August 11, 2022

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Adhavan Sashikumar's story, submitted for the 2021 Sci-fi Writing competition, shows us how the future of science can be interpreted using the prompt 'Spectrum'

By Adhavan Sashikumar

LIGHT

“Asimov. You mean to tell me you have never heard of Asimov?”

“No one cares about fiction mate. Science fiction? All that crap about space wizards and lightsabres ain’t gonna happen, pal. Let me tell ya something: I live in the real world. This may be fun for ya, but for me…” Bill paused and shrugged his workman-like shoulders. “For me, it is all about where the next meal is comin’ from, ya know, how I’m going to pay ma rent…”

Arnie’s eyes looked at Bill blankly, his thoughts disparaging. What madness had got this guy hired? Arnie had studied psychohistory religiously (his ex-wife would say too religiously) and was months away from reaching his decades-old dream. He could not imagine life being any better and here this guy was telling him that Asimov, whom he had only heard of about five seconds ago, was ‘crap.’ A guy who had predicted the advent of psychohistory two centuries ago was ‘crap?!’ Psychohistory predicted all future possibilities, and soon his creations would do the same; no one in their right mind would tell him it was ‘crap!’

 “Have you ever heard of the flying car, Bill?” Arnie continued.

“The idea everyone thought was crap, once we had the UAN?”

Jesus, everything was crap to this guy.

“Yes, that one. The guy who had the idea for the Underground Automobile Network says that the flying car was what inspired him – Musk, I think he was called. Anyway, the point is that thinking outside the box is how we’ve propelled FutureCorp to unparalleled heights.”

Bill slammed his hand into his fish-flavoured ‘ambrosia’: all the same shit, just different flavours. “I ain’t here for any of ya idea bullshit, Arnie. I do what the boss tells me, and the chip gets it done.”

The chip… if Arnie had little respect for Bill before this outburst, then only pity remained now.

Around 20 years ago, someone had decided that one should be able to choose to give up their free will, if they so wanted, through a chip implant. Once switched on, one would perform a task for a predetermined period, with no distractions. Of course, in places like the ‘Great Empire,’ the chips weren’t exactly a choice. Here in London, however, the uproar from the Union for Humanity meant that only those with a low enough IQ had this option available  – and even this was not easily agreed.

Arnie was fascinated. “What is it like? The chip, I mean?”

Bill’s plate flew into the air, and Arnie’s face was covered with ambrosia. Despite all his intellectual prowess, there remained a pitiful lack of emotional awareness. He sighed, plodding to his desk as the other tables erupted in laughter.

He had his Pleasure tablet, and the incident was forgotten. In its place, pure happiness and in due time, worldwide recognition.

DARK

“What will it be this time?”

“You know I am only doing my job.”

“You are not doing it particularly well.”

“I’m going easy on you.”

“I’ve been sat in a pitch-black room for I don’t even know how long, I have an implant which shocks whenever I attempt to get sleep, and I feel hungry no matter how much I eat. I can hear you, and yet don’t know where the sound comes from.”

“It could be worse.”

“I know.”

“But I respect those who fight for their beliefs.”

“Your superiors will not like that.”

“You are my responsibility, mine alone. My good service has allowed for that, at least.”

“But why me?”

“Why what?”

“I hacked the FutureCorp network. I attacked all their offices. I attempted to destroy the world as we know it. Why do I deserve this?”

“I am aware of your crimes. My personal belief is that everyone deserves a second chance – it is only the other 20 billion on this planet who believe differently.”

The prisoner chuckled. “Perhaps they think differently for good reason.”

“As I said, I am aware! I have done few good things in life… as we near the end, allow me just this.”

“The end?”

The warden’s sigh was heavy with sadness. “FutureCorp have provided some… ‘equipment’ to us recently, capable of pinpointing traumatic events to force subjects to relive them. Those events are all you shall see, hear and feel.”

The last glimmer of hope left the prisoner’s eyes, as his face and future crumbled before him. “Please… end my suffering.”

“You know I cannot.”

The prisoner sank to his knees, resigned to his fate. “I didn’t want to do that to him. You know that don’t you? I did it for the greater good, for humanity.”

“I know. But actions have consequences, and you know what that means in this world…”