June 15th, 2099
The Internet of Things has been prophesied to be many miracles, but it is me who brought to fruition the absolute one that mattered. Hundred years ago, men wallowed in their dreams of the future waltzing with the endless desire for a connected world. They spent years bugging large industrial machines and regular household devices to transmit constant flows of information to large databases that processed billions of exabytes of data to spit out sensible patterns and concrete results. All of humanity shares a very fundamental weakness — a love for information. And it is this perpetual romance with symbolism that separates the creature that is man from the rest of his peers on planet earth. It is this tremendous infatuation with interpretations and observations that has rocketed the species into the technological utopia that is today’s human society. Today, everything in the world is a computer. From the mattresses that we rest on to the commodes that we shit in are connected to standardized databases that are always measuring, always calculating, and always concluding. We do not hate our connected world. We do not loathe or despise it when we ponder about the lack of privacy that operates our lives. We only seek to improve the network of objects that we rely on to sustain our technological utopia.
Three years ago, when I initiated my research with Bud Alton to develop the molecule that would change the world, I redefined the meaning of the word “object”. Western Medicine and Science has for centuries treated man more as a mechanism as compared to an organism. The human body was studied as a collection of parts as opposed to a holistic living being. It is this perspective that aided me and Bud Alton to extend the Internet of Things to include the bodies of every living creature on Earth – more objects meant more information. Our science had advanced itself enough several decades ago to develop this sort of system. But people were not courageous enough to even try and analyze the consequences of such an arrangement. The scientific world preferred to just store such an idea in its closet of eternally ignored “dangerous things.” But Bud and I understood that the positive consequences of such technology would far outweigh the negative ones and decided to bring our dangerous dreams to life.
“She’s going to be here in ten minutes, Todd,” Laura told me peeping through the corner of my door.
“Thank you, Laura.”
I closed the blinds behind my chair that concealed the window through which a viewer would have access to endless stretches of green plains and a few isolated peaks visible near the horizon. I did not want to allow Tina Goswami the access to such a boundless source of inspiration as she tried to convince me to sell out.
“Hello, Todd,” she wore an attractive red shirt with three open buttons that revealed the perfect amount of her delectably tanned cleavage. Her skirt was black and fell tightly above her knees that supported themselves on pretty, needle-like heels.
“Whisky?” I asked her as she slowly sat before my desk.
I poured two glasses and took a sip out of mine as I waited for her to make her move.
“Alton Rich Co. seems to be making the news all over,” she said.
“We’re doing as much as we can to maintain a low profile, Tina.”
“I’m proud of you Todd. It astounds me how inspired you continue to remain after seeing how full of dirt this valley is.”
“What do you want, Tina?”
“Have you thought about it?” They had made their move on Bud three weeks back and now they were going to give it everything to lure me, the important one, to their side. There was a reason they sent Tina to do their dirty work. I had gone to school with her many years ago and the two of us were close friends who shared the occasional whiskey whenever we found the time. The scent of a woman is the greatest weapon that an organization can use on a man who has shared his bed with the very same woman sometime in the past. The whitest collars of Edison Electric had chosen to use their trump card to bring home the treasure that they so desperately sought.
“I’m not interested, Tina.”
“I don’t think you still have the complete picture of the potential of this deal. What’s bothering you, Todd?”
“Edison Electric is a corporation, Tina! Why can’t you see that there is no heroism in this deal? I didn’t work on Iris to spit gold into the revenue streams of conglomerates who have been milking the hard work of honest men for centuries.”
“Are you suggesting that I work for such an organization?”
“The major clients of your IoT business are mass retailers and sharks in the consumer products space. How do you expect me to believe that you would invest in any form of medical research?” I didn’t care if they invested in medical research. Even if they did, it would be fueled by some form of motive that would drive monetary gain. I hated corporations. I hated large conglomerates that had convinced the world that they existed for the well-being of mankind. They had never convinced me. The only reason that they existed was to keep their sections of the screens on Wall Street a luring green instead of a spiteful red.
