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Chapter 22 - Caught




"Ok, What are you two up to now?"

It was Edmund, Alex's father. 

"Are you still messing about in other people's lives?"

"What do you mean" they chorused.

"You can't out-Machiavelli me",  he said.

"I've been at it much longer that you two."

They looked sceptical.  He couldn't have their access to data and devices.  They were super-nerds.  But then, he was some sort of administrator.  Maybe he was in one of those dark areas that they still hadn't penetrated.

As if to answer their unspoken doubts he said, "I've been watching you with some admiration. It's time to introduce you to the next layer in the network, the one I administer."

"You're kidding", there is no other layer or we would have seen it," Charles objects: "Prove it."

"I can show you shortly, and more directly, on your console.  But first, tell me what you have learnt from your games."


Most of their Cloud based applications, like PornMV, run themselves.  But a game is not a game unless you play it and Charles and Alex had just been in the midst of a new gambit: redirecting the life of a potential hostess for their nightclub, Seraglio.  

She's a bored housewife who's marriage will soon be on the rocks when her husband becomes actively gay, with an openly gay man who they are recruiting for his workplace, selected by their Adult Dating software as a 'perfect fit' for him.  They have just 'massaged' their recruit's curriculum vitae to have him 'head-hunted' to the husband's section.

A string of puns!  They were giggling when Edmund came in, so pleased with themselves.   

Initially neither the man nor his wife knew why he found her increasingly unattractive, despite her obvious charms as a sex object.  

Some time ago Charles and Alex introduced husband and wife, separately, to hard-core porn, when they were browsing for entertainment sites.  Both are now, unbeknown to the other, consumers of PornMV , he's gay and she's bi.  Both now want to experiment in real life - obviously not with each other.  He will have his new workmate and she will have Seraglio.

They just had been rolling around together, laughing at their latest prank, when Edmund entered.

They had looked blankly at Edmund.  "What?..." They are, after all, fifteen.

Edmund said, "I'm waiting!"

Still nothing but blank stares, as they tried to judge how much he really knows.

"For example, tell me what happens when you get someone addicted to sport or gambling or to porn or simply stop a train arriving on time?"

How did he know about stopping the train?  That was only a couple of minutes ago. Of course they had done this lots of times, it was easy when you can control the signals and electricity distribution and the station security.  Take your pick.

"It's pretty obvious", said Charles,  "An addict loses a lot of credit and sometimes their friends and family.  If a train gets delayed a great number of people are late for work."

"And what happens when other people are late for work because you are manipulating just one of them?"  

"If the delay is long enough one or two might lose their jobs."

"But others will miss an order or some other business opportunity that might have helped earn them a bonus or a promotion.  Then someone else will benefit.  People travelling for other reasons might have their lives changed in other ways. And all those people who are not the target of some scheme of yours are simply collateral damage?"

"So what!  This happens all the time, train delays happen for all sorts of reasons without us doing it!"

Edmund is giving them his 'all-knowing' expression, a hint of a smile, as if he already knows all the answers.

"What about  PornMV and sportsperson recruiting then?" he asks.

He knows about that too!

"Depending on  ViewOyeur response, your software very generously offers the most successful porn and sports stars a commission of five percent of the total fees paid by the ViewOyeurs. 

"What's wrong with that?" Alex demands.  "Many of them gather a fan club of a million or more regular followers, they become 'mega-stars'.  They are mobbed at airports, like my NYGirls.  They become very wealthy, beyond their dreams, for the rest of their lives," 

"But they do all the work.  Even if there are a number of your 'stars' in an event getting five percent, that still leaves an average of around seventy percent, most of which is accumulated by you."

"The other players and all the supporting staff get paid too," objects Charles.

"So all this is job creation!" laughs Edmund. "You don't even pay for server-time in The Cloud.  You two just hack into it without paying anything."

"We commit our valuable time.  There's a lot of software development involved."

"So you're contributing your genius to the heritage of the World?"

"The biometric feedback from the ViewOyeurs bodystockings is an App that I wrote,"  says Alex proudly.

"And she wrote my virtual porn-movie-director Avatar based on an old wet-ware movie director.  He has a French accent and she's named him: Roger Vadin," adds Charles enthusiastically.

"The bio-feedback from the ViewOyeurs allows our new model event directors, like Roger V,  to scientifically tailor and choreograph the players' performances to create escalating waves of arousal in the viewers," explains Alex.  "The excitement it creates builds and builds, like the runaway oscillation of a bridge caught in the wind.  It becomes so extreme that it needs to have a built-in pressure release 'safety valve' based on the ViewOyeurs blood pressure, or it is so exciting that it kills them."

Edmund doesn't ask how she knows this. He knows the answer. He saw the sudden increase in infarctions that first time that it 'went live'. He changes tack again.

"All these Cloud hosted virtual directors and Avatars are written as apps often recycling the same code with small variations!  Once you set it up you do almost nothing at all."

"This feedback is beneficial to lots of people," insists Charles.  "The knowledge is passed on to the players to hone their skills.  They now understand their fans' desires and needs much better than old time actors and sportspersons.  They're developing new skills."

"This applies to those you recruit to act in porn too?  Wonderful skills to learn for a happy future life!" mocks Edmund.

"But that's how they become a mega-porn-star!" exclaims Alex enthusiastically, as if this were a longed-for graduation.

"And now you are actively exploring ways of increasing and exploiting Bogan addiction to these activities," remarks Edmund.  "Have you no compunction about human experimentation or deliberately driving millions of people into highly damaging habituations?"

This question was probably rhetorical because then he changed the subject completely.

