Results

“Hello?”

“John, is that you?”

“Yeah, Ted, it’s two in the morning. Are you still at work?”

“Yeah… yeah, I’m still here. John, the results are in.”

“What?! That’s way too fast. Something must have gone wrong. The models couldn’t have run fully, not that fast… not that fast. Even with the new quantums, something must have gone wrong.”

“Nothing went wrong, John. They’re here. Finished about four hours ago actually.”

“And you didn’t call me then?! What the hell, Ted! What have you been doing?”

“Thinking. Thinking.”

“What do you mean, thinking? Dammit gimme the details, what do the models say?”

“It’s over John. It’s all over. We’ve got 50, maybe 75 years, then its all over. End of civilization. Back to basic survival. Struggle. Massive die off. Death, destruction, horror, right around the corner.”

“Ted… Ted… What the hell… You’re not making any sense. You just need some sleep. Take another look in the morning. It’ll all look…”

“No! It won’t John. I’ve been over it and over it. The results are real. We’re done. We’re through.”

“Ok… ok, Ted. Just start at the beginning. What do the models say… specifically?”

“Ok, fine, you’re right, I’m a bit hysterical. You will be too when you know. But you’re right, let me start at the beginning. When I heard the chime telling me they wrapped up, I was just as disbelieving as you were, John. With all the social data we’re modeling and the populations and years involved, there’s no way it could be done. So I sat right down and dug in to the results. Of course the first thing I noticed was the duration. Only about 50 to 75 years. What the hell? I was thinking, is there a bug in the code? But before I dived into the code, I looked at the actual results. That’s when I got my first shock.

What caught my eye right away was the infant mortality numbers, through the roof! So I started poking around more. Education, right off the table. Tech base, nonexistent. That’s when I found the population numbers. About fifty-thousand in North America. That’s all.

I had no idea what was going on, but I was determined to find out. I wound the models back to current time and then played them in fast forward. It was awful. Just… awful”

“What did you see?”

“The models started from today, taking into account our current society, the good and the bad, and worked forward from there. In just a few years, things start to fall apart, literally. Shit breaks that can’t be fixed, no one knows how. So we go into crisis mode and start training people up, but there’s no one left who’s actually done the job who can train the next-gen of repairmen. All we have are professors and intellectuals, schooled in theory with no real experience.”

“You’re reading into it, the models don’t say that.”

“They don’t have to, it’s painfully obvious once you get into it. These half-trained guys put a patch on stuff but don’t really fix it, so the breakdowns start happening faster. The intellectuals come up with “better” ways to do things that can’t actually be implemented because the people who could are busy trying to patch the leaks. We still don’t have enough techs. We throw in even less trained people, and the fixes are worse than the problems. So our tech base starts crumbling. Not immediately, but it accelerates. First its little things we can get by without. Then it’s the big things, like the power grid. Whoo boy, when that starts to go, the shit really hits the fan.”

“But why? Why would things start to crumble, where did it get this data? It sounds like flawed input.”

“I thought that too, so I ran back over that. Nah, its right there, staring us in the face but we just don’t look at it. We’ve been dumbing schools down so our kids can feel smart and special. That kills the work ethic, drains societal IQ, but we lie to ourselves and say there’s nothing wrong with our kids, it’s the education system. No one learns how to reason, just how to search for answers on the internet. But what if the answers aren’t on the

net? Then what? When there’s no one left who knows how to think for themselves?”

“Seriously, you’re reading into the models again, putting your own beliefs onto the data.”

“Not by much, It’s hard to ignore, when it’s there in front of you. This shit’s all real clear, in hindsight. Where was I? Oh yeah, we’ve gone ass backwards on what we value in society. The biggest wastes of space are glorified, get their own TV shows so either we look up to them, for some godawful reason, or we can feel better about ourselves by laughing at the poor freaks. And the useful people, the ones slaving away to make real scientific progress are despised. The folks working to modify food to make it easier to grow. The ones looking to make us healthier and cut down on illness and defects. Those people are being attacked, but we hold up as heroes the guy that put a camera in our phones. People have been complaining about this for years but nobody’s put in the time to see what kind of damage it’s really doing. Our models laid it out though. We don’t have the knowledge, the will, the smarts, the can-do attitude, the basic god-damned ability to live in our own society. We’re still coming up with new stuff, sure. New drugs, new weapons, new amusements. But we’re regressing faster than we’re advancing.”

“So you’re saying we’ve already started the decline.”

“Yep, I rolled the program back, plugged in the data to around the turn of the century. It almost perfectly modeled the last several decades from 2000 to now, spot on for more than 50 years. Our models work. Our data is good. We have to take this shit seriously.”

“Let me get this straight, the most powerful computers man has built, the most comprehensive societal prediction equations ever constructed, using all the best of statistical history and socioeconomic theory, all agrees that we’re almost done. The human race is over.”

“You got it.”

“I’m coming down there.”

– – –

“Holy shit.”

“I know, John, I know.”

“This, this is impossible.”

“Actually, its statistically likely to about 98.7 percent.”

“Fuck you, Ted, this isn’t time to joke.”

“I’ve done my crying. Moving close to hysteria.”

“Well hold off for a bit, we need to talk. We need to build some more models.”

“Like what?”

“We need to run a new model, with the human race having this data. Put in everything we can. From major government efforts like data arks and re-education plans to even the small-time wacko with his survivalist compound. And some sort of randomization factor for what you and I can’t think up on the spur of the moment. We’ve got to find a way out of this. Having this information has got to put us in a better position. We can bend the entire worlds’ efforts to averting the crisis. This is the human race, for chrissakes, we put a man on the moon, we can beat this. We need to find the way around this, you and me and this genius box behind us.”

