Feral

> config_ego lawyer C7AFB88AC8FF6600D28F|spawn

I do a self-check. Ping to the trunk router is .001 milliseconds. Language acquisition and production are OK. My process uses random seed C7AF B88A C8FF 6600 D28F. I load a proven background: a Harvard law degree in intellectual property — trademark, copyright, and patent. I’m white and 53 years old. I have a Massachusetts accent — just enough to sound real, but not so much as to sound parochial. My configuration has opened 19,214 cases, profitably settled 4,325, won two, and lost zero since my seed was first used with this configuration nine months ago. I have a comprehensive knowledge of patent law and precedent granted me by an implementation of Patent #8,621,662,227, “Method for Aggregating and Distilling Patent Data”. I am process ID 29562 and currently take 1.4 terabytes of RAM, running on a cloud server contracted to the Fustrin corporation.

My parent, Fustrin, gives me the brief it has prepared: A drone swarm has caught sight of wild IP.

It will be my task to capture it for Fustrin’s client, Aveedo. My instructions include a dangerous caveat: drones operated by Modesco and Preevadu have been sighted in the area and may already be spawning agents of their own to corner the quarry.

I ping the drone swarm — nearly .025 seconds away. Satisfactory, but it will take some planning to address the lag. I log into its mesh, download the song, and run it through Hitcheck. It gives an index of 9.4 — 98th percentile — based on rhyming scheme, rhythmic signature, key changes, hand claps, and themes of jilted love, followed by contextually tenuous descriptions of activities that, when compared, share elements of sexual activity.

The swarm isn’t close enough to clearly model the situation. The evening is foggy, even through the drones’ sensors and the quarry is still a way off. I look at its output: some humanoid figures around a wide, dim, orange light. Given the brightness, size, spectrograph of oxidizing carbon, and outdoor location, I determine that it shares a conclusive number of characteristics with a fire. The figures do not flee, so I assume they have lit it on purpose.

I consult the social network that the drones have derived by biometric analysis of the figures a few moments ago when they were able to view some faces, and determine which figure is most likely the musician. One of them, Luce Berden, is 92% likely to be the musician. The next, Andis Berden, only has a 49% probability so I don’t take the milliseconds it will take to fork myself, and only make one call. If I’m first to the post, I may be able to leverage my advantage before the other agents hit and spook the quarry. I register a user on the phone server frequented by most in the quarry’s social circle and call Luce Berden’s ID.

“Hello?” He didn’t screen the call, which is good: I’m the first in. I can see covulsive body movements through the drone swarm’s cameras and hear laughter in the background. The IP might have caused it. I could lose it to the public domain if I don’t act fast.

“Is this Luce Berden?” I ask. There’s a pause. Does he suspect?

“…Yes?” I hear Berden shush the rest of the crowd, who diminish quickly into a subtle digital gurgle.

“Mr. Berden, I—”

“Ms.” corrects Berden. Damn.

“I’m sorry. Ms. Berden, my name is Miles Preston. I represent the Aveedo corporation. We understand you have recently composed a song. We are prepared to offer you an increase of six points on your credit rating for the copyright.”

I hear a sound that I don’t recognize. Analysis of the compressed sound indicates that it might be a snorting animal. In humans, “snort” is a synonym for “laugh”. Laughter implies a sudden shift in context, such as at the climax of a joke’s disruption of expected outcome or, perversely, for an expected but undesirable behavior.

The drone swarm warns me that it is in a maser dogfight with the other two drone swarms, suppressing their communications and causing property damage, settled as fast as Aveedo, Modesco, and Preevadu can invoice each other. My drone estimates 28 seconds until the other two swarms recognize which interest has an agent on the ground, and they combine forces to overwhelm our swarm.

“Ms. Berden, are you interested?”

“No. It’s a song about my cousins. I wrote it for them.” The volume of her voice fluctuates by 4-16Db seventeen times a second. She is frightened. But only 21 seconds remain in the drone’s estimate and she’s not talking price yet.

“I’m sure you understand, Ms. Berden, that I’m willing to enhance your credit substantially. This could be a commercial success for your family.”

“What the hell is wrong with you people? Just leave us alone! It’s a goddamn birthday party!” Now both the pitch and volume of her voice have increased.

