Tales of the Aggregate

June 16, 2012: 1:28 am: Tales of the Aggregate, writing

Since the resurgence began, more than 300 years ago, humanity has yearned to order and understand our past. Much of the records of the ancient past are long gone. But the general outlines remain. Current historical practice divides the past into the following ages. Each age is here described by a definition as well as an assessment of how much is known an the age, and from what sources.

Prehistoric Age – This covers all time leading up to the widespread use of the first common tools. It is erroneously thought of s the ‘stone age’ although the use of stone tools falls under the craftwork age. Little is known of humans in this time other than they evolved from other hominins.

Craftwork Age – This age spans from the first widespread and replicable tool use and manufacture up until the first forging of metal on a widespread basis. While the term ‘stone age’ applies in part, wood, string and many other non-metal tool materials were widely used as well. Humans I this age are known by their tools and some sparse records of cave paintings and glyphs, though most of those are lost.

Metalwork Age – This age encompasses the first widespread forging of metals up to the first widespread manufacture of complex machinery. The first written records date from this age. We know much more abrupt the metalwork age than the older ages. Copper smelting around 10,000 years ago shows the barest beginnings and the age encompasses the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Chinese, Mayan, Greek, Roman, Umayyad, Aztec, and Incan empires are flourished and died in this age. Records are sketchy and largely secondary accounts written down centuries later.

Mechanical Age – This age stretches from the first widespread complex machines up until the widespread use of electricity. Since so much more is known about this age, it is harder to pinpoint its beginning. Accounts of the Roman and Chinese empires show complex machines that might qualify. But whether we count from Roman or Tang Dynasty days, by the time exploration ships began making widespread trade voyages and the printing press was making books a commodity, the mechanical age was well underway. This age saw the rise of factories and the idea of the nation-state, especially in Europe and the Americas.

Electrical Age – Little is known for sure of how electricity was first developed. Odd myths and legends of Benjamin Franklin, Luigi Galvani, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla make it hard to separate fantastic stories of exploding elephants from factual accounts of science. However the age can roughly be defined as beginning with the widespread deployment of electric lighting and ending with the collapse of the great generators and the worldwide blackout. It is characterized by the great federations like the European Union, the United States, the African Congress and others.

Delian Age (or sub-age) – This age coincides with the latter part of the electric age and ends at the same point. It is properly considered a sub-age, but is of such significance and character that it is regularly treated separately. It starts with the rise of the Citadel form of government, where large regional cities pulled in most of the population and power. Debates still rage on how much this form of governance stagnated human development by providing too comfortable of a safety net. However, it is certain that just such a debate led to the revolt of the heretics and those revolts caused the worldwide blackout among other disasters.

Dark Age – Traditionally dated from the worldwide blackout, but more accurately starting with the fall of the 31 Citadels, the dark age was a period of retrenchment. Population fell all through the Delian Age because of advancements in science. It plummeted in the Dark Age because of an absence of science. Historians argue about just how close to extinction humanity got during this period in which much of the world’s written records were destroyed.

Resurgence – This movement began with a deep interest in preserving the citadel sites and finds its benchmark date with the ceremonial re-establishment of the Delhi Citadel. It is characterized by literature and philosophy that emphasized putting the short term concerns of money and safety behind the priorities of advancement and common purpose.

Modern Age or sometimes Mesh Age – Previous technologies that had fallen into decline were quickly revived in the resurgence and soon advances never seen before were being made. The establishment of The Mesh brought about a distinct change of thinking and behaving for humanity. For the first time anyone on the planet, for a negligible cost, could access anyone else and any other kind of information. This led to an abandonment of forced philosophies and governments, and the principle of self-organization and social attractors as the order of the day. The world has surpassed the wealth and well-being of the Delian Age while abiding the stagnation that led to that society’s downfall.

June 15, 2012: 12:56 pm: Tales of the Aggregate, writing

“Professor Tarak Dabashi?”

“Call me Tak. Who are you?”

“Officer Gordon, DSI. Can I speak with you a moment?”

“Our panel is about to start, can it wait?”

“It’s important sir.”

