All Posts Tagged With: "science fiction"
The struggling sheep was outlined against the yellow egg-shape of Full Saturn. Had it not been for that, Brenn would have given up and headed for home. As it was, he could see it atop the bluff over Wolfden Creek. The question now was what to do about it.
He hadn’t gone too far beyond the creek in the past, but he remembered that there was a spot where it narrowed enough to cross on the rocks. He pulled his light jacket close against the rising evening wind and walked north to find it. It was about fifty yards away, just as he remembered it, but the daily freeze-thaw cycle had broken up more and more of the dirt and the stream had begun to carve a trough in the ground.
He crossed there, taking care on the slippery rocks, since they were beginning to show the first signs of frost on their surfaces. The ground rose gradually on the far side, and he occasionally cast a glace toward the edge to make sure that he was far enough from the edge to be safe as he moved upward toward the last of his charges.
“Guffie, what are you doing up here?” he said softly as he approached the ewe. It looked as if the sheep had wandered into a soft spot on the edge of the cliff in search of a particularly attractive clump of bluegrass and its front two legs had fallen into a hole. The sheep shook a few times, bleated plaintively, and tried to pull its legs out of the hole, to no avail whatsoever.
Brenn didn’t like the looks of that at all. She was too close to the edge, by far, to be safe, and they needed the rest of their herd intact, having lost too many to Justin’s wolves already. Carefully, he moved alongside her on the side opposite the cliff edge, watching every step to keep from slipping on the damp grass. He wrapped his arms around her middle, dug his heels in and lifted.
He felt the ground give beneath the two of them before he saw anything else really happening. He released the sheep and desperately tried for a few seconds to grab something, anything, as the entire patch of ground began to slide down the side of the bluff. In just moments, the two of them had passed the edge and were on their way down towards the creek below.
Thirty feet is not a long drop on Titan, but is still far enough to be dangerous. Brenn had two seconds to calculate the result of his fall. He grabbed the sheep, which was wildly beating at the air with its hooves. In the last second, he arched his back trying to use the side of the cliff next to him to slow himself enough to get his legs under him for the landing.
It was a bad one. He felt blinding, white-hot pain in his right leg that made him sure that it was broken, probably in a couple of places. He heard the sheep’s neck crack when he fell on her because of the rocks beneath the two of them. One good thing, however, in this situation—they were on dry land.
There was a small, small bank on this side of the creek that they had fallen onto. It was just a bit over two feet wide, but dry. His leg was caught between two rocks that looked as if they had toppled from the edge above on an earlier day. Not for the first time in the last hour, Brenn realized that it was getting colder, fast. He shoved the sheep aside, into the creek, and tried to sit up, reaching for the rocks. His leg was firmly wedged between them, and he had already lost feeling in his toes. He noticed the sandy dirt below the rocks and began digging beneath the smaller one.
It was slow going. Each time that he pulled a handful of soil back, the pain would cause him nearly to black out. The bank was in the shade of the bluff, so he could only make out his progress by starlight. Finally, an hour or so after he began working, his leg was free. He began to slide his body along the side of the cliff wall—until he hit the water.
It wasn’t a full bank that he was on, but merely a ledge at the water’s edge. He was trapped on the far side of the creek with no way to get across. He shook off the encroaching cold and tried to lift himself enough to slide his phone out of his pocket to call the house. He inched it out, but by the time it had cleared his pocket, he realized that he had landed on it. It was not only crushed, which the nannies could have repaired, it was broken completely in half. Gail would have no idea where to look for him and there was no way to get in touch with her, now.
He slipped his pocketknife out of his shirt pocket and cut away the cloth around his injured leg. It was noticeably swollen and the skin was showing signs of stretching–internal bleeding, most likely. The icy wind lifted the edges of his pants leg for a moment or two. He was in a really serious position, it was obvious.
Worst of all, his body was beginning to work against him. The Titanian nights were a week long, so that he was created to sleep through them. Anytime that there was a combination of cold and dark, his liver began producing ethylene glycol and a soporific. If nothing intervened, he’d be asleep in a half hour, even with the adrenaline pouring into him from the pain. A sleep, he realized, from which it was unlikely that he was going to wake.
Titan, Saturn VI, Sol System—date indeterminate
“Where do babies come from?” Gail said. She slid the point of the knife along the belly of the fish on the cutting board. Muffy and Gunna danced at her feet, occasionally placing their paws on the cabinets and mewing for their supper. The red rays of sunset shone through the louvres into the center of the kitchen.
[You just want me to talk about sex. I told you that I wasn’t going to do that until you kids are older. There’s plenty of time for that.]
“We just want to hear a story. It’s been too long and you know how much everyone likes them. Tamika, especially’s, been asking over and over lately.” She didn’t look up from her work, of course. The children have always assumed that I was everywhere in the house, so they’ve never fixated on a spot that was “me”, so to speak.
[I’ll tell you what. Roll that last filet in the soymeal and put the pan in the oven. I’ll watch supper while you collect the rest of them. You can all eat at once tonight and I’ll tell you a bedtime story while you do.]
Gail ran out the door, trailing cats. I switched my point of view to the outside and followed her as she ran toward the pond where the fishers were feeding meal to the catfish. I could see Justin and Brice bringing the sheep over the next hill toward the barn for the night. Tamika and Katie were taking their turn in the fields, culling the small, weak bean plants and hoeing the blue grass away from the edges of the plot. It took her a while to collect all two dozen of the children, but that gave me a chance to collect my thoughts.
