THE THINK TANK
Once a very large think tank sprang a leak. Not that anybody noticed at first. The leak was a slow one, and so the fall in the level of ideas was only discernable over a period of time. In fact, it wasn’t until there was next to nothing left in the tank that most people remembered how full it once had been. Prior to then, there seemed to be little concern anything might be wrong. The big fish and the little fish moved about as usual, bumping into one another on occasion, but for the most part, circling in ordered schools of thought illustrated their ability to conform to the limits imposed on them by the confines of the tank. That embrace of conformity over the prospect of swimming free had undeniable advantages. Once introduced to the tank, any small fry found reassurance in the promise of safety from troublesome crosscurrents in thought or the risk of wandering into unfamiliar depths and could look forward instead to becoming a senior fish with time merely by following the lead of the larger ones in all things. So long as the tank was full, the growing number of senior fish in it was cause for occasional comment, perhaps, but not much else. Only as the level of ideas fell, turning ever more murky and devoid of oxygen in the process, was it remarked that these and the lesser fish all looked to be in trouble. Their mouths, once opening and closing in such confident unison, now labored fitfully to keep their brain bladders inflated and themselves afloat. With lower and lower levels of thought to sustain them, the occupants of the tank adapted as best they could, most commonly through variations on what came to be called “the buddy-bubble system,” whereby a single thought might be passed back and forth between any number of them until absolutely everything had been sucked out of it. Meanwhile the overall volume of ideas continued to fall. Only half-submerged now in the clouded nadir of the tank, the fish churned erratically to maintain their equilibrium, often doing little more than reversing their positions or even turning themselves upside down. As these once-brilliant creatures were reduced to being mere bottom feeders on the remains of their glory, not one showed any evidence of understanding what might have brought them to this state? Later inspection of the seams of the tank revealed they had weakened and cracked over time, most likely from vibrations caused by all the mouths moving in ceaseless concert as small fish became bigger fish and big fish became real whoppers. Though these findings were made available to all think tank developers, it remains to be seen whether new standards will be implemented as a result. If not, it may only be a matter of time before the public finds itself inundated by a truly catastrophic think tank collapse and swimming for dear life in a wash of slippery, half-dead intellects.
Copyright © 2005 by Geoffrey Grosshans