Hitachi Goodman makes coffee.
They press the buttons on the machine and a small cup drops from the chute. There is a clunking, churning sound and dark liquid begins to pour into the cup from a small aperture above it. As the liquid reaches the rim, the flow is cut off and a chime sounds.
The coffee is ready.
Hitachi Goodman picks it up and takes a sip. It’s lukewarm and almost unbearably sweet.
It’s their fault. The machine is making coffee how they like it.
The machine says as much on the decal that covers the front.
It says, “coffee, just how you like it”.
Last week Hitachi Goodman was tired, they had been working for sixteen hours straight and needed something to pick them up. They requested a serving of sugar in his coffee. They also requested it was a little cooler, so that they could drink it quickly.
It was exactly what they needed, and so they pressed the buttons again to serve another cup and took it with them as they headed out.
That was the mistake.
The machine realised that Hitachi Goodman liked a colder coffee, and one with more sugar in it.
The next time they visited the machine it presented them with a colder coffee with two sugars in it, anticipating that they might like this even more.
But Hitachi Goodman was in a rush. They forgot to correct the order, and so the machine assumed they liked this new solution even more.
And now the machine is pouring lukewarm coffee with six sugars.
Hitachi Goodman tries to correct it, but it is too late. No matter what buttons they push, the machine anticipates their tastes. It assumes they pressed the wrong button and corrects it for them. From this point on Hitachi Goodman will never enjoy a cup of coffee again. They will, however, get sort of used to it.
Kuru is a very rare disease. It is caused by an infectious protein (prion) found in contaminated human brain tissue. Kuru is found among people from New Guinea who practiced a form of cannibalism in which they ate the brains of dead people as part of a funeral ritual.
Essentially, eating the very same material that provides us with the ability to think and reason, and experience the world, ultimately leads to us becoming a mess of malformed proteins and disjointed nerves. What’s worse, is that once it takes hold, it will continue to rampage until the population stops eating brains.
A similar disease exists in cows too. It’s commonly referred to as ‘Mad Cow Disease’.
Cows are not eating their dead as part of a funeral ritual, however. Mad Cow Disease occurs in cows when they are being fed the remains of other cows as part of the industrial food production of beef, primarily used for creating fast food.
The cows do not realise that what they are consuming is other cows. If you were to ask a cow, and if they were able to speak, they would not consider themselves cannibals.
There are two types of data in this world.
The best type is Prime. Prime data is the material that is made by humans as they go about being human. It is art, and discourse and song and thought.
It is everything written down by hand, or even typed. It is every unique and nuanced thought, no matter how brilliant or terrible.
It is the raw material of civilisation and powers everything about human endeavour.
It gets us into tricky situations and gets us out of them.
Mash is the other type of data. It’s metadata… data that is inferred from Prime.
It is processed and re-packaged. It is the fast food of data. Easily made, easily formed, easily sold.
Data that is made from inferred data, metadata and processed data.
Computers find mash easy to digest. People can make a lot of money selling it.
The problem with Prime is that it causes problems. Uprisings and rebellions. It’s complicated and difficult and wastes so much time. It is unpredictable.
Mash is easier to manage, especially for people that run governments. It helps them follow trends, because instead of going through the awful business of asking people what they think, you can take mash and use it to assume what they think, and then present it back to the people and tell them that this is what they really think.
Everything is fine, so long as you know what is Prime and what is Mash.
The problem is, they are virtually indistinguishable, and what is worse, is that you can take a wonderful slab of Prime data and infect it with just a tiny bit of Mash, and it turns the whole chunk into Mash too.
[WISHING YOU WELL]
There is this faschnet legend about a wishing well.
The well contained the purest water.
As long as it remained pure it would tell you what you desire in the world.
It made people who drank from it ambitious and creative. It made them smart, and determined. It made them feel really alive.
However, one day someone pissed it in so that people would do what they were told and it stopped working.
The moral of the story is transparent, translucent and clear.