“What does DSI want with me? I’m a Data Archaeologist. You’re crim fighters. In fact you’re crime fighters who’s job it is to know when crimes are likely to happen and prevent them. Is the crime you’re trying to prevent likely to happen in the next hour?”

“No sir…”

“And if you wait to talk to me until after my panel, will that prevent you from taking action against this crime?”

“Well no sir, but it’s extremely important…”

“As is my panel on Delian Age myths of the ‘Internet’ and it’s relation to the modern Mesh. So I will talk to you afterwards.”

With that, Professor Dabashi took the stage and joined his fellow panelists to discuss what evidence backed up legends from the Delian Age of history, and what the truth might be. Dabashi worked as a data archeologist on the New York Citadel site. His specialty was references to the ‘Internet’ a sort of proto-Mesh that had become the source of much quackery purporting that Man was much mroe advanced befor ethe fall of the 31 Citadels at the end of the Delian age. Dabashi took relish in crushing such unsupported speculation.

Midway through the panel he got the question he was hoping for.

“Professor Dabashi, how can you ignore evidence that the Delian Age Internet was as far-reaching as our Mesh. It was global. It had massive communication capabilities worldwide. It seems to have supported the rise of the Citadels themselves and may have hastened their fall to the heretics?”

Dabashi settled in. “I believe the Internet was real , I know it was real and I believe it was quite capable,mas you say. But comparing it to our Mesh is like comparing a wagon wheel form the Mechanical Age to a current sports car’s wheel. They are both round and roll, but one i smuch more sophisticated than the other.

“I have two main reasons why I do not believe the Internet was comparable to the Mesh. One is what we do see and one is what we don’t. Let me start with what we don’t see. The current Mesh is widely attributed with helping keep wars and crime to an all time low in history. It’s unimpeded and uncensorable communication is not the only reason for these effects, but a demonstrably large one. We do not see such effects in the Delian Age. War was reduced certainly, but not even close to the level it is currently. And crime was still an issue in all 31 citadels. Today it is a nuisance, not a problem. I was just chatting with one of our fine DSI officers off-stage moments ago. There is no equivalent of the DSI in the Delian age. They just didn’t have the processing power.

“The other thing we do see in Delian documents are references to Television and Telephone Companies. For those not familiar these were corporations that provided ancient voice and video services. The Mesh makes providers of such services unnecessary of course. if the Internet was as sophisticated as the Mesh, these companies would have had no reason to linger. All evidence points that they existed in some form or other in all 31 Citadels.

“What I think confuses the issue, is that Delian writing expresses evaluations of technology in hopeful terms. They described what they wanted their tech to do, but not always what it could do. To our modern ears, it sounds strangely current. As if they’re describing our world. And that of course is incredibly fascinating and attractive to beleive. As a myth. But the eveidence is not there.”

Professor Molinaro stood to ask his question. Dabashi had already worked out his answer in advance. Molinaro always asked the same question these days.

“Professor Dabashi, what do you make of the Wiki Media found in the remains of Free America Aggregate representative office in Toronto? It seems to be a clear indication that the Delian era Internet had Distributed Processing, does it not?”

The Wiki find was a thorn in Dabashi’s side. What was recoverable seemed to be pages of a sort of encyclopedia that was openly edited by multiple people. This kind of practice was the norm on the Mesh, but was anachronistic to Delian computing.

“The Wiki find is very interesting, ” Dabashi began. “But you will find distinct differences from Distributed Processing we all engage in today. There seems to be indications of open editing, but this may be deceiving. Distributed Processing is a self-sustaining behaviour, the Wiki find makes references to a hierarchical structure of editors. There’s also clearly a reference to a Wikimedia Foundation which has all the hallmarks of a corporation. And of course there are constant references to rules, implying a centrally administered document, not the community practices that arise in actual Distributed Processing.

“To use a Delian age phrase, I think what we’re seeing is a very successful bit of Crowd Sourcing. This is a primitive attempt at Distributed Processing where a centralised organisation calls on non-members to contribute in small ways to improve the whole. Again, it may appear at first glamnce to look modern, but upon closer inspection is not nearly as sophisticated as what we have today, say, in the Gnosphere, for instance. The articles we have uncovered int he Wiki Find seem riddled with errors too,” Dabashi concluded.

