Total Bullshit

By Andrew Barnett

sfgenre"You know what I haven't had enough of lately?" asked Alice.

"Bullshit?" replied Amit, his voice confident.

"Yeah, bullshit. Hand me one of those open access applications."

Amit rolled on his fancy office chair across the polished concrete floor. He liked that bit of the job, rolling across the floor. He rolled right up to a neat pile of paper, just about the only paper in this huge building. All open access applications had to be physically submitted in hard copy, but that still didn't slow the flood. The greatest quantum computer in the world didn't come cheap — and part of the price was that two percent of calculations were designated to “open access applications”, aka bullshit.

Alice and Amit were 'A-team' quantum computation engineers. This month, they’d drawn night shift. It was a lot like being in the army — flashes of insane action separated by aeons of drudgery.

In the adjoining room, unimaginable computational power solved fascinating problems that even the most intelligent humans alive struggled to ask. Giving birth to a human-made emergent consciousness and becoming gods was always just a happy accident away.

While they waited for that, the A-team sat around checking temperature logs and testing standby power systems. They also completed OH&S training, wrote a public engagement blog, attended meetings, briefed stakeholders, and got corporately re-organised every fifteen months.

Also, they read open access applications. Most were mundanely stupid; some were hilariously stupid. Occasionally they read some fun ideas: investigate if humpback whales have a sense of humour, determine the probability that everybody in the world will fart simultaneously. Mostly, though, the ideas were stupid because they misunderstood what simulation and computation entailed. “If there is an infinite universe, calculate the probability that —” Often, the A team would simply mark applications with “P=1”.

So Amit chose a piece of paper at random. He skipped straight to the golden bullshit bit. This one was unusually short. Amit re-read it before he held it out to Alice.

Alice declined the page with a polite scowl, “No no,” she said, You explain it to me in your own words.”

“Simulate a universe that can never perfectly simulate itself.”

A weary silence.

“Okay, in their words then.”

“Nope, that's it.”

“I'm gonna go out on a big limb here. Stupidest one yet.”

“I mean no simulation is perfect,” said Amit, “If you do a whole galaxy cluster down to quantum — it's still an approximation. That's so dumb, that's just our universe. It's every universe.”

“Why would any universe be able to simulate itself? How could it?”

Bewildered, exasperated head shaking followed.

Amit slid back across the room with characteristic flair, and spoke as he rolled, “Even if you did build this universe, so what? I mean what difference would that make to anything? Would you somehow tell the universe that it couldn't ever simulate itself, just to to see what happens?”

“I dunno, Amit. Hey, thanks for my daily dose.”

A bow and a smile from Amit said that the pleasure had been half his.

“Anyway, where did this thing come from?” Alice asked.

“Actually, I don't know. It doesn't have a serial number, it was just in the pile.”

"That's weird."

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About The Author

Andrew Barnett

Andrew has been reading Science Fiction since before the internet, and used to imagine what it would be like to write some. This is his second published story. Andrew doesn't think that the identity of the author is all that important. If you really want to know then the basic details are that he lives in Melbourne, has various jobs and a young family. If you don't want to know, then those details are still the same. He hopes you find his work interesting.


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