Tuesday, October 19, 2010


The room was big. The ceiling was way up there. It was pocked with reflector floods that filled the room with amorphous light. The walls were barren white with one incongruous strip of dark-stained walnut that circled it at waist height.

Waist height to most of the people the room was filled with.

At its front, on the beach of the sea of seated reporters, was a stage. On that stage was a podium, and behind that was a man. He spoke.

"What would a world with no energy shortages be like?" he asked, leaning forward, his intense eyes flashing, his brows raised.

"Impossible!" shouted someone in the crowd.

"Stupid!" shouted another.

Clearly taken aback, the man behind the podium straightened up and the fire in his eyes guttered. "Wait. What?"

A woman with her dark-stained walnut hair in a bun stood, a pen to her lips. "Well, it would be impossible," she said, wagging the pen in a little admonitory arc. "If that were possible, why hasn't anybody figured it out until now? It seems something that useful would have been discovered a long time ago."

The lights in the room got brighter.

"Plus, to have something like that is just dumb!" said a man in a black turtleneck. He stood and spread his arms. "If energy was all free and plentiful and clean, millions of people would lose their jobs! Clearly it is in everyone's best interest to keep things the way they are."

The hum of the air-handling system increased in pitch.

The man behind the podium smiled wryly. "But what happens when we can no longer keep things the way they are? Eventually we are going to run out of stuff to burn. What then?"

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," said the woman.

The overhead lights brightened to a white-hot glare. The leaves of the potted plants on the corners of the stage rustled in the breeze from vents in the ceiling.

The man behind the podium lifted his chin, allowing the breeze to ripple his hair. The intense light glinted on his glasses. "I'll just come right out with it then. My team and I have built a system that converts human stupidity into pure energy. It's this system that is powering everything in this room right now. As you can tell, it works. All that remains is large-scale production and deployment."

"It's cost-prohibitive!" said the man in the turtleneck.

All at once, the flood lights popped like flashbulbs and the room went dark. From overhead came a metallic shriek followed by a muffled sound like a handful of marbles in a blender, and the air fell still.

"See, I told you it wouldn't work," said the woman.