“I understand that you’re emotional about this, Todd. But if you don’t let us acquire you, we’ll kill you. You know how this works, right?” I could see the sympathy in Tina’s eyes as she gently devolved the threat that her company had commanded her to do.
“You have neither the slightest clue of our R&D nor the infrastructure to begin such research immediately,” I was beginning to feel the anger tickling my fingers as I tapped them hardly against each other.
“You’re a very intelligent man, Todd. But you need to look ahead of yourself in an unbiased way if you want your invention to hold your name against it in the future.”
“Are you threatening me?”
“I’m only stating the inevitable course of things,” Tina placed her right palm on my desk revealing a bright glow of green nail color.
“Do you want to eat something?” I asked Tina.
“There’s a good Thai Restaurant a few blocks away. I’ll drive you.”
As I opened the car door for Tina who smelled like fresh peach on a sunny summer dawn, my thoughts went reeling to the day that I presented the Iris Molecule to the rest of the world at the “Emerge into the Morrow” conference at San Francisco. When I sat before the wheel and took my car out onto the bustling streets of the valley, I wondered if my presentation at that conference was going to be something that I regretted for the rest of my life.
March 4th, 2099
“And while most of the world’s businessmen and engineers still taunt and tackle the untapped potential of the Internet of Things, I propose . . . the Internet of People,” I watched the audience slowly shift in their seats as the slide switched on the large screen behind me to reveal a large red pill inscribed with the word Iris.
“I present to you, the Iris Pill. Imagine technology that allows us to constantly monitor the workings of a human body. We could have a real-time flow of information about your hemoglobin count, the condition of your heart or liver, the productivity of your sexual organs, and the rate of your metabolism as you go about living your daily life.
“While we have seen several inventions over the years that have aimed to achieve this purpose, none of them have been practical. With the use of the fundamental concepts of nanotechnology integrated with the ever-evolving algorithms from the field of data science, we at Alton Rich Co. have developed this pill which when consumed can transform your body into a powerful source of data; and for what purpose? For your own health, of course! And the health of billions of other human beings.
“You would have access to this data across all your personal devices, and with sufficient training, you will be able to take precautionary measures to prevent all potential illnesses that threaten you. As the global network of the Internet of People grows, the exponential amounts of real-time data that will be collected will help us speedily solve several of the medical problems that we have been stuck with for decades. It does not take a genius to understand that it was millions of exabytes of data that helped us create a viable cure for cancer fifty years ago. The primary focus of medical science today is to solve some of the abstract psychiatric disorders that torment humankind which we have been unable to solve using the conventional approaches of Western Medicine. This is where the Iris Pill steps into the picture. Once the pill is consumed, the material lodges itself in your bloodstream and organs and begins transmitting data to a centralized database that is protected by advanced security technologies. This data is then securely re-routed to your personal devices. The waves used to transmit data are non-ionized electromagnetic signals that are generated by the Iris molecule that interacts with the heat signatures in your body. The process within your body is very simple. The real magic of transforming this information into tangible and operable data takes place in our data treatment systems. The centralized database consists of advanced pattern recognition systems that process all real-time data to produce tangible results. An example of a result would be — “Your blood pressure rose to undesirably high levels last evening due to an anxiety attack that you had at 5:15 PM.”
“This is just a very simple example. Our algorithms can give you detailed information about which aspects of your behavior directly affect your physical health and which nutrients from the food that you are eating are disturbing the normal functioning of your body.” At this point, I could see that the entire audience was glued to me. They were listening with vicious curiosity and I could tell that my next revelation would blow them out of their minds.
“I’m a terrible presenter, but even I delight in saving the best for the last. What makes the Iris Pill truly special is a complex predictive algorithm that can predict human behavior based on the present condition of the human body. Our databases consist of trillions of exabytes of data collected over several decades which use probabilistic tools to predict the future behavior of a single individual based on the current signatures gathered from the brain, blood, heart, and other organs. Pre-crime investigation and pre-symptom cures will no longer be fancy elements that make science fiction entertaining. They will become tangible realities that help improve the condition of human society.
