I’ve been summoned to the line manager’s space. He has a large space. Big enough for ping-pong. I heard some Brit guy calls it whiff-whaff. He’s on reality TV or something. Have you seen how those Brits do that? I mean who the hell are these people? They don’t have vlogs, a hit download, nothin'. Ya see ‘em in memes, but who understands Brit content anyway? The Internet is as American as polony sausage.
My space isn’t so big, in fact I had to ask for an extra few square inches for my Newton’s Rubikradle. Designed it myself. It’s got a few bugs but I’ll work ‘em out. Anyway, I walk past Rohan, Smaug, Jeff, Token (that’s her joke by the way so no harm no foul, hey?) and Rajiv’s spaces towards Egon’s space which is the other half of the Bullpen. Captain America stands next to the Silver Surfer on the mural behind Ego’s (that’s our joke so keep it private, right?) space.
‘Oh hey? Bill Beau, isn’t it? Take a kneeler.’
Those kneeling stools are good for your back, perfect for office workers they say. Ego has a captain’s chair. There’s no desk. Gogol has a non-hierarchical management system. Decisions are made laterally. None of this top-down B.S. Or bottom-up.
‘I’ll stand,’ I say.
‘Ok, then’ says Ego, ‘I’ll stand too.’ He doesn’t look so happy about it.
Ego smiles. He has one of those diamond smiles. You know the kind, where the guy selling you a lump of coal smiles and you pay for a diamond.
‘We’ve chosen you, Bill. Out of the whole department.’
‘Cool, I mean, yeah. What for?’
‘Cool is right! We’ve chosen you for the test.’
‘Test? Ahh… you’ve seen my file. I flunked all the way through high-school, I’m not good with testing.’
‘Say what? Oh no, it’s not that kind of test.’
Ego comes over to me puts an arm round my shoulders. I don’t shake him off. It’s just a friendly gesture between work-colleagues. We’re all on the same team at Gogol Inc.
‘No, Bill, it’s an acid test.’
I’ve heard rumors that our rivals in the valley have suddenly experienced a creative tsunami. Here at Gogol – well, let’s just say things are a little stale. My dad worked twenty five years at Pacific Gas & Electric, he useta say all big companies were the same. Ideas were okay, but it was better to steal 'em than have dangerous guys who might actually have some working in your company. Gogol is too big now, I know that. We’re at that stage where any ideas are worth trying, before the final stage of petrification, where ideas are banned and we bring on the focus groups. Oh sure, we got the data, but I’ll tell you a secret. Here at Gogol, no-one's convinced the AI makes the best use of it.
‘Uh-huh.’ I say.
Ego brings out a Gogol-Plexi-Tab. A grapheme display, foldable, rollable, screw-up-and-throw-in- the-waste-basket flexible interface unit. He holds it up in front of my face. Retina scan.
‘Hold it, what’d I just sign?’
I know, it’s stupid, no-one in the valley has held a ball-pen for decades, but you know, some words are hard to let go of.
‘Company waiver, the usual, don’t worry about it.’
‘So what’s the test?’
Ego’s eyes shoot to the right, then up, then down, then left-up then up-right. Just so I can’t tell if he’s lying or not. Except why would he do that if he wasn’t lying?
‘It’s part of a new strategy. It’ll be Gogol-wide: The Kesey Project.’
‘Look, Ego..n. What’ve I gotta do?’
He hands me a little tab.
‘Take it, man.’
He clicks his fingers. ‘Jefferson’ he says.
I recognise the tune. My Grandad useta play it in the car. On a CD, ferchrissakes. It’s called White Rabbit.
Footnote: The FT's annual review has a story on use of micro-dose LSD in Silicon Valley to improve creativity. I first saw a story about this in 2015, a bit old hat then, FT.