Short Stories

Short Story: What-If Machine

NEVER FRET OVER THE CHOICES YOU MAKE, LET THE WHAT-IF MACHINE GUIDE YOU THROUGH LIFE TO RIGHT PATH AND HAPPINESS, flashed on his screen. He looked at the words and was about to click the ad away, but something stopped him. He had had a string of bad luck lately, breaking up with his girlfriend, ending up into a dead-end job he hated, hating the flat he lived in, and all the rest made him bitter while Charles his workmate had just bought a new car, moved houses, and was taking his boyfriend out to fancy dinners. Charles had coughed up that he had purchased the What-If Machine, and things had gotten better ever since. No more sleepless night as he was satisfied that he never made the wrong choice anymore. All was scientifically and mathematically calculated, taking into account the current state of the world and economics plus his interest and desires.

Charles wasn’t the only one who he knew had acquired the program. Even his parents had, not to mention his girlfriend, hence the reason he was feeling so miserable. EVERY CHOICE IN THE REACH OF YOUR FINGERTIPS, PRESS BUY AND BE IN CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE, the text changed. He noticed his cursor moved over the buy button, but he stopped himself. How could a machine or program—but he, being in marketing, understood that What-If Machine sounded better than What-If Program—could guide him through life? How could it count for all the possibilities? And could probabilities even say anything valuable of the value of an action? If everyone got the same answer to the same question, wouldn’t that delude the solution and break the need for diverse and creative decisions to make societies more adaptable? How many lawyers or brokers would the world need? And wouldn’t the oversupply change them into cheap, quick labor to be used? And the baristas and fast-food workers into a rare commodity to be paid good wages. Oh well, that would be the future’s problem, not his.

Still, the thought of handing over his life to a crude program sounded less appealing than others made it out to be. What did it or the programmers know about the good life or the aspirations to get one? There were so many possibilities that they must have overlooked some. Also, was it based on the merits of the public and their wants? The thought of getting rich made you happy. That a spouse, a house in the suburbs, a nice car, comprehensive health benefits, a portfolio of stocks, and nice clothes was the ultimate goal in life? What if all he wanted to be was a starving artist who could hold on to his values and paint the dreams that seemed to torment him? Had the program taken that into account? He frowned. Did it care about moral values? Or was it some maximizer of happiness that cared about the end more than the journey or whoever it might hurt? Would there be chaos? And was he only one being obstinate, and would he drop out of the system because he had qualms about spending three hundred bucks which he had lying around his bank account? Here he was, unable to stop wondering about what-ifs. He laughed. None of this mattered. It wasn’t as if he had to follow the suggestions. So, where was the harm of trying? He had already lost his girlfriend to the machine. Would he use it when buying yogurt? Of course, he would. Fat and sugar content could break or make a life. How about with Laura? Should he ask her out or not? She was a coworker after all. What would the machine say to that?

He clicked the buy button.


Thank you for reading! Would you buy a machine to free you from making choices? Would it ease the what-if questions, if someone said that all your decisions were mathematically proved?

© K.A. Ashcomb

3 comments on “Short Story: What-If Machine

  1. Wow, it really was a great story!


  2. Hi! I’ve nominated you for Vincent Ehindero Blogger’s Award!


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