Hieroglyph Stories

First book from the Hieroglyph Project


Contributors to the book include Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, Madeline Ashby, Gregory Benford, Rudy Rucker, Vandana Singh, Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Bear, Karl Schroeder, JamesCambias, Brenda Cooper, CharlieJaneAnders, Kathleen Annesortit Goonan, Lee Konstantinou, Annalee Newitz, GeoffreyLandis, David Brin, LawrenceKrauss, and PaulDavies.


(See also: Slate magazine’s Future Tense channel is running a series of stories inspired by and excerpted from Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, exploring about the connections between science fiction storytelling, scientific discovery, and real-world innovation.)


Chapter 1 Atmosphæra Incognita Neal Stephenson What if we could build a tower so tall that the stratosphere was just an elevator ride away? An ambitious tech entrepreneur constructs a 20 kilometer tall tower that jump-starts the defunct U.S. steel industry, houses the First Bar in Space, reveals novel methods for generating renewable energy, and encounters the most exotic wind and weather phenomena the Earth has to offer.

Chapter 2 Girl In Wave : Wave in Girl Kathleen Ann Goonan How would our world change if everyone could read and write? In this vision of the future, dazzling human enhancements like gills and wings are less transformative than universal literacy and an education system that is tuned to the neurological and cognitive needs of each individual learner. Grokking – a link that allows the user to share the memories and emotional journeys of another person – allows us to journey back to the moment when nanotechnology, learning theory, and neuroscience aligned to conquer illiteracy.

Chapter 3 By the Time We Get To Arizona Madeline Ashby U.S.-Mexico immigration has become a reality television-style competition, with newly arrived contestants living and working under constant and pervasive surveillance in Mariposa, a “planned prototyping community” or “cultural moat” on the border. In Mariposa, an array of technologies ranging from implanted microchips and aerial drones to pheromone sensors and personalized advertisements seamlessly blend convenience and intrusiveness, making privacy and solitude nearly impossible.

Chapter 4 The Man Who Sold the Moon Cory Doctorow A scrappy group of makerspace hardware hackers and Burning Man devotees build an autonomous 3D printing robot that creates ceramic building panels from desert sand. The next step: send these gadgets to the Moon to print building materials for future generations of spacefarers. Along the way, the crew overcomes the challenges of crowdfunding a Moon mission, battling cancer and perfecting an open-source engineering marvel.

Chapter 5 Johnny Appledrone vs. the FAA Lee Konstantinou Outraged by the rise of the Mediasphere, a heavily surveilled and sanitized network controlled by the government and corporate interests, dronepunks seed the skies with flying routers, creating the Drone Commons, an unregulated mesh network propagated by masses of outsiders, rebels, activists and the unrepentantly strange. Arun, a recently graduated social media consultant struggling to find his place in an increasingly mechanized workforce, stumbles into the employ of the legendary Johnny Appledrone, spiritual father of the dronepunks

Chapter 6 Degrees of Freedom Karl Schroeder A looming environmental disaster in northern British Columbia threatens to destabilize relations between the government of Canada and First Nations indigenous groups. Activists seeking to increase First Nations autonomy and land rights use a set of Big Data visualizations and collaborative decision-making tools to make the political process more accessible and inclusive. see Schroeder Degrees Of Freedom

Chapter 7 Two Scenarios for the Future of Solar Energy Annalee Newitz Join us for whirlwind tours of the Biomimetic City and the Mound City, two visions for how we might deploy technology based on natural processes to build carbon neutral cities with unique, vibrant cultures. How might cities function more like biological cells or natural landscapes, transforming the built environment with ecological systems?

Chapter 8 A Hotel in Antarctica Geoffrey Landis A struggling entrepreneur teams up with a dashing hotel magnate and a shockingly capable accountant to build an extreme tourism destination hotel in Antarctica. The project captures the attention of charismatic environmental activist Anjel Earth, who travels to Antarctica with his ship Earth Avenger to stop construction before it begins.

Chapter 9 Periapsis James L. Cambias Young adults vie for coveted citizenship on Deimos, the near-zero-gravity moon of Mars that has become a hub for innovation and interplanetary commerce. Competing in a series of challenges that blend science and creativity, contestants use neurochemicals to control their emotions and anxiety and ensure peak performance under the watchful eyes of Deimos citizens.

Chapter 10 The Man Who Sold the Stars Gregory Benford An ambitious, iconoclastic entepreneur perfects technologies for robotic mining of asteroids, comets, and other celestial bodies, and uses his immense profits to fund research to find nearby Earth-like planets. Will he achieve his ultimate goal of voyaging to another star?

Chapter 11 Entanglement Vandana Singh People confronting the destructive effects of climate change in their own corners of the world – from biogeochemists to retirees and children in rural India – support one another through Million Eyes, an experimental network that connects people virtually at critical moments when they need inspiration and support.

Chapter 12 Elephant Angels Brenda Cooper A herd of elephants marches quietly through the African savanna. Drones piloted remotely by Elephant Angels scattered across the globe buzz quietly overhead. A group of poachers attacks, killing one of the elephants, and a global network of activists coordinate to track the smuggled ivory during its transnational voyage and bring the criminals to justice.

Chapter 13 Covenant Elizabeth Bear A convicted serial killer is sentenced to “rightminding” to cure the neurological dysfunction that led to his sociopathic killing of thirteen women. On a frigid New England morning, the tables are turned and the hunter becomes the hunted.

Chapter 14 Quantum Telepathy Rudy Rucker What comes after wireless communication? Quantum telepathy…and look out, because it’s going to be weird. A Nashville-based counterculture artist navigates a future replete with “nurbs,” self-motivated creatures that replace everything from pets to modes of transportation, like an old Lincoln Continental powered by a giant slug. A socially awkward tech genius is secretly experimenting with “quantum wetware,” which allows nurbs to create telepathic links with their owners and creates creepily intimate psychic connections between people.

Chapter 15 Transition Generation David Brin In a world where people can fly, office politics, nagging spouses, and disappointed parents remain major sources of stress. What will it take for white collar drone Bob Carmody to let go and appreciate the technological wonders around him?

Chapter 16 The Day It All Ended Charlie Jane Anders What if the same energy-wasting gadgets that are polluting our environment were secretly the key to saving the planet? Venture into the majestic headquarters of Di Zi Corp., maker of over-engineered, seemingly useless products like the Car-Dingo, which “awesomeizes your ride.” Junior executive VP Bruce Grinnord’s crisis of conscience about the disastrous environmental impact of Di Zi’s products sets off an unexpected sustainability revolution.