“I would like to warn you, however, that the Iris Pill will still need to be fine-tuned to maximize the security of our data systems and to eliminate the potential for any possible side effects that stem from the non-ionized radiation from the Iris molecule. The molecule is so designed that data transmission occurs only from the molecule outward to our systems and not the other way around. This is an extremely important feature and I do imagine that you can understand why it is so. The safety and security of people dictates the feasibility of any technology and we strongly adhere to that fact. I urge you, my fellow inventors and scientists, to ponder upon the infinite potential of this technology and to also work toward designing a sustainable method to bring it out of the laboratory and into the lives of our citizens.”
A month passed since I delivered that presentation and nine corporations had already moved to acquire the R&D segment of the company that Bud and I had strived to build — Alton Rich Co. We had been around for six years primarily operating as a company that offered IoT solutions. What most of the valley were unaware of was our highly sophisticated R&D facility where Bud and I spun our magic with a team of twenty dedicated scientists from different fields. I had denied every sweet and suited chap that walked through my door to discuss the potential synergies that could result from an acquisition deal. However, it wasn’t until the CEO of Edison Electric — Dr. Jason Thames — walked through my door that I felt more anger than nonchalance grip my entire body. He proposed a plan to acquire my entire firm as opposed to just the R&D unit and spoke about the potential of Iris in the retail and consumer products space. He spoke of how Iris was the talisman that could transform the subject of consumer behavior into an actual science compared to the pussy science that it had been for the last century. I hated people like Dr. Thames who symbolized man’s misunderstanding of wealth. He represented majority of mankind that measured wealth by the size of revenue streams and judged sustainability in terms of perpetual profit. He didn’t just want our prediction algorithms. He wanted us. He wanted our expertise. He wanted the enthusiasm of Bud Alton. And most of all, he wanted me and my rebellious spirit to become a part of his utopian prison of a corporation called Edison Electric. This bastard didn’t care about society. It was not the material of his suit but the smirk on his face that openly indicated his burning passion for that upward green arrow on Wall Street.
June 15th, 2099
“The important word here, Todd, is synergy,” Tina said as the odors of lemongrass oil overwhelmed me. I enjoyed lemongrass oil. It was probably one of the reasons that I ate Thai food so often.
“With the expertise of your R&D team in the IoT space and the clientele and substantial funding that you’ll get from Edison, you simply cannot fathom the extent of the synergies we can create from this deal,” Tina held her gaze toward me with severe sincerity. I could see that she was here on a mission and she was going to champion a deal out of me some way or the other.
“The research isn’t complete yet, Tina. We are still not entirely sure if the thermal radiation from the molecules are completely free of any potential hazards,” I was only being honest. I truly believed that safety was the first measure of the feasibility of any technology.
“Where do you see you and your company heading in the future? To what possible scale can you take this new breakthrough? You need us, Todd. If not us, you need someone else who resembles us. And you know that we have the resources to ensure successful scalability.”
“You’re not seeing this the right way, Tina. It’s not a matter of trust. The Iris molecule didn’t come to life so that a corporate giant could dedicate its resources to secretly improving a shopper’s experience while it threw a façade of commitment to healthcare on the face of society. All you give a shit about is your shareholders and I am not willing to sell Iris to such people.”
“Who will you sell it to? Everyone out there cares about the same thing we do, Todd.”
“The predictive algorithm in its current state is the perfect solution to enhance the performance of the consumer products industry. I know that every other application of Iris will be overshadowed by this impending fact. The only way that I can escape this disgusting outcome is to not sell out,” I raised my voice and hardened my tone so that Tina would understand that our friendship was secondary in this situation. Furthermore, I was committed to making my point that I was not interested in doing business with anybody. This feat was in complete honor of science and the greed of man would not reduce its glory in the name of practicality.
“Todd, if the program can excel in the retail space, its success would only extend into healthcare,” Tina said.
“Why do you think people would put a strange pill into their bodies to help corporations increase their revenue?”
“That is not your concern, Todd. There is a reason we spend billions on our marketing professionals. They always find a way out. You are only to be concerned with building a sustainable method to implement this technology.”
