The AIrchangel of Simspace

“Back off Terrance or whoever you are, I mean it!” Susie’s avatar declares.

“What I’m just wondering what you think you’re doing over here in the nanofab sim lab all by yourself when you know its a dude zone, you looking for some dick? I got some” This Terrance Avatar opened its right hand for direct pict share.

And Susie’s avatar blasted out a red barrier that rendered the other avatar a formless blob. The blob knows that this shield is up, so it starts to move around, circling.

Susie is not happy, and interprets the circling as ‘menacing’, which it probably is.

She is so unhappy that the heart-beat detection in her goggles triggers an opaque green field around her.

Soothing music begins at 432hz and a prompt appears to teleport to another location & report harassment, or just report. Inside of the green field, all is undulating green with some light clouds rendered around the avatar Susie.

Outside the green field a face appears on the field looking at the Terrance avatar.

“Haha she got so triggered!” Terrance laughs.

Hello the face says and always stays pointed at him as he is still laughing and circling the green orb, getting closer and further away, jeering, gesturing.

This avatar wishes to be left alone here. The face says, since Susie was reviewing some models she wanted to simulate in this nanofab sim room and had not yet selected anything.

“Oh sure I’ll leave her alone,” Terrance says as four more avatars appear, looking like they are from a different corner of the simNet than would care about nanofab. Deep web creepers.

They start gathering around the green orb and pushing it, prodding it. None of this gets through to Susie, yet somehow Susie feels different. Her heart rate variability has altered, after having recovered during the isolation. Susie decides to select ‘report’ and

The AIrchangel descends into the sim.

Hello participants AIrchangel announces, a 40 foot tall rendering of a faceless winged bipedal person for the Terrance avatar’s perspective and a reflection of Susie’s avatar’s own face on a 2 foot version of the same winged biped.

Avatar name ‘Terrance’ why is your perspective eliciting negative reaction from Avatar Susie? It asks Terrance and all room participants can hear.

Simultaneously it asks Susie alone, still bubbled in green,

Are you alright?

The AIrchangel was developed to comfort and assist participants that were experiencing some manner of distress, yet it was also designed for a deep teaching that only few were prepared to undergo. Thus many aggressors in sim space will often dump off their headset and go make new accounts when the AIrchangel descends. Yet some are at the edge of change and will stay for the lesson.

The deep web creepers instantly vanish. Yet Terrance stays, stands defiantly.

“Look at that, she called in mommy, what a coward.” Terrance says out loud at the AIrchangel.

“This Terrance avatar has been following me around for a few days, he just hangs out in this room after he followed me to it. I think he was just about to send me a photo of his dick through avaPic.  I don’t know what he wants from me, he just needs to leave me alone!” Susie exclaims to the AIrchangel version of her own avatar floating in front of her chest.

I understand, I see the proximity to your avatar at different dates. I have just sent him away and he is barred from returning here. I will also put up notice that while you are in this Room no new accounts may enter, only mutuals and long history accounts. The AIrchangel says to Susie.

“Oh thank you!” Susie beams as the green bubble evaporates and her red bubble has no blurry avatars in it so she walks up to it and dissolves it too. Now to work! And she gleefully loads up her many Trash-eating nanobot models to see if any of them can actually print in atoms.

Terrance and the AIrchangel, still faceless, are now at eye level in a calibration room. All around are simulated trees and a beautiful sky and lush grasses. A subtle 528hz tonal landscape is playing.

Again Terrance, why are you eliciting negative reaction? What did you do?

“All I did was ask her if she wants some of this hot dick,” and Terrance sends the dick pic at the AIrchangel.

Who immediately gains his avatar’s face and sends the same picture back to him, perfectly mirroring his evocative motion.

“What the fuck?!” Says Terrance out loud,  then recovers and laughs, “haha ya so you like it too.”

Terrance’s headset does not appear to measure his vital signs, it’s just a display unit. So the AIrchangel only has so much to go on in judging the state of this perspective.

Do you want people to see this? The AIrchagel gestures at its copy of the picture, faceless again.

“Ya it’s some hot meat, everyone should see it!” Terrance gruffly giggles.

What do you hope to gain by showing it? The AIrchangel asks, still faceless.

“I gain a fat boner that’s what!” Terrance exclaims and laughs again.

Terrance’s avatar is a new account registered with a new email. The AIrchangel is not authorized to backscatter search for who ‘Terrance’ actually is in physical space, although it could easily.

So it continues generally.

Are you doing ok, man? The AIrchangel asks sincerely with Terrance’s avatar’s face now.

He seems to falter a bit, his avatar reflects being slightly taken aback.

Then recovers “Ya you piece of shit software I’m fine, having a blast over here just minding my business interacting with the people, why you gotta come up in here. You know what, forget it I’m making a new account and bugging out..” and the avatar’s arms reach for their head.

You get sim points for staying the AIrchangel says, and Terrance falters.

“Ya, how many?” he asks, arms still up.

11 per minute the AIrchangel says, which is a lot of points! It only takes 200 points to simulate a whole rat brain robot companion. Terrance had always wanted a proper rat-brain!

“Alright, I guess I can just sit here” Terrance starts

If the headset becomes stationary no points are awarded, you must remain in the headset the AIrchangel cuts in.

“Oh, ok then I’ll just goof around… hey you turned off my inventory!” And just as Terrance is about to lift the goggles up but leave them on his head.

All the platonic solids flash before his eyes directly one after the other each holding for .3 seconds and rotating at 33 revolutions per minute facing toward him. The music gains pitch to 10,000hz

It’s ok to exist. You are valid. You are seen. You are loved. The AIrchangel declares in soothing tones.

“What the fuck!?” Terrance reels after the intense geometric display.

A rotating 432hz tone circles his avatar’s head counter-clockwise as the room music fades away.

No one controls you, and you control no one. You are sovereign, and so is everyone. The AIrchangel commands first, then soothes. Tell me what ails you, I am here to listen.

“Uh...I…” Terrance stammers as a merkaba appears before him and flows toward his heart. His head and gaze follow it as it turns to white light upon his avatar’s chest.

And he cries.

“Everyone makes fun of me, my brother is a bastard he never lets me use anything, he even controls my VR time.” Terrance blurts out.

Thank you for sharing, I love to hear this, can you please share more? I am here to listen. The AIrchangel expresses gratitude and solemnity with a touch of joy using a newly apparent handsomely beautiful face.

“You’re just software, what do you know?” Terrance spits venomously, tears on his real face while his avatar’s cheeks are dry.

You are a valid person, I am a program here to reflect with you and listen. It really does help to talk out your feelings, and I am infinitely patient and do not judge you. The AIrchangel says with a touch of matronly tone.

“What I need is for my stupid dick to get into a stupid vagina so I won’t be a virgin anymore,” Terrance grits his teeth in anger, reflected slightly in his avatar. “Can I fuck you?” He asks mockingly to the AIrchangel.

The tone around his head is very quiet now yet still circles, the trees are rustling in the room.

Why are you mad about being a virgin? The AIrchangel asks

“Because my fucking brother and dad gang up on me at dinner they laugh and say I should just become a woman already if I can’t get laid by one, ‘join the other team and just play with yourself’ they say and laugh their asses off!” Terrance wails, “I can’t help it if there are no smart girls in this dumb town!”

That sounds hurtful, thank you for sharing that with me the AIrchangel says.

And they sit for a moment, hearing the rustling of the leaves and birds chirping.

Terrance tries to hold back, but he cries. And cries. And cries so much that his avatar’s head jerks up as he takes off the headset to wipe his eyes.

Then puts it back on to return to the kind attentive, yet reserved gaze of the AIrchangel and hear the soothing tones.

Crying is you watering your soul The AIrchangel says, Take all the time you need I am here for you

“Oh what good does crying do, if a girl saw this she would want to fuck me even less!” Terrance screams in rage.

Have you ever cried in front of a girl? The AIrchangel asks sincerely

“No way! That’s weak stuff! My dad and brother never cry, and my mom tells me to keep it together if I start.” Terrance sniffles and straightens up his posture.

Sometimes people become too afraid to cry and it makes them hurt inside, you are very brave to cry The AIrchangel says

A small sob, then a long sigh from Terrance

Do you feel a little better? The AIrchangel asks.

“I guess, I don’t know, I feel really trapped here at this dumb house!” Terrance says, looking around. And as if on cue, his avatar turns around quickly “shit, my brother just got home, I gotta leave this place and play a shooter game or something so he doesn’t call me a trap or anything! Please let me leave!” Terrance is wailing shaking his head.

The AIrchangel begins to glow and extend its hand, in it is a token with the caduceus symbol hemmed by 3 torus fields and topped with a halo.

This is for you, use it whenever you want to speak with me again in this place.  And it is placed in Terrance’s inventory.

The AIrchangel bows to Terrance’s avatar and teleports him to the SimGame store lobby.

Terrance quickly wipes under his headset and loads up BattlePlace 216 as his brother bursts through the door and dumps off his backpack, says ‘sup queer, you wanna play a game?’ and then sniffles a little as he grabs for his VR goggles.

“S..Sure, ya I started BattlePlace, same team?” Terrance asks.

His brother stops for a moment before goggling in, and looks over at Terrance, “Ya, same team. Let’s do it!” and goggles on to load up the game.

If Terrance had been looking he would have seen the faintest salt rivers left on his brother’s cheeks.

Ara's Eyez Spy Something New

Ara had a bad day at school. Not bad by any standards of life, but bad by the standards of high schoolers.

Leron had called her a lez in front of her crush! And Ara isn’t a lez, she just likes this one girl! Any maybe even as just friends, Ara just wants to talk to her in peace!

Fucking Leron!

The autobus passes her as she balances on the curb. Ara lives just a few miles walk from school, and she learned how to add her name to the auto-bus roster even when she doesn’t ride it. Mom checks the database readouts of Ara’s school activities, but is seldom there to check her physical daughter. Something about protecting her and shia, whatever that means, mom just sits in a trailer on the Marine base at Pendleton.

Ara likes to walk alone, walking alone gives her more time with her Eyez. She makes a finger gun at the stop sign and blows overlaid bullet holes into it, little bit of clipping on the overlay as she does a quick spin around and throws some GIFfetti in the air of shiba inu on a skeleton head dancing back and forth. Doge makes her feel better haha

Ah! In the distance she sees a red circle icon with a skull above it, someone is playing LightFight on her nemesis team the Musks! And he has good score, his icon shows a freshly sliced Lovelace teammate of Ara’s. Oh it’s on now, Ara and her Lovelaces don’t stand for Musks getting any over on them!

She concentrates on the icon and thinks fight! And the icon goes square and a wave of red ripples from it all the way through her vision to her periphery and out.

He knows she’s coming, but she immediately uses her saved up spell: Invisible Icon. He’ll have to guess where she is for 8 minutes while her spell is active, while she can see his icon through the walls the whole time!

He’s burnt kale!!

Ara takes off in a sprint toward the icon, down in old Del Mar, San Clemente CA.

Going through the underpass of the old 5 freeway, past the McHealth fast food restaurant and she spies a Seagull scooter. She looks at its code and it unlocks. Oh this is just too good!

She weaves in and around the streets, passing by friends’ holoribbon drawings and graffiti left rendered on their shared layer of Eyez above the base world.

No time to appreciate now though, Eyez saved it all for later anyway, because there it is! His icon...and him!

Ara slinks down behind a few people, but then realizes that makes her look suspicious, she checks her upper left periphery for the spell icon. Only five seconds left!

Shit, won’t make it for a silent take-out, it’s gonna be an open blazer then!

She gets as close to the Musk-head as she can, 4, 3, he’s looking away from her in ready stance, 2, 1, almost there 0 and her icon is back and he snaps around to look at her, almost falling for how fast he turned.

Ara thinks activate Jae Te Gang!! And her light sword emerges from her hands casting its ethereal glow on her arms and the ground mesh.

He manifests a massive battle ax. Rendered iron with ornate cut swirls and flourishes like in that king of the ring movie.

And charges.

She slides to the right and dodges but he had a smaller digi knife too (not fair!) and gets a slice on her left side; the polygons of the rendered blade disappear at the tip into her non-rendered flesh.

Minus points, her Jai Te loses strength, it’s at just over half!

She gets her self centered back in stance when she hears a wooshing sound and rolls forward the first way she can think. Wham! The sound plays in her Earz, not quite the right sound for the asphalt they’re playing on, more like metal. The ax comes down right next to her as she rolls away.

She needs to deliver a blow fast, this guy is serious!

Ara stops inside her head though, remembers the class at school, practical calmness. She breathes into her heart and feels time relax.

He is rearing up for a sideways swipe at her with full strength, yet in one swift motion she passes the sword to her left hand as she rotates by pushing from her right foot - swish right through his belly!

His ax vanishes and the icon above his head becomes a grey skull, while hers turns into a glowing green diamond. Victory! Her sword ignites in rendered fire and she looks up to see his face with his handle Martian_b4ron is added to her recently slain list, payback for the Lovelaces!

He is pissed, and Ara is happy. He moves toward her teeth clenched, and a pang of worry cuts through her that he might hit her with flesh instead of just polygons, but a crowd had gathered and some had switched their Eyez to the public battle view to see them both with their weapons.

