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The No-Sick Box

Philip Apps is a data scientist who lives in California. This is his first published story.
"Daddy?"
"Yes, baby girl."
"What's a no-sick box?"
Professor David Anderson broke away from his reading to look at his daughter, Margaret.
"Where did you read that, Maggie?"
"It was in the paper. See?"
She handed him a copy of the Sunday New York Times magazine he had given her to draw in. It was great that she was taking more of an interest in reading, he thought.
"Oh. A Nozick Box," he realized. "It's a name, Nozick, so it's a little hard to read."
"So what is it?"
"Ah, well it's a philosophical thought experiment about a simulation."
Maggie put on a blank look and said, copying one of her favorite YouTubers--"Um, hello. I have no idea what you just said."
"Well, you remember we went to Universal Studios for your sixth birthday?"
"Can we go for my seventh?"
"Maybe. Now you remember they had different rides?"
"Yeah. There was a Transformers one. And there was the one where you were flying a dragon. That was so amazing!"
"Right. Now imagine there was a ride so good that you forgot it was a ride. And so long that you could stay on it for your whole life."
"That would be great! But you'd need to go to the bathroom."
"Well, it would be a really big ride, with everything you needed. Food, drink, bathrooms."
"And you could stay on it for as long as you wanted?"
"Yes."
"I'd stay on it for a million gazillion years."
"Ah, but then you'd miss out on all your friends in real life, and all the other fun things you could do. You wouldn't really be riding dragons or having adventures, you'd just be pretending."
"But it would be so cool to ride dragons all day!"
"Maybe, but you wouldn't get to see Jenny and Idris and all your other friends, and they'd miss you."
"OK, then you could just get off the ride."
"But the thing is, the ride is so good, that once you're on it, you forget you're on a ride. You think you really are riding a dragon."
"Hmm."
"So one idea is, every so often you remind people that they're on a ride, and ask them if they want to get off."
"Like every hour?"
"Maybe, or maybe once a year. But the problem with that idea is, if the ride was really good, you wouldn't want to be interrupted."
"So?" persisted Maggie.
"So, you wouldn't remind people they were on a ride. You'd just take a look at them, see if they were having a good time, and figure out if it was time for them to get off."
"Daddy?"
"Yes, baby girl."
"Are you having a good time?"
For the briefest of moments, Professor Anderson thought he felt the world pause. Maggie was so sweet, and he was so lucky to have her. He was really looking forward to his book tour. And things were going so well since the last election.
"Yes, little monkey, I am." Maggie smiled, and the world resumed.
"Daddy."
"Yes, baby girl?"
"Can we play dragons again?"
"Yes we can."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, November 27th, 2017


The idea for this story came from a Fathers' Day trip with my family. We stopped in a bookstore, and I bought a book that mentioned the philosopher Nozick's Experience Machine in passing, which became the Nozick Box. I'm not completely sure if or why the professor is in the box, but he seems happy either way.

- Philip Apps

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