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Chapter 4 - Undercover

 

Bianca is an only child and has been brought up in a Grad extended family, like another, smaller, adult. Her family has direct links to the technocracy responsible for The Cloud.  She has spent a great deal of her life learning this-or-that and has never had endless hours to hang-out with other kids, as Bogan kids do.

She has a nagging feeling that her 'people skills' are lacking and that somehow, she has missed out an aspect of life enjoyed by others:  'All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl' she'd read somewhere. This has left her fascinated by the Bogan class. So, much so that like Shakespeare's Henry V, who disguised himself as a commoner to walk among his soldiers before battle, she recently dressed and made-up, like a Bogan, to 'hang out' at a mega-shopping-mall, to learn to how the other 99.9% live.

It's not as easy as it sounds. Bogan fashions change hourly and anyone in week old garments is immediately spotted for ridicule. It also takes preparation to apply realistic fake tattoos, studs and piercings. She can't fake the latest hair style, so she's had to wear a wig to work for the past month while her 'hair disaster' grew out.

It was very interesting. Someone called Zaire was telling her friends about Grads, like her.

"…but the worst thing about them is their personal grooming. They let their hair grow naturally for months on end then do nothing but trim it! I mean ALL their hair. And they have exposed areas of naked skin with no tattoos or studs or other adornments at all - disgusting." They all gasped in unison.

Her friend Willow told them a joke:

"Where can you hide a credit voucher from a Grad?"

Tiger-lily didn't know.

"Under their beauty therapist's skin lotion!" They all laughed 'til they cried.

When she could speak again, Zaire started them laughing all over again by saying: "Most of them don't even know what a beauty therapist is!"

Willow became confidential:

"Ayla told me that Luna said that they can scan those lines of words on things with their eyes and silently 'read' them themselves - without using their VPA. She said you can't talk to them - they have strange interests and often speak gobbledygook or techie. If you ask them what they just said, because they slipped in one of their strange words, they'll go on for the next two minutes - by which time you've forgotten what it was about in the first place."

They all laughed again.

"Anyway, she said it's never anything interesting. They haven't a clue about the latest score, in any game at all, or which celebrity is sleeping with another one's partner. And they know nothing about fashion or the latest model of anything."

At this point their eyes just went up towards the over-hanging plants in the eco-mall-hall and their hands folded out like little wings from their shoulders. Grads were beyond the Pale.

Bianca returned to William's essay. "In between these extremes is the business class, known as the Busies," she read.

…They are usually following a family tradition and are usually once Bogans who have moved into business but they can also be entrepreneurial Grads who invented something. They are endlessly busy and many like to assert that they are constantly working or thinking about their work, eschewing the Bogan's 20 hour working week.

This entrepreneurial, financial and technical services class includes tradespeople and artisans', people with specific expertise.

These are people who typically see the Bogans as a market to be exploited but may share some or their characteristics and interests, like an enthusiasm for sport or popular culture, particularly when this facilitated their business interactions with Bogans.

Yet they typically prefer quality over quantity and more intellectual entertainment. Without them theatre, opera ballet and so on would be unsustainable, with only those Grads who enjoy these things as an audience.

Most Busies have advanced reading abilities specific to their expertise. For example, architects can read tables and engineering drawings but they usually rely on their VPA for everything else. Medical professionals can supervise surgical robots and recovery pods, understand diagnostic pathology readouts and utilise specialist Bots.

Now that most production and management is carried out by Bots and Avatars hosted in The Cloud the Busie class has shrunk to maybe one or two in a hundred of the World population.

There are three level of government: World, Continental and Local. The money supply - overall credit - is managed at a World level via the central financial authority. But credit is actually created by private credit providers, once called banks, which abound to support the Busies by advancing repayable credit, or loans, underwritten by the central authority.

Compared to the government sector prior to the Famine when there were separate countries, some of them comparatively small, the public sector is now miniscule. Similarly, even the largest corporations have very small head offices. As a result, most high-rise offices towers have been demolished, leaving those that remain standing in spacious parklands.

City planners now talk of 'urban smear' in which a decreasing population is spread more thinly over relatively large conurbations. This is made possible by continually improving transport, particularly private aircraft and very high-speed land vehicles, and of course, the ubiquitous Cloud, enabling virtual visits between friends and business associates anywhere, worldwide. The Cloud also hosts our helpful Professional Avatars, computer created virtual entities having expertise in various fields such as engineering, medicine or law.

Since the recovery, everything like this is managed by 'computers' (virtual machines) or 'algorithms' hosted in The Cloud.  Computers manage things like the factories; food or fibre production; recycling; minerals extraction; and energy supply. Market economics is largely restricted to the consumer goods, services and IT sectors. Services like sport and recreation, religion, entertainment, games, personal grooming and so on is by far the largest part of the economy and employs the vast bulk of the workforce.

Manufacturing is no longer a significant employer. 'China Works' are all fully automated. The manufacturing plants are robotic and hazardous to humans and cannot be entered. Products, usually conceived of and requested by Busies, are managed, designed and continuously improved and innovated by entities called bots or 'industrial design avatars' within The Cloud.

Competitive pressure to improve technology and bring down costs in the virtual space is maintained by a sort of computer game that pits a variety of virtual suppliers against each other on price, functionality and quality. Suppliers compete for their very existence attempting to capture more credit to purchase CPU time and functional memory within the China Works sector. New competitors are continually launched by self-evolving functions and try to capture a share of the resources from the dominant paradigm. Most fail to survive but if one is more successful than the dominant paradigm it becomes dominant in turn. Dominant paradigms are prohibited by design from using nonmarket methods like collusion; restrictive customer contracts; or suppressing new entrants; to compete.

