Quia Sum, Cogito: Chapter 5
On the Blanket Noria
Sept. 5, 2044
I was interviewed recently by the MSM (Main Stream Media or – more accurately – the Manipulation and Suppression Machine) and it’s been trending for about 3 days now. It was fascinating to witness (first hand no less!) the desire to undermine the common man. To describe the lead up, I was making sure the neighborhood had what they needed for the day: blankets, food, shoes, etc. I was approached by a “reporter” and had the following conversation, I hope you enjoy it (this can be seen on their website currently):
Propagandist: Do you have a minute?
Me: Not really, sort of busy. Who are you?
Propagandist: I’m Simon Kent, a reporter with WKPT news. What is your inspiration for doing this?
Me: What? What do you mean?
Propagandist: This “Blanket Noria” movement, why do you take part in it?
Me: What are you talking about? What the hell is a noria? This isn’t a “movement”… it just needs to be done. All these people are working to help keep the community running. You expect them to not have the basic needs? You expect me not to have these things?
Propagandist: Noria… a waterwheel.
Me: Well that’s a dumb name.
Propagandist: It’s a pulling up from… nevermind. Those [pointing at the supplies for the day], why are you giving them away?
Me: They aren’t mine to begin with. I just grab what I need and then distribute the rest.
Propagandist: Why not take them all?
Me: I’m not a thief. What type of questions are these?
Propagandist: Many people don’t understand it. Where do the resources come from?
Me: The bin over there, people donate. I think it’s just extra stuff they have. What do you mean “they don’t understand it”? Who doesn’t understand basic survival?
Propagandist (after mumbling for a bit): You don’t work for those things though. Why do you think they donate?
Me: Don’t work for them? We clean this community! We are respected here! They donate because we deserve them! It’s because of assholes like you and your “people should just die” condemnation that we are in this situation to begin with! Fuck off.
Propagandist: One more question… what do you say to those who think it’s a fad?
Me: Why do I care? Go away.
Honestly, I’m surprised they published it. That corporate stooge didn’t know what he was getting into.
How dare they though, right? I remember a time when – even in poverty – you could afford rent. People used to be lazy and still live comfortably. Now it’s a full time job to get enough for food and to upkeep my plot. Without community sharing and support to keep me and my family safe from the police, I would probably be dead in a gutter or carted off to jail (and we know what has been going on there). We’ve lost three other families this month! We need to help each other!
How dare they undermine our right to life. Luckily our community continues to grow so we are getting the numbers to push back.
The founding fathers fought a war against the likes of them and the government we have now. The people know what’s coming. They will be on our side to take down the liberal elites.Day To Day Under the Boot (virtual reality blog) – Shaun Phillips – published September 5, 2044
The drip leaks out of the dispenser to fall into the cup of water for the 14th time. It hits the surface of the water, trying to keep its individual form, but once the rest of the collective liquid engulfs it, it’s gone. Lost. And it will never be able to reform again. Only the small remnants of ice retain their individual existence, but eventually they will dissolve as well. Entropy destroys all uniqueness. The only way to combat that…
I hear someone approaching from behind me and I down the small cup in one gulp – ice and all.
“Hi Tark. I don’t usually see you out and about.” It’s the janitor – Taylor – who has made his round to the third floor. As I watch him start wiping the counter, I realize this is the first time I’ve witnessed it; I thought he only collected the waste. The excess that no one wants around anymore. The individual items that are treated as collective “stuff” so that we can remove it and make a more sanitary society.
“You live with the Anarchists, right?”
His repetitive circular movements that are cleaning the counter briefly slows at the question and then resumes the pace, “Yeah. Sam and I currently have made a home for ourselves in one of the public residences.” He looks at me before going back to wiping, “why do you ask?”
“I’m just wondering how you tolerate it? I mean the way they live in degeneracy. Every time I see someone from that side of town, they are almost feral with no civility at all. Can’t they see how that’s hurting all of us?”
He stops completely to think: “For me it’s about opportunity. I was able to get my BioWear limited because of the help that the Consensus provided.”
“You can have yours limited? Damn, I need that.”
“Well, I don’t think it works for everyone, I have technologic dysphoria – I had no idea about it until someone from the Consensus asked me about my health and they diagnosed me. I tell you, since this morning I feel like a whole new person!”
Technologic Dysphoria is a pseudo-scientific conclusion. It was created to pacify people complaining too much about not wanting to wear it. “I should get checked out, I may have that.”
A silent moment passed before Taylor says, “Maybe, I couldn’t know; but another example of the consensus helping, remember I was telling you on the trolley about my kid’s last class trip?”
