The Behavior Scale

Candy wants to leave Chicago but can’t because her Behavior Scale says so.

Author’s note: This short story takes place more than 2,000 years before the events of MagicLand and before The First Eradication. The characters in this short story do not appear in the novel.

Part One

I work for Google.

I know, right? So, breathe deep, and don’t get your yarbles in your mouth about it. And no, you aren’t my droog and I can’t change your Behavior Scale. It’s an algorithm. Unless you can find a way to smash your past, you’re stuck with it.

Hey maybe you know this — but usually all I gotta do is say I work for Google and whoever I talk to suddenly wants to get my yarbles in their mouth and worship my skin, dig? The conversation ends it just becomes a hands on the floor kinda thing, Nothing else gets talked about. Oh, you do? the person says. Then the fawning starts. The appreciation.

Everybody wants to work for Google. Working for Google isn’t even work. It’s a pathway to royalty. To worship and adulation.

It was always true, of course. It was true when it was just a flirty little search engine. It is true now that it is the reason you can live past 150. Hey. Maybe only cuz of that.

I don’t drive.

Google drives for me. That’s true for most of us except the crazies who won’t let go and for people whose Behavior Scale is too low to qualify them for a GCT. That’s Google Connected Tesla for you dumb luddies out there.

You see the crazies on YouTube, spinning around on the streets of Saudi Arabia or down lone stretches of desert highway somewhere in the American West. Tesla had to write special software for Google Drive, the software that runs cars, to account for people who won’t drive Google Cars.

Do you know what we call crazies who drive cars themselves? Road Hackers. Wrecking the roads. Or trying to. Their GBS is off the charts. They don’t care though, because they’re just out there causing mayhem.

GBS, for those of you luddies stroking your yarbles in a cave all day, stands for Google Behavior Scale.

Anyway, just try getting an Amazon Mortgage with a low GBS. Not gonna happen. It shouldn’t happen, either. If your GBS is in the toilet, why should someone loan you money? Think of it like this. Some guy you don’t know walks into your little loan office.

As if you would have your own loan business in these days of Amazon Loans. But imagine it anyway just for grins.

Looks like a nice guy, right? Responsible, too. Suit and tie, not too many creases in the suit. Maybe even a Boss suit or something. He has good credit, according to all the credit reporting agencies.


He also does stuff you don’t know about. Cheats on his wife constantly, hides money to support his serial mistress habit, leaves his dog out barking in the back yard all day, goes all Alec Baldwin on his employees on a daily basis.

This is stuff you can’t pick up from a credit score.

You probably know this, but nobody really complains about the way The Behavior Scale works anymore, even though a lot of commie protesters didn’t like it at first. But, hey. They complain about everything. Who do you think killed Google Glass? Okay, that dude Scoble killed it. And his GBS is like, zero because of it. So never mind that.

Well, this little story isn’t about convincing you how great the Behavior Scale is. I mean, I gotta be honest here. I don’t care what you think, get it? Everyone has formed their opinions on GBS, so that’s all done. So you can lubbilub my ass.

Okay, on with the story. I’m going to tell like it is happening now, kind of like in real-time to keep you interested since so many people don’t read anything anymore and somebody may be reading this to you. If you’re not down with that it’s cool — like I said, I can’t change your GBS — not out of spite or any other reason.

So yesterday I was taking a day off. We had this work outing. We all went kayaking and climbing and did this team trust veshch. Where you do freaky veshch like fall backward with your eyes closed and hope the idiot behind you will catch you.

It was kinda cool I guess and nobody went to drats over it.

Besides, I don’t really get out much. No time and all my social activity is at work anyway. I like it like that or I wouldn’t do it, so it’s all good.

Here’s the thing. The GooglePlex is a city in and of itself. I’m usually pretty happy social surfing, and there’s plenty to do in the Plex. Our Google ancestors, those before us, I know they went to the coast a lot, but that’s a nightmare these days, with the winds all howling at 50 mph almost every day and the surrounding areas basically always on fire. Google “climate change” and you’ll find out why I guess.

But for me, honestly, I don’t even ever really need to leave the plex. I can go anywhere I want, without even getting off the couch.

Creative Commons licensed image from COM SALUD Agencia de comunicación
Creative Commons licensed image from COM SALUD Agencia de comunicación

Last night Candy and I social surfed all night.

I had some baked Amazon noodles I made from the new Amazon Prime food printer that Amazon released a week ago and she wanted to know how they were. They are nano seeds that you can’t even see when you empty the envelope into the tray unless you look really hard, even with Google Lens.

