How We Make Decisions

Chapter Three of a sci-fi short story finds the human subjects of an unorthodox experiment, being controlled by mobile apps designed to mimic their decision making. (first published here on line, March 28th. 2015)

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what is time?

Flip of a Coin

a Short sci-fi Thriller exploring the Passage of Time

CHAPTER THREE (yesterday today):

Osca roll's into the kitchen a little after eight p.m.. Stops in his tracks. See's Annie standing on the table, Cohen sitting behind her, scooping some rice out of a plastic tub.

"What's going on? Annie, are you table dancing?" Osca stuffs his hand in a pocket with a laugh. "Here, I've got a couple of bucks that says you could take off your top." To which Annie scowls and, with a raised eyebrow, points a stiff finger at him; "Osca, you really are a prick, sometimes".

Hey, man, she thinks there's a spy-cam or something and she's checking out the light," says Cohen. "like in the movies. She thinks we're being watched." "No, it's not like that," Annie interrupts, stepping down on to a chair in her bare feet. "I just thought, maybe.., that's all." Once back on the floor she tells Osca what she has heard, with an almost apologetic note in her voice. She then says good night and heads for the door.

"So, we just act normal - no problem!" Osca chirps.

Six in the morning and three subjects stir. Marga is watching, so is Fredic, he has made an effort to be at the lab early today. Annie drops out of bed in her over-sized pyjamas and heads for the kitchen. She meets Cohen in the hall. They exchange mumbled greetings. Annie goes over to the counter and pours herself a bowl of cereal. Cohen picks out an apple from the fridge and sits down. Marga is reading the app-prompts on the screens, watches as Annie takes a single scoop of sugar, then turns to sit down; "Better," she murmurs.

"What was that?" Fredic enquires.

"Oh, nothing," She replies, "Just interesting that Annie did not overload on sugar this morning." And then: "So how is it your apps can do all this? It's almost a repeat of yesterday."

Fredic takes a deep breath and stares up at the ceiling. "These equations are like the DNA of progression. Each one of us has a set of them, they govern our passage through time, as we contract towards the future; that is why we are repetitive in our actions, we are predictable. First we discovered evolution, showing how the future was tied to the past by conditioning, now one step further and fractals can actually write it in mathematical terms. You know what I mean: fractals?"

"Yes, you told me about them before." She smiles.

"Ok, right, of course. So, I use software to analyse a person's daily routine and then sync the data to a program that produces a likeness of the model. I get iterative equations, all slightly different dependent on the subject. They are basically blue-prints of an individual's behaviour, unique to each one of us, similar but never quite the same. Just like DNA."

"You mean if you altered them slightly you could change someone's personality?" She stares, wide-eyed. "There goes my future, best look for another career."

"Well yes, I mean no!" He laughs, she laughs. He went on: "I'm a long way from that, but sure, in the future. Look, you see, you start with a flat pool of water, then drop a pebble in. What happens?"

"It sinks?" Marga says while watching the monitors.

"No, I mean, to the water?"

"Oh, you get rings.., of ripples," she says, staring now at the third monitor.

"Yes, but why? Why not something less uniform, more muddled? That's it, the key is that the flat pool is perfection and it fights to remain so. When an imperfection or disturbance arises it causes the entire pool to react and contain it. In the same way, the Universe and Time act to stabilize and work out disturbances. If there's a rock sticking out of the pool, the ripple goes around and through it, as if it was never there." An awkward pause, and Fredic realises he is loosing his audience. He fumbles with his briefcase and returns to his laptop.

Marga will admit to herself, that she rather fancies Fredic. It's not the Mediterranean look about him, or the bumbling professor image he likes to put across. It's his whole self-indulgence attitude. Fredic does not have a facebook page, shuns attention, refuses invites and struggles with relationships. He's a challenge. He is a brilliant engineer who doesn't want to be known, as if his project is his baby and his commitment to her, his child, is absolute. Quite freaky, very sexy... And then suddenly she is distracted.

Osca swans in to the kitchen. Annie asks him what he will have for breakfast. His app-prompt says, 'coffee'. He goes over to the pot, pours himself a cup, and is prompted to sit down. He does. He then asks what everyone is going to do today. Cohen says he's off to the gym; Annie does not reply immediately, then says she has a research paper to work on, which she will do here at the apartment first, before meeting up with colleagues.

