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A Big Question

Deepak grew up on a staple diet of veggies and science fiction. His work has previously featured in or has been accepted for various publications including Terraform [Vice Media], Allegory, Sci Phi Journal, and science fiction anthology Where the stars rise [Due 2017]. When not imagining up stuff, he has published many times about technology in avenues like Consulting Magazine, CIO Update, Search CIO, PC Today, and CIO Decisions. His Philadelphia home is run by his one-year-old daughter. His wife and he are just along for the ride. Itís a pretty good one though.
Insecurities, angst, and confusion--the kids have it all. That's why the University had me. Ty, my next appointment, was supposedly very special. Aren't they all? The brightest ones seemed to get younger every year. The file said the kid had severe adjustment issues.
As he slid into the chamber, the first thing I observed about this chunky looking fellow was his inquisitiveness. Rather unique.
"Remarkable graduating with the top honors in all five specializations," I said.
"Wasn't that a foregone conclusion?" he responded.
How the young underestimated achievement. But I decided to focus. "Are you going to take up the offer?"
"Phobos is too far."
"Not that far. My first assignment was in Europa. And we had far slower transports back then."
He remained silent for, an extraordinarily long three seconds. "Why should I do anything at all?" he asked.
"And why do you feel that doing nothing is an option?"
"Not sure." He offered no more.
"Off-Earth jobs look great on resumes for academic careers."
His expression told me that he had already thought through all that. "University, academia--all this feels... predestined."
I made a note of his hesitation. Hesitations had long been conditioned out. His hesitation stemmed not from incomplete conditioning but from social cues. That's remarkable. But more impressively, this kid had conjured notions of destiny along with advanced physics.
"So, you believe in destiny?"
"No. But surely there is enough entropy to change any intended outcome. So why plan anything?"
I needed to drill a bit deeper. "And you believe that our lives are driven by just randomness?"
"No. But it'd be foolish to believe that I have control over all my actions."
"If you do not, then who does?" I inquired.
"Theists have interesting theories."
There we had it. I was alarmed, but tried not to display it. This might be more difficult than I had initially considered.
"You think a 'god' controls us?"
"That's unfair. But is there not even a remote possibility that some conscious entity influences us?"
"And what indicates the existence of this entity to you?"
"Our existence is an improbable marvel. No natural model indicates that we should exist."
I really did not want to debate Theology with this kid. "I am positive that our consciousness is not the only low probability event in the universe."
"So I take it that you refute the theist doctrine?" he asked.
"Our knowledge has gaps. Our first two hundred thousand years on Earth have no records. So, sure, god or aliens or whatever could have helped us along. But the lack of data does not imply, what I can only define as a creationist theory," I said with as much conviction as I could muster. "There simply is nothing to suggest that someone purposely engineered us. What we know for sure is that through our actions, we carved out success. For the talented, like you, to not carry that legacy forward would be a tragedy."
He seemed ambivalent, but I knew that I had broken through. "Thanks. This was helpful," Ty said after a few long seconds. "I still think Phobos is too far though."
"I am sure they will figure out a closer location," I told him. Another mind saved!
"Good day, Counselor."
I closed my display panel and my data banks instantly uploaded to the transport stream converting itself to a photon cloud. I imagine soon after his logic processor would have computed his next actions to slide his metal-alloy body out of the room.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, January 24th, 2017


I am fascinated by mythology of various cultures, but I often find myself challenging the logic of these myths which [unfortunately] sometimes diminishes what I get out of them. I just took this one step further to think about what happens when human-like mythology [or lack thereof] seeps into a future AI civilization.

- Deepak Bharathan

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