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The Human Brain Project

12 December 2013, 14:45

“This is serious rain,’ said the other guy.

“This is cats and dogs being chased by old maids with knobkieries,” said Cupcake.

“I can hardly make out the end of the wall,” I said.

We were parked at the foot of the breakwater looking down its length to where the beacon was a vague shape. Cupcake might have been overdoing it with the cats and dogs talk, but this was definitely more than heavy drizzle.

“We would be drenched in five minutes,” said the other guy.

“Even the cormorants look bedraggled,” said Cupcake.

“Black southeaster,” I said. “Could ease up in half an hour, or go on like this for days.”

The boot was packed with our kreef catching equipment and a cooler box containing the bait, as well as some brandy and coke in case of an emergency. In our pockets were the Rock Lobster Permits we had bought the previous day for R92 apiece.

“The wind should be going to the southwest,” said Cupcake, looking at his phone. “It will start clearing up in an hour or two.”

“Maybe we should have some breakfast in the meantime,” said the other guy. He started the car and made a three point turn.

“Wimpy might be running a special,” said Cupcake, again consulting his phone. “Yes, for twenty bucks we can get 2 rashers of streaky bacon, 2 fried eggs, a small portion of chips and a slice of toast. Not bad value for money, hey?”

We climbed the hill and passed the uniformed man sitting in his hok at the harbour entrance.

“Kak job in this weather,” said the other guy.

“A job’s a job,” I said. “And he’s bound to have worked out a system.”

“Show me an official who hasn’t got a system,” said the other guy.

“Turn right here,” said Cupcake. “It’s quicker than going the main road.”

“For God’s sake!” said the other guy. “We don’t need GPS directions to get to the Gateway Centre.”

There were only a few cars in the car park. Inside the Wimpy we sat at a table with a good view of the rain. We drank coffee while our breakfast was being cooked.

“You should see a psychologist about your technophilia,” I said to Cupcake. “It’s now verging on full-blown OCD.” His thumb was again at work on the touch screen.

“Yah, man,” said the other guy. “That bloody thing keeps beeping for your attention. It’s not only irritating; it’s downright rude. You should make up your mind whether you want to be here with us, or out there in cyberspace.”

“And I’m sure it’s mostly mindless crap you’re busy with,” I said. “I suppose you’re tweeting about having breakfast at the Wimpy?”

“Do you ever tweet about going to the toilet?” asked the other guy.

“Or jerking off in under 140 seconds?” I said.

“Okay, okay,” said Cupcake, putting the phone in his pocket. “But you’ve got it wrong. I don’t waste my time with trivial stuff. I don’t tweet and I hardly ever go on Facebook. I mostly use my phone to access information on the Internet.”

“You don’t tweet?”

“No,” said Cupcake. “I follow the tweets of others. Carefully chosen others. That way I stay informed of stuff I’m interested in.”

“Like what?’ said the other guy. “What was the last tweet you received?”

“It was from the Human Brain Project. Heard of it?”

“I heard something about it on the radio a while back,” I said. “Like the Human Genome Project? Understanding how the brain works.”

“Yes,’ said the other guy. “There was a newspaper report about it not long ago. They want to be able to reverse engineer the brain, whatever that means. And they even talk about solving the mystery of consciousness.”

“That’s it,” said Cupcake. “Anyway, they were tweeting about some work being done on the brains of mice. There’s a link I must go to.”

The waitress arrived with our bacon and eggs and we got stuck in.

“Not the healthiest of meals,’ I said. “Two proteins and two carbohydrates cooked in oil.”

“Too much sodium chloride contributes to hypertension,’ the other guy said as he sprinkled salt on his eggs and chips.

“We should be eating a low GI breakfast, something like muesli and fruit,” I said.

“How do you get muesli to taste like bacon and eggs?” asked Cupcake.

When we had finished the meal we decided to cleanse our clogged arteries with a nice cup of rooibos tea. Outside the wind had sprung up and was throwing the rain this way and that, which was a good sign.

“This brain project is an example of science and technology being put to good use,” said the other guy. “It might actually be of benefit to humanity, as opposed to the development of gimmicks that distract us from finding solutions to serious problems.”

“I’m glad you think so,” said Cupcake. “And I’m glad you no longer disapprove of me using Twitter to follow the progress.”

“It must be a massive venture,” I said. “I heard the budget is something like one and a half billion dollars over 10 years.”

“That’s a lot of money,” said the other guy.

“A lot of money?” said Cupcake. “That’s cheap. That’s an incredible bargain, my mate. Just one and a half billion dollars to plumb the depths of the human mind, compared to $2.1 billion for one B-52 stealth bomber, which does absolutely nothing to improve the human condition.”

“Shit!” I said. “Is that what a B-52 costs?”

“Yah, and the US has got 20 of them. You know what their military expenditure is for just one year? $700 billion.”

“And where does it get them?” said the other guy. “Half the world fears and loathes them, and they’ve got to be just about the most paranoid nation on planet Earth. Somebody ought to break the news to them that the Cold War came to an end a quarter of a century ago.”

“They are trapped in a mindset that’s incompatible with 2013 reality,” I said.

The other guy was in agreement. “Yes,” he said, “They need to reformat their hard drive and install the latest version of ‘How to win friends and influence people without threatening to blast the shit out of them’.”

“Maybe this brain project will come up with a mechanism that assists us in shifting more easily from one paradigm to another,” said Cupcake. “And now we must shift our arses back to the breakwater. The forecast was right – it has stopped raining.

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