Excerpt from The Question

(from Chapter 3)





The Stewarts lived within the JI-CC corplex of the Jacksonville metroplex. During the old world order that corplex had been a contiguous area including Orange Park to the south and east, Paxon to the farthest point northwest, and Riverside on the St. John's River farthest to the east. As for all inter-corporate corporations, its area and resident population exceeded that for any other corplex of complexes within a metroplex, and this one also included Cedar Hills as the Stewarts' residential complex.

For Sally, Friday the third of January, was one of two weekly days good citizens could observe as a mandatory "day off." Leaving Cedar Hills in one of the identical white Nissans she and her corporate peers democratically had selected, she'd never questioned that consumer choice was limited to two competing possibilities in all such cases because the CI also insisted upon an "extensionally disinterested standard of the economy of scale," in order to provide resource savings within a more efficient and politically correct social order.

Neither did it bother her that some within JI-CC, herself included, didn't vote, for there were more productive uses to be made of time, and the right to choose not to vote also testified to one's individual freedom.

So motivated, she set out to visit the Physical Conditioning rather than the Civic Affair's venue, this customary choice always having led to her finding greater pleasure at the Social Stop which would culminate her day.

On her way, she selected a music channel and recalled her dream encounter with the man who sold homes in the Riverside area. He'd said that a life with new options gave life new zest, that goal-orientation opened new options and that a new home in Riverside was such a goal. He'd also shown her two such homes. Yet she felt somehow that in speaking with her he was suggesting much more, and this excited her.

He excited her, and she just knew that she excited him.

Though the marriage option was very important to the social welfare, it wasn't final. She'd learned early that individual growth sometimes required directional change if one was to achieve an even higher social purpose. Perhaps she was close to such a change. Everything led to it. It was amazing that when she made the right choices the CI rewarded her, and she, unlike Jaime, attuned to that intelligence.

Entering the building, she recognized most of the people there and, fleetingly, that she'd become close with none of them. It was hard to become close when all employees were on a staggered sequence of "off" days, and, besides, her being close to Jaime had only brought her trouble. Again, once allowances were made for the freedom of the individual to screw up his own life, the CI did have it right.

While calling up her profile for her regimen, she recognized the very salesman she'd met the night before. Sally, was now a very confident and morally attuned young lady. She remembered the appropriate words from school. The CI had said that "New chances to choose" inevitably will occur "for those right with society; for they will occur as if fortuitous, as if fate, itself, had intervened."

She pranced over to the man. "Hi, I know you, and you don't work at JI-CC."

"Whoa!" the man replied. "I know you, too, and you invited me here."

Sally blushed. "Sometimes," she off-handedly disclaimed, "I don't know what's dream and what's not. They're both so real."

"Then meet me at the Social Stop later. We can do a double," he suggested.

"All right," she agreed, "but first things first. I'll meet you at the cafeteria... later."

Sally returned to the Regimen Indicator to run her schedule, then went to her first listed workout station.

The finished printout consisted of five columns, "Heart Rate," "Heart Torque," "Duration," "Rest interval," and "Rep #," all with target values and space for measured values to be monitored, collated, and input automatically at each work station.

She entered the form then got on the machine. Immediately, the screen showed her heart rate to be at 118 with a target of 120, its occurring to her that she'd not have to work very hard at all.

Throughout her session, Sally couldn't get the man or his business off her mind. Both assuredly excited her, though she certainly couldn't recall inviting him. Yet, he was here, and this fueled her desire for him. He was the embodiment of her dreams, and she was right with the CI. Let Jaime find his own way! She'd outgrown him!

After lunch, Sally and the man behind her walked toward a very large inner room.

From behind, the man watched Sally's liquid body draw up tautly when they reached a door. "Since you invited me, you must play the good hostess," he said with heightened expectations.

"Since I'm a very good hostess, I'll take your word that I invited you in the first place," Sally replied.

Impulsively, she grabbed his hand, then recoiled. "But let's not spoil it."

The room was central both to the Physical Conditioning and Civic Affairs venues, its appearing even more spacious than the contiguously surrounding outer rooms because, though of less horizontal space, it lay directly under the vertical apex of a radically vaulted domed roof which covered the whole.

She escorted the man to the central controller, affectionately, if not always accurately, called "a mixer."

After presenting their cards there, they went to their assigned companion bed sets.

Previously she'd used a single, except when Jaime had visited, though she couldn't distinctly remember the last time he had. She had to admit that circumstances now made her present expectation even more zestful, and she silently thanked the CI for such a great world.

She lay down and could see the man do the same. Each faced the other in that cavernous room, oblivious to all but the image of the other and their exquisitely pending union.

