Archive for March, 2012

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

March 2, 2012: 2:12 pm: Technology

AT&T has decided to throttle users of it’s unlimited plans, and the unlimited wireless data plans are disappearing fast in the US.

Yet a recent study indicated that data caps are a crude and unfair tool for relieving congestion. The study recommends “policies honestly implemented to reduce bandwidth usage during peak hours should be based on better understanding of real usage patterns and should only consider customers’ behavior during these hours”

The problem isn’t how many bits people use. There is not a big bucket of bits that the carriers will run out of if everybody uses too much. The flashing lights on the routers don’t cost more to run either if people are moving their bits through the pipes in large numbers.

What is a problem is connection capacity. If too many people are hitting the towers, as I understand it, the towers have a hard time handling the traffic, and you get the poor wireless data service you see in some big cities and at tech conferences.

There’s also the good old fashioned flood of packets that cause increased packet loss as routers get overworked by too much traffic. That’s what makes DDOS attacks work. So there *are* problems, but limiting the amount of data I use at 3 AM when nobody else is using the Internet, doesn’t help the problem.

Throttling may help some because it knocks people into using a slower network with different capacities, but again it’s a brick bat to the head kind of solution. Sure, folks who use lots of data are more likely to be connecting at peak times, but it doesn’t mean they are, and it doesn’t mean they’re the root cause of the problem.

The situation reminds me of any kind of situation where a line or queue forms. Look at bridge tool booths or airport security lines for similar behavior. They can get horribly backed up, but the solution is not to somehow punish or throttle people who drive or fly often.

I suggest that carriers abandon data caps in favor of a ‘fast pass’ model. When the network reaches capacity or congested situation, all regular users get throttled a bit, unless they pay for a higher tier of service. That may sound bad at first, but remember, that right now, all users get throttled anyway in places like San Francisco, and the only option you have is to pay more to use your phone less. What if, instead you had the same service with the same issue you have now, for the same price but no data cap. However, you had the option to pay more per month to get your connection prioritized. You’re not violating net neutrality, because all users are connected, and all traffic is treated equally. You just don’t get throttled.

Of course the fast pass model requires pricing that makes it so that not everybody uses it. You want to avoid the situation you see sometimes on the Bay Bridge where the fastTrack lanes are backed up but the other lanes are not.

It’s possible they might even be able to provide tiers of fastpass where the more you pay the less likely you are to get throttled. And the throttling only happens at peak times. In non-peak hours everyone has full unthrottled access anyway.

I can already imagine some of you screaming why this is a horrible idea, so have at it, respectfully, in the comments. In the end maybe we can figure out some model that is agreeable to most, if not all? Who knows?