Friday, March 13, 2015

Pig Joke

I hadn’t seen Martin in ages, not since school.  I was in business and he was in biochemistry.  We hardly talked, but I guess he remembered me as someone with money because that’s what he needed.  I know he wouldn’t have called unless the situation was desperate.  He obviously thought he had something worthwhile.  He said it was like the monkey with his hand caught in the bottle. If he let go he would be free, but then he wouldn’t have the fruit.  Occasionally I make investments and Martin had impressed me as a brain.

They had all been caught in the genome bubble.  At first, everyone was afraid. There were a few successes and the pendulum swung the other way. Governments, companies, everyone was looking for a biochemist to shove money at.  There were the inevitable disasters, huge liability lawsuits, and now everyone was terrified again. So this may well be an opportunity.

When I arrived at his door, I was greeted by a pig.  My heart sank.  It looked violently hateful, but it made a pleasant enough noise that resembled a greeting.  As I followed it into the hall, I noticed that it had a wooden leg that thumped against the tile.  Martin entered.

-You’ve met Seymour.

-I didn’t know you were Irish.
I responded.

The pig shrugged.  That was more than a little disturbing, I’m not one for anthropomorphism, it’s one thing for an animal to recognize humor, quite another to criticize it.

-We have a lot to talk about, come with me.
Martin responded.

We left the pig behind.  When we were out of earshot, I said:
-You gave it human genes.
Mixing genes had become a primary taboo after several disasters.

-No I didn’t.
Martin responded.
-This is far more subtle and interesting.  What I have done is compared genomes attempting to isolate the characteristics of intelligence.  By making small adjustments I have been able to improve the intelligence of most mammals.  Not enough to compete with us in most cases, but still useful. Seymour is the exception.  He is remarkable.  We’ve built a special harness so that he isn’t limited by his trotters.  He spends most of his time there.  Let’s take a look.

As we walked down the hall, I heard a toilet flush.  We arrived in time to see Seymour returning to a harness that allowed him to suspend himself and manipulate a keyboard while viewing a screen.  He was reading a news web site.

-I was thinking we could get some work as a circus act, but everyone is so terrified after the human/animal disasters.  How can I convince people that this is different?  Seymour is all pig.  I know I have something here.  Can you help me? 
Martin said.

-What do you have in mind?
I asked.

-We need money for the project.  I’ve hocked everything.  But more importantly direction.  I’m a biochemist not a businessman.  I have some good results.  But where to go with them?  What do you think, is this useful?

-I might have some ideas.  First lunch.

We proceeded to the dining room where a haunch of ham was laid out.

-Martin, I’m Muslim.

-Oh.  Please don’t tell Seymour.

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