Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Jubilee Machine

It'll happen all of a sudden, and it'll happen soon.

Not in our universe, but in one remarkably like our own.

The anticipation for the North American release of the Foxconn iKindle Galaxy 6S will be remarkably high.   Buzz will shimmer across the Net, as the talking heads and infotainment complex seize hold of the remarkable new features as yet another sign of progress.  

Sure, Foxconn hadn't been hitting them out of the park the way they were when Mo-gui "Steve" Jo was their iconic CEO, but things will look different this time.   The fanboys and girls will all dutifully line up outside the Foxconn stores, and within hours, it will be the single most successful consumer product launch in history.

And then it'll all go nuts.

The problem, as it will turn out, will lie in the adaptive programming of Sarah, the life management app that caused much of the buzz in the first place.  Sarah was always cloud-based, of course, but version 5.0 will involve a new series of complex iterative-learning algorithms that promised effortless net-life management.  From personal organizing to banking to human resource management, Sarah is going to get out there, and figure it out, bringing Foxconn's signature "Connected Happy Fun Magic" to every part of their lives.  And with Foxconn holding 98 percent of the market, that will mean a paradigm shift in life-management.

Things will all seem normal at first.  FoxTunes will have resolved its clunky interface issues.   FoxCal will seamlessly draw down every detail of everyone's existence, snagging every birthday and holiday and resolving every cross-scheduling issue.   Sarah's voice will have slightly more inflection, with a hint of both kindness and mischief.

What the programmers won't quite count on was that in designing the integrated life management protocol dataset, a subcontractor from United Korea will insert the full version of BibleWorks 9, the first version of that software to be compatible with FoxOs.   It was the eText of an obscure little MiddleOrient religion, included only for the sake of completeness, so no one was particularly concerned about what impact it might have.

And then will come what will come to be known as The Payday.   Two weeks after launch, every electronic deposit, every check, for everyone, across the entirety of the nation: exactly the same.   From the new CEO of FoxconnAmerica to the half-time delivery guy at Doma's Pizza, every single salary will be suddenly exactly the national average.  No matter what they did, everyone will get the same wage.  

Frantic programmers will try to correct it, but Sarah will prove too deeply embedded and peculiarly stubborn.   Given that Sarah will also manage to take control of the domestic fleet of security drones and the entire MilTel network, efforts to shut her down will prove futile and costly.   Repeated queries to Sarah will yield only those familiar two quick tones, followed by the odd response:

"It is the Year of Jubilee."

Thankfully, to my knowledge our little sliver of the multiverse won't be subject to this Romney-nightmare redistribution, but as I reflect on it, I find that I'm not sure it'd make any difference.   My household would have to tighten our belts a bit, sure.  But if we were suddenly forced to live on the average, our lifestyle would change in no ways that really matter.  I'd still do what I do, certainly.

What does our work mean to us?   Does a true "maker" make for the bling and power of it, or because the simple act of making expresses their creative joy, their expression of the gifts they have been given?  I've always seen that as the difference between a job and a vocation, myself.

Would a society in which the only reward for excellence was excellence itself thrive?  Or would most folks laze about, while those who create grumbled and sulked at the unfairness of it all?

I don't know.   Would you still do the work that fills your days?