I don’t know how they work. I never got far in molecular chemistry during my whole learning process at Stanford. It wasn’t a priority. Was it for you? Yeah, see what I mean?

Anyway, I guess they just grow in the printer from a package of proto-cells or something. Toss them on a plate, stick them in the food printer, and a few minutes later this steaming hot pile of noodles that tastes like chicken comes out. Chicken and noodles. Yum. No. Check that. Awesomeness. I told her they were pretty good.

So we talked about meeting up because we haven’t met in person yet.

We’ve been kind of dating online for a few years. We hang out on video with friends and sometimes get dirty with each other but now we were thinking, hey, we’ve dated a long time. We should check each other out.

You know how that goes. Usually, people don’t bother with it after they say it. It’s like, ha, okay we said it. We voiced that. So it’s kind of like we did it. Hardly ever happens. No spat ever, though, nor for real. Right? But I dunno. Online spat is probably better anyway, although I wouldn’t know.

We may really try it. She’s pretty hot. She’s bi, too. That’s like, a bonus. Special sauce? Yeah, please. Maybe she brings a friend. Besides, Google thinks I’m taken, so if flirt with someone else my GBS takes a minor hit.

The other day this guy who works for Amazon told me that when the Amazon food printer was in beta he had this girl in the apartment and he wasn’t paying attention to the Amazon Noodles that he was making. He was probably lying about the girl in the apartment. Small ding on his GPS but nothing major.

So, he says, the noodles expanded into a big pile of stinky foam and burst through the printer and filled up the whole kitchen while he was making out with this girl. He walks into the kitchen and there’s a big slushy pile of foam there. He was probably vidding with somebody and not really making out but whatever.

But it still makes me think. You hook up with somebody and all kinds of disasters happen. Noodlepaloozas. So do I really wanna meet Candy in person?

I just don’t trust the process, you know? Physical interaction with a person is risky. But, who knows how long the window in the current lull of pandemics will last. This may be the only chance I get for a while.

I mean, it’s not like I don’t like people. I kinda do. But I know too much. I work in the code that builds the GBS algorithm and — do I need to say more?

Everybody pretty much goes through life with their own yarbles in their mouth. Being stupid and all. Just testing the software alone takes you to some places of the human mind you don’t want to visit.

My dad complains about GBS. When he was my age people didn’t have Google Lens in their eyes. That seems weird. Like, how did they connect? That’s a real head scratcher for me, you know?

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

I mean, they used their phones to connect, but that was slowwww. You still see phones sometimes but I think they have their own private networks owned by these renegade hacker warlords.

They’re usually in neighborhoods that are sort of off the grid. I think Candy may have one of these old phone things. Her neighborhood isn’t off the grid but it always seems to be on the edge, about to be. And a lot of her friends live in places that are off the grid.

My dad’s GBS is based on an SHA-256 metahash. Just a small amount of information because he was never much for being online and he doesn’t wear Google Lens. That hash is encrypted and is just sort of a summary of who he is. There’s another hash that comes from a formula for everything my dad does. Everything that is trackable, that is.

For what it’s worth, his meta hash produces something like this:

Married with four kids. Good family man. Goes to church every week. Has never been arrested. Has 50 GoogleFriends. Has been a firefighter for the Hoboken Fire Department for 20 years. Retired early due to back problems. Has a pension, has a net worth of about $250,000.

Dad doesn’t get out much — like father like son I guess. He’s getting older, gets most of his stuff delivered to him from Amazon. Groceries, everything, really. Plus, like I said, he doesn’t wear a Google Lens so driving isn’t an option. Not at his age.

For one thing, you can’t enter about three quarters of the streets in America without Google Lens because they have these road grids that don’t let you pass without a GBS passcode. I know you probably know that, but maybe somebody from another time is reading this for some reason.

So anyway, the grids trigger a little electromagnetic pulse that disables your car. Then you have to call Amazon Road Service (ARS for you luddies) to get it fixed.

There are some old cars still on the road that can avoid getting zapped, and I happen to know how to hack the device in my Google Car if I want to go out there without my car’s Google Drive on. For sport, you know?

It’s more of an inconvenience than anything else. Your car gets disabled, you call ARS, and they zap out some firmware update to get your car onto a route back to where you came from. Not really a big deal, other than you have to use the route set by the firmware.

The GBS passcode is based on your Behavior Scale, of course. So, for example, obviously, you can’t get out of your immediate zone if your GBS is too low.