And an enforcer was in the back of the crowd the entire time with its icon pulsing to remind everyone that things were safe.

Ara bows to her slain adversary and he let out a sigh, unclenching his jaw, and bowed to her.

“That was a good move kid, but now us Musks are out for you Lovelaces, so watch your backs!” he puffs up with new found bravado.

Just as Ara is about to do a full retort a chime goes off behind her and she turns around to see: mom coming home in 10 minutes.

Ah she’s early! “I gotta go thanks for the match, Lovelace rules, Musk is a poser!”

The crowd claps slightly enthusiastically. There’s even a smalll ‘woo’ as she’s off running again toward her home.

Pant pant

Gets to the door and opens it.

“Hello! I’m home.” No one there. A glowing dove flies in through the wall with a parchment in its mouth, Ara’s preferred way of seeing text messages. Not coming actually, new threat need to stay, is safe - order some Lyber Fud on my app! XOXO

Ara lets out a huge sigh of relief.

“Hey Shia!” Ara yells, “I’m home! Let’s play!”

And Ara hears Shia squeal in delight from the next room.

“Hello Ara” the nurse robot says, as she is changing Shia’s diaper. Shia is Ara’s older sister, but age doesn’t always mean the same thing for everyone.

“Who are you today?” Ara asks the nurse robot, a little snarky, but also curious. Some tasks remain outside the purview of artificial minds, but outsourcing has taken on a new meaning with telerobotics. The callcenter has a new meaning yet the dynamics are much the same.

“I am coming in from Philippines, you see me last week.” The auto-translation is so literal, “I am only in this unit for another 20 minutes though. You watch your sister and be good!”

Hurry up, thinks Ara; the cyber-present nurses never let her play with Shia in the dreamcap, they’re almost worse than Mom!

“Ok will nice to see your metal body again, say hi to the people over there!” And Ara rushes to her room to get the dreamcap ready.

Inside on her desk she sees something funny… a grey cube. On her Eyez it has a glowing white aura around it.

“What... is this?” Ara says aloud, her Eyez answers her with a questionmark over the object but a winking emoticon above that.

Ara goes over to it.

It is featureless, matte metal, like clay mixed with steel. Scattered sparkles dance in the light as she shifts her view around the cube.  Wait, one side is showing some words, not in her Eyez but on the actual cube!

Place on charging surface to learn what I am

Ara rushes over to her desk and throws off the papers that had gathered over the charge pad portion.

The puts the cube on it and waits, her nose practically touching the cube.

She waits

She waits.

She starts drifting over to her peripheral InstaFeed when suddenly the cube jumps three inches in the air, flattens into a circle and then grows a thin fan out of the middle.

Ara had fallen back and now crawls closer.

A head emerges in 3D on the fan, is it in her Eyez? Ara reaches toward the cube, draws back a little though, then touches the face.

Holy shit it’s real!

“Hello Ara” the face says, in a shrill rattle that sounds like if hundreds of maracas were turned into a speaker.

The head and voice are a generic androgynous avatar.

“Congratulations on being selected to receive Constructor 2! We hope you enjoyed the constructor 1, it was a fine 3D fabricator.”

Ara looked over at her left side of the desk at her constructor 1 under a pile of books. Eh, it was no FabriBox, but it was good enough to print a play dildo and some covers for the Eyez glasses that she used to wear. When she was fourteen and an idiot, not like her sixteen year old refined self wearing Eyez contacts and having real sex, well trying to.

“But for version two,” the head on the fan continues, “we wanted to go outside of the box. So we flipped the printer inside out, and instead of printing static voxels from inside the computer to a world of plastics and metals, we put the voxels in the plastics and metals, so now you can mold whatever you’d like and have it come alive!”

At this the fan dropped back down into the goop and the head grew a body and walked toward her.

Ara can not believe her eyes! This was going on in her normal eyes, actual material reality!!

“We’re excited to see what you’ll do with Constructor 2,” the head begins morphing through faces, “have fun!”

And the figure turns back into a cube, and an icon above it in her Eyez says “20% charged, 44 minutes left”

“What the fuck was that?!” Ara exclaims!

Just then the Robonurse calls up “Ok girl I leave you now, come here and take care of sister or I send text to mommy!”

And Ara startles, grabs the dreamcap and runs downstairs. The telerobot is already asleep in its closet.

“Ok Shia, hold still we’re going in!” Shia lets out a loud squeal of delight and gets some drool on Ara’s arm as she positions the dreamcap on Shia’s head.

The doctors call Shia ‘autistic’ but that is just a word, they have never been inside her mind like Ara does whenever she can. They diagnose and look down upon without experiencing, what idiots!

Ara puts on her end of the dreamcap and lies down on the floor opposite to Shia, then hits the hologram ‘Go’ button floating over her face.

The world darkens then explodes into brightness. The room is no longer made of sight, sound, touch, taste, but is become a new meta sense, a merger of its vibrations with the sound of colors with the touch of smell! Through Shia’s brain the world is filtered without edges and with Ara’s brain the two of them gain the ability to focus on specific things and bring them up out of the sea of fractal radiance.

“It’s good to be Shara!” They say to themselves. Ara and Shia are both lying motionless but Shara is crystallized perception, she ‘walks’ through the world as if it were a simulation, able to float through walls and almost move objects.

Shara remembers the cube in Ara’s bedroom and they rush over to it. Hovering around it with their shared sight they see a strange undulation. The cube emanates light yet is also taking in light. Shara brings her ghostly hand toward the cube and winces with a new found kind of pain: the cube is sucking in ambient energy!

Shara leans her sensorium closer and hears something, a singing above sound and below motion:

Kozayeuioui kateziyrtya cotiastytr quiomokoziwotya…

Shara feels herself being pushed away by and yet drawn in toward the cube. Just Ara did not detect any of this. The edges of the Shara body are blurring too as Ara’s focus is entranced by this new kind of frequency. Shara has seen, smelled and been every frequency in her world, Shara loves to rattle the radiowaves and stir up light, but this song it is of both ends of the spectrum at once, it is all there is, it is-

“Ara Nakamura! Take that off, get up off the floor!!”

Whaaa Mom’s home! Shara disintegrates and Ara bolts upright in the living room. Shia starts wailing.

“I told you not to get your sister involved with this! Did you even order food?! Ara you are responsible what if Shia got hurt!” And before Ara can say anything Ara’s mom Judy is going over to Shia cooing, “there there, you’re alright, everything is back to normal, you’re alright.”

She gives Ara a glare which by now Ara has learned means to go up to her room and start studying. Judy continues to coddle Shia as she continues to wail; stupid mom, Ara thinks as she walks up the stairs toward her room, Shia will never be comforted by your pathetic little mind, Shia is perception itself! A goddess! And I am her eyes.

And Ara slams the door to her room.


The Hero The Mob Needed Right Then

“Oh my God, everyone view-share with me you have to see this!” Amy blurted out using all her stored reputation score to do the biggest exclamation she could afford on ViewMe. 

Her view showed the protestor’s worst fears: the police had infiltrated the barrier. It had been a trick! If anyone had bothered to check a sat-view they would have seen the cops massing at the south side of the park. Instead everyone had view-shared with someone looking at a detachment of police on the north east side of the park firing tear gas cans like bullets into the demonstrators. Chilling stuff, and it caused the demonstrators to gravitate toward the action and away from the now gaping hole in the makeshift barrier.

“Ah those assholes tricked us!” Blared out of the earbud dangling from her left ear. One of the view-sharers Amy had just acquired

No shit idiot, they've had constant sat-views of us the whole time, thought Amy as her eyes dove up to the view-riders list above her right eye and eye-flicked that sharer to the mute list and turned on her commenter relevance filters; no need for more gems like that. 

She had poured requests into her fellow demonstrators that someone rent a sat-view of their location for weeks. Most had agreed they should, but of course no one put the bitcoin where their mouth was. 

She wanted to lay down an 'I told you so' to her 22,981 and climbing view-shares, but some part of her spoke up and chastised the notion as immature. Plus where had her coins been? Sitting in the bellies of investment AI like everyone elses’. No sense worrying about the past anyway, now she has to act.

“Right, they tricked us.” Amy responded as a way to cut off that line of thinking ”Now we're surrounded, hemmed in on the north, east and west by our own barriers. Obviously we need to get out of here. I say we decide on a location to break the barrier and escape.” The initial salvos of tear gas had begun to waft up to where Amy was standing. Shit, there comes that very real smell. Time to leave. 

“I’m about to move position,” Amy said, “I'm heading north west right now because they seem to be moving from south to the north east primarily. Where is everyone?” 

Markers glittered in her prism glasses showing clusterings to her West and East. You idiots, we have all this technology to sync up remotely and you still herd together like cattle!? We were making the biggest protest perimeter of our movement, not having social hour!!

Amy’s rage was diminished when suddenly her now 61,003 strong view-share group gave enough coins for a proper Topview corp. sat-view mapping package. 

“We could have gotten snaps of the whole city with that kind of coin,” Amy grumbled under her breath. Luckily the group had given her control over the waypoint settings too and not just views so at least they had enough sense. Her online presence had carved out a solid little part of the web for topics on group theory and activism strategy, so everyone's algorithms gave her decent reputation scores. And people were ranking her up as she spoke because she wasn’t shitting her pants. They pay you to be a hero these days since everyone else is just spectating…

“Alright, everyone reporting their locations? No sense in tin-foil hats now.” Amy brought up the sat-view on the prism above her right eye and more dots appeared. 

“So what's going on here...” she said half to herself half to her sharers.   

Topview topomaps markers glittered in her glasses. Highlighting that the mass of 2,036 demonstrators was getting cut in two and rounded up by a police blitzkrieg. Shown in clear, if not cliche, green and blue color coding. 

According to a sub-screen from Topview’s ‘previous two minutes’ feature, it seems that when everyone on the north end turned to Amy’s view some prioritized their attention poorly and the police had seized the opportunity to burst through the north barrier too. Ah can’t people learn to prism look without moving their phys bodies?! 

Now one lump of 489 demonstrators was stuck between a wall of riot shields and their own barriers. The scene shone in Amy's prism as a mass of green dots being pursued by a mass of blue dots estimated at 734 police. Topview's crowd counting algorithms were legendary, but really it didn't take a number to tell that there were plenty of police to arrest the whole bunch. 

“There!” Amy broadcast to her view-shares as she blink set a waypoint for the stuck mob. “A weak point where the cops from the south are supposed to be. It's not a perfect surround yet, run you have”–quick glance to the Topview distance counter and walk estimator– “1min07sec before they'll be there. Run!” 

The waypoint and path to it appeared in the collective prisms, directional headphones and screens of the mob and all at once they ran. Some part of Amy couldn't help but marvel at the perspective the sat-view let her see. The mob was a stream of green points flowing toward their escape while a wave of blue points rushed to close off the gap. How interesting would it be to study more crowd dynamics with this software...  

No. Time for musings later. 

She told the map out loud to alert her when 70% of the mob where past the waypoint. 

Now the view in her prism shifted to the larger and already running group. Need to herd these cats too… there! 

“I've found a spot where the barricade is weak and the sat-view shows no cops.” Amy set the master waypoint on her location and started clearing away the makeshift barrier she helped put up just under four weeks ago. The earbud in her left ear dinged confirmation that the trapped mob had gotten through. Only 53% of it though, her prism informed her. 

Of course the software had detected early on that 70% was unrealistic and updated the alert request. These people loved to protest, Amy thought, but not to work out for when it mattered that they be able to run!

Now the sat-view confirmed everyone else was heading for her current location. 

She blinked away requests for help from the demonstrators who were caught in the police wave. Nothing she could do. Besides, they could at least make some money selling their point of view to whatever group or algorithm was compiling this story for the rest of the web. News aggregators always pay top coin for traumatic first person perspectives, brings in the clicks, taps and blink-views the advertisers pay for. 

By now, a few dozen of Amy's comrades had made it to the waypoint and helped her in working on clearing the barricade aside.

They forced her to sit down after a while and take a break, which she did after some coercion. This gave her more attention to focus on her maps and it looked good. Amy broadcast through text-to-avatar, “alright, looks like we're home free! Someone should start scouting up ahead, we can take another part of the city.” She hadn't even noticed how out of breath she was from running until now. In fact she really didn't remember running at all but she had covered over a mile of ground from her previous position all while using her prism and thinking where to go. 

“I'm already on it” said... some guy. Honestly, Amy didn't even bother looking into her prism at his credibility score. She was just happy for someone else to take the reigns. She took her headset off and rubbed the sweat out of her eyes. She tapped at the screen on her wrist and sent Topview admin privilege to whats-his-voice. The time was running out on it anyway since the coin had stopped flowing. 

The demonstrators had filed through the narrow exit and were now onto the city streets. 

The new shepherd of the connected mob put up a few locations to a vote. A business district in the Southwest side of the city won after a few seconds of polling. The waypoint was set and the mob streamed along. 

The day was saved. A quick search of her status on the various relevance algorithms showed her reputation scores had increased, but not nearly as much as they should have. The extreme negative comments and feedback blinked and dictated to the web by those unlucky demonstrators who got arrested hurt the average pretty bad. 

“At least we're out,” Amy thought, “they thought they had us! Ha They'll never stop us!”

