The Skill Download

by sagire

This short story is based on the following writing prompt from reddit:

In the future, humans have the ability to directly download information into their brain. A hacker creates a virus…

I sat staring at my computer screen, locked in my basement. Working, thinking, planning a way to achieve the impossible.

I mean, what is the use of information? People had discovered how to load their mind with all the information they could want but it didn’t provide them any way to process it. Information is useful only up to a certain point, it’s making the connections and analyzing the information that is important.

Everyone was working on a skill download, a download that could actually change the way you think and act. A way to download the skill of a programmer, engineer, a salesperson – most important skills require more than simply information. You could overnight become the most skilled soccer player your physical body could provide. It was the holy grail of productivity, of human kind.

But how difficult it really was, people had been working on it for years. Of course it needed to be highly regulated. When you are planning to change the way someone’s mind works there will always be bugs and defects in the code. Luckily the internet allowed a community of people on the cutting edge. People who were willing to do what companies and governments would never allow – they could test the software downloads on themselves.

It was a strange feeling putting your code out into the community. Waiting for people to give it a try, and hoping beyond hope that it wouldn’t cause the permanent damage which was all to common. Three days ago  something happened in the community which never happened before. Instead of getting “good” reviews detailing little to no permanent damage my code had gotten “positive” reviews. It had allowed the users to utilize the massive amount of chess games and strategy available to become instant grandmasters.

The first 24 hours had been one of the best periods of my life. The program spread like wildfire even with the authorities trying to shut it down. Everyone wanted to become and instant master. You could literally see chess websites become overflowing with new members all playing at the highest level. The news sites showcased mixed reviews. They confirmed reports that the software worked but denounced the unregulated nature of the code.

That was 24 hours ago. The reports had started to come in yesterday. People had been pressuring others to download the software and when friendly coercion didn’t work – had become violent. It hadn’t been noticed initially because it seemed normal for others to actively suggest others to download it. It was only when those advances failed that it got out of hand.

It seems the code is not focused on the individual winning games but rather the software winning as many games as possible.

So I sit here, locked in my basement working as fast as I can. The creator of the worst virus in history. As the world rips itself apart outside I work to plan a way to put an end to the madness.