If You Give a Pigeon a Sandwich

It started with a sandwich dropped into the Large Hadron Collider by a passive-aggressive pigeon in the waning autumnal days of 2009.

In retrospect, the effects should have been obvious almost immediately. Snoop Dogg trying to collaborate with Susan Boyle in January of the following year was as great a red flag as any that has ever been waved. But alas, no. Nobody noticed. They were too busy lining up for this shiny new thing they called the iPad.

When NASA discovered a previously unknown form of life at the end of that same year in California’s Mono Lake that used arsenic to make its DNA, turning science pretty much on its head, that should have been the next clue. But alas, World of Warcraft released their Cataclysm update which raised the maximum player level to 85 and people were understandably distracted.

When 2011 arrived, and people were shot, and riots began, and wars erupted in at least half a dozen countries, and a tsunami swept through Japan, destroying a nuclear power plant like a Godzilla plot become manifest; everyone everywhere knew that something was a little off, but they couldn’t quite put their finger on what. They mistook alarm bells for wedding bells and were distracted by Kate and Wills getting hitched. All except Weird Al. Weird Al knew. Weird Al released an album called Apocalypse, but nobody bought it.

And on and on it went, mass shootings followed by Warcraft updates, followed by meteors over Russia like some Sim City addendum and the Pope packing it all in and saying basically, sod this, I’m out of here.

And then. August 25, 2013. The hollow nature of mankind’s soul was finally laid bare for all to see. Miley Cyrus released Wrecking Ball.

Could there have been a greater warning from the beyond than that? I think not.

And yet…

2014 arrived. The Elder Scrolls launched online a few months later, Nikesh Shukla sent a tandoori lamb chop into space strapped to a GoPro, Christian Poincheval invented a pill that makes farts smell like chocolate, and there was a national Velveeta cheese shortage. 2015 arrived and a woman with three tits made a music video.

People. Were. Distracted.

So distracted that seven years, almost to the day, that a pigeon dropped a sandwich into a particle accelerator in Europe, a pouting reality TV star with a dead ferret on his head was elected president of the United States, nominating among others, an Education Secretary who announced that the biggest threat to the US education system was an attack by grizzly bears.

And then the proverbial penny dropped.

For that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we found out that we were living inside a simulation, our lives turning on the whim of a scientist who sits there even now, eating a sandwich, under the surreptitious gaze of a malignant pigeon.

Mother’s Day

DOCKET No. CO-3136j.
Partial Transcript.