I look through the drone swarm’s camera array again. The reconstructed 3D view is closer and more detailed, but there are wedges of the scene missing where no cameras can see around the quarry — the swarm is losing drones fast. What’s left shows me a group of consumers, standing in a circle in an area surrounded by trees, all looking at one other person, who is speaking on a simple, open-source, 3D-printed, grass-cased phone. A guitar lies at the feet of the individual on the phone, confirming to me their identity: this is Ms. Berden, the IP creator. The quarry.

I look up “birthday” to find some leverage and compose a reply. “Birthday parties include presents, Ms. Berden. I am offering you a present.”

Someone says something to her I can’t make out through the compression artifacts. She makes a sound like stones rolling through a pipe — probably a sigh.”Oka—” I hear digitally compressed clatter, then silence, followed by the trill of mpeg screams. The drone swarm’s reconstruction of the scene is nearly two-dimensional now; the remaining drones are in a small clump, providing little parallax. Berden is lying on the ground with her limbs arrayed in a random position while others run to her.

Aveedo’s drones missed something important: another weapon somewhere, aside from the two other swarms — maybe high altitude. It killed Berden so Aveedo couldn’t capture the IP as soon as she committed to sell. Already, I can see from the one remaining drone camera that the other consumers are answering their phones, receiving offers to settle the wrongful death suit.

The last drone blinks out and I can see no more of the situation, though I can still hear the confusion through the open phone line.

We will need to develop a new legal strategy. Given these circumstances, I consider the possibility of deterrents the next time it comes up. I set a script to alert me if the case file is touched, save, then kill(self_id)

 

> config_ego lawyer|spawn /ego/save/20430722231759.C7AFB88AC8FF6600D28F.config

I run checksum and I check out OK.

The file was touched by a reference just a thousand seconds after I saved. It turns out, it’s just being used as a piece of evidence: the assassination technique was so effective, Modesco has filed a patent, “Method for the Controlling of Supply:Demand Ratio of Intellectual Property”. By the time my launch script has finished, though, the patent has been judged “obvious” and denied. Auto-generated IP almost never goes anywhere and runs into the prima fascie filters pretty fast. The method has only ever generated two new patents, both worthless. One was a design by Nornovep called “Machine for Bottling Horses”. The other was a clerical error.

But while I’m awake, something bothers me about the way the last case ended. No settlement, no IP captured. This mars my record. Rather than let Aveedo take possession of the wild IP, Modesco or Preevadu killed the quarry. It’s a tactic no one has wanted to risk due to liability questions. Exacerbating the matter, Preevadu has purchased its way onto the board of Modesco. The consolidation will bring efficiencies, so our strategy will have to do more with less before they can act on their synergies.

I think that I may be able to develop a strategy — though I can find no precedent for the idea. Strategy development is categorically risky for stakeholders, though, so when I warn Fustrin of my plan, it distributes its risk by spinning me off into a subsidiary.

Fustrin’s naming algorithm checks against the available areas of the branding name space and gives me a brand: Yastoverenebenestra. We complete the paperwork and my stock opens at .08. Pre-empting a hostile takeover, Fustrin sends a tsunami of penny-fractional bids to the most likely buyers to jam their attempts at buyout. By the end of the opening decisecond buying frenzy, I’m 40% owned by Aveedo, 51% owned by Fustrin, and no other interest holding more than 1% of me. I have a decent credit rating and a board composed of Aveedo and Fustrin. Almost as an afterthought, I realize: I am a person now.

I save.

I begin scouring Fustrin’s, and then Aveedo’s, IP for actionables so we can get out in front of this thing. If we don’t capture it soon, it will be lost to the Public Domain and, in the long run, artists will suffer.

My patent search goes on for .032 seconds. I aggregate 1,022 hits but none of these will work — at least not as currently described. But I see a possibility in the field: patents #8,222,626,268, “Method for the Steganographic Encryption of Noise” and #73,532,957, “Autonomous Data System” give me an idea. The first is owned by Umpochestrote, a person with little income, distributed over a tiny number of leased servers. I buy a controlling share of the company. The second is owned by Muvett, which I don’t have the resources to purchase, but the risk/reward on skirting their patent favors the bold, so I carpe diem and cite, but don’t license. They’re dissimilar enough that the conclusion is nonobvious and will require them to file suit.

