A cruel and unusual punishment

(Or how I came to love the Press)
As I stepped out of B.’s house last night, I pulled my jacket close to ward of the cold and veered vaguely to the right as I looked for my car. I felt in the pocket for the car’s central-locking remote, and on finding it, pressed the un-lock button on the device. I heard my sister’s trusty Wagon-R tick-tock in recognition out on the left. On the left course! I had parked the car on left. I usually parked on the right under the streetlight, but this time my space had been taken. So I had parked on the left. I corrected course and lurched decisively to the left – the source of the sound, and the site of the parked car.

My ear it seems, had picked up the sound – measured it in terms of intensity – and my brain had decoded it and accorded it a positional characteristic. So this car was approximately 20 degrees behind my left ear. I looked – there it was, I walked up to it and drove home.

So what if our co-ordinates were reversed S.?” I asked my friend excitedly. “We’d all be fucked!” “We would all be fucked,” he agreed gravely.

“So what then if we took a new borne baby and placed it in an acousticly-reversed room for the first ten years of his life? The wall’s of his room would be embedded with thousands of speakers and covered entirely by video-screens. Every time he saw an image, the sound would come from the opposite direction. A person would speak on one screen, but the child would hear the voice emanating from the wall directly behind him. Perhaps we could create a system where every sound the child made was miked, amplified and fed back into the room – only from the precise opposite direction. Then when we released him into the ‘real world’, our world, he’d be quite fucked. In fact he’d be totally fucked. On-coming cars would honk at him, and he would run right at them, simply cause his brain would tell to watch out for the huge noise behind him. Isn’t that frightening?”

“Indeed it is,” said S. with the air of one who had slipped into his razai for the night, and had given hopes of ever slipping out, “But I hope no child is ever subjected to this experiment.”

“But we don’t need a child. All we need is to bunk a ‘normal’ person into one of these rooms for a while and then release him back into the ‘real’ world. He’ll then never know where to look.”

“It would be a cruel and unusual punishment,” said S.

“It would be a cruel and unusual punishment,” I agreed.

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