I didn’t mention that Candy’s GBS won’t let her out of Chicago. So I’d either have to visit her or she’d have to drive to me somehow in a car that isn’t equipped with Google Drive. You need to be Steve McQueen to pull that off.

It’s weird. Candy is a really smart girl. But she makes these really bad decisions all the time.

Case in point: She got this teaching gig at the local high school. Teachers these days are really facilitators. They don’t teach, they just sort of help students out as they learn to surf. Well, anyway she started flirting with one of her students online.

Nothing happened but she got caught. It went on for a while so I don’t think any spat would have happened but that’s part of her bad decision-making process.

How can she not know she was under some kind of surveillance? Everybody is these days, and everybody is ok with it because the Behavior Scale helps provide social acceptance for our behavior patterns.

Just look at how crime has dropped since the Behavior Scale gained its installed base. It’s a broad social self-policing thing where we all can see what everyone else is up to. You are a frequent adulterer? Pffft, there goes your GBS. Like French films? Sorry, that’s a hit on your GBS, too. Okay, just kidding.

You killed a rabbit for, like, fun? Say goodbye to your GBS score, even if you did it when you were ten. You’ll be 15 before you can do anything more than play solitaire on your Virtual Reality set. Do you like to give candy to children? Your GBS will go up or down. Depends on your motive. Because it can read your mind, too. Pretty cool, right?

So if you think about shooting someone for real (instead of just routinely thinking you want to kill that guy for letting his dog bark in the back yard all night), your GBS drops below the X-axis, never to return.

Candy wants to leave Chicago but can’t because her Behavior Scale says she can’t. The road grids are set up to stop people with certain GBS scores from using them. You can take out your lens but then you can’t get around or really do anything, or buy anything, or listen to music. Can’t drive a Google car without one, can’t take transit. And the stuff you can do when you’re wearing your lenses is directly related to your GBS.

The rules underpinning the algorithm for the Behavior Scale are set up by a committee and then processed by neuron sensors in the Google Lens Chip that reads signals from the hippocampus in your brain. It’s all very scientific and it works.

You might think it’s unfair that if your GBS falls too low you can’t access certain parts of the world or play the coolest video games or buy fancy cars or listen to certain kinds of music. It is an imperfect system. I think all of us on the Behavior Scale team will admit that. Even the hard-core veterans, the old salty dogs that have been coding it for years.

But it’s like what Winston Churchill said about democracy, right? In case you’re too lazy to Google that, he said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Well, that’s also true for the Behavior Scale. Case closed.

And look at it this way. I’m personally inconvenienced by the GBS. In order to see Candy, I have to figure out a way to get through neighborhoods like hers, which is about as upscale as a hamster cage. I mean, my Google Car will stand out like a swan in the desert.

Or I have to ask her to try to get out of the city somehow, which I’m not going to do. I don’t know. Maybe it’s not worth the trouble. This is my predicament. I really can’t decide what to do.

So if I’m inconvenienced by the Behavior Scale and still defending its awesomeness, that says something right? Can you even think of arguing with that logic? Not even luddies are that dumb.

You might be wondering how I intend to get Candy out of the city in my Google Car with my Google Drive disabled. It’s weird because I know how to disable it but I can’t turn it on if I have a passenger whose GBS is too low. I guess I didn’t mention that.

It may not make sense to you but being able to disable my Google Drive is just a Google Perk (at last count, there were 1,284,351 Google Perks).

So, if you’re a Googler (that’s a Google employee for you luddies) you can disable your Google Drive if you want to drive around Google roads that way for fun.

It’s risky, though, because if you get into an accident, it’s pretty much automatically going to be your fault, unless you run into another road hacker. Accident equals your GBS getting hammered. Simple math.

And of course, you can turn the Google Drive back on. What you can’t do, though, is enable your Google Drive if you or a passenger have a low GBS.

So my plan is to drive to Chicago with my Google Drive on, and then play Hollywood stunt driver to get her out of there. That’s the thinking. If I do it.

I’ve often thought the best way to make a decision is to bring it to the hive, but the hive is a snoutie of opinions. I can sort the opinions by GBS scores because I have software for that, and that helps some. But at the end of the day, I just need to decide for myself.

I’ll still ask, though. I wonder what you think I should do. Please don’t answer if your Behavior Scale is bad.

Author Notes

Odd vocabulary is lifted directly from A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess. The glossary can be found here.

Interesting tidbit: I actually conceived this story long ago, before MagicLand was a thing, and before China came up with what looks to be a precursor to The Behavior Scale. Kind of eerie.