Personas on Paper

Personas have existed for many millennia, and so has paper – but there is a somewhat more new and less improved special case that seems to have existed for only a couple hundred years: Personas on paper.

That’s not precisely true, but by and large it’s mostly so. Sure, Socrates and Jesus were not only role models for Benjamin Franklin, they also exist for us here and now as personas on paper. Many others, too – but still: nothing like today. Today, you can’t walk out of your front door without becoming a persona on paper. Even inside your very own castle, you become a historical record every time you touch your phone. Any day now, all you’ll have to do is sneeze and some doctor will show up before you even think you are sick. We live in an age in which artificial intelligence has become a completely natural fact of everyday life.

You may think these thoughts quick and clever, yet if you knew how long I sat and thought, you might consider them rather slow, if not even lethargic.

Nonetheless, many people jot down notes, hopefully wishing for them to last forever – but they won’t. They may last forever for mortals – but for mere human mortals, “forever” is just a few centuries (or, if they’re very lucky, a millennium or two). For dinosaur bones, a millennium is just another passing short-lived moment. Paper – especially the kind that carries the newspaper’s front page headlines – turns to dust far faster than that. For the vast majority, the aspiration to become immortal will hardly rise above an ephemeral existence.

Yet perhaps there is something that is actually worth living for in the sense that it will have a sort of immortal influence. I am not actually banking on it, but if I had to go out on a limb and stretch to guess at what that might be, I would probably propose a “meaningful life”. I do not make this venture on my own, but simply from standing on the shoulders of giants.

Our flesh and bones and paper existence will all turn to dust sooner or later, but our actions will still influence the next generation, the one after that, and so on – forever, provided they are significant enough. Our names and our identities may very well at some point be long forgotten, but the repercussions of our actions will probably live on much like evolutionary messages travel far and wide across time.

For example: We could simply blow up a few nuclear bombs (or start a nuclear war) and that would most definitely have a far-reaching impact. We might be hated by very many of our peers, but just think of the possibilities for impressing the Gods, the stars or distant galaxies! It would definitely leave a mark and be eternally significant – or maybe at least until the next big bang.

Even though that might be important, let me nonetheless return to the more mundane daily routine of mere human life. At this stage in the game, we have at least two significant types of personas on paper – the kind linked to human thought and expressions, and also the kind linked to another new-fangled phenomenon called “business”.

Business is something very similar to “action” or “activity”. Around 500 years ago, it became commonplace to give businesses personas. This was rather unproblematical at the time, because at the time no such monstrosities existed. Today, they are all over the place – and it seems like they just won’t go away. They persist as if they were diamonds, but they are not particularly useful. Today, many living people lead lives of slavery to such imaginary organizations written down on pieces of paper. To make matters worse, many humans actually believe there is a law that says these monsters must grow larger, even at the expense of the environments they operate in (which, by the way, includes humans).

In part, this is probably due to an idolatry of something called “code” – which is (as far as I can tell) writing that is considered to be “holy” by many humans. What this means exactly, I am not sure – I think you will have to interview one of the believers of this sectarian religion to find out for yourself.

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