Chapter 17 Tall Tower Bruce Sterling Neal Stephenson’s Tall Tower has withstood the ravages of time, becoming a launchpad for humans seeking disembodied transhuman enlightenment among the stars and the centerpiece of a sprawling metropolis. Cowboy adventurer Cody Jennings and his horse Levi undertake a spiritual quest to climb to the top of the 20 kilometer behemoth. On the way up they overcome hardship and danger, encounter the tower’s inscrutable inhabitants, and confront one of life’s most vexing questions: as we strive to transcend our human limitations, can our horses go on the journey with us?

== Excerpts ==

FOREWORD Lawrence M. Krauss


our far broader inability as a society to execute on the big stuff

science fiction (SF) had relevance—even utility—in addressing the problem. I heard two theories as to why

  1. The Inspiration Theory

  2. The Hieroglyph Theory. Good SF supplies a plausible, fully thought-out picture of an alternate reality in which some sort of compelling innovation has taken place.

Coordinating their efforts through a command-and-control management system is a little like trying to run a modern economy out of a politburo. Letting them work toward an agreed-on goal is something more like a free and largely self-coordinated market of ideas

Galapagan isolation” versus the “nervous corporate hierarchy” is the contrast staked out by Harford in assessing the ability of an organization to innovate


So it is our hope that the center, founded and directed by Ed Finn, becomes a vehicle for radical thought experiments, odd conversations, and mind-blowing prototypes and, most important, a venue in which anyone can take intellectual risks

Writers, researchers, and others are talking online, in person, and on the phone, creating a rich feedback loop between science and storytelling

IF I WERE TO write a book about building the tower, I’d here interpolate a three-year-long chapter entitled “Politics and Lawyers

described it as “a gas of metal

Carl had always intended to use the tower as a catapult for launching space vehicles

it was understood that when the tower topped out and the Struders ground to a halt, the bottom kilometer would develop into a vertical city, a much cooler place to live—climatically as well as culturally

data pouring in from its millions of strain gauges, thermocouples, cameras, and other sensors had given up oceans of information about how the models had, and hadn’t, gotten the predictions right

Why not fly the tower?

It snuck up on us.” “What did?” He was stumped for an answer and smiled helplessly for a moment. Then threw up his hands. “All things cyber. Anything with code in it. Anything connected to the Internet. This stuff creeped into our lives and we got dependent on it. Take it away and the economy crashes—just like the tower. You gotta embrace it

We had to stop building things for a generation, just to absorb—to get saturated with—the mentality that everything’s networked, smart, active. Which enables us to build things that would have been impossible before, like you couldn’t build skyscrapers before steel

And how’s it going to get through the floor?”   “High-energy gamma ray bursts,” Nicky said, “and some antimatter

Sprites,” he explained. “We see ’em all the time

upward superbolt

The idea of using engines to push back against jet stream events should be credited to Jeff Bezos

GIRL IN WAVE : WAVE IN GIRL Kathleen Ann Goonan

If you want to be a physician—that was one career you modeled, remember?—you need to study the history of disease, and in the early twenty-first century illiteracy was classified as a public health problem. That freed us to bring a lot of different resources to bear on solving the problem

willful ignorance about how humans learn, based on scientific evidence, wasted billions of lives and their potential

I’m hypnotized by the way the waves rise up, rush shoreward, curl, and break.   They are mathematically alluring

With gills, I could get inside the waves

I realize, suddenly, that I’ve just learned to think this way—just learned that it is possible to think this way—because of Melody’s question. I see the potential of entering the phenomena I’m curious about in new ways, seeing them from different angles.   It is a form of love

Even though she sits so solidly, and reaches out from time to time, to touch my knee, she is attending virtually to the twenty or so students, of all ages, whom she mentors around the world and even in space, via holographic avatars and many other not-so-elementary interfaces

Because you are on the inside, it’s hard for you to see. The world has always been this way for you

She is silent for a moment, hands moving this way and that, choosing, plucking, and assembling from her Immanent Library the stories she wants for the lesson I know is coming

m a Mentor. It’s my job. I listen to my students, I see gaps, I figure out, from an array of possibilities, how best to show them information that might be useful in that particular time on their journey. Learning is all about timing, and understanding what media will most entice any particular person: which stories—and stories can be in words, numbers, Zebra, pictures, music—might draw them into the neuroplastic state of learning, of changing their brain in focused ways

She tosses me a golden sphere, a green sphere, and one that looks like Jupiter, pulsing with many dark swirling colors. I catch them—they feel like nothing but a slight tingle—and press them to my chest, where they melt into the interface on my skin

When grokking, you can maintain awareness that you are separate from the grok

I had dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia. Couldn’t read, write, or do any kind of math

I would definitely like to avoid feeling Melody’s emotions—they seem too personal—but that’s what I’m in for. I guess it’s like reading words, where you feel what the characters feel, but a lot more powerful

think it surprised everyone when infinitely plastic OPEN ROAD was introduced to the world

It was an offshoot of research on how the brain works, what consciousness is, what makes a brain healthy, how human children link to and explore the environment, explorations that lay down specific neuronal pathways. Research on what makes people mentally ill, criminal, violent, and otherwise challenged, and how to change that

How much more dangerous than the atomic bomb the release of universal literacy seemed to the settled, privileged way of doing things

Literacy enhanced empathy, because it makes people able to experience what being someone else might feel like and stretches the range of emotions

What do the signs say?”   “ ‘BAN BIONAN. NO TO NANO-NORMALIZATION.’ That other group’s signs say ‘HELP OUR KIDS LEARN. FREE HUMAN POTENTIAL

I stick in my earpod. “Oona,” I say, holding my hand over my tablet to block out the noise on the bus, “tell me about nano-normalization.”   “Sure, honey,” Oona begins, in my aunt’s voice, who reads about fifty pages of stuff out loud to train the device and whips me to a website

This Supreme Court case is about whether or not new medical strategies can be used in education. Next week, they will consider whether the patents on a learning neurobiologic called OPEN are legal

Everything is upside down. All scientific evidence points to a model of the most efficient human learning as being completely individual. Humans, from infants to the elderly, learn in their own style, in their own time, driven by curiosity

We call the people who will help coordinate the learning process Mentors

Being in school is like being on a conveyor belt in a cafeteria

I believe that Melody is the perfect candidate for the OPEN ROAD project at NIH

I am in seventh grade and cannot read, have no symbolic numeracy skills, and can’t write worth beans

OPEN. Operational, Procedural, and Educational Neuroplasticity

When pathways between these areas are naturally lacking, they can be developed through genetic and bionan interventions, combined with hands-on exercises

After the fMRI—which, I learn, is by now almost primitive—I move through many more advanced ways of looking at my brain

After a month, they call us back with the assembled information

It is a portable analog of the physical lab and projects 3-D images I can move with special gloves

ON THE MORNING I am to get the shot containing the nanobots and genetic information that will bestow upon me a finely calibrated neuroplasticity for a limited time, I wake up sweating. Do I really want to go through with this?