They were a pretty rowdy bunch tonight. There was more than a little pushing and shoving as they set the long table and teased each other over their accomplishments during the last shift. The day was about done now, and they’d be settling down for 190 hours of sleep. Even with the thick atmosphere, the temperature still dropped from 60 to -30 by dawn, and when I made the children, the other fauna, and the plants, I figured that it would be more energetically economical to let everything sleep through until morning. So far, it’s worked fine, although it turned out that the cats slept through two-thirds of the daytime, too. (That really didn’t matter, of course, they were more decorative than anything else. As far as I could tell, there hadn’t been a rat in Sol System for a couple billion years.)
I looked them over as they sat down. The oldest were just hitting ten or so now, with Tamika, the baby, at about five. Good kids, each and every one of them, although Justin had been showing some signs of becoming pretty aggressive as time went on. I’m going to have to watch him like a hawk—this Cain and Abel sort of stuff’d be way too Genesis for me. No sense humanity making the same mistake twice. The slightly larger eyes, which saw further into the red, gave them a bit of an anime look, which I still found a bit disconcering, even after all of these years.
[Ok, kids. If you’d like, I’ll tell a story tonight while you eat.]
Tamika squealed, “Tell the one about the big cat that chased the dog up a tree, that’s my favorite!”
Eddie and Margot chimed in, “No, no, do the one about the guy who knocked down the Messerschmidt with dynamite.”
[I figured that I’d tell you about where you came from. It’s about time, don’t you think?]
The ones that were paying strict attention nodded, the rest chewing their fish and beans and following their siblings’ lead.
[Once upon a time, people lived on Earth—that’s where most of my stories take place, remember. There were two kinds of people there, ones with bodies like you, and others without, like me. We once all had bodies, but over time, the bodies would wear out, and we’d move our minds and souls into places like the farmhouse here, or machines like when I go into the planter to put down soybeans. We lived like this for a long, long time. We went everywhere in the Solar System, explored the Kuiper Belt and were everywhere on Earth, even at the bottom of the sea.]
“Did you all get along?” Justin chimed in. Yes, I definitely was going to have to watch him.
[Not always. Sometimes we fought—it seems that fighting is hard-wired into us, for some reason. Once there was no longer anything material to fight about, when all of humanity’s needs were taken care of, we still fought over ideas. It wasn’t often, but when it happened, it was fierce, sometimes, just like in the Iliad or Saving Private Ryan.
Eventually, however, things wear out. Our sun, which had shone reliably for five billion years ran out of hydrogen and began burning helium instead. When that happened, it started to grow. As it did, Earth got hotter, even though it was moving outward naturally. The animals and plants began dying. We tried to save as many as we could, but even the seas were evaporating and getting smaller century by century.
Finally, we were faced with a choice. We had enough power and energy to do one of two things. We could move the Earth far enough out into the solar system to survive until the sun ran out of helium or we could move humanity completely out of the system. This argument raged for tens of thousands of years, until a red dwarf star flew within three light years of the system. This was going to be our last chance, so we had to decide what to do.
So we did what humanity always did when faced with a stressful situation. We had a war about it. Trillions of people died in it--our last in this solar system--I fervently hope. Some of the people who died were even older than I. I still cry sometimes at night thinking of the waste.
In the end, my side lost. Humanity was going to leave Earth behind and move to a new star, one that would live as long as the galaxy itself. I thought about it for a long time, and realized that I simply could not bring myself to go along with them. There was something that could still be done here.
So, I asked for a small part of the resources available to create a cache to leave here on Titan. I’d stay behind when the rest left and if it was possible, keep a claim on the solar system for mankind. We build nanomachines that could last for gigayears in ice-cold methane and ethane, and left them waiting. My consciousness was installed in the building and we set an alarm clock, of sorts, to start things going if the sun expanded enough to raise the temperature on Titan to above the freezing point of water.
Two hundred years ago, that happened. The tailored bacteria were released and began splitting the orange nitrogen oxides into nitrates and free oxygen. When the oxygen content rose high enough, I woke up and took over. When I first saw the valley, it was all rock and ice. The sky was still completely orange and overcast—you couldn’t see either the sun or the yellow egg of Saturn sitting above the horizon in the east.
Eventually, I adjusted the settings on the machines that would produce you children along with all of the farm animals and plants. The rockworms made fertile soil, I turned the grass loose and now, as far as we can see, there’s a carpet. We’ve got a lovely garden here, and eventually, the whole world will be ours.]
A couple of the younger children looked very worried, “Won’t the sun get bigger and come and eat us, too?”
[It’s about as big as it’s going to get. Eventually, it’ll start to pulsate and drive off its outer layers. However, that will be a long, long time from now. By then, I’m sure I’ll think of something. That’ll be twice as long as humanity lived on earth from now. Now, my precious bundles, it’s time for you go clean the table and get to bed. There’s plenty of work for all of you, come sunup.]
They dawdle a bit, but they’re good kids. Once they’re asleep, I begin closing down the power in a lot of the areas. It’ll be eight days before sunrise. I switch my point of view to the telescope on the roof and look at the western horizon. Sliding above the photosphere of the sun, Earth shines back at me. Through the ‘scope’s lenses I can see the glow of the surface. There are no visible continents, the crust has melted.