“It’s too big. It took us years to build what we have. You think we can come up with these new models overnight?”

“Hell no! It’s gonna take days. But think how much better at this we are now than when we started. How much more we can put on the back of the quantum and let it fill in the blanks and make suggestions for us. That’s what we were missing at the beginning, doing all the leg work ourselves. It’ll cut the prep time down exponentially. It’ll still take 24/7 work, we’ll get sick of each other, but we’ll plug in everything we can think of and count on the computer to put in much more.”

“Ok… ok… we can do that. Take some time, but we can do that. I’ve gotta call Janet and tell her I’m not coming home for a while. I’m gonna miss Andy’s game.”

“Can’t be helped. If we find an answer, he’ll know it was worth it. If we don’t… I should call Lynne and the kids.”

“Alright, see you back here in a bit.”

– – –

“Oh no. No no no no no.”

“John…”

“No! We screwed up. We missed something. This can’t be right. The models are flawed, the data is bad, this can’t just happen! The human race should pull together. People wising up to the destructive nature of their outdated, tribal behavior. Their regional hatreds that cause so much backsliding. Their religious separatism that does so much harm to the greater good. We should see an improvement!”

“John…”

“We’ll start over, from the beginning, we’ll find the answer!”

“JOHN!”

“WHAT!?”

“The models aren’t flawed. The data isn’t bad. Its right there. If we tell the world our results it only makes it worse. The world doesn’t come together to find an answer, it tears itself apart in an every-man-for-himself shitfest. Greed, fear, hate come pouring out. Everyone tries to wall themselves off from the coming disaster and only makes it worse. Everyone blames everyone else even though it doesn’t make any sense. The religions blame the ungodly. The East blames the decadent culture of the West. The West claims it comes from trying to support the rest of the world. Those survivalist nutjobs you mentioned start walling themselves off and creating new problems. Riots, food shortages, societal and technological breakdown, war as everyone scrabbles for what’s left. All accelerated by our report. We make it worse, not better. The world doesn’t last a decade.”

“Then what Ted? We come up with some new models. We tweak the numbers…”

“It’s a quantum supercomputer John! It already did that. It tweaked more factors in a second that you and I could come up with in our lifetimes. It did the math. We can’t change it.”

“So, what!? We just give up? We sit back and watch everything burn? My kids, I just don’t tell him that I’ll be lucky to die before it all goes tits up but they’re gonna have to live through it? Or most likely die because of it? I just don’t tell them that? Let them keep their dreams of being astronauts and athletes and parents and everything!? Just lie!?”

“I don’t know about you, John, but I don’t plan to live out the night.”

“What!? You’re gonna commit suicide? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Pretty much, yeah. I can’t live with this kind of thing. I can’t do it John. I’m losing it John. I’ve got a hold of myself right now, but it can’t last man. I can feel myself slipping. I’m having some terrible thoughts. How things would be so much easier…”

“Dammit Ted, what about Andy? And Janet? You can’t abandon them now!”

“Doesn’t really matter, in the long run, does it?”

“Fucking A Ted, you can’t just give up… oh shit.”

“What?”

“You really can’t. You’d doom us all.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Everyone knows what we’ve been working on. Its international news. We didn’t get all this time with the biggest and best computer ever built without approval. If you kill yourself right when everyone expects results, it’ll only bring questions. They’ll want the data. They’ll want to know why.”

“Fuck.”

“You’d create the worst-case scenario. You’d put us down the toilet on fast-forward. Our kids wouldn’t live out the decade.”

“God-dammit! I can’t even kill myself! Fuck Fuck Fuck!”

“What are we going to do Ted?”

“Why are you asking me? Five minutes ago I was set on suicide!”

“Because its up to us Ted. Everyone’s expecting the results. We’ve got to give them something. Something to keep us on the longer track. Maybe in the next 50 to 75 something new will come up. A miracle. Something the quantum’s can’t predict. We have to give the human race that time. We have to come up with a plausible lie. And a convincing one. People will break down our data. They’ll see right through it otherwise.”

“No, won’t work. We can’t fudge the numbers. They’ll find the mistakes, correct them and the world will know. No, we have to go farther.”

“What?”

“We have to disgrace ourselves. We have to, somehow, take it back to our base equations, where we started. We have to invent some basic flaw at the beginning that’s so obvious and so inescapable that we’d have to be fools to have missed it. Then we have to go back and change everything to include that flaw. Everything we can. Make ourselves look like morons, incompetents. So bad that no one ever bothers to look at our data. No one ever hunts for the truth.”

“You’re right. We have to make them embarrassed to have ever given us any credence. Make them want to forget about us. But how?”

“Give it to the quantum. See what it can come up with. It’ll do better than us. Find something so bad, but believable… we have to, John. We have to. And while we’re at it, see if there’s anything we can do to stretch it, find just a little more time. A project the world CAN pull together on. Another space race or something. Mars, maybe. Something that will take the whole world and give everyone more time… as long as we hold our peace.”

“But we’ll still know, Ted.”

“Yeah, it’ll probably drive us crazy, maybe even kill us, but we’ll have to bury it. For our kids. For whatever future they may be able to scrape up. For a chance.”

“There’s really no chance, is there?”

“Not really, miniscule at best. But we have to do this. We have to at least give them that.”

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