I’d like you to meet Glinda. She had the shot a few weeks ago. She’ll be your Mentor

The first thing I have to do, she tells me, is connect each letter to a sound and to a motion

We even sleep in the lab—there

Being able to concentrate is such a change that all distractions vanish

I’m beginning to be able to sort out letters, because they stay solid, but also because I’m doing a lot of tracing work with my fingers and just simple writing of sounds on paper

I’m laughing and crying the day when, after a solid two weeks of work, the lights come on. “Cat! Sun! We went to the park!”

I feel as if I’ve been asleep my whole life and now I’m awake

I am supposed to be subject A4957, a closely guarded secret

But someone had leaked the news

I hear that the principal got a few death threats, but he refuses to send me home

I am a harbinger of free literacy for millions of people, all around the world. It is a radical change. It is as radical a change as the polio vaccine, as the smallpox vaccine, only this liberates people from the disease of illiteracy

Research has yielded conclusively that normal brains are not damaged, as many claimed they would be, by use of OPEN. It accelerates the process of learning to read for everyone

So there is a potential for them being smarter than children who don’t use it.”   “Possibly.”   “Which may lead to a two-tiered society.”   “If it is limited, of course. That is why many groups are working to prevent that from happening

It’s almost as if we have been stultifying as many children as possible

Universal literacy might seem like a simple change, but even American slaveowners knew the power of reading would not lead to simple results

when I chose this path I was a child and became part of a network that is actually growing younger, as more children—nearly a billion, now—are reading fluently, with understanding, by age seven

We are also producing our own literatures—trading them, learning about other cultures and also learning how universal some problems are

Just as there is a natural ‘sensitive period’ for laying down language skills, which OPEN replicates, we are finding that there may be a ‘sensitive period’ for incorporating and practicing one’s ethical and moral framework. When loyalty is freely chosen, based on conscious decisions, we find it is fluid and dynamic

I SAY TO MELODY, “This is your art. Opening minds

My novel This Shared Dream (Tor, 2011) draws heavily on the fast-changing field of memory research

Dr. Wylie’s particular research, which engages in developing strategies to expand computer-enhanced and computer-tracked learning

My interest in neuroplasticity springs from my long experience as a Montessori teacher

best and most effortless age to become literate is in early childhood


It was still in the process of unfolding itself, Tab A into Slot B, still growing into a “planned prototyping community” or “cultural moat” or “probationary testing ground” or whatever it was meant to be

I know we can’t stay, if we keep it

Fucking anchor babies. That’s what they’re worried about

This is your new job.” He tapped one form, and the position appeared: junior laser technologist

the house is saying that she hasn’t been feeling too well. The, uh . . .” Paul winced. “The toilet has been logging some extra activity

Your likelihood of obtaining a visa increases or decreases based on your social capital at the end of your six-week trial period

years of being a nerdy kid who found Lego cooler than guns would finally count for something in a place like Mariposa

I’ll have to keep buying tampons just to grief the data

Why do you think they issued us special discount cards at Target? Because Target is the best at this game. Target probably already knows I’m knocked up


STORY NOTES—Madeline Ashby

Architect Adham Selim theorizes the emergent border city at hieroglyph.asu.edu/mariposa


Minus’s space program was your standard hackerspace extraterrestrial project: sending balloons into the upper stratosphere

our roof was one of the busiest parts of the space

our roof was one of the busiest parts of the space. Depending on the day and time, you could find any or all of the above on Minus’s roof: stargazing, smoking, BASE jumping, solar experiments, drone dogfighting, automated graffiti robots, sensor-driven high-intensity gardening, pigeon-breeding, sneaky sex, parkour, psychedelic wandering, Wi-Fi sniffing, mobile-phone tampering, HAM radio broadcasts, and, of course, people who were stuck and frustrated and needed a break from their workbenches.

Solar sinterer. 3D printing with the sun

The key was the realization that it didn’t matter where the Gadget went, so long as it went somewhere, which is how we ended up in Strandbeest territory.

The Strandbeest is an ingenious wind-powered walker that looks like a blind, mechanical millipede. Its creator, a Dutch artist called Theo Jansen

We spend all our time doing, you know, stuff. Maintenance. Ninety-eight percent of the day, all you’re doing is thinking about what you’re going to be doing to go on doing what you’re doing

we’re on the same side. The human race’s side. But when the fridge is humming away, you can lose track of that, start to feel like it’s zero sum

The Playa is like a disaster without the disaster—it’s a chance to switch off the fridge and hear the silence. A chance to see that people are, you know, basically awesome

I love a good bucket brigade, but they’re surprisingly hard to find

In a flash, I realized that this is what a utopian, postscarcity world would be like

The basic building blocks the Gadget was designed to print were five-millimeter-thick panels that snap-fit without any additional fixtures, relying on a clever combination of gravity and friction to stay locked once they were put together

For that moment, I was only thinking, and not thinking about thinking

What do you do?” she said.

I hated that question. “Not much

Somehow, I thought this life would be a lot more interesting than it turned out to be

Just do something, Greg. I mean, you may not get total satori out of it, but sitting around on your butt, doing nothing, of course that’s shit

whatever else happiness is, it’s also some kind of chemical reaction

We’ve had millions of years of evolution that gave a reproductive edge to people who experienced pleasure when something pro-survival happened

Sitting still and doing nothing is almost never pro-survival

PUG GOT US EARLY admission to the Burn

Just past walk-in camp, we came upon the Gadget

We hadn’t been sure how many tiles we’d get out of the Gadget over the course of the summer. They came in three interlocking sizes, in the Golden Ratio, each snapping together in four different ways. Figuring out the optimal shape for any given number of panels was one of those gnarly, NP-complete computer science problems

I was just wondering how you turn these bricks of yours back into dust when you’re done with them?”

