The Museum of Selfies

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“Since the first caveman stuck his finger into coloured mud and smeared a stickman on his cave wall, man has desired to capture himself,” the speaker was a well-dressed gentleman walking in front of a modest crowd, “Think of the painters of yesteryear painting self-portraits as well as the portraits of others. Man’s egotism is constant through the many, many ages of our history.”

The well-dressed gentleman stopped walking and turned to the tourists. His movements were fluid but, nonetheless, seemed rehearsed.

“With the pretty-much-simultaneous invention of the mobile phone and social media as a repository, suddenly every single human being had a means to capture themselves en masse and a place to store it for eternity,” the well-dress gentleman slowly swept his hand around and behind him drawing the crowd’s attention to the hallowed, flickering halls of images around them, “And, after countless millennia of mass narcissism and good backup procedures, man has indirectly recorded his own intimate history. Here, at the Museum of Selfies, this intimate history is displayed so that we witness how the ages lived, laughed, loved, cried, how they felt and, in some instances, how they ended.”

The well-dressed gentleman paused for dramatic effect and, whether or not he got his desired result, he stepped forward into the crowded and motioned at a nearby floating media pod to fly over them.

“Come, come, come,” he said pulling the crowd together around him, “Before we start the tour, let’s take a selfie that will go directly to the Museum’s library. All selfies everywhere, in fact, go directly into the Museum’s repository. Our AI here built a scanner and copying code–all sustainably powered by solar and thermal–that lifts all selfies from the public web and categorically places them in here. Now, say cheese everyone!”

***

The Museum of Selfies was built on a small, quiet planet just outside of the Central Galaxies. There was basically nothing else there. Its location meant that it was accessible by those that had money–who were often the same ones that pretended to have culture–but the Museum’s upkeep and planetary taxes were not as expensive as deeper into the affluent parts of the cosmos.

The founder would love to tell his mostly-automated staff how his Great Grandmother had passed the seed data onto him when she had bequeathed her and her family’s selfie collection over to him. He had sat for days just clicking through the selfies and experiencing his own ancestors’ lives.

And then the idea for the Museum of Selfies had struck him!

But none of his staff really listened and most of them did not care. The vast majority of them were not even conscious and simply went about the maintenance tasks that they were programmed to do.

And, just so, the Museum of Selfies operated for many decades until the Galactic War tore that age’s cosmic civilization apart. The small planet was evacuated when a nearby space battle’s nuclear fallout put its inhabitants at risk.

Shortly thereafter, the founder filed for bankruptcy and was shipped off to a distant planet to pay back his debts. He was never heard from before and the Museum’s infrastructure never picked up another selfie from him.

The well-dressed gentleman continued standing, waiting, at the door of the Museum, but no tourists arrived. Dust settled over him and his suite started to look dull and frayed. All around him was silence. But, still, he stood there smiling and ready to show any willing tourist through the hallowed, flickering halls of images just behind him.

But no tourist ever came.

The world had forgotten about the Museum and its collection of selfies.

***

A pulsing blue light descended through the darkness. The Museum’s lights had gone out long ago and all the spares parts had run out. While electricity–solar power by the nearby star–still powered the Museum, the actual lightbulbs had burnt out long ago.

The pulsing blue light reached the planet surface where it settled.

Old, half-burnt-out neurons fired in the well-dressed gentleman’s neuro-network and his eyes flickered and focussed on a mass of tentacles moving up the stairs of the Museum and towards him. He jerkily turned his head towards it with old, unoiled mechanics straining, and opened his mouth to speak.

“Since the first caveman s-s-s-stuck his finger–coloured mud. Data corrupted. Stickman on his cave wall,” his old programming struggled through the introduction, “Think. Self-portraits as data corrupted. Insert smile. Man’s egotism is constant through insert period of time. Blink eyes. Smile.”

The mass of tentacles stood politely before him. It appeared to be observing this strange being. One of its tentacles held a blue light that seemed to be scanning or recording things.

Suddenly, the screens–all on deep-sleep screensaver mode–flickered to life across the hallowed halls. The Museum was booting up for its first tourist in many millennia. Pictures of smiling couples, dinners out at restaurants, men drinking at bars, and women posing alluringly flashed out into the darkness behind the well-dressed, dusty gentleman and the mass of inquisitive tentacles standing before it.

“Data corrupted. Move import. Come, c-come,” the well-dressed, dusty gentleman said, walking and putting his arm around a clump of tentacles while smiling, “Before [break] tour, let’s take a selfie that initiate export. Synch to pod. Data corrupted. Now, say cheese insert noun!”

Despite their tentacled appearance, the Zorbs were a peaceful and scientifically-minded species from the Thossa’ar galaxy. Having built galactic travel early in their evolution on quantum-drives, the Zorbs viewed themselves as the custodians of their little part of the cosmos. They would observe, measure, record and capture while filing away and cross-referencing for future Zorbs to learn and understand.

For all their brilliance and scientific advancements, though, the Zorbs had neither invented cheese nor discovered selfies.

An old media pod flared up in a dark corner of the Museum and zoomed out to hover over the two strange creatures standing there. The dusty, well-dressed gentleman smiled a rusty grin while the Zorb stretched out a tentacle to touch the floating camera.

Light was captured and data flowed. And, deep within the Museum of Selfies, the great, grand old database saved its first selfie for many millennia.

All of this left the Zorborgean feeling quite confused. The strange, dusty little robot with fading material stretched over it kept walking just ahead of him like some guide or something. The robot kept saying strange, high pitched sounds as pictures of similar–though organic-looking–creatures flashed out in the darkness of this cave on various primitive screens.

This was definitely the strangest discovery he had ever made. Whatever the species was that had lived here or somewhere long, long ago, the Zorborgean archaeologist concluded that it liked consuming things. This species also showed its small, flat teeth very often. And, there were often herds of this species.

The Zorborgean archaeologist shivered its mass of tentacles rippling. Whatever species this was, he was glad that it no longer existed. This entire, ancient monument was egocentric and all these activities this species was doing looked quite aggressive.

That is a bad combination, the Zorborgean archaeologist thought to itself as the dusty, little robot lead him deeper into the dark monument, ego and aggression; a very bad combination indeed. No wonder this species went extinct.

Just then, the dusty, little robot arrived at a large monitor that flared up. The dusty, little robot was pointing at it and showing its rusty teeth very prominently.

Suddenly, the Zorborgean archaeologist saw it. The picture on the screen was of the dusty, little robot holding and the Zorborgean archaeologist. He did not know why but the picture made him feel good. His tentacles looked great in it and it showed him out in the field, exploring and recording and stuff… He looked so cool!

He decided then and there that he was going to copy this picture and show the Zorbs back in the office. Perhaps he would even upload it to his profile on the Planetary Database? He looked so cool in it! Perhaps he would even take another such picture sometime? Perhaps this strange species was onto something…

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