02. A01.

Cyber Cultures

The Other You

I am writing this as a warning to anyone that may find it.

You’ll not find this warning anywhere else on the internet – every other ‘review’ will just tell you it works, and that you should try it. I will be the lone voice of truth. I cannot offer any proof of what I claim, as I do not want to endanger anyone else.

The Other You

I didn’t find The Other You, it found me. Actually, that’s a lie. I was drawn to the only title in my spam folder that wasn’t in broken English, trying to sell me mail-order brides or enlargement pills. “Find Out What The Other You Is Doing”. Most people would ignore it, but I was one of those people who like to test Wet Paint signs.

The Other You

At first it looked like gibberish. “Using the power of our quantum computers and sophisticated algorithm, we can find your computer in worlds where you made different choices. All for free!” If anything, it sounded like an interesting diversion, just to see how they delivered on their promise.

After backing everything up (something which you should be doing regularly), I downloaded the programme. My antivirus didn’t pick anything up, so I kept going. Nothing too out of the ordinary so far, it looked like any generic freeware you can get from anywhere. In less than ten minutes, it was done, and I had a new generic icon on my desktop.

The first thing I noticed after starting The Other You up is how basic it looked. It was obvious that they hadn’t spent any money on art. Good thing or bad thing I wasn’t sure at the time, but I had gone this far, so in for a penny, in for a pound.

There were three options: Synch, Upgrade and Credits. I was curious enough to look at the credits – it opened a simple text file that had no real names, only forum handles like BigBlueBox or UatuTheMeddler. Their positions made no sense either: “Quantum Programmer”, “Substrate Architect”, “Spline Reticulator”.

Then I clicked Upgrade. The generic Windows error boxed appeared, saying “Try Us Out First!!!”. For all they’re promising, they hadn’t made a great first impression. But I did download this from my spam folder, so I gave them some leeway.

So I clicked Synch. Another window. “Welcome to The Other You! In a few short moments, your monitor will be a window to other worlds, worlds where you made different decisions! What if you asked that girl or guy out? What if you got that job? What if you chose a different college major? Now you can know! A word of warning, some of your Other You’s might lead better lives. Try not to be too depressed! Next >>”.

“OK, here’s what we’re going to need:

  • Your computer specifications (so we can find similar hardware in the multiverse!).
  • Your internet and cookie history (so we can find your social networks on different hardware, if needs be).

We can only find divergences after you made your earliest login that you still use. The longer you’ve been using the internet, the more interesting your Other Yous will be! Clicking Next will start the Quantum Synching! Next >>”

The Other You

The process took nearly an hour. It was like installing a large game, with my computer making grinding noises. I honestly thought it would over heat at certain points. I couldn’t even pull myself away from watching it, mesmerised by the ever-increasing (however slowly) progress bar.
When it was done, the monitor went dark. I swore, quite loudly, for being stupid enough to infect my system. Then it came back to life, progress window gone. In its place is a simple black box with strings of numbers, the first being 20070314110330, continuing in that fashion.

other-you-4

There aren’t any further instructions, so I just clicked though the options. By accident, I must have double clicked on one, as it changed my screen, like it was maximised from the toolbar. Actually, I first thought it had been minimised, as the desktop picture was the same. But then I noticed that some of the games were in different places, or ones I didn’t own at all. Then there was the other cursor, moving independently of mine.

This Other Me had just turned on his computer, and was waiting for it to boot up. Of course, I still thought it was just an extremely elaborate and clever toy. Then he opened his web browser, his homepage set (helpfully) to BBC News. Now, I had checked BBC News earlier that day, and the two couldn’t be more different. The top stories were wrong, the features, even the layout was slightly off. A bit too much work for just a toy.

He opens a few tabs on some of the news stories. He scrolls through them too quickly for me to read properly, but I do get a broad overview. Same Prime Minister, same complaints, but I could see that things were changed, that this wasn’t our world.

It was then he checked Facebook. Again, a different layout, but not too unfamiliar. I recognised some names, but many were complete strangers to me. He then did something I would never do – make a status update. I had no idea what it meant, but over the next few minutes I found out that he had already done university, had a girlfriend, job. None of which I would class as ‘dreams’, but he was at least accomplishing things.

Pressing escape, I was sent back to the box with the numbers. I selected another and found myself as a police officer-in-training after being a soldier. The next one was searching for life on other planets. Working for a Canadian video game company, a crime scene investigator, unemployed drug addict. I think I spent a whole afternoon just looking through these other lives, possibilities and dead-end branches.

I should mention that the world beyond wasn’t all that different most of the time. Choices I could have made were never world-changing. But it seemed that, sometimes, the world changed after the ‘divergence’ whether I could have affected it or not. Just a thought.
This went on for days maybe. Almost all of my free time (and a certain part of my non-free time) went into to watching these Others. I noted down the ones which weren’t depressing or incredibly similar. The ones with interesting social lives or jobs, or stealing ideas from them (they were technically my ideas anyway).

The Other You

While exploring a new Me, who didn’t really have anything special about him, a box popped up. “Try our Premium Service!” I thought my fun was up, that now they would start to extort me in some way. But I had no other option than to click through.

“Don’t worry, you can keep using our Free Service! But if you would like to support us, consider upgrading the Premium Service! Here are the perks:

  • While your Other You is offline, you can explore their computer and its history! (you just won’t be able to save anything)
  • Synch up multiple devices! (Find out on what’s on your Other You’s phone, laptop or tablet)
  • Find a wider range of Other Yous! (be careful, some of them wouldn’t even be recognisable)

Remind Me Later! Let’s Do It!”

I won’t tell you how much it was but it was shockingly affordable. You know, considering what I was doing. Really flexible options as well, and it wasn’t compulsory. I went for it, if only to show my support for all the use I got out of it.

In most tales, here would be the point where I become obsessed, addicted, spending all my time and money on The Other You. And thus would be the moral. That’s not entirely untrue, but the real catalyst for this telling was borne of obsession.

There was a girl. Well, there have been lots of girls, but there was one in particular. She wasn’t sexy or hot, those aren’t the words I’d use to describe her. She was cute, sweet, pretty, but they’re condescending words that don’t describe all of her. She was pretty special. Here, we were just good friends. And that’s how it should have stayed. It hadn’t stayed like that for some of my Others though, and I started to notice that a lot of my Other Me’s were going out with her. Most of the one who had stayed in contact, in fact. Thanks to the Premium Service, I didn’t have to wait for their computers to be on to investigate. In fact, many of the Other Me’s who were in relationships were on their computers less.

It took a while but I soon compiled information on dozens of Other Me’s that were in a relationship with this girl. I couldn’t tell you why her. There’s probably far more Other Me’s that are with someone I’ll never know or meet. But I know her, so she’s more important.

I suppose you’re getting a creepy vibe from all this and you should. It became an obsession, stalking Other Hers, even in ones where Me and Her weren’t together. It didn’t help that passwords were so often the same. It was almost too easy.

So I messaged her. Just to meet up, a day out in town, that was all. We walked around, dipping in and out of cafes. This had pretty much always succeeded for lots of Other Me’s. It was going well, until I mentioned something that she had told one of Me in confidence, over a text. She did not take this well.

She hasn’t spoken to me since. When I got home, I worked out how long I’d been on The Other You. Days and days. A fair bit of money sunk into it as well. I was doing terribly in almost every other aspect of my life. I took one final look in all those mirrors, then closed The Other You for good.