(Time noted: 1.00 p.m.)
MR. SHAW: Ms. White, how old were you when you murdered your first baby?
THE DEFENDANT: Do you have to say it like that?
MR. SHAW: You let the child die.
THE DEFENDANT: I let “it” die, sure. It wasn’t a child.
MR. SHAW: Please answer the question. How old were you when it happened?
THE DEFENDANT: I don’t know. Twelve, maybe?
MR. SHAW: Did you feel anything?
MR. SHAW: Remorse perhaps?
THE DEFENDANT: I don’t know. I never really thought about it before this whole thing.
MR. SHAW: That would suggest that you have no remorse—
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Objection! Leading!
THE COURT: Sustained.
MR. SHAW: Ms. White. Had you ever had a baby before this particular incident?
THE DEFENDANT: It wasn’t a baby!
MR. SHAW: Did you ever stop to think if you knew what you were doing?
THE DEFENDANT: Who does that at that age?
MR. SHAW: Please answer the question: Did you know what you were doing?
THE DEFENDANT: I thought I did.
MR. SHAW: What prompted you have a baby?
THE DEFENDANT: Stop calling it a baby. Please.
MR. SHAW: What led you to decide to create a life then?
THE DEFENDANT: Everyone was doing it.
MR. SHAW: And did they kill theirs too?
THE DEFENDANT: I don’t know. Probably.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Objection! Speculative! I move to strike that from the record.
THE COURT: Sustained. Members of the jury, you may disregard the Defendant’s last statement.
MR. SHAW. I’ll move on. Ms. White, is it true to say your baby died because you abandoned him?
THE DEFENDANT: I lost interest, sure. Not much else you could do with it after a while.
MR. SHAW: And did that strike you as unusual?
THE DEFENDANT: No, I’d say it was pretty typical. No one kept theirs for more than a year, maybe?
MR. SHAW: Did you give him a name?
MR. SHAW: Why name him if he’s just an “it”?
THE DEFENDANT: I name my car too. Does that give it rights?
MR. SHAW: What did you name him?
MR. SHAW: Your baby.
MR. SHAW: Why Michael?
THE DEFENDANT: I liked the name.
MR. SHAW: Was Michael the name of the father?
MR. SHAW: So it’s fair to say that you liked Michael?
THE DEFENDANT: Every girl liked Michael.
MR. SHAW: What was it about him?
THE DEFENDANT: He was cute. He was in a band. He had gorgeous hair. I remember his hair.
MR. SHAW: Did he feel the same way about you?
THE DEFENDANT: No. He barely knew I existed.
MR. SHAW: Then how did he father the baby?
THE DEFENDANT: He didn’t know about that.
MR. SHAW: He didn’t know about his baby? He must have been involved at some point, surely?
THE DEFENDANT: I swiped his card at recess. Eva had the key to his locker. When we opened it up he had all these pictures of athletes all over the inside. At the time we thought he was serious about his football, but now it’s, you know, obvious.
MR. SHAW: What was obvious?
THE DEFENDANT: That he was gay. But you know how it is, I was young, I had a crush. I couldn’t see it.
MR. SHAW: So you swiped Michael’s card.
MR. SHAW: Which card was this?
MR. SHAW: You’re referring to a Personal Medical Card?
MR. SHAW: Which he kept in his locker?
MR. SHAW: And you used that to make a baby?
MR. SHAW: How were you feeling at the time? What were your emotions?
THE DEFENDANT: I was excited.
MR. SHAW: Why?
THE DEFENDANT: I thought Michael and I were going to make beautiful babies together. I couldn’t wait to see one.
MR. SHAW: Tell me about the baby you and Michael had together. How long did it gestate?
THE DEFENDANT: It took about nine minutes to create if that’s what you’re asking.
MR. SHAW: Was he a pretty baby?
THE DEFENDANT: God no. It was horrible. It had this defect.
MR. SHAW: Can you describe it?
THE DEFENDANT: I don’t know. His face was all screwed up.
MR. SHAW: So what did you do?
MR. SHAW: You did nothing? Did you try to help him?
THE DEFENDANT: Who? Michael?
MR. SHAW: Help the baby.
THE DEFENDANT: Of course not. Who does that? No one wants to get caught with a reject. It’s too embarrassing. I left it at home and kept pretending I’d forgotten it. I didn’t want to be laughed at.
MR. SHAW: How long did that take until you were rid of it?
THE DEFENDANT: I don’t know. Couple weeks?
MR. SHAW: Did you stop feeding it?
THE DEFENDANT: I stopped everything.
MR. SHAW: You ignored it?
MR. SHAW: Did you tell Michael about what had happened?
THE DEFENDANT: Are you kidding me?
MR. SHAW: What about adoption?
THE DEFENDANT: What about it?
MR. SHAW: Did you think about adoption?
THE DEFENDANT: Are you serious?
MR. SHAW: It was your responsibility.
THE DEFENDANT: This is ridiculous.
MR. SHAW: You are aware that when you signed up to the service you had a duty of care?
THE DEFENDANT: Oh, come on.
MR. SHAW: You did read and understand the EULA?
THE DEFENDANT: Nobody reads those things.
MR. SHAW: It was made very clear to you that the moral and ethical implications of the service had not been fully outlined and that you were responsible for your child like any other parent–
