There was an idea.
To control so many variables of so many types.
To replicate the conditions of the inhabited world with near perfection.
To run instantaneous trials, one after the other, eliminating altogether the need for practical experimentation.
No longer would the days of science be filled with the hurdles of bureaucracy. A committed body, dedicated solely to the advancement of human civilization, could introduce new ideas at a rapidly accelerating pace. Where once the turning point of humanity rested on James Watt and the power of steam, this next revolution would lay triumphantly within the intricate connections of the human brain.
The breakthrough came as the world slept. In the early hours of the morning, my team, eyes glazed in the predawn darkness, looked toward the monitor one last time before finally calling it. There upon the screen were two windows. In one box appeared line upon line of code. In the other, an image of an apple. The apple then fell from a tree.
Was it a crisp Gala, or a dull Red Delicious? Maybe a tart Granny Smith or a bright Fuji? After the initial simulation had run, there were many variants added. No one knew that initial result with that initial Newton. But it did not matter. In the world generated in that instant, the conditions we know in reality were simulated. The vibrancy of sharp sunlight piercing a lonesome tree, the light bleeding through foliage to leave a shadow riddled with holes. A breeze sweeping the boughs in a fading whisper. A rendered man, sitting at the base of the tree observing the shiny fruit descending, lost in thought as if dreaming some unheard of theory.
The raw simplicity of what was present on the computer lay counterpoint to the raw chaos of wire and cord connecting this way and that, from monitor to machine, from machine to man. Behind the bright light of the display was a simple laptop, used only for interfacing and nothing else. But attached to the laptop were electrodes, electrodes that stuck directly on top of and into the head of a subject nicknamed "Newton", a man who, at the time, was currently asleep.
For centuries, the very idea of a dream itself was an abstraction, a world where on a whim, people, places, things, could be generated. It was something intangible. Nobody, save the dreamer themselves, would be able to lay a hand on the reality constructed within their own mind.
As it turns out, this understanding of our dreams was wrong. The dreams of the individual, while only faint wisps of memory when described over breakfast, are indeed real. The firing of synapses generates the worlds as a microcosm in our own, making the laws very concrete, though very small indeed. In the moving electrical charges firing in our brains, the people, places, and things take on a physical yet fleeting form. These forms, tapped into, can be shaped into the world we inhabit while awake.
The first form simulated was a falling apple. The possibilities, however, were endless.
Soon thereafter, the technology entered the world and made its presence known. All one needed was the API to simulate our world and a willing subject to host the replication of the world in their mind.
Breakthroughs came in addressing diseases new and old as billions of trials for potential new treatments were run. The very fabric of our modern conception of the transistor shifted as novel designs sought to halt the slowing of Moore's law. Responsible implementations of energy policy were able to finally shed a light on halting the harmful effects of climate change upon our very own and very concrete world. All of this was tested in the blink of an eye, in the REM of a single subject. Simulating the real world became as simple as taking a nap.
However, with the advancement of the Dreamscape, so too came the rise in number of the Newtons. Individual volunteers became paid contractors became collective unions. Lawsuits emerged that challenged the decades old precedents governing IP laws with new considerations for the mindful origins of ideas. Had not the modern breakthroughs of the world all started as sparks in the minds of a dedicated and collective few? Who owned these mindful sparks?
And where ideas of the mutual improvement of all human life once lay, greed corrupted and suspicion took hold. Simulations run by municipalities to locate future fires were co-opted by police precincts. Economists leapt from paper and pencil predictions to ever-so-rapidly changing games of simulation and counter-simulation and counter-counter-simulation in bids to outdo each other. Politicians based their campaigns not on the issues they sought to achieve but on the issues set to garner the most Dreamscape votes and ensure the most real life victories. Militaries of the world ran simulations against each other testing potential alliances and threats, changing ever so quickly the geopolitical landscape on a weekly then daily then hourly basis.
Guns beget tanks beget missiles beget nukes. Sleepy dreams once peaceful turned violent as nations used the Dreamscape to try and predict who would ally with who and, more importantly, who would turn against who.
The suspicion took over the minds of world leaders and the greed for Newtons consumed the corporations who vied for them. Each built on top of the other until one day, two leaders of the world, individuals wrought with protecting their own people, decided their dreams were real enough.
Fire alit by the dreaming consumed the very real world.
The Dreamscapes and the minds that contained them once again became abstractions.
And like that, the world disappeared in the flash of synapse.
There was an idea.