Sunday, May 30, 2004

"Flip" - SCi Fi (ish) Short Story


All in today’s First World population carry a smooth link connection device, a Lapsone. Lapsones linked by smooth tech to a “Cult World” infrastructure hold all financial, social, health, personal and career information on the holder and allow them to work, travel, buy and sell and maintain a happy and productive life. Lapsones are combination IT terminals, phones, and credit cards for all those fortunate enough to be living productive lifestyles in First World. Without a Lapsone (or with a faulty one if ever a fault should occur) life is difficult. (Lapsone devices are generally 8cm x 10cm and fit easily into a pocket or purse, new designer models are always being launched but the basic functions remain constant). The other feature of the Lapsone is the way it works in conjunction with the “headchip”. The headchip is a small implanted device that acts as an ID Card, DNA key and data authorisation device. All the population of First world “wear” one. Without either of these devices you cannot work, travel or transact.

“Headchip - wear yours with pride, you know it’s there to let the world know you care!” US President Brittany Spiers, Independence Day Headchip launch 2016.

Lapsones and Headchips are used continuously to link individuals with Cult World in order to process their daily activities (working, social or otherwise) so allowing passage of information to give financial credit, make purchases, mail, monitor health, travel and keep historical details in order to remain current and approved. No one in First World would think of leaving home without a Lapsone - life without one is impossible and almost illegal.

“Smooth link - a global communications network that replaced the Internet in 2012 with a secure wireless curved light system that provided information flow at the speed of light at next to no cost to the operator, but at a regular service cost to individuals”. Chambers Dictionary of Datacom Terms 2020.

It was in 2019 that the Animatech programme was launched, a means of chipping animals with intelligent "conscious" super chips that allowed the animals to be controlled and to carry out regular repetitive tasks with ease. All at once a whole new underclass of workers became available: the animals and birds. Of course there were objections, mostly taking the form of protests, minor violence and terror attacks all of which proved ineffective. The companies at the edge of the Aminatech developments were on a roller coaster of development v moral outrage, but businesses demanding fiscal growth are relentless beasts in their appetite for progress and as the technology developed animals gradually moved into more and more tedious repetitive working environments. Chimps and monkeys were harnessed to carry out nibble fingered factory work, gorillas for heavier manual work, even birds were used to peck buttons and relays according to their coded instructions. More and more specially electronically manipulated beasts were bred to serve industry and all the time the control chips grew stronger, more reliable and versatile. The animals were steadily developed under rigid control into the most compliant and productive workforce ever.

“Aminatech – We engage, enhance and reward the animal community worldwide” Aminatech CEO – Universal Press Release.

This drastic shift in labour meant that the second and third world economies suddenly found themselves up against a new even cheaper labour market and one that was infinitely controllable. The Chinese and Far East labour markets naturally tried to maintain a healthy competition but by then the big 5 (Sony-Lexus, Golden Arches-Esso, GMFord, SkyMSCorp and Ann Summers International Leisure) had made heavy commitments into the Aminatech developments. Eventually the situation was reached where Aminatech Holdings was now firmly challenging the big 5 in terms of corporate muscle and their reliance on Aminatech made many a minor CEO a very nervous player.

So in the years since it had been launched Aminatech methods had revolutionised all industrial production (in parallel with becoming even more mechanised), as well as the sourcing of raw materials and agriculture and the management of financial and personal information. It was within this segment of the global IT markets that Cult World had developed their operations.

“Cult World: Service-Choices-Decisions" Cult World CEO - Universal Press Release.

Founded in India in 2007 by a team of US specialists, Cult World had sought to develop intelligent call-centres that would be culture sensitive wherever in the world they operated, despite being based in the great Indian sub continent and manned mainly a Hindu and Buddhist workforce. Their highly skilled but comparatively low paid operators won over much of the Western and Far Eastern business community and gradually all call centre work began to gravitate towards India. In fact a vast information hub formed in the Ganges basin and slowly took control of much of the World's information systems. Western politicians were well aware of the imbalance that had been created and for almost a decade up until 2020 it was the thorniest issue in world-wide politics. The USA and Europe had lost a control lever, the Far East too, as the economies of the planet travelled through the eye of an electronic needle in India. The historical tensions in the area were further inflamed by the expansion of Cult World. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia and China all bore down upon India over new and traditional areas of conflict. The instability and potential for world wide disaster was clear to see, but no obvious solution occurred until the full development potential of the Aminatech project work became clear.