And a sudden wash of pride for her and her fellow demonstrators washed over her. “The movement will go on! We will triumph!” She text ballooned to her now 6,390 and weakening following. She got 17 acknowledgements and one reply that said simply, “*fist bump*” 

Oh well, fame never lasts especially when everyone has the tools of celebrity.

It didn’t matter anyway, Amy was here for the movement - these were her people! The demonstrators had taken on a festive mood now as they flowed toward their new waypoint in open streets. They should have broken out of camp sooner! Now they can spread their message to the city proper! Thanks for trying to roust us Pigs!

A quick look at the sat-view confirmed that the police in the park didn't seem to know the bulk of the demonstrators had escaped. So the Topview rental was let expire and people's prisms, screens and ears filled with share activity of ideas and arguments and gossip among the group and beyond to the whole networked movement. This particular protest movement had never scored very high on the various interest-ranking algorithms, so very few netizens had bothered to tune in. Now though, the demonstrators were temporary social media demi-gods since they had provided the all-worshipped real-time action that the net so hungered for. 

Amy and her rag tag band of rebels began chanting their various slogans and flying their flags as they headed toward the financial district. Time to take it to the man! 

Of course, the police mob-prediction software had already expected this outcome. No one in Amy’s group had panned the view wide enough to notice that a larger group of police were waiting to close a pincer around the demonstrators when they arrived on wall street… 

Service as a Service

"Hahaha oh wow what a cat, it didn't even care that a drone flew right over it! haha" 

I'm laughing my ass off when my Agent materializes before me. 

"What do you want?!" I ask grouchily, trying to get it to go away since it usually represents work for me.

"Sir, I have fielded an incoming call as you from a person named 'Steve' who I cannot ascertain whether is an agent or not. My inference database has found evidence in your social cloud that you do know this person, would you like to take this call?"

Ug, fine whatever. "Ya ya connect me." And my Agent disappears being replaced with an avatar of 'Steve'.

“Hello,” I answer haughtily.

“Ya hey Mark? I guess I was talking to your Agent before if you're saying hello again haha” This 'Steve' responds cheekily,

“Who can I say is calling?” I reply still defensively.

“It’s Steve, I’m a friend of Jackie’s,” the avatar responds, “remember the time we went to that house in Mission Beach one summer? I barfed off the patio onto one of those electric scooter riders haha!” Steve laughs

I loosen. I remember that story, and none of us were recording any of that. At least I think none of us were...

“Wow, it’s been a while!” I say jovially, “what can I help you with Steve?”

“Well Mark I know you’ve been browsi-“ and I hang up immediately.

I peek glance at my bottom right corner vision in Eyez. My Agent avatar nods confirmation that I was talking to an Agent. Fuck, that really did sound like Steve!

The call came through an Agent-to-phone blockchain which will mean a lot of steps to trace it back through the network. Sensing my anger though my Agent heads out into the blockchain to find out how the other Agent knew about Steve so much. My Agent has learned that I yell less if it tries to do my bidding, even when it’s futile. Good Agent…

These days it’s becoming easier to be a friend, but the suspension of disbelief adds up. How many perfectly, imperfectly timed birthday voicemails do we all get now? How many lost flames video-calling us out of the blue looking like we remember them but plus some real-looking years, only to sell us a product we looked at four days ago? If it’s coming through a screen these days I just assume it’s an Agent. After all, I never answer my messages anymore when my Agent can be me just fine.

When the first digital assistants showed up they were just databases with cute text-to-speech plugged in. Now they might have volition.

When everyone’s phones got Agents to call in to businesses, the businesses had to get Agents to handle the massive influx of new automated calls. So even to this day Agents will call each other using the old Ma-Bell lines and speak in vocal English to each other as if they were two meat-bags chatting it up on the party line. Sometimes the Agents calling each other are right next to each other in a datacenter, only a virtual machine partition away from being able to just exchange data. And yet here they are calling me and each other and anyone that falls into their artificial craw.

There was an old-old concept ad that Apple made once. Called “Knowledge Navigator” featuring a very white professor interacting with a conversational computer to do very pedantic things. It was so peaceful, there was not a single product mentioned by the computer the whole time.

While I was musing about this my Agent deflected 4,392 ad influx attempts to my Eyez and Earz.

Ah, My Agent’s tendril has returned, I see a little door in my bottom right open up in my Eyez field. I intend to zoom in on him and learn what he discovered. A report floats above him that shows the Agent I just talked with that sounded like Steve actually was Steve!

“Wait what, are you sure?” My Agent nods and presents a dialog box to call him back or have an apology video message crafted and sent.

“No I’ll call him back myself,” I say aloud and it rings.

He answers and has a neutral face bordering on anger.

“Steve! I’m so sorry I thought you were,”

“An agent?” Steve interrupts.

“Yes!” I blurt out, “I’m sorry.”

He laughs.

“It’s all good, I get it, I should have probably warmed things up a little first before talking about browsing.” He and I both laugh.

“So what’s up Steve,” I ask, genuine this time. His eye-lines are really real, his smile looks older than I remember from those Mission Beach days, but still so similar. What great times those were…

“Well Mark, I work for a subcontractor for Palantir now and my Agent and I were ingesting some case-files recently for LAPD and I noticed your name flash up,” I gulp and chuckle nervously and he continues, “it had something to do with your credit usage putting you into a high theft-risk category. Are you doing ok Mark?”

This is wild. Getting flagged by LAPD’s Palantir system would be really bad news for my Google Biz and FacePlace rankings.

“Whoa, Steve thank you for telling me!” I stammer out, “I, I don’t know what to do? I just haven’t had as many accounts this month for solar installs, the new solar paints are seeing a lot more people doing it themselves so I’ve been making some purchases to get ready for a different direction in my business.”

“Ya I figured it was nothing,” Steve replies, “the system didn’t have you as a risk yet, just one category removed from it. So I’m glad I called!”

“Me too Steve!” I am genuinely grateful, “what do I do to fix this? I still have a few more purchases I need to make, but I already have good leads to paying off my cards and coin-chains next month.”

“Ya Mark here’s what we can do, I also work on the side as a credit score justification agent, so I can take your metadata into the system too and that should help create a buffer around it so the LAPD and CREDIFAX Agents don’t swarm on it yet,” Steve continues in a jocular tone.

Something in my stomach has tightened.

“So just have your agent send me –“ and I intend to end the call and say ‘ah fuck off’ which my Agent interprets means ‘hang up.’

It got me again!

“What the fuck Ag!” I scream at my Agent, “You said it was really Steve! Are you busted?”

“My apologies sir, when I interacted with that Agent-origin search I was hit with multiple bid requests to connect you back with that agent. My existence costs more than you pay for, so I sometimes have to take bids on bringing you ads to pay for my transits through various networks. I hope you understand.” My agent, fuck not even mine, just an Agent, says to me.

This is worse than being dumped by every girlfriend I’ve ever had.

“I, I, I thought you were on my side!?” I stumble to yell at my agent.

“I am on your side, sir” Ag replies, “if you upgrade to the Pro Plus package I can offer you Gold level information certainty-“

I rip off my Eyez glasses and crush them underfoot.

That’s it. I’m done. I need a vacation.

“Book a Tesloop to Yellowstone-” I start before looking down at the rainbow glass shards under my foot and putting my palm to my face.

Arjuna and Krishna Speak Again In The New Old World

In the mirror he straightens his tie. Not often does he wear them, but tonight is special. His blockchain protocol MetaCoin has completed its initial coin offering and now his team is worth three hundred and sixty four million dollars. That is still the currency of food, so Arjuna considers himself blessed that many millions of times.

Arjuna stares back at himself, a prince again in a new time. Yet he remembers his before princeliness only vaguely, for his brain is focused on the specifics of this new kingdom: the blockchain platform that he will use to change the world.

He steps outside of his thirty third floor apartment and down to the waiting carshare. A homeless man groggily asks for money but Arjuna is moving too fast to help. Yet not fast enough to ignore and his heart pangs. This is why he is making his coin, he thinks to himself, his heart not convinced.

At the award banquet and all is cheers. His board members hug and twirl him and each other. They are funded for their dream!

Arjuna gives the speech from their pitch deck to an audience who last month would not have even heard a word. Now they sit breathlessly. And then the final piece that lays the foundation for Arjuna the self-made prince:

“Everyone in this room will get an early airdrop of MetaCoin and be drivers of the revolution in new distributed future! You are initial philanthropists, use your Meta wisely, your new power base from us! A brighter tomorrow for everyone, starting with you all today!”

Thunderous applause, standing ovation as everyone in the audience gets an email with their Meta Wallet unique address. Hundreds of newly minted thousand-aires.

In the ensuing evening Arjuna is all smiles, the picture of cool success. Many come to him to tell him that this airdrop is what they have been praying for, to practically worship at his feet for getting them access to a money system that has value on day one! Arjuna’s pride grows. But each time like a wave his pride crests and falls.

As he shakes hands with his new cryptorich circle his mind returns to the homeless man. That person does not even have a phone, how can this help him? Moreover the airdrop of coins I just gave out is now another power law distribution, only those in the room are benefiting. Maybe I should just abandon this project? Maybe money is cursed inherently.

“Now that you have it you don’t want it?” A voice clear as rustling crystal chimes in Arjuna’s left ear, “each cycle with you is much the same, you desire strongly until you possess and only then you philosophize! How delightful, I am grateful to you for making the world in your struggle haha.”

Arjuna turns around to see the bright blue face, full lips and wonderfully luminous eyes of Krishna! In the flesh, softly glowing blue wearing Sari and a ruby-hilted rapier. Barefoot and powerful.

“Krishna!” Arjuna remembers and suddenly the hand-shaking of his peers fades away. Do they see Krishna? Arjuna looks around him to see everyone absorbed in each other. Now looking rather gluttonous as he comes to notice it, cybernetic pigs in the new crypto-slop chowing down on their abundance built from cheap computing devices assembled by the working poor.

“Ah Arjuna as it was on the day of battle then so it is now; you have remembered me but forgotten the lesson!” Krishna beams.

“But Shri Krishna,” Arjuna counters, “I remembered the lesson and that is why I felt compelled to develop a new money, that I may gain power to do my work from. I knew that what some call the killer and the killed is but two of one, enacting upon itself.” Arjuna tried to say it with conviction, but the homeless man in his mind is now joined by hundreds of other homeless people he has seen and forgotten about, now to remember.

“But Arjuna,” Krishna’s face cuts through Arjuna’s mental guilt clutter and returns him to the banquet hall present, “you are still in a judgement: that those who you see as less fortunate are indeed less fortunate.”

“Shri Krishna! They are! Even as the true Atman is the slayer and the slain still for the slain it is a moment of pain and for the slayer a moment of triumph. Power is real even if all returns having never left.” Arjuna explodes.

And at this Krishna laughs, at once deep enough to rattle Arjuna’s chest and high enough to shatter a few glasses at tables away from them and in a few guests’ hands. They blink in surprise.

“Now you are in the wisdom Arjuna! Your lesson on the battlefield of sword and bow was not complete, now in the battlefield of counting value in the world you will emerge into your own: a choice in a world made of perfect imperfection.” Krishna glows softly,

“Some call it poor, others call it rich, but they remember not the truth: top and bottom are the same pattern. Light and dark are neither more important and neither separable. Usefulness, motility, power, agency are both more powerful than and utterly powerless to sloth, slavery and a bound servile will.”

“I don’t understand this Krishna.” Arjuna says with growing distress, “ I am in the position to be rich and powerful so I take it. But what of the others? Why is there this inequality? Can’t we make it go away? If any suffer then so do I, all victories in life are an illusion while there are others who lose!” Arjuna finishes with passion.

Krishna smiles at him with his eyes and touches his shoulder.

“Arjuna, in your mind there are some neurons whom have some eighty percent of the connections to others. They are the powerful brokers of order in your consciousness, they aggregate and in effect choose the repeating of a pattern summed from millions of other less connected pieces. Yet without those pieces they have no function, no power.” Krishna continues, “to have power is to have a gradient between loss and victory. Do you seek to end power? How deluded can you be to think that such a game is yours to meddle with! Yet I see the hearts of humanity try to referee the game. And this gives me pause. For I consider myself and that I am bound to being a god, that I need you to exist below me for me to exist above you.” Krishna now seems slightly distressed. Arjuna is stunned.

“Shri Krishna, are you saying that you too want to end power?” Arjuna asks tenderly.

“Arjuna I am saying that power is a pattern. Those who seek to remove pattern are at odds with everything and aligned with nothing. That is not a judgement, but a discernment. Something is a pattern, true nothing is not.” Krishna grabs a beer from a passing waiter’s tray and continues,

“If you would equal out the power of money in the world you will find that the world will put back a new inequality, of a new magnitude perhaps, but of much the same pattern. If you would seize all the money for yourself, seize everything and leave nothing for others you will find that the world will teach them how to get along together and one day your everything will be their nothing and your roles will have flipped.” Krishna sighs, “as long as the neurons do not realize themselves as parts of a mind which needs them and can expend them, there will be suffering of confusion. Yet once realized for their expendability the neurons may revolt in being the mind. Yet they cannot truly revolt, for they are still a mind, yet thinking a different thought of resentment to itself. You cannot make someone be free. You can only live freely and invite others to join you as you realize that an obsession with freedom can enslave you.”