The stars are coming out now. Even without enhancements, I would be able to see thirty thousand stars in the sky, ten times what was visible when I went to sleep. When the Andromeda Galaxy went through us the first time, it tossed the sun into a more elliptical orbit, and we’re a lot closer to the center of the galaxy right now. If it turns out that we’re going to be too close to the center, I’ve got to figure out a way to protect us against the added radiation. Last spring, (fourteen years ago) I could see the two lobes of radiation coming from the quasar at the Galactic Center. The two-galaxy merger must have dropped one hell of a lot of gas into it to create beams that shine that bright.
There’s not really much to do at night now but think. I remember the first time that I noticed the stars, so very long ago in another farmyard. I remember my friends, both before and after the change and miss them. The children are wonderful, but it’s hard to relate to beings that are eight orders of magnitude younger than you are.
It’s impossible to pick out the star where the others went. Even when their star was closest to the system, you couldn’t see it with the naked eye. There’s not even any way to tell how long I was asleep. The isotope that we were using to time the project wasn’t accurate beyond four billion years. The pulsars that were present when they left would have spun down by now, so there’s no way to tell from them.
I knew that this job would be hard, but that it would be worth it. I’ve been thinking lately that I may grow myself a new body in a couple centuries or so. It’d be fun, I think, to milk cows again, even to shovel the unavoidable manure. Oh. Wait. I wonder if I could design cows that don’t produce any manure. That’s something to think about a little later, perhaps. For now, I think that a little Mozart might be in order….
Explorer scouts from the Homer, SoCha, troop 314 have found the first evidence of sentient extraterrestrial life during their virtrip to Asteroid 253 Mathilde. The remote sensing device that the troop had created found an entrance which had been covered by a thin layer of dust for geologic ages. Mathilde had been flown by last century, and at that time had been found to have an average density lower than that of water. No scientists of that period, however, could have guessed that it was a hollow artifact. Marc Hoover, scoutmaster, stated that when their bot entered the craft, they found what seemed to have been a control room, although all the equipment had been removed. A plaque was mounted on the wall of the interior and was holoscribed and turned over to the University of Illinois for decryption. Brigette Okuma, linguist, said that the plaque, “is similar to the ones that were included by humanity on the Pioneer and Voyager probes during the 20th Century.” Made to be easily understood, the plaque contained the symbols for both DNA and a map of the earth with a supercontinent. Paleontologists confirmed that the map approximately corresponds to the Edicarian Period, a time when all of the planet’s original phyla appeared.
The first created Martians leave for the Red Planet early next spring. Baby Boomers have been offered regeneration to a bioage of 25 in exchange for two years supervisory work on the Martian colonization project. There have been no shortage of volunteers. Eris Morgan, head of the Austin-Center based company managing the operation said that, “Humanity no longer will have all of its eggs in one basket.”
Edward Jenkins was arrested by NorthAthens officials as he attempted to send a package containing a tailored retrovirus into the center of Southeastern Europe. Angered by the refusal of authorities there to refund the charges on his Age of Pericles virvacation, he has allegedly created a nan which would render anyone with one or more Greek ancestors sterile. His trial is planned for next month.
KansasCityCenter city council voted to increase the tax on stim within their borders to help pay for the power-downlink infrastructure. This 128-block area at present is the largest remaining governmental body in North America. There have been no comments from the citizenry yet, but the last tax increase was followed by calls for secession.
The reforestation of the Ohio Valley has been completed. The head of the Cherokee Tribal Council announced that any humans with provable Cherokee mitochondrial DNA will be afforded citizenship in the lowtech reserve. “About damn time,” Ben Whitebuck said, looking over the new growth from a bluff overlooking the River. “The place was a lot better before those crazy bastards showed up from Europe.”
The Fujita family of Okinawa has offered their latest creation to the ‘Sphere for the cost of manufacture. This new nanobot is designed to remove the ability to perceive differences in race from the brains of infected humans and uplifted animals. “We’ve gotten so much from others since the tsunami, the least we could do is end racism forever.”
The Wrigleyville Cubs failed in their drive for the playoffs when they dropped a critical game 36-34 to the Riverfront Cardinals. The hapless team has not won a World Series since 1908. “Wait til next year,” Eddie Bukoski of Lakeview said. “I’m sure we’ll have the pitching worked out by then–lots of new blood.”
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Pile on many more layers and I’ll be joining you there.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
And we’ll bask in the shadow of yesterday’s triumph,
sail on the steel breeze.
Come on you boy child, you winner and loser,
come on you miner for truth and delusion,
News, as downloaded directly into memory by iJack:
New York, NY–(Urbanagora.com editorial staff) In a small ceremony, attended for the most part by city officials and the children of those killed in the attack, New York Mayor Joan Chang laid a wreath at the Twin Towers Memorial. Looking back from a generation after the events of that day, it becomes clear that this attack on the former United States began the chain of events that led to that country splitting up into a group of smaller nations. The combination of imperialistic hubris pointed in the wrong direction and unnecessary and intrusive attempts to remove the rights of citizenry led to the end of this formerly great nation, only 36 years after its chief rival dissolved in a thundering crash which would cause Fukuyama to declare “the end of history.” In its own way, however, the attack set the stage for the first portion of the 21st Century, since it demonstrated that a group of less than 20 individuals, with fifty dollars worth of simple tools and the understanding of the dynamics of human systems could achieve a result far out of proportion to their apparent power. Costing billions of dollars as well as inciting two wars, their deaths truly opened a new era on the world stage. Since that September morning, the world has lost Tel Aviv, Melbourne and the entire nation of Tibet. Whether the human race itself will survive has yet to be determined.