A phone rings. It's Annie's. She answers. It's her Dad. She steps out of the kitchen and into the lounge for a bit of privacy. He wants to know if she has found anything suitable for her Mom's birthday. He wants to meet for lunch. Annie shakes her head, then is prompted to agree. She knows that her app has somehow analysed the conversation, that it was not as private as she would have liked it to be. Still, she bites her tongue and returns to her bowl of cereal.

Osca: "I'm going to class. Want me to drop you at the Gym, Cohen?"

That evening, all three subjects are back at the apartment. They are sitting in the lounge, a little after seven o'clock. Osca is clearly excited. "Wow, that was weird, I just turned into the car park and there she was. And she came right up to me and started chatting."

"So, what did you do?" Cohen asks.

"We went for a coffee together. I'm sure she didn't know I was being controlled by the app. It's just so cool, it's like freedom, like I don't have to make decisions. I don't have to do anything except enjoy myself."

Annie agrees. She has had the same experience, of liberation. At first she was wary, she was uncomfortable with the lack of responsibility. But by the end of the day she was just letting everything happen. Cohen, on the other hand, has admitted not really getting it. He doesn't see or feel any different, just finds it frustrating. Which is why Osca is now clambering to get him on board. "Nothing, dude, you just don't need to think, just act. Like, I met the most gorgeous babe I've ever seen, and I didn't do a thing; didn't worry about if I was going to screw the whole thing up, cos it was not up to me. It's like.., I like myself, but it's not me, it's the app."

"Yeah, it's hard to explain," Annie comments, "There are no pauses in the day, because you don't have to stop and think. You can get on with it." She pauses, then: "I had a great lunch with my Dad today, we got stuff worked out. And I didn't even want to meet him this morning. The app made me go and I had a great time. What does that say?"

"Maybe there is something wrong with Cohen's app," Osca suggests.

"We could phone Fredic," Says Annie. "What do you think, Cohen?"

"I don't know. Is it really a problem? I just don't get it. I went down to the Mall after practice this afternoon with the guys, you know, where we went yesterday. We went to check out Panades, that new taco place on the second floor. I was going to call you, Annie, but the app said I should call Osca, and you said you were already back here with some chinese and my app said I should come over." He was looking glum. "They all laughed at me, said I couldn't handle the hot sauce."

"Do you like spicy food?" Annie enquires.

"Not really.., like, I can't taste anything else and my mouth burns forever," Cohen mutters between forkfuls of special fried rice. "I just wanted to hang out, you know, have a laugh."

"Just drink beer, that'll cool you down." Osca exclaims; to which Annie disagrees: "No, Osca, I'm pretty sure you should eat bread to get rid of the heat. Liquids make it worse." She sees Osca bow his head, she sees confusion in his expression. She wonders what his app would have directed him to say, had it been up?

Cohen laughs at the thought of beer not being able to put out a fire. He is wondering how you could put out a fire with a loaf of bread, the whole visual thing is not working for him, when his projection is swiftly dissolved.

"How about we switch apps?" Osca gets up and unbuckles the app belt from around his waist. "We just have to unplug them from the blue-tooth, here," he exclaims with a tug, disengaging a small black cable, "and then I can see how his works for a while, you know, just for an hour or two in the morning once the apps have re-launched?"

Annie frowns. "We shouldn't be messing with them. Perhaps this is how they are suppose to work. It's not our experiment. They told us not to touch the equipment once it was installed." She pokes at a phone on the coffee table in front of her to wake it up.

"It's just for an hour. What do you say, big man? Let's do it!" Eggs Osca...

"Well, if you think so. What should I do, Annie?" Cohen asks.

"Osca, Cohen!" Annie is pointing at her phone, "Look.., Christ, there's been an accident.., at the Mall." She is shaking, confused. "The news feed, it says the Oki Mall, a collapse!"

To be continued...

Chapter Four of Flip of a Coin, this serialized

sci-fi thriller, will soon be published here on site.

The theoretical principles outlined in this short story are loosely based on the Philosophy of Science paper Time's Paradigm.

Home - pt1. Destiny - pt2. Time - pt3. Infinity - pt4. Dimensions - pt5. Velocity - pt6. Travel - pt7. Wrapper

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A synopsis of a work in progress. Copyright: A. Graham, 1988 - 2015

No unauthorised use of the material published or the concepts described herein is permitted.