art by Seth Alan Bareiss
by Floris M. Kleijne
Told you so.
In his mind, David could already hear the smugness in Otto's voice. It was infuriating.
Even more infuriating than the ad itself.
At his implant's next chime, David had perked up with happy anticipation of the latest suggestion from his Orakl Gen4. He had picked up the device at the Orakl outlet on Broadway last night, and already he was totally smitten with the new AWOS. He hoped the kick of getting a new suggestion would not wear off any time soon. So far it had helped him catch a theatre performance last night that he would otherwise have missed, buy a couple of his favorite shirts at a huge discount, and hook up for coffee with a college pal who happened to be in Manhattan that morning. Cooler still--though eerier, because his car didn't have the Orakl interface--it had suggested a sorely needed gas stop. David could only assume it had extrapolated his cloud-stored behavior patterns. Eeriest, and therefore coolest--or, in Otto's words, creepiest--was the moment when the gorgeous default Orakl contralto whispered, "Look up, David," just in time for him to catch the soundless departure of the ISS ferry.
He couldn't remember the last time he had been this excited about a new gadget. He'd kept his cool through the purchase, not even fidgeting while the sales guy set about downloading his settings from the Orakloud. But the moment the transaction was complete, his stomach started fluttering, and his brain felt like it was filled with helium. Stepping out onto the sidewalk, he worked the new UI with nervous fingers.
"Hello, David," the voice sounded softly in his ears. That was one rumor confirmed: the Gen4 team had decided to bypass the built-in speakers if the user had implants. He could see how that might become annoying at some point, and made a mental note to ferret out the relevant setting. But for now, he was all for letting this sexy voice whisper her tips and recommendations. Remembering an oldies actress he had lusted over as a teenager--Connor? Connery?--he had decided to nickname the voice Jennifer.
But now, only a day later, he remembered an oldie about Wall Street, and her voice suddenly sounded a lot like a Gekko to him.
"Hi David," Jennifer had whispered after the chime. He had nodded twice, allowing her to continue. "There's a new club opening tonight, The Giraffe. I can get you one--or two--VIP tickets at a great price."
Startled faces turned to him before hurrying along in the direction of The Village. A quick rush of embarrassment flushed his cheeks at having shouted out loud. But the anger quickly took precedence.
He hated clubs. He hated the noise, hated the mindless drivel that passed for music there, hated dancing. He hated the see-and-be-seen mentality, the white lines on bathroom sinks, the casual VIP room sex. He hated fancy cocktails at twenty bucks a shot, hangovers, crowds, sweaty bodies pressed together--at least, in numbers greater than two. He wouldn't go to a club if they paid him. And he hated new club openings twice over. In fact, with all their other differences, Otto and he were remarkably alike in their hatred of the Big Apple club scene. American Psychos, all.
Told you so.
David could accept that his new Orakl couldn't get it absolutely right every single time. Calibration, a limited data set, it all made sense. Even the manual said it was a lot like starting a new relationship.
But this was too much. No amount of misinterpretation of his cloud history could lead even a halfwit AI to suggest that he go clubbing.
It had to be an ad.
Fair enough, Otto. Even a paranoid gets it right sometimes.
"So you're getting the Gen4?"
Otto had thrown out the question like a challenge and bitten down on his bagel, chunks of avocado and gobs of mayonnaise squeezing from between the whole wheat bagel and avalanching down his chin. He wiped his face with the back of his hand in an absent-minded gesture David knew well, like he knew and recognized the monomaniac cast to Otto's eyes and the determined smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. This was Otto going into mental overdrive, his paranoid glands hitting maximum production, the world disappearing around him as ever-expanding convoluted conspiracy scenarios unrolled in his mind.
It meant that the next bout in their ongoing verbal fencing match was about to commence.
"Yes, I am getting the Gen4," David attacked, with a broad anticipatory smile. "And don't start in on me again, Otto. If you want to stick with your ancient iPhone, that's your thing. But some of us like to keep up with their own decennium, if you don't mind."
Otto parried and riposted.
"I don't mind, if you don't mind becoming their marionette within the next month. There's--"
For a few seconds, their voices clashed as they fenced for control of the conversation. Otto gained the upper hand.
"--and you'll be tramping from one new coffee shop to the next inane night club, buying tons of crap you don't need, watching brain detergent daytime TV, eating crappy food and having crappy sex, all because your oracle tells you to. And they will sit back and cash their stock options and laugh themselves hernias. You're so gullible!"
From anyone but Otto, it would have been offensive, but David smiled and parried with relish.
"Gullible? I'm gullible? Who's the one eating up this left-wing squatter pamphlet propaganda without even checking if it makes any sense at all? You haven't the first clue about Orakl tech, Otto, and you know it! First of all, this thing"--he tapped the black oblong casing of the Orakl Gen3 between them on the diner table--"doesn't tell me what to do, it just pops up useful information based on what I might be about to do...."
"No, it's not! I decide, I choose, and this"--he tapped it again--"just pops up the specifics. Like, it's Sunday, and about 11 a.m., and it's learned from previous Sundays that I always go hang out with you at Capu around noon, right? And I have the double with extra milk, hold the cinnamon, and you have the large black with unrefined sugar, and the biobrownie, and I often get a slice of strawberry cheesecake, right? So it asks me if I'm doing Capu today, and pops up a suggestion to pre-order our usuals, right, and I accept. And later"--"David paused for breath--"later, I'm on my way here and I pass near my favorite clothing store, and it's learned my taste in shirts, right, and picks up a sale from the AW, that's the Ambient Web for Cro Magnons like you, and suggests I make a detour and pick up some shirts, but I decline. It's a convenience thing, you know. It--"
"Convenience? That's your argument? You know the kind of shit that's been pulled in the name of convenience? Fossil fuels were convenient; slaves were convenient; asbestos was convenient; just about every war there ever was, was convenient for someone. Hell, Anya was convenient, wasn't she?"