“Fuck off, Tina,” I indicated to the waitress that I wanted the check as quickly as possible.
“All your dreams of curing chronic psychiatric disorders – how long do you want to wait till they come true?” Tina was growing impatient. “Fifty billion dollars, Todd. We both know that your company isn’t worth that much. We are paying not just for long-term potential here. We are paying you for your brilliance, Todd.”
“What do you propose to do as soon as you have us?”
“We will invest in improving the security of your systems and spend heavily on R&D to bring the pill into the healthcare space as soon as we can. And I will not lie, we will offer outcome-based solutions to our clients in the retail space as well. Portions of revenue generated from that source can be directed into R&D and we can begin transforming your dreams into reality; faster than you ever imagined. This is the only way to do it, Todd. You cannot make something this big belong only to yourself.”
“How do you expect my people to fit into Edison’s cutthroat culture?”
“Let’s get real, Todd. People are problems and every problem has a viable solution if the right people are pulling the strings,” I was finding hard to understand how Tina had reduced herself to such an empty woman in just ten years. When I knew her in a more intimate way at the Rodney Pike School of Management at Oakswood University, she seemed like a woman of depth. Someone who was human and real; someone touchable and exciting who exuded a demeanor of natural intelligence and unbiased brightness. Now as the CTO of Edison Electric, she had reduced herself to a clean mannequin that was easy to decorate with a sparkling white collar. Disgusting.
I had begun to realize that Tina was making sense and I needed to let go of what was precious to me if it had to grow. Tina told me that Edison would give me three months to work on a self-evaluation which I could propose to them and they would consider as part of their bid. Tina was clever enough to know that if I had made up my mind, Bud Alton would simply follow without too many questions. We left the Thai restaurant and headed back to my office. As soon as I entered, I realized that the blinds had been opened; it was probably Laura.
“You’ve got quite a view, Todd,” Tina said. It was too late. She needed no more inspiration to complete her mission.
“How much do you think we’re worth, Tina?”
“You’re priceless, Todd,” Tina pulled off the phoniest blush I had encountered in a long time. It was cheesy, sick, and left a lump in my chest. “Can we set up a meeting with Jason and the rest of the board next week? I’ll get your trip to Chicago arranged.”
“Sure. I’ll get Bud to join me as well.”
“You’re a genius Todd. I never imagined you would change the world so fast,” Tina was doing her best to soften my defeat with her girlish charms that I had always been weak enough to blindly adore. I had least expected that those charms would sneak so deeply into my professional life.
I was well-aware that the coming week would be filled with different thoughts that battled with each other. While I deeply loathed giant corporations and hated selling myself to men in power who wanted to exploit the work of my hands for that green arrow on Wall Street, I understood that I needed to commit myself to lesser evils to ensure the greater good. If I didn’t sell out to Edison Electric today, they would probably come out with a poor imitation of the Iris molecule in a few years and be remembered in the future as the pioneers of the entire technology. I didn’t care about the credit. I just wanted to ensure that Iris found itself the future it deserved.
As Tina got up to leave and my eyes followed her glorious ass as it danced across my room toward the door, my eyes caught sight of the Butterbot that stood tall on my cabinet to the right. The Butterbot was a little robotic contraption that I had built when I was twelve years old. It was inspired by a classic cartoon that had first aired on TV in the early 2000’s. The entire purpose of the contraption was to move on the dining table, detect the location of butter, move toward it, and drag it toward to user. For that little moment, I drifted away into an old memory of my father who symbolized everything that Dr. Jason Thames — CEO of Edison Electric — stood for.
“Don’t expect me to be excited about that little robot of yours, Todd. Nothing in this world has value until its creator has learnt to sell it,” my father told me one rainy evening in the Spring of 2069.
“Really, dad? But look at this little fellow. He looks so cool!”
“You don’t understand, Todd. If you can’t sell it, nobody will ever know about what you made. What’s the point? You can go to the moon and get back. What’s the point if you couldn’t prove it to anybody?”
“But dad, that doesn’t change the fact that I went to the moon, does it?”
