He opened his eyes to the dark early morning of his spacious quarters. With all currents pulled and all shutters raised the dark sky revealed itself to be still generously dotted with the flickering lights of the stars. The round dome covering his bedroom was not getting in the way of the view at the slightest, and at first it seemed he had awoken on top of a mountain, far away from everything. That's right. He had dreamt of a mountain. His hand searched around and found the corner of the foam bed. His fingers swam in the delicate bubble mass until they sank to the soft mattress and the bubbles gently stiffened in a delicate shell around his palm. Despite the cosiness of the bed he had slept on the floor. No blanket, no pillow, no smart foam; just the hard floor. He touched the foam with his other hand and the bubbles softened to a mush, keeping their form on top of the bed.
He had awoken before the alarm again. Had sleep for about three hours only. No pain in the neck and no need for coffee. Coffee... When did he have his last cup? He could not remember but he was thinking about coffee. He remembered the distinct bitterness of the everyday ritual with which he began working every day. He remembered sleeping for three hours back then as well; thoughtfully scratching the side of his head. A point of time when he had to, against all odds, ignore the intense pain and just keep going. But he could not remember when exactly he felt pain for last ...or had a cup of coffee. Well, time to begin the day.
He stepped over a book; a paper book he was reading until late this morning. The black, thin tome with yellow old pages read 'Ethics' on the front cover with just three more words underneath it - 'Benedict de Spinoza'.
On his way to the stairs he passed next to papers, hung on the wall. Old diplomas. James P. Patterson. Doctorate degrees in Biology; Chemistry; Nanoionics; Digital Sciences; Medicine; awards for academic excellence; Ph. D., ect. All framed in wood and glass. A reminiscent of the past.
Only one suspicious step was leading out of his round bedroom, above the rest of the apartment. When he stepped it descended with quiet elegance to the bottom, landing him in front of a marble top with a washing sink carved in. An ephemeral and magenta holographic screen visualised in front of him with buttons encapsulating various commands. He pushed one of them and a thin film ejected behind the marble top, hardening and changing texture until it became a mirror. A spotless, immaculate face of a young man with sharp, almost aggressive dark eyes looked at him from the reflection. Spotless and glossy black hair, swept backwards. He blinked some and tried to mellow down the steep curve of his eyebrows, so as to appear less hawkish but as soon as he relaxed his muscles his face took on the slightly predatory aspect, as if ready to sink teeth. Oh well... that was just the way he looked, he thought.
A small, metallic ball hovered around him. 'Please allow biometric scan', an adorable metallic voice hummed. He raised his palm and the small bot inspected it briefly with a flash.
The med-drone continued its inspection, buzzing around him, giving soothing reports about muscle mass, bone density, blood vessel condition, metabolic functions and whatnot. James didn't pay attention and walked to his desk. There he found the scattered papers he was immersed in last night. His scribing and drawings; the small foot notes next to the text taken with a pencil. Access to any piece of information was available from the web. It could be projected in the lenses of his eyes, while having updates transliterated into long term memory. Although the disks of the electroencephalogramic circle were trendy, they didn't sit well on his skull, he thought. Instead he had printed several papers and had worked directly on them. Comfortably bend in the thinking man's pose; him and some old philosophical essay with his etchings on the side. The voice recorded bookmarks were used far too many times. He wanted something different than his own assertive voice. He wanted experiments.
James had hardly read a paragraph when a small blue dot blinked in on the edge of his peripheral vision. He turned his head in the direction and saw a bot adhering itself to the outside the thick, transparent multi-polymer shields of his apartment. Unauthorised?! Delivery bots couldn't just do that. There was a whole set of rules, violated when the comm had not been addressed with information for the fly by. He inquired and found nothing. An invisible small bot sat patiently on the outside of the window, quite high above ground. He observed the drone for a little bit, sat cosily in his chair and the drone sent the faint signal again. Double blink of the small blue dot. A short wave signal purposed only for him, probably. And saving energy as well; the simpler it was, the more invisible it would be. He swoop his hand over the edge of the work top and the bluish, ephemeral screen appeared again. He scrolled around coming to a particular line and moved a cursor across a band. The bot began to sink in the glass and found its way in. It clumsily hovered to his desk and settled on the side, unfolding its small hulk. A delicate limb stretched and placed a small cube on his desk, then the bot inquired politely as to the nearest recycling depot.
