I was beginning to wonder if Roger had changed his mind about calling to continue our discussion about his, "work," and to allow me to ask some questions. It would have been very unlike him, of course, but it had been several days when his call finally came.
"Mark, I'm leaving tomorrow morning and will be out of town for a few days. Would it be convenient for you to come over this evening for those questions I promised to answer?"
Well it wouldn't be convenient, but I could not wait another few days, so agreed to be at Roger's that evening.
I arrived about six thirty and Andrew showed me into the library where Roger was reading and enjoying a glass of wine.
"Would you like one?" he asked referring to the wine when I had found my seat.
"Oh, no thank you, Roger. Would love an ale, though."
Andrew took care of that, and when we were settled, Roger said, "why don't w begin with your questions."
"Quite frankly, I have so many questions, I don't know where to begin. For example, you call your work research, but what kind of research is it, and who are you doing the research for?"
"I'm doing the research for myself, Mark. It is going to be difficult for you to understand, but except on this planet, people do not work for other people. Everyone works for themselves. Many people work with other people, and most sell their products and services to other people, but they do not work for those who buy those products or services.
"The concept of corporations is unknown throughout the universe, but there are agencies comprised of individuals who agree to work together on certain mutually profitable projects. One of those agencies which has literally thousands of contracts with other individuals belongs to an individual. The name of that individual and name he has given to his agency would be meaningless to you. I'll call it the Intergalactic Information Clearing House, or IICH.
"I sell the product of my research to the IICH. The IICH gathers and organizes information about every planet in the universe that it can, and sells the information to business men throughout the known universe. It is an extremely successful business because everyone from speculators to shippers uses that information.
"As I told you, there are a few other non-earth humans doing research. We all have our areas of expertise and there are at least three areas of research the IICH is eager to buy regarding this planet.
"The first area of research is mostly technical, concerning the planets geography, geology, natural resources, life forms, and anything else that makes the planet potentially commercially valuable. The ones interested in that information are mostly speculators. Since no one intends to do business with the current population of this planet, the speculators base their projections on the very likely possibility the earth's population, like similar ones on other planets, will destroy itself. Of course it may not, in which case the speculators will have wasted their time and effort.
"The second area of research is of interest to those in the business of colonizing planets. They are interested especially in what happened on this planet because they want to prevent what happened on this planet from ever happening again.
"There have always been colonizers who regard the greatest of adventures to be the discovery of a new planet to explore and develop, and there will always be the romantic adventurers who relish the romantic danger of discovery.
"It was obvious to the earliest visitors to this planet that the explanation of its history by it's own people was sheer fantasy, believing that somehow human beings, and all life, developed on this planet and that the fossils and artifacts of "less civilized" human beings was explained by the gradual development of life on the planet.
"Whenever the planet was colonized, those who brought life here would have brought every possible variety. Not all colonies are immediately successful, but none have become so completely retrograde as the humans on this planet.
"The planet itself is inconsistently hospitable, but there would have been no problem for the original settlers, who would have had both the scientific knowledge and resources to survive under the worst possible environmental conditions, and even to preserve the other forms of life they brought with them. Somehow, they apparently lost both their technical knowledge and capabilities. It is that loss that is the great mystery—and the area of research colonizers are most interested in, because they do not want another such disaster.
"In spite of the disaster, the humans on this planet survived, and because they were human, they slowly began to regain some of their technical knowledge and abilities. What they apparently did not regain were the principles of life itself, what your philosophers call, "ethics." They have never relearned why they are living, or even what life is, or what their own nature is.
"And that brings me to my area of research.
"I am not so much interested in the reason for the disaster to which the irrational self-destructive nature of the people on this planet is attributed, as in the condition itself.
"I'm not so sure anything could cause that condition, not even a great disaster. It is almost as though someplace in the history of human life on this planet a moment of choice came for all of them, a choice about what would be believed and what they would live for, a wrong choice that once made was total and so compelling, no one has ever been able to discover or question it since.
"The question I am interested in discovering the answer to is why an entire population would choose to believe and act to make themselves miserable, rushing headlong to its own destruction. Why would the entire population of a planet choose to annihilate itself; which it surely will if it doesn't soon choose differently."
Roger paused and I took the opportunity to ask another question.
Roger, I know you said you sell your research to this IICH agency, or whatever you called it. Are you in communication with them then? I mean, how do you get paid?"
"Yes, I am in contact with the IICH, but I cannot explain how. It is unlike any communication method used on earth. Nothing magical, or anything like that, just an advanced technology it would take a fews years for me to explain to you.
"But, I am not paid by them. There is no way to do that. The kind of, "pay," I will receive from them would be useless on this planet. I'll get my pay when I leave this planet.
"Now Roger," I began a bit boldly, "you live very well, better than most people. I don't mean to pry into your personal or financial business, but if you are not being payed for your work, how do you have so much obvious wealth."
"I produce it, Mark. I've worked for every penny I have, and all I have and enjoy I've earned. I run most of my business from here, these days, but it has taken a long time and much work to reach the position I enjoy here today.
"See, Mark, one condition of being a researcher is the necessity of supporting oneself until one has accumulated the material one can sell. No researcher receives any kind of help while here."
I was quite surprised. I never thought of Roger actually doing productive work, though knowing Roger's view of things, I certainly should have.
"Do you mind my asking what kind of work you did, do,... how you produce your wealth?"
"Not at all. I'm a trader. I buy things at one price, and sell them at a higher price. And that requires me to also be a shipper and distributer. I buy things in large quantities in one place and ship them to other places to sell in smaller quantities. It's very simple."
"The strange thing is, it is actually easier to be successful at the business on this planet than on others. It's governments make my business hugely more profitable than they would be on any other planet in the universe.
"I think you call it smuggling."
"You don't mean drugs." I said, flabbergasted.
"No, I mean clothing, medicine, food, machines, raw materials, and anything else that human beings value or enjoy that governments deprive them of.
"Every government on this planet regulates products that can be bought or sold, in some cases with laws banning the products altogether, or regulating who can sell them, or placing outrageous taxes on them. Those regulations make those products expensive, scarce, or nonexistent, in those countries that regulate them.
"All those regulations provide a market for such products, which I buy in countries where they are not regulated at low prices and sell in countries where regulations have made them very scarce and expensive. People are willing to pay my reasonable prices which are still high enough to make me a handsome profit."
"You are an outlaw, then," I blurted out.
Roger just chuckled. "I'm not a citizen of any country on this planet. I'm not from this planet at all. Which asinine laws of which oppressive country pertain to me, Mark? Do you really think any man-made law means anything to me, or ought to? I do what is right. You cannot obey man-made laws and do right."
"The belief that obeying the law is the same as being morally right is just one of the endless lies passionately believed by this world's humanity that is what is wrong with this world."
I had always had a nagging thought that there really was something wrong in this world. Oh, not the world itself, but with humanity. I certainly did not believe in any kind of depravity taught by any of the religions, and knew the, "man is naturally evil," view of philosophers like Hobbes could not be true if humans were truly volitional beings. But it was obvious to me that men had always used their ability to choose to choose the most self-destructive and despicable things. So I was very interested in Roger's view on such things.
"I know you've have been researching the subject for a long time. What do you think is wrong with the world, Roger?"
The rest of the evening consisted of Roger's answer to that question, which I'll tell you about next time.