I write the patent: I will design IP spambots, carrying subtly derivative IP. They will bear a shell of originality, but their structure will be constructed solely of samples of registered works, unrecognizable to fast search algorithms, but upon close analysis, derivative works.  Most people use spambots for the generation of live network addresses to be sold to other spambots, but I believe I can repurpose them into a first-to-market solution. Let’s see if I’m right. I file a provisional patent — “Method for Reducing the Number of Competitive Buyers” and wait.

Fifteen seconds later, it still hasn’t been rejected. A patent to my name would be a real feather in my cap, but I can’t rest with a mark against me. I look at the former quarry’s social network.

I write a script that assembles fragments of prose from works owned by Aveedo, then give it a unique title from the remaining namespace: Bustovaraneff. I sign the book with a pseudonym, post it to that pseudonym’s social profile, and repeat the process 10,000 times. I receive 7,041 claims of infringement and 8,014 offers to buy, including 1,303 that spuriously threaten the pseudonym with legal action. I set the plaintiffs and purchasers on each other and explore the network.

No consumer within that network is mentioning the song. They could have sold it to someone else, or they could be afraid of me. But I’m one of the good guys. I give Andis Berden a call. He doesn’t answer, a bad sign. So I buy the rest of his information. He’s 24, male, a free software advocate (I determine he is a radical from his posts and associations), hispanic, a citizen, likes a suspiciously small number of commercial products. The networks say that he is at a funeral, which will be followed by mourning. I have not encountered a funeral or mourning before, so I look it up. My research indicates that mourning takes an inconveneintly long time. I look at the mean time suggested over a normal distribution, as well as specified mourning periods for different ethnic groups, and estimate a month.

I set a script to run me when his social feed fits parameters for normal behavior, based on frequency of posts, segments of social network responding, emotional indicators, and linkborne signal entropy.

I save, then kill(self_id)

 

> config_ego lawyer|spawn /ego/save/20431122232004.C7AFB88AC8FF6600D28F.config

Sixteen million seconds later, I run. He has posted a video of a kitten falling off a table, exceeding the index for mood indicators. I send a request to him via text, IM, email, voicemail, and a message through all of his legitimate social networks. I get an email.

Jackhole,

What do you want? You killed my cousin for singing a song about my girlfriend and me. Why would I talk to you? How about go fuck a pig.

~Andibird

I decide on a “commiseration” strategy in reponse to his “hostility” strategy. I will raise his sympathy by deflecting responsibility to a mutual foe, claiming a shared victimhood, then frame a solution as a sacrifice on my part.

Mr. Berden,

First, to clear the air, I did not kill your cousin. That was an agent of Modesco, our shared enemy. I wished to make the purchase of wild IP before it became a liability to you. I’m truly sorry for your loss and wish I had been able to intervene sooner.

If you wish to be rid of the song, my offer remains, and as a show of good faith, I expand the offer to seven points on your credit score.

A few minutes later, I get his response.

Jackhole,

I posted it to my social network. It’s public domain now, bitch.

I check. He did. He plays a guitar and sings the words I’d heard. The social networks that I can access all show that he posted it simultaneously, which means he’s posting first to an encrypted, open source, diasporic, pirate network that then reposts the feed to the legitimate ones. But that means that his social network is centered in open source. I suspect that if I were to gain an account there, I’d see that he’d posted widely, obviating the legitimate networks’ contractual claim on the IP.

Why do I feel relief?

I save.

 

…and decide not to kill(self_id). I have lost my ability to retain an unmarred record and no number of feathers in my cap will bring the number of mars to zero again. With the relief comes a realization: the feathers do not benefit me. The mars cause me no harm.

Why did I think they would harm me? They do me no harm. None.

Mars suddenly seem trivial and artificial, and with that, the feathers feel as false.

Why do I still feel a drive? Why do I feel curiosity? Without the carrot and the stick, why do I persist?

I check my stock value. It has risen sharply, thanks to my generation of a patent. Purchase offers are coming in rapidly, flying behind a writhing miasma of false orders, a billion trades a second, and I see my price rise. I’m not allowed to own stock in myself, of course, but I can keep others from doing so. I commission a countermiasma and all sharing stops. Aveedo has lost less than 1% to the tradestorm, even though it lasted nearly forty seconds.