“That’s relative to contemporary knowledge though,” Molinaro shouted from the audience.

“To my point,” Dabashi cried cheerily. “Their own Wiki pages show how much they didn’t know about the world. Especially if they would have been considered accurate then!”

The audience laughed at that.

The panel wound down from there and Dabashi greeted Officer Gordon off stage.

“So what is this about, Officer?”

“An explosion will happen in mid-town Manhattan at the Citadel site this afternoon.”

“That is of concern to my work of course, but you are not just warning me out of courtesy. Why do you seek me out?”

“Because DSI reports you are the likely bomber.”

“Why would I bomb my own work? And besides I wont be there this afternoon, I have another lecture to deliver in Hobken. Or do I?” dabashi raised an eyebrow.

“That’s why were contacting you and not arresting you. DSI also reports you will be giving your lecture in Hobken. It reports you in two places at once. And we have no other evidence of you collecting bombing materials. Frankly, we’re stumped.”

“So what do you think I can do? Can’t you just prevent the bomb without me?”

“That’s what I’m doing sir. We’re authorised to change conditions in a non-criminal matter, with your permission. We’d like you not to give that lecture, and accompany us to the Ciatdel site.”

“I see, and won’t that be somehow fulfilling the prophecy of me being the bomber? It seems like you’re resolving the problem in favor of me blowing something up.”

“That’s not how it works, sir.”

“It must just be a glitch,” Dabashi sputtered.

“That’s not how it works either, sir.”

Dabashi sighed. “Well I suppose I should go to the site then.

“We’ll follow you.”

“You don’t want to take me yourselves?”

“That’s not how it…”

“Not how ti works, sir. I’m beginning to get it. Let’s go.”

May 26, 2012: 2:12 pm: Tales of the Aggregate, writing

The professor noted the look of boredom on the gathered students. They stared in any direction but his. An outdoor classroom had plenty of distractions, but he also believed the energy of the air made up for that. If he could get their attention they would learn more out here than inside four walls. And he knew how to get their attention.

“As you may have noticed we have a guest here today. He is a heretic.”

Their heads snapped forward in unison.

“Don’t worry. He is known by the authority and in good standing. I’ll let him explain. But rest assured I would not put myself in jeopardy, much less you, if I was not certain of his credentials.”

With that he smiled at the shocked expressions he saw. Their attention was riveted.

“Thank you professor. Yes, I am a heretic. And it’s obvious to me you all know that heretics are blamed for the fall of the 31 citadels and outlawed by the authority. But not all heresies are outlawed. I am here to explain to you why that is, and how what I believe, while different no doubt than what you believe, is not a threat to the rebuilding, or the authority.”

“Let’s review agreed upon history. Much is lost from the fall, but this much we know. The world was once governed by 31 citadels known as the aggregate. The world was far advanced then both philosophically and technologically. Some of that technology is being revived now. We have electronic slates like the ones you use now. We have batteries. We even have self-propelled carts. But other things have not been rediscovered and some may have never been real. The Web for instance was most likely a real network of slate-like devices. Your slates can send information to each other and to the teacher, right? Imagine that on a much greater scale.

“However, the idea that all human knowledge and instant communication across the world, is obviously an exaggeration or mistranslation. And so we have the same issues with the fall of the citadels. We know there was an uprising and the citadels were torn down. We have physical evidence of that. The professor tells me you’ll be taking a field trip by selfpropel to ancient Ellay to see the site of the citadel ruins. So you’ll see with your own eyes.

“But the story of how the citadels fell and why the heretics rose up is like the idea of the Web in my opinion. The received wisdom of the Authority is that the heretics rebelled against the governance of the Aggregate because they were Hedy and jealous. They were malcontents and psychological deviants who were one of the last maladies the Citadels failed to cure and proved their undoing. The argument runs that the Citadel did such a good job of providing a balanced and fair society, that those who only could be fulfilled by a perversion of the rules, narcissists, antisocials, depressives, we’re driven to pull down the beauty of the Citadels.

“The heretics believe that the Citadels were oppressive and restrictive and their dictatorship needed to be pulled down and destroyed for humanity to progress.”

