"The difference between encrypted information and radio noise is your faith there cannot be a key for the static. There exists no way to prove randomness. There are statistical tests. Nothing more. This world of entropic churn you think you exist in is a religion like any other."

-Taylor Swift


The Naked Emperor
54 Chauncy Rd (Street View)
Mansfield, MA

"What we're looking at, maybe even within the next few years, is the possibility of neural networks that can produce convincing video of real people without any artifacts. It'll be possible to manufacture footage of anyone doing anything, dead or alive, and it will be just as good as authentic." The Boss-suited stranger swallows half his gin and tonic in one swig, the only thing seeming to calm his chiropteran twitch. "All you'll need is maybe ten seconds of video, and you'll be able to script exactly what happens in the ten minutes that follow."

I've been underestimated tonight. He's seen me reading tarot at the bar, and like most engineering types, he's assumed from circumstantial evidence that I'm out of my element- yet he's already revealed to me that he's in town on an information security project, directly contradicting the information on his business card. This isn't just idle speculation on his part.

"There's no coming back from something like that, is there? Once you can falsify complete four-dimensional experiences, you can bypass the ability of the human brain to critically discern anything resembling an 'objective' truth.' Regardless of intellect or experience, unless you were actually there- and perhaps even if you were there, you could never fully know which version of events actually took place."

"That's... yeah, that's right." A waveform appears on his brow.

"And with the continued isolation of communities brought about by social media, multiple versions of the exact same event can be selectively distributed, all equally non-falsifiable. What individuals and groups want to believe already drives our political climate more than what is empirically verifiable. But what you're telling me is that personal conviction is about to become the only social standard of what is and isn't considered factual. 'Reality' can be split at any moment by anyone with the proper resources and influence. That's not just a paradigm shift- what you're talking about is weaponizable."

He shrugs, then laughs an insincere laugh. "I honestly don't know where we're going from here." At this point, he knows that he's made the wrong friend tonight.

"If I were to ask you whether or not the technology you've described already exists, would you be forced to give me a GLOMAR response?"

A pause, a grin, a grimace. "Now that, that I would rather not answer at all."

"Well, shit. Here's to the death of consensus reality."

His laugh abruptly returns: hearty, loud, desperate.

He accepts my toast.

The Smoking Mirror
1 1/4 oz mestizo anejo mezcal
3/4 oz amaro averna
okinawan black sugar syrup
bittermens xocolatl mole bitters

Named for Tezcatlipoca, the dark reflection of Quetzalcoatl seen through an obsidian surface, this distorted image of the Black Manhattan confers smoke and shadow in equal measure.