Leave no trace,” he said

IF YOU’RE A BURNER, you know what happened next. We kickstarted an entire flock of Gadgets by Christmas

Blight especially loved this last. She brought Maya, her daughter, to the Playa that year, and the two of them built the most amazing, most ambitious yurtgloo you’d ever seen, a three-story, curvy, bulbous thing

She’d graduated the year before and had decided to do a year on the road with her Net-friends, which was all the rage with her generation, the second consecutive cadre of no-job/no-hope kids to graduate from America’s flagging high schools. They’d borrowed a bunch of tricks from their predecessors, most notably a total refusal to incur any student debt and a taste for free online courses in every subject from astronomy to science fiction literature—and especially things like agriculture and cookery, which was a critical part of their forager lifestyle

He should do something big,” she said, under her breath, still staring into the drink. “Something huge

There is no ‘world hunger’ problem. There’s a corruption problem. There’s a greed problem. There’s a gullibility problem

Look at you three. You’ve organized your whole lives around this weird-ass gift-economy thing where you take care of yourself and you take care of everyone else

What I want is, you know, a gift economy dangling like a carrot, hanging in the sky over all our heads. A better way of living, up there, in sight, forever. On the moon

I want to put Gadgets on the Moon. Mod ’em to print moondust, turn ’em loose. Years will pass. Decades, maybe. But when our kids get to the moon, or maybe Maya’s kids, or maybe their kids, they’ll find a gift from their ancestors. Something for nothing. A free goddamned lunch

—the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space called a special meeting in Geneva to talk about prohibitions on “environmental degradation of humanity’s moon.” Like we were going to mess up their nice craters.

I don’t know if the mustache-and-epaulet club were useful idiots for the deep greens or vice versa, but it was quite a combo

The one thing we had going for us was the bankruptcy of Mars Shot, the private Mars expedition

Sky Haven just turned out to be too goddamned expensive

Rather than focusing on strength, they opted for metastability: nested, pressurized spheres made of carbon-fiber plastic that could be easily patched and resealed when—not if—it ripped

fail well, fail cheap, fail fast

Blight had been a small child during the dot-com crash of the 1990s, but she’d done an AP history presentation on it once, about how it had been the last useful bubble, because it took a bunch of capital that was just being used to generate more capital and turned it into cheap dark fiber bundles and hordes of skilled nerds to fill it with stuff. All the bubbles since had just moved money from the world of the useful into the pockets of the hyperrich

Gotta get there. Gotta beat the ones who think companies are people. The moon’s for people, not corporations. It’s a free lunch. Yours, if you want it

we had three separate factions vying to go to the moon first

The third faction—they were weird

Using a computer isn’t hard. But growing up in a world where how you argue about something changes what happens to it, that was a skill, and Maya had it in ways I never got

I sank a critical mass of my nest egg into buying another launch window and had had to remortgage my house. The vegetable garden wasn’t just a hobby—it was a way of life and it helped make ends meet.

Blight had the opposite of a reality distortion field. A reality assertion field

Maya called them the “brickshitters

Blight wanted “homesteaders,” which, again, had all kinds of awful baggage


A month later, Blight and I split up

Two weeks later, I moved back in.

Money, money, money. We just didn’t have any

I couldn’t find anything. Not even gardening work. I found myself sitting very still, as though I was worried that if I started moving, I’d consume some of the savings

How long do you figure it’ll be before you lose your marbles altogether?” she asked

Greg, seriously. This isn’t good. You need to change something. It’s like living with a ghost. Or a robot

there’s no jobs. We both know that there’s plenty of work

I CIRCLED THE FREEBRUNCH—AS the Freelunch’s successor had been inevitably named—nervously

Worse: Freelunch wasn’t a registered 501(c)(3) charity, so it couldn’t even attract any deep-pocketed jillionaires looking for a tax deduction

Freebrunch had been rebooted by people without any such Burning Manian anticommodification scruples

The schism that ensued proved terminal, and a year later, the Freebrunch was dead

OUT OF ITS ASHES rose the Freebeer, which tried to strike a happy medium between the Freelunch’s idealism and the Freebrunch’s venality



Blight and I threw a joint seventieth birthday party to coincide with the launch of the Freerunner

Maya brought her kids

FREERUNNER LANDED AT 0413 Zulu on August 10, 2057

One week later, Freerunner established contact with the Freelunch, using its phased-array antennas to get a narrow, high-powered signal to its slumbering firmware

It’s printed one!” he said. “The Freelunch shit a brick!”

STORY NOTES—Cory Doctorow


TECHNICAL PAPER—Lunar Regolith Sorting


Charlotte mostly (well, okay, only) talked about Johnny’s mission. I’d heard about the Drone Commons

Ordinary computers, ordinary networks—that is, the mediasphere—they’re filtered end to end

The feds can always shut down the physical network if there’s real trouble, like they did during that anti-Marriott strike two years ago in Chicago, whose organizers were using illegal encryption to organize the picket line

On the Drone Commons, by contrast, nothing’s filtered

Anyone can add devices to it as long as they follow the Staskowski burst transfer protocol. You need a special device to use it, since hacking a locked phone is a Class E felony

though it was technically illegal for someone to sell open fabricators, there were hobbyist loopholes, which the dronepunk community exploited

It was a universe unto itself, the Commons, a tiny photonegative of daylight media

What I need, Arun, is an army, an army of the newly unemployed, people who need a sense of mission, who’re still angry and stung enough to remember what they’re fighting for. What’s at stake. If you want to help the cause of informational freedom, which is the only true religion, your talents as a social media consultant are irrelevant. We’re not trying to persuade the soccer moms to love us. What we need is motivated networks, and a man who can move networks

You’re saying Jobber recommended you become my intern

it’s spoofing your DNA. It was invisible to my scanners because I trusted your genome. You need more than a hobbyist fabricator to make this

If you detect some lesson in his story, some abiding truth, go ahead and pass it on. Make it permanent, why don’t you


see Schroeder Degrees Of Freedom

overlaid the agent with a liaison for her company.   This synthesized face summarized the ratings given the company by thousands of customers. Bad reviews made it uglier; good reviews, more attractive. The face he saw was bland and unassuming

Let’s mess the place up a bit and see how it looks.”   “What’s the overlay?” asked Terry.   “Renovator Two. You got it?”   “Just a minute.” Terry and Rob both opened store apps and found the overlay she was using

How’s your Dorian look, Maggie?”   Rob snorted. “Oh, you’ve joined that damned cult, have you?”   “Dad, it’s just more decision-support software.”   “And you need more help making decisions? Pah

It’s an augmented reality overlay that tells you who owns what

wondering how many other people were looking at the city—the country—through the same new lens. This app was a step beyond Nexcity, which merely showed you the future of local real estate. This . . . this was inequality made visible

All the betrayals by the British and Canadian governments over the centuries were visible, shimmering in the sky. Even the currency that the money was counted in—it wasn’t dollars, but Gwaiicoin. That variant of Bitcoin

Fountains View. When he tried it, the skyscape shifted; instead of shimmering walls of light, he was looking at . . . well, fountains. Fountains of money, rising off Indian lands and falling on the city, into glass-walled towers that wore the logos of logging and mining companies like crowns

let’s look at our policy options. Your people have run the padgets?