They put on their headsets almost as one, then rushed pell mell without awareness past the otherwise-obligatory oblivion of stage four sleep, to "awaken" within what mankind called "dream," that consciousness-mimicking psychic state which exists on the cusp of Stages two and three within sleep.

There, their eyelids trembled, and soon their bodies writhed and lurched in sympathetic response to and within that which defies all consistent distinction between appearance and reality and objective and subjective experience. Yet, resolving such questions concerned neither of these moral citizens, not then in unconscious awareness or earlier in the conscious form.

Sally, however, consciously would recall that sex never had been so good. She faithfully had been unfaithful, and would look forward to more such encounters. Bonding with men outside matrimony had much to commend it. Perhaps she'd even try women. The CI was her ultimate bond, anyway, and, besides, she'd already had her allotted two children.

---

Jaime also began his day believing he enjoyed an affirming mandate within the CI.

He took the faster tractor lane to work, leaving the driving to OMNI-controlled machinery and immersing himself in the CI's self-improvement discs.

At work, he marveled at the uncanny relevance of the new ticker message displayed in his classroom, the moving message reading: "Knowledge without Dedication is an End without a Means... An End without a Means is a Society without Citizens... A Society without Citizens is a Vehicle without Guidance... A Vehicle without Guidance is YOUR Society without YOU...."

He entered the testing facility at 4:05 p.m. with ample time for testing and getting home before seven o'clock curfew, his confidence bolstered by the realization that time itself was an ally when one was right with the Collective Intelligence.

He inserted his identity card.

On line, he passed the option for psychological consultation and with new appreciation read: "This test represents the evolving Collective Intelligence of all mankind. As always, your freedom to choose to question it is your globally constituted right. You may do so at any point of its administration. You then will have chosen to fail the test with your Reeducation presumptively consequent, though the "redress of grievances clause" of YOUR Global Constitution permits you to be heard by your Orbiting Mensurating Normative Intelligence.

"To initiate this, strike "END" at any point. If you question in error, or wish to cancel, please strike "ESCAPE" within 10 seconds of the prompt. Otherwise, you will have one minute to respond to each of 100 questions. You may choose to use up to 10 additional minutes to review any questions left unanswered or still in doubt. Now please press 'enter.'"

Jaime pressed the "enter" key and answered all the questions without qualms.

At the prompt permitting a final ten-minute review, Jaime selected "y." Though he knew he'd answered it correctly, one question particularly intrigued him.

He scrolled the screen, then stopped.

He again read the following: "Question #5:

Indicate the BEST inference from the premise that because

communication requires as exact a correspondence as possible

between the meaning intended as understood by the writer and

that understood by the audience and because words as a medium

condition to potentially diverging individual self-interests of

social discord...

a. communication between two or more individuals is delusory from the

outset and immoral in its enacted consequences

b. interpersonal attempts to communicate should be minimal

c. language meanings require extensionally standardized referents of

independently objective authority only

d. language meanings should conform to the extensionally standardized

referents provided by the Collective Intelligence of all men as only the

OMNI universally and objectively can determine them

e. none of the above

The authoritatively keyed answer, of course, was "d," yet he was troubled.

First, the closed-ended "question" by reference to the keyed "answer" implied there was a means to uncovering an essentially common, objective meaning through language even given the subjective differences otherwise.

Second, by inclusion of the words "BEST inference," the OMNI/CI required him to make a qualitative judgment as to those differences... do so through an OMNI which proposed to be a quantifying repository of mensuration-- measurement-- as also of the "Collective Intelligence of all mankind...."

Third, and most critically, the keyed correct answer also called into formative question the OMNI/CI's logical legitimacy to be what it claimed given that subjective humans themselves had to have programmed its initial parameters in the first instance.

Could one logically then accept either the language or acts of the OMNI/CI morally to be authoritative? After all, the OMNI didn't-- couldn't-- create itself in its initial parameters or as of its psycho-sentient circuitry. Yes, both did require the... the formatively prior authority of sentient, thinking, and language-using human sources....

What were its physical and parametric constraints and by what logical method, random or directed, could they produce a morally prescriptive result? Why wasn't this addressed within his own education? Wasn't this knowledge morally also to be required preconditionally to the agreement of all citizens? Could all citizens really be equal and free given such ignorance?

Jaime's time expired, and the machine indicated he'd passed. Yet, still pensive, he lingered, most other test takers by now having left.

The questions continued. Wasn't the judgment of "pass" or "fail" itself contingent upon the judgment of "right" from "wrong," and weren't "right" and "wrong" themselves the... the qualitative value judgments of logically ultimate assignment to someone... someone human?

Was he really equal with them? Was he really "free?"