Similarly, ESSRRPs, ecologically sustainable scientifically run rural production businesses, otherwise known as the FFF's, food and fibre factories are located on a Regional and Continental basis and competitively supply all foods to all markets year-round so that most foods are always in season.

Hunting wild animals or fish or taking plants from a wilderness can result in banishment, society's most extreme legal sanction. All commercial farming must take place within the ESSRRP's.

Large parts of the continents of Africa, South America, Asia and Australasia and most of the oceans have been restored to wilderness and cannot be accessed without permission. Since the Great Famine, and the restoration of World Social Order and the Modified Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our laws have been based on the Utilitarian Principle derived from these that: "the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the measure of right and wrong". This is The Golden Algorithm.

All law is dispensed, uniformly across the world and for all classes of person, without prejudice, by Court Computers using The Golden Algorithm. The Algorithm calculates the greatest happiness of the greatest number and dictates correctional measures if the harm done by a miscreant exceeds the current societal benchmark (SB), calculated to be consistent with social harmony.

The old concepts of jail, corporal and capital punishment have been abandoned. Crime is treated as a social disease. Perpetrators are no longer kept together as this has been found to result in cross infection and delayed recovery. There is no particular sentence or term of confinement for a criminal offence. Miscreants are treated until they are determined to be cured of their antisocial behaviour. Treatment takes place at their principal place of residence or a similar dwelling acquired by the Court for the purpose and consists of social sensitivity reconditioning and other treatments, such as chemical castration or brain modification, specific to their illness.

As they recover, they are initially allowed day release, leading to full freedom, sometimes with a radio identification 'chip' to continuously locate them, as their illness abates.

Petty crimes, like hooliganism, are heard by local Courts but there is an appeal mechanism, in case there has been a human error, to Regional Courts. These also handle more serious crime. Obviously, the Court Computers themselves are virtual entities within The Cloud and don't err in what is after all, a straightforward social impact calculation.

Very serious crimes where the culprits causing harm fail to respond to correction, or relapse and are determined to be permanently antisocial, be it through some quirk of genetics or circumstance, are referred up to the Supreme Computer. Those who are clearly determined to reject society are likely to be banished from it.

Banishment means being cast into a very remote, extreme wilderness totally naked, with no products of the society they have rejected, for example no VPA or tools or clothing or materials or shelter of any kind. Most people sentenced to banishment choose VE instead.

This novel treatment of crime has had its biggest impact in the area of addiction that was once the principal driver of petty crime, as the addicted were driven to crime to pay for their next hit. Obviously, there is no longer the same concern should addiction lead to an overdose or suicide as there was before the Famine. Suicide of unhappy people is now to be encouraged.

The test is how many people are made miserable against how much enjoyment the addicted person may have experienced prior to dying. This was actually the implicit societal test already used before the Famine. Some addictive substances such as: alcohol; tobacco; prescription drugs; tea, coffee and corn syrup; and practices such as: gambling; excessive exercise as promoted by gyms; and of course, pornography and sex; were democratically permitted, as they were enjoyed by many more people than were perceived to be harmed.

Yet some substances were classified as illegal drugs and some practices, that harmed no one but the user, were prohibited. This led to black-markets; criminal gangs; and addicts driven to crime. Such prohibitions no longer exist.

Of course, some sanctions still do exist based on The Golden Algorithm. The police Avatars hosted in The Cloud and their robot enforcers will take action if the unhappiness caused by a third party, promoting a particular drug or practice, exceeds the apparent pleasure that the addicted are deriving from that drug or practice. For example, forcing someone to do something against their will invites immediate investigation by the Police and the local Court. Is this enforcement intended to be, and likely to result in, the person's or society's greater net happiness in future?  Children up to the age of sixteen are protected from seduction and their guardians are excluded from the prohibition on enforcement provided it is permissible within the terms of their child rearing licence.

The Golden Algorithm applies to all entities hosted within The Cloud, including factories, architecture and construction bots, energy collection, recycling and so no. This ensures that seriously injurious foods and drugs are no longer manufactured; unhealthy lifestyle choices are discouraged; and the population is uniformly healthier and fitter than they have ever been in recorded history.

The Cloud is worldwide and overseen by the tiny bureaucracy supporting the elected parliamentarians of the World government.

 

As she reached the end Bianca decided that the essay was not without merit. She particularly liked William's grasp of the competition engine that was now a feature of governance within The Cloud but calling it 'a game' was inappropriate.

It's a bit disjointed here and there and he needed to make it clearer that it was essential that Bogans were supplied with a continuing stream of innovative new goods and services at lower and lower real prices. It's accepted wisdom that the economy needs to grow in the face of rapidly declining population. Thus, Bogans need to have incentive to use 'it' once and then look around for a better one. With close to 100% recycling of their discards it all comes back to energy consumption. There's now plenty of that with modern solar-accumulators and fusion. The human economy is now dedicated to getting through available energy resources at ever grater rates. Accelerated entropy. Dispersing local points of high energy and helping the Universe cool faster.

A paragraph or two on energy would be a good enhancement.

And although he's mentioned the demise of medicine and the law and the recovery of religion, he hasn't mentioned the other great employers of the past. But he's young and wouldn't remember diplomats or the military professions or their supporting arms industries. No young person these days had ever seen a weapon outside of a museum.

 

 

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