Brin's Earth

Earth by David Brin (1990) ISBN:055329024X

Here are some bits from Earth where a key character is surfing her inbox, via her "Hypersecretary" filtering agent. This is a big inspiration for my Universal Inbox theme...

Good morning, Professor Wolling. During the last twenty-four hours there have been three priority-nine world news items, two regional alerts for Britain, and four on general topics from Reuters, your chosen neutral-bias news agency. None of the alerts were in categories listed by you as critical

Citizens had to subscribe to a minimum news-input or lose the vote. Still, Jen was anything but a public events junky, so her nine-or-greater threshold was set as high as allowed

You have received six letters and thirty five-message blips from individuals on your auto-accept list. Sixty-five more letters and one hundred and twelve blips entered your general delivery box on the Net.

In addition, there were four hundred and thirteen references to you, in yesterday’s scientific journals. Finally, in popular media and open discussion boards, your name was brought up with level seven or greater relevance fourteen hundred and eleven times.

People bought personalized filter programs to skim a few droplets from that sea and keep the rest out. For some, subjective reality became the selected entertainments and special-interest zines passed through by those tailored shells.

To avoid such staleness, Jen had hired a famous rogue hacker, Sri Ramanujan, to design her own filter. “Let’s see what happens to that list,” she said aloud, “when we use threshold seven, categories one through twenty.”

And the surprise factor, Professor Wolling?” Jen felt in a good mood. “Let’s go with twenty percent.” That meant one in five files would pop up randomly, in defiance of her own parameters

Colors demarked significant passages, enhanced by her semantic-content filter. Her eyes focused on text which glowed with reddish highlights. Ah, the little devil, she thought, for the program had slipped in a cluster of hate mail. “… Wolling has become a loose cannon. Her recent trip to Southern Africa proves she’s lost all sense of propriety

The technical citations were hardly any more interesting. Most were doctoral theses referring to her old papers … the “classics” that had led to that damned Nobel prize. She selected five promising ones for later study, and dumped the rest

All of these merited replies. Jen tagged and dictated first-draft answers, letting the syntax-checker convert her clipped short-speech into clear paragraphs. In fact, sometimes thoughts streamed faster than judgment. So Jen never “mailed” letters till Tuesdays or Fridays, when she scrupulously went over everything carefully a second time.

Jen noticed that none of the sentences were even highlighted. Her semantic-content program couldn’t find a single explicit statement to set in bold! But then, gradually, she smiled. Of course. This isn’t senility, it’s diamond blade sharpness! There are ciphers within ciphers. Codes within codes

Nobody with any sense kept confidential notes on a computer. So from a desk drawer she took out an expensive pad of real paper and a pencil

To Logan Eng, the chaos in the Net felt like having one of life’s underpinnings knocked out. What had been a well-ordered, if undisciplined, ruckus of zines, holochannels, SIGs, and forums had become a rowdy babel, a torrent of confusion and comment, made worse because in order to be noticed each user now sent out countless copies of his messages toward any node that might conceivably listen

Some Idea Futures stuff, too.

(Also about Earth.)

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