short stories collection - a compilation of my short stories.
The point was nearing when humanity needed to optimize the population. And so the question arose: how many humans do we need?
The screen’s glare sneaked into every corner of the room. It was imposing, a Goliath that filled the Davids below with unease. And that unsettling feeling had more to do with the power of its soon-to-arrive message than its physical manifestation. You see, i was part of a UN committee that was tasked with determining the number of people that we needed on Earth. You might be asking, what exactly does this entail?
Around a decade ago it became apparent that we were fast approaching an era in which every person would be wired up and the efficiencies a single person would be able to achieve made many others…permanently redundant, in the gobbledygook of consulting. As the world was running out of valuable resources, it was decided by the UN permanent security council, with China and India abstaining, to initiate a committee that would determine what cap to set on the human population going forward.
The process for choosing the members has been lost, the records undoubtedly destroyed the second the list went out. Many joined reluctantly, aware that they were unlikely to lead a normal life afterwards. Some, like me, relished the opportunity to finally sweep up the trash that had come to consume the Earth. They provided us computing power to rival the leading tech firms of the time and it allowed us a enormous playground where we could finally test many economic and sociological hypotheses. But we weren’t quite prepared for the actual physical part of being in a committee, thinking it would be like most others assembled up to that point.
We were sequestered inside a room. The only time we left was to sleep in rooms down the hall. Food was brought into the common area for us. The entire experience was suffocating and slightly maddening. We had no ability to communicate out—only the ability to take in the world. And so we read, discussed, conjectured, modeled, analyzed, validated, cross-validated, regressed, debated, yelled, slept, pontificated, cheered, cried, theorized, drank, and finally entered our results into the final simulation. And waited.
It had probably been a couple months, but we wouldn’t know, there were no clocks here. Only the gray granite walls, plush lavender seats, and endless rows of computers. Every once in awhile the main screen would flicker on, some incoherent line of text scrolling across, and then it would shut off. Some people took to scrolling the Net, absorbing more information than they had time to decipher. Others would sink into the over-sized chairs and make small talk, what little there was to make. The chips, which most people had implanted before their teens, made information retrieval and exchange so absurdly rapid that the previously time-consuming, and very human, art of wasting time watching inane videos or chatting with friends had become rather quaint and antiquated. Nevertheless, we tried to keep ourselves busy in the intervening time. Then, that day arrive.
The screen continued getting brighter until it became hard to look at. Then it abruptly turned off, the afterimage nothing but a large red smear across my field of view. Several people nearby started rubbing their eyes and then it happened.
The number hung in the air. For several seconds, nothing happened and the room was silent. And in that silence, i heard the barely audible *click* *click* *click* of all the rooms doors locking.
“NO ONE IS TO LEAVE THIS ROOM UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE!” a voice boomed out. Several people had already darted for the doors at that point and banged on them to no avail. This wasn’t surprising. We had decided the fate of billions. They would likely disappear us rather than allow the world to do it. How the results of the simulation were to be executed was beyond our purview.
While others around me panicked, i walked over to a nearby computer and flicked on the screen. I’d customized one of my rigs to have the newscast from several different countries on live feeds.
“Breaking news! UN DEATH”—that is what they had taken to calling us—“council has announced only 2.9% of the world will be allowed to live!”
“Noticias! El concilio del UN dice que solamente 2.9% del poblacion tiene el derecho a vivir...”
And it continued to arrive in all forms, languages, and types of exaggeration. Over the next several months, a series of skirmish wars broke out—most notable between coalition lead by the USA and Russia against an alliance between China and India. The latter accounted for nearly a third of the world’s population at that point. Easy pickings for those wishing to meet our target number.
Now, you must be viewing this memory chip long after the next series (of rather unseemly) events transpired. And, sitting on your pedestal of hindsight, you are blaming us for our subsequent…actions. But you must be unable to fathom an over-crowded, resource-depleted world. A world that had just been transformed yet again by a technology that made people extraneous. That was the time we lived in and measures had to be taken. Even if that meant indefinitely relieving excess humanity.