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Ross Simons Short Story: Slippery Slope Nature, Tech, and Values Brian Seitz April 17th, 2011 Slippery SlopeApril 17th, 2011 He sinks into familiar imprint in his soft leather chair that’s been at the company almostas long as it’s been around – 40 years. He opens up the drawer of his antique mahogany textand hears the dragging sound of wood against wood. It soothes him as he reaches in for hishalf-empty bottle of Crown Royal. He pours a few ounces into a snifter class, sits back in hischair, and sighs. He’s repeated this ritual nearly every day for the past few years. He closes hiscrystal blue eyes and contemplates. Against the back wall is an easel etching his company’sfailures in the form of menacing red jagged lines. They slowly made their way to the bottom ofthe page, as he slowly made his way to the bottom of the bottle in his desk. He stands up, hisknees in pain, and wearily makes his way over to the door to close it to the office that was oncevibrant and thriving, full of hope and life. “What are you still doing here John?” he mutters tohimself. At 68 years old, he’s watched his chain of grocery stores go through the gauntlet. Helooks back fondly on the day he cut the ribbon the opening of his second store. He remembersthe back room champagne celebration. It seemed like there was no limit except the sky as heopened his third, then fourth, and then fifth stores in just a few short years. Sprawled across40-mile radius, he made it a weekly event to visit every store and make the effort to know hisemployees and customers.
2 His business started its downward spiral when he opened his 7 th store. He didn’t realizethis until the 10th store however. As the company grew and more locations were added, it justbecame too large of an operation for him to handle. Then Wal-Mart came into town. As astalwart of the old order, he couldn’t adapt. Wal-Mart came in with their efficient operations,their manufacturer contracts, their low inventory turnover period, sophisticated barcodetechnology, accurate and high class supply chain management software, effective independenttransportation systems, cross docking, and most of all, its low prices. He knew why Wal-Martwas putting him out of business, but he just couldn’t accept it, he couldn’t evolve. Items startedgoing missing. Shipments were too late or too early. He couldn’t keep his costs down or hismargins high. His most talented employees started leaving the company, abandoning thesinking ship. He watched his number decline from 10 stores, back down to 5, but the damagewas done. He was stuck holding down the fort of the old way of doing business, going downwith the ship like the captain he was.December 19th, 2016. BREAKING NEWS: Today, Ford terminated all of their workers in their productionsfacilities. They say in a press release, “Our workers have found it increasingly difficult to keepup with the production capacities of machines. In order to maintain low prices for consumers,we felt the need to employ an all-machine production strategy, giving us significant costbenefits”. They did not give word as to if the increased cost benefits would result in lower costsfor customers or just higher margins for the company. Analysts speculate that by 2040 all
3production will be taken over by machines, and that machines will begin being primarily incontrol of their own production.February 21st, 2018Stockholder’s meeting, Dynamic Computer Systems, INC. (NASDAQ:DCOM) “We have reached a milestone! Today, our APB supercomputer has replicated itselfentirely without human intervention. It ran a complete production cycle, taking command ofthe supply chain, instructing our machines in the production facilities, and making an exactreplica of itself! Similar to human reproduction, we expect our production capacity to increaseexponentially as two becomes four, and four becomes eight and continuing to double untilstopped. We are now exploring the capabilities of APB evolving itself into a stronger computerthrough reproduction. We suspect that this milestone will render all previous predictions aboutthe rate at which technology evolves as inaccurate.”June 7th, 2022 “Dude, just do it. Do you want to keep being the dumbest kid in school? Everyonealready calls you a tard. We all take it.” He had seen the marketing; he had heard the claims; hehad seen the proof. Though it wasn’t subtly labeled, “intelligence®” they called it. You could notdebate its effectiveness. It basically was intelligence in a pill. Genetic Solutions, INC(NASDAQ:GNL) explained that the pill made the brain a more effective consumer of energy, andallowed it to work more efficiently, giving it the capability to process and retain three times theinformation of the average brain. There’s just something that creeped him out about it. It just