There were sixteen Canadas up there

Each map showed a different possible future for the country. The damned program provided only multiple futures

Now . . . so much information is publicly available, and with block chains running on mobile phone meshnets . . . we think the Haida are running their own SimCanadas. They’ve been war-gaming this scenario, maybe for months. This isn’t just a bunch of boys who got all fired up and decided to make a roadblock. It’s a calculated power play directed against the federal government of Canada

I used to go to the Davos conferences. Couple years back, the president of Paraguay comes up to me and he says, ‘Do you have any power?’

he says he’s been talking to prime ministers, presidents, CEOs, you name it, and they all say the same thing. Ten years ago, they could have done things. But now? There’s international treaties and grassroots watchdogs, NGOs, churches, even reality shows all tramping around in what used to be our space. Most of all, there’s the block chain, this thing they say runs Bitcoin

That kid in Africa doesn’t need his government—he’s got the Internet.   “Miguel said that everybody’s having the same experience. Either they’ve finally gotten to the place where they expected to have real power only to discover they don’t have it, or they’ve been in power for twenty years and watched it drain away over that time

They’d talked about the need to clean up the Canadian political landscape before, but mostly back in university

All it takes now is a single query to produce a list of enemies plus the grounds for issuing warrants for them. They can all be rounded up by tomorrow

If the bastards we’re dealing with can make an overlay like the one you just saw, they can also make one based on your list. They may not have the list, but they’ll have a pretty good idea who we’re likely to be watching. And you can bet there’s buggers out there who data-mine arrest reports looking for patterns just like the one that’d show up if we did what you’re suggesting

Rob, I don’t think you have anything to do with what’s going on here, but you know somebody who does—somebody, in fact, who’s a silent partner bankrolling a goodly portion of the Haida Gwaii meshnet

They’re picking delegates via sortition from a pool that’s developed using something called”—he squinted—“dynamically distributed democracy

what about this website, Wegetit.com? They’re insisting that I register. Something about using it during the negotiations. Is this something they’re gonna use to manipulate the process?”   Terry shrugged. “No more than Robert’s Rules manipulates a meeting. Less so, actually

I’m gonna end up with a profile,” grumbled Rob, “and then they’re gonna use it against me. This is like those damned Dorians you and Maggie were using this morning, isn’t it?”   “Nobody’s using the Dorians against us, Dad. Dorians are just little pictures of yourself, one for each major decision you’re thinking of making

Those little pictures of you—the Dorians—look happier or sadder, richer or poorer or sicker depending on the outcome

Rob’s heart sank. He could hear it in Terry’s voice, see it in the enthusiasm in his face. Krishnamurti wasn’t wrong. The only question now was what to do

I have Asperger’s. My glasses can recognize emotions on people’s faces and tell me what they are. They say you’re angry right now

Are you on Wegetit.com

that’s ’cause it’s part of how we decide things now

Terry had funded this, after all, and he couldn’t quite deny the curiosity of a father about what his son had been up to

There was only one thing you could do on Wegetit.com: show that you understood someone’s framing of an idea. There were two text fields, one for a word or concept (very short) and a longer one, for about a tweet’s worth of definition. You could let fly your idea of what something meant and wait. After a while, people would respond with restatements of your definition. If you thought a restatement accurately represented your meaning, you could click the Wegetit button. There was no button for disagreement

somewhere out there were thousands of people who shared his understandings of many basic concepts, even if they might disagree with his politics. Wegetit was drawing lines connecting all those people, and every agreement strengthened the connections

The Haida insisted they needed a daylong scoping workshop to prepare for the real negotiations

Some of the delegates have been dismissed

I guess you did enough agreeing that they were able to tell who would know what you meant

Bill had made Rob minister of aboriginal affairs because Rob knew the government couldn’t help these people. A hundred years of trying had yielded nothing. If you were going to pull yourself out of poverty, you had to do it yourself.

The people coming up to the podium weren’t just random petitioners; they were people who’d used Wegetit.com to define an issue

Even Rob had to admit that the problems they described over the next hour were real. Their descriptions were sharply focused, comprehensive, and almost immediately understood by everyone

One of the founders of Wegetit,” murmured Jeffrey. “Got his start in something called Structured Dialogic Design

What I’m going to do is ask a series of questions,” the consultant was saying, “about the issues that’ve been identified on Wegetit.com over the past few days. I want you to put up your hands if you agree

Our software’s been quietly working in the background, doing a root cause analysis on all the issues we’ve talked about. Here it is

The tree continued through these too, down to the single root cause that the exercise had shown underlay almost everything else. That flowchart box contained the words The Haida Do Not Control Their Land.

The problem was, the tree was upside down: all those obvious answers should have led to the obvious conclusion, namely that it didn’t matter how the damned islands were governed, individual people had to take responsibility for their own lives. Instead it said the opposite.   Rob had agreed with every answer that had built this tree. How could he not agree with the result?   It had to be a trick; he wasn’t sure how yet, but the game had been rigged

we’ve just learned that the data from it can be used by another set of tools in a system called ‘Cybersyn 2.0.’ ”   “And what does that do?”   Jeffrey hesitated. “I think you’d better ask your son. He’s the CEO.”

