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.
He watched the protests from his office window for a little while longer, then closed the blast curtain by pressing the sensor on the wall. He switched on the AR in his contact lenses to read financial reports. That didn’t last long. He was restless.
“Dictate a note,” he said to the room. “Publish in The New York Times. I should be sympathetic to people who are concerned about how our platform is used. But I can’t be because they are ignorant. Delete that. I should be sympathetic to the people who protest outside my door about my company’s policies. But they don’t see the bigger picture. Companies like mine shouldn’t be considering social impacts because that’s just not what we do. Let’s vote on these things, not protest them. If we vote enough, and build our Sector, someday all the Sectors will be strong together. They will unite into the United Sectors of America.”
He broke off. “Nora2!” Maybe she was in.
She was. She walked in fast. “Yes?” He always liked that about her, that she walked fast and was reliable.
“I’m sounding like a red,” Bradley said. “I want to sound like a blue.”
“Impossible. You may have been a blue once but you’ve changed colors. Everybody knows it.”
“I have to try.”
“Maybe you really are a red,” she said. “Simple.” She waited for his next instruction.
“Impossible,” he shot back. He had a history of social action. He went on civil rights marches with his parents. “I’m not the Sector. Policy and money aren’t the same. Policy is …” he trailed off. Spoken aloud, it sounded bad.
“This is about the thing you were dictating to the New York Times?” asked Nora2. It was up on her screen as a draft already.
He nodded. His eyes were pleading.
“Don’t display the puppy dog eyes. I will write it for you.” She touched her right temple. Probably turning on her recorder.
“Yes. Please write it for me.”
Something made him want to look out the window again. He opened the blast curtains slightly and saw the last of the protesters were clearing out. The guards were moving among them with batons. He forbid them from using tear gas any more. It wasn’t humane. As he watched, he spoke softly, but loud enough for Nora2 to hear. “My challenges are with software and not with laws. Laws come from our Sector, not from the executive suite.”
“To include?” she asked.
He nodded. “It’s how I feel.”
“It’s really red.”
“I know. Just record it — you probably did anyway — and make it sound blue.”
“I recorded it.”
She touched her temple to turn off the recorder, turned, and left.
He called out to her, just a little too late, “That’s why you’re the best!”
The day was before him. It was going to be a good one.
She was at the door, leaning on it, not committing to entering. “Yes?” she said.
“Bring me a glass of water.”
She stepped back a half step. “Really?”
“Yes, I want one. I want one now. I want to reward myself.” This was good work he’d done this morning, tired as he was from the glidepath. He was in New Zealand just a few hours ago and he was tired, but his mind was sharp.
She came back in a moment with a tall, sparkling glass. “This goes on the expense account?” she asked, unable to resist a small smile.
“Absolutely.” Bradley drank deeply.
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.