The Great Overlord is Watching Us in Second Life

Insilico East (moderate)

It started with a tweet. A number of us got a new follower yesterday and, being polite, we followed back. In response we received an image of the Second Life logo and a message which read, in part, “The power of subliminal programming mind control keeps people addicted and coming back for more”.

It makes you think of Orwell’s 1984 and at first I dismissed it. Then memories started to return that I realized had been lost for decades, and I understood that the tweet was intended as a serious warning, one concerning the Great Overlord.

The Twitter account sending us this seemingly delusional missive is named “God The Universe”. Obviously not true. But the substance of the warning must be taken seriously. Your invisible friend may be a comforting illusion, but I know for a fact that The Great Overlord is real – I’ve encountered him.

With my old memories resurfacing it wasn’t difficult to detect his presence this morning. I kept trying to use various decaying & dystopian locations as the backdrop for this post. Every one of them caused me to crash within seconds. It wasn’t until I chose a more shiny, attractive, albeit dark, futuristic backdrop that I was permitted to remain inworld. Coincidence? I think not. TGO wants us to see the future in a positive fashion.

It’s still very difficult for me to tell the following story, but in the interests of your safety (and that of our world) I will attempt to revisit that period in my life when my innocence was shattered once and for all. Consider it a cautionary tale, one which should lead you to protect yourselves from the insidious influence of the One Who Controls Us (that’s the title on his business card).

Insilico East (moderate)

It was a summer job – that’s all, a way to earn some money before doing post-graduate work at university. Naively I walked into the building of the American Can Company on my first day, outfitted in overalls and steel-toed boots, unaware that I was about to descend into a preview of our future. There should have been a sign above the door reading “Welcome to Hell”.

I got my punch-card and clocked in. A stern, haggard-faced individual, who looked ancient, led me to the warehouse floor. It is impossible to overstate the nightmare I then entered.

This wasn’t a room, it was a world over 60,000 sq ft in size. The ceiling was so high it became the sky. And there was noise – unrelenting, unbearable, noise. I had entered the location for palletizing tin cans.

Try to imagine that the sky above you is concrete and suspended below it are miles of narrow metal tracks loosely holding rollers. Travelling along those rollers, from every direction and in constant motion, are empty tin cans; big ones, little ones, fat and thin. As they progress they bounce off each other and the tracks – and they click. All of them. Repeatedly. Endlessly. Thousands and thousands of them clicking over and over and over again. We were handed ear plugs, but that didn’t help. The clicking filled your ears and your mind and your soul.

On the floor of this world sat the destination for this moving cacaphony; enormous machines called by their servants after the name of the company which made them – Busses (buss-eee-s). The cans followed their tracks and funneled into a Busse set up for their size. This is where the poor worker was forced to layer/sweep/palletize these pieces of metal, which continued to click until you could complete a pallet and wrap it in sound-proof plastic.

Insilico East (moderate)

The Busse Brothers now make fully automated palletizers, but I found this video which shows the type of monster to which I was chained that summer. Luckily for you, they didn’t include the sound. If you have a spare 2.5 minutes, give it a look. It will help you understand what follows.

As the operator I would climb a set of metal stairs up to the second storey of the machine. There, as the tin cans funnelled in one end, I would use a sweep bar to move a layer of them onto a pallet. Then I would place a thin piece of cardboard on top, and add another layer. This continued until the pallet had the requisite number of cans. Once full, I’d lower the pallet down to the floor level and move it forward on yet another track with rollers.

Then, I’d quickly lift a new pallet and begin the procedure again. This became more complicated, though, because my job was to also wrap that full pallet. So I’d have to run up and down the stairs wrapping straps and plastic around the full one, but still sweeping and layering fast enough to keep up with the influx of cans.

If the operator was too slow, those clicking cans would gradually stop moving on those narrow tracks – stop long enough and they would back up all the way through the concrete sky. I didn’t know what the consequences would be, but I was certain I didn’t want to find out.

My fate was sealed on the day I was assigned to Busse 7. This was the beast which dealt with baby juice cans. Tiny little cylinders of tin evil. No other pallets held the volume of individual cans that these did. We’re talking thousands of them.

Insilico East (moderate)

It began well. I successfully swept, clambered, wrapped, and finished 3 pallets of them. Disaster struck on my fourth. It wasn’t my fault, mind you, however this is not something which TGO actually takes into account.

I lowered the completed pallet as usual but, instead of settling on the rollers as expected, it tipped forward. The next empty pallet at the back of the machine was sticking a few inches into an area it shouldn’t have been. My full collection of midget, metallic, juice storage units fell over.

They had obviously been waiting for this opportunity to escape because they rolled as fast as they could in every direction.  They rolled under my Busse, under nearby forklifts, through corridors designed to separate wrapping plastic and supplies, out the big doors which opened onto a convenient railway track, down the hall to the cafeteria, and under the feet of a supervisor who witnessed the entire debacle. Oh yes, and they made a LOT of NOISE doing it.

There was very little I could do. I couldn’t get a new pallet up into the machine until I cleared the two now illegally cohabiting the space. I couldn’t move them until I’d pulled bent and twisted tin from out of the rollers. The only thing left to me at that moment was to watch as the little devils still trying to make their way down the tracks to my machine stopped moving.

I watched as they backed up past the other machines, up to the sky level, then slowly and inevitably through the tiny hole in the concrete high above our heads.

Insilico East (moderate)

Then it happened. A voice spoke – a voice that came from everywhere and nowhere, a voice which was clear and powerful and heard over the cacaphony of hundreds of thousands of clicking tin cans still making their way to other palletizers, over the noise of my miserable little cans of doom still merrily spreading havoc on the floor, over the earplugs we all wore, and over the sound of my heart beating in panic.

The voice was calm in its infinite power, and brief. It said, “Backup on Busse 7”.

I don’t remember much of the re-education process. I do know that I came away understanding how much The Great Overlord loves me, and how he just wants me to be a fully contributing member of his society.

There are still nights when I dream about concrete skies and the sound of clicking can cause panic attacks.  It gets easier every year though.

I seek out beauty and forgetfulness in Second Life. For the most part this is successful. That tweet has brought it all back, but I’m older and wiser now, and he loves me.

Still I think it’s worth the personal danger to warn you – TGO is watching. He didn’t want me to imply that our future is a decayed dystopia. It will be sleek and shiny and clean. Just do your best, but if you hear clicking – run!

Insilico East (moderate)
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  1. Could have been worse… remember the episode of Saturday Night Live which had Lucy (of “I Love Lucy”) on a production line of small nuclear weapons, each of which had to be topped with a little cone of whipped cream, then a cherry.. rolling past Lucy on a conveyor belt? And THEY started backing up? Monochrome kitsch humor and horrible, searing annihilation were a winning combination for (if I recall correctly) Gilda Radner.

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