A hacker sat at his PC late Friday evening. Computer magazines, programming books, and software packages lay scattered everywhere--jammed in overstuffed plain wooden shelf units, on the desk, on the night tables, on the loveseat, and on the king size double bed. The hacker, also known as Erin, was a tall skinny nerdy looking geek of about 35, wearing old jeans and an AOL tee shirt. He pored over numerous tattered and dog-eared books with such titles as, "The Brain-Computer Interface", and "Principles of Cortical Detection and Stimulation." He reached across his desk to grab a slice of pizza and took a swig of a can of Jolt Cola, then proceeded to make some changes to a program displayed on the screen of his computer.
He picked up an old bicycle helmet, which has been altered by the addition of all manner of small antennas and wires fastened all over the top of it. He grabbed a length of ribbon cable from under his desk and plugged one end into the helmet and the other end into the parallel port on the back of his computer. Standing up from the chair, he walked over to the bed and shoved the pile of books off onto the floor. Placing the helmet on his head, he lay down on the bed and went limp.
Standing in the center of a large medieval throne room, Erin, a tall skinny nerdy looking geek of about 35, wearing old jeans and anQuark's Bar tee shirt, whirled around.
"Behold, my kingdom!" he shouted as he walked around the huge ornamental stone room.
"What detail! Incredible! I should be proud of myself!"
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"Ahhhhhh. A bit musty though. I think I'll take that out."
He walked up to the massive wooden throne in the center of the room. It was standing upon a raised section of the stone floor. Its cushions were luxurious violet silk, and it was curtained in sheets of red, blue, and green pleated sheets of silk.
"Aaaaaaeaaaah," as he took his rightful place upon the throne. He sat for a few minutes and began tapping his fingers on the arms of the throne. "Let's check out the rest of my kingdom." He said to himself.
Erin exited the massive castle, crossing between two guard towers and across the narrow wooden drawbridge. He walked down into the village where the empty streets, lined with quaint wooden shops and houses, crisscrossed at odd angles. Several streets came together in the square where, in the center, a large ornamental well stood proudly, its bucket swinging in the cool breeze. Erin sat on the edge of the well and dropped a coin into the water below with a plop. "I wish I knew how to program sentience."
Erin sat at his computer nearly all day Saturday, keying in another program, this time poring over a journal titled, "Consciousness Explained."
Erin sat upon his throne in fine saffron robes, wearing a bejeweled gold crown upon his head. Two of his subjects faced him from a respectable distance.
"My subjects! Bow to your king!" The two men leaned forward in unison.
"You may rise. What causes you to seek an audience with your king?" Silence. "Well, speak up! Tell me your names!"
"I. Am. Alpha."
"I. Am. Beta."
"How are you feeling, Alpha? Are you comfortable?"
"I. Do. Not. Feel. I. Do. Not. Experience. Comfort."
He sat staring at the screen until Saturday evening drew near. With a sudden start, he let out a whistle! "Spot! C'mere boy! C'mere Spot!"
A small brown terrier came running into the room. "Good boy! Sit, Spot! Sit! Now, stay. Stay! Good boy!"
Erin placed his bicycle helmet on the dog's head. The dog collapsed to the floor in apparent slumber as Erin keyed something into the computer. The hard drive light flickered for several minutes then stopped. The dog opened his eyes and looked up at Erin.
Erin removed the helmet from the dog. "Here, boy. Want a doggie biscuit? Good boy!"
The dog ran out of the room attacking his biscuit. Erin lay back down on the bed and placed his helmet back on his own head.
Erin sat at his throne, his loyal dog by his side.
"Spot! Fetch!" He tossed a ball over to the far end of the throne room. The dog bounded after it and returned, dropping the drool covered ball at Erin's feet, jumping and barking excitedly. "Good boy, Spot! Real good boy!"
Erin stared into the screen, his chin resting in his palms with his elbows on the desk. His eyebrows shot up and he rapidly began to key in another program as the Monday morning sun started to rise. He checked his watch and jumped up out of the chair scrambling to take off his jeans while replacing them with a pair of dress pants. He pulled a dress shirt on over his tee shirt and ran out of the house as he grabbed a tie from his closet.
