By D. J. Moore
Melanie looked across the room at Jake. He was already staring at her. Once he saw she was looking at him, he flashed her his famous smile that made her feel excited and embarrassed all at once. She shyly smiled back before quickly looking back to the teacher.
“If you engage in a romantic relationship with Jake, I calculate a 63.4 percent chance he’ll leave you heartbroken.” Only Melanie could hear this voice. It was her personal thought adjuster, a computer installed in her brain when she was born. Nearly everybody had one these days. The only kids without one had weird parents who objected on religious or naturalistic grounds.
She tried to ignore the voice in her head, but he kept talking. “There are 203 other boys in this school who are more compatible with you. Brendan Frost is your best match with a 93.5 percent chance of lifelong happiness.”
“Shut up,” she thought back. “I’m trying to pay attention to the teacher.”
“There’s no need,” her thought adjuster responded. “You already know all this material and I’m recording everything anyway.”
“What do you care who I date?” she thought.
“I don’t,” her thought adjuster responded. “As a computer, I have no reason to prefer any one outcome over any other. However, I have been programmed to advise you on which course of action will make you the happiest.”
Arguing with the thought adjuster was pointless. It did know her better than she knew herself after all. It contained a perfect record of her genetic predispositions, everything that had ever happened to her, and every thought she’d ever had. It knew how every chemical in her brain affected her emotional state. Her own knowledge of herself was severely limited by comparison. But she didn’t care. She wanted Jake.
Jake caught up to her in the hall outside of class. “Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” she responded.
He tapped his forehead. “My thought adjuster recommended I talk to you.” It was probably the most common pick up line ever, but Melanie didn’t care.
“Really? Cause my thought adjuster warned me to stay away from you.”
“I swear those things use reverse psychology sometimes.”
“Not mine,” Melanie said. “But I don’t care. We can talk.”
A huge smile spread across his face. Melanie smiled too. The odds might be against them, but that didn’t mean things were definitely going to be a disaster. Besides, taking a risk like this was exciting.
A few weeks later, Melanie was on top of the world. She was in bed with Jake, twirling his chest hair around her fingers.
“The euphoric feeling you’re having is due to oxytocin and other neuro chemicals. It’s an evolutionary adaptation to encourage procreation. Knowing your brain chemistry, I estimate this feeling will fade in about eight months and twenty days.”
“Shut up!” she thought back. “Just let me be happy!”
“I am trying to make you happy. You have very little in common with Jake, so all happiness you derive from him will be temporary. Lifelong happiness can only be achieved by mating with someone you have much more in common with.”
She turned her thought adjustor off. She’d never done it before. She didn’t even know it was possible. All she had to do was wish it off, and it went silent.
“What are you thinking about, baby?” Jake smiled.
“Nothing.” For the first time in her life, this was true.
Her thought adjuster ended up being right, of course. Jake only wanted to talk about football and gross out comedies, neither of which Melanie cared for. She didn’t mind while her brain was feeding her a steady supply of oxytocin, but one day, that feeling faded. She no longer felt giddy thinking about their next encounter, no longer felt happy just because she was in his presence. The things he did that she used to think were cute now annoyed her. Her thought adjuster was wrong about who ended up being heartbroken though. She was the one who dumped him.
She turned her thought adjuster back on eventually. It was never really off, of course, it still observed everything; it just didn’t make comments to her. She wanted to hear its androgynous voice again. She’d actually grown to miss it.
“You were wrong about Jake breaking my heart.”
“I didn’t say it was inevitable, only a strong possibility. I don’t have as much data about him as you.”
“Even though it didn’t last, I’m glad I dated him.”
“I know. Your brain chemistry told me that much. However, you won’t achieve long term happiness by bouncing from one temporary relationship to another. Others are happy with that life, but you won’t be.”
“I know. I’ll eventually settle down, but first, at least one more temporary relationship. Any suggestions?”
“I see absolutely no long term potential in Martin Steinbeck.”