calliope, calliope 2015
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the pitch

by mavis teo, photo credits.

USP, I think to myself. Remember to push across that unique selling proposition. I’ve gone through the pitch millions of times in my head—literally two million, three hundred and sixty five thousand, four hundred and three times (2,365,403). Even so, I know of others who’ve practiced way more, every micro-movement carefully rehearsed for maximum persuasion. My superiors said that psychological manipulation rarely works on the Board of Directors, but after scanning the room and observing the millions of beautiful, confident and poised representatives, I wish I’d taken that extra five thousand years to polish up on my non-verbal communication.

This pitch is an important one, and will be a major breakthrough for my company. It’s a competitive one, too — there are a measly 8.7 million positions to be filled, and if the Sunday papers are accurate, there are only 2 million positions left. Strangely, so far the Board has decided to go with the lower end of the capability spectrum, choosing to select for those with weaker neural networks. Good for me, I suppose. What I’m trying to sell them on isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. Compared to all the 1 million Coleoptera they selected though, at least my species evolved some grey matter.

This project is at the cutting edge of our technology, making use of the newest prototypes of quarks and leptons — complete with flavours and colours! They were initially unstable, but the development of a nano-scale type glue — whimsically dubbed gluons — meant that the building blocks could really start coming together. They called it Strong Force; I thought that was a pretty stupid name. Apparently they had devised a nifty way to combine those few elementary particles to form — you guessed it — elements and their new project’s full of those things. As you’ve probably already deduced, they aren’t very good at naming things, which is why their corporation was still called Universe even though that’s an archaic concept. I wish they’d change their name to the more scientifically accurate Multiverse but the 4 billion year old faceless dudes running the company are too busy being cryptic than to care about such trivialities.

Their newest, fanciest project (the one I’m trying to push my species into) was recruiting volunteer species to be placed into an artificial environment. It’s the latest big thing after their previous prototype, Fission, went out of style.

“Hello. Welcome to Environmental Applied Research Technology Homologue, E.A.R.T.H. What is your species and why should it be on E.A.R.T.H.?”

“Homo sapiens. Or as I like to call them, humans. That is my pitch. They’re organic, and have a pretty low level of mental competence. Your project calls for lower level organisms, and I understand that you’re trying to limit the intelligent life in the first prototype. Humans completely fit that definition. They have no apparent structural or chemical defences, and it would be a joy to observe a semi- intelligent species perform in an environment where everything else has a substantially lower mental capacity. It’d be a change for them to be the smartest organism in the room.”

“Interesting. I only have one question. As you know, this prototype of ours should be self-sustainable and we’ve pumped a lot of money into crafting the ozone layer that provides a suitable microenvironment for the weaker organisms. It’s alright if the interspecies interactions are destructive—that is only expected and will be fascinating to observe. But is there a possibility that your species will damage the prototype? Will humans ruin the biosphere?”

“No, certainly not. In Situ observations indicate that they are still in their preliminary stages of development, choosing to hit hard substrate to each other and being fascinated when sparks appear…it seems like they haven’t even mastered ionising plasma. They will undoubtedly be an interesting addition to your prototype and should you accept, the interspecific interactions will be worth watching.”

“…”

“Trust me. The large scale damage required to even dent the ozone layer would require chemical engineering—nowhere near the mental capabilities of Man. Moreover, as evidenced by other species more intelligent than Man, even if Man did have the ability, they’d easily see the issues with destroying the only environment in which they can survive. This isn’t even an issue.”

“You make a darned good point. Homo sapiens are in.”

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