a short story on how AI made people eat their faeces.
Who could imagine AI would make us eat shit? Not a surprise, you’d say. But I don't mean this figuratively, you see. It's not a bloody metaphor, not an allusion, allegory, satire or cynical commentary on a decadent world. No. Not figurative. People eat shit. Shit, yeah, you know, solid or semisolid remains of food that were not digested in the small intestine, and have been broken down by bacteria in the large intestine. Poop, dung, faeces, whoopsies, guano, doo-doo, fertilisers, turds, excrements... I insincerely apologise for this disgusting stream right at the beginning of my essay, but before we move on you have to understand my concerns about the situation, wholeheartedly. You have to feel it just like I do. They call it empathy. You should be imbibed with my distress. No empathy, no story. But I digress.
You could imagine a hypothetical sci-fi situation in which a sentient AI realises how jaded, corrupted and parasitic humans are and decides to become just like them, homicidal and megalomaniacal, and annihilate all the skin bags. But that didn’t happen. This AI can hurt you in other ways. It doesn't have to be intelligent even – being stupid is enough for humans to use you for their own selfish stupid ideas and remarkable breakthroughs. It just needs to be able to process amounts of information inconceivable and unprocessable for humans, using a set of marvellous mathematical methods on a set of data enormous enough. This was exactly that ‘remarkable breakthrough’. Such things often start with one naive spark. What if I jump down this roof? Adrenaline! What if I eat this bat? Exotic! What if we dig out that mammoth and clone it? Godlike! Now, wait a second. What if we make shit edible?
That fat four-eyed fuck Garry Guanorano and his beak-nosed bitch Polina Poopenshtrossel thought exactly that. They imagined they were turd gods, deities of faeces, superordinate to sapiens shit. I saw Guanorano’s bald head on that bloody TED talk mumbling about how Abdominion Laboratories, LLC will revolutionise the food industry:
‘Termites eat one another’s faeces to obtain their hindgut protists. These microorganisms, protists, have a symbiotic relationship with termites and help them with the digestion of cellulose. Further on, a three-way symbiotic relationship is being formed: termites, cellulolytic protists in their guts, and intracellular bacterial symbionts of those protists.’ Blablabla.
Then Guanorano talked about Kopi luwak, and explained how its fermentation process, starting in the gut of a civet, turns coffee into something extraordinary. ‘The animal world is so exciting and unexplored. Some species possess real superpowers and we humans can learn a lot from them.’
After that, Dr Poopenshtrossel went out and for five bloody minutes talked about manure and the importance of recycling and whatnot, while Dr Guanorano stood nearby, smiling, scratching his third chin. ‘Simple yet genius’, Garry added, giggling, pouting and sweating, fixing the shirt that occasionally popped out of his trousers and revealed to the world the bottom of his dangling belly. He looked like his plan was to end world hunger alone. Dr Guanorano or: how I learned to stop worrying and love eating shit
Another slide appeared, featuring two beautiful butterflies, Adonis blue, feeding on a lump of faeces. Dr Poopenshtrossel said, ‘The true beauty of nature is in harmony, how different organisms and species can peacefully co-exist.’ Oh my, oye, this is deep.
Then they presented their development – an AI genomic sequencing model able to create a special microorganism that would live down your guts, empower faeces with itself, and upon leaving the incubator through the sphincter portal on a stinky shitship and exposing itself to more oxygen, start a special fermentation process, fissioning faeces and enriching it with nutritious proteins or something like that – in a word, making your dung delicious. It was one among the latent multitude of microbes that could never make it on their own without AI discovering it and people, us, helping it along. They called it LOTUS, for somehow they saw this microorganism’s structure under the microscope resembled a lotus flower.
A burst of applause. Ovations. Sure guys, let’s hug each other and eat shit. That's a great plan, Garry. That's fuckin' ingenious, if I understand it correctly. It's a Swiss fuckin' watch.
It escalated quickly. Millions of views in just one day. Memes. Everyone was reading, watching and listening as to how soon they’d be stuffing their mouths with their own faeces and what made it possible. Venture capitalists were flabbergasted and didn’t know what to do. On one hand, you had something that could end world hunger, trillions in revenue, on the other – the most stupid and mental idea humanity has ever seen. Howbeit, of course, Abdominion Labs got the funding and government support. I bet there was some sort of a lobby, or the secret world government, the shit-luminati with an eyed turd on top of a pyramid. That would not surprise me. At all. In fact, I would rather believe in that.