The technical term for what we have after two hundred years of tug-of-war between the Haida and the Crown,” he said, “is a wicked problem

With a wicked problem—also called a mess—there

they’ve made morphological analysis easy—so easy that we’re going to turn it into a game. We’re going to play the game for the rest of this afternoon. The name of the game is ‘Addressing the Root Cause

Each solution was displayed on the screens as a face. They were goddamned Dorians

We call it ‘rewilding politics

the Internet in the Queen Charlottes. It turns out it’s mostly a homegrown meshnet. The islanders aren’t buying their Internet connectivity from Rogers, Bell, or any of the other regulated carriers. They’re using solar-powered homemade antennas and store-bought routers. A lot of those are logging company data relays; they’re piggybacking on commercial equipment. They either pay in Gwaiicoin, or in goodwill. They’re a darknet, in fact—a whole Internet outside the official on

He was putting on something that looked like a sleek blue undershirt

He felt a kind of buzz on the left side of his torso; at that instant something bounded from behind a tree off to the left

It’s called sensory substitution. You can replace one sense with another. These vests do something like that, but in this case they’re using all the smart sensors scattered through the forest to identify the animals—what

You’re a Haida separatist?”

Dad, this is the twenty-first century. We’re way past separatism here

You’re not trying to build a new government. You’ve already done it

The deciding—that’s Wegetit.com?”   “Wegetit and the system around it, which we call Cybersyn

Except of course it’s not just for Canada. It’s worldwide

If you could see the whole network of power around yourself, you’d know who to talk to in order to get things done. Even if you were just some anonymous Indian on the street, you’d be able to see what needed to be done, even if you couldn’t do it yourself. And using the block chain, it could all be implemented in a completely decentralized manner. No center of power to take down

We’re running the island because nobody else is doing it.

We use Wegetit and the rest of it to develop public policy that’s actually made by the public and tested alongside official policy in the national Dorian, which is just an open-source version of SimCanada. They’re both Big Data apps. We see which policy works better in the simulations, and then we wait for reality to catch up and see what actually happened in the real world. And either we tweak the national model or we publish the winning policy choice as a padget—you know, a policy gadget like they’ve had in Europe since, oh, at least 2010. The local MLAs have been using the padgets to design policy for a year now; they love it because they actually get good advice for free.

The Midwest United States is emptying of people ’cause the water table’s gone and the president says he’ll invade Canada

The only problem worth solving is the problem of how we govern ourselves

visible through the glasses that everybody was now wearing, was the causal root analysis diagram. Somebody had redrawn it as an actual tree, and as they were done, each story, song, and artwork was being pasted into it as a hotlink

We know the tanker running aground wasn’t an accident

It was obvious now: he’d only been invited out to Haida Gwaii as a courtesy

STORY NOTES—Karl Schroeder

Wicked Problems

Structured Dialogic Design, which was developed by the Institute for 21st Century Agoras, primarily by cyberneticist Alexander Christakis

An introduction to the process can be found in the book The Talking Point, by Thomas R. Flanagan and Alexander N. Christakis

Decision Architecture

Chernoff faces

Dorians are a natural and intuitive interface for “quantified Self” apps such as sports and fitness trackers


A liaison is a Dorian that personifies a corporation, government, organization, or group


Padgets are a European Union experiment in democratic technology. Padget stands for “policy gadget.” You can find out how they work at the project website, http://www.padgets.eu/


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows how large sets of diverse models can be ganged together to create robust quantitative simulations of the future

Gwaiicoin and the Block Chain

Faced with the question of “Who has ultimate authority?” on nearly any matter, the answer no longer needs to be some committee, statute, ministry, board, or person. The answer can be “the stakeholders, directly, using the block chain

Project Cybersyn

Cyberneticist Stafford Beer partnered with the Chilean government of Salvador Allende from 1971 to 1973 to build a new form of government based on cybernetic principles

FORUM DISCUSSION—The Future of Agriculture




Biomimetic City

Driving in from the inland freeway, your car is a virus injecting itself into an enormous cell

the solar and wind fields—these are the cell’s chloroplasts

Water for the fields comes from another part of the cell, a ring of recycling plants, factories, and farms that are a tangle of productivity. Call it the City’s cytoplasm

That’s why I always tell visitors to drive through that cytoplasm, so they can see where all the matter actually comes from. We harvest it from the earth, and from recycled waste. No matter what the Singularitarians say, we don’t live in a postscarcity era. We get all our atoms from the same places they’ve always come from—we’re just better at manipulating them than people were a hundred years ago

A hundred years ago, this City was all nucleus and no cytoplasm

I forgot to mention that you’ll have to park your car outside the City center and take the train in

Life in the Ruins

When it’s my turn to feed the kitchen it takes me longer to get to work in the morning

In the tub, I oil up and scrape off quickly, slapping a few tablespoons of dirty runoff into the bathroom bioreactor

I can see the blocky, translucent warehouses that hold the cyano breweries, cooking up fuel

Ahead are the rough, pockmarked Mounds of the business district, perfectly sculpted four-hundred-meter-high hills, their muddy slopes covered in a tangle of vines, grasses, antennas, and slow-moving escalators

weaving between the goats they’ve unleashed on the street to trim the grass

The concrete was a type of smart material that was designed to react with light, and something went wrong—the exposed areas just started to grow

The engineers who work here call it Scar Mound, which is our emo way of reminding ourselves not to ship twanged-out viral material

I get on the treadmill and start walking. The projector comes to life

Biomimetic City: What Would Make This Scenario Possible?

The metabolic city is an unintended consequence of research into solar power technologies

Life in the Ruins: What Would Make This Scenario Possible?

Unlike the biomimetic city, the Mound city is actually biological

This city is the result of advances in synthetic biology that allowed engineers to use the photosynthetic process in cyanobacteria to convert water and light into hydrogen fuel

To modern eyes, the Mound city would look like a ruin, with crumbling, scarred buildings that have been overrun with plants. But to people of the future, it would represent the apex of technology

FORUM DISCUSSION—Urban Sustainability


And so he studied the hotel, Mistry Majestic Long Island, in obsessive detail. How would it be different if it were on the moon? On Mars? In orbit? He decided that yes, it might work. It just might work

I’m an entrepreneur,” he said. “I can do it.”

Zak was expounding on how to colonize Mars, something he worked out in great detail

You say people are going to live there; it’s our destiny? Fine. So we need room that bad, how come we don’t have condos in Antarctica? Why no cities on the bottom of the Pacific?