'Ok,' he though. 'No meta-data, no tracing insignia, no footprints. Who is going to look for you, little fellow?' He took it with both hands and rolled it around to look for manufacturing details, but found only the stamp of the three dimensional printing date - five hours ago. And the short abbreviation of the conglomerate's labs in town. That's right! He was expecting a report. Hahaha!
He sent the bot on its way to the recycler, took the cube and walked away from the desk. Synthesized DNA strands with double layer of data encryption. That was the usual method. The dehydrated and preserved acids would disintegrate quickly after reading. The polymerase reaction would take some time and they had to be read monomer by monomer. The quicker methods were still making mistakes. And with two layers of encryption it would be gibberish in the end.
He left the cube to sink in the the scanning receptacle and took a seat again, turning his gaze to the outside. The Sun was coming from underneath the horizon, bathing the far clouds in muted shades of orange and red. Against the sea of cantaloupe-coloured fluff, dark towers rose above the conurbation of the metropolis. The larger shadows of delivery hulks were scuttling like beetles; the lines of air traffic like ants; the obscured dots shining on the far ground and the dark, out of shape cloud of the construction bots surrounding a new column of steel-ceramic and concrete compounds. A huge intertwined trunk of a three, patiently growing out there on the edge of the city. Housing people in the morphogenetic diversity of its fruits, kindly guided by science to take the desired shape. He was rhythmically tapping fingers in his desk.
Another old impression found its way into his mind. Just an innocent extrapolation on a long past experience. He found himself craving tobacco. Clapping both his hands on the work top enthusiastically, James stood up and dashed to the wardrobe.
Upon swinging the wide doors a dark mass crept over from a stand and pooled in his legs. It started oozing up, gently and deliberately. He sighed with boredom and tried getting it off with hands, but the goo just covered him from neck to bottom, regardless. It 'crystallized' into an elegant black suit, a bordo shirt and a silk tie. No authorisation what so ever! A window visualised in the space in front of him, displaying a friendly looking female face, telling him of the gratitude of a research team and politely requesting feedback on the new product, designed for the business-echelons of society. Details were hovering under the window and he send back a message, politely analysing the benefits of the reprogrammable matter, the softness of texture of the fabric, but also reminding her that the thing did not want to get off on command, or at least a command he knew. No authorisation... of course. They were part of the conglomerate. It wasn't an intrusion on private space when it was simultaneously a gift and a request to assert the usefulness of a new product. Culture, he thought, was moving in a circle.
He unbuttoned the suit and threw it on the side. Laughing, he browsed through the clothes looking for something less gimmicky.
He came out in a smart pair of light brown trousers, white shirt and an amber coat. A sporty coat pant men suit. To put the old-fashioned, autumn-leaf-coloured neck-tie he had to remind himself the technique by going through a vid, uploaded in the net fifty four years ago. Delighted he set an algorithm with changing meta-data set of footprints to spam recommends on the vid for five minutes. It would be interesting, seeing the reaction in the public space.
'I would like to remind you,' a soothing female voice reported. 'That you have not had any breakfast today, Mister Patterson. Do you want me to order anything for you on descent?' Stroking his hand across his superannuated coat, he was on his way to the lift when he passed through the soft membrane of the 'front door'.