Cult World began a vast unpublicised construction project, mainly funded by US Oil interests and the Big 5 and designed primarily to remove itself from the Indian hotspot it now occupied. Many locations were considered but eventually based on trials carried out by Aminatech, the Antarctic was chosen. The site was on Dundee Bay some 600 metres from the coast on the lower edge a small plateau. The unique building project, a part buried geo-dome was completed in 2 years and after a year of continuous trialling and working-up opened for first full operations in 2024. The transition was well planned and slow paced, there would be a gradual disconnect between the Indian Hub and "Safe South" (as it had become known). A revolutionary new smooth link(s) was to be established by a network of Southern short orbit satellites that were set to broadcast and pump information Northwards via global grid to the waiting world.

Staff and Customers alike were unaware of the magnitude of the project, stories had been leaked about a new Southern hub and expectations were that there would be a healthy competition between it and the old centre. However those within the industry knew that the India centred hubs had no planned future either for Cult World, Aminatech or the Big 5.

Safe South was run remotely with no human presence on site, it's systems monitored by smooth link to an office in San Diego. The work force was a different beast altogether - penguins. Inside Safe South 5000 King Penguins had been chipped and programmed, their regulated day allowed them swimming and preening and feeding breaks (but no breeding). A large series of indoor lagoons gave them a healthy and carefully monitored penguin life. Then each coded bird was tasked and sentenced to be a slave to the hub for the remainder of the day (12 hours). Such would be the rest of its life until monitored as ill or unwell, only then to be removed and replaced by a fresh model from the breeding and training grounds in the Falklands. So their long environmentally controlled Antarctic day consisted of handling messages and transactions, intervening in abnormal situations, and reacting via chip control to the millions of calls that came through the centre. Each penguin was allocated a personal workstation from where its duties were carried out whilst the state of the art electrical systems and call monitors hummed on, well resistant to the deep cold and long hours running.

The Aminatech staff had experienced some problems during set up, a few penguins had failed the basic control procedures, these were re-chipped and tasked as "minders" who carried out non-technical work, removed ill or dead birds and generally acted as cleaners and scavengers. (The work place floor was tide-cleaned mechanically every hour as was the fish-deck and slumber area). Transition (go-live) day was 20th October 2024 at Midnight (USA Eastern midnight) and as had been predicted by the Aminatech scientists the facility went on line successfully.

From cool and stylish offices above the control centre in San Diego senior executives watched camera scans of the penguins dutifully following procedures, handling calls with synthetic voices, connecting and disconnecting, transferring and adjusting finances and placing orders. As Martini glasses clinked they watched as the first live clients, VISA and Amex were added whilst all their users remained unaware, and so every day a new significant body of work was added in and a greater and greater number of the penguins occupied.

"Cult World Safe South the global call centre handling all your financial, business, leisure and pleasure needs". Cult World CEO - Universal Press Release.

Back in India there began an unceremonial series of lay offs. Once thought of and valued as highly skilled workers they were puzzled as they heard the news of the changes, " due to market conditions, re-sizing and the fulfilment of other corporate obligations" said the blurb, delivered during non-salaried breaks. Overall a quarter of a million staff would find themselves out of work by the time Safe South was declared fully operational, and the Indian hub sites vacated. Their fate was similar to that experienced by many now across the world, as production practices had changed with the advent of Aminatech there had been the wholesale closure of manufacturing facilities in many industrial locations. Aminatech and mechanisation meant that many factories and food production plants were now in South Africa, Australia, Central Siberia and the Amazon Basin. Huge numbers of people were now redundant, shiftless and hopeless in a life from which their purpose had been stolen. Safe South's new ascendancy would only add to the problems of global misery and imbalance or so it’s few critics (mainly discredited Journo-Pirates and outspoken politicians) would say.

"Cult World Safe South set in the vast Antarctic wilderness "smooth linked" to 10 Billion homes and businesses all across the world". Google News - Universal Press Release 2024.

Moreover Safe South had capacity, huge spare capacity due to its newer and more specialised faster and focused systems. This combined with the total lack of a human workforce meant that more control tasks could be handled there. Plans were now afoot to use Safe South to control major power and utility systems, entertainment networks, factory production control and inventories and large parts of the New York, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo stock exchanges. Many smaller companies also hoped to house their Disaster Recovery Planning Systems there and also to use it to archive huge amounts of older data and digital material.

"Safe South will become the world's number one control centre, safe from terrorism, power and infrastructure problems, social unrest and hostile political forces" said an enthusiastic Cult World CEO shortly after it's role and location had been declared in a controlled press release, (Controlled from Safe South of course).

Safe south’s operating heart and workforce tirelessly pumped and moved data through the frozen days and nights of icy winters and pale chilled summers. The constant low temperature in the dome, maintained with minimal system intervention, the fish protein /food regurgle cycle, the dormitory times and lagoon breaks ran on and on in an endless loop. A team of six technicians sat in the San Diego centre monitoring reports, relaying modification or assistance instructions and watching screens to check behaviour. Every few months a small team of humans flew down from the Falklands with new penguins, the older or failed birds had already been removed by the minders in situ and taken on for recycling. As the project reached a new level of maturity all Senior Managers in Cult World felt happy with Safe South - particularly now that the unfortunate episodes in India (civil unrest and mob violence had seen the destruction of many former hub sites) were finally over. Most felt that India now had a stable if unspectacular Third World future and appropriate level of poverty and neglect to look forward to.

