Asking “What If” is a great way to start brainstorming book ideas. I began envisioning the 2126 world of ReInception while reading the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg at the same time that I stumbled upon an article on transcranial magnetic stimulation. Putting the two together, I wondered, “What if we had the technology to modify human habits? And if there were a quick fix out there, how would we use it and how would we stop it from going too far?”
The answer I discovered is that we wouldn’t.
In The Power of Habit, Duhigg explains why habits exist and how they can be changed. His narrative gives us an understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation. He also demystifies how one person might seemingly change overnight while another can struggle and fail to change their whole life.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, uses electromagnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells, a technique that may improve symptoms of neurological or mental health disorders. I’m not in any way dismissing the therapeutic power of TMS. It has tremendous promise, especially for depression, as well as for habit modification for such important needs as smoking cessation. In ReInception, I’m taking the idea of TMS as a launch point, putting it on steroids, and exploring its use for modifying just about any socially unacceptable behavior you can think of and then some.
In ReInception, Arlo Genesis invents his machine after losing his son to an overdose. He wants to spare other parents from suffering, as he did, the loss of a child to addiction. But it’s human nature to want a quick fix and to take things too far. By 2126, Arlo’s machine is used for everything from weight loss to reprogramming terrorists. Parents use it to modify the behavior of their ADHD children and for more sinister applications, such as changing their child’s sexual preferences. The technology doesn’t always work as anticipated, a fact that the company is hiding from the public at the same time that it is trying to get support for forced ReInception of the working caste.
ReIncpetion explores what happens when we go too far, using a tool that can be a powerful good and then warping it until is it as tool that causes irreparable harm.
So, what if there were a “magic pill”? What if you could simply put yourself in a machine and change your habits in under an hour with ReInception? Would you do it and, if so, what would you change? If you wouldn’t, why not? Where would you draw the line?
Before you answer though, think about what happens in Ready Player Two to the users who plug into the ONI, versus the fate of Art3mis when she refuses. Or take another watch of The Matrix.
And remember, there’s no telling what ReInception is capable of once it’s in your head.