Gray Pill

Seen on Twitter, via Slate Star Codex. Decided to try my hand at a more nuanced version. Limiting myself to 1000 words as a challenge, and to avoid spending too much time.

A short break in the middle of a busy month.


Gives you the ability to control any machine or electronic using only your mind. You also have the ability to generate powerful electrical discharges by touch.

You never thought it would be invented in this century.

The neural interface was simple, almost laughably child-like, and like all things that came before it, assimilated itself into your daily life with hardly any excitement. The easy things were easy; switching on your TV, controlling your lights, managing all your kitchen appliances. You threw all your remotes away that same day.

Then you ran into the brick wall of software.

Getting your router to give you a signal in your bedroom was impossible, since it was a crappy white-box router from your ISP, and while you could push buttons with your mind, you have no idea which ones need pushing. Your brief attempt at trial-and-error brought you realisation: you now have the power to render things completely useless, without moving a finger.

There is also the matter of crosstalk.

You have a nervous tic in your mouse-hand, a ghost that sticks its paw out from under your mousepad and clicks your mouse every so often. It wasn’t so bad, since your cursor was seldom above any big red buttons, or triggers of life-changing significance. Unfortunately that could not be said of your neural interface. That nervous tic, its mysterious origins buried deep in your brain, had somehow spread to the neural chip, and when you are not careful it leads to really scary things happening.

Like the time you wrote your career fantasies out LOUD in your work review form, barely covering it in time for a quick remote-edit and reprint.

You read that anybody who was somebody did their things in Linux. You made an ISO, stuck it in a flash drive, booted it up, and discovered the horrible truth about drivers and platform compatibility. It only figures that whoever slipped you this experimental prototype in exchange for your grandfather’s antique would not have bothered writing drivers for—wait, how does that even matter if he only made one? You can tell when you are confused, because your laptop starts to go a little bonkers, moving windows about the screen quasi-randomly. You have to be careful to close your social media feeds then.

How do you show off something that’s literally in your head?

It was awfully convenient answering phone calls without doing anything, but it wasn’t as flashy as flicking a wrist, or tapping a ear. And you’d much rather have the attention, you grudgingly admit. Some things were made for flaunting, and this neural chip wasn’t one of them. Making your phone do things remotely didn’t work out as well as you wished; phones almost seem to have a mind of their own these days, and your dates found it hard to believe that it was you and not Google making it tell their fortunes.

More worrying things have happened lately.

The first time you plugged the adapter in, a pop-up helpfully informed you that new HID drivers—Human Interface Device, thank you Wikipedia—were being installed. Figures that it would need to know how you wish to interface with it. Now you’re not so sure what those drivers are for. In the shower, your sister’s Twitter feed suddenly poured itself into your head, twittering around your shower song in a swarm of 140-character strings. In your head.

What is an HID exactly?

The voices in your head sometimes remind you of things you read online, popping up at the most opportune times (for them), giving you advice like a Youtube commercial. It’s getting smarter. And it’s getting friendlier, in the manner of salesmen, eye contact and smile all there, firm handshake, and you tell them what you want and they have just the thing for you. But wait, there’s more!

Lately you just remembered that neural signals are electrical too.

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