“It isn’t a fact until you can prove it. You’re probably going to make much bigger toys than your little Butterbot over there in the future, but you better figure out how you’re going to sell those toys to people. Alright, son?”
I snapped back to the present moment and gasped, “Tina, wait!”
“Did I forget something?” Tina turned around.
“Let Mr. Thames know that Alton Rich Co. has decided to end all communications with Edison Electric. We thank you for your interest in acquiring us but we have decided not to proceed with any such deal,” I smiled at Tina and turned around to walk toward my open windows.
“You take us too lightly, Todd,” Tina responded.
“Get out of my office. And do the best you can,” I didn’t look back. I knew that I had a weakness for Tina’s eyes, and her legs. I kept my gaze concentrated on the green plains of salvation that thrived brightly outside my windows. As Tina stepped slowly out of my office, I heard her mutter idiot which I knew was intended to be loud enough for audibility.
I didn’t deny the deal because I had suddenly discovered a sustainable way to implement my technology on a large scale. I did it because I understood that businessmen compromise science to ensure sustainability. Their understanding of sustainability is different from mine. I am not interested in whether an endeavor is profitable. I am interested in whether a piece of science is allowed to find its entire potential. And for centuries, corporations have scarred the face of science with their lies and deceit. I do not blame them for their wrongs. It is the way that society brings them up and they cannot be blamed for these inherent idiocies. I decided that if the Iris molecule was to truly enhance the human experience in an absolute way, it needed to stay away from retailers and manufacturers of consumer products. Those spaces operate using the dynamics of greed and those motives can only hinder progress. Fuck synergy. Fuck value. Fuck the index on Wall Street and fuck shareholder value. These were not the parameters that I was interested in enhancing. While the world of business is motivated to better the human experience, it is always unconditionally influenced by the venomous delights of monetary gain. It is only natural for such a force to exist and I do not blame anybody for such a horrendous arrangement. However, I chose not to allow the child of my human creativity to be tainted by the poor conditioning of the human race. I waited in my office that evening until everyone had left. Once the clock struck eleven, I poured myself a long hard drink of whisky and drank to my success. When the whisky was over, I looked out of the window onto the dark plains lit by the moonlight and whispered, “Freedom.”
January 5th, 3004
“Looks like it’s complete, Todd,” Bud was smoking a cinnamon-flavored cigar and switching through the news channels.
“What are they calling it?” I asked as I stood looking out at the traffic from the patio.
“Plutus,” Bud yelled out from the hall.
How fitting, I thought to myself. While Iris was the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology, Plutus was the god of wealth himself. Perhaps Dr. Thames was sending out a message to me. Fuck him.
I walked into the room and glared into the television screen.
“We did alright, Todd. At least we’re free. Besides, we have no idea about the quality of their products,” Bud said trying to console me.
“I don’t care, Bud. To be honest, I just hope they’re not the cause of a global epidemic that ends up killing half of the world. Or worse, turning us into zombies,” I chuckled, but I did harbor a sincere worry about Edison’s product. The timespan of their research seemed too short to develop a product that was ready for large-scale implementation.
I walked back out onto the patio and felt a surge of envy rising up my chest. Was I jealous that Edison Electric would have global recognition for the Internet of People? I envisioned it! It was my idea. I created it. A powerful breeze began to blow outside and I could smell the salt of the valley exploding into the air. I thought of the millions of men who had shed blood in this place to create something new that could transform humanity. And I also thought of the few hundred names who took those dreams and made corporations out of them. Edison Electric would probably be remembered as the pioneers of the Internet of People as the millennium rolls on into its next level of technological utopia. However, Plutus might only scrape the surface of psychiatric cure while it generates trillions for enthusiasts in the retail sector. I wasn’t guilty of anything. I was very well-aware that if I sold out, fate would have told a very similar story. The powerful consolation that I allowed myself was the fact that I hadn’t played a part in Dr. Jason Thames’ grand and greedy vision for the future.
As I watched the price of Edison Electric’s stock on the TV, slowly fluctuating with a heavy upward green arrow standing proudly beside it, I remembered something that Nikola Tesla had said a couple of centuries ago — “The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.”