Ruya worked on the stock market. She monitored trading. In her previous job, she worked in a warehouse, where she monitored inventory levels of household goods like toilet rolls and velcro.
The work was the same, and so was the pay: she took home the same B35,000 as everyone else who supervised Fully Automated processes.
At her desk, Ruya slowly rolled a ball made of jade in her left hand. She focussed vaguely on green numbers streaming upwards on one screen, and a green bar chart that scrolled from right to left on another. Like a trumpeter who mastered circular breathing, she felt like she could now observe what was happening in two directions at once, if she really zoned out: one screen per eye.
On the screens, numbers went up, up, up… then numbers went down, down, down. Then they went up, up, up again.
Ruya monitored automated trading of beans: lima, soy, and pinto. A few years after Full Automation was brought to the irrigation, solar capture and harvest distribution processes, the bean system finally hit 95% efficiency. By 2043, even variations in weather didn’t really affect the numbers any more.
Beans appeared, were harvested, moved, and were sold, all automatically. People didn’t really get involved so much. And Ruya watched over to make sure it all worked out OK. It always did.
The ebb and flow was a long, lazy sine wave. Occasionally Ruya felt that her heartbeat synchronised with a deep underlying pattern in the data stream. She couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was, but she sensed it nonetheless. Watching the data made Ruya feel light, serene, quietly alive.
Occasionally the bars and numbers would flicker red, signifying losses, dips and scrambled sell-offs by the system. Ruya didn’t flinch: the system took care of it instantaneously, and the green numbers and bars returned before she had even really processed the existence of red ones.
Behind the screens was a large glass window-wall, and just beyond the window-wall was a large maple tree. Its leaves were so apple-green they seemed to beam oxygen and freshness directly into her visual cortex, acid-washing it clean as the colour sluiced through.
Subtly, precisely, silently, the tree’s leaves and branchlets heaved up, up, up… then the branchlets returned down, down, down. Then they went up, up, up again.
Ruya observed the tree with the same slow gaze as she did the numbers: observing both tree and data simultaneously, with a placid nothingness/everythingness.
When people asked, Ruya compared her work to that of pilots from the old days of commercial flight: mostly the computer took care of things, but she was there to step in, just in case.
The truth was that in the decade since Full Automation swept through the service, organisational, transport and manufacturing industries, she had only needed to step in once. That was back in the warehouse, when a fogged-up OCR reader had misread an order and automatically delivered 1,000 pigs to the warehouse instead of 1,000 pins.
This was a tricky mistake to resolve, but no-one got mad. In fact, this particular instance of human error - where the human had not designed a delivery bay to reject unwieldily quantities of pigs - was now sometimes used as a case-study in certain Full Automation university classes.
Returning her thoughts to the maple tree, it struck Ruya that, if you ignored the irregular movements caused by the breeze, the whole tree seemed to be inflating and deflating. A smooth, grand, woozy rhythm that filled her field of vision. Leaves, numbers and charts.
Ruya brought her thoughts to Biscuit, her childhood dog, and how he would sleep on her pillow, his ribcage softly rising and falling in time with his faint snores.
Back in the early days of her monitoring work Ruya was dizzy with the realisation that she was getting paid to do nothing, and she played games to pass the time in the factory.
First, she played Soltaire, both on the spare monitor and then, hankering after tangibility, with old-fashioned cards. Then, seeking more excitement, she played Minecraft 2.0 - the version where killing got more important than building stuff, and then Fortnite 4 - the version where building stuff got more important than the killing.
But eventually she stopped playing games. It wasn’t that she ran out of new games she wanted to play. It was right around the same time she realised she was completely wrong about being paid to do nothing.
It was important work. She was getting paid to do everything, to be part of everything, to feel everything. The whole world was in sync. Ruya saw it all, absorbed it all, and let it happen.