By Othman Nahhas
I’m not a writer, but what happened to my brother needs to be heard. So I’ll jot down the incident with as much accuracy as possible. My name is Kim Melbourne, you probably read about my brother Marvin in the news. But you haven’t heard the real story, and here it is.
I’ve always admired my brother’s obsession over knowledge. “Knowledge is the only power you need sis, there’s no such thing as unnecessary knowledge,” He told me that more times than I could count. I still remember, to this day, when we were kids, I would want to watch cartoons and he’d fight me over the remote to watch documentaries about the animal kingdom, or space, or chemistry or whatever was it that he didn’t know. That is of course until he discovered philosophy. He used to spend days on end drowning in Kierkegaard, or Kant or whatever he could get his hands on. He was fascinated by what happens after death, going through big books of biology and neurology, supplemented by youtube testimonials of near death experiences looking for an answer that has bothered, priest, philosophers, scientists and maniacs. I’ve never heard the word “existential” said more in a conversation than from him. I always wondered why would someone want to think about death as much as he does, he always used to say “One has not fully lived until one has thought about death” he loved speaking in cliches. I must admit growing up with him was not the easiest thing but I loved him... I was always his “lil Sis” and he always took care of me to the furthest extent of the meaning of the word.
I shouldn’t say that he was only obsessed with death. I don’t want to give an impression of a guy hanging out outside a graveyard with my Chemical Romance on the iPod shuffle. He took an interest in any new discoveries in the pages of wired or new American scientist with all the favour of a true techno-utopist. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he got it, he came home and said “Guess who has two thumbs and didn’t drive has car home?” He had a sense of humour like that. I had my doubts about “The Guide,” I’ve always found that technology that is embedded into the human body will never end well.
“We don’t take you where you want to go, we know where you want to go before you do” their slogan read and what a logo they had! A chip implanted in the base of your skull that reads your thought patterns knowing where you want to go and then drives your car automatically there... that must not have been easy to sell. But Marvin, he couldn’t resist technology anymore than he could a good book. He was a Beta tester for the chip and for a while it worked fantastically.
He was amazed by how much he could do on his commute, not even having to touch the driving wheel; he basically would step in the car and boom it went. Took him literally wherever he wanted to go. I think they called the technology “Thought Pattern Recognition”. Please forgive my lack of knowledge on the mechanics of the chip or the jargon that goes into explaining it. I’m not as tech-savvy as he was
The way he tried to explain it to me was this,This chip understands where you want to go but understanding how your thoughts works and by isolating the pattern of ‘desire’ in your brain and making it machine understandable so the car would know where to go.”
I was still dubious of a machine inside his head, but he always reassured me. “Don’t worry lil sis, I can turn it off anytime I want with an app on my phone, you know sometimes it knows where I want to go more than I do. The other day I was feeling bad so I got in the car to clear my head and it just took me to favourite spot in the city.”
That’s where it all went to hell. The chip started, over time, to get more and more familiar with a person’s thought patterns and eventually to realise what they wanted even before they thought of it consciously. It integrated with the brain and it would take over thoughts... it was not noticeable at first. You would reach for a shirt and suddenly find yourself reaching for a different one, and you would be content thinking, “That is actually the shirt that I wanted.” But then it started getting more complex, the first recorded issue was that of that Steve Blake. Here’s he’s account of what happened as I found it on his social media
“I was watching TV when I suddenly reached for my phone. It was a very odd feeling because it wasn’t abnormal of me to check my phone regularly but this felt odd, like I almost had to do it but somehow was happy to do it at the same time. I dialled my ex-wife’s number which scared me because I know I shouldn’t have done that… I can’t even explain what was going through my head even if wanted to but it felt like I didn't have any inhibition, like I was incapable of not doing what I wanted even against my own better judgment. When she picked up the phone and I told her that the thing I regret the most in my life is that she’s the mother of my children, I suddenly started crying and she was yelling at me, I tried to stop myself from saying more but It felt like there was a door in my brain that was unleashed, my chip started to burn and I passed out. Luckily she called the police because she suspected that something bad had happened. The company said that it was a small malfunction and they removed the chip to inspect it.”
The story made the news briefly but it wasn’t that big of a problem, the company said that he was inebriated that the alcohol affected the circuits and that the issue hd been fixed.
I shall never, for as long as I live, forget the look on my brother’s face that day. I’ve looked at his face everyday since I knew what a face was, but that day he seemed like he just discovered something that meant everything was about to change. I was doing my homework and he stood up, and he looked at me... He looked at me for almost a minute and I couldn’t get over it, something deep within my humanity told me that he wasn't his normal self. He left the house without his phone, wallet or anything else. I grabbed his phone and followed him, got in my car and drove right behind him. He must’ve seen me following him but that didn’t even slow him down. When we reached the bridge, he parked got out and started walking towards the edge. His foot was literally over the edge when I, by a split second, got his phone out of my pocket and found the app that disabled the chip. The chip was off, and it seemed like he came back to reality.
He turned around with tears streaming down his face. “You’re ok!” I yelled. “That thing is out of your head now!” I don’t know if you’ve ever seen someone smile while crying, it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. But I very much misinterpreted that smile.
His last words were “I didn’t know that this is what I wanted, I thought I was happy. I guess some things are better left unknown.” and then he, of his own volition, threw himself off of the bridge.
I think I learned something from my brothers death. It taught me that we’re not ready for what we want, that what we want is much darker and contrived than we are equipped to handle. I watched my brother’s desire for knowledge drive him to suicide. The worst part about this is he was actually happy. Analysis of his chip suggested he didn’t want to die. I think, He wanted to know what happens on the other side of death. His desire to know that truth drove him to suicide. After I disabled his chip, he had the option to live. But if I know my brother, his desire for knowledge was more important to him, he couldn’t live knowing he’d never be able to obtain that knowledge. Pointless, it’s something we are all going to find out at some point or another.
Othman is an aspiring author and stand-up comic who can be found at Istanbul's Take Me up The Bosphorus stand up comedy nights, he has a dead blog that he is resolved to start working on again which you can read here or follow his podcast here.