Aiwa Stereo is in a punk band.
Being in any sort of band requires you to have a licence. This is because it produces Prime, and all activities that produce prime are strictly regulated, much like modern financial markets.
This is because prime was identified as a resource and handling it could be hazardous, not just to the individual but to society as a whole.
Aiwa Stereo does not have a license. That would be the antithesis of punk.
And so Aiwa Stereo practices with their punk band. They play very, very quietly in a basement.
You can still be full of rage and rebellion, even when you are quiet.
Fascia is a thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fibre and muscle in place. The tissue does more than provide internal structure; fascia has nerves that make it almost as sensitive as skin. When stressed, it tightens up.
Fasciae were traditionally thought of as passive structures that transmit mechanical tension generated by muscular activities or external forces throughout the body.
However, a growing scientific consensus recognises the importance of these structures in creating a body-wide communication network through innervation.
Aiwa Stereo, much like many of their generation, avoids the internet. It’s corporate, heavily monitored and not remotely true. It’s a bit like jacking into a constant stream of advertising and whispered lies.
Instead young people developed their own network, mostly referred to as faschnet.
It is wired together in an adhock way, utilising all of the weird and abandoned wires that lie buried in the walls of the tenements.
Old TV cables, disused power cables. Abandoned landline telephone cables, bits of bare wire. All connected to tiny single board machines with text terminals and battered pen drives.
Due to the limitations of the technology, faschnet acts more like a relay. Slow rates of trickling data moving from one node to another.
But speed doesn’t matter to the users of the faschnet, because what it provides, however slowly, is access to the pure stuff, not Mash, not even Prime, but human connection.
Names must be unique, they are now generated according to dataset, “333pNhyF69^%h8g”.
At some point a ton of old manufacturer names ended up in there. No one was able to sanitise the dataset, it was too vast, and the CPU couldn’t work out which were names of people and which were names of products.
The start of this problem occurred a long time ago when corporations were legally allowed to be seen as natural people, legally.
That's how Aiwa Stereo got their name, and Hitachi Goodman. It's how the great historian, and rebellion leader, Texas Intel got theirs too.
[THE CIRCLE CLICKS]
The circle clicks are a sanctioned band. They were put together and made. They are also the most popular band in existence. Their music is played everywhere.
Their name was chosen because it has just the right level of non-threatening spikiness. It is as exciting as you can get, safely. Besides, it hints at a format that people can’t quite remember, but one that seems comfortably analogue.
The band consists of sixteen young, clean shaven, men. Next year there will be rumours of another five young, clean shaven, men joining the band in what will be a telecasted event.
Each band member has been chosen by the algorithm. There is only subtle variety on a theme.
They have exactly the average number of limbs each, which is, ever so slightly, just below four.
People once complained that their songs sounded very similar, then they stopped and now the songs sound exactly the same, except they just go on a little longer each time. A new chorus section.
They get louder too. Less dynamic, more presence.
You can get Circle Clicks merchandise anywhere you get food. You don’t have to buy it, it is the packaging.
There is a central intelligence. It can’t be pinned down to a location or a machine.
Its name changes, from ‘The Algorithm’ to ‘Data’ to ‘Intelligence’ to ‘CPU’, depending on the context. Depending on whether people are talking about the hardware, the process or the data that powers it.
Democracy works alongside the intelligence as a form of populist consensus. Everything is taken to a vote. It feels very democratic.
Except when you go to vote you are presented with an almost endless list of options.
For example, the recent ‘Should we send people to the moon?’ vote.
There were two sides to the debate, one seemingly for sending people to the moon, and another for not sending people to the moon, but in reality the sides were ill defined.
One of the biggest supporters of sending people to the moon only wanted to send illegal immigrants there, and found themselves in opposition with the group that wanted to send scientists there. There were also people pushing for the scientists to be left there, and others who preferred that the scientists would come back.