"You two are biology experts.  How many ova does a woman have at child bearing age?"

"Around 20% left at 20 and 10% at 30", answered Alex, "from about 300 thousand initially."

"Are they all the same?" 

Alex replied.  She knows a lot about this, having had practical experience in creating GM animals. 

"Obviously not.  The probability of any two being exactly the same is extremely small."

"So of these 30 to 60 thousand different ova, what decides which will get the nod to be one of only 400 or so to head off down a fallopian tube, at the rate of one a month?"

"No one really knows, except that the right hormones will cause several to be expelled. It's probably a lottery based on circumstances, maybe what she ate or drank or did that month.  Just like which sperm might fertilise it."

"And what determines that a live sperm will be waiting?" 

"Well obviously she had to have sex within a day or so of ovulation."

"Let's suppose she has, what determines which sperm will succeed?" 

"Again it is circumstance.  As soon as one enters the ovum's outer membrane all others are excluded or the fertilisation will fail.  It's the one that is in the right place at the right time. There are usually about 200 in the vicinity."

"Ok  so how many sperm are there in this race to be in the first 200, and then be the one to break the ribbon?"

This time Charles answers.  This is his territory.  Like most inquisitive boys, he checked this out under his microscope as soon as he managed to produce a sample. 

"Mine was pretty fluid at first.  But in around a year, each of my ejaculations will contain between 300-500 million spermatozoa.  The number in a millilitre varies widely from man to man.  Exercise and drugs reduces concentration while foreplay or using porn before ejaculation increases it."  He liked this fact.

"And are spermatozoa all the same?" asks Edmund.

"No of course not, around half probably carry my Y chromosome, and will produce boys if they succeed, the remainder will be girls.   But in any case the genes in each are shuffled, just like those the in the ovum, so the chances of any two being exactly the same are extremely small.  Greater than ten million to one.

But where is all this heading?"

"I'm asking about timing.  Is timing important in deciding which sperm succeeds?"

Alex explains that even delaying ejaculation by a second would certainly change which sperm won the race.   To start with, the ovum is on the move, so the finish line would be different.  And nearly half a billion spermatozoa are racing around like tadpoles before ejaculation so the first ones out will be totally different.

If there had been less than a second's difference, either way, in proceedings, the odds that any of us would have been conceived, instead of a brother or sister, were close to zero. 

"Yet here we all are, because like winning the lottery, one ticket in ten million was going to be selected, provided a lottery draw took place at all," says Edmond.

"Well to use your lottery analogy," replies Charles, "The likelihood that a child would be born, when our parents had sex, was many millions of times greater than that that child would be us.  As in any large lottery, in which we bought a ticket, the chances that someone will win is millions of times greater that the chance that we will win."  

"But this is the lottery for our very existence," says Edmund.  "You only get to experience this universe, this reality, if you win.  Otherwise, you never exist. So by delaying a train by even a minute will make enough changes in the passengers' day week and month to ensure that any who conceive that week, and possibly longer, will have a different child to the one that otherwise they may have had.  And delaying a train is about the least intrusive of your games."

He goes on to point out that there will huge flow-on impacts from their activities. 

"Each time you play a game you make very significant,  irrevocable, changes to the future of humanity. These are vastly greater than the small change you make in the one person's life that is the focus of your attention.  In fact, you have no idea what the actual outcomes will be."

Pressing the point he adds: 

"Children, who would have otherwise been, are replaced by their siblings, with good chance that they will be of the other sex.  Some will be more or less talented or healthy.  Those different children will have their own different impacts on all who follow so each family tree is unalterably changed."

Now Charles objects. 

"Accidents happen all the time", he says.  "A dog being hit by a car is enough to change the future in the ways you are describing.  We are just another accident to them."

Edmund changes topic again.

"What would you say are the qualities of a God?", he asks.

They look confused, why is he suddenly talking about religion? 

"When humans first imagined their gods, they were magic spirits and the ghosts of the dead.  But as society changed so did this view.  Gods became powerful and able to intervene day to day and change things in people's lives.  And they became difficult to deceive. They looked down from the sky and even into the hearts of man knowing what impure thoughts lurked there."

"Theologians decided that the principal God was: omnipotent, all powerful; and omniscient, all knowing." 

"But they were undecided about whether a god was benign and acting in the interests of mankind.  Terrible things happened; and 'acts of God' killed tens of thousands at a time."

"Some said: 'God moves in mysterious ways'.  Some said these were not the malicious acts or indiscriminate killings that they seemed to be, but divine punishment for obscure sins - that God was terrible and vengeful and sinners had been punished."

"The Greeks and Romans resolved this by saying that gods, like Oberon and Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream, were amoral.  They were simply pursuing their own arguments, differences and amusements. The mortals who got caught up in the 'Lovers' Quarrel' and Oberon's game, giving Bottom the head of a donkey, were simply collateral damage."

"That's ridiculous" says Charles, seeing his point: "We're not Oberon and Titania; or gods.  We're just two kids playing in The Cloud.  We don't have any magic or omniscience or omnipotence, we simply hack the technology of everyday living."

"Is that so?" responds Edgar: "Then how would Shakespeare describe amoral beings who see into people's lives; who confuse and manipulate; who laugh at and even encourage human frailty and immorality; who destroy the relationships between husbands and wives; who demolish welfare housing to build palaces;  who create new animals; who exploit peoples fatal flaws and weaknesses of the flesh; and who are happy to choreograph a murder and are unrepentant when people are killed?  All as part of a game."

"The only thing that distinguishes you two from the immortal gods is your mortality."   




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