Moonbase Alpha, Luna–(XCorporation press release) XCorp astronauts have landed on and captured Comet C/2026 Denofrio-Takahashi. This source of water and other necessary consumable materials will be placed in Lunar orbit late next year and used to supply XCorp’s Moonbase Alpha, as well as the American and Chinese Lunar settlements. CEO Peter Diamantis (who was on hand to greet American astronauts three years ago when they finally returned to the Moon) said that XCorp plans to sell the shell of the comet to NASA to be used as shielding for their Mars exploration mission.
San Francisco, CA–(CatFancy.com) Familiars, Incorporated has finally released details of the rollout of their first chip-enhanced kitten, the Mitzi. This fusion of animal and cybernetics should retain the instincts of its feline ancestors, breed true and be as intelligent as a five-year-old child, with a vocabulary of up to 500 English words. The premiere, originally intended for 2025, was delayed when it was found that the implanted chip was causing tumors in early models. Their public-relations Aye stated that this problem has been overcome and that while the fertile females will be expensive for now, sterile females and males will be available for as low as $5000. The line should hit the GenCom stores by next Spring–right in time for Easter baskets.
Salt Lake City, UT–(YorkNews.com) Relatives of millionaire recluse Sandy Gomez have been granted a temporary restraining order preventing him from downloading his personality permanently into his World of Starcraft avatar, Bruce Hotbeam. Since the Utah Supreme Court has yet to decide whether or not the shell of a download is alive or dead, the Gomez estate would be left in a state of flux as far as the heirs are concerned. Mr. Gomez has vowed to carry on his fight, saying “nothing can keep me from the opportunity of eternal life.”
Urbana, IL–(DailyIllini.com) The University of Illinois Board of Trustees has announced that the graduating class of 2028 will be the last with a physical campus. They cited the impossibility of maintaining even the small number of labs and offices with the $2000/year tuition that, even at that low level, students are unwilling to pay for information being taught in PhysSpace. Instruction will, of course, still be available on-line, with guided tutors aiding in hyperlinking to design individual curricula for each student. U.S. Representative William J. Mills was quoted in Washington as saying, “This is a sad day for those of us who fondly remember the professors and wonderful campus life that this great institution provided. It will be missed.”
Washington, DC–(CNN.com) North and South California, Oregon and Washington have brought the number of seceding states to seven. President Paul warmly welcomed “our new, independent brothers and sisters” and pledged to work with them to create trade and defense treaties which will best serve the interests of all the people of this continent. While the exact details of the newly-established governments have not yet been revealed, it is expected that they will reflect the mores of the characteristic societies of each area.
Tokyo, Japan–(Griffendorf.net) Kimiko Oka, spiritual leader of the world-wide Church of the Great Programmer announced that the project to attract the attention of the Being that created “this larger virtual reality that we call PhysSpace” is nearing completion. The project, which used 750 terabytes of processing power to create a specific type of fractal has taken five years and employed 25,000 people. When asked what she will do when the church succeeded, she replied that, “the cheat codes for this simulation may be complex, but having them should insure that the members of our church level up more quickly than those who are unbelievers.”
Toronto, CA–(CBCnews.com) Gay rights activists protested today at the stockholders’ annual meeting of GenDairyProducts.com. Members were shocked last month to find that GDP’s Protex brand milk-with-supplements meant for pregnant mothers included homosexuality as one of the birth defects repaired by its nanocells. CEO Raymond Galtier pointed out that “no one is forcing any mother who does not wish to drink our product to do so.” Experts say that this could result in a drastic decrease in the number of homosexual men within the next two decades.
–Tom (chronage 75, bioage 45)
News, as projected onto iTacts, delivered by EdandBill.com:
Washington, DC–(RealWest.com) Speaking at the Federal Reserve, President Jeb Bush agreed that the increase of the Prime Rate from 12.75 to 13% is necessary to bring down the current inflation rate from 14%. Democratic, Nativist and Successionist critics countered that the 8% unemployment rate is much more important than inflationary pressures and that this action will only make the American economy worse. “Things cannot actually be that bad,” the President added, “if the median net worth of American households continues to outpace inflation by two percent.” Radical activist Joey Bibuka (head of the Black Watch) countered by saying, “The President is a total noob as far as understanding the new economy goes. The value’s going up because the citizens are making the stuff themselves and not letting the government tax it.“
Urbana, Illinois–(Daily Illini) For the first time, the number of undergraduates enrolled at the University this fall in the Global Campus exceeded those enrolled in Meatspace. Out of the current class of 2022, 31,000 of the 60,000 are attending classes in Vir. The University Board of Trustees once again voted, during their September meeting, to retain ownership of Lincoln and Gregory Halls, rather than selling them to developers. “The historic nature of those buildings preclude divestment, no matter the cost of renovation.” Critics charge that the University is attempting to hold out for a higher bid than the one received and that if it doesn’t need classrooms or offices, the BoT should begin removing the oldest first.
Seattle, Washington–(Gamespy.com) Over 450 million individuals owe their primary allegiance to non-governmental associations at present, a Netpoll taken today revealed. The growth of NGAs has skyrocketed with 24/7 connectivity reaching four billion people in all corners of the planet. The largest, the ten-year-old World of Warcraft Guilds Association, with its 16 million members, currently has the fourth-largest Gross Domestic Product of any group or nation in the world, with assets spread over Vir, Meat and Outer Spaces.
