About the author

This is what I did instead in Austria instead of watching TV. I discussed BCIs with other BCI nerds. This is how all scientists dress when we work in our labs. (Actually, this is Kornberg Castle).

PowerStreaming (Prequel) by Brendan ZaChary AllIson

She was nervous as she parked, but it looked safe. The desert mesa was surrounded by hills, barely visible against the black sky. She opened the door and enjoyed the pleasant surprise of a sweet smell didn’t recognize as desert sage. A few thousand people filled the mesa with blankets and chairs, oriented toward two huge blank movie screens set up against one of the hills. She saw staff folding up some plastic tables and packing brainkits in cardboard boxes, and ran to a skinny and pasty guy wearing a black staff jacket.

“Sorry I’m late,” she said. “Got lost. Lotta directions. Uhhh – can I still buy in to the stream rave?”

“Yup,” he replied. “The strave starts at 9, so you got time. We got everything you need right here.” 

“So I’ll see – and remember – all 96 hours of content by tomorrow morning? I won’t need to see ‘em IRL?”

“Right. You prolly won’t remember seeing ‘em or being here, but you’ll remember what matters – the content. We got the all the new seasons, just released yesterday. House of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Rings, Stranger Trek, Brainlandia, The Orange Cinematic Universe, The Watney Chronicles, and Neuronautica, plus all the commentary, making of, behind the scenes, interviews, deleted scenes, and some ads. We’re powerstreaming 2 at a time, both quadspeed, 20 minute break every 2 hours. 2 grand, cash only. You can’t finish, get too sick, leave early, cops show up, no refunds.”

She paused. “And this … really works? I’ll remember all 96 hours like I saw ‘em in real life?”

“Even better. Ask me anything. Or any of our staff. We’re caught up on every streaming series on all eight major channels. And more. Cassie there knows all the documentaries about science and the future, what’s-his-name over there saw every show from the 50s, that guy saw all the episodes of, um….” He trailed off.

“Any kind of discount?” She winked and smiled. He shook his head. She looked around, then pointed a burner phone at him and sent a coded payment. He checked his phone and nodded.

“Grab a brainkit from that box on the ground there. Just put it on and follow the directions. Takes about 10 minutes to adapt itself to your individual thalamacortical phase resetting whatever.” As she took one, he added, “Looks like you remembered to wear absorbent underwear, that’s good.”

“Um. Yeah. I followed all the directions on your website. Plenty of clean clothes and food in my car.”

“Good.” He gave her a small pouch from another box. “These are just over the counter meds for headache, nausea, and diarrhea. Take ‘em now and over the next few days. We recommend a nightwater bottle right now and during every break, also free, our staff will help you drink them during breaks and manage the buckets for personal sanitation. You should come to about 24 hours after you fall asleep, prolly OK to drive by the next morning.”

“OK. So now what?”

“Use a portapotty now, you won’t remember while you’re powerstreaming and you prolly won’t be up to it during the breaks. Find a blanket, drink nightwater, get comfy, don the brainkit, follow the directions, and of course, enjoy the show!”

Author Commentary

Why do we watch? Or binge watch? Is it the enjoyment of experiencing it as it happens, maybe with someone you like or love? Or is it just so you can keep up

I wrote this when I came back to the US after living in Austria. I’d go out in public and felt behind and detached because I wasn’t caught up on all the shows everyone else had seen. Since then, in-depth knowledge of popular shows has become increasingly important to a lot of people and groups. You’re out of touch otherwise.

The Watney Chronicles is of course a shout-out to The Martian by Andy Weir.

Cassie was named after the mythical Cassandra.


Science fiction becomes reality based on demand as well as available technology – both as perceived by a writer in a fictional world. To me, the demand for something like PowerStreaming has been around for a long time. Other sci-fi used it for rapid training (e.g. Exploration – also by Andy Weir) or storing data (e.g. Johnny Mnemonic). Would one of its early applications be downloading content just so people could be in the know?

Is this technically possible? Probably, eventually. I can’t actually build one now. This story and others in the PowerStreaming genre talk about how it works, at least for early versions of the technology. It dangerously overloads your brain so you can’t pay attention to anything else for a while, require some sketchy “nightwater” to keep going, have severe fatigue afterward, and forget other memories. Such a system would affect thalamocortical activity somehow.

I also suspect it would have serious side effects. The human brain is limited in its ability to both create and store new memories. Powerstreaming pushes memory consolidation and storage beyond our natural limits. This could result in the mistakes we see from the salesman. He remembers everything about different series and how Powerstreaming works. He can’t remember names of his co-workers or what one of them watches. He probably overuses “prolly” because he’s lazy and/or lost some language skills.

Powerstreaming would probably affect sleep as well. Simply staying up all night won’t make you sleep for 24 hours before you “come to” nor leave you unable to drive even longer. Sleep is essential to memory management. Cramming in too many memories could necessitate more REM and NREM sleep just to manage it all – including targeted forgetting of other information just to make room for a sudden deluge of new memories.


This is one fairly pathetic application of a much broader technology. Training and storing data are two possibilities. I’m developing others; more to come.


Thanks to Andy Weir and Eric Rabkin for comments on this short-short.

Comments and Replies

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s