Mr. Lee and the Augmented Dream Capsule
For newcomers, welcome! For returning patrons, thank you for your loyalty! As always, I’d like to remind you to please turn off your mind, set your smartphone to ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, and settle in for the next 10 minutes. Enjoy the story!
“Why is the sky blue, dad?”
“Because that’s how the light rays from the sun reflect off the particles in the earth’s atmosphere. Simon, eat your apple please.”
Mr. Lee and his son, Simon, are speeding pass the quaint but well-built houses of suburban Tokyo on the Shinkansen bullet train. They’re bound for the airport after a week long vacation in Okinawa, where Mr. Lee’s close Japanese friend from high school owns and runs a local ramen shop. This will top as one of the happiest days in Mr. Lee’s life. He was recently promoted to official President and CEO of ForeStar, a global sports apparel company, and was awarded among the coveted Global Top 40 Under 40 in Business award for his spectacular transformation of the company, taking it from a loss of 40 million dollars in 2016 to 230 million dollars of profit within a year of assuming the interim CEO position after the previous chief got fired.
The train’s hum is serene, putting Simon to sleep soon after the boy chomped down the apple. The sleepy suburbs and warm sunshine on Mr. Lee’s face add a grin to his normally stern demeanor. He reminisces on how his 6 year old son has grown over the years from a tiny human being the size of his forearm to the now lively, mischievous, but intelligent boy he is.
Another week in Seoul, where we’ll meet Julia, see the extended family. I can’t wait to tell her about our adventures in Okinawa. I wish this vacation never ended… I could get used to this lifestyle!
On that thought, Mr. Lee drifts off into sleep.
August 22, 2043
“It’s Lee again, huh?” says the security guard at the REM Corp facility.
“Yeah, the poor guy comes every Tuesday. It’s like his escape from reality,” the store manager replies, nodding sympathetically.
“What happened with him anyway? Why does he use the capsule every week? I mean, isn’t this kind of frequent use usually allowed only for patients suffering from severe trauma?” the security guard inquires.
“Well, I’m not exactly sure how accurate it is, but this is the story I’ve heard. Lee used to be this big shot CEO 25 years ago. He was literally on Forbes magazine one year. I remember seeing the man’s face, just beaming with inspiration and leadership. I thought to my 17 year old self back then ‘Wow, I wonder how happy he must be, being that successful.’ Well, apparently, a few years after he became CEO of ForeStar, his wife and son was on a plane that crashed in the Rocky Mountains, and he lost both of them. I know, devastating. He resigned shortly after the accident, and nobody knew what became of him. It was only last year, when he signed up at the Augmented Dream Capsule reception office, and I processed his application, did it occur to me that this was the guy on the Forbes cover once upon a time. I was pretty shocked, but I didn’t say much. I couldn’t even recognize him at first – his appearance has changed so much.”
The two chatter on, taking turns sighing and shaking their heads at Mr. Lee’s misfortune. He has become a frequent and regular user of the Augmented Dream Capsule, an enhanced AR technology that combines the effects of hallucinogens such as ketamine and brain wave monitoring devices to capture and reproduce a high-fidelity experience inside of the user’s head, using their long-term memory. The user experience has been likened to dreaming, hence the name. Since the death of his wife and son, Mr. Lee’s life and person has never recovered. He grew dull, impatient, irritable, overweight, and often lethargic. Thanks to his brief but monumental success in his 30s, he has enough savings to live off of for his remaining days.
Every waking moment, every conscious second of your life, there are only 2 time frames that are relevant to you: right now and the future. Your past can be likened to a dream (like the capsule experience in the story). What happens when you wake up from a dream? Sometimes, it’s so vivid that you wake up with tears in your eyes, streaming down your face. The emotions feel just as real as the people and events in the dream. So, you let it sink in slowly, sitting or lying on your bed. You let the notion that it was only just a dream gradually update your consciousness. By the end of 10–20 minutes, you’ve let it go, gotten out of bed, showered, and left the house to go through another day.
How is the past any different from a dream? In many ways, it’s not. Your emotions towards it may be real. The people and events from the past seem real. But they’re not. The people you dream of may still exist, but they cannot be the same people as how you remembered them in your memories. People change and move on, for better or for worse, as does the world and its events. Thus, there’s little meaning in holding onto remnants of the past, like pieces of a dream — they’re both irrelevant to what you can do today or tomorrow.