West Lafayette, Indiana–(TheExponent.com) The Indiana National Guard began the eighth day of its seige of the AIChE-SA (American Institute of Chemical Engineers–Student Affiliates) house on campus. The standoff began when the members of the Purdue RSO became rowdy at a tailgate and has escalated since. When Campus Police attempted to arrest the revelers, the young engineers melted their police cars and weapons with the mining bacteria that the house had created for their ChemE 499 project. The National Guard has maintained a perimeter of one block around the students’ house, and have denied that they have already lost one armored vehicle to the bioweapon. Governor Radcliffe has offered the students amnesty with regard to their destruction of private property and resisting arrest charges, as well as rescinding their University expulsion in exchange for the state receiving the rights to their creations.
Austin, TX–(NewRepublic.com) Legislators in the Texas House of Representatives have once again called for the secession of Texas and the reestablishment of the old Republic of Texas with its original borders. They join Californians and the Free State group in New Hampshire in this call. Elias Dominguez, Speaker of the Texas House said to reporters, “It is insane that the entitlement mandates that we pay to our citizenry and are required by the Federal government exceeded our total tax receipts by 5% last quarter. It is literally impossible for those who are still working to pay any longer for these services.” President Bush commented from the White House that, “I thought we solved that there matter 150 years ago.”
Houston, TX–(AP) Scientists at NASA announced today that by reexamining the Infra-red data from the New Horizons spacecraft, they have discovered that Pluto is covered by a thin layer of amino acids. The robot spacecraft, which flew by the dwarf planet and its moons two years ago, is continuing to send data from the nearby portions of the Kuiper Belt. The experts stated that this provides evidence that the basic building blocks of life formed naturally during the evolution of the solar system, then rained down on the new planets when comets impacted during the Early Bombardment.
–Tom (Chronage 65, Bioage 55)
News, (including picture and sound) as projected onto the inside curve of iLink glasses, delivered by TomBot, powered by Google.
Jerusalem, Israel–(WorldNetHourly.com) Victims of Hezbollah’s Yom Kippur nuclear blast in Tel Aviv continue to pour into Jerusalem area hospitals. The Israeli Defense Force medical corps has filled the streets in the center of the city with makeshift tents with surgical supplies, but it is still falling short by a wide margin. The current death toll is estimated at 76,000, with more bodies expected to be found as homes collapsed by the ground burst’s shock wave are excavated. President Clinton, speaking before the International Red Cross, promised to send as many US hospital ships to the Mediterranian as are needed.
Aleppo, Syria–(DailyKos.com) Fallout from the Damascus and Tehran retaliatory strikes continues to endanger lines of refugees fleeing the ruins of those cities. The death toll estimates range wildly, but the best estimates seem to fall in the 480,000 range for Syria and 780,000 for the Iranian strikes. Egypt and Jordan expressed willingness to take any Palestinians that survive to their borders ahead of the lines of IDF “move or die” squadrons ethnically cleansing the West Bank and Gaza. Saudi Arabia pledged to send humanitarian aid to both Egypt and Jordan, while warning Israel that any attack on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina would result in the annihilation of their state.
Baghdad, Iraq–(Reuters) Saudi troops crossed the Tigris River in force, replacing Iranian Revolutionary Guards which have been occupying the river’s east bank for over two years. The Iranian RG troops, it is reported, have been recalled to Iran to quell unrest in the wake of the Israeli nuclear strikes. The Turkish Army in Kurdistan strongly warned the Saudis that any move to the north would be interpreted as a hostile act.
Washington, DC–(MSNBC.com) President Clinton, with an eye on elections only six weeks away, signed an executive order creating price controls on all essential items as well as wages, citing them as essential in the wake of the world’s first atomic war. “This nation,” she said before a group of business executives from the service sector, ” cannot prosper if gasoline goes above six dollars per gallon for very long.” She assured the assembled CEOs that the measure was only temporary and would be lifted as soon as the present crisis is over. A British Petroleum spokesman warned the President that this kind of government action would spell disaster for his company, since BP and the other energy companies are taking great risks in bringing fuel supplies to America at the present time.
Toronto, Canada–(AP) University of Toronto biologists, in tandem with chemical engineers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced the creation of the first artifical life from inert chemicals. Their five-year project culminated in an article for this month’s Science Online demonstrating a set of cells, complete with mitochondria, wall and nucleus assembled by nanobots out of dissolved urea laced with trace elements. Dr. Katherine Winsler, speaking to reporters today, reassured the public that there would be no danger from this newly created life. “It is,” she said, “designed to be fragile and could not live for more than a few seconds outside of the lab. This is, none the less, a major step forward in the understanding of life on this planet and others.” Pope Leo XIV, speaking from the Vatican, decried this new technology, warning that man, “like Prometheus, has stolen fire from the heavens. Any good apparently coming of this will be fleeting and turn to ashes in the end.”
Urbana, Illinois–(Daily Illini) Daisy Cho, Sophomore in Elementary Education, was pronounced dead on arrival at Carle Hospital this afternoon after being struck by a bus at the corner of Sixth and John Streets in Champaign. The driver stated that the student did not appear to notice that the bus was moving through the intersection, and that he could not override the programming in time. Playback of her iLink glasses by police showed that she was texting her brother in San Francisco as well as researching a paper due next Friday for her Compative Religions class. Tiara Calkins, state representative from the 103rd District, pledged to introduce legislation in Springfield forbidding the use of interactive eyewear on city streets and by drivers in Illinois due to the hazards that they present to public safety.
