Man at His Best

Fiction: The Model

Of human existence and sup tulang.

BY Jon Gresham | Jan 10, 2017 | Technology

Before the dawn breaks he heads to work. He needs to catch the end of the US trading day to understand what has happened over night.

If the underlying economic data on jobless claims and housing starts is positive, then expectations of the Fed hiking rates will be higher, so S&P 500 futures will tumble, and the firm’s open positions will likely be smashed by a spate of downgrades and negative guidance.

He has to update his pricing models with new numbers before Australian and Asian markets open. This will set the tone for morning recommendations to clients and buy/ sell activity across the whole firm.

On the bus he checks the data feeds. It has been a turbulent 12 hours for financial markets: another rout, bubbles burst, empires fallen, worlds torn apart. The clowns running the show truly have no idea.

Over the last few weeks in London, New York and Hong Kong colleagues were made redundant: last seen escorted from the premises carrying a half filled cardboard box without even the chance to post a farewell emoji to their chat rooms.

He no longer has any confidence in the direction of the firm and the value of his work. Are all the long hours with a head jammed full of figures worth it? He tells himself just do your job. Get to work. Keep your focus. Take one day at a time. Find solace in the comfort of screens.

But he needs more. That’s just not enough anymore. He has so many questions. About everything. The numbers need to work. He needs answers. What is it all about then? He wants a formulae, a logarithm, to enumerate purpose and calculate meaning.

He arrives at the office, turns on his screens and starts to build an Elaborate Financial Model To Calculate The Sum Total Of All Human Existence.

He begins modestly enough: alone at his desk he works on a spreadsheet that will not only provide a trading strategy for all the firm’s positions, the yield on a ten year bond and the shape of the curve for long term interest rates but establish his bonus expectations, clarify his immediate career prospects and guide his sartorial choices.

As the morning progresses his confidence in his skill and ability to financially, and spiritually, engineer absolutely anything grows. So he extends The Model’s scope and quality beyond pure economics to other aspects of existence.

The Model predicts the placement of new ERP gantries, the precise dates on which the haze will clear and S377A will be repealed, how to get with any girl or guy on a seething night at Avalon, the population growth by postcode necessary to meet White Paper specifications, the position of electoral boundaries for 2020, the quantity of cardboard collections necessary for pensioners to reach peak fitness, the role of the state in the aesthetic life of the individual, how to love and be loved, the identity of his mother.

He hopes to finish The Model by lunch.

However, he is overwhelmed by holy scripts, VLOOKUP tables of DNA, movements in the VIX Volatility index, data feeds from Anonymous, the correlation between forecast palm oil demand, the number of foreign workers and the Gini co-efficient, derivatives of District 9 property prices, papal scents, Varanasi laundry lists, Fantasy Football League tips, bowel movements, macros of the soul.

He needs a break so he decides to get lunch. He can’t decide what to eat but then he remembers the output revealed after the 15th iteration in cell AZ165 in the 12th sheet of The Model and it has to be sup tulang. He believes such tender, vivid electric crimson chunks of mutton flesh will fuel his efforts and lead him to the ultimate calculation, the final cell.

Maybe, The Model can help him touch the stars and he can determine the nature of first contact, the grid reference for nirvana, the correct formula for successful crossover projects… sucking out the marrow is sure to focus his mind and get the job done.

He buys sup tulang from Lau Pa Sat and returns to his cubicle. He plonks the plastic tub beside his keyboard before his eight screens. He eats while checking links and data feeds, tables and formulae.

At 3.47pm he finishes the final calculation. The Model is complete. His screens display glorious results. He can see all futures, past and present (in lovely Arial, 10pt font with multi coloured, three dimensional graphs). He raises both hands to the ceiling tiles in silent celebration.

Unfortunately, in his elation he knocks over the oily remains of his sup tulang, sitting there all placid and innocent in its clear rectangular plastic box. Now upturned and cascading out, there is an escape and the gristly broth, a florid deep pink, seeps through a crack in the desk and down onto the CPU beside his feet.

There is a sizzle, a flash, pink smoke and a minor explosion. The fluorescent lights go out. The automated sprinkler system descends and water is everywhere.

All is dark and damp.

Needless to say: he has forgotten to back up The Model.

He tells himself just do your job. Get to work. Keep your focus. Take one moment at a time. Find solace in the comfort of screens, even though the screens are blank.

Edited by Amanda Lee Koe.