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Your honor, badgering. My client has already indicated that she did not read the document.
THE COURT: Sustained.
MR. SHAW: So you didn’t read the EULA, but you checked the box to say that you had?
THE DEFENDANT: Everyone does it.
MR. SHAW: So you lied.
THE DEFENDANT: I just wanted the app.
MR. SHAW: And when you were done with the app, did you terminate your agreement with Optix?
THE DEFENDANT: Did I what? No.
MR. SHAW: Did you make arrangements for the care of your child?
MR. SHAW: Did you make enquiries as to what would happen to him?
THE DEFENDANT: I figured it’d get deleted.
MR. SHAW: It? It was your baby.
MR. SHAW: How many babies did you have in the end?
THE DEFENDANT: Five or six.
MR. SHAW: Which is it? Five or six?
THE DEFENDANT: I don’t know.
MR. SHAW: You lost count?
MR. SHAW: Just not that important to you?
THE DEFENDANT: Not really.
MR. SHAW: What happened to them?
THE DEFENDANT: I can’t remember. A couple died.
MR. SHAW: Did you murder those too?
THE DEFENDANT: Stop calling it murder.
MR. SHAW: Are you offended by the word?
MR. SHAW: Is it uncomfortable, perhaps?
THE DEFENDANT: It’s not an accurate description.
MR. SHAW: How so?
THE DEFENDANT: It was a toy! It’s not like they were real babies. They’re just Avatars!
MR. SHAW: Likenesses?
MR. SHAW: And that is your contention?
(Where upon Mr. Shaw takes a sip of water.)
(Where upon Mr. Shaw refers to notes.)
MR. SHAW: How old are you now, Ms. White?
THE DEFENDANT: I’m thirty-two.
MR. SHAW: Do you have children now?
THE DEFENDANT: You mean real ones?
MR. SHAW: Please answer the question.
THE DEFENDANT: I have two. A boy and a girl.
MR. SHAW: How old are they?
THE DEFENDANT: Alex is Ten. Kate was six last weekend.
MR. SHAW: So you know them fairly intimately?
THE DEFENDANT: I’m their mother.
MR. SHAW: You gave birth to them?
MR. SHAW: Conceived naturally?
MR. SHAW: Pardon me?
THE DEFENDANT: In-vitro-fertilization.
MR. SHAW: So they were conceived in a test tube?
THE DEFENDANT: If you want to put it that way.
MR. SHAW: So you didn’t have sex.
THE DEFENDANT: Of course we had sex. We had difficulty conceiving.
MR. SHAW: I’m very sorry to hear that.
THE DEFENDANT: I’m sure you are.
MR. SHAW: So, to be clear, your children were not actually conceived in your womb. They were created outside your body.
THE DEFENDANT: I carried them to term.
THE SHAW: But you didn’t create them inside your body.
THE DEFENDANT: What does that have to do with anything?
MR. SHAW: I’m merely trying to determine your assessment that just because they were created outside of your body, they are not any less real.
THE DEFENDANT: They’re sitting right there. Look at them. Do they look real to you?
MR. SHAW: Very nice. Clearly it seems you do remember to feed these children.
THE COURT: Sustained.
MR. SHAW: Withdrawn. Tell me, Ms. White, what is a real baby to you?
THE DEFENDANT: Are you kidding me?
MR. SHAW: Not at all.
THE DEFENDANT: I’m not going to answer that. Be serious.
MR. SHAW: Your Honor —
THE DEFENDANT: What’s the point?
MR. SHAW: Your honor, as a matter of record it’s important that the defendant state what she believes to be the answer to the question. I request the court direct the defendant to answer the question.
THE COURT: Ms. White, please answer the question.
THE DEFENDANT: What is a baby?
MR. SHAW: Yes. What is a baby?
THE DEFENDANT: A baby is the product of a union between two parents. One male. One female.
MR. SHAW: Nothing more?
THE DEFENDANT: Not really.
MR. SHAW: You are aware that there are parents of the same gender?
THE DEFENDANT: I meant biologically speaking.
MR. SHAW: Oh, biologically. I see. How then, biologically, is this child created?
MR. SHAW: Not the act itself. I think we’re all know about sex, Ms. White. Scientifically.
THE DEFENDANT: Sperm meets egg. I don’t know, it’s been a while since I took High School biology.
MR. SHAW: Then let’s refresh our memories together, shall we? The sperm comes from the male, is that correct?
MR. SHAW: And what does the sperm do?
MR. SHAW: What is its function?
THE DEFENDANT: To get the guy’s DNA into the egg.
MR. SHAW: And what is the egg’s function?
THE DEFENDANT: Carry the girl’s DNA and wait for the sperm to arrive.
MR. SHAW: That’s it?
THE DEFENDANT: Far as I know.
MR. SHAW: So the sperm meets the egg. Where does this happen?
THE DEFENDANT: In the womb.
MR. SHAW: But not in your case. In your case it was in a test tube.
MR. SHAW: Is there much difference between a womb and a test tube?
THE DEFENDANT: I’d say so. One’s made of glass.
MR. SHAW: So it stands to reason that a child not conceived inside a woman’s body isn’t real.
THE DEFENDANT: I didn’t say that.
MR. SHAW: So you do regard your children, who were conceived inside inanimate glass test tubes, to still be human beings?