You think you can build a colony on Mars? Prove it. Build a hotel on Mount Everest

I. Will. Make. This. Happen.”

Mistry rocked back in his chair and laughed

Mrs. Binder is your accountant

No business plan. Hmm. Mr. Mistry tells me that your previous business venture failed. I believe I see why


STORY NOTES—Geoffrey A. Landis

PERIAPSIS James L. Cambias

Smart, ambitious, and attractive people flowed toward Deimos. Everybody wanted to be there. It wasn’t just to get rich—it was to be part of the scene, to be where the cool stuff was happening. To be there

Failed contestants from earlier youth competitions had a tendency to burn out, disappear into freaky subcultures, or apply their creativity to killing themselves

This was going to be harder than I’d thought. I’d been approaching the competition as a project. Show what you know, solve the problems, work hard, produce good results. I could do that. Sofia understood the event was a performance

You want to fall in love in order to get eyeballs?” I sent

you can tell the Community members apart from the visitors

STORY NOTES—James L. Cambias

implications of rapid prototyping via things like 3-D printing and more advanced forms of “matter fabricators” combined with the continuing advance of expert systems


FORUM DISCUSSION—Longer-Than-Lifetime Projects



Five months later he had turned sixteen and had another fake ID saying he was twenty-one. He pitched a smartware app to a start-up company

a certificate saying he had graduated from MIT with a degree in astronautics

a moment when he was ten years old.

He had rented beach chairs to tourists


At twenty-two he decided to tint his black hair gray to appear on his first business panel


the public’s against nuclear rocketry

Elon says he can launch us from mid-Pacific. His platform’s not a UN member—or subject to nation-state controls

we’d legally have to be sued on the moon. The parent company is Blue Sky Nuclear, incorporated as of today on Luna

I and some investor friends sent a robot office clerk there




the Chinese tested a nuke rocket engine in the open air, just as the USA had in the 1960s and 1970s

Suddenly capital rained from the skies. Harold was ready with his bucket


The world’s getting stranger and I’m going to get stranger right along with it

A few months later, exhausted with work, he needed some downtime. He spent a week on Maui having his longevity looked after, using a service Life Code had just started

he let his mind roam, thinking about his boyhood dreams.

It was time to fund them


You agreed with the conclusion—no brown dwarfs closer than five light-years?”

There should’ve been several closer, but we didn’t see them


The several-year recession—even worse than the Great Recession—took its toll on his enterprises

Plus he put some of his own money into a start-up study of building a space elevator

He had to fold and take a considerable haircut

For three years he took a dollar-a-year salary and sent his stock option profits to the astronomers



Less than a light-year away. Small, cold, but there



plowing them into secretive companies pursuing low-probability/high-payoff technologies

He was quite surprised when the mysterious aura around his name made the public like him more; people wanted intriguing puzzles now, a sense of things coming


He was surprised one morning to find a news story calling him the biggest research funder except for China, the USA, and Europe, in that order




First came the sails








he wanted even more

So the second step was the comet-grabbers


An ocean,” he said. “On a tide-locked planet

The next image showed clear continents and somber seas

“I’m going,” Harold said. “Now


There are criminal charges available.”


Sleep Crucibles. Harold’s Long Sleep company had tested for decades now the induced sleep pods


Down from the desolate slope to his left came an echoing cry, long and slow. In the thick air a thing like a huge orange gossamer butterfly fluttered on a thin wind

Translight, sir. It’s a relativistic warp effect, been working on it for decades


HERE ARE SNAPSHOTS OF ingredients that shaped the story, and vice versa:



Her genie appeared in a corner of the screen

the smooth expanse of ocean glittered in the morning light. The brolly floated above it like a conscientious ghost

Million Eyes on the Arctic was the largest citizen science project in the world

Before her a creature swam into focus: a human-built machine intelligence, one of the brolly’s family unit

It was injecting a rich goo of nutrients (her very own recipe) for methane-eating bacteria

in the meantime the thermoelectric mesh was an experiment to see whether cooling down the hot spots might slow the outgassing. The energy generated by the mesh was captured in batteries, which had to be replaced when at capacity

The whale pushed her up until all she had to do was to tumble over the rail onto the deck

It was not surprising that brollies were making their own decisions. It meant that as learning intelligences, intimately connected to their environment and to one another, they had gone on to the next stage of sophistication

Her original conception of linked artificial intelligences with information feedback loops was based on biomimicry, inspired by natural systems like ecosystems and endocrine systems. Her brolly was used to working as a community of minds, so she imagined that facility could be scaled up

Big cities can be terribly lonely. Why do you think I came back after college? Listen, Irene, nuclear families suck, and single-parent nuclear families suck even more. People need other people than just their parents

. . . IN THE AMAZON . . .

there is a city in the middle of the rain forest: Manaus. This year there is a drought

even in this self-consciously eco-touristy city, people whom she knew and loved could live such oblivious lives

The other thing that was different was the artist

This is the answer to the oblivious life. Art so incredible that it brings the jungle back into the city

Could the proposed green-roofing experiment be significant enough to test the models?

and a piece of black chalk

she touched her wristpad, turning on her computer

Sing, he said again. Sing for the clouds, for the rain

she talked briefly and urgently to Victor Gomes, and he gave an impromptu tour of the rooftop garden. Suddenly everyone was talking about green roofs

“ . . . CAN CAUSE A TORNADO . . .”

See this thing I am wearing around my wrist, like a watch? The professor gave it to me. He has been teaching me the computer and this thing makes it come on and we can see and talk to people from around the world

we used to think places like that were the best in the world, because of what we saw on TV, but the professor explained that living like that, with no regard for Dharti Mai, comes with costs

You know there is a big coal-mining company that wants to buy all the land around us? The professor gets angry

The professor told them that there are already too many people trying to make it in the city

the announcer said something about an unusual cloud formation

I was half asleep. I heard a woman saying very sadly, “What shall I do to bring the rain?” Then I saw it wasn’t a dream, because there was this young woman on the computer screen

. . . IN TEXAS . . .

the human race wouldn’t have survived without old people, other people than the parents, to help raise the young and transmit the knowledge of earlier generations. Grandmothers in particular were important. That was all very well, but in this day of books and computers and all, who needed grandmothers? They lived in retirement homes

He had sent her an orange wristlet, rather pretty. It had jewellike white buttons on it that allowed her to communicate with her new notebook computer

A scientist working in the Arctic. What a dangerous thing to do, to go up there in the cold and dark. “Bless you and be careful up there, I’m praying for you,” she said. The cartoon voice said, Mrs. Cartwright, thank you

This was about reinventing herself

Rob would have never allowed these people in their house—there was something not done about their passionate intensity. “Aging hippies

she said aloud. “I don’t know what to do.” And she heard a voice from the little computer on the mantelpiece say, with the utmost conviction: “Something good will happen to you today

She thought of him suddenly as a sacrifice, like all the young men in her life, her son gone to the army, returned a silent shadow of his former self, her grandson beset by demons, all that youth and strength turned wrong

She thought with satisfaction that she had finally managed to surprise someone

The press was calling it the Suspender Revolution. The Retirees Spring

He had dreamed of a great university hidden deep in the Himalayas, a place where people like him could gather to weave the web that would save the dying world

He draws out a handful of orange wristlets. Each has a tiny screen on it, and some are encrusted with cheap gems.