'No, thank you!' Spinning on his toes he went back into his penthouse, 'Oh... another day on balloons,' he was thinking while darting across the room. Going into the 'kitchen' he found himself in front of shelves of round opaque containers, soft to the touch. He grabbed one and started gulping the purified water from within. Berries were growing in a large conical pot next to the shelves. Mixed meta gene fungi and lichens composed a light green carpet, on top of which small leaf growths were making their way up. The small fruits came in various colours and were heavy on the thin stems, resembling grapes on the vine. James was stuffing his mouth hastily, while his other hand was packing fruits in his pocket. He decided he was going for a long walk today. Ripping a sponge of synthesized protein plastic to pieces and down they went with a controlled dose of glucose. Looking twice at the giant Lilly-like flower that had excreted the sticky gel overnight, he just started biting it whole, prematurely disabling the hyperglycaemia message from the med-drone. A quick inhale of vitamin vapour and he was good to go.
On his second way to the elevator he got an update with the decrypted message from the cube. Sitting in the sofa of the glass conveyor tube he chose bullet point assessment style for the report. The fleeting screen of text settled in front of him, flickering slightly at the rapid, but mild descend of the elevator. Outside the sun was on its way across the sky, brightly lighting the high spires of the city. The lower levels were still covered in morning gloom and the ground was pitch black. The stars overhead were disappearing while the lights down there were still distinguishable.
'Full neuron mapping at a hundred percent. Simulation began immediately after; computation at a protocerebrum level ... algorithmic vector behavioural code assimilated and overthrown. HA,' he clapped his hands with a childish expression. 'Emotional already!'
James tried a serious expression, but a smile crept over and he sniggered as if trying to hide his laughter from someone.
He send a polite request to lab asking them to download his designer program from the cloud. Upload as soon as instructions per second level human brain computation. And a safety threshold at the limit of which it would all be streamed and encoded into a memory bank. The whole operation from the simulation to the behavioural codes and the knowledge he was imparting on it. Two legs, two arms, a body and a head.
'OK, ok'. He settled in his seat and took his slate out to set a timer at forty hours. A private message from Phan, seventeen hours old sat in expectation of his attention.
'Money Y/N?' he read on the screen.
Naturally he wanted to chat about it with Phan. But seeing the way he himself was he expected something similar to be going on with the rest of the gang. Well, maybe they would not have the same opinion as he might on this or that point, but... getting old? Sometimes he even found the time to think he was not good enough to be doing what he was doing any more. And that in a way spoke of some sort of a change, did it not? Another broad and honest smile split his face and he left the slate on the side of the sofa.
He spent the rest of his descend journey checking the synthesis on the Meta data of how the company was doing on the scene. As an everyday ritual he wasn't going through internal reports, but rather how the thing was viewed from the outside. Nothing exciting in the well-oiled machine of the corporate hulk today. Minor changes; small inputs; a message of praise here, a message of advice there; reprimand and reward, and soon as he reached ground level he shut it off. Still dark.
He headed in the general direction of the 'tree' on the edge of town, eating berries from his pocket. In the morning shadow the broad avenue was bustling with vehicles. Single wheelers, smooth edged electric cars, bulbous low buses with fully transparent tubes. The hurried bots above the boulevard were making the air traffic; some were stopping for recharge in the plugs available in higher stories. Big turtle-like hulks of the delivery conveyors were dropping crates of supplies on top of building, while empty ones were hauled back. The hulks were suspended on support poles on top of the various merchandise houses while powered back via light waves from the buildings. Underground network of tubes were also delivering, but mostly people travelled on them.
He was walking barefooted on the side of the traffic - a bed of grass thriving on soil. Small swarms of mouse sized constructs were scurrying through the low growth on errands of inspection, marketing, advertising or observation. Some of the clothes of the crowd were changing shapes, tightness, colour and texture. A number of the gadgets like watches, slates and jewellery were illuminating the surroundings in the missing stead of the street lights; powered by the omnipresent radio transmission on the ground. Somebody's skin and eyes shifted hue like a chameleon. Smart-dressed individuals focussed on their semi-transparent tablets, non-impressed by the mass and not bothered with privacy.
'A real sensation of a woman, sweetie?' A tall girl with a deep voice turned to him. 'I like old-fashion boys like you!' She smiled.
He nodded politely but did not slow pace.
