Posted on Jul 22, 2020

“Hello Dina, he is here. I’ll bring him upstairs”, the voice from the comm says.

“Thanks”, Dina says while opening her eyes from deep meditation.

After a minute the door slides open.

“Welcome Mark. How are you doing?”

“I’m fine, thank you. How are you?”

“Excellent. We finally succeeded in getting you here. Would you like something to drink?”

“No, I’m fine.”

They let go of each other’s hands.

“I would say we picked the best day for this chat. Horo says I can talk anyone into anything this morning”. Dina prefers to keep small talk small.

“I’ll be careful then” Mark smiles. “Horo told me to watch out for girls in their twenties”

“You don’t have to worry. I turned thirty last week”, she says with a subtle smile.

“So you are a Septemberian. I read my horoscopes from our internal beta version of Horo. It gives slightly different predictions, but they are a lot more accurate at times. It says a Januarian like me is prone to charms of sweet talking Septemberians, especially during the Fall”

“Ha ha. Suit yourself then … When is it coming out? The beta?”

“Next week”

“Can’t wait”

Both walk across the room.

Mark takes a moment to take in the panoramic view of the city.

“Don’t you like the view?” Dina asks looking at the bridge rising above the faint clouds.

The cloudy day has robbed the color off the city, but it’s charming as always.

“Yes, it’s quite breathtaking. Makes up for living downtown.”

“You bet. But I will live in the city all the same. I grew up in one. I’m a city girl.”

“Good for you. I bought a nice condo last week in Space Life. It’s right in the center of Arcadia - the biggest outpost on Neptune.”

He waits for Dina’s reaction, she only smiles.

“Have you checked out their Neptune expansion yet? It’s truly mesmerizing. I spent a whole weekend in my new Neptunian condo. It’s quite an experience to sleep in the penthouse of a tower that sways along the fastest winds in the solar system.”

“So I’ve heard” with a waning smile.

“Don’t tell me you don’t play your competitor’s lifegames”

“I just don’t have enough time. I spent my weekend testing out the beta of Better Life. After the crypto currency integration last year, we have seen massive user growth. Our top priority now is to enable those users to build sustainable businesses inside our lifegame. Better Life is the best out there among all lifegames available.”

“Indeed”, Mark replies.

“Tell me Mark. Do you lose your sleep wondering if you are giving false hope to billions of people on the planet?”

“I sleep well Dina, thank you. Fortune tellers have been around for centuries. But Horo is much more than that. The predictions that Horo makes come from a fairly reliable prediction engine. They can help people plan ahead and not just give them false hopes. These predictions are at least as true as tomorrow’s weather forecast.”

“That analogy is far-fetched, don’t you think?”

“No it’s not. Our company has been around longer than you’ve been alive. And in all that time we’ve indexed all the events in everyone’s life on this planet. Horo’s neural nets embody all the patterns that you can see in the data of this magnitude. It can construct a map of events taking place and then extrapolate them into the future. Horo can tell you what gift your boyfriend will like for his birthday. It told me that your secretary will be wearing a red cardigan before I met her this morning.

Dina, if we were driving cars on the road like in the old days, Horo would have predicted if the driver in the next lane is going to cut in front of me.”

“Thank god we are not doing that anymore. But, I do believe in free will though. Horo can know every chemical reaction happening inside me and people around me, but we can still surprise it. Don’t you think? We can still make black swans.”

“It does happen, but not so often. Most of the time Horo knows us better than ourselves. And he is only going to get better.”

“Mark, I admit that Horo is a monumental achievement. Your company deserves all the success for building something that predicts reality. Your company’s history gave you a big advantage, but you leveraged it quite well. You have captured reality.”

“Thank you” Mark takes a tiny bow.

“But Mark, what good is reality?”

A long moment of contemplation passes over Mark’s face.

“If you spend half your day in Better Life and the other half in a dozen other lifegames, you have no time for reality”

“Is that where you think we are going?” Mark says with a smirk.

“We are halfway there already. I’ll let you in on a little secret. This afternoon we are signing papers with Neuralink.”

Mark tries hard, but his eyes betray him.

Dina continues, “Ability to make accurate predictions is a big deal. The real world runs on gazillions of parameters. To be able to see their pattern of movement requires enormous neural networks. Congratulations to your company on managing that feat. As people have started to trust more and more in Horo, its predictions have become self-fulfilling prophecies. You have always been the one to spot virtuous cycles in the evolution of technology Mark.”

Dina leans forward before continuing.

“But Mark, your scope is limited to reality. Better Life does not have to predict the future, because it writes it. When you are in Better Life, we own the reality”

“Then what do you want from me?”

“Horo of course. We don’t want it to predict reality though. Today Horo tells people what to anticipate. That means he also knows what they do not anticipate. That’s what we want to know.

Reality is boring because most of the things happen as we expect them to. Only when something surprising happens do we get excitement in life.

Reality doesn’t unfold to make people’s life interesting. It unfolds along its own silly logic. In Better Life, we are not bound by such constraints.

Better Life is the greatest life-authoring service. All we need now is an author. And we want Horo for the job.”

Dina leans back in her seat keeping her eyes on Mark.

Mark stays quiet for a while and spends a few moments in contemplation.

A gentle chime breaks Mark’s attention.

He sighs. “Thanks Horo” he says silently, before opening the car door and walking to the lobby.

A tall woman in a red cardigan greets him at the door. “Good morning Mark, how are you doing today? Dina is waiting for you, I’ll take you to her.”

He follows.

I wrote this short story in 2019. For a long time didn't know what to do with it. Recently put it on reddit and received good feedback