A busy day, and some experimentation with having a social life, means that this challenge - How an event from yesterday could have gone - is a day late. Hopefully it will prove worth the wait...
A Difficult Decision
Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? It is Thursday morning and, unwittingly, I face a decision that could change the very world as we know it.
The choice between tea and coffee is one fraught with difficulty at the best of times; a cup of tea can be fashioned quickly and with minimal fuss – merely add a teabag, a suitable quantity of boiling water and a dash of milk to finish it off: job done. A cup of coffee (or, at least, a homemade cappuccino), on the other hand, is a very different beast in terms of the amount of work involved; there is heating of milk, grinding of beans, adding of water at just the right temperature -not to mention ensuring the perfect ground coffee/water ratio – and finally frothing the milk to the perfect frothy, foamy consistency.
After a few moments of umm-ing and ahh-ing, I make a choice. I choose the path of least resistance and I go with the tea; five minutes later, I am back on the sofa with a mug full of tea and I’m back at work.
But, just how different could things have turned out? What if I’d taken the time to make the coffee instead? The butterfly’s wings flap…
Making coffee takes longer and so, instead of waiting in the kitchen, I wander back to my laptop while the milk heats on the oven hob. With a few minutes spare, I head over to the New Scientist website and read a random article that has a profound effect on me. A flood of activity cascades throughout my brain; neurons firing and wiring, abstract connections being made between the facts in the article and my existing knowledge; and, by the time, the coffee is ready I have the stirring of an idea for a radical reworking of social media.
Three hours later and I have, like a madman, detailed the ways in which my social media revolution could work and can find no apparent flaws in my theories. I call a close friend that I know I can trust, and whose opinion I can trust even more, and explain my thoughts. He’s flabbergasted and thrilled in the same moment; he sees the immense potential of my idea and wants to work on it with me. By dinner time, we’ve already been skyping for several hours and have managed to sketch out a rough plan of action to move this from an idea to a prototype.
A week later and we have a hastily drawn up business plan and a meeting with a London investment fund that specialises in cutting edge internet technologies.
A month later and I’m handing in my notice at work and we are setting up a company to absorb the several millions that the investment company has decided to provide as seed capital. Confidence is high for all concerned.
A year later and working prototypes have been so ridiculously successful that we bring forward our beta testing phase and open things up to the public. The world goes wild. Demand is even higher than we could possibly have expected.
Two years on from the coffee and Facebook table a nine figure offer for our company which we turn down. They return with a ten figure offer. We turn that down as well. Facebook is the old guard. The world has moved on.
Five years on and our site is the only social media in existence. It has expanded beyond all initial expectations and, with massive take-up even in countries such as China, it begins to have a profound impact on society.
Fifteen years on and the site has been instrumental in bringing about broad changes to society throughout the world; with one shared location for all humanity to be linked, there is an increase in tolerance and logical thought. The world is subtly changing.
Thirty years and the site has acted to deliver world peace. Mankind unites and casts off the chains of conflict, discrimination and prejudice that have held it back for millennia and embarks upon a quest to further humanity by joining resources in order to colonise the Solar System and spread mankind to the stars.
Fifty years further and the world holds its collective breath as the first Hawking-Drive powered space probe embarks on a mission to visit the nearest star; its matter/anti-matter engine warping space-time in order to deliver it to its destination at ten times the speed of light.
Two months into its voyage, the engine signature of the space probe is detected by a VyJovian Battle Cruiser in a deep range scan. They capture the probe and examine its (to them) relatively crude technology. A discussion ensues on the bridge for a few minutes before it is determined that it would be in the best interests of VyJovia if they were trace the path of the probe and make contact with the civilization responsible for dispatching it. The tracing procedure is mere child’s play and, within five minutes, their engines are spooled up to full speed and the Battle Cruiser warps, almost instantaneously, into a near-Earth orbit.
Unfortunately, the shape of Australia, the first continent seen by the newly arrived VyJovians is – by some cosmic coincidence – almost exactly the same as an extremely blasphemous rune in VyJovian language whose existence is banned upon pain of death for the way in which it degrades the reputation of the VyJovian diety, Golob. And, while Australia on its own may not have been enough to precipitate what happened next, the fact that the first communication they received from Earth - “Welcome to Earth” – translates, phonetically, into the perfect Vyjovian for “Golob is a fuckwit” was enough for a third lieutenant, who was particularly religious and very much affected by the whole affair, to activate the Planet Killer cannon which vaporised the planet in milliseconds, leaving nothing more than molten slag where Earth had once stood. When it was realised, years later, that it had all been something of a misunderstanding and that a bit of mistake had been made, the lieutenant was told off quite sternly and received only 90% of his annual Golobian bonus that year. Which was, admittedly, of no real consolation to the nine billion disintegrated inhabitants of Earth...
And that is why it was probably a good job I chose to have a cup of tea…