I recall “Sam went to see the salt flats, right?”
“Yeah, but it wasn’t just the flats, it was the culture of CW14 that he brought back. Sam would have never had the option to see that – or the other trips he’s taken – if we lived up here. We just couldn’t afford it.”
I take a moment to refill my cup with ice water. Ug.. the Mormons. Even after the Climate Wars, theirs is one of the last organized groups to proclaim the moniker of Christian. The rest of the denominations (besides the Vatican) fell away when the rural nomads started to demand the church open its doors so they could have shelter. Only the groups with enough institutional strength and enough of a community buffer were able to remain unsullied (as much as you can consider the faith “unsullied” when they worship John Smith as equal to the trinity). “I thought you all were believers in Azathoth, why would you care about the Mormon temples?”
“It’s not about the Mormons specifically, but about seeing anything that expands his understanding of the world. The art, the culture, the different perceptions; that’s what gives him opportunities. The introduction to a world that is infinitely more broad than the experience I can give him.” He trailed off at the end realizing where he was and how the Tendian philosophy is considered here.
The bright voice of Jacklyn coming from behind me was a reflection of his realization, “Well you do you Squatter, but my kid will grow up knowing what is right. Integrity with function!” Her unwavering confidence paired with her energetic presentation is both an invitation to disagree and a warning that it isn’t worth it. She’s one of the few Electricians that I talk to on a semi-regular basis, but she rarely works in this building. Her hyperactivity – not being able to stop moving: either through rocking back and forth or just pacing – always makes our parting a bitter sweet relief. Generally, I still enjoy our interactions though. Today I’m not really up for it, so as Taylor withdrawals back into his cleaning, I begrudgingly engage with Jacklyn.
“Hey! What are you doing in the 400s?”
“Oh just trying to get to the bottom of the power surges you all have been having.” She leans in close and lowers her voice, “We really don’t have any idea what’s causing them. All the logs look right and they are specific to your building, which shouldn’t happen unless there was a power drain which we would get a notification about.” She steps back, resuming her typical boisterous tone, “seems like sabotage!” then she looks past me, “You wouldn’t know anything about that would you, Leech?” Her victorious smile lets me know Taylor is leaving before I turn to see him walk away.
As he moves to the next cluster of cubicles to remove the trash, the weight of the discussion brings me back to the failure of the morning’s presentation. The black outs are one of the reasons I didn’t have results that would justify the project’s efforts. If it was actually sabotaged by traitorous Consensus workers, then it was their fault I failed. I mutter the admittance of the last epiphany so Taylor can’t overhear, “Fucking Squatters.”
“They all suck. The world is better off without them!” Jacklyn almost yells the last part so the janitor – continuing to purge the office of undesirables – won’t be able to ignore it.
“Personally I think Taylor is one of the good ones, the Consensus just has him convinced he’s doing what’s best for his family.” No one should be faulted for taking care of those that depend on them.
“What?! Tark, he’s a fucking Leech on society! Don’t feel sorry for that asshole!”
The meeting is starting to weigh on me again and I look down at my cup of water with the ice floating on the surface. I start to wonder about the results that are waiting for me on my desk. Results that may still yet provide me with my options for protecting my dependents. “Maybe you’re right, but I need to get going. I’ve got some reports to go over. Integrity with function.”
Jacklyn looks a bit stunned for a second. We usually talk for quite a bit longer than this, “O- Oh. Sure. Integrity with function.”
As I leave, I sigh slightly with the appreciation of temporary solitude, not having to meld into the rest of the society, not having my energy sucked from me any more than it has to be.
The ice is still floating. Even though it’s imperceivable melting – for the moment – it still holds its form.
Ordinarily, processing the reports consists of looking for some key checks to ensure that the numbers were right: checking input parameters, verifying anomalies for the processing time compared to the statistical expectation, ensuring the debt gain is within the parameters. All these are found in the Official Protocols, and are a necessary habit for the senior Reviewers in the Debt Department. The daily review generally only takes about 20 minutes.
The current ones that GFMAppy compiled for the new algorithm are not ordinary. Even if the numbers were as expected (which they absolutely are not), the Protocols are not enough. The checks I’ve set in the code to make sure that social connections aren’t being surpassed, establishing a threshold for processing times, finding the rate of parabolic network expansion, ensuring that the projection function doesn’t fail with each run, establishing the bounds on the debt identification; everything is novel and have no parallels to pre existing methods. This is an exploration into the unknown and there are no guides.