The workday at the hi-rise offices of Megatelco Corporation in Piscataway New Jersey began promptly at 9:00. Erin arrived early Monday morning. Of course he dreaded this day. It was his birthday, and there was no way of avoiding his Birthday Beating.
Birthday Beatings were the brainchild of Glenn. Glenn was a member of the team of programmers of which Erin was also a member. Erin had endured several Birthday Beatings so far. Often, they involve tossing the victim's overcoat over his head and giving him a gentle pounding. Women were not excused from the practice either. It was more of a psychological trauma than a painful one. Still it was unpleasant. Yet he dared not protest. The Birthday Beatings had the blessing of the immediate staff manager and the staff manager's District manager.
A few years ago, some chap, a Bernhard somebody, complained about the Birthday Beatings to a different staff manager other than his own, but under the same District manager--and he became the victim of a cruel practical joke. A few days after the allied manager went to the District manager to resolve the problem, the District manager called up his Division manager saying that he had overheard Bernhard making a bomb threat against the company. The Division manager called the police, duped into falsely accusing Bernhard of making the bomb threat. The innocent chap was fired and went through a bloody hell of an ordeal to clear himself.
Thus, Erin endured the Birthday Beatings.
The remainder of the workweek was uneventful, and Erin made little progress in his virtual world.
That Thursday, Erin decided to forego his forays into virtual reality and attempt a go at real reality for an evening. He browsed the personals and answered "Intelligent Woman Seeking Intelligent Man." He called up "Intelligent Woman" and they hit it off straight away. The following evening, Friday, he drove to her flat and picked her up that night and drove to a restaurant for dinner.
On the way there, she asked, "Would you mind stopping up ahead here at the betting parlor for a second. I want to pick up my State Lotto ticket. I buy one every day, you know."
He stopped, and she got her tickets. Continuing on the way to the restaurant, Erin explained, "The State Lotto is a tax on the ignorance of probability theory, you know."
"What rot is that you say? I just won $150.00 last week! A couple of years ago, I won $200.00!"
"But if you buy one ticket a day, you're paying $365.00 a year to win $200.00 every couple of years. Instead, why don't you put a dollar into an envelope every day, and when your numbers come up, take the money out of the envelope. I guarantee you'll win more than $100.00 or $200.00 every time your numbers come up."
"Why should I? It's the only way I can save money. What if I stop playing and my numbers came up? I'd lose hundreds of dollars. So don't tell me what I should do!"
"I'm not telling you what to do. I'm just pointing out that you're losing money playing the State Lotto. If you're doing it to save money and you enjoy the gambling part of it, you can at least break even by playing it like I've explained."
"How dare you tell me what to do! And how do you really know I'm losing in the long run, eh?"
"Because I can count! It's obvious! $365.00 a year to average $100.00 a year back is losing money. I'm just explaining that to..."
"I can't deal with this! Let me out! I'll find my own way home!"
"Don't be silly, I'll take you home."
"Stop the car right now, or I swear I'll scream out the window!"
He let her out and drove home, all the while muttering about so-called "intelligent" women.
Erin awoke early that Saturday morning. He made himself up quickly and drove down to the local shopping arcade. He stopped in front of "Exotic Pet Shoppy" and entered. He glanced at the kittens and puppies and tropical fish as he walked through to the rear of the store where the exotic animals are on display. He stopped in front of a large cage labeled, "Ixblat." Inside was a small chimpanzee. "May I help you, sir?" asked the young female clerk.
"Yes, please. How much is the chimp?"
"The chimp is eight hundred and fifty American dollars, sir, plus VAT. He's really cute. Would you like to hold him?"
"His name is Ixblat. Hold him like this."
"Uh. He won't..."
"No, he won't! Though he'll need to wear a diaper if he were to be allowed to run around loose."
"What's your return policy? Just in case he doesn't take to me?"
She raised an eyebrow at him before answering. "You have thirty days to return him for a full refund. But we will check to see that he hasn't been abused."
"Okay, fine, I'll take him."
"Oh! Good! He comes with the cage here, and his toys, but you'll have to buy a bag of his food."
.... There is more of this story ...