"Cult World "from the bottom we reach the top", from the South, the deep and frozen "safe-south", from our nerve centre and secure terrorist free HQ every direction is North and from there we will turn your world and continue to keep it turning". Cult World CEO - Universal Press Release.

So as the Second and Third World economies slowly spiralled nowhere, the privileged millions in First World continued their minimal work patterns laced with sports and leisure gaps, shopping, virtual and real holidays, atmosphere cruises, media breaks and food and drink of all kinds. They strolled on glass pavements under shady palm trees rooted in hydropods high above city streets, listened to music and chatted via headchips and Lapsones, bought sold and speculated and remained for the most part happy. The unrest and difficulty in the other worlds was an occasional blip on the newscasts in between an endless parade of celebrity marriages and scandals and superstar gossip. “Titillation with no irritation” was the Sony-Lexus Channel’s banner and daily 5 billion watched and sucked in it’s sweet diet of milky soft porn, action movies and soaps.

“And now more up to the minute quality entertainment from our ever vigilant team of Headchip Journo-Pirates” Sony-Lexus Channel Newscast.

Of course Mother Earth was as ever spinning steadily in space, but as if only on the new axis that Safe South formed. This now controlled and programmed all main First World systems and activity under the glassy eyed control of 5000 penguins fine-tuned to their battery of tasks. Grids of smooth link criss-crossed the atmosphere within their invisible curved light infrastructure forming a data constructed prison fence holding the inmates firmly but happily power drunk and captive.

As every schoolboy knows Earth contains an iron core, as well as minerals near the surface that are susceptible to electromagnetic forces. Iron within the molten core flows readily, steadily while stirrings in the overlying rock carry material toward and away from the core. This drives a mild but large-scale electrical current. No one knows the exact mechanism but the moving of electrical fields spawns magnetic fields. Earth therefore generates a magnetic field like a giant bar magnet. The magnetic poles happen to lie very near the geographical north and south poles of the planet making the needle of the compass work and providing direction for navigation and guidance. This hasn’t always been the case. Earth’s magnetic field has weakened, wandered and flipped many times throughout its history.

Flipped wasn’t a word that the Cult World developers ever considered as a trigger for any kind of event and so it was with some surprise they noticed mild but significant new readings returning to their monitoring equipment from Safe South. In the financial community brokers noticed delays in process times, milli seconds turned to seconds, then rumours of some minor corruptions in data started. Normally clear, serene and uninteruptable TV screens blipped and burped as transmissions faltered at irregular intervals. Ships and atmosphere craft however immediately reacted to the “flip” as their computer navigation displays (enhanced by Safe South’s calibrations) suddenly went from North to South or was it North? There was no noise, no great shudder, no savage storm or earthquake, no iceberg or meteor collision, just a deep and primal flip. The flip took altogether a real time of six and a half hours to complete, like a giant egg-timer turning as the sand on one side was exhausted and a new timing motion had to begin. North became South, South became North. This subtle shift in the magnetic field turned the world on its head without the cracking of a teacup or the rattling of a spoon.

In San Diego while their office lights flashed intermittently the Cult World monitoring team gazed as their instruments and screens told a new and shocking topsy turvey story. The links were failing, the magnetic shift had fractionally destabilised the smooth link equipment; the chip-headed penguins had begun to behave like their ancestors and became intent on doing no more processing or obeying. Through their screens the team watched in the flickering office light as like twentieth century shipyard workers hearing the 5 o’clock horn the penguins began their slow procession from the work area to the lagoon and feeding decks. Some pecked at and shook off the devices and work belts they carried, some wriggled out of them and the moving parade coming up from behind trampled the controls and sensors carelessly on the decking. Gradually to the penguins discovered their lost voices and squawked and honked in an odd chorus of triumph and chaos as they migrated back towards the white horizon that edged the dome structure.

The lights in San Diego flickered for the last time and the control centre plunged into darkness, emergency lighting kicked in but the system’s blue backlit indicators only showed more bad news. “The links have gone down completely!” a stunned voiced cried in the half light,”I can’t bring them back!”

At Safe South the Antarctic sun was struggling to clear the hills behind, but still had released just enough stray light to reveal an exit door powered down and open wide. Already a few penguins had waddled through it and out into their new white world like prisoners from a Gulag finding their guards gone and the fences shattered. They took a crazy zigzag path as a forgotten instinct cut in and called them to head North (or was it now South?) towards the water, intent on beginning a new and completely uncontrolled fishing expedition.

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