To understand this excerpt from Society Changed, you need to understand that Ann, Drake and Sally are setting up a matching system for interpersonal relationships. They intend it to be much much better than any ordinary dating service, and as professional mathematicians and computer scientists, think they can. So far there is little evidence. In fact their first arranged connection is about to take place, between their new secretary and a UBC engineering student.
That evening, in the interest of fairness, Alberta retailed to Harold her grandmother’s dairy maxim.
“Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?”
“I see. No chance you’d let me have some out of the the milk of human kindness?”
“Very funny. Good one. Well, I am not necessarily on a scorched earth policy, or a policy of rigid denial, or whatever you’d call it. I am not saying no sex without marriage.”
“Thank god! Allah be praised!”
“You like math. There is some factor, some X which is exactly the right restriction. Without marrying me you should get X percent of the sex you would get by marrying me. Now if it was 99, 99%, then why bother tying the knot, eh? And if it was 1%, then that’s so little, you would give up in disgust and go get Zelda Simons or Alice Orchard next door.”
“Do you have their phone numbers, by any chance?”
“Shut up. So, what is X? What is the percentage that will get me to the altar?”
“Actually, I really really like you. You are a lovely, beautiful girl, with a mind that fascinates me. In days of old, I would have proposed with neither sight nor touch of your hidden mysteries, leaving your body a temple until our wedding night. But now, no. I would want to have you once. If you are OK in bed once, then I should propose. But everyone says people are too nervous the first time in bed with a new partner, so I should say twice. So if you are OK in bed twice I will propose. How is that?”
“And I should trust you in this commitment?”
“Well, should I post a bond? A hundred dollars, for example?”
“That’s an unusual suggestion. I am on the edge of being very insulted here. I think if you are trying to make a whore of me, you should offer me a higher price.”
“Aargh! No! I meant nothing like that! Forgive me! I just meant some surety, some guarantee that I would live up to my word and propose marriage to the woman I find that I love.”
“After screwing her twice.”
“Well, uh, yes.”
“Alright, here is the deal. You are an engineer, with many skills, useful in mathematics. We at Technological Fantasies have several volunteers, and I am the only actual employee to date. I coordinate the volunteers mostly, so far. Spend your free time as a volunteer at Tech Fantasies and I will sleep with you once a week. When we’ve done it five times, five, not two, I will let you propose marriage.”
“I agree to this, of course. I hope my services will be of some use to your organization, and to yourself.”
“They will be, believe me.” Oh, god, she was going to get him!
Harold showed up at 3 PM, after his classes, and was asked to move a bit of heavy furniture about, then read every piece of relevant paper on the premises and render an opinion. Before he had arrived at an opinion, the founding trio arrived from their real jobs.
“Who is this then?” Drake asked, looking askance at another male on the premises, his territoriality aflame.
“Sir, this is Harold Adams, who has dated me. I am bribing him in to serve as a volunteer for Technological Fantasies.”
“Not with the use of your sweet young body, I hope”, Drake said, who had his eyes on that body himself. Ann and Sally both glowered at Drake for his choice of adjectives. They knew what he had his eyes on.
Alberta hung her head a bit. “Uh, well, he, uh, promised he would propose marriage after he had slept with me, uh, twice, but I suddenly had cold feet and thought to stretch it out to five times, but only if he proved his sincerity by working as a volunteer here.”
Drake laughed and laughed. Ann looked furious.
“This is a delicate question, Alberta”, Sally said quietly, “and please forgive me, but have you actually given yourself to this man yet?”
“Well, no, it was to be tonight.”
“Don’t. Drake, tell her.” Ann glared at the laughing cavalier.
“Ah, yes, the old ‘I promise, swear, cross-my-heart, I will propose marriage after you have slept with me twice line’. He then sleeps with you once, and moves on to the next gullible young lady. Gets a lot of girls once that way. A lot of girls once is actually more attractive to many men than one girl many times, believe it or not. Not me, of course.”
“Harold! Deny this!”
“Uh, well, uh, guess what, in your case, it could have been four times, four times and four weeks as a volunteer at this nice place. Oops.”
“Harold! I, I almost loved you! I, I, I touched myself and thought of you!”
“Believe me, I felt almost the same way, with nearly the corresponding thing, but a man has to do what a man has to do.”
Ann was laughing in the background, way beyond being shocked. “These two are really so well matched, it’s amazing.”
“No, really. I think they are. Harold, where did you learn all these tricks with women?”
“Please, you will embarrass me.”
“Good, you deserve it. Answer the question.”
“Well, uh, a book. A book.”
“Uh, ‘200 Easy Ways to Get Laid’.”
“And have they been easy?”
“Not as easy as I had hoped.”
“How many women have given into you so far because of this book?”, Ann asked, with a look that defied him to lie.
“Well, it was rather a waste of money. No good algorithms, poor quality control. Uh, none.”
“And prior to the book?”
“Uh, well, I had a sheltered childhood. I, well, I just was not able to. It was impossible. I could not. I was not to blame. Uh, none.”