It is supremely satisfying and validating that the current models are breaking. After two hours of validations, ensuring the methods ran as expected, and checking for various bugs; the unfathomable results appear valid. It surpasses the hypothetical debt even found with the Consensus Agreement! Even with the failure of the presentation earlier, no one would be able to deny this will be both a legacy I could attach my name to, but also a possible legacy of the Debt Department itself!
I check the time: 3:32. They will come to fetch me at 4 so I need to have everything ready by then. These findings could be a paradigm shift concerning the relationship we have with the Consensus: they can no longer cover the cost of debt with labor, so they will lose the ability to coerce support. No longer any need for attacks like that in NY004. It would be a true reflection of why Economic Governance was the best system in decades past.
At 3:57 I finalize the report – easily readable and highlighted to show the more extreme findings – on the AR editor and send it to the AI. “GFM can you verify that I haven’t included any sensitive information in this report and save it to datadisk…” I check the label etched into the small rectangular storage block “…8723-32?”
The androgynous voice responds, “It will take a few minutes to check the software embeddings, I’ve already started. ETA 3 minutes and 10 seconds.” I consider how much I hate that machine sometimes. Even with all the times it has acted as a makeshift sounding board where I can build on ideas and voice concerns, it is a manifestation of bureaucracy and a constant hindrance to progress. The AR displays a countdown of verification ETA: 3 minutes, 10 seconds.
“You cannot bypass the security checks on such a simple file?”
“That is against my restrictions. I apologize.”
Time creeps by.
3:58; I start to wonder if they will trust the findings without going over it themselves. Will I still be brought in to be prepped and will they review it then? Or will they just trust me and forgo any distraction that could get this implemented sooner?
3:59; What will this mean for the rest of the CapDem structure? Will they forgo the traditional route and implement it all at once everywhere? No… that’s not realistic, it has to go through the traditional CapDem practical critique: testing locally before being generalized further.
There is a knock at the door. Still 3:59. 34 seconds left. Fuck. I intentionally leave my jacket while I open the door.
I’m a bit surprised to see Margie standing there. Usually where there is a kind disposition, all that is left is irritation, the shift in demeanor is troubling. “You need to come with me, Roger Chack wants to talk to you.” Oh… she doesn’t know. She thinks that I’m going above her head to talk to her superior directly. That explains it.
“Let me grab my coat.”
She sighs with irritation, “Do you need my permission?” I walk back casually watching the timer 5 seconds, 3, 2, 1. I reach for the disk and another timer with a completion bar appears on the display saving to 8723-32: 40 seconds. Fuck. “I’m supposed to submit my report today, it will be ready in about a minute.”
“You can pick it up on your way out.” She motions for me to leave the office. I can’t tell her why I need it and she has no reason to think I can’t get it after. I leave with her and reserve any outward indication of my exasperation; she would reasonably take it personally and be offended.
“Integrity with function, GFM.”
“Integrity with function, sir.”
As soon as I enter the hallway, the connection to GFMAppy is disconnected and the timer disappears. Margie advises me without looking back to “fix your hair, you look like you just got up” as she leads the way. I use my fingers to brush it down, irritated that I passively messed it up again compiled with the belittling disposition which does nothing to help my anxiety.
The path back to the Broken Gear goes quickly, made more so by the brisk pace. Unlike last time, there is no pride in the procession but only shame in the memory of the failed reception and increased disappointment that my proof of superior functionality has now been fully saved and is resting directly in front of my seat. I steel myself for the onslaught of ads which overload my senses as she grants me access to the obürg’s wing.
I try to focus exclusively on the stocky uniformed man from before as Roger invites me in. Margie hangs for a moment before Roger dismisses her with a friendly “thank you Marge, I’ll see you tomorrow.” She takes her leave continuing further into the tunnel of distractions with a brisk walk.
The style of departure is still bizarre compared with her normal confidence. “Is she alright?”
As Roger turns to walk in the same direction, he responds with an indifferent, “She’s fine. Just showing the strength of the weaker sex,” ending with bemused chuckle at his own rudeness. As I follow him through an oddly familiar floor plan, I distract myself from the distractions by trying to decipher what was meant by the last statement.
He was probably just mentioning her (as well as other women’s) monthly trial of hormones and emotional instability. I expected Margie to have medicated herself to deal with that bit of biologic hindrance, but some people (especially in the CapDem society) still look at that as an unnatural adjustment. While I don’t disagree, I also see why women would want the opportunity to participate and thrive in a society optimized for men.