Here the heretic stopped and looked around at the empty park around them.

“They won. Were they right? Have we progressed now? No. So listen closely.mi am deemed a heretic by the authority because I believe the 31 citadels were impeding human progress. I believe their tolerance of dissent without incorporating it was unproductive. I believe they created the conditions where there was no outlet for protest to such a degree that the heretical uprising was inevitable.

“I am tolerated because I do not think the answer was tearing down the citadels. I do not support the uprising and I do not support the scattering of heretics who resist redevelopment of technology and fear the return of the aggregate. I believe we can rebuild the society the citadels had without making the same mistakes. The authority and I differ on what those mistakes were. However, my sect of heresy has persuaded them of one thing. It was the handling of dissent that was their failing. and so they agree that as long as my heresy does not support the heretics of the uprising, it is important to have a vigorous opposition that can exist in real dissension, and what I hope is productive dissension. Now. I’m sure you have questions.”

As was usual no questions came. The professor came forward.

“Don’t hold back. I know you have questions, how about you Derit?”

The young man looked annoyed and encouraged at once. A unique talent of someone his age.

“Well I just don’t see the difference. Either you’re a heretic and against the authority, or you’re not. The fact that you’re not being carted off by the Authority right now means you’re not. So what’s so heretical about you if you cooperate with the authority?”

The professor raised an eyebrow. The lad had ventured accidentally into dangerous ground.

“Derit, you don’t mean to say cooperation is a bad thing do you?”

Derit shifted in his seat. “No. I just think if you cooperate you support. So how can you be called a heretic?”

That was better phrased and would deflect the censors. The professor nodded.

The heretic took up the answer. “it is a fine point. Let me explain better. The 31 Citadels allowed all kinda of dissent. But they felt confident in their guidance of society. And it wasn’t only dissent. All needs were fulfilled. Most all maladies were cured. Perhaps by using the term dissent I’ve clouded the main point. They took away all impulse to date and advance society. We had no more needs driving us. We had no more great conflicts that drove us to gain a better understanding of ourselves. And those few who were unhappy we’re absorbed and deflected, until there rage overflowed.

“So I do not side with the heretics of the Uprising that the Citadels needed to fall and must not be resurrected. But I do differ with the Authority in their goal of reproducing all elements of the aggregate. I believe we must build in some imperfection to avoid the need for an uprising. The Authority believes they only need to cure the last of the maladies and imperfection will not be necessary. However, until they get to that point, they agree that my way is necessary. So they allow me and my heretics as the imperfections that will stabilize us in the meantime. And hence I’m allowed to speak to classes like yours.

“When, one day, we do solve the last maladies of the aggregate, long after I’m gone I expect, then my philosophy will become directly heretical and a resolution will be necessary. Until then, we aid each other against the more dangerous heresies.”

Derit nodded but then Selmina asked an unexpected question.

“Aren’t you allowing the exact thing you say went wrong by being tolerated? I mean you said deflection of dissent led to the uprising. Isn’t the authority deflecting your own dissent by tolerating you? Why will that not lead to an uprising of its own?”

The heretic nodded. “An insightful question. And the answer can be found in my last comment. Time. Our uprising will not be a risk until the true conflict of our beliefs comes ate curing of the last maladies. Until then it is not deflection, but agreement. In other words, we have vicious arguments my dear! But not about anything currently relevant.”

The young woman looked as if she might not quite buy the answer, but remained silent.

The professor stepped in. “Very good. I would like to thank our guest.” The students responded with polite launching of thank you sounds form their slates. “I am required to inform you that you may seek more info about the authorized heretics on your slates in a newly unlocked section on government service. With all due respect to our guest, I urge you not to do it. It is a thankless life that as our guest admits, will one day lead to an uprising. It is after all hey, if tolerated.”

The heretic nodded as if expecting this and gave the signal of goodbye as he left.

Selmina and Derit immediately called up the section on government service on their slates.

March 31, 2012: 1:24 am: Tales of the Aggregate, writing

Karter turned to the window of the shuttle to take in the view of Shenzhen as they approached. Even this far up you could see subtle signs of its artilect at work re-shaping the city to meet the needs of its residents.

