Brian Cox Day 1

Day 1 Extract:

Below is an extract from a new dystopian science fiction: “The 
Stratosphere: The Birth of Nostradamus”


     The Professor was already waiting when Katharine arrived. She told her
entourage to rest outside, shut the door for privacy, then out of caution motioned    
for the Professor to join her on the balcony.
     As she opened the balcony doors a rush of stale dry air flooded over her. It
smelt of contamination. Being outside for long was never pleasant, though, thanks
to natural selection, only people with hardier genetic dispositions survived the
unchecked toxins produced by the printers during the late 2030s.
     The Professor looked at Katharine and smiled. “It is good to see you.”
     Katharine was dismissive, and against her better judgment launched
immediately into an attack. “What the hell are you doing?”
     “Straight to the point!”
     “You don’t understand the situation, or you don’t care.”
     Katharine realized her temper would get the better of her, and stopped
speaking. The Professor waited, giving her a chance to say what he understood
would be difficult.
     A few moments later Katharine continued, “I am responsible for a million
people. A million people… Sure, we have the elected government, but it’s a group
of fools elected by fools. They are unable and unwilling to make hard decisions.
No one wants to work, and everyone wants everything. The only thing stopping us
descending into the Stone Age is the Strat. And yes, I recognize the irony. Do you
remember how things were before? It was a shitty world, but there was hope.
There is no point to these tribes; they are nothing more than animals. This cannot
be the pinnacle of our evolution. We have to have the Strat, at least until civil
society is rebuilt.”
     Katharine, paused, her tone becoming despondent and less combative. “I beg
you Dad, the Strat servers are close to finished, and we cannot find anything to
replace them. The only things that can save us are your BQCs. We have not
produced a single new chip for 18 years. There are no super computers; there is
only a battery of servers. All the scientists you saw today think they are scientists,
they think they are doing cutting edge work. But they are idiots in white coats
cobbling together decades old technology to prop up the Strat.”
     “Sorry, the answer is no.”
     “You are being a fool. Others will look for you… I cannot hold them back
any longer.”
     “Is that a threat?”
     “No… never. It is simply the truth. I am losing control of things Dad, and
when I do, chaos will follow. If you help me, we can fix the Strat. Then we can get
out of this mess, together. Please. I am begging you.”
     The Professor understood her argument, and it upset him to see his daughter
this way. But the stakes were too high to concede to Katharine.
     “The Strat is your problem, it is humanity’s problem, it is the very reason we
are in this mess now. The Strat never has been and never will be any part of a
     “You see things in black and white. It’s not that simple.”
     “Yes, it is that simple. Why are there so few children now? You know the
answer. Men prefer compliant StratBots to making an effort with a real woman.
Why have there been no technological advancements? Because your scientists
would rather receive the Nobel Prize daily on the Strat than do the hard yards with
experimental research. Why do people eat gruel day after day, doing nothing to
create something worth eating? Because they cannot bear to spend a second away
from the Strat. Duties have become duties; just the absolute essential, and all spare
time goes to the Strat. Why would anyone choose to wake from their dream world
to improve the real world?”
     “Fine, if you want to simplify things, here is the simple truth. The Strat
servers have another month. Two, maybe...at best. After that they are gone for
good. There is nothing to replace them, the Strat will disappear. I will lose power
shortly afterwards. But that is not the problem. You cannot rebuild civil society
with tribes.  You need a critical mass of people. New York is the only place with
that critical mass. After the Strat is gone those people will pack their bags and head
off into the hills. Once that happens, humanity will have nothing to show for its
efforts except a toxic planet, and no way to fix it, with no direction, and no purpose
for being on it.”
     “You may be right. But I have more faith than you. If we must go backwards
before we can go ahead; then so be it. The longer the Strat keeps going, the harder
it will be to turn things around. Help me to arm people with the knowledge to build
a better future.”
     “I don’t have that long Dad, and I don’t have that kind of power. You are
asking for the impossible.”
     “We can get number six reactor running, it will provide the power we need.”
     “I don’t mean electrical power Dad, I mean political power. Perhaps if you
saw me earlier, much earlier, we could have done something. But you sprang this
on me now, with no warning, no real briefing. Do you expect me to drop
everything, to turn the whole edifice around single handily, and help you… on
faith? Even if I understood what you are proposing, and to be honest I do not know
how it would play out, you are talking about a logistical and political nightmare.
This would take months to execute, and if it did not work - and with all due respect
this would not be your first failure - then we would have used the last bullet in out
belt. You are proposing to make people superhuman, all of them. What happens if
some people become superhuman before others? What happens if it does not take
with some people? What happens when the wrong people become superhuman?
You love to give me questions; well how about you answer mine! There is a sea of
human trash breaking out there, breaking against the last bastion of order. I know
Dad; unlike you, I have to fight it, work with it, compromise with it, and
occasionally crush it… every single bloody day. And you are proposing to
empower these people too… the depraved, the murderers, the thieves, the rapists…
all of them? Or do you have some unimpeachable selection criteria that everyone is
going to accept, that divides people into the deserving and undeserving, without so
much as a murmur of dissent? Who do you think yells the loudest, and with the
least right to yell? You are living in a utopian dream world Dad, you always have.
     “You have misunderstood me dear.”
     “Have I? You are obsessed with your solution, like it’s the only one. What
about genetic engineering, what about artificial intelligence? There are many ways
to get us out of the mess we are in. You do not have a monopoly on the truth. Your
way is not the only way.”
     “You do not understand me.”
“Well, explain it!”

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