Charlie Spitzenburger was standing at the window of his office, part of a spacious suite occupying the middle floors of the London headquarters of Neazo Inc. He was looking out over London. It was a view that he never tired of. He was having a moment of quiet reflection. If he had been prone to self-congratulation, which he wasn’t, he might have reflected that he stood on a summit more difficult to scale than Mount Everest. This was the summit represented by the nexus of money, power and culture. Few, but very few, managed to make it to these rarefied heights.
Senior management was now, in 2048, little more than the upper echelon of the frayed collar class. They were happy as long as they could chew on the meatless bone of strategic thinking. Their decisions were really non-decisions: they merely took the inevitable action in any given situation to an agenda set from above. But they had their place in what was now a large and very effective buffer class.
If strategic thinking was a pleasant fiction there a few – very few – who were genuinely shaping the future. Their philosophies (the word “plan” is too banal) would come to fruition over decades. As far as the GM project was concerned, just putting the necessary legal framework in place would take decades. And the legal framework was at the heart of the project. The GM project wasn’t really about plants, seeds and food: it was about the creation and management of socio-economic structures. Of course there would be opposition and some major intellectuals would be ideologically opposed to the project. Innovators had always been misunderstood and any revolution will have its opponents. And people in general did not always know what was for their own good, so there would be a degree of popular opposition. Of course there would be mistakes, failures: sacrifices would have to be made. Progress would be painfully slow at times. Perhaps Spitzenburger himself would not see the project completed, and maybe not even his successor. But it would all fall into place one day.
Spitzenburger was waiting for the arrival of Sir Philip Coleman, a senior civil servant. They would discuss Phil’s imminent elevation to the House of Lords and, thus ennobled, his eventual candidature for the post of Science Minister. The path towards this had been paved a couple of years ago by large but discreet donations to the party. Needless to say, everything had been done with complete transparency. Phil was a member of elite networks such The Leader’s Group and the Windsor think tank. When Phil took up the post of Science Minister – and it would all happen in good time – there would be no crude promotion of the interests of Neazo Inc. It was more a question of steering certain intellectual streams into the right channels. Decision makers could be influenced to favour certain areas of research. An intellectual climate could be created where previously unacceptable ideas gradually became more acceptable. The legal debate could take on a certain tone. Phil would of course be a model of disinterest: reasonable, affable, open-minded and innovative: a skilled chair, a good speaker but a better listener.
A potential source of embarrassment had now been cleared up. The Wind in the City Project, that irritant of the past few years, was now moving off the agenda at last. The latest and final report – it had been decided to close the book on this episode – had confirmed than none of X-Pets, so-called, were still alive. There was just a question mark over one. Spitzenburger had made the judgement call that this was not worth worrying about. Projects like Wind in the City were by their nature untidy. As Churchill pointed out, perfection equals paralysis.
The buzzer on Spitzenburger’s desk sounded and he pressed the answer button.
“Yes,” he said. It was his PA.
“Sir Philip Coleman to see you.”
“Show him in,” said Spitzenburger.