THE DEFENDANT: Of course I do.
MR. SHAW: But the parents weren’t anywhere near each other at the time. Just their DNA. The test tube is just a change of venue. Is that it?
THE DEFENDANT: It’s my DNA, it’s their father’s DNA. They are part of us.
MR. SHAW: A part of you?
THE DEFENDANT: Without question.
MR. SHAW: Do your children then share your memories?
MR. SHAW: Experiences?
MR. SHAW: But you stated that your children are a part of you. Aren’t your memories and your experiences what make you – you?
THE DEFENDANT: It’s not actually me. It’s a copy.
MR. SHAW: Oh I see, it’s a copy.
MR. SHAW: A copy of your DNA?
THE DEFENDANT: Half my DNA, half his.
MR. SHAW: And did you have a say in which half was copied?
THE DEFENDANT: More or less. We screened for diseases like anyone else.
MR. SHAW: You didn’t let nature take its course?
THE DEFENDANT: Too much of a risk. My husband and I, we’re both carriers for Canavans. There was a one in four chance our children could get it, so we screened the embryos.
MR. SHAW: Canavan disease? That’s a degenerative brain disorder, isn’t it?
MR. SHAW: I’m very sorry to hear that.
MR. SHAW: How did you and your husband discover that you were both carriers for Canavan?
THE DEFENDANT: We’ve known since birth.
MR. SHAW: How is that possible?
THE DEFENDANT: Well, it’s on our PEMs.
MR. SHAW: Your Personal Medical Cards?
MR. SHAW: And when did you get your PEM?
THE DEFENDANT: At birth. Everybody gets one. You have one. We all have one.
MR. SHAW: Issued at birth?
THE DEFENDANT: You know they are.
MR. SHAW: And what’s stored on one of these cards?
(In which the Defendant confronts the court)
THE DEFENDANT: Do I really have to answer this?
THE COURT: Counselor, where is this going?
MR. SHAW: Your honor, I’m trying to determine if Ms. White fully comprehends what a Personal Medical Card is.
THE COURT: Is it relevant?
MR. SHAW: Very, your honor.
THE COURT: Go on then. But make it quick.
MR. SHAW: Yes, your honor. Thank you. Ms. White. Could you describe for me what is stored on what you call a PEM card?
THE DEFENDANT: Medical records.
MR. SHAW: Could you be more specific?
THE DEFENDANT: My entire medical history since birth. A list of the illnesses I’ve had. Shots. Treatments. A list of genetic diseases I’m carrying. And a complete copy of my DNA for future diagnosis.
MR. SHAW: A copy of your DNA? Your entire genome?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes. So they say.
MR. SHAW: Not your actual DNA?
THE DEFENDANT: Of course not. Just a copy. They take a sample at birth, scan it, and issue the card the next day.
MR. SHAW: And your husband has a PEM? Your children have PEMs?
THE DEFENDANT: Everyone has a PEM.
MR. SHAW: So would it be fair to say that a PEM is a delivery system for a copy of your DNA?
MR. SHAW: Just like an egg or a sperm.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Objection! Your honor, counsel isn’t seriously expecting my client to offer an opinion on whether a PEM is or is not like a sperm or an egg?
MR. SHAW: Your honor, it wasn’t a question. I was merely making an observation. But since counsel brings it up, why don’t we ask her?
THE COURT: I’ll allow it.
THE COURT: I’ve made my ruling! Ask the question.
MR. SHAW: Ms. White, does a PEM perform the same function as a sperm or an egg?
Did I say something funny?
THE DEFENDANT: It’s a ridiculous question. Of course it doesn’t perform the same function. The purpose of a sperm or an egg is to create another human being. The purpose of a PEM is to carry information.
MR. SHAW: But a sperm or an egg carries a blueprint for creating a new child doesn’t it? That’s what DNA is. Information.
THE DEFENDANT: I suppose. If you put it like that.
MR. SHAW: Would a sperm and an egg be able to create life without carrying copies of DNA?
THE DEFENDANT: I guess not. No.
MR. SHAW: So a PEM is in fact like an egg or a sperm?
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Objection! Leading.
THE COURT: Sustained.
MR. SHAW: I’ll rephrase. Ms. White. In light of what we’ve just learned, is a PEM in fact similar in function to a sperm or an egg?
MR. SHAW: Do you agree?
THE DEFENDANT: But if you keep two PEM cards in your wallet they’re not going to spontaneously create a fetus.
MR. SHAW: Neither did the sperm and eggs residing in your womb, isn’t that true?
THE DEFENDANT: How dare you!
MR. SHAW: It’s not my intention to insult you, Ms. White. I’m merely establishing fact. You and your husband were unable to conceive. In that regard your eggs and his sperm were like PEM cards. Carrying information, but unable to do anything with it. You were forced, through no fault of your own to seek outside intervention. A place where your child could be conceived. Which happened to be outside your body.
MR. SHAW: DNA fused. A new life was born.
