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April 30th, 2023

“I’m skeptical,” Lucilius said.


But all he got was a smile and disagreeing shake of the head. 


“Lucilius, think about it - think about all the things that have polluted mate selection since the dawn of reproduction.”


Lucilius frowned. “Not sure there’s much pollution when all this started.


Another shaking head. And Lucilius sighed. He wasn’t sure he was in the right frame of mind for this conversation. But the ecstatic smile that was greeting him, despite disagreement, certainly had him curious about what kind of experience he might be missing out on.


“Do you mind if we go somewhere else? I could use a change in scenery.”


“Your heart’s desire, Lucilius.”


“Ok, thanks.” He sighed, and then spoke aloud. “I think I need a drink. You know what, I want a bar on to of a cloud, and I want late afternoon - PERPETUAL late afternoon, when the sky is still bright blue and the sun isn’t yet golden. I want the bar top to be like those ones in France, with the nickel tops, and I want the bartender to be - ugh, I don’t know. What’s going to make this conversation more palatable? —“


“How about my first wife?” The suggestions was paired with another obnoxious smile.


Lucilius frowned deeply. “Weird choice. I think not. I think we’ll go with.. uh. Oh, definitely Rhett Butler, after the final scene.”


Finally Lucilius’ choice inspired a frown from his company. But the vista before them, and the small veranda table with glasses of wine and a half empty bottle began to disappear, like an immaculate sand sculpture in a light wind that grew to a quick storm before setting again with the wide dome of sky above them, and around them a sizable island of white cloud. They sat at a curved nickel bar, and Clarke Gable, with his thin mustache smiled at the two of them, his hands busy polishing a glass, his slick hair reflecting the bright angle of the sun.


“What shall it be boys? Are we drowning misery or are we toasting to life?”


“A bit of both I think.” 


Lucilius let out a quick and curt laugh. “What will you have?”


“You order first, I need a second to sober up.”


Lucilius’ company held two fingers to the side of his neck, as though trying to take his own pulse in the wrong spot, and within seconds his face seemed more relaxed - at ease, as he recalibrated his own body’s blood chemistry.


“Ok, that’s better - you know what, I’ll just go with dealer’s choice.”


“Me too,” said Lucilius.


“Two brave souls, I see,” Clark Gable said.


Clark got to work on the drinks and Lucilius dared to entertain the conversation again.


“I’m still skeptical.”


“I think Bogie from Casablanca would have been a better choice.”


“Does it matter?” Lucilius asked. “That character would probably agree with me too.”


“Ok, but take for instance what we just did. We are now sitting on a freaking cloud, and a dead actor in the guise of one of his most famous characters is making us drinks.”


“Yea, what about it?”


“Imagine if you alone had this kind of ability before The Integration.”


Lucilius nodded. “Yea that would be pretty insane.”


“But why?”


“Well if I’m the only one with this power than, I’m basically the most powerful person in the world.”


“Exactly, and what would that have done to your dating life?”


Lucilius wiggled his head a little, wondering about it.


“Ok, actually, think back to when you sold your company and you were - by pre-Integration standards, quote-un-quote rich. What did that do to your dating life.”


Lucilius couldn’t help a sly smile.


“Exactly, but imagine that on superman steroids. That’s the sort of ability we have today. But the difference is that everyone has it.”


“Ok, so?”


“So? The point is that before The Integration everyone’s incentives around dating, and who to have kids with, and who to love - who to spend time with - all those incentives were corrupted by disparities in wealth, status and beauty.”


“Yea, ok..”


“But post-Integration that is completely different. Hypergamy isn’t even a relevant concept anymore in a post-scarcity world. And now that fertility has effectively been extended indefinitely due to age-reversal therapies, there’s no rush to have kids, which means even less corruption of incentives.”


“Doesn’t that just mean that no one ever has to settle, why wouldn’t I just stay single forever?”


A short laugh greeted his comment. “Invert your logic. If there’s no obligation to stick with someone, then what incentive would anyone ever possibly have to send time with someone else, especially for any significant amount of time?”


