Spec: I want you to go and design me a human society. Not a utopia: one that acknowledges its faults and includes mechanisms to correct itself. One that’s better than the one we have now. Info-rich. Post-scarcity. Knowledge as currency.
Relevant excerpts from The Curve of the EarthL
Petrovitch wanted to be alone, to worry and to brood, but he was part of the Freezone collective and that meant never having to be alone again. Company was built in, through the links they wore
[How many of our protocols are we going to break this time?] asked Michael. “As a point of reference? More than the Baku incident?”
[More than Beirut. We’re going to break them all if we have to. Assemble an ad-hoc. They can decide.]
Michael polled the Freezone collective and selected five names with the required expertise and wisdom. There was no need to wait for them to assemble, exchange pleasantries, enquire about the kids; that wasn’t what an ad-hoc was about. He’d been in enough to know the score
[We need to decide what assets we dedicate to the search, and how they are best deployed.]
[I will pass on a request to the US State Department,] said Michael. [You must decide whether we ask, or whether we insist. And if we insist, how forcefully we put our demands.]
[That is a good question,] noted Michael, and Moltzman’s pregnant rep birthed another point. [I can suggest some possible answers, but assigning probabilities to them will take time if I am to be accurate.]
I said she shouldn’t go.”
[An ad-hoc said she should accept.]
“They were wrong!”
[Samuil Petrovitch was on that ad-hoc,] Michael reminded her, reminded them all. [He agreed with the decision made then.]
There was another protocol surrounding the ad-hocs, that the petitioner wasn’t supposed to speak on their own initiative: they could answer questions, clarify positions, discuss motivations. But not be an advocate, and certainly not grandstand. The committee members weren’t a jury, and an ad-hoc wasn’t a court.
[...this is the way we decided we would conduct our decision-making, and if you do not come to a consensus, I will dismiss you and convene another ad-hoc.]
we want nothing less than someone on the ground, up on the North Slope, directing local assets.”
“One of us or one of them?” asked Moltzman.
[Does everyone agree to this course of action?] Michael tabulated the votes, and reported back the result. [The committee is unanimous. The question remains, who do we send?]
“And why would my whole country be wrong?”
“Because you’re lying to yourselves. You can think we’re all foul-mouthed drunks and our women dress like whores, but you’re missing the point. Underneath the veneer of Reconstruction, you’re all monsters. In the Freezone, no one ever goes hungry. If they fall sick, we cure them if we can and look after them if we can’t. No one’s lonely, because there’s always someone listening. We take care of each other, and we all have a say in the big decisions. Which is pretty much how we got to this point.”
Are we going to have to break her privacy seal and find out what she’s really been up to?”
“I’m surprised you haven’t asked for that before,” said Marcus. “In fact, I’ll take matters out of your hands: Michael will call an ad-hoc, and if they agree, a counsellor will pick over what information there is. Michael will tell you if anything relevant comes up.”
If you want to go off the reservation, talk to Michael, and we’ll have an ad-hoc. And you’ll behave yourself if the decision goes against you.”
The Freezone’s bigger than you, Sam
“if it’s a choice between me following the rules and me getting Lucy back, you know which way it’s going to go, don’t you?”
“I know. Everybody knows.
There can be terabytes of data on each card. It all needs to be sorted and checked.”
“By a committee. It’s private information. If I need to know any of it, they’ll pass the relevant files to me.” He sighed and put the card reader next to him on the rock. “We value privacy much more than you do.”
“You have an all-seeing artificial intelligence monitoring everything you do and everywhere you go.”
“That’s because Michael is an infovore. That’s what he does. It doesn’t follow that he passes that information on to everybody else. Or even anyone at all.”
“So you’re happy that this machine knows everything about you?”
He came back out with a sealed plastic bag containing three pieces of equipment: an earpiece, a screen-reader, and a slim, curved rectangle in white. He tore the plastic with his teeth and sorted out the components on his lap.
“This is a Freezone thing, and you’re the first person not in the collective to ever be offered one.” He glanced up at Newcomen’s sceptical expression. “It’s not because you’re special or anything. This is a purely practical decision
the Freezone had been raising kids with this technology for almost a decade now, a whole generation coming through who’d known nothing else but their own personal mentor, guardian, friend being no more than a breath away
Michael: call an ad-hoc. I want to go after the house computer.”
Half a world away, a committee was formed, told of the reason, and asked to come to a decision.
They did. It wasn’t quite what he expected.
one ear to the news reports from around the world that his agents had selected. Each one came with a commentary from Freezone analysts, whether they could confirm or debunk it, and if the Freezone collective was involved in any way
He felt compelled to keep himself informed, especially at a time like this. It was a truism that the one connecting fact that linked together everything he was doing could appear half a world away. He wasn’t the only one watching, reading, collating and sifting, but he was a link in the chain
There are plenty of suggestions. Some are mutually exclusive. Others could be joined together to form a more-or-less coherent strategy. But there is no unanimity
[Sasha, you are not authorised to do any deals with the Chinese. There will have to be, at the very least, an ad-hoc. Possibly more.]
“We don’t have the time.”
[We have to make the time.]
[The choice is not yours.]
“Well, it should be.”
[Every time you rail against having to consult someone else about a course of action that affects the Freezone as a whole and not just you, I have to remind you that you designed the decisionmaking process, you consciously and deliberately eschewed any special exception for yourself, and you told me that if you were to ever change your mind, I was to have you shot.]
[Shall I convene an ad-hoc while you explain your idea?]
What I want to do is sell a share of the artefact. To the Chinese. For a dollar. Are you with me so far?”
I don’t want to run the risk of having to ask Zhao if he wants to buy a pile of melted crap that could have come from anywhere. He commits his government to the purchase now, while neither of us have a clue what it is
“We don’t actually own this whatever-it-is, do we now? So how can we be selling it?”
[Technically, Lucy Petrovitch has a claim of ownership, since she found the material abandoned. There is no immediate prospect of finding the original owner.]
“So it is the girl’s?”
“Just not the Freezone’s.”
[The concept of individual versus corporate ownership temporarily escaped me. Apologies.]
[And yet wait we must. Lucy’s rights as finder cannot be violated simply because you find it expedient. The Freezone holds much in common for its members, yet we still maintain a separation between communal and personal property. She can gift the artefact to whoever she wishes; it is her choice.]
*If you want, I can show you a graph that predicts your complete replacement with cybernetics within thirty years. I would, however, like to discuss my earlier offer of reconstituting your personality as a virtual construct at some point.