(The World) Behind the Glass

We Want Whuffie!

In the near-future utopian world of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, death has been defeated and everyone's basic needs are taken care of by nanotechnology. Since there is no material scarcity...no one needs money anymore. Instead the members of the Bitchun Society use a reputation currency known as "Whuffie", based on a sophisticated real-time system for peer approval, which serves in some ways as a monetary replacement.

Cory Doctorow's vision of the future, is an interesting and colorful exploration of transhuman life, as experienced by Jules (who is a young man - at only a little over 100 years of age).

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was listed by Entertainment Weekly as number five on the list of the 10 Best Novels of 2003.
In December '03 the paperback edition was called "New and Notable" by the New York Times.

Cory's second novel, Eastern Standard Tribe is being made available as a free download, just as he did with his first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and of course both books are available through bookstores.

Cory's position on all of this is articulated in this essay.

Cory also recently appeared at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, and gave a talk called Ebooks: Neither E, Nor Books, which he informs us was:
*a text...written word for word, in advance of the presentation
*a free...public domain file, which was released for public consumption just moments before he get off the stage

...and because he kindly provided the link...here's that text for you to read.

> This isn't to say that copyright is bad, but that there's such a
> thing as good copyright and bad copyright, and that sometimes,
> too much good copyright is a bad thing. It's like chilis in soup:
> a little goes a long way, and too much spoils the broth.
> From the Luther Bible to the first phonorecords, from radio to
> the pulps, from cable to MP3, the world has shown that its first
> preference for new media is its "democratic-ness" -- the ease
> with which it can reproduced.
> (And please, before we get any farther, forget all that business
> about how the Internet's copying model is more disruptive than
> the technologies that proceeded it. For Christ's sake, the
> Vaudeville performers who sued Marconi for inventing the radio
> had to go from a regime where they had *one hundred percent*
> control over who could get into the theater and hear them perform
> to a regime where they had *zero* percent control over who could
> build or acquire a radio and tune into a recording of them
> performing. For that matter, look at the difference between a
> monkish Bible and a Luther Bible -- next to that phase-change,
> Napster is peanuts)

You can read about some of the details surrounding this visionary and entertaining writer, by checking out the latest news as he describes it himself.

Cory is all about the FUTURE!

Cory Doctorow currently works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). His weblog (boingboing.net), coedited with Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz, is read by more than 130,000 unique visitors every month. In 2000, the World Science Fiction convention voted him the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Both his innovative tales and the Modus Operandi for the distribution of his creative output, are bold departures from the current state-of-affairs in the world of writing and publications. Marketing types should also be taking notes...Cory sold every single book on the original printing for his first novel, and yet, is at the fore-front of the newest of all models for literary dissemination. He is an advocate of the new approach to the copyright process called Creative Commons.

If you are interested in hearing more about the efforts of the people that are part of this movement or if you're fascinated by the continuing adventures of one of Science Fiction's brightest new talents (who was recently nominated for a Nebula award for his novelette "0wnz0red"), AND if you live in the Tucson area and want to meet others who are interested in all of the above...come and see us at the next International Cory Doctorow Meetup Day.

find out more at corydoctorow.meetup.com

BTW, here are more FREE downloads from Cory's collection of short stories -
Enjoy these as much as I did!

by PABlo Bley aka Paul Alan Bley [Everything is destined to reappear as simulation.]

What's cool?

Author William Gibson is cool. Cayce Pollard, protagonist of his novel, Pattern Recognition is cool. Cayce is a "coolhunter." She's paid big bucks to identify, commodify, and market cool. She does it intuitively, and with infallible accuracy. Her clients don't get explanations. She'll glance at an athletic shoe conglom's new logo and nod yes or no. If it's the latter? It's back to the drawing board, no questions asked.

It's easier to cite examples of cool than to define it. Who determines examples? Those who are cool. The thing about cool is, it takes one to know one. It's not a job for computers. People are more adept at pattern recognition than computers or artificial forms of intelligence. But in "Pattern Recognition," as in modern society, computers disseminate and connect cool.

"Pattern Recognition" can be described as a marketing thriller. So sensitive is Cayce to brand saturation, she pays a locksmith to grind her Levi's buttons into logo-free generics. Certain grossly overexposed trademarks (the Michelin Man, Hilfiger) make her literally ill. Cayce's personal cool is below-the-radar cult cool, like her treasured Rickson jacket (black).

True cool is tribal, communal, and, most of all, obscure. Hunting cool means blowing its cover. Successfully hunting cool and selling it to the masses kills whatever was cool about the quarry in the first place, or at least fragments it into something unrecognizable. That phenomenon is (in part) what "Pattern Recognition" is about. Is that what marketing "Pattern Recognition" is all about?

Gibson, "the father of cyberpunk," enjoys an established cool quotient: a cult following, futuristic/sci-fi mystique, the ability to create trends and buzz. "Pattern Recognition" is widely hailed as his most mainstream and accessible novel. Will that fact, combined with the marketing of his book about marketing, tarnish Gibson's own coolness?

The novel centers around fragments of a mysterious film that crop up sequentially on the Web. Fetish:Footage:Forum (F:F:F) is the online community (Cayce is an avid member) where "footageheads" endlessly discuss and minutely analyze the film and passionately debate its origin. Parallels with Gibson's own Web site/blog/discussion board are irresistible.