'Maybe you'll love it in a different way?' She tagged playfully, her skin shifting to deep purple and her eyes light magenta.
Booths along the green side walk were offering designer foods, which came in shapes, and sizes you could recognize from old encyclopaedias. There were things you have not seen to date. Colours of the rainbow were intertwining in fruits; the shapes of the nuts; a sweet sludge dripping from a nest of lazy bees; spaghetti that crawled in the bawl. People were choosing from the menagerie in the large pots, the terrariums, the plants growing right in front of them on the street. An utopia for the modern organics. Information for nutritional values and growth methods were available on line for the scientifically interested.
The spirit of the ancient city was evident in the artistic Metropolis. The guise of commerce was kept by transactions made from personal accounts and validated by bio-metric details: fingerprints, eye-irises, DNA patterns, voice confirmation. The phantasmagorical crowd was bustling in search of experiences, seeking discovery on every corner in an unexpected choice of the collective. It was an unanticipated move away from the tradition of a century before. A century ago it was fashionable to be a pessimist. A century after there was no fashion. James could make the comparison empirically.
A splash of a fish pulled out of a tank interrupted his deepening contemplation, wetting his face. The man behind the counter (clear Asian background) smiled and nodded back apologetically. He and his customer laughed. James smiled back.
The biggest in the world were constructing trade centres the size of cities, housing research and development teams, which presented their newest discoveries directly to the corporate organs. The gargantuan conglomerates were economies bigger than countries these days. Each of them had a core and the rest of the assets were shifting in ownership and swam back and forth between agreements, takeovers, popular public opinions and general commerce, the size of which equalled states. In comparison the Metropolis' policy was tax collection. Every transaction contributed to the presence of the vast artistic crowd on the global canvas. If not enough transactions were made you would be taxed accordingly based on income. If too many transactions occurred you could refund. Social policies about environment awareness were omnipresent and the self-containment was effectively only a front cover. The Metropolis was buying patents and technologies to be reiterated in the inventive way the public here was capable of. Open source public highway into the latest on the market. And the Metropolis was selling back. Palettes and packs with one click application for internal and external recombination that only an artist could provide. Innovation in social policies; designer Meta genes of foods; unique organic experiences with guides; space for expression and the most valuable thing of all - somebody's time dedicated only to you. Creativity and services had a price. You could not talk about trends any more when billions all over the world were living on small time local production by manufacturers, who looked more like artists than business owners. Why obtain a license from a meticulous bureaucrat when you could develop a unique style by a beginning of imitation? In a way bureaucracy was a choice, giving certain freedoms and taking away others.
He came by an Arab tent, serving coffee off small pots, boiled over sand. The network translating for them, they had a friendly chat for a bit. Sipping the muddy black liquid; sat on a thick white pillow he observed the dark-skinned uncovered females, walking in white togas and inquiring politely as to the quality of the sweets and beverages served.
The sun had illumined the surroundings when a loud voice of frustration was heard from the other side of the avenue. Turning his gaze that way he saw an engineering team busied around an unusual mesh of cables, parts and old instruments scattered about. Behind them a large additive manufacturing crane was printing a wall section on top of a storey. The small robotic appendages on the high end were moving swiftly, like a spider's legs weaving a web. Large hovering drone-tubs were spraying a foamy gel, which hardened into weight bearing points - the skeleton of a building. Tele-operated robots were checking the hardiness of the quickly emerging structure with rumbling vibrations. He checked for details on the web, based on the address of the building. An art patron had just challenged the team of engineers who were constructing his new apartment on a whim. He had uploaded all details and had made a small sensation in the public space out of his deliberate request.
James went through some of the details and posted a suggestion for the engineers. Why not print processing chips here and now and simulate with an architectural program requested from the municipality? You have your slates as screens and memory bank. A bit primitive but it will do the trick. Or if somebody from the wider public could please help with an algorithmic set of data for the operation. While he was sipping the last of his coffee the post got some likes and ‘thank you’s and he switched the projection away.