The Experiment

She is given an entire life in four hours though programming with accelerated hormones, will die of lung cancer at equivalent thirty-one.

I arrive, late, missing the birth and more, but get to observe her gangly first kiss. Sweet. The boy too.

When she proved a whiz at math I applauded, the roboteacher waving clawfuls of A-papers, but then in college she wrote politically correct poetry, wretched by any standard, usually beginning something like

The pigs decline
to sniff the slime

and ending in the wimpiest pseudo-intellectual “romance.”

Your own aroma
redolent of these
thesis-innocent lovers
intertwined like leaves
of ancient,neglected vines.

I wanted to scream: Stop wasting precious time on this blather! There are always modes. Think! Forget what all the asshole careerists say! Embrace yourself and your ideas! I guess she was a bit sexually slow, quarter hour or so anyway, and I couldn't watch at first, uh...well I'm shy at any rate, and the knowledge she would die in ten years...well, a couple of hours actually.

I could sense he was a nice young man, though a bit macho-mouthy, and I started crying. I didn't need that.

My section leader laughed to the other ones about me and the lovers. “Such an old-fashioned display all round! Let me tell you I wouldn't trade our drop-of-the-hat screwing for anything!”

“Drop of the PANTS anyway!” - she always topped herself.

I wasn't required to watch our young woman die - though the muddy X-rays remain in my consciousness, slapped up for viewing too fast to really discern. The section leaders had ordered in beer and wanted to get to it; me, I couldn't wait to dive back into my TV-Bowl.

“You've seen pure science!” my section leader crowed as I left.

Why is it always so unsatisfactory?


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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