Title: Response Options
Author: Emad El-Din Aysha
Summary: An Egyptian inventor finds a way to regulate body temperature – the metabolic harness – which leads to a way to regulate the economy.
Word count: 947
Public Domain Mark (PDM)
Sweating. The computer engineer was sweating.
Why would anyone sweat, and sweat so profusely, in the blasted air-conditioning?
Cairo was a sweaty city, but it was also an air-conditioned city. Just as sweaty on the inside as the outside. The city was as out of character as he was. And it wasn’t a problem in the summer time. He sweat all the time. Even in winter. It’s like he stored up the heat from one season, carrying it into the next.
He had to see the doctor about this. He had an appointment with him as it was, in this cramped apartment converted into a clinic – he was waiting away patiently in the stuffed reception room. Might as well ask him while doing the checkup.
The bell rang. It was finally his turn. Anything to get out of the wind!
“Metabolism. The problem is with your metabolism,” the doctor said, after the compulsory tests were run to his satisfaction.
The computer tech felt like a machine that had been taken apart, without being put back together again. “I don’t get it.”
“Your body gears itself… your brain gears your body, I should say, to temperature and other adverse environmental conditions.” The man made it sound like his patient was out in the freezing cold in the middle of an artic blizzard without so much as a loin cloth.
“So?” he said, obstinately.
“Your brain is not a plank of wood, so to speak. It responds, over-responds… certain levels of it… to one set of conditions, and keeps on that way even after the temperature and humidity has changed,” the doctor explained.
“I don’t believe that.” It offended his engineer’s sense of precision.
“Most of the brain is autonomic functions, just because your conscious mind can tell what the weather is like doesn’t mean the rest of the cortical mush that makes up your mind can as well,” the doctor added as a footnote. A very long footnote.
“It’s a problem with programming, you mean,” was the engineer’s response.
“You’re the computer guy, not me,” the doctor said.
“Exactly,” the patient said with happy defiance. An idea was forming in his head, the only part of his body that still worked on time.
Another doctor’s appointment, only it was bogus this time round. The computer engineer wanted to show off his machinations.
“What does it do,” the doctor finally said, holding in his hands something that looked like an undersized pair of head phones.
“It’s metabolic harness,” the patient answered casually like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Sorry?” It sounded like something to hang yourself with.
“It… let me show you.” The patient took the thing back and placed it over his head, turning it on. “It smooths out your autonomic responses, as you’d put. Measures your sweat and secretion levels and neuroelectric activity and correlates it to…,” his voice trailed off deliberately.
The doctor caught on. To the temperature and air pressure in a room. “I get it, I get it. But isn’t that dangerous. It could cool you down or heat you up, mess with your core temperature. It’s best to leave these things to nature. It’s the artificial environment we live in that lead to the metabol…”
“Right you are,” the engineer responded. “The device needs finetuning, and set parameters to stop something like that happening. Which is why I need you.”
For what it was worth the doctor could see his over-inventive patient was no longer sweating, despite the freezing cold they all had to endure at his hastily converted clinic. He had workers who had to go on sick leave thanks to the temperature differentials between the inside and the outside, and their medical insurance bills always came to rest on his desk in his new caring age.
His ‘employees’. That gave the doctor an idea of his own.
“So, it works,” the computer engineer blurted out after a prolonged period of trials. First on the janitor and secretary at his doctor’s clinic. And then on the patientd themselves; (the workers got a bonus and the patients got a discount for signing the consent papers).
“It’s like a smartphone or a smart electrical grid,” the doctor admitted. He finally had to read up on a field outside of his sub-discipline. A far more rewarding experience than he’d first suspected. Not that he would admit to any of that in public. “So, what’s the next step.”
“Patenting and finding some poor sucker willing to put up some cash so we can market the thing, and get some decent facilities to produce it. And then who knows. Maybe we can start exporting. Finally help finetune the damned economy.”
That gave them both an idea.
“Read all about it,” the headline said. “Cabinet being replaced by magic harness.”
“It’s metabolic harness,” the computer engineer corrected, speaking out loud as he read through the front page of the daily tabloid.
“The smart economy is here,” the story continued. “All at a push of a button. The body’s like an economy…”
“It’s the other way around,” the doctor added.
“Adjusting to problems, in real-time. No more inflation as the economy overheats. No more budget deficits pilfering away your millions. Not more fuel shortages at the gas pump. No more hiccups…” the story went on and on, with some justification.
“Well, when it’s all said and done, we’ve already caused a small economic revolution,” the engineer said.
“And how is that? You mean by filling our pockets with well-deserved cash?” the doctor asked.
“Nope, by cutting down on air-conditioning bills,” the engineer replied.
“And medical insurance bills too,” the doctor added.