Once a lemming went online to get a life. In reality, it was somebody else’s life. Or to be more precise, it was somebody else’s life that millions of other lemmings were accessing at the same moment. From two dozen Webcams, a constant stream of real-time experiences was fed to a waiting world. Brushing teeth, washing the laundry or dishes, watering plants, putting together a midnight snack, flushing the toilet—these and many other activities could be downloaded into one’s own life in nanoseconds. “It was so awesome,” the millions of lemmings agreed when they met in chat rooms to discuss what they’d all tele-experienced. There they might happily spend hours exchanging opinions about the life they now shared in intimate detail. It gave them an exciting sense of community, more so even than they enjoyed when moving together through crowded streets, each squeaking loudly into its own cell phone while tuning in on the fascinating things being squeaked at high pitch into cell phones all around. Yes, this was definitely better, a fully wired escape from the loneliness of a lemming’s life. Living somebody else’s life and living it as every other lemming lived it while never having to leave the comfort of your own home gave a real sense of what possibilities were out there. You could explore whole new dimensions of yourself without having to risk losing anything personally or suffering any setbacks. You could be a cyber-psyche at the center of everything, totally connected, and yet remain totally anonymous, totally not there, totally still you. And such connectivity was all as easy as point and click. Together the lemmings exercised to fitness tapes in their pajamas, checked out the latest collectibles boom, listened to an intelligent fridge announce the milk was low without needing to open the door and see for themselves, watched others watching others on TV, followed the same sports headlines crawling beneath the same news personalities trading the same small talk with the same idol heartthrob. Then, just when the lemming had become thoroughly comfortable with living online, that life took an unexpected turn. Looking into its monitor one day, the lemming saw something it was at a complete loss to explain. The two dozen Web scenes that for weeks it had called home had disappeared. In their place was a void, as if all the cameras were now pointed out the nearest window and into the featureless distance. For the screen was filled with nothing, top to bottom and left to right, but what looked like the wide blue sea. Blue, blue, blue everywhere, a blue screen of . . .
Copyright © 2003-2004, revised 2008, by Geoffrey Grosshans