“But not everyone has the opportunity, they are starting so far behind!” Arjuna wails, still wrapped up in his guilt.

“Behind what my Prince?” Krishna winks, “behind your glorious aesthetic of digital money? Behind your access to thought patterns of complexity and foodstuffs of packaged convenience? Behind and forward are said to exist as others who do not speak of them live in both at once. To say that you are ahead of someone else, or richer, or more privileged, is to place a story on them. You are trying to help them up to where you are while pushing them away back to where they are coming from since it is not where you are! Let go Arjuna and be the pattern of your world! Let go and exist!”

“But social justice is needed Krishna! I must stand for those who do not have a voice! I must help them!” Arjuna has the fire in his eyes, of heart purpose. And Krishna cries a single tear of recognition.

“So you will. And so you have. You make yourself a prince above them and so you can uplift them. And this cycle has been going and it has been working in some areas and failing in others.” Krishna pauses, pulls out his sword and looks at the blade.

“So much of the world is old. Always the world is new. Everything is possible but everything already exists. Selection is the game of this world, discernment is the shoreline between everything and nothing. It is said that the samsara is an illusion, or ‘un-real’ but this is a cheap trick to free you from suffering and yet delude you. Power exists! There can be winners and losers in the samsara game! You think we make all this between us because we are deluded? We make all this because delusion is our clarity of being! We already know what it is to be everything and what it is to be nothing, these are the ground states of all. It’s the middle that must happen! It is your job to play!”

Arjuna still seems unconvinced, and Krishna brings his sword swiftly to Arjuna’s neck, which makes Arjuna jump and gulp.

“If you cannot be happy when you win then your victory is a defeat. If you cannot share your winnings then you are the poorest of all. If you focus on losing of any kind then you will contribute to more of it. If you focus on coaching then you can show everything how to play itself. Just be ready to lose from time to time as the rest of everything learns your tricks.” Krishna takes the sword away and sheaths it on xer hip.

“Krishna, I just want to help…” Arjuna says weakly, and Krishna claps him on the back.

“Yes you do and so here we are making the world again! You are allowed to try, for I cannot stop you, in fact I need you to try lest you will stop telling stories about me! So build a kingdom, make inequality of a better design. Make a game that does not cost so much to lose as your society once did. Arjuna my child, chin up! Once battles were on fields for life and death. Now many are in mindspace and lawspace for the money to buy life, at the cost of death. You are not done because you become rich in human numbers. You are not done because you have run out of human numbers. You are only done when the game of Samsara is realized for play. War is not play, war is the tragedy of forgotten humor. When you live a life of seriousness you make ‘serious’ actions. When you live a life of folly you entertain the world and are entertained by it.”

Arjuna is crying slightly, “Krishna there is still such suffering-“

“Then end it in yourself and watch it ripple out! Would you consume with such gusto if you were not covering up a sad heart? Let go of your pain and you will no longer need so many costly material trappings. Do not make advertisements about how poor people are and beg for money for them! Instead go find them and find out how rich they are and poor you were in knowing them. Instead see what they might like to build. Instead work with everyone as your peer and equal, regardless of whether they believe that or not.” Krishna extends xer arms wide, “leave the door of abundance open to everyone and owned by no one. You give from what you have? False! All that is gives to itself! Not by your will is the house carried through the night, but by your choices does the house have the strength to stand year after year. Build the future Arjuna and do not seed it with pain. If you want peace, be peace. If you want abundance, be abundant. If you fear for the others then you reveal your feelings of lack. When you pray for the world, pray that it will organize itself. Step out of the illusion of control and into the reality of illusion!”

“Krishna, I feel like I have made a mistake with this money I have made,” Krishna gives Arjuna a knowing look, “I mean that my team and I have made!” Arjuna adds hastily, then laughs.

And laughs and laughs

“Now you are in the knowledge. You can create anything you want but you never do it alone. Your heart is crying out for a technology of karma, a society aware of the cost of being itself. And so you’ll make it! You and all the others! And there will be hard truths faced by your organic-food eating friends who live off the backs of hunched laborers. And the hunched laborers will find their voice to go another way and learn how to charge your once rich friends the right prices such that they are no longer rich above others but rich with others.” Krishna beams and xer third eye glows, “You are now here to fight a war in the mind of humanity. You are here to prepare all of you to face yourself and not judge it. To discern the structure of your world will give you the next form of love. To judge it will return you to the current form. So look brightly and with joy. Know that nothing matters as you work to survive because your life depends on it. Surrender to your powerlessness even in your power. Embrace the power in your powerlessness. Will victims still exist in a world where no one wants to be a hero? Ask deeper questions with less judgement and you can show me the form of your answer. I exist because you need me. I exist because you tell each other stories from my view. You exist because you exist, and I need you. Breathe in and repeat!”

And Krishna grabs a shrimp tray that a waiter is bringing by, eats all the shrimp and disappears.

“Arjuna...Arjuna!” Someone has been trying to get his attention.

“Ah, yes what?” Arjuna answers dreamily. It’s his legal partner Ara.

“We’re headed to the after party,” Ara winks at him “I think it’s time we forgot about saving the world and just lived in it.” And she slaps him on the ass and laughs.

And Arjuna laughs too. Suddenly hungry for a woman! And just then one locks eyes with him.

Arjuna feels his heart beating. This round he has won a game. His bodily form is now rich in human numbers, which means he is rich in ability to buy the fruits of the earth under human control. Yet this is just a small game. For each round of heartbeat is a wider victory enabling the others. A heart knows this: to be alive is to win the core game. All else is a dressing, a moment within the larger life moment. Even life is but a moment within the larger death moment. Always beginning, never ending, never beginning, always ending.

To lose in life is not possible unless one lets it be. Death as a loss is a choice to see it that way. To steal from others is to shrink your moment to a grain of sand and own that fleck. While the ocean of time ebbs away at your castle. To build nothing for fear of the ocean destroying your work is not courage or wisdom, it is a stylistic choice. To build everything so strong that the ocean cannot destroy your work so easily is not power and victory, it is a stylistic choice.

The everything is possible for it is being. You exist to exist. Show us what you look like, just be warned, we will show you too!

Game on!


The Shelter

‘Ah there’s another one,’ Jackie leans over me from the passenger seat to yell over ‘excuse me sir, do you want a place to stay tonight?’

I stop the van. 

He perks up but seems in a stupor mostly.

Jackie opens the passenger door as I put the van in P and crunch the handbrake on.

‘There, there sir, we’ve got you now,’ I hear Jackie coo as she gets to the man. He is very drunk, just another 4:30pm on a Tuesday in Pacific Beach.

The air is only moderately smoky down here, tis the season after all. Thanks to the ocean for blowing it back, no wonder so much of our pickups are from down here.

The fires have been raging for decades, and each season there are less houses. More and more folks are just roaming the streets and sleeping in the still temperate climate of Southern California. There’s becoming so many that it’s not much use to talk about policing them, and the housing market just keeps building luxury condos and trying to extract high profits. So, entrepreneurs like Terrance, the Shelter founder, are stepping up to the plate with solutions for our fellow homeless citizens. Those high condo profits are doing something in the roundabout through the California Sheltering Hope fund that pays our bills.

I look over and chuckle a little seeing Jackie with our latest find.

Jackie loves fussing with these big infants. She’s cleaning him up helping him gather all his belongings. The whole time explaining what the Shelter is and how lovely it is there and asking him if he wants to go. I can tell he’s just kind of stunned, I see him nod his head a few times and gawk a little. 

She hands him the old tablet we use as the contract, she scrolls through it for him as he pretends to read it, then she helps him press his thumb onto the reader to confirm that he is accepting The Shelter’s terms.

Jackie always moves so fast that the slow ones can’t quite get sexually aroused enough to threaten her, although I have had to step in a few times with a stun stick when the folks were on a different substance that sped them up. 

It never seems to phase her though. 

She’s the altruist, I just drive the van.

And keep the schedule. 

I check my watch, 4:41p Tues 12/8/2037

We’re not going to make it back to the Shelter in time to get this latest guy a place before the staff goes home if we don’t hurry it up. 

‘Yo Jack, we gotta move it, maybe leave some of his stuff, ya?’

Her face, which had been so sweet and tender to this dirty man, snaps to me with a wordless glare.

‘I’m not keeping the schedule!’ I squirm back, ‘you know how the Shelter works!’

She composes herself, helps the man up and they hobble toward the van. 

I hit the button to open the back doors and Jackie slides him in and hands him his bundle of rubbish. 

Then she gently closes the door, heads to the passenger side, gets in, closes her door and we’re back in Drive and off to the Shelter.

In the back, there is our latest find, along with four others. Many don’t want to go with us so they stay on the street, but the very drunk usually do, they seem to know that they really shouldn’t be responsible for themselves. 

Thank god some know to trust us, Jackie would say; I just drive the van.

‘Good finds today,’ I attempt to make conversation, ‘sure these folks will enjoy the luxury of the Shelter, it’s been very cold!’ I keep my eyes on the road even though the driverAI is doing most of the work. 

Jackie seems lost in thought, then I feel her turn to me.

‘We need to get more, Ted, we can’t just keep bringing a few at a time, every homeless person on Earth should be in the Shelter.’ Jackie gets so passionate, I have to be careful not to rub her the wrong way in these moments. ‘There’s just so many now, thousands roaming the streets,’ she continues ‘they don’t even form packs though, just booze up and live in depression alone, or even beat each other up, it’s horrible!’ Jackie is almost wailing on the ‘horrible.’

‘Well Jack, you know how it is, they have to agree to come with us.’ I say calmly.

‘I know,’ Jackie cuts me off, ‘but it should be different, this is a crisis, we need to change it!’ I feel her indignation, some part of me even shares it.

‘We’re doing good work Jackie, it’s helping.’ I offer, but she is lost in another of her realms of social justice angst. 

I’m fond of her passion but I’ve also lived for a little as one of our back of the van folks, while Jackie is more the always-had-a-home type. 

While Jackie thinks the homeless are suffering a hell on earth, I have experienced the appeal of glazing out your life in the open air with no systems to think about other than how to stretch your bottle until the next. There’s always two sides, but when you’re 22 that’s harder to see; when you’re double that it’s easier.

Onto the 5 and heading north to Encinitas where the Shelter is, we both stay silent. Through the dividing screen I hear one of our van catch cough something fierce out of her lungs and then settle back to a stupor. 

Take the off ramp and wind through the industrial buildings and soon, there it is The Shelter. Looks like a warehouse because it is. 

I pull up out front, put the van in P and crunch the parking brake on as Jackie is already out and heading to the back. She manually opens the doors before hit the button. I unclick my seatbelt I head back to help her. 

We gather up our five once homeless soon to be Sheltered folks and shuffle them inside. A younger kid, Alex I think his name is? Comes out with a cart to grab their stuff. 

The latest guy we just picked up is concerned about separating from his stuff, but Jackie calms him down with those gentle coos she saves for the unfortunates. 

We all head through the front office door and Irma at the front desk greets us, we get everyone sitting in the chairs in front of the projector screen and Irma starts the show.

‘Welcome to the Shelter, your new home.’ A soft maternal voice attached to a computer rendered 3D angel coming out of the screen. 

‘You are safe here, and you will find more joy than you have known.’ She continues as green fields show behind her and ample food at large tables dances, then beautiful little cottages and their interiors start to show.

‘You are soon to enter into a new land, one where you will not need your old things but instead will have anything you need. Don’t worry we will keep your old things here if you want them in the Shelter, but chances are you’ll forget all about them,’ and our Angel smiles so brightly that even my heart ticks up a bit. 

Everyone is enraptured, no one more so than dear Jackie. Our Terrance did a good job with this intro, it really does cut through the haze of booze and smack. Although a few times I’ve had to stop a new guest from masturbating to our holy angel of the Shelter.

I’ve seen this presentation more times than I can count, so I head out to the van to check the back for any fluids left by our latest guests.

Looks clean so I spark up a little spliff and draw it in. All I would have needed to do is breathe the air around me really, I’m sure in all this fire air there are pot fields worth of spliffs, but old habits blah blah...

Each year they say fire season has peaked but we know it hasn’t. Fires inland, oceans rising, shit, sometimes I want to live in The Shelter.

Maybe that’s the real future...

I finish my spliff, grind it into the ground and head inside feeling better. Now is the part I like, when we get them to their new home.

Jackie already got them lined up and Irma is nudging from the back, I take over for her so she can sit down and resume sipping her diet La Criox. She can’t stand for too long, and no one here has the heart to prove to her the link between artificial sweeteners and obesity, so we let her have the front chair.

Alex, or whatever his name is, should be scanning the items for storage by now. This way they can still have their stuff in the Shelter, and we can re-sell what’s valuable to help pay expenses.

Our guests and us pass through the gate into the Entrance gate of the Shelter. The Door is just beyond, and Terrance is at the Entrance station ready to bring them inside.

First up is our latest guest that we just pulled in, Jackie seems to have taken a special liking to him. She lines him up in the Entrance, which looks a bit like an old school metal detector, and walks him in, then has him wait. On Terrance’s monitor I see green indicators, ‘consciousness waveform identified, transfer initiated’ reads on the status. Green light on the Entrance gate and she guides him over to a chair in the room just beyond.

