10 June 2021

Because of a computational error, the following story from the year 2050 has appeared on your device. We apologize for the inconvenience.

This is how I became one of the people who are harvesting thoughts. It’s how I met Bradley. We started harvesting like the Google car, but instead of a car we went around with sticks with a bulb on the end to harvest thoughts and patterns.

You didn’t notice us. We were the people in the back of the room at city council meetings. Schools. Government meetings. Company board meetings. Cafes. Anyplace where there were groups of people so we could be invisible because there were groups of people there. We took advantage of the kindness of humans and their desire to meet in groups and talk.

I went in applying for the security job because I am big and also because we sometimes become things because we have to. I had a winery in Argentina before the climate screwed me and everything dried up. Me and my wife Wanda had to go north. I became a professional strong arm man in Los Angeles for a while and got famous when I defended Arnold Schwarzenegger against some thugs in a market when he was trying to buy water. Arnie was old then, a doddering old chap. I made a name for myself defending celebrities who wanted to go to the outside markets.

What do you want?” Bradley didn’t look up.

People call me Sanchez,” I said.

He was crazy busy that day. Screens lit up all around him. An early version of a Harvester leaned against the wall behind him. Backpack thing, solar panel, the wand and the bulb at the end. You’d recognize it now. It was new then, but I knew what it was because I had a friend, Caleb, who worked in Visualization downstairs. Get a job as a Harvester guy, he told me, and your future will be secure.

So here I was. I tried to make my voice sound polite. Mr. Power?” I said. I’m here for the job. I am Sanchez. You have a meeting with me.”


His eyes were super tired looking. It took him an extra effort to take in my big frame in the doorway. Nora2,” he called out. Am I interviewing somebody now?”

She answered yes, so he gestured for me to sit down.

The meeting prep notes were glowing on his screen. His tired eyes scanned how I have a degree in viniculture and a Masters in supply chain logistics from the Universidad de Buenos Aires.

Look, Sanchez, you’re overqualified.”

He needed some muscle, that’s all, because the company was growing and more people wanted his time and they needed to be fended off. He was lobbying for relaxed regulations about harvesting thoughts. At the same time he was deploying Harvesters, so he had secrets. He needed protection. I told him how I knew what he was doing with the Harvesters. Trying to get the laws changed and running Harvester teams anyway before it was legal.

How do you know that?”

I shrugged and offered my cryptic smile, the one I used before I was going to hit somebody and knock them down. I know how to talk to people, Mr. Power.”

Bradley’s eyes went to the screen again where he read about me being a good software guy, protecting my clients from hacking attempts. People feel secure around me.

The money must be good,” he said.

The money was good, but as a body man I could only work for one celebrity at a time. De Niro fired me because he stopped going out in public. My wife Wanda didn’t want to be a liquor distributor anymore because it was a steep step down from when we owned the winery. Being a body man was a dead end, anyway. I needed something with a future. My friend Caleb who worked in Visualization told me it was harvesting thoughts.

He said, Go in applying for the bodyguard job and come out leading the Input group.”

How am I going to do that?” I asked Caleb.

I remember how Caleb shrugged. You’re desperate,” he said. So I told Bradley he was about to become the biggest Harvester in the Sector because he had the technology. He needed somebody to run Input. That somebody was me. I had the charm. I could make myself known.

I knew he was up against the wall. Other companies were about to launch their own Input. The best crew would win. Everybody needed the data.

Bradley said, You look like a man who can administer a bribe. You’re hired.” This is how democracy will be protected, he said.

I went over to Human Affairs and got my employee implant chip right away. Wanda was excited when I told her. It was the beginning of a new chapter for us. She hugged me tight, but as I looked over her shoulder, past her and into the street, there was a man standing there. He had a crooked stance, and wore one earring, like he was off balance, and he was smiling at me like he could read my mind without using a Harvester.

Computational Error is part of a series of short-form fiction. Subscribe to get the series in order in your inbox.

(c) Lee Schneider 2023. Take care of each other. Subscribe.