This puzzled Lucilius for a moment. Obviously there was an answer to it, but frankly he hadn’t really thought about the subject in these sorts of terms in quite a long time. ‘The Game’ had always seemed like a mad rush of incongruent desire splashed across an uneven spectrum - a place where language went to die in a self-sustaining hallucination of sliding meaning and wobbling goalposts.


The smile that awaited his answer grew slowly as Lucilius continued to think, but he was interrupted.


Clark Gable placed before Lucilius a short wide glass filled with a giant ice cube and an amber liquid. 


“An Old Fashioned for the old fashioned fellow. And for his company…”


Gable revealed a closed fist, upturned it and opened his hand. There a sphere emanating light hovered in his hand.


“What is that?”


“A new fan-dangled concoction I just invented. I call it the Afternoon’s Sunrise.”


“Well that doesn’t make sense,” Lucilius said.


Gable winked. “And neither does the lives you two seem to live.”


Lucilius frowned but his company was delighted. Gable handed over a long silver straw and the sphere of light was poked and sipped. 


“Wow, it tastes… like…” Another sip was required to un-furrow the thinking brow. “It tastes like a star.”


Lucilius rolled his eyes. “What does that even mean?”


“Taste it!”


Skeptical, always, Lucilius took the silver spear and stabbed the tiny sun hovering on the bar and took a sip. His face instantly relaxed.


“Huh, that’s messed up. I guess that’s what a star would taste like if you could drink one.”


Lucilius turned back to his Old Fashioned and took a sip, and satisfied with the old familiarity, he sat back and remembered where they were in the conversation. 


“Uh,” he sounded, but trailed off. He looked up at the crisp blue, nearly black in the center of his vision, with space so close. His pessimism on the pesky topic suddenly seemed tickled by an old curiosity. Lucilius was certainly aware of his denial, but he was also acutely attuned to this change in the feeling of his own mind, it’s thoughts, and the subtle changes in feeling. It was feeling that inspired the language of thought, Lucilius believed, and before the words even formed, he could already anticipate his urge to roll eyes at the notion was bubbling up within him. But, perhaps it was just the Old Fashioned. 


“I suppose two people would actually have to really like each other.”


The onlooking smile cracked and Lucilius’ company leaned in close. “Pure Incentive, Lucilius. Pure Incentive!


“Still, it all seems like a fancier, sneakier version of a dating app.”


“Well sure, and a replicator is just a fancier, sneakier version of a traditional manufacturing factory.”


Lucilius frowned. “Still, there’s something to be said for the old fashioned way..” he said, lifting his glass to take another quick sip. “..the organic way.”


“That’s a bit of a cop-out, don’t you think?”


“How so?”


“Organic? Really? You are far from your luddite days in virtually every other area of your life, and frankly, what’s the use in your organic avoidance of an important part of life.”


Lucilius frowned again.


“Plus, with the way we experience reality now, with the near infinite power of our creativity to create any sort of situation or setting or experience we can imagine, what about that could possibly be called organic?”


Lucilius frowned again. “So how does it work, do you swipe a billion pictures?”


“Oh, god, no. You don’t do anything.”




His question was greeted by a shrug. “You understand better than anyone how reality now senses our curiosity now that we are post-Integration. The old adage that our mere thoughts are the antecedents of our destiny is now a definitive part of life.”


“So you’re saying I’ll just get magically set up by some algorithm?”


“Not really. Sure that’s a part of it, but come on Lucilius. Think about how this functions in every other facet of our life now.”


Lucilius frowned a flat smile. “By merely thinking and talking about this, I’m already writing the algorithm.” He looked at his friend. “This is your fault, you brought this up, and I’m going to have to deliberately, mindfully decide to stop thinking about this to stop reality’s response.”


There was only an obnoxious smile to meet Lucilius, and Lucilius’ eyes narrowed. “I kind of hate you a little bit right now.”


“I assure you my incentives for bringing it up were pure.”


“Oh really now? What if I say that I’m perfectly happy as I am?”


“That’s fine, and I truly believe it. But, Lucilius, happiness is best when shared.”


Lucilius raised his glass with a reluctant smile. He sighed. 


“Not sure I can deny that.”



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