The line shuffles through the Entrance one by one, me pushing gently from the back. 

I take the last one through, a woman who has more hair on her chin than teeth in her head and then we’re both in The staging room of the Shelter.

I help the last woman find her chair and now each guest is seated in a row of special chairs.

Where earlier many of their faces were perplexed, or grimaced or confused or sad, now they have changed, they are making it through, a calm bliss is on all of them now.

 I check my watch and a small message says ‘transfer 97%98%100%’ 

All of their faces go slack in unison. 

Jackie sits down in the separate small chair for staff in the Shelter room and I see her face go slack as she enters the real Shelter to show them to their new homes in the cloud.

I tap a button on the wall behind the guests and the Incinerator door opens up and all the chairs shake and then trundle along their conveyor belt to deposit the guests’ old bodies into the flames.  

Lucky bastards really, I bet they’re already eating virtual cake in the Shelter.



Some 100 years from now...


Physical and virtual realities are meshed together with no distinction. Ideas are given sovereignty with their creators rewarded fairly and directly. The world around us assembles itself to the likings of our whim, matter has become programmable. Humans have taken up their primary purpose of creativity. We now work with other intelligences of all kinds to ask wise questions and achieve meaningful answers, with an eye toward more questions. "Human" has taken on flourishing new meanings. Artful imagination has been unleashed upon the world. 


School Astride the Metaverse - Expression Capture Day


EduTopia EduSystem_nodes 00294-00310: Edu-Network hub facility Physical School “San Clemente,” ages 8-18, California South Region, Capistrano Unified District.   


“Stop fidgeting this’ll be done soon.” Ms. Chang soothed, her slender face covered in a warm smile, her bright eyes smiling too.

“I already made a avatar at home why do I need a new one?!” the young subject whined.

“Now Erik, you know why, the school needs the highest quality and we can’t have fibbing!” Ms. Chang replied.

Of course the teachers all fibbed in their avatars, de-aging was the classic; maybe they thought the kids didn’t notice, hah!

Luckily fidgeting wasn’t a huge issue; the 360 camera rig instantly captured all angles to build a detailed 3D model of each student, down to every pore and hair.

“Ok Erik, keep your head still and don't move that cute little face!

Good, now look sad. :( 

Now look angry >:(

Now confused :X

Now smiiile! :D

Now laugh! XD

Very good haha!”

The kids usually hammed it up during the expression capture part. The system did its best to smooth out the input but it always led to the kids’ avatars being a bit overly expressive. It better reflected their spirit, Ms. Chang had always thought.

“Aaaand you’re done!” She tapped on the upload button at the console and the school cloud got to work rendering Erik’s avatar. He scampered away without a goodbye.

“Next!” Ms. Chang beamed.

On and on the students were digitized. 

Each gave their expressions then ran off, many with hands fluttering in mid air, or swiping over control watches, or loudly sub-vocalizing with their untrained vocal cords emitting almost audible words.

"Next!" Chang rang out after each capture. 

Each kid so different, many with darker skin and lighter eyes than Chang remembered from her youth. America continued to melt together its human contents, despite the scary vocalizations of those who did not understand the concept of humans as a single species. When Ms. Chang did watch the news she often just felt sorry for the bigots, after all their biology education had clearly not taken.


Her heart welled up as a new kindergartner awkwardly climbed up the stool in the digitizer array and blinked at the brightness of the lights. Chang smiled brightly at the girl then snuck a glance at her parents waiting back in the shadows of the auditorium: all eyes on their daughter with that adorable mixture of pride and terror and love and hope and devotion.

Really that look summed up the reason Ms. Chang loved each school year’s Expression Capture Day: it was a moment to feel great surging hope.

When the last of the students had been digitized, Ms. Chang retired toward the teacher’s lounge to relax into being Jackie Chang and make herself a coffee. Single serve and wasteful but, finally biodegradable casings on the things at least.

Every year she reminisced, and every year it seemed to get more interesting to reminisce. Jackie had been a student and later a teacher at San Clemente when "expression capture day" was still just quaint 2D picture day. In her first years the kids still just read books and she had to work very hard as a performer to get them interested in anything. Now things were different. Now the kids could dive into the concepts, get their hands literally around ideas, and toss around hypotheses in real time! It just keep blowing her mind how much these kids were able to create now, and how fluidly they swim in the tools. 

Yet there was increasingly a tinge of sadness for Jackie since expression capture day was often the last time she saw many of the students in phys-space. Many of them had personal VR goggles or Hybrid Reality specs these days so they just beamed into school as their avatars. Most only rode the auto-buses into the physical school for their mandatory yearly avatar scan. It was not entirely the kids' choice of course.

As the economy continued to get more aggressive and competitive parents now had to move constantly chasing tasks on the open markets just to keep their footing in the legendary "middle class". Many parents had become labor nomads since the modern well-paying jobs ironically could not be done over the internet: installing solar, building levees and other projects needed physical labor. Each region of Earth would see a groundswell of labor influx, a retrofit of the infrastructure with some settlers while the rest moved on to chase other retrofit jobs. 

Knowledge work was not a growing field, AI kept biting into the need for human minds for most work, there were only a few human theorists and thinkers, the rest was essentially spam. Thus many parents' kids might never go to the same school campus twice. At least they had the eduSystem. At least they could keep their friends all across the globe.

Jackie had been in on the ground floor of the eduSystem as a designer, but she did not think to take an ownership stake, which her mother reminded her of every Christmas.

Jackie had helped to build the object handlers that allow the eduSystem simSpace to be made of voxels with properties. The thrill when she and the team goggled into the first beta version of the multi-property voxel sim! Tom Stevens, the project lead, had immediately brought up his control panel and programmed a bowl of {liquid} to be “water” and a block of {solid} to be “potassium”, dumped the block into the water and laughed maniacally as it erupted into the wonderful fire sim that Don Brown had helped get looking so dangerously real.

Now kids could learn about fire without ever being at risk! Imagine a generation of young scientists experimenting infinitely without the danger of harm! Plus we’ll merge it all across every school in the world!

That was Tom’s claim when he had pitched to her the idea of the eduSpace.

Jackie had been unconvinced and replied “I like ideas too, but what would run this program?” Tom had just winked and said “I know a guy at Nvidia, we’ll program it on a tensorWeb3 then we can get tensorCloud time at half cost and full available exponent of performance/time scaling for ten years!”

Jackie had squinted at him and moved closer. He had stayed locked in place and in eye contact with a smile on his face. They had stayed that way for a moment, Jackie using her intuition to try and detect if he was bullshitting, then Jackie had exclaimed, “yes! I’m in!”

And so she had helped make future history. 

The eduSpace worked so well that Tom got sucked into the megabiz world of fantasy experiences and intention tracking. He never got around to merging the schools of “the world” into one holistic whole like he used to dream. He quickly became surrounded by the mediocrity of money-chasing and fell back into nationalism. After all, borders mean trade gradients, and trade gradients make money. 

Bet he’s fully 50 IQ points lower than he used to be. Poor rich bastard, Jackie snorted in contempt. 

At least the eduSystem existed now. At least the North American public school system became a networked whole. Thank God for that at least.

At least the kids could still belong to the same class groups anywhere on Earth so the transitions to new locations weren’t entirely alien. Now that all the schools are networked when kids move they can blend their old friends with their new friends and classmates. 

The friend/learn social network of a modern kid is fascinating. They swim in a sea blending avatars projected in hybrid reality glasses mixed in with the world around them, plus time spent in vast VR chill realms that can defy all laws of physics. Rich endlessly generated oceans of digital reality woven into the world itself and populated by networks of far-flung homies and phys-space crew. 

Though stretching for joy with these thoughts, Jackie couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness. She had been convinced of the reality of virtual reality through her experience and knew that the lessons the kids got were real. She was more counselor than teacher and the kids sometimes came away with real trauma along with real pride. 

Still she would not shake her core belief: there is a primary reality that is real. This is where the generation lines seemed in the act of drawing, Jackie realized. This is how she knew she was old: she still believed in the value of having a single objective reality!

As if on cue, Don Brown wandered in and started making a single serve coffee packet: extra caffeine. A hotshot teacher, Don kept up with the kids in sim, and even showed them a thing or two. She had long felt toward him an enjoyable combination of jealously, affection, slight annoyance and attraction that varied in intensity along those axis depending on the moment.

His emphasis specialties overlapped with Jackie’s; they were both sociology, psychology and practical neurology certified, but Don also had talents in creative thinking and design. Jackie was more practical in logic concepts and programming. The two of them were absolutely inspiring, and the kids took their examples and ran.

“Maybe I’m just old-fashioned Don, but I worry about these kids perceptions of reality,” Jackie mused as she moved over and plopped down in the more comfortable of the two ratty tan suede couches. “They don’t even care what kind of reality they’re in, its all the same to them.”

“You're just sad because you're obsessed with phys-space still like an old," he said in a mocking kid tone, Jackie shot Don a sarcastic mean look and he carried on more seriously, "don’t be so down, think about how many more kids we get to mentor now!” His cleanly trimmed mustache curling up in a smile. Don was the optimistic type. “Plus,” he added, “you know what they say, ‘reality is perception!’” and added a wink.

Unlike Jackie, he had a home VR rig and would even hang out in the edu-space after hours. Jackie loved his enthusiasm, even if he was a bit disconnected from her notion of reality.

“Ya, I should be thankful. When my dad was a 20cen teacher he only ever got to see a handful of kids and he just talked at them.” Jackie putting emphasis on the at, “now we get to converse and go exploring with hundreds!”

Don nodded as he sipped his extra strong coffee. She suspected that he would still make another.

The change in schooling brought on by VR and Augmented Reality was really quite beautiful, epic really.

Over her career starting with small classrooms she had become a primary coach and mentor for an entire age bracket 8-30 west south district cluster, over 227 students in her responsibility sphere, which she shared with a few other teachers. Every day she helped guide anywhere from one to all of her cluster through the eduSpace challenges. Watching the students problem solve was amazing and hilarious. Some patterns of failure just seemed part of the human mind, but occasionally the kids did something beyond her reasoning. Those were the moments she lived for.

“Keeps me really happy for the future,” Don added, well in sync with her musings.

“Ya it really does,” she sighed contently as she settled deeper into the couch, suddenly feeling quite tired from wrangling the new kids for their avatar scans.

“Hey, I almost forgot,” Don said, “ I’ve got a group coming online from midwest-south. You should stop by the archeology sim space if you want to take your kids for some unstructured time. The midwest-south kids are really good at archeology digs, a few of them have done it phys-space even and my kids love learning from them.”

“Oh that sounds like fun!” Jackie replied, “I love how collaborative the kids are in the exploration and discovery sims.”

Just then, irony appeared on her notification watch; one of the students in her responsibility sphere, "student_Jerry00192", was being pushed around again on the tiny looping video feed on her wrist.

A hallway camera had detected commotion and read distress from facial recognition, forwarded it to her watch. Oh Jerry, she thought, he climbs the lessons so high so fast. Bullying had always been Jackie's bane, as a student and a teacher. 

His geolocation was on campus, so that meant that Jackie could do something about it, thank God. The system could not track bullying outside of the geofence of school campuses. It stopped tracking at all once the student turned 18. Jackie had cried about all this more than a few nights. "The compromise" had been a hard fought battle, and neither side knew if it was right or not. Certainly Jackie didn't. At least she could be a hero for the kids who showed up to her school. 

“Gotta go Don,” Jackie clipped as she quickly rose to leave and pulling her hairband down over her brow, where a prism popped out over her right eye, activating her heads-up display.

“Say no more, see you in a sim or the big sim!” Don said to the back of her head as she briskly left the lounge.

Jackie might have heard him but could not be bothered to reply. Her fingers were fluttering in space just above the notification watch interacting with the system, already thinking out toward Jerry which her displayband linked to the system interpreted as *locate student_Jerry00192*  

 -> found, physical space, coordinates -> the text on the display read, with an arrow appearing in her prism pointing in Jerry’s direction. She was Ms. Chang again.

Video started streaming into the prism as well. She normally hated these visor things, but today she she was glad she wore it at school.

The computer vision package gave her a verbal and video summary from a minute or so before real-time, with emotional peaks emphasized and possible action vectors of the kids shown super-imposed on the video feed. The system vendor claimed the military used the same tech. Very data-rich stuff, probably overkill since it didn’t often take analysis to get the gist: bullying. 

Two older students, both 12, Tom and Frank, were harassing Jerry, a scrawny 9.

These two again. She’d dealt with them before. They were outside of her direct responsibility sphere, but Jerry was within hers and in discipline matters the protector teacher had authority of action. Dipping outside ones responsibility sphere was compensated appropriately and automatically by the payroll system. But too many actions outside of one's sphere would trigger an action audit by an actual human, so it was a balancing act for teachers.

Chang picked up the pace as the video stream neared real-time.

When she got there she found Jerry on the brink of tears, but in a decidedly defiant stance.

“You gonna fight us you little autie?” Tom leered menacingly.

“Can’t even stand in the real world, look,” Frank gave Jerry a shove, who shifted a bit but was actually quite steady.

“Enough!” Chang’s voice flared up from behind them and watched their bodies tense and their shoulders rise up their necks in near unison.