MR. SHAW: So you agree that human life can be created outside the human body, in an environment that bares no similarity to a human womb, correct?
MR. SHAW: Could a human life be created anywhere, do you think?
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Objection! Prosecution is asking for a professional opinion, one that my client is not qualified to give.
MR. SHAW: Your honor, I’m asking Ms. White for her personal opinion, based on her experience as a mother.
THE COURT: I’ll allow it.
MR. SHAW: Human life can be created anywhere. Would you agree?
THE DEFENDANT: If the conditions are right.
MR. SHAW: Oh, there are conditions?
THE DEFENDANT: Obviously. The doctors didn’t just throw my eggs and my husband’s sperm into a test tube and hoped that something would happen. They had to create the right environment.
MR. SHAW: To allow the process to take place?
(In which Mr. Shaw returns to his desk.)
(In which Mr. Shaw glances around the courtroom.)
MR. SHAW: Is everything ready?
COURTROOM DEPUTY CLERK: Yes. Everything’s set up.
MR. SHAW: Is the feed all synched?
COURTROOM DEPUTY CLERK: Yes. Everything’s set.
MR. SHAW: Okay, go ahead. If you can bring the feed up.
(In which the Courtroom Deputy Clerk activates the video screen.)
MR. SHAW: Thank you.
(In which Mr. Shaw returns to the podium.)
MR. SHAW: Ms. White, if I can ask you to please direct your attention to the screen over there. Can you see it clearly?
MR. SHAW: Could you describe for me what you see?
THE DEFENDANT: I see six people.
MR. SHAW: You see six people on the screen?
MR. SHAW: Photographs?
THE DEFENDANT: No. It’s live video, I think.
MR. SHAW: Six people.
MR. SHAW: How old would you say they are?
THE DEFENDANT: I don’t know.
MR. SHAW: What would you guess?
THE DEFENDANT: I don’t know. Fifteen? Teenagers.
MR. SHAW: So they’re young. Do you recognize any of them?
MR. SHAW: You’re certain about that?
THE DEFENDANT: I don’t. I don’t know them.
MR. SHAW: What about the one second from the left?
THE DEFENDANT: I’ve never seen him before.
MR. SHAW: Never?
MR. SHAW: What about the one on the far right?
MR. SHAW: But you’d say they’re teenagers?
MR. SHAW: Healthy? Alive?
THE DEFENDANT: I don’t know. They appear to be.
MR. SHAW: What about if they were a little younger?
(In which Mr. Shaw addresses the Courtroom Deputy Clerk.)
MR. SHAW: Could you bring up the baby pictures please.
(In which baby pictures appear on the screen.)
(In which The Defendant looks away from the screen.)
MR. SHAW: You recognize them now, don’t you Ms. White.
(In which The Defendant does not reply.)
MR. SHAW: Ms. White, let me read something to you.
(In which the Prosecution reads from notes.)
MR. SHAW: In Virtuo Fertilization. Have you heard that phrase before?
THE DEFENDANT: Not that I can remember.
MR. SHAW: Would it surprise you to learn that it’s the original advertising slogan for Optix Corporation’s iKids?
(In which the defendant does not reply)
MR. SHAW: Are you refusing to answer?
THE DEFENDANT: I don’t know how to answer.
MR. SHAW: In Virtuo Fertilization. What do you think the Optix Corporation were trying to make clear, Ms. Shaw?
THE DEFENDANT: I don’t know.
MR. SHAW: Fertilization suggests the creation of life, doesn’t it?
THE DEFENDANT: I don’t know.
MR. SHAW: You don’t know? You seemed to know just a moment ago.
MR. SHAW: Ms. White, you said just now that putting two PEM cards into a wallet wouldn’t lead to the creation of a fetus. Correct?
MR. SHAW: For digital information to be active the code must reside in a digital environment, no?
THE DEFENDANT: That doesn’t make it real! It was translated from my DNA!
MR. SHAW: I see. Do you speak French, Ms. White?
MR. SHAW: So it would be fair to say that if you wanted to send an email to somebody who only spoke French, you’d need to get it translated. Does that make your message any less real once it’s in French?
(In which the defendant does not reply)
MR. SHAW: Let the record show that Ms. White has refused to answer the question.
(In which Mr. Shaw points at the screen.)
MR. SHAW: Let’s stop the pretense, shall we Ms. White? You know perfectly well that the teenagers presently appearing on that screen are your children. That you created them with Optix software. That exist on Optix’s cloud servers. And that you signed a duty of care to look after them in the event that Optix Corporation went out of business. You put no thought into creating these children. You treated them as property. As a game. And you have no regard for their well being now. Would that seem a fair assessment to you, Ms. White?
(In which the defendant does not reply)
MR. SHAW: Ms. White?
(In which the defendant does not reply)
MR. SHAW: Your honor, please direct the witness to answer the question.
THE COURT: Ms. White. You are required to answer the question.
(In which the witness on the screen stands up)
WITNESS: Mom, is that you? Mom?