Charlie Stross trans-SingularIty book

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started out as "Lobsters!" story

excerpt 2005-09-20-StrossAccelerandoResimulated

technical companion

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, 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.

The divested Microsoft divisions have automated their legal processes and are spawning subsidiaries, IPO-ing them, and exchanging title in a bizarre parody of bacterial plasmid exchange, so fast that, by the time the windfall tax demands are served, the targets don't exist anymore, even though the same staff are working on the same software in the same Mumbai cubicle farms. (Virtual Company)

One of his e-mail accounts is halfway to the moon with automatic messages, companies with names like screaming for the attention of their transitive director. Each of these companies (Virtual Company) - and there are currently more than sixteen thousand of them, although the herd is growing day by day - has three directors and is the director of three other companies. Each of them executes a script in a functional language Manfred invented; the directors tell the company what to do, and the instructions include orders to pass instructions on to their children. In effect, they are a flock of Cellular Automata, like the cells in Conway's Game Of Life, only far more complex and powerful. Manfred's companies form a programmable grid. Some of them are armed with capital in the form of patents Manfred filed, then delegated rather than passing on to one of the Free Foundations. Some of them are effectively nontrading, but occupy directorial roles. Their corporate functions (such as filing of accounts and voting in new directors) are all handled centrally through his company-operating framework, and their trading is carried out via several of the more popular B2B enabler dot-coms. Internally, the companies do other, more obscure load-balancing computations, processing Resource Allocation problems like a classic state Central Planning system. None of which explains why fully half of them have been hit by lawsuits in the past twenty-two hours.

*Gianni closes the book and puts it back on the shelf. "Markets 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."

"But my system doesn't! It mediates where supplies go, not who has to produce what –"

Gianni is shaking his head. "BackwardChaining or Forward Chaining, it is still an Expert System, my friend. Your companies need no human beings, and this is a good thing, but they must not direct the activities of human beings, either. If they do, you have just enslaved people to an abstract machine, as dictators have throughout history."

Manfred's eyes scan along the bookshelf. "But the Market itself is an abstract machine! A lousy one, too. I'm mostly free of it – but how long is it going to continue oppressing people?"

"Maybe not as long as you fear." Gianni sits down next to the renderer, which is currently extruding the inference mill of the analytical engine. "The marginal value of Money decreases, after all: The more you have, the less it means to you. We are on the edge of a period of prolonged economic growth, with annual averages in excess of twenty percent, if the Council of Europe's predictor metrics are anything to go by. The last of the flaccid industrial economy has withered away, and this era's muscle of economic growth, what used to be the high-technology sector, is now everything. We can afford a little wastage, my friend, if that is the price of keeping people happy until the marginal value of money withers away completely."

Realization dawns. "You want to abolish Scarcity, not just money!"*

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