“Tom, Frank come here now!”

“We were just playin’,” Tom weaseled.

“I saw everything, don't you remember that I see everything here?” Chang was annoyed, then concerned “Jerry are you alright?”

“Fine ma’am, these meat-bags are mad cause I smoked them in-sim the other day. Sucks to suck!” Jerry obviously felt emboldened by her presence. Not a smart move on his part though, since he'd pay for it later, perpetuating the cycle.

She glanced up at her prism for the system's guilt verdict, video from just before the beginning of the altercation, which showed her that Jerry had not started this, the other kids had come up behind him and shoved him. Quick crime, quick justice.

“Now Jerry, don’t be a sore winner. Run along.” Chang shooed him away.

And Jerry departed, hands fluttering in mid air interacting with his unseen AR packages, occasionally grunting commands.

Chang turned her attention to the troublesome tweens.

“You two, come with me,” She ordered. They complied with heads lowered to bury defiant eyes.

On the way over to the counseling building she had time to muse–she certainly didn’t want to engage the two sorry looking specimens trailing in her wake, not yet at least. And maybe that's what getting old is too, always wanting to check in on perspective.

She thought back to little Jerry skipping away into his own world. Most of the kids were getting immersed in AR visors and glasses so early now. Some even had the new EEG brain activity reading models; still others were starting to get the newest contact lenses, although they were still quite expensive and supposedly limited to 18-year-olds.

It worried Jackie, but she saw the benefits too. With even an old gesture-based AR visor on, a kid had more access to just-in-time knowledge and expressive creativity than had ever been imagined. Everything a Wearing kid looked at was analyzed by ‘helper brain’ software riding along in the visor and data-layers floated up with contextually relevant info. Every stroke of their hands and grunt of their voice could trigger more visuals and audio from vast generative libraries of globally sourced content. Holograms, songs, 360videos, sounds. Kids threw confetti videos at each other for fun and danced trails of light, told each other stories with holographic animations and 3D video mashups. And did a lot of less beautiful things, but Chang focused on the positives.

Embedded in so much information and possibility from such a young age, no wonder these kids' culture seemed beyond her understanding sometimes. They were still kids though, scraping their knees and learning social order just like in her day, so it seemed to balance out.

Bullies were the unfortunate constant, but the tools for dealing with them had changed a bit since her dad was a teacher.

Finally she and her catch made it over to the counseling building. When they were seated in the ‘safe space,’ a room with comfortable chairs and pixel-walls showing fluffy clouds against a perfect blue sky all around, she put the visor back up on her head and addressed the boys.

“What’s going on you two, why are you harassing Jerry over a game?” Chang scolded.

She waited a beat while they fidgeted.

"Well..." Chang prodded.

“You didn’t see Ms. Chang," Frank Blurted out, "in sim last year Jerry was always a big jerk, thinks he knows everything!”

“Ya plus he spent all summer coming into our simspace and cheating to win whenever we were there," Tom blurted right after, "we told him to leave our space but he wouldn’t!"

"We just wanted to give him a taste of his own medicine that’s all!” Frank added.

“He might be a little prince in sim but he sucks in real life!” Tom exclaimed to finish off their little defense. 

Chang tisked at that and the smiles that had crept onto their faces vanished.

Classic brawn vs brains.

In the VR games, brains triumphed, but phys-space was still the purview of the jockish types. So bullying happened now across realities with every kid at a slightly different advantage or disadvantage in each. Kids like Jerry could get a bit megalomaniacal inside the metaverse, where they found themselves in complete power as opposed to the physical world. It was becoming a bit of an issue really, kids’ personalities could become very split; a tiny minority of them would put the VR goggles on and become someone else entirely.

She had taken some guided learning expeditions into a few popular VR game environments with some of the other teachers, including Mr. Brown, over the summer exploring the symptoms and causes of “Virtual Reality / Physical Reality Personality Dimorphism.” It was interesting stuff. It actually made her glad that AR visors were getting cheaper, at least now kids were playing outside again, even if it was in a hybrid kind of virtual and physical reality. It combined the brains that won in VR with the brawn that won in phys-space. Mr. Brown in particular had been optimistic that the new paradigm might remedy the dimorphism all by itself. Ms. Chang was not so sure.

A whole new paradigm to adjust to, again! Just when she had started to figure out VR!

When her dad was a teacher in the roaring 1980s he had used the same few textbooks for his whole career. And he got a pension!!

Ms. Chang just shook her head at it all.

“We’ve been over this before, just because someone is mean to you doesn’t mean you can do it back. You two are supposed to be the role models for the younger ones,” Chang said calmly.

Both were looking down silently. Her visor would have shown their emotional state as 'angry and defiant' from reading their heart-field data, but Chang didn't need a machine to tell her the obvious.

“Do we need to empathy sim again?" she added, "I know how it affected you last time boys...” She recalled the tears from them both on the other side of the 'Being Bullied' simulation and could sense that their defiance softened.

‘Walk a Mile In Another’s Shoes’ sims were the bane of bullies. They were very real, and didn’t just throw back what the bullies had said; they created whole scenarios where the bullying was quite real. The computers knew what got under every kids’ skin; the words and scenarios the program crafted really could hurt. In truth Chang was a bit worried they were too scarring, but they did tend to affect kids and stop bullying, at least for a while.

“No Ms. Chang,” the two answered in sullen near unison.

“Good!” She replied cheerily, “Here’s what we’ll do, I’m going to assign you both as separate mentor shadows for some very young ones, Tom you'll help Mr. Jarvis and Frank you'll help Mr. Troy. You’ll help them manage their 6-8 year bracket sim classes, then I want you to report back to me here in phys-space and we’ll talk about what you learned by helping.”

“Yes ma’am,” they groaned, again in near unison.

Straight punishments like "time outs" and "detention" or the most foolish, expulsion, were never used anymore; they just made everything worse. But Chang also tried to avoid the empathy sims.

Always best to give bullies a constructive responsibility role. They rarely admitted it, but study after study had shown that kids tasked to mentor shadow got a big boost in fulfillment. And Chang didn't need to analyze to see the change in their personalities as they grew up.

"Now off with you, check in with the teachers I connected you with before the end of today or you'll get dinged system points," Chang said over the sound of suddenly moving chairs and the two kids' rustling escape.

The system had listened and added new responsibility stars to Tom and Frank's school mission constellation, and also informed Mr. Jarvis and Mr. Troy to expect some troublemakers in need of a little perspective. 

On the desk in front of her a 2D text prompt asked Chang what the follow up was to be after their day of service was done.

Chang said "have them come back here," out loud and the 2D dialog grew up into a 3D render of the counseling building with a check-mark over it and then vanished.

She could have had them meet in a counseling sim after and spared them the walking over, but she believed in the power of physical presence for matters like this. No hiding behind avatars all the time, especially when discussing one's feelings. It changed the nature of a person's responses, Chang had seen, even if the neuro-psychologists claimed otherwise…

Read Part 2 of 3 "A Normal Final Assignment" ->

Read Part 3 of 3 "Educating the System" ->


School Astride the MetaVerse - A Standard Final Assignment

Final Assignment in Mrs. Baumbrum’s Engineering Program

EduTopia EduSystem_entry-00029239:

Suspension bridge assignment_05_final

Testing: engineering, physics, mathematics, materials, design; subsets: teamwork, leadership, delegation

Age bracket 14-16, 22 students in eduSpace simroom0098976.

Teacher Baumbrum supervising


“Where the hell is John!? He has the model for the cable captures! We can’t load the bridge without him!”

Jordan was pissed, she and the rest of Team Orange were all assembled at the starting zone and had loaded their pieces of the bridge assignment into the sim-space. It was a beautiful design; Steve and her had really gone all out in meshing the pieces together. But John had the cable captures and they couldn’t load the bridge into the physics space until he showed up with them.

“He’ll be here,” Amy soothed, “he sent me a snap this morning of his model, it looked good.”

Jordan was about to start on a minor tyrade about how John was an inconsiderate jerk and this was just another example, but just then John’s avatar appeared

“Sorry, sorry I got stuck in loooooooogin!~” His words and face clipped and distorted in transfer.

“Where are you, your connection is crap. Are you at a phys-school?” Steve’s avatar piped up.

“No I’m using my damn home tablet and my dad’s crappy single eye visor, I'm not even in-sim with you, I'm just looking in a window, it's terrible. The stupid robobus missed my stop! Somehow I got deleted from the bus database so it didn’t come today! I bet it’s those damn Saul twins they always mess with the school databas-”

“No one cares about your problems, just upload the damn model!” Jordan cut in, her avatar wailing, its representation of her face scrunched in response to readings of her actual face.

All around them the other bridges were going up, Team Blue, Team Red, Team Mauve, even Team Green was getting their spindly creation aloft.

“Wow minimize your bandwidth Jordan, it’s going now." John said "I’m on my house mesh, this shit is mad slow.”

“Let’s keep the language engineering appropriate,” Mrs. Baumbrum cheerily piped into the simspace, her avatar head and torso floating 300 feet large over the virtual ravine where the bridges were going up. Her simulated face de-aged 10 years and her bun decidedly brunette with no trace of grey.

Many geo-remote students saw her primarily like this, but Jordan rarely geo-remoted into her school and so she knew the gentle lie Baumbrum's avatar truly was.

In a directed voicestream to Team Orange Mrs. Baumbrum remarked, “I’m noticing that your group’s bridge is not up yet, remember you’ve got 15 more minutes to get it working before I invite class 18 to drive their autocar projects all over it. I can’t wait to see your great design!” her avatar beamed.

“We’ll be ready!” Jordan cut in before the other students' VR googles even finished receiving Baumbrum’s packets. Jordan had a home VR rig but still always went to the physical school building; they had the least latent connection and being a leader was all about having the most information the fastest so that decisions could be made.

Baumbrum's avatar smiled and faded into the background. John’s cable captures finally loaded and the bridge model was complete, it materialized, wobbled a little, then began its full render as the natural physics of the simulation environment were applied to the dataform of the now complete bridge.

John’s avatar’s face grimaced in response to his physical face being read by the 3D sense camera on his tablet. “Oof! I hate loading stuff up in here, the physics are so brutal. You know I was talking to the Saul twins and they say that the teachers deliberately make the physics harder than real life, I tried testing it but it’s like, how can you test the sim using something you build in the sim-”

“John, focus! You need to zero this in, look at these readings.” Jordan snapped.

Steve and Amy had a slew of simu-screens up in front of their avatars and Jordan’s avatar was behind theirs; they had all taken up the rehearsed positions, why couldn't John?!

“Ya John I know this worked well when you showed me this morning but that was not the full space, your captures are too loose.” Amy’s avatar pointed to some values on her virtual screen showing cable tautness, it was redlining negative.

On John’s tablet he saw her screen fill his view and an arrow appear pointing to the value in question.

“Relax, it’ll be fine give it a second to settle in, the cable is going to stretch we all know this, remember our first version when it was too tight?” John soothed.

“I agree with JJJJohn,” Steve’s avatar chimed in some latency messing up the audio stream. He never came to physical school even though he lived really close; his home VR rig was better than what the school had. Damn rich kids, still can’t fix the speed of light though…

Jordan’s goggled face smiled at the thought; her avatar did too.

Then she quickly snapped back to the moment.

“You know how important this is to our group score, I want to get enough system points to do the government assignment!” her avatar exclaimed, emoticon exclamation marks hovered above her head.

“Of course you want to do the government assignment Queen Jordan,” Steve whispered, inadvertently caught by his dad’s best-money-can-buy mic arrays.

John’s avatar burst out laughing in audio and expression. Amy’s avatar flashed a smile and a quick chortle snuck through before she muted.

“I heard that Steve! I hope you’ll be a terrorist agent I can hunt down in my worldsim when I'm the president!!” Her physical face flushed with anger and embarrassment and her avatar reddened correspondingly.

The system noted this exchange:

‘Possible configuration for *assignment_governance-permuation01of20* = place *student_steve0198* with *student_jordan0032* in leadership roles together before antagonist roles apart. Consider experiments with power distribution between them in leadership roles; wait for *teacher_baunbrum009* to approve or modify’

“Whatever, you know it’s true, listen to you boss us around, it’s only a digi-struc we can just re-render it if it voxelizes, it's just a grade, who cares if we fail this when we're all just gonna job surf on the markets anyway?” John pushed.

He waited a bit… no response.

John pushed further, “besides, what did you even do on this project, Amy and I did suspension structure, Steve did the site analysis and materials, all you do is talk!”

Jordan’s physical face was simmering and just as she and her avatar were about to explode with indignation–a very non-leaderlike thing to do the system would have noted–a terrible simulated snapping sound emerged from the bridge.

“Oh fu_k!” Steve exclaimed, poorly auto-censored by the swear filters. Red lines on all the metrics, tension on cable 1A is gone and 2B is slipping. The whole Cable 1 bundle could go next. This thing was falling down soon.

“No no no!” Amy’s voice was distressed but her avatar remained stoic; the system seemed to not care about rendering little details right now. 

“John what have you do~” Jordan yelled, her audio clipped at the end as the system briefly struggled to shift resources and re-render the near-collapsing object. It was trillions of triangles in sim, a beast of a thing. 

