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Introduction: By Profesor Magnus Fortesque.
As part of a recent study into secret destructive impulses here at Cambridge University, we implanted microphones into the skulls of various members of society, Including criminals, stockbrokers and even fetuses (To find out their views on abortion.) These microphones recorded the person’s inner monologue, and printed it out of their ears via a special ticker tape whilst they slept. This case study, entitled 'Surgical Phone', documents the thoughts of Milton Cubicle -- a research and development android from Hull, working at Vanderbilt Consultancies INC.
With the consent of his employers we secretly drugged him with a special hypodermic javelin as he jogged through the park one Saturday. The only witnesses were ducks and the blinding bright lights we shone in his face made him think we were Aliens, as did the futuristic tin foil jump suits. When he woke up in bed seven hours later, he naturally assumed it was a dream. A madman's dream, but a dream nonetheless. Over the past twelve months we've recorded every word of Milton's inner monologue. In this extract, his only interesting series of thoughts in a year: he pitches a new product, 'The Amazing Botox Phone' to some people from marketing.
Part One: It Begins.
Monday, caffeine and a PowerPoint. If that was the Holy Trinity I wonder which one would be Jesus. Probably Monday, that deserves to be crucified. I wonder if I should say that out loud, it was very profound. In fact, dangerously profound. Far too deep for me. I wonder if Ghandi said it; I’d better check, wouldn’t want to subconsciously plagiarise.
It’s nice that I’ve got time to ponder this; I’m on autopilot this morning, pitching ‘The next iPod’ to Ian and Graham, two drones from marketing. Apparently they’re looking for something; ‘Different, but the same.’ Calling them drones might sound unpleasant, but the people in that department do actually behave like ants. They communicate with each other through taps, antennae and smell. I often wonder if any of them could lift two and a half times their own body weight. I'd observe them to find out, but I'd have to spend time around them, and I can't waste time on insects, or 'workers' from marketing. They're not people, they’re not even artists. As I've always said you’re not really creative if you wear a tie.
Better check I’m still spouting the same well rehearsed noises;
"Today I’d like to show you our latest prototype. We think it’ll be a huge success." I’m glad 'we' doesn’t mean 'me'. Insert cheerful grin here, mouse click, next slide. Why do I never get the interesting projects? Today Dave Sanders gets to talk about robots, while I get to talk to robots; is that fair? I've been talking to robots for so long now that I'm beginning to feel like one myself. It's getting frightening, I'm beginning to have strange robotic urges. I was watching Star Wars recently, when I was suddenly very taken by the sight of C3PO's sleek ankles. That's what Dave Sanders and his office politics have done to my mind. That man is the Nixon of I.T. Would it really be wrong to kill Nixon?
I rather think it's best not to dwell on that, people who dwell on things end up shooting them, then themselves. It’s better to keep my mind occupied in another, friendlier way. I might stare at Ian with a creepy intensity next time I change slides, and slowly begin to dribble. I wonder how he’ll react. The people in that lift before were definitely scared. Ian might think I’m having a stroke. That would be fun, fifteen seconds of hell for him equals twenty minutes of stifled giggles for me. Time for another mouse click.
"It’s a mobile phone, which also does cosmetic surgery. It’s basically a Swiss army knife for your face."
Lionel came up with the Swiss army thing; it’s just like him to bring the conversation round to knives. We’re doing a sort of double act this morning, that’s how I glamorized it in my mind. Really though, it’s babysitting, as we can’t trust Lionel to speak to people without supervision, not with his macabre tendencies. Those things are just not good for PR. Neither is his strange resemblance to Michael Howard, a man with the face of a paedophile and the voice of a Bond villain. Our company wants to project an image and Bond villainy is not it.
"Say you’re walking down the street, and you notice a wrinkle. You dial 999 on this. A small cannon emerges, its camera sees the deformity, and it fires a Botox syringe at your head. Voila! the problem is gone. There's even a small mushroom cloud."
The babble seems to be going down well, encouraging blinking patterns from Graham there. Time, I think, for a little daydream. They’re paying me for this, idiots. Despite Vanderbilt’s threats about microchips and chloroform, I’m pretty sure they can’t tell what I’m thinking, this is my train of thought and they don’t have a ticket.
Part Two: The Unpleasantness.
Well, what to think, I could perhaps make some interesting observations. There’s lots of fake wood in here, and an aroma of new carpets, I wish they’d can that smell as an air freshener. I wonder why they never have, probably because mixtures of aerosols and carpets are annoyingly flammable. That’s probably why it hasn’t happened. It’s a shame because I’d accept the risk.
I wonder how fast this would all burn. I wonder how fast Graham would burn, I suppose that would depend how flammable self loathing is. Being a drone I wonder if he’d actually notice he was on fire, I imagine he'd probably just think the coffee was unusually good that morning. That’s how he’d rationalize it, he’s now physically incapable of accepting that something interesting is actually happening outside of a television.
Imagination makes many dull things interesting. To make the coffee seem more interesting I imagined casually throwing it in Grahams face, and did a weird giggle. Then I imagined gleefully throwing it on Graham's trousers and shouting 'pissed yourself!' I did another weird giggle. I suppose it’s slightly psychotic to laugh at attacking someone, but then, violence makes many things seem more interesting, like salad, or guns.
I’ve no idea why I imagined that in particular. I don’t hate him; maybe I’d just do it for scientific reasons. It’s a thought experiment, like Einstein, I could claim I was just badly influenced by Einstein, blame science; everyone blames science, stupid science.
