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  • Writer's pictureJeff South

Book Excerpt: Day 3

The front and back doors of Someone Else’s Books are protected not by a standard lock, but a complex artificial intelligence installed by Corporate handlers to ensure not just anyone can enter my lair. We can’t have the general public waltzing into the command center of the Herpezoid hunting headquarters I operate in the basement. If anyone tries to break in, sensors in the room set off an alarm and a disembodied voice will inform them they have ten seconds to answer one of two hundred random philosophical questions programmed into it. Examples include:

“Is free will real or just an illusion?”

“What should be the goal of humanity?”

“Is it possible to live a normal life and never tell a lie?”

“In a rational universe is there a place for pineapple on pizza?”

The intruder will then first become physically disoriented because the last thing they are expecting during an attempted burglary is a deep philosophical question from a disembodied voice. Second, said interloper will become intellectually disoriented because they cannot answer the question adequately in the ten seconds provided. Responses are scripted and programmed into the artificial intelligence, so unless you know the script, you’re screwed. A weighted net then falls from the ceiling, trapping the would-be thief onto the floor until Corporate security arrives. Convoluted, yes. Also, hysterical.

A keypad to the right of the doorknob requires a four digit PIN. I tap the appropriate digits and a disembodied voice from an artificial intelligence responds in a female British accent almost as sublime as Tanya’s.

“I am about to ask you a question and you will have ten seconds to begin formulating a coherent, rational response that demonstrates both ample research with cited sources and aptitude to articulate reasoned and thoughtful insight that contributes to enlightened discourse. Failure to do so will result in a most unpleasant assault that is protected under state and local statutes regarding the defense of one’s property. Are we in agreement?”

My reply to this question must follow a specific script or I will be denied entry into my store for 24 hours. This is known as a Rube Goldberg Protocol, an overly complicated procedure to complete a simple task. These protocols were created by the founder of the company I contract with, a man named Simon Tybalt, in order to provide highly advanced security measures.

I offer the proper response per the scripting. “We are in agreement.”

“My question is this: Is it possible to live a normal life and never tell a lie?”

“It is impossible to never tell a lie,” I say. “For example, I lie to myself every day when I say I’m a well-rounded person who lives a healthy life both physically and emotionally and therefore am happy. Deep down, I know the truth. I am miserable.”

This particular question always cuts deep. Even though my response is scripted it is far too relatable. I like the pineapple-on-pizza question most of all because it doesn’t tap into some potential undiagnosed psychosis.

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