For the next one hundred eighty-five days everyone, except investors, forgot about Abdominion Labs, memes got dusty, hype – droopy, until the testing phase ended and they started production. The first batch looked like chewing gum. In a wee square box, with a lotus flower painted on it, laid a thin soft gummy layer with a flowery scent. You buy it, you chew it, and you get the microbe down in your guts forever. Simple yet genius. AI created it in a way such that there was no common horrid odour. You could put it in a container and leave it for a few days exposed to the sunlight so it can dry out a bit. Then, well, you could eat it.
Sounds almost utopic but this is exactly when the evil AI plot twist happened. We thought Jenkem was a myth but it was a prophecy. Ingenious craftsmen soon discovered that if you leave your shit fermenting for a week or more away from the sun, somewhere in a dark and cool place, it starts acquiring unusual, magical, perception-warping properties. When used, aged lotus increased the user's happiness, self-confidence, and, allegedly, intelligence, too, making people forget about their problems and live in a faecal fantasy. It was cheap, accessible, and easy to use, plus, gluten-free and organic. Thanks to the internet, in less than a week, everyone started buying Lotus gums, fermenting and ageing their shit, eating it, and being happy, sexy, and wise. It wasn’t actually making people so, of course, but a feeling was enough. It felt good, good enough to get addicted, good enough to make Abdominion Labs rich.
As soon as you take lotus for the first time, you become dependent upon it, you become a hopeless slave to its allure. Once you stop consuming it, the fancy image of yours fades away and you see who you really are: a miserable, lost, self-despising, trembling creature; the contrast is striking, and you feel yourself a hunchback with mildly exotic ugliness who sees themselves in a mirror for the first time. So, to keep the effect, you’ve got to take lotus consistently. Some of the more addictive effects of it are bouts of euphoria, protracted ennui, drastic reduction of attention span, and possibly death. Ha-ha, just kidding. Lotus kills no one. “Viruses” that kill too fast and too much cannot spread well and die out often. Lotus was the opposite. Lotus is harmless. No one cared. Shepherd, shan’t you worry if your flock is happy. Opium for the masses, from the masses.
While I write this, my degenerate roommate is building a lotus ageing farm under his bed. He is a shitrepreneur now. The internet is full of ultimate guides on how to become one:
You go to a random gardening shop and buy a container usually used for sprouts;
Put your magic material there,
Cover it with a thick black blanket,
And you’re done! Simple yet genius.
But you can go further than that. My roommate adds different colouring and fruity infusions to make it fancy and surprising. Later, he’ll package it into ex-match boxes, portable and convenient, easy to put a sticker on, and others in our dorm and beyond will happily buy it. Savvy afaeceonados hunt for unique tastes and flavours, for each and every shit is unique, especially if you sprinkle it with lavender or mix it with turmeric. Your own aged lotus soon becomes boring and stops ‘sparking joy’. You need something that opens the gateway to new experiences, and after a while, it becomes part of your daily diet. It becomes a part of you. You become a shiteater.
I look into my roommate’s eyes. They are empty, always have been. A feverish flame flickers in them, but behind – nothing. He smiles and asks if I want to try his product and open my turd eye. For free. I frown, show him my right middle finger and leave the room.
In this fucked up world, I feel myself an alien, a savage to coprophagi civilisation standing at the edge of a cliff, on a chair with rope in hand. The realisation that you’re the only sane person makes you question your reality. What if I’m the one who’s wrong? Is there anyone else out there? We live in a society and blablabla. For them I’m just another lonely lunatic with a placard and a mic and a Bluetooth speaker strolling through an empty city square, whining about the end of time. But we are always at the end of time, aren’t we? If I have no power to save the world, no power to drag everyone away from the sinister island on which they all have stuck, why persist? If the world doesn’t need saving anymore, the easiest choice is to fall in line. Thus I wonder, who are you, reader? Whom is this even addressed? Perhaps, a dummy postbox in front of Void Court on Inane Avenue.
Any decent piece of writing, whether it’s a message in a bottle or a death note, should have two things: a Kubrick reference, and a piece of poetry. The first I’ve already got, so I was willing to write a poem to give you, whoever reads this, something beautiful and transcendental enough, something full of hope, a salvific possibility of redemption. But, despite being sober from lotus, my brain convolutions are clogged with nothing but shit. So, I scribble down this verse, and, leaning perhaps too far out the window, read it out loud so the void can hear my voice:
In spite of our rich aspirations To conquer the likes of Uranus We ditched the space exploration, And have only conquered your...
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed it but please know that I’m open to any feedback – feel free to message me or leave a comment on Substack. If you fancy more short stories (a novella is coming “soon”), including translations, and essays on various topics exploring our epoch and the near-future bazaar of bizarre, this blu-ish “Subscribe now” button below is exactly for you.
Also, my two previous posts here, an essay on nostalgia and memories, and a short story about a lone man amidst a dark and violent blizzard:
Have a splendid rest of the day,