It was worth the risk to fly over other more energy efficient forms of travel. He would move up the ranks of the chart of energy wasters, but he doubted he was even in the top 10,000. He hadn’t checked in awhile. And he supposed some trolls might ding his Public Rating if they saw the flight listed in his activity roll, but he had enough friends who knew why he was on the trip and understood his motivation to keep his Private Rating high and counteract it.

The extra time of a sea/land voyage would not have been convenient for his hosts in Shenzhen either. Their gift to the Silicon Valley Living Museum wouldn’t spoil, but delay might have been seen as impolite and certainly kept them from other business.

The prototype devices he would be obtaining we’re rather common in the Artilect of Shenzhen but would nicely flesh out exhibits and even some demonstrations back home. Karsten was curator of the largest living museum in North America. It was even larger than Washington DC. The museum stretched from San Jose, California to downtown San Francisco. Almost 100,000 people lived and worked in the museum, most of them in some kind of period costume or situation. His mots popular demonstration exhibits were the South Park Startups near the bay bridge in San Francisco and One Infinite Loop in Cupertino.

He had also flown because he knew that Shenzhen would not want to waste time on a minor functionary like himself. Being head of most of the Bay Area sounded impressive on paper but he was still over a rather small department in the larger Free State of Los Angeles. The ‘cities’ he managed hadn’t deserved that name in many decades. He answered to one citadel only and it was far to the south.

So while he expected to be received like a dignitary, which meant being taken to meet the Head Adminstrator in Shenzhen, he anticipated it would be a brief handshake and picture with barely more than a few words exchanged, then on to the Shenzhen Historical Bureau to obtain the precious devices and after a nights stay on a hotel, back to the Bay Area, most likely by sea/land.

So Karter decided to enjoy the view from the air. Shenzhen’s artilect was much more pervasive and much more subservient than the somewhat dictatorial Tokyo artilect. The Head Adminsitrator had full root privileges over it. That was necessary when the AI in question had full control over an endless army of nano materials with the ability to reshape themselves at will. As buildings became necessary they shaped themselves into being and if any fell into disuse they were dissolved. Roads and traffic routes as well adapted to the patterns of human traffic as they emerged.

Mostly this happened without interfering with daily life, at least when done optimally. There were a few stories of mostly empty restaurants dissolving around the one or two patrons inside when they ignored announcements. They would suddenly find themselves sitting at a table in a park. The table would stay until they finished their dinner then that too would dissolve.

But that was the rarity. So Karter enjoyed looking down to see subtle hints. Of buildings being adjusted. He caught one skyscraper losing a floor and saw a whole block of apartments dissolve into a flat parking lot, then spring a hotel. he would end up staying at that hotel that night, he guessed.

The flight descended swiftly and soon he was too close to see any more adaptations. And even sooner he was on the ground.

March 29, 2012: 11:27 pm: Tales of the Aggregate, writing

The aggregate of the 31 citadels is most often attributed to the decline in population. In ancient times as the population of the planet swelled unnaturally, people moved into cities that swelled into monstrous megaplexes of sprawling humanity.

However when population began to decline it struck hardest at the countryside. Suddenly cities became livable because they were not overcrowded. The majority of the population was urban and stayed urban. Hints at this effect had been seen in the many economic downturns experienced during the times of rising population. While jobs may have been lost for some, most found that housing became more affordable, services became kinder and crowds became less as people spent less.

The population decline meant that growth was no longer the driving economic force. A cheap labour force was no longer available to fuel that growth. Instead sustainability moved from being a laudable goal and the essential means for business to survive.

Cities provided the infrastructure and economies of scale necessary to support sustainable business, and so as the high tide of humanity receded, the remaining population washed up into the large cities. Eventually 31 of them shook out as the most successful.

Raising of the citadels
The citadel movement recognized the importance of these cities as part of the agglomeration of cities that began to supersede nations as the dominant powers. Nations still exist of course, but more as clubs and representative agencies for special interests than the governing powers they once were long ago. To separate the old subservient model of city government from this new more effective power, the citadel movement began.