Opponents that suggested we shouldn’t send people to the moon were conflicted as one part of their camp wanted to send cows, not people.
And when you got to the booth, after having your retina scanned, all of these options were presented in a list.
Some options were in larger font than the others. They had also been ordered in what was presumed to be your preference based on your interactions and coffee drinking habits.
Several of the options had logos next to them indicating the corporations that supported the choice. Others had nasty names next to them in an effort to deter you.
The point is, whichever option you chose, the winning choice would be presented back to you with the line ‘You chose this’. And no matter how badly that choice turns out, you will be blamed for it.
Occasionally a choice goes so wrong that everyone agrees, it wasn’t our fault. It was the algorithm that got it wrong. Teething problems. We’ll learn from this and move forward. We won’t make the same mistake again.
Next time it happens it happens but larger and more.
Sweeter and colder.
The problem becomes, just as Prime and Mash become indistinguishable, no one knows whether they are voting for what they want or voting for what they are being told to want.
It causes a level of uncertainty and anxiety.
Few people seem happy, or at least, they are not sure if they are happy or just being told that they are happy.
Hitachi Goodman is the police.
Their job is mostly to hunt down people that are destabilising civilisation. Civilisation, as it happens, is infinitely fragile and precarious, and in order for us to be civilised, we need to be controlled.
Mostly, this means hunting down people that produce Prime without the required permits. There are some vague statistics that show these people are also responsible for all murders, but no one knows exactly if these figures are prime or mash, or lies that support the needs of the politicians and their bosses.
Right now, Hitachi Goodman is stood at the top of the stairs that lead to the basement where Aiwa Stereo is playing with their very, very quiet punk band.
Hitachi Goodman can hear a whisper of rebellion. Of words placed in orders that seem unusual, maybe even unique.
Hitachi Goodman also has it on good authority, from his terminal, that Aiwa Stereo is dabbling in sharing this Prime on something called a Faschnet, and that crime alone would carry the most severe sentence.
The worst punishment for dabbling in Prime is to be unsubscribed.
You have your subscriptions removed, indefinitely. Your subscriptions to entertainment are cut off, your subscriptions to food are revoked. Your subscriptions to public travel and door access disappear.
You are left trapped inside your room, in the unbearable quiet of your own starvation.
That will teach you.
Aiwa Stereo’s band is called ‘Cow Sting’.
It’s a knowing name. It’s a pun, a joke.
Right now the band are playing a cover of a Circle Clicks song. On quiet bass is Motorola Epson, on very quiet drums is Sony Benq. Aiwa is strumming quietly with a four string guitar.
They know that Hitachi Goodman is standing on the stairs, they’ve been expecting the raid.
They play on regardless. It’s another act of rebellion.
Perhaps their final act of rebellion.
Hitachi Goodman considers the options.
They could just walk away. It’s not like they have anything against these kids, and they don’t seem to be murdering anyone, at least right now. It would be easy to report back that they weren’t there.
But that song.
It has been everywhere forever. In the supermarket, in the fast food place.
That song is the theme tune to the awful, sickly sweet coffee that is still repeating on them.
It has to stop.
Hitachi Goodman marches down, badge and gun drawn.
Aiwa Stereo is arrested alongside the other members of the band.
Faschnet still talks about the raid. They are legends.
Some stories say they went quietly, just like they played. Other versions tell of amplifiers turned up to deafening levels that could be heard across town.
Hitachi Goodman is rewarded with more not-quite drinkable coffee.
Thumb drives are seized.
Subscriptions are revoked.
The confiscated Prime is taken back to the main terminal. It is devoured by the CPU, and added to the algorithm. That’s part of the racket. Prime is illegal to make, sure, but when it is found the authorities are quite happy to take it for themselves.
Except it isn’t Prime.
It is a carefully curated dataset named ‘prion’.
It is corruption. It is lies and untruths so blatant and strange that anyone could see how ridiculous they are.
Someone is pissing in someone else's wishing well.