Friday, February 25, 2011

The Code Within the Code

In 2015 the treatment of mental illness took a new direction: the days of tinkering with the brain’s chemical soup were over. A new type of drug, one that spoke the language of the mind, came into being.

The breakthrough that led to this change occurred in the summer of 2011. Researchers at La Trobe University in Melbourne discovered a means of identifying intangible traits from an animals DNA. These scientists could see the code that encouraged foxes to make holes and birds to build nests.

But the discovery went much deeper than this. Human DNA revealed complicated feelings and emotions that had been passed down from generation to generation. Closer analysis of this data revealed that the information was in fact snippets of stories: short sentences from the farthest reaches of time.

One journalist summed up these findings in this way: “The story of a man’s history is in his DNA. It is a story written using a common alphabet, a language shared by everyone who has ever lived, and who will ever live.

“For eons our ancestors have been whispering in our ears. Now, thanks to this new technology, we can hear what they’ve been saying with great clarity.”

Two years after the La Trobe University discovery, a European pharmaceutical company began human trials of a drug that blocked the negative effects of a person’s inherited history. The results were spectacular. People who had suffered from crippling mental illnesses were suddenly released from hundreds of millennia of emotional baggage.

The popularity of the drugs was singular. As soon as the drugs were approved for human consumption they began to fly off the shelves: every man, woman, and child was either taking them, or thinking about taking them.

But there was a side effect. Users exhibited a lack of empathy for their fellow man. A great ambivalence gripped the world: the bond that had joined humans in their suffering was gone.

Families dumped their sick in hospital and left them there. A man would drive past an accident where once he would have stopped. Medical school enrolments dropped off. Charitable organisations closed their doors. Drama wore but one mask.

The United States Government quickly banned the sale or use of the drug. Other governments followed suit, but not before a great rent had arisen in the social fabric.

As the drug wore off, users were filled with feelings of shock and disbelief. Society became polarised in its desire to understand what had happened, and how it could be prevented from happening again.

Now, thirty years later, every young adult is encouraged to take a DNA reader into a quiet room and listen to the voices of their ancestors. They will hear a story for which they are both the code and the decoder. They will hear cheers of triumph, and tears of unspeakable grief. They will hear an ancient story, a story that is still being written; a story with an unknowable end.
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