As we take a turn leading to a new area. From the reflection of the halls I know – we would be moving out of the Debt Department and into the Security’s domain on the workers’ wing. By contrast – on the obürg’s side, the space is technologically dark. The light is still the same, but the walls – previously adorned with new paint underneath instructions, plaques, and memorabilia – shift to the unimpressive and standard appearance seen everywhere else on campus. I stop for a moment trying to understand what just happened and take a few steps back. All the aesthetics and charm return for a moment until I walk forward again. Roger is no longer leading but waiting.
“You’re still using the overlay?” I nod still confused at what happened. “I always forget about that. In this area we have no wireless,” he points to the walls where I notice a small mesh of wires which I thought was just a more grey tinge of paint. “It’s a Faraday Cage. Even if the Consensus was able to hack our system, they can’t know what happens here.
I try to remember what a Faraday Cage is but there is no memory here. No ads. No illusion. It’s gritty and authentic. The sensory whiplash makes it hard to make a coherent thought, “How much is the overlay used to make…”
“How much do we use it to spruce up the place? A bit here and a bit there, most of it is in the West Wing though.” He waves his hands indicating all this. “but we have more to do. Come on.” He waved me forward, leading the way again.
I follow – trying not to think about the dual state of the world because of the existential crisis looming in the back of my mind. We turn into the first door on the left, which – like all other doors – has just a simple identifier on the left hand side: W324.
Inside, the other two that are involved in the planning of tomorrow’s activities are present: Dr. Grange and Phineas Musk – the head of the NC91 office. He looks similar to his appearance on the motivational messages in various places throughout the campus (were those real?). Although not as tall as Dr. Grange, he wears formal business attire. Even without the ads, the contrast between the cut and shine of Musk are superior to those of Grange, leaving Roger as the odd man out – still in his military attire. It takes a moment for me to identify his asymmetry, thinking at first he did not have any – after a second I realize he wears it organically: a misfold here, parted hair on one side, a scratch on his glasses or a few pens in his pocket. It’s impressive how comfortable and authentic it appears on him. Only something that you could expect from the head of the satellite office.
Also in the room was a series of monitors and cables waiting to the left side. About half of the electronic connectors are attached to a BioWear bracer that was very similar to my own, but can be noticed as an older version upon closer inspection. The other half are hanging free, waiting for a willing participant to sync up with. The scene causes a brief panic; a realization that this is all actually happening.
In a welcome contrast to most other introductions Musk forgoes any amount of judgment of mixed loyalties that I’m typically met with initially and gets right into business. “Tark Walden I presume? We can talk freely here about anything you want. There are no spying eyes.”
“I have to ask, sir: I gave a presentation today and I have some reports to submit concerning it. I think the findings will negate the need for -” He holds his hand up and looks back to Dr. Grange.
Dr. Grange speaks up from behind Musk, his tone indicates a degree of enforcement correcting what could be mistaken as a casual conversation: “We are scrapping the Social Algorithm, Tark. It was a solid attempt, but we have overextended our budget and any of today’s findings can’t actually be considered. We will pick them up from your office tomorrow before anyone else realizes you are gone.”
They don’t know! How could they write this off?! “But sir -”
Musk cuts me off again “Well that seems settled. You know why we are here now, correct?” His emphasis on the word “correct” let me know that any other subject is of no interest to him.
“Of course, sir”
“And you are still committed to helping us to put a stop to the scourge of our city?”
“I am,” I need to try one more time, “and that’s what I’m trying to tell -”
He didn’t need to tell me to stop, his intensity and irritation was palpable. The piercing stare from behind the rectangular frames left me in shame for even attempting to bring up a different topic again.
“There is a hidden wisdom that has been passed through those guiding our culture, something that we have to commit to for the sake of building a better world:
“We are the stewards of nature – and that includes everything that hinders human progress. All weeds must be removed, even those that we have grown attached to.
“Do you understand?”
I think about it for a moment, of course the Squatters are more animal than man. And like weeds they limit the resources of those that deserve to thrive. But this generalizes. I’ll have to consider the repercussions of this in full later, but for now: “Yes. I believe I do.”
His intensity is lifted to resume his previous nonchalance, “Good, and that’s why we need to attack the Consensus headquarters directly. We crippled them when we attacked NY004, now they are in disarray. They need to be dismantled fully before they can rebuild.”
“So are we taking responsibility for NY004 officially?”
“That’s up to The Board to decide. That will likely come after we have successfully kneecapped the Consensus to the point where they are socially impotent. We will use the same tactic here that worked there.” He patted the cuff he was now standing beside.
I looked at the group with a tense unease. I knew the euphemistic speech would have to be removed at some point, may as well get past that point quickly, “Is that the bomb?”