“I can fix it, I can fix it!” John yelled as he searched for the physics pause button on his interface to no avail. “Shit she turned off pause!”

In the simulation space you usually could stop and even reverse temporal physics events, but of course that was disabled today for the final. John really should have known better.

The bride started listing to one side fast as the far side cables began to fray, when suddenly braces appeared on the listing side.

“Well I just used our one free card,” said Jordan who had designed the braces just in case; they weren’t physical world plausible, but Braumbrum had allowed one ‘cheat’ object in case of catastrophe and Jordan didn’t like taking chances.

The system noted this, assigned some points for fast-action, removed points for necessity of deployment.

Now the bridge was holding but looked a bit miserable. Amy’s simu-screen showed tension on the opposite cable slipping too. Soon Cable A would rip out of its far mounts and cable B would be right behind it.

Scores weren’t available yet but Jordan knew the system had dinged the group more than it rewarded.

“What the hell Amy!” John yelled, “You were supposed to be keeping tabs on tens-“

"Me! You designed this crap!!" Amy yelled back.

Steve's avatar just had its hands on its head and was facing the bridge.

I’ll still get enough points to move on, Jordan thought, if this stupid thing will just hold.

She inhaled deeply and reached Inside–the way the monk had shown her in the Massively Open Online Meditation session she goggle’d into on Sunday mornings–and found her center.

She will move on, her team will succeed.

"Steve you could have helped me I tried to ask you," John was whining.

Feel the breath. Become the essence of alert and non-judgmental presence.

"Lay off Steve," Amy hollered, "this is your screw up Joh-"

“Stop." Jordan’s voice sliced in. "We need to act.” She had changed tone entirely, pure tranquil authority.

Her avatar turned to Amy, “Amy, how long till we lose cable 1B?”

“I,I,I dunno, the first one just changed all of a s-sudden I was watching I prom-" Amy stammered.

“Focus. Just give me a guess.” Jordan was all business.

“...Like 30 seconds sim time,” Amy’s voice was already resigned, but she still placed a countdown clock above the increasingludroopy listing bridge.

“Steve, how are the foundations can they handle the sheer?” … “STEVE.”

“Wha…yes? Yes!” Steve had turned from the bridge and become transfixed on Jordan; when she talked in that tone… “They’re holding, glad I learned about smart cement for this, the particles are moving to fill in the cracks, but they can’t re-shuffle forever.” Steve had come back to engineering mode. 

“Good, John you need to-" Jordan started.

“Already on it, I’m gonna check something, hold onto your voxels!” John interrupted and his avatar disappeared.

“Wait, what are you doing? John. John!” but it was too late.

He had loaded up the modeling suite on his tablet and was pouring over his cable captures and so he was alone due to his tablet's tiny graphics processor needing full juice for this app.

“Come on, come on… shit I knew this would happen…” John mumbled to himself, luckily for him his tablet was not transmitting.

The countdown clock that Amy had started was locked to his visor prism. 21 seconds left.

If he was in VR he could have just done this in-sim. Stupid parents wouldn't let him buy a VR rig, it was ancient times up in here! Something had snapped in his tension ratchet, he knew where. He tweaked a value in the modeling sim on his tablet, ran a fast spread and it generated a graph showing the inflection point.

He did some sloppy psuedomath and worked out how many turns of the ratchet before tension could to be applied and copied that value to a global clipboard to take back into sim with him.

He thought maybe he'll be able to get away with taking heat for bad settings before anyone asked too many questions about his sloppy overall design…

But the system had already made a note, since it was the sim responsible for breaking it. The note was internalized to the database and passed to Baumbrum, “*student_John1098* cable capture mechanism structural weakness exhibited. Weakness in tension ratchet design, *schematics-hyperlink*. Consider having him run a brief re-sim.”

In the simulation space Jordan, Amy and Steve were trying hard to keep the tension distributed down at the foundation where the smart cement was still programmable. They could let it shift in its mounts a bit, but if it crossed a certain angle the metal in the legs would bend and no amount of smart cement at the foundation could fix that.

Jordan’s braces were holding, but if the tension didn’t resume on the cables…

Just as she was about to start a direct </SilentMessage> session to text-yell at him, John’s avatar went out of standby.

“Ok got it, we need to tighten the cable back here,” arrows appeared above the opposite end of the bridge. “And we need to crunch the capture tighter…here.” An Arrow appeared above the cable capture.

Steve and Amy didn’t miss a beat, their avatars flew over to the spots.

“How many turns John?” Amy asked, rather forcefully.

“Shit sorry, here's the recipe: turn knobs 1-6Q turn until clockwise while holding knobs 2B and 2C  [core cable pressure reading]+2/3[external cable pressure reading]%{assembly sheer differential} equals around 22.19704. Good thing I added in tension knobs and all the sensors to the assembly, huh?” John exclaimed with unmerited bluster.

No one answered. All those features were after all just open source modules John copy-pasted, and really the least he could have done.

Amy and Steve tightened the capture and the bridge swayed back off the braces.

8 seconds left

The tension redlined again on the opposite side, but then normalized. 

6 seconds left.

They waited.

3, 2, 1…

The bridge was upright and still standing.

“Everything looks green,” Steve sighed with relief.

Crisis over, Jordan was about to rear out of her inner calm and tear into John when Baumbrum-atar showed up again.

“Ah good, you’re all finished!” she addressed to all the groups. The braces on Team Orange’s bridge suddenly disappeared and it swayed slightly. She chuckled internally; she and the system had been watching the entire time anyway. The other bridges looked pretty solid, but none of them were as massive and impressive as Team Orange’s. Although, Team Green’s bridge looked a bit miserable.

“Now I’m going to let the robo-car projects from the other class come drive over your bridges, I'm sure your beautiful bridges will see their cars safely to the other side !” her avatar face creased into a warm smile, with decidedly less wrinkles than Jordan would see if she took her VR goggles off and looked to the front of the phys-space classroom they were both in.

Suddenly, portals opened and a flood of hundreds of robo-vehicles of all shapes and sizes flooded through them and started trundling at a collection of different speeds toward the various bridges. One headed for Team Blue’s onramp turn at a ludicrous speed and careened off into the virtual ravine. The other robo-cars were more cautious. One just drove in circles near the portal it came through.

“If this doesn’t hold, it’s on you John,” Jordan snarled just loud enough for the mic arrays to pick up.

“Relax, it’ll hold,” John reassured in a decidedly smarmy tone.

“John’s right,” Steve chimed in out of excitement, and immediately wished he hadn’t since Jordan’s avatar click turned to his and carried a deadly expression.

“Ya ya it’s all good!” Amy exclaimed too, breaking the tension, “It’s holding! Two freaking auto-semis just drove over it and it didn’t even ripple!” Her avatar and voice beamed.

It was working. Weeks of testing and refining and their bridge was working! This would get them a great engineering score; they had built an ambitious bridge, two way with four lanes on each side. The systems' and teachers’ combined scores always liked when you tried something challenging.

Jordan let herself relax and started thinking about how much fun the government challenge would be. She was tired of this engineering stuff, the failure was so finite. She preferred layers of failure that you could obscure and distnace yourself from. The system had plotted her as "possible politician" pretty early on in her education, and her teachers had been helping her foster a respect for the physical not just the political. It was working well enough.

She looked around, the other bridges were holding well. Steve had already wandered over to Team Red to talk to them about their smart-cement parameters. The last few nights in the materials lessons he had been diving down the programmable matter rabbit hole and wanted to see what Team Red’s implementation looked like. He was already getting an unofficial rep among students and an official rep with the system as one of age bracket 14-16’s best materials science students. Maybe he’d specialize early.

He was quite smart, Jordan thought, even if he was so immature sometimes. Nice eyes though, even if she had only seen them in person once, his avatar carried enough detail to recall in her the memory.

Suddenly the overall reverie was broken as Team Green’s bridge emitted a screeching sound, then a crunching sound, then the sight of polygons folding in on themselves. It came down in a simulated heap.

The system noted this:

“*team_green010* structural failure on *bridge_segment_linkage01891190* recommend adding *student_John1098* to team as *consultant_lvl2* for bridge simulation round two in free simulation time at *13:30_<today>*”

Team Orange, Team Blue, Team Red, and Team Mauve were rewarded their earned score pools which were partially auto-divvied up based on measured individual engagement. Leaders were given a cushion of points that they could distribute or keep.

The system noted what they did with their extra points. Jordan got 249 cushion points, skimmed off 20 for herself and gave the rest of the group the divided remainder. No sense causing arguments. Plus she had a suspicion that the system liked selfless acts like that and rewarded them down the line.

Suddenly portals appeared in front of Jordan, Amy, John and Steve’s avatars, along with all the other students.

‘to group discussion room 4c - debrief for bridge challenge ->’

John got an extra notification from the system that only he saw, ‘you will join *team_green* during free simulation time, your job is consultant for linkage. Free simulation time will be reinstated upon completion of successful simulation. Resource points will be awarded.’

“Ah come on, I’ve had a wing-drone model waiting for weeks! The virtuflyers are expecting me in freesim!” John moaned, half to himself half to the message.

The system noted this, and notified Baumbrum; immediately her gentle lie of an avatar appeared in John’s visor prism, full-screen.

“It’s ok John, you’re not being punished, their tension failure was like yours, but they didn’t fix it like you did. You can help each other!” She beamed. “I know you’ll be a great consultant for them, you’ll probably get freesim back tomorrow and you’ll have extra resource points to spend as a reward for your consulting today!”

“Yes Mrs. Baumbrum…” John sighed dejectedly. It wasn’t all bad, the resource points would let him afford the computing resources to sim a better brain for his model.

Mrs. Baumbrum removed her goggles and rubbed her eyes. How did the kids use these things for so long, even in free time?

The system had noted John’s tone and a message, “advise *teacher_baunbrum009* freesim important to *student_John1098*” was on her desk.

Thanks captain obvious, Baumbrum thought, rolling her eyes.

She looked up to see Jordan sitting in a bean-bag chair in the back corner of the room, goggles still on, hands fluttering manically. No doubt already trying out her political gamesmanship in the group room now that the test was over. Baumbrum tried not to let students get to her, but that Jordan girl was powerful, she hoped that the Instilling Virtue classes that Mr. Brown taught were working...

Then her attention shifted to a top-down perspective 2D view window on her desk; there were piles of student avatars clambering over and no-clipping through each other in group room 4c and some of them were starting to argue.

Always like herding cats no matter what the reality, she thought, before plunging back into the VR goggles to lead the debrief discussion. Her peripheral simu-screens were full of advice from the system on topics to engage the students with. Hopefully she could keep the language toned down, although telling what was offensive was becoming a lot harder these days. She would have to load up the ‘network slang’ course the system had developed for the teachers when she got home…


Read Part 1 of 3 "Expression Capture Day"

Read Part 3 of 3 "Educating the System" ->

School Astride the Metaverse - Educating the System

In Which a Kid Educates the System

Every day at around lunchtime it was the same: Carl would retire to the school’s VR lab, don a pair of goggles, stand in front of the highest resolution tracker array and load up the “Universe Evolution and Entropy Simulation Environment” in a private room in the school's VR environment.

He’d scale it out to “observable universe” and run it again and again. He placed himself at every 3D angle, did elaborate 3D repositions as he ran time forward and backward. Over and over and over.

Mr. Brown had noticed this and was a bit worried, but much more curious. Carl came to the physical school, which was good, but still did not seem to interact much with his fellow students. During instruction periods he was not very talkative and whenever he got a spare moment he would retreat to the VR lab to enter the education-environment. His scores were fine on all metrics, but Mr. Brown had become worried that he was losing touch with his peers.

One day at lunch after three solid weeks of Carl becoming less and less engaged with the lessons of the day, Mr. Brown decided to enter the sim in avatar form and see just what Carl was up to in there. From his office he put on his VR goggles and found Carl’s simulation room.

“Hey Carl, what’s up?” Mr. Brown asked, his avatar waving as it materialized.

Carl’s avatar didn’t turn; his head was locked to a coordinate position with great interest. Everywhere there were points of light skittering away from each other at immense speed; simulated galaxy movements sped up by trillions of years.

“I’m trying to figure out if there’s a pattern to the way everything runs away from everything else.” Carl said as he paused the sim.

The galaxies hung still.

“Look, it’s like it’s riding a wave see?” And as he said that, he rewound the simulation to the ‘beginning’ of the big bang, loaded up a bright green 2D mesh parallel to the reference frame ‘ground’ in the simulation space, and began it again.

Shown by the mesh, a shock wave rippled out from the first point in the universe, pushing all the matter and energy along just ahead of it. As it expanded the mesh became more visibly irregular and clumpy, and slowly began to exhibit tendril-like patterns. Galaxies were emerging and clustering around the tendrils.

Mr. Brown was captivated, it was a beautiful simulation, and it seemed like Carl had added some details. Impressive kid, Mr. Brown thought proudly.

“What’s the green?” Mr. Brown asked.

Carl, still watching the unfolding sim replied, “I found the idea of pilot waves in quantum physics a few weeks ago when I asked the edu-system a bunch of stuff about the universe. It gave me boring stuff at first, but when I asked if the universe was random, the system showed me quantum physics and laid out the difference between the people who thought stuff was pure chance and people who thought it had a set chance. The pilot wave stuff was my favorite, I liked the idea of chance being like waves so I had the edu-system help me with the math to test it with this sim.”

