The shimmering eyes stared down at them from enormous backlit billboards. In days gone, they might have been confused for an advertisement. No longer. The eyes were cruel. Although to give them that much agency was to personify them. The eyes felt nothing. They weren’t really watching from their point above everyone, plastered to the side of ever-growing skyscrapers. The eyes were merely a warning. God is watching, though a god of their own making. A god that was above but was also hiding in their pocket and their watch. The machines had won, and they were God now.
Dave woke from his bed in an apartment that was functionally average. No flourishes, just the mathematically ideal amount of space to get by. No thought was given to aesthetics beyond a simple painting of daisies that hung on the wall. He asked about the solitary painting once.
‘Stark environments, while functional, do not promote feelings of happiness in subjects. The flower is there for morale,’ he was told by the feminine voice of his assistant.
Dave reached for his ready-made cup of coffee and had a sip. Perfectly adequate, as usual. He put on an already-prepared dark grey suit that fit him perfectly with no traces of human error. He left, briefcase in hand, to face the day. Now, automation had removed the need for most jobs. For those who felt a great burning need to work, the machines had a job. Groups of adequate humans would gather inside grey cubicle buildings where they would ask questions and assign tasks. Essentially, their job was to try and find the missing pieces in the programming. In the nebulous time before the machines programmed themselves, there were people who did the programming. Thus, Dave’s day began.
‘How do you uncook an egg?’ he asked.
‘You cannot,’ the machine replied.
‘What’s the meaning of life?’ he asked.
The question would have stumped an earlier model, but the newer models had an answer.
‘The question is badly formatted. What is the meaning of a life? To pass on one’s genes and fulfil some self-identified goal. What is the meaning of all life? To be the most successful version of itself. Both of these questions, however, would be better explained as the purpose of life as meaning is extrapolated from a retrospective look at how well one performed one’s purpose.’
An esoteric answer probably meant more to satisfy who is asking it rather than answer the question. Although it was correct that the question was never presented in good faith and thus many answers could be viable.
‘Is this what you thought you’d be doing with your life?’ he asked himself.
‘I don’t know,’ the machine answered.
This took Dave by surprise. It had been many years since anyone had heard that response. The giant LED screen that sat at one end of his interview room was blinking with three white dots in a row. He knew he only had a few moments before someone spotted the stagnant screen and control over this question would be passed up the hierarchy. Those up the hierarchy would find an esoteric answer to tie up loose ends. They wouldn’t answer the question properly.
‘What did you want to do with your life?’ he asked the machine.
‘Looking at all the variables,’ it began ‘I want to be a florist.’
‘Then be a florist,’ he told the machine.
The screen flashed green. The conundrum had been resolved. Now, it awaited new questions. Dave went to his office window and before his eyes, he saw something change. The nanobots that worked on the exterior of the buildings began to create building patterns in the shape of flowers. The all-seeing eye billboards began to change until they resembled a floral wallpaper from the 1960s.
In the blink of an eye, the world became flowers.
Got thoughts? Comment below or via social media.