Short Story: Life’s Gamble

Everyone gambles and those who say they don’t, just don’t understand the world they live in.

For myself, I gamble. I gamble a lot. It’s my job and I’m one of the few who can say they love their job. I’m good at it. And I’ve come to understand a simple fact of this warped universe; everything has some element of chance either for success or failure.

Why? Because every damn thing you do is a gamble. Driving the kids to school. Eating chicken wings. Having unprotected sex. Everything is a gamble in some way or other. The differences between these gambles is the degree to which there is risk. Which would you rather do? Eat a hamburger from your favourite burger joint or share needles with homeless bums in a dark New York squatter building? Decide. Burger, right? Of course you’d take the path of least risk. But still, there are consequences for losing a gamble, even one you take routinely. You could run into a ditch while driving your kids to school. You could choke to death on that chicken wing. You could get an STD from your latest un-named partner.

So if everything is a gamble and everything has risk what do I do to lessen my chances of a negative outcome? I use the one thing that truly runs the world. It’s not money, if that’s what you’re thinking. My father certainly thinks it is. ‘Money makes the world go around,’ my father says. Delusional old bat. The correct answer is Information, by the way. The more you have, the better you can make decisions. And not just any decision; the proper decision.

You know, I’m confused as all hell by how other people actually make up their minds and how they unknowingly gamble with their decisions. Seriously, people. They’d eat processed shit without looking at the label if it was packaged with beautiful people eating said product. Take that hamburger and needle situation I mentioned before. What if I told you that the hamburger was made on an e.coli contaminated counter by a dirty man diseased with Hepatitis C? But, the man was handsome and charming. What if that needle sharing was actually run by a non-profit program designed to swap out old, used needles with clean, sterilized ones? But, they all look like toothless bastards and drunk pirates. What would change your answer? The information or the presentation? Our eyes are too large for our brains. What we see overwhelms what we know and think. That’s why magicians, at least successful ones, gamble that you’ll believe what you see rather than what you think.

There are plenty of sayings, ‘Seeing is believing’ or ‘You won’t believe your eyes’ or ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’ Or my favourite, ‘What you see is what you get.’ All of it bullshit. TV began a hyper-visual society and destroyed an individual’s ability to think logically. And TV commercials took that premise to an absurd level. Oh, that new kitchen aid designed to peel beets and clip my toenails at the same time looks good!

What are we actually presenting in everyday life? Put your best foot forward. Get my good side. We push a fiction of ourselves upon the world. And because we do it and hope that others believe it, we are more preoccupied with our own image than what others are presenting to us.  Cool guys are cool because they drink a certain beer. Bullshit. Women happily frolic in parks wearing white pants during the peak of their menstruation. Bullshit. Everything is padded to look good, whether it is good or not is a secondary, and trivial, matter.

This is why I welcome the internet. Though, things can be terrible online. Outright lies get perpetuated through the internet. Deep fake videos make you question reality. Then what happens? A new crop of naive bumpkins off the family farm comes along and eats up the shit the internet feeds them. Garbage in; garbage out. But, with all the bullshit the internet doles out people have become more skeptical, more disbelieving of what they see. This is good, and bad. Conspiracy hypotheses, because they never get proved to the level of theory, abound and suddenly cause people to question everything. Regardless, it’s still a gamble to trust anything written on the internet. Even reputable sources get duped into believing hoaxes.

Anyway, enough of my prattling. You’re probably wondering how I gamble? I’ve already told you how: I use information. You want to know what I gamble on. Easy: people. Dumb ones, tall ones, fast ones, pretty ones, smart ones, rich ones, even healthy ones. If you are one, I’d gamble on you: use you.

Don’t feel violated. People use people all the time. It’s natural and perfectly normal. Don’t believe me? I can understand your reluctance. Sure, fraudulent bastards try to use people and rip them off daily. That’s easy. Anyone can be fooled once. With a large enough net you’ll eventually ensnare a lumbering, blubbering idiot. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerian Prince emails go out every day. Even if 0.0001% of them get a reply it could be worth thousands of dollars. That, however, is not what I do.

Let’s back up a bit here. You see, we humans are a communal species, through evolution and culture. Despite the relatively few and intensely insane urine-drinking survivalists out there the vast majority of people would die if totally left to fend for themselves. If wild animals didn’t kill him first, the lone human would die of starvation or thirst or end up eating something poisonous. The idea of the rugged individual is as absurd a concept as the idea of time travel. Or perpetual motion. Or the idea that something can be healthy and taste great at the same time. You get the idea. Essentially, we have grown as a species to rely upon each other, to use each other for our own ends.

Consider this; kids use their parents for everything in the first two or three years of life. Parents use their kids. Spouses are used in various ways by their partners. We use each other daily. I get coffee served to me in my cafe of choice. I use the waitress and she uses me. And I, in turn, use her again for my job. If America were as ruggedly individualistic as it would like to believe the whole country would be populated by bunker dwelling subsistence farmers with no contact with the outside world. Though granted, at one time frontier families did everything of themselves, for themselves, by themselves, but that’s no longer the case.

So, you know how I gamble, using information, what I gamble on, people, but what do I gamble with? Lives. Now, now wait a minute. I’m no assassin. I’m no killer. I just have great knack for knowing when people die. Well, more like an incredibly rich dataset for knowing when people die. And I bet on it. Is there some underground illegal gambling ring that bets on when people die? Maybe. I really have no clue and don’t care, because what I do is perfectly legal. The more information I have about you, your ancestors and family, the better I can tell you when you’ll die. There’s an art to it. A knack. That’s why I like it. Am I perfect? Good lord no. But, I am right far, far more than I am wrong. That’s where I win in the end. Well, the end of you at least.

Now, remember when I said that more knowledge is better? There can be too much knowledge. Soon, maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon your entire genetic make up will be used ‘for’ you. You’ll submit it to companies looking to hire you, you’ll submit it to prospective spouses looking to marry you, you’ll even submit it to stores looking to sell to you. Your genetic profile will dictate your medical treatments. And, your genetic profile will be used to figure out how long you’ll live and what diseases you’ll likely get. This terrifies me. I’ll quite likely be out of a job. The world will have no use for me.

There may not be direct correlation between a certain gene and a certain behaviour, but once the law of large numbers starts suggesting links everything goes downhill from there. Imagine a world where the zodiac is replaced or augmented with an individual’s genetics. “Oh he’s an H2B Virgo. He’ll be creative and organized, but he’ll likely cheat on you in the first year of marriage. Plus, he’s predisposed to getting early onset Alzheimer’s. Sister, he’s not the type for you.” Sound insane?  To you and I, yes. To the people of the future it’s just how they’ll live.

Until then however, I’ll be gambling about how long you’ll live, using your money. It’s what a life insurance actuary does.

Photo by Katinka Kober from FreeImages

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