4seemed wrong to tinker with evolution like that, to tinker with God’s plan.Despite hisobjections, he was beginning to feel like he didn’t have any other choice. It had already beenexplained to him that if his performance did not improve, he would be put in the affectionately-termed, “turtle” classes. The way he was beginning to see it, either he could accept it, or fallbehind forever.March 2nd, 2025 BREAKING NEWS: GENSOL (NASDAQ:GNL announced today that they may have deviseda process to genetically enhance embryos;more to come in the next few months.June 3rd, 2033 “Now that we know you’re having a boy, it’s time to talk genetics. We looked at yourDNA, and frankly, things could be better. Located in the bedside drawer is our entire catalog ofgenetic enhancements…” said the nurse before being interrupted defiantly “But, we don’t—““Just stop right there. I know it’s a lot to take in. Just look it over, we believe you’ll make theright choice. Why leave everything up to chance. Do you want to make your child subpar toeveryone else?” she argued. “Well, no…” the mother said weakly. “Then look it over, nopressure.”The nurse gave a knowing smile before slithering out of the room. She reluctantlypicked up the book. It was elegantly bound, classic, and yet modern. On the cover there was ahigh-quality image of a group of healthy blonde-haired children playing baseball. She imaginedthe silky smooth texture of their hair, waving in the wind. Their blue eyes seemed so full of life;their smiles were perfect. These kids were the epitome of beauty and vibrance, like a delicatelycrafted piece of artwork from a long forgotten time. She made her way to the index, reading
5the chapters silently to herself “1. Is genetic enhancement right for you? 2. Testimonials 3.Physical 4. Mental 5. Emotional 6. Deluxe Packages 7. Price Chart”. She flipped to chapter 1 andall it said was “Yes.” in a big, bold, arrogant Helvetica typeface emblazoned across its blindinglywhite page; no explanation, no argument, nothing. Just “Yes.” The testimonials section was fullof glowing reviews for the procedure that talked about how it changed their kid’s lives foreverin a positive way, and it was the best decision they ever made. Getting a little excited, shestarted flipping through the possible genetic advancements, finding herself more and moreexcited by the moment. Finally, she had something to level the playing field! Having grown upwith nothing, she was constantly in a battle with her starting place in life; try as she might, shecould never seem to achieve the “American dream”. Here was her son’s opportunity. They evenhad deluxe packages! She could provide her child with the necessary genes to allow them tothrive in sports, music, math, science, art, leadership, whatever her heart could desire. Sheenthusiastically flipped to the next page to have her hopes shattered. There was no way shewould ever be able to pay for the procedure without taking a second mortgage.November 30th, 2036 BREAKING NEWS: Goeb Hazal of Cleveland, Ohio received an arm composed of titaniumtoday. This is the first purely cosmetic enhancement of its kind. It’s a prototype that increasesGoeb’s strength nearly tenfold and is one of the first examples of bionic limbs that are animprovement on the human body as opposed to a replacement. The company, DynamicComputer Systems, INC. (NASDAQ:DCOM) expects to a further foray into this field. They say tolook out for more inventions releasing in the next few months and to expect brain
6enhancements to be out within a year. Analysts expect future developments to render geneticenhancements obsolete.September 24th, 2051 BREAKING NEWS: In a series of recent announcements, GENSOL (NASDAQ: GNL), thecompany who developed the original genetic enhancement procedure has created a newprocedure in a bid to remain relevant after losing market share to mechanized enhancements.It claims that the new procedure will increase the body’s ability to accept mechanizedenhancements and early company reports that the procedure has taken the rejection rate ofmechanized enhancements down 28% to only 6%. Analysts expect this is to entice a mergerwith dynamic computer systems. The stock price rose 5% today to $113.67.May 11th, 2057 “We regret to inform you that you did not get accepted to Harvard College. There werethousands of applicants this year and the process was highly competitive. The applicants camefrom all different backgrounds and 73 different countries. We ultimately had an 8% acceptancerate composed primarily of those students with bionic enhancements. We have placed you onour waiting list, and if things change on your side we will reconsider your application. Wechallenge you to not give up! Great things are in store for Harvard and we expect our futurestudents to far surpass the competition both in academics and sports. We look forward to re-evaluating you soon!”