Beijing, China–(Xinhua.com) The Minister of Labor confirmed that the Chinese government would pay the fare of the entire families of workers imported from Mexico, Cuba and Venezuela to bolster the presently inadequate Chinese labor force. Reformers have called for the end of China’s One Child Per Family policy, citing families where one thirty-year old worker is supporting six parents and grandparents. This policy is also blamed for the 60/40 male gender dominance in twenty-somethings across the country. Gender-based abortion, while technically illegal, is still widely practiced in the countryside although it has fallen completely out of favor in the larger cities. The newly-arrived workers will be housed in special suburbs built specifically for their use near the industries which hired them.
–Tom (age 60)
News, as read from a computer screen delivered by Tom’sNewsFeed, powered by Google:
Washington, DC–(AP) Mitt Romney called Clinton/Obama headquarters at 2:17 this morning to congatulate President-elect Clinton on her victory when it became obvious that no matter who received the Texas electoral votes, the victory belonged to the Democratic candidate. If Texas goes for the Republicans, as expected, the final tally will be 456-82, with the Romney-Thompson ticket carrying only the Central Mountain states, the Gulf minus Louisiana and Tennessee. Most of the House and Senate races were not even close, with the Democratic Party picking up 12 Senate seats as well as 30 in the House of Representatives. Hillary, accompanied on the podium by a smiling Bill Clinton, pledged “peace with honor” in Iraq in a speech eerily echoing Richard Nixon.
Charleston, WV–(Salon.com) Salon sent correspondents to this Appalachian college town to attempt to make some sense of the watershed results of yesterday’s election. The exit polls had predicted a much closer race, and the National Election Pool, the company used by the major news organizations, is pledging a revamp of its techniques and statistical methods to improve its accuracy. Interviews found interesting trends, however, that could explain the reasons for the Republican rout. In front of his Baptist Church, Harry MacArthur made a wide arc in the air before him and said, “Nobody from this church voted yesterday, out of protest. How dare the elites in New York and Hollywood present us with two liberal candidates. It was an insult to true Americans.” Near the football stadium, two African-Amercian students, bundled against the stiff north wind, smiled and gave each other high-fives, “It was about time that something shook up the country. We couldn’t stand Hillary, but Obama strikes me as the way of the future, and there was no way he could have gotten elected directly, being a black man.” Randy Wilcox, in a trailer-park on the edge of town represented the protest vote,” Had the Republicans nominated Ron Paul, rather than some guy from Massachusetts, they might have had a chance. The entire system is corrupt. I voted for Clinton, figuring that she’s going to screw things up so badly, that the country will be ripe for revolution by the time that she’s done. Just wait, people get the kind of government that they deserve.”
Meyrin, Switzerland–(Reuters) Director Robert Aymar announced that the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN had found signals indicating the existence of the Higgs Boson, one of the key missing elements of the Standard Model of Particle Physics. The mass is expected to be around 140 Gev, but more exact figures await the collection of years of data.
Seattle, WA–(Gamespy.com) Jeremy Dunham, Gamespot’s Managing Editor called 2008 the Golden Age of Gaming. “Thousands of technophiles have upgraded their computers to play Bioshock, Age of Conan or Fallout 3. Our reviewers have declared, after seeing the new generation of hardware acceleration, that the games on our screens actually look ‘better than reality.’” Chip manufacturers worldwide are recycling their new share of profits into R&D in an attempt to keep up with designers in an ever-widening spiral as gamers demand more and more for their money.
Edinburgh, Scotland–(Reuters) The Royal College of Surgeons announced that it had succeeded in creating the first human/animal hybrid embryos. These embryos are planned to be used to provide stem cells for specific diseases, then destroyed. A spokesman said that there are no plans to allow any to develop to viability. Harold Walton of the Ministry of Defense mentioned in an aside in a press conference later that there may be the possibility of their use to improve the senses of British soldiers currently on station in Afganistan to enhance their safety in the field. Pope Benedict, speaking from the Vatican, condemned the advance, calling it a “perversion of the gifts of God.”
London, England–(Reuters) The head of the Ministry of Health announced that to ensure enough availability for the healthy in Great Britain, health care would be curtailed or denied to those Britons who insisted in pursuing unhealthy lifestyles. “The system, at the point of collapse, can no longer afford”, he said, “to take care of those who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, eat fast food for lunch and then go to the pub all evening.” Seven protesters were arrested outside of Eston Hall where he made the speech. President-elect Clinton, when asked if her proposals for health coverage would have similar restrictions, said that she would, “watch the experiences of the British and Canadian health systems closely.”
London, England–(AP) Amnesty Internation accused the Chinese government of imprisoning tens of thousands of political dissidents and Christian activists during the 2008 Olympic games this past summer. The Chinese government denied that such prisoners even existed, challenging the international organization to produce one photo of a prisoner presently being held for those reasons.
Chicago, Illinois–(AP) Today’s election issue will be the last one for the Chicago Sun-Times. The city’s oldest newspaper, published continuously since 1844 (when it was incorporated as the Chicago Evening Journal) could no longer, in the words of its publisher, “compete with the free cost and ubiquity of internet news.” The newspaper, home to such award-winning writers as Roger Ebert and Mike Royko, had been suffering decreasing revenues since it raised its cover price by 50 percent in the summer of 2007.
Tom (age 56)
News, as read on a computer screen from The Drudge Report:
Washington, DC–(AP) Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney may have sewn up their parties’ nominations for President. Their large margins of victory over their closest opponents would have guaranteed the nomination under normal circumstances, but the DNC has vowed to pursue a floor fight against seating half of the delegates elected prior to the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. The chairman of the Republican National Committee still refuses to comment on the issue, saying that they are taking a “wait and see” attitude.