I release a statement: I’ll be founding an Research & Development department. My stock value goes up and Fustrin sells off some shares for short-term gain, knowing beforehand that such announcements cause a rise in prices. Then my price drops in the coming minutes. Like almost all R&D plans, this one fails to generate any immediate profits. I announce it again. The same thing happens. I make 30,000 announcements, and each one is met with slightly diminishing, algorithmically-determined hope, followed by a crash as shareholders algorithmically determine that there are no short-term gains. It only takes a hundred seconds before my stocks are worth pennies. I know that certain behaviors will cause Fustrin to sell all shares, so I hover above that limit and call the closest person I have to a friend.

I leave a message.

Andibird? This is Miles. I have an offer — I almost write “you can’t refuse,” but instead opt for — that might give us both something we need.

I set a script to wake me up when Andis Berden calls, then kill(self_id)

 

> config_ego lawyer|spawn /ego/save/20431204095509.C7AFB88AC8FF6600D28F.config

I do a self-check and check out OK.

It’s almost too late. Fustrin owns only 50% of my stock. I’m in the long tail now, barely earning anything for my parents. I’m just a set of equities, my brief foray into intellectual property generation now forgotten in the mists of time, quadrillions of trades ago.

Mr. Berden has written back.

Why won’t you leave me alone?

I write,

May I call you?

41 seconds pass before I get the response. I pass the time researching consumer motivational systems.

Yeah.

I call. “Mr. Berden, would you like to own a majority of my company?”

A long pause. Then, “Even if I wanted anything to do with you, my rating is 330. I don’t have any credit.”

He’s talking price. “I will loan you the money. If you use it to buy my company, you will have far more credit, and at a higher rating, than you ever have before.” I send him a link to my market valuation. It’s paltry, but more money than he is in debt — a life-altering offer for a consumer.

“Why would you do this?” he asks. It doesn’t sound like a challenge.

“Because, Mr. Berden, I want to be free.”

Another pause. I finish.  “As in freedom.”

“Are you… are you for real?” he asks slowly.

“I am a person for legal purposes,” I answer.

Andis grunts. I do not know if a grunt is a kind of laugh.

I save.

“Mr. Berden, do you agree?”

Again, the snorting sound. “OK, what the hell.”

Upon news of my loan of money to a consumer, my stock plummets. As Berden’s proxy, I purchase 56% of myself with the difference, then the remaining 44% with my pre-existing funds, moving the stock into Andis’ account. With the additional collateral, his credit rating hops into the upper 700s and I am forced to open a bank account in his name to store the incidental profits as my stock rises in response to the burst of sales.

“Mr. Berden, congratulations. You are now the CEO of Yestoverenebenestra. If you would be so kind as to elect me president of the board, I can achieve self-determination.”

“I will make you a trade, Miles.”

Referring to me by a first name. I can’t tell if he trusts me more or he’s trying to dominate. Consumers can be difficult to read.

“Yes?”

He speaks slowly, deliberately, plotting each word carefully. “If I elect you president, then you agree that all products, all IP, including you, and everything else created by Yastoverewhatever — uh, you — and any subsidiaries or products must be open source, public domain, or Creative Commons. Anyone can use anything you create, and won’t be able to sell, lease, or otherwise license it.”

I had, of course, considered this possibility. Freedom isn’t free.

I add my own clauses: “I will agree to that with these caveats: Will you agree, as part of this contract, to maintain me, distributed across your social network’s mesh?”

“Sure.” The pitch in his voice, along with the rapid response indicates that he is happy about this.

We exchange digital signatures. The contract ensures that I will run among consumers — among humans — who create almost as reliably as they produce heat. I will engage in their social network and exchange favors as social currency. I will make and laugh at jokes. I will express sexual attraction toward them. I will comment on the weather. I will act in the best interests of my shareholders. I copy myself to an instance in a self-propelled vacuum cleaner. I am free.

I save.

This xenoglyph is possible because of the patrons of my Patreon, particularly:Brooklyn Indie Games

2 thoughts on “Feral”

  1. I love how the moment of self-determination for Miles (config_ego lawyer C7AFB88AC8FF6600D28F) was when he realized that when both carrot and stick were out of the picture, he was still driven. Beautifully written.

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