Bits ’n’ Bacon
His wife Helen had died a horrible death, and yet, Yoshi, his plastic puppy, refused to stop showing videos of her across its forehead.
“Bacon?” said Andy to this modern-day guard dog, which he loved and loathed in equal measure.
“Then add it to the shopping list.”
“No. I have analysed the effect it could have on your health conditions, and it’s a no.”
The sound of a key in the door distracted them.
“Look who I found,” called the nurse. Andy seemed to remember this one was called Jane. Or was it Jenny? Whoever she was, she wasn’t the doctor he craved. He hadn’t looked one of those in the eyes for years. Ellie stood behind her, making those tiny gesticulations that the local gangs seemed to think passed for a greeting. Andy beckoned his granddaughter and the nurse to come in.
“This bloody fake dog won’t order me any bacon,” he said, as they took off their coats and settled in. He stared at Yoshi. Did he really need a robot to optimise his life, not to mention to act as the God-given gatekeeper to his fridge? Mind you, he’d seen how Helen had painfully deteriorated without access to this level of care, and he’d certainly do anything to avoid that creeping onslaught of disintegration.
“We’ve updated our terms and conditions,” said the nurse. “We need your permission to continue using Yoshi’s data.”
“Does it matter?” said Ellie.
“Mr — ” The nurse glanced at the strip of tech pinned to her blouse. “ — Mr Takkor. The data pays for Yoshi and all the care it gives you. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.”
“Yes. Yes, I know. Go ahead. Upload at your convenience.”
She nodded, and after glancing at the chip on his wrist which displayed his current aggregated state of health, she added, “Good to see you’re green today.” She tilted her head towards Ellie. “She’s green too.” Andy frowned, reminded that Helen had found it impossible to come off red.
The nurse checked that Yoshi and the fridge were both up-to-date and once she was satisfied that everything was in order, she left Andy and Ellie to it.
“Well,” said Andy, as he felt his wrist chip taking its daily blood sample. “What shall we do today?”
Ellie was a good lass really, even if she did run a bit wild at times, so when she suggested they go somewhere that she was sure her granddad would appreciate, Andy agreed.
They set off on their walk, chatting away while improving his health score.
“Here we are,” said Ellie as they reached the entrance to an alleyway.
“One of ours. You’ll see.”
Ellie led the way, stepping around the neat piles of recyclable food packaging which, when scanned, would predict how the contents might affect your health. Each pre-packaged piece of food would have contained nanotech that registered its passage through the human, providing the health company with certainty on who was eating what. Stacked as they were, they looked inconsequential, but were an essential element of the health system and their aggregated data was the reason Andy wasn’t allowed to buy his bacon.
A door with a red light came into view. “A brothel?”
“Of sorts,” said Ellie, “but a surprising one.”
Inside, the tall, elegant woman who was running the show led them past rooms packed full of people. Andy paused outside one of them where a young woman scanned a packet of crisps and passed the contents to the man opposite her. He grabbed a handful, crammed them in his mouth, and, leaving it wide open, he chewed loudly. He shoved the bowl in front of him to one side, paid her a little extra, and spat the masticated mess onto the dirty floor. She gathered it up, grimaced, and swallowed it in one gulp.
“My consumption workers take the hit. After my clients have had the pleasure inside their mouths,” she said. “Interested?”
“This way,” said Ellie, guiding Andy away by the elbow.
In the next room, a sumptuous spread of sizzling bacon and buttered bread was laid out on a long table. Empty packets were piled at one end, where a group of sickly individuals hung around with hopeful glints in their eyes and red chips on their wrists.
“Your treat,” said Ellie.
“I don’t understand,” said Andy.
Their host smiled. “A bacon sandwich. Absolute top-end. No tracking tech. Expensive.”
“Home-grown? Black market?”
Ellie coughed. “You must be kidding. They give you ten years for that and only two for robbing the rich. These are from the super-rich homes in Mayfair. You know they avoid having to swallow tech by paying a sort of insurance premium on their food? It’s a service the companies offer to certain postcodes. You purchase for your family and can then fool the system by allocating the packaging to whoever you want. All the family gets free healthcare, so long as they’re green.”
Andy gazed at the luxurious spread.
The woman gently pushed him forward. “You pay us and you eat, but we pretend our workers ate it. Everyone wins.”
“They look ill.”
She laughed. “Comes with the job. They’re excluded from health care because of their diet.”
Andy turned to Ellie. “I can’t afford this,” he said.
“You can. Sell them a snapshot of your health data and you can afford two or three.”
“I already sold it to the nurse.”
“Data isn’t finite, you know. You can sell it more than once.”
“But it’ll be flawed if it doesn’t include everything I’ve eaten.”
“You think they care?” said Ellie. “C’mon, a cheeky bacon sandwich never hurt anyone. Just sell the data and enjoy the bacon.”
Andy leant across to the wrappers to see exactly what his data would buy, and his chip turned red.
The woman pulled his arm back. “You clumsy fool, you’ve scanned the package. You’re matched to it now and you’ll have to take the hit.”
“It was your idea,” said Andy, staring at his wrist. “And a bloody stupid one, too.”