initial conditions but were a unique phenomena from the “original” universe. I decided to explore what my life here would become.
I locked my mind on Greenwich Village, Central Park, midtown and lower Manhattan. I was able to “create” my self living on the Upper East Side in a penthouse off of Park Avenue. It was newly decorated with a full 360 view of New York City. The nighttime view of the skyline from my bedroom was breathtakingly incredible! Right under the window was a small niche where I would store my keys, jewelry, and tickets to the Mets games.
For more than a month, I further played with the advanced features of the Brain Chip. I was able to create more realms within each reality. The source co-ordinates became the gateway to a new destination just like a “mirror-within-a-mirror”. After cascading through about 5 worlds, I checked out the “back button” feature. The way it worked was that if I became unaware or unconscious of the present realm, the creation would immaterialize except for the source coordinates or the portal. I locked my mind on the portal and simultaneously started strongly “unthinking” for a very long time. It required a very calm, unwavering, steely mind. That worked! I was brought back to the previous world prior to portal creation, at a much earlier instance in time.
After playing with all of the BrainChip features, I made the decision to destroy or come out of my present “creation” altogether. After almost 2 weeks of concentration, I was able to “undo” most of this surreal Manhattan. I now found myself at the source, which was the co-ordinates of BrainTek. After “unthinking”, I became aware of the plane of conscience in the “original” universe. Now I could see everyone and everyone saw me, but just because I momentarily became unaware of this universe didn’t mean that I didn’t exist!
The temporal coordinates brought me back to the end of my interview, just as I was exiting the BrainTek headquarters. Now, the Brooklyn Bridge was very crowded and the Mets were not in the finals after all!
I reached inside my purse and found keys to a penthouse on Park Avenue! Just out of curiosity, I had the taxi drop me off to what looked like a construction zone. My building was here! After getting off the elevator, I found the unit closed off for renovations. The crew informed me that a builder recently purchased the whole building which was in dire need of a face lift, hence the construction crew. Before leaving, one last time, I tried my key and it worked! Once more, I stood in front of that gorgeous view from the bedroom. I noticed that the niche was still there with some tickets to the Mets finals!
I still had enough time to catch my flight. I wanted to get rid of the brain-chip and get away from Brain-Tek. But as I dashed to the nearest taxi, I gave second thoughts to all the options that were now available to me. BrainTek had shown me that anything is possible even if it’s in another universe. Needless to say, this was one interview I was glad was finally over!