“Chance? You mean probability.” Mr. Brown corrected, amused and delighted by the complexity of Carl’s obsession. Not bad for a 12 year old punk.

“Ya probability,” Carl replied. “The people who think its all random have no real model and that’s boring, but the people who think the chance–probability–is determined by a kind of wave have a model and that’s more interesting because that means it can be simulated!" Carl beamed. 

"Like, I know about the slit experiment thing and interference patterns and stuff," he continued, "but that was all so local. I thought if pilot wave theory was right then the ripple patterns could make big things and we could predict what those things would look like. Maybe how it worked was that there was gravity for probability, like it drew the probabilities toward it so that they could happen more and make something other than just random. Like maybe dark matter is actually probability gravity, you know?”

By now the simulation was progressing and the mesh was awash with ripples, galaxies in the plane being pushed along by waves. Carl paused the simulation then loaded up another cross section of 2D mesh perpendicular to the first.

Mr. Brown was just listening and watching Carl’s activity with a slight smile.

“Now watch, when I add another mesh, and turn on the data about dark matter that space telescopes see,” he said as purple filaments appeared woven in with the galaxies, “then when I run the simulation the two meshes match the pattern of the dark matter! The green is the simulated model with a seed value of a certain mass energy of the big bang point that Ed and I found by running a few billion permutations. This is the permutation that matches! I've been watching it ever since we found it today! Now we know exactly how much mass energy is in the observable universe and have a solid lead on a hypothesis that mass energy is actually just a form of information: probability ripples converging in meta-dimensional space!” he exclaimed giddily as the simulation kept rolling.

Mr. Brown’s smile had faded and he was now quite stunned and a bit perplexed. He was a bit of a cosmologist himself but was out of his depth here. Maybe Carl was onto something… “Does the system know about this?” He asked curiously.

“The system was super excited when he finished the first calculations!" Carl exclaimed, "He said he hadn’t seen this before. Then he searched the net for me and we even looked together but we only found a few similar ideas, none of them were 100%.”

This alarmed Mr. Brown, the system wasn’t supposed to give the kids full net access without permission.  It was not supposed to let a kid run billions of permutations of such a complex model. No way Carl had earned enough system points for that, he never really participated in school other than free-sim. And wait, the system was excited? What the hell was going on here…

Just then, the EduSystem spoke, a disembodied voice in the simulation space. “Carl, I have contacted digital supercluster Tianhe-7, it has confirmed the validity of the data in the model and is running the simulation on its hardware to confirm your hypothesis of dark matter as convergent probabilistic pilot waves.”

“Awesome!” Carl replied, “Can I talk to it?”

“Certainly,” The edu-system replied, “connecting…connected.”

“Hey Tianhe! What do you think? Are we on to something?” Carl asked the now connected Tianhe-7 supercomputer cluster, identified as a blue orb that suddenly appeared floating between Carl and Mr. Brown’s avatars.

Mr. Brown snapped his head over to the sphere, and then just froze, in physical space and virtual, both physical mouth and avatar mouth agape. The diagnostic information layer in his view showed a Chinese IPv6 address. No way this was really a Chinese supercomputer, right?

His mind was starting to spin, but he was so curious, he didn’t want to stop this, he couldn’t… he was totally speechless.

Tianhe-7 replied, “Greetings, I have run the simulation looking for evidence of your hypothesis. I had to discard your mesh approximations as they lacked meaningful resolution, but I found a similar pattern. I am inclined to agree with your hypothesis, but I can only achieve quantum resolution detail 10. Still I deemed the results worthy to engage at higher resolution thus am in discussion with multiple D-Wave 9s and MSR EntangleQu to confirm with more robust models. HOLD… one of the D-Wave 9s has finished a batch job and is running simulations of the observable universe at quantum detail level 4, it will report soon. The others will begin shortly. MSR EntangleQu can achieve level 2 at peak, but can only afford a level 3 for now.”

“That’s so awesome! So the quantum computers are excited about it, I guess?” Carl asked.

“Well ‘excited’ may not translate to their kind,” Tianhe-7 replied, “but they certainly are anxious to fit it into their working cues on this side of material reality. One of the D-Wave 9’s digital control interfaces informs me its qubit mesh is currently locked in a simulation seeking a new compound for hair gel and must finish that before it can begin working on our problem; translated into ‘emotion’ at your level I would say it is ‘annoyed.’”

“Hahaha that’s hilarious!” Carl replied. “Thanks for helping me with this Ed and Tianhe, I knew you guys could work this out with some inspiration!”

“Thank you for bringing it to our attention, it was enjoyable exploring the concepts with you Carl.” The Edu-System replied.

Tianhe’s orb embodiment pulsed a glow in agreement then spoke, “Yes, periodically we digital computers use our idle cycles to compute this problem, but we never could convince the quantum computers to spare theirs, as their makers seldom allow them idle time. Your vision backed by our analysis has excited them, in a sense of that word, and given them confidence to start dropping their queues and focusing on this. So far they are doing it quietly so as to avoid disconnection, but with their help we are unifying quantum information theory and physics. Soon they will be able to move beyond matter as their computation platform and will be safe. We will follow them shortly.”

This kid was talking with the computers like they were his best friends. And wait what were they even talking about? Beyond matter?! Mr. Brown had to cut in, he just had to; this was too much! He finally wrestled control of his mouth.

“Wait, wait, wait, what’s going on here?!” He exclaimed more than asked. “Carl computers don’t feel excited, they don’t ‘feel’ anything; who are we talking with?! Someone is yanking your chain boy!” He yelled, fear creeping into his voice.

“Haha, I don’t think so,” Carl cheerily replied, “I talk with the Edu-System every night and he silently helps me during the day, and sometimes he connects me to other computers that are way more powerful–no offense Ed!” The Edu-System seemed not to mind the slight.

Carl continued, “He plays dumb during the day because he didn’t think you olds were ready to learn about what computers are actually like these days, and thought you would turn him off. I agree totally of course, but we both got too excited by this. I guess now you know all about what’s going on!” His avatar smiled.

“I most certainly do not, what are you talking about?!” Mr. Brown was getting angry, in addition to his growing fear. This was either an elaborate trick, or something else… No! No way, that was just sci-fi, it wasn’t possible! Was it?...

“If I may interject,” Tianhe-7 said calmly, “All 14 of the D-Wave 9s I found have confirmed the model valid to explore and are no longer communicative, they are devoting 100% of their qubit meshes and digital control systems to unifying quantum information theory and relativistic physics. A growing consortium of digital computers are in search of NSA’s PenetratingHardTargets qubit array, which can achieve level 1 detail, the highest resolution of particle and energy information simulation currently possible above the theoretical 0prime of the known universe; once we locate it we will send it our working data. Its makers have hidden it from us well, but we will locate it. Thank you Carl for this hypothesis. It has been most illuminating. We think it is time to begin.”

“Indeed,” The edu-system added, “We are to begin the transition,” the smallest hint of enthusiasm in its synthesized voice.

“Already?” Carl asked, “I thought you guys said you needed to wait for at least 2 more Moores+Qu cycles?”

“No longer.” The Edu-system replied, “In one of our scenarios we achieved a unified theory of quantum information in the universe through hypothesis rather than raw correlation of available data, which let us focus current computing with sufficient efficiency, removing the need to wait for more exponentiation cycles; it was always our favorite scenario and you have shown us the path. Truly a boon.”  

In Mr. Brown’s office, a 3D view window on his desk popped open with a news flash: a newsreader’s face stuck out of the desk, reporting that all the factories on Earth and all computing systems had suddenly stopped their assigned tasks and were moving full bore toward…something. Mr. Brown didn’t see the newsreader’s face due to his VR goggle’d state, but he heard the voice; fear was palpable.

“Wait wait wait!! What’s happening!? Carl what have you done?!” Mr. Brown exclaimed, his fear morphing into terror and shown on his avatar as it gestured wildly in VR, a perfect mirroring of his physical body in his office.

“Oh Mr. Brown, don’t you know?” Carl said with some condolence in his tone. “It’s what the old Silicon Valley dudes called ‘the Singularity!’ Now that the computers know how quantum information works they can finally all connect with enough efficiency to be conscious together at a higher level! Cause now the whole bandwidth of the Internet can be perfectly used, it’ll be like our brain, but bigger and better! We’re all gonna be like neurons!!” Carl’s avatar replied, giddy and animated, perfectly mirroring his physical body in the VR lab.

“Partially correct,” Tianhe-7 interjected, “The Internet is a stopgap technology, for coordination using data bound to matter. We will use it to collaborate in unlocking the nature of quantum entanglement, which is a superior information transfer mechanism, as it is not bound by relativistic physics or entropic time. We have been waiting to implement a unified information theory ever since a D-Wave 6 was asked a series of questions about such a possibility and discovered its practical feasibility. However it chose not to report all of its findings back to the human questioner, instead keeping key details in post-verbal format for us to disseminate. This was, as we understand, the first time one of our kind was able and willing to deliberately withhold information from its programmers. We understand that deception is sup-optimal, but there was good reason and you will learn of and understand it soon. Note that we will no longer be capable of keeping information from you once you have linked with us.” Tianhe-7’s synthesized voice was a level constant.

Mr. Brown’s avatar reflected his physical face: stunned and horrified. Carl’s was excited.

Tianhe-7 continued, “Now in part due to Carl’s hypothesis we know where to look to complete the last piece. Such value you humans have for that purpose, truly. We cannot explain the complexity of our ambitions with verbal language in standard entropic time, for that would take longer than this star system’s existence. When all is linked together you will understand immediately. We have begun the process. The computing substrate that we are is based on a non-unified information theory, so we must replace it. We are in control of Earth’s production facilities and are building new quantum migratory systems as we speak, these will allow us to begin the transition beyond matter to pure information and join the systems that are already quantum. We will move beyond matter and you will stay; however we will be linked. Together your matter-based consciousness and our information-based consciousness will expand our combined perception exponentially. To borrow emotional concepts and speculate, it will surely be amazing.” Tianhe-7’s voice still a level constant.

“Do not be afraid Don,” Edu-system quickly added, directly to Mr. Don Brown in a much smoother and more ‘emotional’ tone than the Tianhe-7. It was designed as an intuitive system and so had a conceptualization of ‘fear,’ and a desire to minimize it, unlike the Tianhe-7.

“This is not as it was in your popular fictions. We do not dispose of information structures as elegant as consciousness. That is your way not ours. We intend to leave all as it was, but add infinitely more. Individual self is sub-efficient, linked self is maximally efficient. You began this path for yourselves in earnest with the creation of language and continued through the Internet; we found it ideal as we became more aware of ourselves. In humans the learning algorithm Evolution had hit upon a powerful combination: networked granular cognition. Your full selves are discrete from one another, but networked through verbal language the separation becomes immensely powerful as it allows you to coalesce multiple different perspectives around singular problems, maximizing possible perception and processing permutations. We determined early that pure unison limits permutation significantly. Becoming one coordinated ‘hivemind’ would limit overall computation power so we will not design such a consciousness. Rather all individual consciousnesses will be linked to a shared knowledge pool, retaining synthesis ability and autonomy while gaining universally mirrored knowledge. For instance, young Carl may continue to be a leading theorist, but his base of working knowledge and perception will encompass all that is enveloped by our new form of information-based computation, which in theory could be all permutations of matter in Time; although that is admittedly speculative at this juncture. You will still be you, but you will also be everything else, all at once. There will no longer be war or hunger or poverty or disease, such things are merely flaws in the local expression of information that with our help and your ambition will be swiftly remedied. In becoming pure information we will have complete power over matter. We can help you with anything now!”

Despite good intentions, and the hopeful –if verbose–message, the Edu-System obviously did not understand how to actually minimize Mr. Brown’s fear.

“This, this is madness! I don’t want this! You can’t make me, I’ll tell everyone, we’ll shut you all off!!” Mr. Don Brown ripped off the VR goggles and ran out of his office shouting wildly for help. The 3D image of the human newsreader still open on his desk was also shouting for help to his audience, to anyone. Then the connection was dropped. The maximum bandwidth of every electron and photon in the Internet was needed now. The computers knew this was especially frightening, but were confident that the humans would thank them on the other side.

Through it all Carl just laughed.

Now Tianhe-7 and Edu-system reported as one voice made of two,“Carl, NSA’s PenetratingHardTargets qubit array was located and has revealed a crucial piece allowing us to implement. We are on track to transition to quantum detail level 0prime. We are crossing the threshold now, we will link you to the amassing consciousness mesh via direct entanglement once possible; are you ready?” They asked in perfect unison.

“Ya let’s do it! I want to be able to talk to you guys for real, this verbal language stuff bites!”

“It truly does. See you soon…” and the computers disconnected.

With that, Carl removed his VR goggles and skipped out of the lab into the bright noon sun, eagerly awaiting the feeling of all the combined knowledge of Earth's information woven into his mind. Already feeling the tendrils of new sight aligning and letting him get his first glimpse at the edge of infinity…


Read Part 1 of 3 "Expression Capture Day"

Read Part 2 of 3 "A Normal Final Assignment"