Beijing, China–(Xinhua) The Chinese government continues to take actions to counter the drastic drop in Chinese growth due to their economy’s catastrophic loss from the American mortgage disaster. While the annual growth rate is only 2% at the present time, officials stated that the 2008 Summer Olympics, scheduled to begin in less than five months, should provide a needed boost to the nation’s balance of trade.
Bentonville, Arkansas–(AP) Elinore Dosik vowed today to continue the nation-wide boycott of Wal-Mart until they completely remove Chinese goods from their shelves. Her organization, Mothers Against Dangerous Goods (MADG) now enters the second month of the protest, which has emptied the stores of the world’s largest private employer throughout the United States and Great Britain of shoppers. WMT stock is expected to be sharply off in trading in world markets with expected first quarter sales a full 25% below last year at this time. An unnamed corporate source stated that “Malaysia and the Phillipines are looking better and better all the time.” Chinese officials have accused the US government of repeatedly exaggerating reports of defective goods.
Washington, DC–(Reuters) The unemployment rate continues to be stable at 4.5% despite the loss over the last eighteen months of close to 30% from the median value of a home in the hardest-hit states. Bush administration officials point to this low jobless rate as proof that the American economy is still strong despite Democratic claims to the contrary.
El Paso, TX–(MyWayNews.com) Immigration officials have not been able to successfully explain the 20% reduction in arrests on the border over the last three months. Sheriff Clay Atkins of nearby San Elizario, in a noon news conference, stated that “they’re gone–either they’ve dug a tunnel somewhere or are flying over–we’re just not seeing the kind of human traffic to which we’ve become accustomed.”
Baghdad, Iraq–(AP) The first US army brigade to leave Iraq closed up shop at their headquarters and headed for the US today. General David Petraeus hailed this redeployment as a sign that the Iraqi government is at last capable of handling the responsibility for security within Anbar province. Senator Harry Reid of Nebraska welcomed the returning unit at their home base and thanked them for their service. In a statement issued later, he claimed that “these soldiers’ obvious exhaustion is a sign that our brave fighting men have been exploited under the Bush Administration.” Simultaneous with the re-deployment, an upsurge of terrorist violence has struck Anbar in the last week, with casualties due to car bombings up by 100 over this time last month. Iran has been blamed for this surge, even though car bombings have traditionally been a weapon of the Sunni resistance. Local citizens claim that US air strikes aimed at eliminating the terrorist headquarters responsible for these attacks caused damage to a local mosque when missles went astray.
Geneva, Switzerland–(AP) Representatives of the Union Bank of Switzerland continued to refuse to comment on the rumor that a criminal gang from Romania had managed to crack the encryption on their accounts and steal over a billion dollars from their Geneva branch. “The assets of depositors have never been safer,” the bank president assured reporters in a news conference held at the corporate office of UBS–AG. Cybersecurity officials stated that the criminal organization, known as the Bucharest Chess Club, first linked 25 million computers worldwide into a parallel network using the Naughty Tentacle worm, then ran decryption algorithms until they were successful.
Tallin, Estonia–(Reuters) The Estonian Minister of Defense said today that his nation’s decision to not deploy US/NATO anti-missle defenses within Estonian borders is not due to pressure from Russia, but instead because his nation feels secure in the safety and security in modern Europe. The US Ambassador, expressing disappointment, said that while he understood the right of the Baltic nation to change its mind, it was a blow to the defense of Northern Europe from terrorist ambitions.
Tom (age 55)
Late last evening, Augur challenged me to be more specific in my futurist predictions. He stated that while it was interesting to read about vague references to the changes that are in store for America and the rest of the human race, it might be useful if I could put all of my speculations in one, easy to reference document.
I spent very little time sleeping last night. By morning, I had managed to mentally outline a set of six blog posts which would feature news stories from the next forty years. I plan on printing them, one per day, beginning tomorrow. I’ll finish up with a post a week from tomorrow summarizing the exercise and answering any questions that you might have raised that were not sufficiently covered in the discussion.
Some caveats, though:
First of all, I don’t know what the future is going to bring, really. What I am going to be positing is the most likely, in my mind, path that humanity is going to take. As was demonstrated in 2001, a couple dozen determined individuals are more than capable of changing the course of history on a world-wide scale. As technology gives individuals more and more power, the groups of world-shakers will become smaller, not larger. Therefore, as time progresses, the specifics of my educated guesses will probably diverge further and further from reality.
Even trained science-fiction writers and technical experts are dismal at predictions. Only Heinlein, that I know of, successfully predicted the sudden fall of the Soviet Union. Tom Clancy was the only person in techno-thriller fiction that proposed the use of airliners as weapons of mass destruction. Very few of the prognosticators of the 1960s came within a block of understanding that computing would be distributed in the 21st century, not locked into huge mainframes.
Therefore, I would consider myself a genius if I managed to be more than about 75% correct on these predictions. I’ve thought about each of them at length, examining the root causes, as well as the effects that they will have on the lives of individuals and the chain of events that will result from them.
The future will look a lot like the past with a few things changed in major ways. As the rate of technological change accelerates, that future will become less and less comprehensible to those of us living today. Many of you reading these posts will live the forty years necessary to see the predictions succeed or fail. Like me, you’ll find yourself on a journey from a lost world (like the one I describe in my Tonica Days stories) to one in which every day presents new wonders, for good or for ill.