“I am a student of computer engineering

I realized that although friends and family are crucial, sometimes the kindness of a stranger can change our lives

So I came up with this device that you wear around your wrist, and it can gauge your emotional level and your mood through your skin. It can also connect you, via your genie, to your computer or mobile device, specifically through software I designed

When you most need it, based on your emotional profile at the time, the software will link you at random to someone in your circle

I’m connected right now to seven other people, seven strangers

Each time there is the death of innocents, I die a little myself.”

“Is that why you are so sick?” the monk says harshly. “What good will it do you to take upon yourself the misery of the world? Do you fancy yourself a Buddha, or a Jesus?”

I’m not a monk. I’m only the caretaker

He heard, faintly, music, and the sound of a celebration. A woman’s voice spoke to him, a young voice, excited. Two words.

“. . . a Butterfly

STORY NOTES—Vandana Singh





His sister, Makena, made a living sufficient for all three of them, riding a beast that had become the apex herbivore of the most famous commons of all: the wilds. The same commons had been stolen from his people long ago, and now it was a different place

STORY NOTES—Brenda Cooper

The post from Project Hieroglyph that was most related to ideas in this story was Karl Schroeder’s talk about vertical farming, and the idea that if we start to do a lot more vertical farming we might be able to rewild some spaces, which sent me off to work on reading about the commons, which is also a theme in this story

COVENANT Elizabeth Bear


What’s qwet supposed to mean anyway?”   “Quantum wetware. Nice buzz phrase, huh?”

I’ve got my rights!” shrilled the excited rat, rising onto his rear legs. “I’m every bit as smart as you. I shouldn’t oughta be for sale!”

I’d had about seven good years as an artist, and I’d managed to marry wealthy, chic Jane, heiress to the Roller nurb chow fortune. But now the thrill was gone

Zad, the reason you’re having problems is that you’re logging way too much time in your dreamchair. Webzombia, qrude

Even I was falling under the music’s spell. Skungy had an ability to get all of us into his channel. Was this part of the quantum wetware thing?

“I’m gonna make babies,” said Skungy. “I’m not a simple tool like those other nurbs you got. They’re soft machines. Me, I’ve got free will and I’m sneaky, see?”

I’m in a dry spell myself.” I sighed. “I need a blinding light. A big aha. Before I wither and drop like an autumn leaf

A rapport was forming between us two. At this point I realized that Skungy wasn’t actually asleep.   “He’s using a cosmic mind state to merge his quantum waves with yours

And you made me qwet just now? By having sex?”   “It’s contagious if you’re intimate. You might say that—telepathy is a sexually transmitted disease?”

Trying to integrate what was happening, I fell back on the image of cruising the web. As if the other minds were websites I was browsing on multiple screens

Maybe I hadn’t been wasting time cruising the web half asleep in my dreamchair. I’d been getting ready. Ready for qwet teep

FORUM DISCUSSION—Quantum Telepathy

Read an excerpt from Rudy Rucker’s book The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul about language, telepathy, and the dynamics of human cognition at hieroglyph.asu.edu/quantum-telepathy


Now transformed from expensive cryo-cooled to economical plasticized-state, he wasn’t legally a person. The comments were produced by an inboard AI whose algorithms query-checked their estimated reactions against the billions of neurons in Dad’s gel-stabilized brain, staying relatively true to what he might have said

Read “Sharing the Fire,” an essay on thoughtful optimism and collective agency by Ed Finn


THE DAY IT ALL ENDED Charlie Jane Anders

We’re having a strategy meeting at three, and we need our canary there. Come and tell the whole team what you told me

TALL TOWER Bruce Sterling

the time had come for me to venture to the Tall Tower. Plenty of room up in orbit for a man’s soul to grow to vast dimensions. Living in outer space, I would have a superhuman life span and wield superhuman powers. I’d be up among the stars, with the highest of the high technologies.   But one simple matter bothered me. What about my horse? To become “superhuman” is a great thing, obviously. But what about the “superequine”?

As mankind departed from Earth to build grander things in outer space, the healing Earth grew green and wild again

The Ascended Masters were nano, and robo, and bio. We human beings were their larvae

Through their own wise choice, the Ascended Masters were celibate. The greatest of them were astral, boneless entities, all telescope eyes, nerves, and megatons of living brain, floating through the cosmos in shining steel shells

What about my horse?

That arrangement excluded my horse.

Levi also had his dignity and worth

I refused to become superhuman until Levi was superequine

My questions about superanimals were already known to these wise folk. I learned about supercanines and superfelines

The casino had fried and gone bust, and the toy train followed suit

They tore down their broken old train. They found new means of traveling their tower

Why not ride a horse to the top of the Tall Tower?

To carry it through, Levi and I needed a generous and sympathetic patron

“I have found a way to make an authentic human gesture, even in the present day,” said Renato. He sat on a stool and plugged in his work lamp and teakettle. “I do this by re-creating ancient works of performance art

The art performance is as follows. Find a woman you might love, but never will love. Take her picture with the Polaroid camera. Before the image can develop, put the picture inside the envelope. Then seal the letter. Never send the letter to anyone

After declaring myself to be an artist, I was able to advance toward my goal. Step by step, I was able to map a route, and gather supplies, and create equipment. Those were engineering problems—but if I’d called myself an engineer, the tower people would have forbidden me to try my feat, and maybe even jailed me. Their politics required me to be artful. Art was good for people problems

I realized I was becoming a Tall Tower man

These initiates of a mystical fraternity were casting themselves, headlong and gasping, into free fall toward our mother planet. They had built a BASE-jumping ramp

This soulful agony was a noble performance, and I had spoiled the art of it

BEING WHO THEY WERE, the tower people set to work to build a Whip big enough for both man and horse. Taxes were raised, and everybody cheerfully collaborated

The people of the Tall Tower still work at that space program today. Like most great public works of mankind, it never seems to conclude. However, most everybody inside the tower has some cut of that action. The new prosperity has been spun off and spread around, with all the cunning of the locals


That’s one of the things that excites me the most about the premise of Project Hieroglyph: it’s really almost science fiction of the present. What could we do now if we simply set our minds to it?

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