Story #12 for Story A Day Challenge May 2016
Which Chip Today
Thanks, Dad. Jeremy was grateful, really he was. He stood in front of his walk-in closet, wondering what to wear.
His father, Jacob, wasn’t anywhere around to hear his son’s acknowledgement. He was half-way around the world at some technical conference, something about bringing life-saving technology to developing countries. Jeremy thought it was a good cause, of course, and silently applauded his father, but he had long ago decided to leave the heavy lifting of the world’s problems to other people.
He, on the other hand, would reap the rewards of the heavy lifters like his father. And enjoy every minute of it.
Sometimes Jeremy chose which outfit to wear first, sometimes he chose which chip to wear first. That was the beauty of being Jacob Isaac’s son: all the technology developed by Isaac Industries, Inc. (III) was available to Jeremy at no charge, including – and especially – the Immediate Ability (IA) chip. (His father named it; an unspoken but acknowledged taunt at the artificial intelligence (AI) community.)
Jeremy had to finish college first, his father insisted. Jacob was old-fashioned that way. But with the IA chip as a dangled carrot, Jeremy had no problem attending classes and completing his degree as a mediocre student. He would have had to wait anyway as it turned out, as federal laws were passed prohibiting the sale of chips to anyone under 21 years of age. (They were commonly used in the military at their discretion on members of any age, but Jeremy had no intention of taking that route.)
So, Jeremy mused, what will it be today? He opened the top drawer to peruse his chip collection. Skiing, rock climbing, jazz pianist, oil painting, photography, cliff diver, or one of the others? He had the both the Adventure and Artist sets to choose from. There were lots of other sets he wasn’t interested in (Engineering, Finance, and Airline Piloting, for example); they were all business-oriented anyway.
The downside to this new technology was that young people didn’t want to spend any time learning what they knew could be purchased in just a few years, throwing the education system into a downward spiraling tizzy. Masters and doctoral programs were dropping out of sight like flashlights with drained batteries. Even elementary and high school students were becoming snobbish about the subjects they didn’t want to take, the sports they didn’t want to play. Why bother?
Jeremy checked the weather in Acapulco for the next few days. Partly sunny? Good. Cliff diver it is, then. I can be there tonight and hang out for a week or so. He put the chip in its case and packed.
On the flight to Mexico, Jeremy thought about Life Before The Chip. People used to spend years learning a skill or developing a talent. Now it was available on an insertable memory chip. (Chips were not available for all skills and certainly not in all industries, but more were always in development.) He rubbed the back of his head where the access area was. It took a little getting used to, that extra little blip on his cranium, but now it was a sign of affluence. Anyone who could afford it had one. Or, if you didn’t have the money, you did everything possible to get hired by an industry that used a chip, as the best benefit was an access area paid for by an employer. Businesses got employees with a uniform experience level and employees got to keep the access hardware. It was a match made in heaven.
His first morning in Acapulco, the sun rose in glorious color as if it had waited just for him. Jeremy got up early. He was excited about diving; he hadn’t used this chip in a while. He was one of the first people at the cliff.
He stood apart until it was his turn, as a few of the others were glaring at him. They knew he had a chip; the access point was always a dead giveaway. There was a growing rivalry in some sports between the ‘chippers’ (as they were called) and the traditionalists. The traditionalists were not happy about practically anyone being able to buy that which once set them apart, making them elite.
He launched himself off the cliff, arms spread, back arched. The sun greeted him in his flight. It was at the apex of Jeremy’s arc when the chip failed. It gave no warning, no indication; not that he could have done anything even if it had.
His entry into the water was not that of an experienced diver, the others could see that, but they didn’t know why; they knew he had a chip. Underwater, Jeremy was disoriented. He pushed himself towards the surface, remembering from other dives some of what he needed to do. Breaking the surface, gasping, he realized he no longer knew how to swim. (It was one of those things he had chosen not to learn on his own because he knew he didn’t have to; a chip would take care of that.)
He turned towards the small beach, arms flailing in panic. It was early enough that no one was on the beach to notice. Those who had dived before him were already making their way back up the path for another dive. The divers waiting on the cliff could see, but couldn’t help. There wasn’t anything anyone could do.
The cliff diving chip was recalled and its sales suspended. After some major rework, a new version of the chip was ready for sale. Warnings were also included about the dangers of relying solely on chips when performing certain activities. It was too late for Jeremy; too little for Jacob.