“No girls at all. You’ve never done it?” Ann herself was shocked.
“I am so ashamed. I will kill myself!”
“Alberta? How about you? Are you experienced?”
“No. I feel I should be ashamed, but I am somewhat proud of it, and my grandmother would be proud of me for being proud of being inexperienced. But I am somewhat ashamed for not being ashamed of it.”
“Alberta, do you hate Harold Adams for his attempts to take advantage of you, or despise him for being a bit pathetic?”
“Would you consider dating him?”
“Yes. Honest dates, for an honest purpose, yes.”
Sally added a suggestion, “Harold. May I suggest dating Alberta. And let me suggest something else. One way to have sex with her an average of 22 days a month, perhaps 40 times a month on average, would just be to marry her. That’s a lot of sex. Worth thinking about. Now go, get some coffee, talk. Al, don’t be too hard on him, all men are pathetic creatures. But don’t let him try and leverage his pathos into a freebie, either. That’s probably method number 156 in the book: seem pathetic then appeal to her pity. Go.”
After the younger people were gone, the trio released a lot of suppressed laughter.
“Damn, I knew I should never have written that book. Where the hell did he get his hands on such an old edition. It’s up to ‘1,000 Easy Ways to Get Laid’ now”, Drake commented. His two colleagues laughed, thinking he was joking, then suddenly wondered if he was.
Later, Alberta and Harold came back, and announced that they would date chastely, but that Alberta had expressed some interest in a marriage proposal from Harold, provided there was no sex during their engagement. She still didn’t trust him. She’d put out on their wedding night or not at all. For his part, he wanted the shortest engagement in living memory and would propose as soon as she let him. His fortunes were not at an all-time high, but his marks were good and prospects were good, so she would help, but only so long as his prospects were good.
The trio gave her a lot of good advice. Ann being a professional engineer as well as a computer scientist and mathematician, she knew what she was talking about. Then Harold gave them some advice about their enterprise.
“Be careful about the foundations you lay down. Make sure you and everyone else knows whether you are a non-profit company or a for-profit company or whatever else. You probably need to be both in some way, maybe more. Perhaps a trust, as well. Volunteers and the use of donated stuff like this house should be part of the operation of a true non-profit, and would screw up a start-up for-profit company. Attempts to do anything like what a normal company does would screw up a non-profit. But both have their uses. They should both exist, and should be coupled in some way. The three of you should perhaps be just a legal partnership, and if two are married or to be married, that doesn’t change things.”
“Sorry, thought you were engineering student, not law student.”
“Parents, lawyers. Disgusting, but necessary.”
“Now, your software. Divide it in two. Make a proprietary section for the for-profit company and an open source section for the non-profit organization. Either of the two sections could be empty for now. I recommend making the non-profit large for now, and making the open source section of the software include all of it, for now. Similarly with your questionnaire questions, which should not just be a list of questions, but a database of questions. Some of your software should choose questions from the database to form questionnaires ad hoc.”
“Marry him, Alberta”, Sally said.
“I was just thinking the same thing”, Alberta muttered.
“Now as well as software and questions, there should be a database of advertising statements or paragraphs, from which your software can form advertisements quickly. These can be coupled with user feedback forms, so that advertisements can be evaluated, because you must advertise, but this way your very advertisements themselves can serve as parts of questionnaires. To get a big response, make these response forms into contest entry blanks, with some donated prizes.”
“Marry him, Alberta, before I do”, Ann said.
“I was just thinking the same thing”, Alberta muttered.
“Contest entry forms and other very short response forms that are broadly distributed should be thought of as filters. You process them, and the result of processing should be a best guess as to the best possible questionnaire to send that person, the one that will elicit the most information and the best information from that person. Send out that form, process it, and it will be another filter, which will again tell you which bigger and better questionnaire to send that person, to get even more and more and better and better and better information from him or her. You see?”
“OK, Alberta, better put out for the guy”, Drake said.
“Bloody damn, Harold”, a annoyed Alberta swore, “if you are so smart, so damn smart, and you obviously are, why have you been behaving like an idiot. Propose to me now, and we’ll seek a license tomorrow, should I condescend to accept you. But not a stitch of clothes will come off till you make an honest woman of me.”
“Alberta Smith, the woman I do find I do indeed love, despite myself, in the presence of these great minds, whom even I respect, let me announce my love for you, and beg you to be my wife, now and forever. Alberta, will you be my wife and make me the happiest man on Earth instead of merely the horniest and most frustrated? Alberta, will you marry me?”
“What an egotistical proposal, talking about how horny you are! You impossible man! Yes I shall, and I shall make a man out of you yet, I shall. Come here at lunch tomorrow and we shall go get a license.”
That evening, the three talked over Harold’s contributions in some amazement. Ann had carefully written down everything he had said and so had Sally. They compared notes, and decided the sneaky bastard was right on all points. Wow. They needed to keep this guy around. Really, they needed to keep Alberta and Harold both around, and hoped they would tie themselves up in knots.
This would not be the only time Harold made good suggestions. Some were extraordinary.