Hacker in Accelerando
Manfred Macx sits on a stool out in the car park at the Brouwerij 't IJ, watching the articulated buses go by and drinking a third of a liter of lip-curlingly sour gueuze. His channels are jabbering away in a corner of his Head Up Display (HUD), throwing compressed infobursts of filtered press releases at him (Universal Inbox). They compete for his attention, bickering and rudely waving in front of the scenery. A couple of punks - maybe local, but more likely drifters lured to Amsterdam by the magnetic field of tolerance the Dutch beam across Europe like a pulsar - are laughing and chatting by a couple of battered mopeds in the far corner. A tourist boat putters by in the canal; the sails of the huge windmill overhead cast long, cool shadows across the road. The windmill is a machine for lifting water, turning wind power into dry land: trading energy for space, sixteenth-century style. Manfred is waiting for an invite to a party where he's going to meet a man he can talk to about trading energy for space, twenty-first-century style, and forget about his personal problems.
His channels are jabbering away in a corner of his head-up display, throwing compressed infobursts of filtered press releases at him. They compete for his attention, bickering and rudely waving in front of the scenery.
He glances up and grabs a pigeon, crops the shot, and squirts it at his weblog to show he's arrived. The bandwidth is good here, he realizes; and it's not just the bandwidth, it's the whole scene. Amsterdam is making him feel wanted already, even though he's fresh off the train from Schiphol: He's infected with the dynamic optimism of another Time Zone, another city. If the mood holds, someone out there is going to become very rich indeed. He wonders who it's going to be.
He's dealt with old-time commie weak-AIs before, minds raised on Marxist dialectic and Austrian School economics: They're so thoroughly hypnotized by the short-term victory of global Capitalism that they can't surf the new Paradigm, look to the longer term. Manfred walks on, hands in pockets, brooding. He wonders what he's going to Patent next.
Manfred has a suite at the Hotel Jan Luyken paid for by a grateful multinational consumer protection group, and an unlimited public transport pass paid for by a Scottish sambapunk band in return for services rendered. He has airline employee's travel rights with six flag carriers despite never having worked for an airline. His bush jacket has sixty-four compact supercomputing clusters sewn into it, four per pocket, courtesy of an invisible college that wants to grow up to be the next MediaLab. His dumb clothing comes made to measure from an e-tailor in the Philippines he's never met. Law firms handle his Patent applications on a pro bono basis, and boy, does he patent a lot - although he always signs the rights over to the Free Intellect Foundation, as contributions to their obligation-free Infrastructure project. (Whuffie)
In IP geek circles, Manfred is legendary; he's the guy who patented the business practice (Business Method Patent) of moving your e-business somewhere with a slack Intellectual Property regime in order to evade licensing encumbrances. He's the guy who patented using Genetic Algorithm-s to patent everything they can permutate from an initial description of a problem domain - not just a better mousetrap, but the set of all possible better mousetraps. Roughly a third of his inventions are legal, a third are illegal, and the remainder are legal but will become illegal as soon as the legislatosaurus wakes up, smells the coffee, and panics. There are patent attorneys in Reno who swear that Manfred Macx is a pseudo, a net alias fronting for a bunch of crazed anonymous hackers armed with the Genetic Algorithm That Ate Calcutta: a kind of Serdar Argic of intellectual property, or maybe another Bourbaki math borg. There are lawyers in San Diego and Redmond who swear blind that Macx is an economic saboteur bent on wrecking the underpinning of Capitalism, and there are Communist-s in Prague who think he's the bastard spawn of Bill Gates by way of the Pope.
Manfred is at the peak of his profession, which is essentially coming up with whacky but workable ideas and giving them to people who will make fortunes with them. He does this for free, gratis. In return, he has virtual immunity from the tyranny of cash; Money is a symptom of Poverty, after all, and Manfred never has to pay for anything.
Oh, and he's promised to invent three new paradigm shifts before breakfast every day, starting with a way to bring about the creation of Really Existing Communism by building a state Central Planning apparatus that interfaces perfectly with external Market systems and somehow manages to algorithmically outperform the Monte Carlo free-for-all of market economics, solving the calculation problem. Just because he can, because hacking economics is fun, and he wants to hear the screams from the Chicago School... Manfred scratches his head. "It seems to me that there's nothing human about the Economics Of Scarcity," he says. "Anyway, humans will be obsolete as economic units within a couple more decades. All I want to do is make everybody rich beyond their wildest dreams before that happens.".. Gianni closes the book and puts it back on the shelf. "Market-s afford their participants the illusion of Free Will, my friend. You will find that human beings do not like being forced into doing something, even if it is in their best interests. Of necessity, a Command Economy must be Coercive - it does, after all, command.".. Realization dawns. "You want to abolish Scarcity, not just Money!" "Indeed." Gianni grins. "There's more to that than mere economic performance; you have to consider abundance as a factor. Don't plan the economy; take things out of the economy... Information doesn't work that way. What matters is that people will be able to hear the music - instead of a Soviet central planning system, I've turned the network into a firewall to protect freed Intellectual Property. It's not just the music. When we develop a working AI or upload minds we'll need a way of defending it against legal threats.
There are microcams built into the frame of the glasses, pickups in the earpieces; everything is spooled into the holographic cache in the belt pack (Always On You), before being distributed for remote storage. At four months per terabyte, memory storage is cheap. What makes this bunch so unusual is that their owner - Manfred - has cross-indexed them with his agents. Mind uploading may not be a practical technology yet, but Manfred has made an end run on it already. (LifeBox)
Manfred drops into a deep ocean of unconsciousness populated by gentle voices (Audio). He isn't aware of it, but he talks in his sleep - disjointed mumblings that would mean little to another human but everything to the metacortex lurking beyond his glasses. The young posthuman intelligence over whose Cartesian theatre he presides sings urgently to him while he slumbers.
Fragments of his weblog go to a private subscriber list - the people, corporates, collectives, and bots he currently favors. (Thinker Web)
The metacortex - a distributed cloud of software agents that surrounds him in netspace, borrowing CPU cycles from convenient processors (such as his robot pet) - is as much a part of Manfred as the Society Of Mind that occupies his skull; his thoughts migrate into it, spawning new agents to research new experiences, and at night, they return to roost and share their knowledge.
Sometimes he isn't certain he's still human; too many threads of his consciousness seem to live outside his head, reporting back whenever they find something interesting. Sometimes he feels like a puppet, and that frightens him because it's one of the early-warning signs of schizophrenia.
Weird ideas flicker like heat lightning far away across the vast plateaus of his imagination - but, with his metacortex running in sandboxed insecure mode, he feels blunt. And slow. Even obsolete. The latter is about as welcome a sensation as heroin withdrawal: He can't spin off threads to explore his designs for feasibility and report back to him.
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