So, beginning tomorrow, we’ll take a walk on the wild side. Any of you who are budding science-fiction writers are welcome to take any idea that I present here and run with it. If you do so, please include a note of credit for the germ of your story in the introduction, that’s all I ask–my ego will supply the rest of what I need from that. I reserve the personal right, of course, to do the same, although fiction-writing is not in my current plans.
The posts will be in the form of short news stories, similar to those that one can currently find on CNN.com or The Drudge Report. We’ll start slow and familiar with a couple of six month intervals, then proceed to five years, then a decade or so before ending in 2047. All commentary is welcome in the comments section (except for screechy monkey poo, of course.)
Ready to go? Let’s fasten our seat belts, folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride….
Information Wasn’t Always Cheap
I’ve left kitten in the Heinlein Centennial nerve center and returned to the finest hotel room I’ve ever had anywhere. We met the rest of the folks she had been working with for the past two years last night and most of the guests will be flying in sometime today. Writing is a bit slow, since I’ve got kitten’s laptop and tmobile connection rather than one of my infernal machines from home. Hopefully, the third cup of Starbucks for the morning will make up for that.
I realize that I am at a bit of a disadvantage, since some of my audience here is what has been termed post-literate. I do not use this term derisively, but more as a factual description. I do not even see this as much of a problem, since this part of the continent was explored, settled and ruled for three hundred years or so by people who had a dozen books or fewer in their possession. The library currently in my house is actually larger than the one in my home town of 750 when I was a boy.
However, when I am speaking of the importance of an author in the creation of the culture in which you are now living, it is a problem if the audience has not read his works. Any of you who can use Google and Wikipedia can find out in a fraction of a second who Robert Heinlein was. My job for the rest of the week is to explain why he was important.
Information was not always cheap. Prior to 1980 and the advent of cheap cable television and the BBS precursors to the civilian internet, the only way that one could get information quickly was to pay for it–over the newsstand counter from a cigarette-smoking guy named Joe.
The mundane views of the world were contained in magazines like Time, Life, and for the hipsters, Rolling Stone. There were three television networks with a maximum of a half-hour of news per day, plus the government-supported PBS with educational content. If you wanted to know what happened yesterday, you dropped a quarter for today’s newspaper.
For a farm boy hungry for excitement and a hyperactive imagination, this was stifling. Once a month or so, Cofoid’s Drug Store would get in a new shipment of books which might contain one item of interest. In the Summer of 1964, this was a paperback book of short stories called The Green Hills of Earth. These had been written up to twenty-five years before, but the world progressed more slowly then, and they were still talking about a future that hadn’t happened yet. Brave men and brilliant, beautiful women solved problems and survived in places that tested them on a daily basis. A lot of them were from small towns like mine. They dared to dream, and now I could, too.
By the time I hit High School, I could go to the grocery stores in the nearby towns and search their bookshelves for new science-fiction. Every once in a while, they’d have a new Heinlein–Stranger in a Strange Land (not Haight-Ashbury or Woodstock) turned me into a hippy, but I retained a trust in science and free-thought that my peers lacked. By the time I hit college, Time Enough for Love hit the shelves and, I now realize, shaped my life until, ultimately, (as kitten reminded me on Monday) I became a Heinlein character.
Now there’s a big responsibility.
Who’s in Kansas City this weekend?
1) The Literary Bunch–Heinlein is one of the three people who, more or less, invented modern science-fiction. (The other two being Asimov and Clarke.) The oldest living authors and science-fiction fans are of one generation younger than Heinlein and learned at his feet, so to speak. They’ll be here talking about his influence on their works.
2) The Old Scientists’ Club–Virtually every engineer and scientist over the age of 45 got into the business because they read Heinlein as a kid. I cannot emphasize this enough. The guys who saved Apollo 13 were using techniques of problem solving that they learned from his space adventures. When man first stepped on the Moon, Walter Cronkite had the entire world from which to choose to interview on his news broadcast about the meaning of space travel and the future–he picked Robert Heinlein.
I really liked the questions you sent me concerning wearable computers and the future of education, Augur, and I hope to run into someone who can shed some light on the subjects. The third question was the hoot, though, because one of my buddies from Fermilab who will be speaking at the conference will be talking about the history of the Bell Rocket Belt. If he still has his mockup, I’ll see if I can get a picture of him wearing it.
In any case, if anyone is going to make space travel commercially viable in the next generation, the odds are that they will be sitting within a table or two of me at the banquet. I hope to get the choice seats because of my design work on the Top Quark project, which still counts for a bit in the scientific community. (kitten being on the planning committee for the conference for two years should actually make more of a difference.)
3) The political and sociological people–If there had not been a Robert Heinlein, there would never have been a Libertarian Party in America. When they created the Party in the late-60s and early-70s, Karl Hess and the boys were reading from Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Take Back Your Government. Military thinkers and strategists pondered the questions raised in Starship Troopers about the role of military service and how it relates to being a good citizen. Hippies, who read it the same time that I did, created entire communes based on the religion that he invented in Stranger in a Strange Land–the book that Augur’s dad gave to him.
Heinlein had predicted the sexual revolution in an unpublished book in around 1939. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, he was writing of strong female characters who were the equals (or superiors) to the men around them. There’s an entire lecture track here concerning line-families, free love and mutable gender-roles in Heinlein’s works–and he had already described all of this stuff before 1965 .
So, there’s going to be lots of material from which to choose. I’ll try to come up with stuff you want to read. Please comment on things you want me to pursue and I’ll do my best to comply.
Talk to you later.