7December 3rd, 2060 BREAKING NEWS: Bryan Timmons became the first human to be made primarily ofmechanized enhancements today. His body is now 64% machine.July 4th, 2064 “I’m sorry Mr. Williams, we have to cut you off unemployment. The government hasbeen very generous in extending unemployment benefits to four years, and we can thankDynamic Computer Systems for their hefty donations to the government to allow this, butunfortunately you’ve reached your limit. We just can’t continue providing benefits. You know aswell as I do that many others need this assistance.” said the Department of Human resourcesrep. Her face was emotionless; her movements mechanical; her voice monotonous. He knewshe had given this spiel thousands of times now as did the thousands of other representatives.“But fuck, did she have to be so god damned impersonal? With robots everywhere nowadays,was it really necessary to be robotic in our interactions with each other? How dare she try toportray DCOM as saints! They’re the reason this has happened! I can’t compete with all these—these—fuckingcyborgs. They make me sick. They didn’t have to earn shit. Their rich mommiesand daddies bought them all their skills and talent and I had to work for everything I have. Notto mention they’re fucking weird. You can hear the hydraulic sounds when they walk, you canalmost see their brain with all it’s attachments working behind their blank faces. They’re hardlyhuman, even if they started out that way. Fuck that! I refuse to do it. I’d rather die poor,homeless,friendless and maintain my freedom, than rich and enslaved to new technology. Fuck
8that, I’m taking a stand.” As he glared at her, the viewing glass went dark, marking the end ofthe meeting.March 21st, 2065 “Hey you, yeah, you! Is your loved one at least 85% cyborg? Are you dreading theirdeath? Do you want them to live forever? Good news! Purchase death insurance from DCOMtoday! For a low cost of $24k we will recreate a perfect computer simulation meant to mimicyour loved one exactly. You won’t be able to tell the difference! Upon death, a simple mostlynon-invasive procedure will be done to replace the brain and nervous systems with ourpatented eternity® technology. You can assure your loved one it will be completely painlessprocedure and they won’t remember a thing! Limited spots available, so call today!”February 29th, 2072 “Look, Brad. We need to talk. We all love you, you know we do. But this has gotten bad.We’ve seen you modify your body endlessly, accepting every new proven enhancement. Butyou’re 39 and this has got to stop. We brought in a therapist that specializes in these addictionsto help us with this intervention. We’re here for you Brad; we want our little blonde-headedinnocent boy back. We miss how you were as a child, watching you play baseball with all yourfriends. You were so happy back then. We want that Brad back.” said the mother, speaking forboth her and his father. He leveled them with a glance. “Do you even realize how hypocriticalyou sound? Why do I even have blonde-hair mom? You both are brunettes! My grandparentsare brunettes! I’m blonde because you made me this way, because you thought I wouldn’t begood enough. You even took out a second mortgage to buy me out of a catalog.Now you want
9to stage an intervention because I’m trying my god damned hardest to keep up with society, tobe good enough?” he retorted, raising his voice with each syllable. “Brad—“ “No, don’t Bradme. And don’t bring in this BS “therapist”. In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m not the unusualone in this room. You don’t even have jobs. You’re both just hippies, you realize that, don’tyou?” “C’mon Brad, there’s no need for name calling. We love you,” she pleaded. “Look, I knowyou love me. Okay? I don’t need your love though; I need you to accept reality. I don’t have achoice. No one does. Either I continue evolving, continue to enhance, or I fail. We all fail. Thosewho are willing to evolve, they succeed.” “There just has to be another way Brad.” “If you findanother way, let me know. I’m out. Have a good night.” And with that, he slammed the doorbehind him.December 31st, 2099 COVER STORY: In our pursuit of technological evolution, have we bound ourselves totechnology? Do we own our mechanized “enhancements” or do they now own us?