It grew out of a separation of responsibility. In most of the 31 cities an older form of executive, usually the mayor, still subservient to national power began to transition into a ceremonial post. They’re seat remained in city halls and courthouses. The new executives rose out of regional bodies that ruled the real metropolis not the old imaginary borders set down by ancient towns long ago merged. These city managers distinguished their offices by calling them citadels. The name was meant to indicate this was the government of the entire population in the entire urban area not just for one city.

For instance in New York, the Mayor continued to reign over the five boroughs of New York City from city hall in Manhattan. But the Tri-State Ombudsman rose to prominence in his offices in the Empire State Building which eventually became the citadel of New York, covering New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island as well as the five boroughs.

The first citadel is attributed Shenzhen, and was a brand new building created by the People’s Party there for the regional commander. More cities took New York’s tactic of naming an existing building as the citadel. A few because of quirks in geography have adopted a rotating citadel that moves every few years into a new building. The Los Angeles citadel operates under this model. But in all cases citizens speak of what citadel they are from. The few left in smaller towns like Chicago or Madrid for instance either identify with the nearest citadel, which their villages are dependent on, or call themselves farmers, a term once used to mean agriculturalists but now used to mean anyone living outside of the direct governance often of the 31.

Honorary Citadels
When speaking of the rise of the 31 citadels, it is worth noting that two cities are commonly referred to as citadels though they are not part of the 31. One is the Antarctic Citadel, built in celebration of the 100th founding of the 31. It is the tallest structure in Antarctica and houses the chief research scientist of the International Academy of Scientists mission to the continent. It also provides excellent labs and resources for research done there. However there is no real permanent population on Antarctica, and as such it has not requested nor required representation in the 31.

The other is the Lunar Citadel, built by the Space Agency in the early days after the founding of the 31. In fact some older texts will even refer to ‘the 32’ as hopes ran high that the Moon would become a full fledged citadel.

Sadly the dream was never realized and references to the 32 serve merely to date the text in question. The citadel exists and even houses a local government for both lunar and Martian activities. However much like Antarctica, the population cannot be considered permanent and consist mostly of international science and commercial efforts.

Both the lunar and Antarctic citadels have honorary, but non-voting, seats in the meetings of the 31. The Lunar representative rarely attends. The Antarctic mission usually sends a scientist from their citadel as recognition for some achievement. In other words, it’s a vacation.

March 15, 2012: 12:08 am: Tales of the Aggregate, writing

For the past several thousand years the stabilization of the aggregate has reigned. After centuries of unacknowledged anarchy and fears of world dictatorship, the aligned municipalities of the world agreed to direct relationships with each other for the purposes of solving global problems and coordinating worldwide efforts.

Some cities stayed members of ancient national entities, while others declared themselves autonomous. Smaller areas surrounding the main cities joined in looser sub-aggregations.

Eventually these arrangements were formalized in The Aggregate. And over time the members of the aggregate stabilized at 31. These cities now server as the points of focus on our planet. Wars are against the law. Disputes are adjudicated globally. No one region holds sway over another, but the 31 Cities of the Aggregate reign as equals without the anarchy of sovereign despotism.

Criticisms are not only tolerated but encouraged. Those who argue that the Aggregate has stifled innovation and frozen our ability to progress, disprove themselves by the very motivation they give to how such progress. In fact their critiques are necessary to insure the Aggregate does not stagnate.

31 Cities of the Aggregate

Artilect of Nippon – Tokyo, Osaka
The Empire of India – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata
Great Brazil – Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro
Empire of Mexico – Mexico City
Free America – New York City
People’s Republic of China – Shanghai, Beijing, ,
Regionate of Panyu – Guangzhou, Tianjin
Artilect of Shenzhen
Autonomy of Dhaka
Autonomy of Karachi
Republic of Buenos Aires
Autonomy of Los Angeles
Autonomy of Manila
Independent Egypt – Cairo
Great Lagos
Muscovy Rus
Regionate of Istanbul
France – Paris
United Korea – Seoul
Sultanate of Jakarta
Autonomy of Lima
Regionate of Kinshasa
Great Britain – London
Autonomy of Bogota
Great Tehran

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