For some time after it's release, the buzz was set on high, especially among hard-core Gibson fans ("patternheads"?). "This is like the best kept secret around that isn't a secret," gushed someone on the author's board. One popular thread was "How did you find this site?" "I found it from a link posted on another message board whose main topic is the Subaru Impreza. Part push, part pull." replied grimlock.

Scouring sites related to the car, I could find no reference to Gibson or the novel. Yet references to stealth marketing are everywhere in "Pattern Recognition." An attractive female character is on an agency payroll to casually mention certain products in certain social situations. So who's pushing? And who's pulling? Where does curiosity stop and market research begin?

The epitome of patternhead cool is to have read "Pattern Recognition" prior to the February 3, 2003 release. eBay did a brisk trade in uncorrected manuscripts. They weren't cheap, so, once read, they went back on the eBay block. Talk about Web-enabled viral marketing. Hard-core fans celebrated getting the hard-to-get and marveled, "The mainstream is paying attention."

Cayce Pollard worries about losing her soul. She has serious pangs when she signs the back of a platinum, sky's-the-limit Visa card supplied by her employer, Hubertus Bigend. Her soul-depleting sell-out mission (to find the footage's originator for Mr. Bigend) has her shuttling between Tokyo, London, and Moscow. Cayce attributes the jet lag that dogs her as her soul's inability to catch up to her body. She has an accomplice on the job, Boone Chu, a footagehead whose dot-com wipeout makes him vulnerable to Bigend's bucks. Cayce and Boone try to "keep each other honest," as the F:F:F community board is diluted with newbie posts when Bigend leaks footage to CNN.

Paid to hunt (by implication, to kill) what she regards as most cool and most meaningful, Cayce gradually abandons certain principles. Despite her hatred of branded goods, she begins carrying an iBook and a cell phone. Global and rootless, the marketer in Cayce is acutely aware of the transitory "mirror world" she inhabits. Products in London or Tokyo mimic "real" American ones (she's from New York). Her closest relationships and intimate conversations occur via e-mail. The past is housed in Netscape's cache and in auto-redial. The constants: Hello Kitty, Hummer, Google, Starbucks, Prada, and this week's Hotmail address. All of this travel occurs on behalf of Blue Ant, the global marketing agency for which Cayce reluctantly coolhunts. The name sounds so authentic, I almost didn't Google it. But I did. I discovered that in nature, a blue ant isn't an ant at all. Rather, it's a wasp with a painful sting. The female hunts for a ground-dwelling cricket. She paralyses it with a sting and lays her egg on it. The still living yet immobile cricket becomes food for the wasp's young. What a clever metaphor for the process of targeting, commodifying, and marketing cool. It's a cycle endlessly repeated, at ever faster intervals.

In the case of an author as scrupulously referential as Gibson (who, after all, marketed his marketing novel on his own Web site), you can't help but wonder where the author fits in. He's on the verge of a mainstream success. There's bestseller potential. I can't help but imagine that ground-hugging cricket, simultaneously hiding from and flirting with the wasp. "I do have an email address, yes," he tells visitors, "but, no, I won't give it to you. I am one and you are many, and even if you are, say, twenty-seven in grand global total, that's still too many." You have to hunt for the passage.

Read an excerpt from Pattern Recognition...

by PABlo Bley aka Paul Alan Bley [Everything is destined to reappear as simulation.]

In 1984, William Gibson published Neuromancer.

For the first time, cyberspace received a definition:

"A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding..."- William Gibson [Neuromancer]

Here's another definition:

"Cyberspace is the 'place' where a telephone conversation appears to occur. Not inside your actual phone, the plastic device on your desk. Not inside the other person's phone, in some other city. The place between the phones. The indefinite place out there, where the two of you, human beings, actually meet and communicate."- Bruce Sterling [The Hacker Crackdown]

and back in the 60's, Herbert Marshall McLuhan, sounded like he knew of cyberspace too:

"Now that we live in an electronic environment of information coded not just in visual but in other sensory modes, it's natural that we now have new perceptions that destroy the monopoly and priority of visual space, making this older space look as bizarre as a medieval coat of arms over a chemistry lab."

Another definition:

At its fundamental level, cyberspace is a map that is maintained between a regular spatial topology and an irregular network topology. The continuity of cyberspace implies nothing about the internetwork upon which it exists. Cyberspace is complete abstraction, divorced at every point from concrete representation.

Gibson coined the term “cyberspace” in an attempt to describe the area BEHIND the screen of kid’s video games. That imaginary space has since grown into something much more significant than a background for video games. Cyberspace encompasses the millions of personal computers connected by modems—via the telephone system—to commercial online services, as well as the millions more with high-speed links to local area networks, office E-mail systems and the Internet. Many names have been developed to describe this growing area: the Net, the World Wide Web, the Cloud, the Matrix, the Metaverse, the Datasphere, the Electronic Frontier, and the Information Superhighway. With the increasing development of this virtual area cyberspace has become a way of life. Although cyberspace, also known as the Internet, is solving a large number of problems --in the process-- it is also creating new problems.

by PABlo Bley aka Paul Alan Bley [Everything is destined to reappear as simulation.]

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

by John Perry Barlow (of the Electronic Frontier Foundation)
Davos, Switzerland
February 8, 1996

by PABlo Bley aka Paul Alan Bley [Everything is destined to reappear as simulation.]