The great thing about the new digestive systems is that they let people eat anything.

Once the population had hit ten billion, and with the videos, testimonials and endless parody clips of the Lunar Collapse still available on the Internet (if you knew where to look), it was only a matter of time before all the food ran out. Farmers started trying to turn anything into viable crops or livestock – there were a few months there where the shelves were stacked with cactus-fruit, dried insects and pine-needle muesli – but I guess Congress (or the lobbyists, whoever really decides these things) just didn’t think things were moving along fast enough.

So it was pretty inevitable that someone was going to invent a way to turn everyday objects into food, and that’s where we got the geek systems from.

If you’re not familiar with them (i.e. if you are a foreigner or live in LA), you undergo some sort of surgical operation where they remove your stomach and your intestines and they replace them with some sort of processing hardware which can find the nutritional value in anything. Literally anything.

Picture it. You’re walking down the street, you’re feeling hungry; someone’s left a soda can, or an empty packet of wasps on the sidewalk. If you’ve got a geek system installed, instead of standing there whining about how starving you are, you can pick that junk right up off the pavement and eat it. The shredder breaks it down into its constituent parts and then the processor distributes those around your body, turning them into blood and energy and stuff. There’s no waste, no fuss, and now they’ve released the upgrade and the patches there are absolutely zero fatalities.

You used to not be able to walk out the door without tripping over a garbage bag or overflowing trashcan; my dad didn’t even let us play down at the park as kids because of all the used condoms and needles lying around, and we lived in a pretty good neighbourhood. And now, the streets are spotless, urban rat populations are down to pre-10B levels, the landfills have been reclaimed; I heard they’ve even started repopulating the Florida coast by using geek systems to clear up the deadwater.

I think it’s weird (and a little hypocritical) that the people who were protesting about the environment and global warming and whatever are the same people who started all those petitions and campaigns against the geek hardware. They were the ones who thought pollution was a problem, but when someone comes up with an actual solution, it’s suddenly “degrading”?

Because the best part about the geek systems is that they’re only installed in people who are trying to claim benefits from the government. It makes perfect sense, if you think about it: you’re not going to need food stamps if you can literally eat out of the gutter. And that gives you more time to look for work; and when you do find a job you won’t need to be paid as much because you don’t need to buy food any more.

(Look, I’ll admit there’s one big problem with the system: it probably doesn’t taste that great, but it’s better than not eating at all, right? And if the poorer people – the bottom ten percent, or whatever the statistics say – aren’t consuming normal foodstuffs, like bread and vegetables, there’ll be more for everyone else. Therefore, if we’ve got more than enough regular food, then obviously some of it’s going to trickle down to the geeks, in the form of things like unfinished sandwiches and fruit that’s maybe a bit past its use-by date.)

It’s not even like people are being forced to become geeks. Everyone has the choice to go out there and find work, and if you choose not to then you get to be a part of this amazing new system. That means there’s less pressure on welfare agencies, and the government has got more money to put towards field research into the geek system, maybe make it reversible or something.

I read an article today about how they’re going to start a trial of installing the systems in children, and you can bet that means in a few days the networking sites are going to be in an uproar. But before they tape down their caps locks and start spewing out their rudeness and bile and uncivil behaviour all over the forums, how about the protestors look at the facts?

I’ve actually talked to one of my local geek chirugeons and he has explained to me that every single kid will be means tested (by the geek manufacturers, so the protestors won’t be able to blame this one on the government) and the background of their family taken into account. What that means is that only children whose parents can’t afford to take care of them will be turned into geeks. Again, that provides an incentive for geeks to work harder and earn more money for their children.

That’s if they don’t want their kids to become geeks. Personally, I think it makes perfect sense to raise generations of geeks so there’s less strain on the resources for the rest of us. And I think you’ll find a lot of geek families who agree with me, because they’re not the ones who’ve got a problem with these systems; it’s the college-educated kids with too much time on their hands who are the ones protesting, not the geeks.

I’ve read some of the anti-geek propaganda (it’s actually pretty easy to get past the government’s content-control filter if you know anything about computers) and it amazes me how ignorant and deluded some of that stuff is, not to mention the obviously photoshopped “evidence” they use to support their case. I guess if it backs up your opinions and doesn’t engage your critical faculties, people will swallow anything.

– submitted to the Big Think, Short Fiction Contest

© Patrick Magee, 2012. All rights reserved.


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