Or if I’m feeling lenient towards science I could always explain it away with another innocent excuse, something like: ‘Sorry that was just an ice breaker.’ That would be strangely hysterical, for me, perhaps because my mind just doesn’t distinguish between slapstick and psychotic; maybe to me slapstick is just psychosis with a red nose. Speaking of which, it’s Lionel’s turn to speak. He'd better stick to that script I wrote him. It’s demeaning; I shouldn’t have to script all his conversations. He’s forty six - he ought to be able to have unsupervised conversations.
"Now before anyone starts fretting about ‘safety’, we’ve done tests on this. We wore lab coats, so that makes it scientific. And the chances of a malfunction shredding bits of your skull into a messy blood covered jigsaw are insignificant."
Good, Lionel! Maybe later I’ll give you a gold star, or a lollipop if that’s not too patronizing. Time to back up his preschool drivel with statistics;
"I could count the amount of times that would happen in a year on one finger. This finger."
It has to be this finger, because I lost all the others testing that damn phone. I asked it for a manicure, it tried to do a nose job. Even so, while slightly horrifying, that single unsevered finger is definitely a nice concrete proof of my statistics, they can’t argue with a finger. Perhaps I should smugly wiggle the finger, like a sock puppet. I could even do a funny voice!
Part Three: It Ends.
“Yeah, I mean normally we’d lose eight hundred lab baboons testing something like this, but this time we lost only ninety. Knowing that makes me feel all warm inside.”
What’s Lionel saying? He’s not meant to ad-lib! This is the reason he can’t be allowed to speak without a script. In fact, this is the last time - after this outburst he’s not going to be allowed to speak at all, ever. Why does he feel the need to bring up the monkey death toll for every product I pitch with him? No one else is impressed by his test lab genocide. Admittedly, it’s well organized. I’ve seen his spread sheets. Despite titles like "Chimp Liquidation Schedule", in terms of numbers they’re really quite elegant. The man's obviously talented, but only in a sick way. I suppose being Lionel is better than being one of the drones, but that’s not really an achievement. It just means I don’t have to wish my job was less soul destroying. Graham is so depressed he’s physically turned monochrome. No one's said anything, it’s not technically against company dress code, and we don’t want to make him feel self conscious. Not when we’re assured a GP has prescribed appropriate pills. I wish they’d prescribe me appropriate pills.
Now it's damage limitation time. Better silence Lionel before he gets onto sentences like; ‘My instructions killed this many apes’ or ‘I did this with a drill.’ it really ruins the sales pitch. Though at least he’s not reading out his comprehensive list of everything he’s got power over. That really is disturbing.
"I should point out that all the monkeys, although dead, were a lot better looking. Those monkey corpses could have been in Vogue. Had they not been corpses, and monkeys. And it’s not like it was the phone's fault they were dead. They were probably too good looking to live, that’s the only reason they were killed. The machine was just too good at its job. It just wanted to do well, is that so dangerous?"
"Well if anyone does have an accident, it’s not like they can’t call an ambulance."
Good point Graham, very good point. Why didn’t I think of that point? It’s just embarrassing to be surprised by Graham.
"Exactly, that’s the argument we used. It’s got around a lot of tricky legal problems."
"Yeah, I mean once it cut a lab monkeys skin into a paper snowflake, psychotic but decorative, and legally that’s a cosmetic improvement. So no lawsuits."
Thanks for the backup, Lionel. Remind me to key the words ‘nice car’ into your Mercedes paintwork as a thank you message.
“Do you not find all this talk of dead Baboons makes this whole thing seem very unethical? I’m actually not too comfortable with animal testing; it’s lumpy, morally lumpy.”
"Ian, I don’t think we need to go into this."
"No we really do, because people remember the holocaust, but who remembers the dead Baboons? Is someone going to make a Schindler's List about them? I doubt it.."
"Look we’re not here to remember dead monkeys, that’s what Armistice Day is for."
"No that’s for soldiers."
Is there a difference Ian?
"Yeah well maybe Baboons need one too, I don’t care, I’m not here to get into the politics of this, OK. Some monkeys died, we got through it, the Botox Phone works. That’s what’s important."
Might steal that Monkey Schindler's List idea, could be a kind of bad taste Planet of the Apes, with Nazis, or an odd PG tips advert. Could be enormous fun.
"So you don’t find any of this monkey killing weird."
I’m getting tired of you Ian. So I kill monkeys, I don’t criticise the way you live.
"No, I’m used to it now; despite how it sounds. To me it’s normal because we have to test everything on monkeys. My pen, that stapler, that was tested on monkeys."
"Could you not have used paper?"
"No, it’s easier to use monkeys."
"Why? I don’t see how that works."
"Look it’s very simple. Natural selection just happens to have placed monkeys in the test lab food chain. That’s why they’re here, that’s what they’re designed for, it's nature's grand plan not mine. I’m sure David Attenborough could explain it better than I can but those are basically the facts."
"Monkeys die all the time. It’s called progress. Frankly I don’t think enough monkeys die, perhaps if we’d killed more monkeys over the last thirty years we’d have death rays and time travel by now. It’s your sort of thinking that’s holding the human race back."
Great Lionel, very moving. If Martin Luther King had supported vivisection, I know that’s what he would have said. I’m sure we all want death rays and time travel. Christ why couldn’t you have said cancer cure, world peace or a longer lasting light bulb. We all need a longer lasting light bulb; they can’t pretend they don’t want a longer lasting light bulb.
Unfortunately, despite all the time and effort we spent on sedatives and drilling holes in his head, it turned out that Milton’s thoughts were of no scientific value whatsoever, and had actually set us back a couple of decades. But even so, it was great fun to laugh at his silly little mind, in the way one would mock an oddly shaped vegetable. We certainly enjoyed ourselves! We hope you did too!