Breakfast @ Yums > by Rak Razam

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breakfast_yums_image


image by Paul Kalemba I. Dawn broke over Port Phillip Bay, illuminating the permanent cloudbank that covered the horizon. The outside temperature was 40 degrees and rising. A vast, organic blanket of sensor arrays and nano-assemblers covered the surface of the waves, collecting the kinetic energy of tidal movement and channelling it back into the city grid for free electricity. A number of robot powered gondoliers were already on the waters and paddling down Harbour Esplanade, the waters mirroring the shimmering blue-white surfaces of the zaibatsu skyscrapers as they sucked in ambient carbon dioxide and breathed out oxygen. Across the Docklands, clusters of bio-organic buildings all opened their sensor dishes and drank in the day.

Permaculture One was a zaibatsu on the corner of Saint Mangos and Caravel Lanes, smack dab in the sunken 21st century waterworld that was New Quay, with it's antediluvian archipelagos echoing back to the Age of Mass Consumption. On the twenty-fifth floor Vaka woke early as usual from her regulation eight hour sleep-coding shift and shook loose the last fading lines of data from her head.

A dream about her husband, Sopoanga, may he rest beneath the waves. Gone thirty years and she still missed him every day. They had left their sunken island home and gone to New Zealand as Tuvalu refugees before the second wave of global flooding peaked with the superstorms in the 20s. When Sopoanga was lost, she came to Australia with their children as part of the Oceania Free Trade agreements. Her two sons were all grown up and relocated across the Permaculture Zones in units of their own. They teleprescenced every day, but part of her had never taken to the new technologies, and what she really yearned for was the sea, the island beaches of her youth, not this tiny box.

The far wall turned transparent and let in the textured cloudscape she knew so well, scored by the piercing cries of seagulls. Her daughter, Linita, had downloaded an EXTINCT ANIMALS saver for her (10 CREDITS) that blended virtual seagulls onto the wallscreens and provided a nostalgic ambience. Stupid. Vaka thought it was a waste of credits to allocate funds to the Virtual, but that was about all there was to spend on these days, with the Material all produced and paid for by robot labour and nano-molecular exchange from each zaibatsu's bio-mass reservoirs.

It still seemed funny to her, loading some greenprint software into the nano Maker and out popped rice, or taro, or a pair of socks. It tasted fine and it was tested and healthy and all, but you could tell the difference from something grown in the soil. It was that same thing missing from everything in this perfect world of artificial abundance, the thing you couldn't make with molecules - spirit.

Another day, another 100 CREDITS from the Common good, Vaka quoted from the sleep-lessons the zaibatsu provided for all good information-economy netizens. She ran her fingers through her long grey hair and yawned as her bio-suit (20 CREDITS) ran across her wrinkled body like molten quicksilver, shaping to her configured default. The bio-suit ate all bodily wastes (earning CREDITS) and recycled them through the soles in her shoes and into the moss that covered the floor (10 CREDITS), leading to grey water capillaries threaded through the building. In this way every resident fed the building - just as it fed them.

The Common Good was a slang term for the iCommons, where netizens worked for the good of all and everything was shared equally, guaranteed by the Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) given off by every product, every person, and every object in the world. No secrets, no shortages - everything tracked everywhere and everywhen and belonging equally to all, overseen by Artificial Intelligences (AIs) that managed humanity as effectively as data on a spreadsheet, giving everyone what they wanted within fair and equitable parameters. And in the same way a butterfly's wings could cause a monsoon on the other side of the world, figuring out the effects of consumption habits on the now digitally interconnected ecosystem took massive computational power. The AI's rigorously enforced lifestyle choices for the Common Good.

Vaka lived with her daughter and her son-in-law and their only child in a six-room unit on yellow shift in an extended family. Everyone in the community co-op rotated in shifts to take advantage of the stored natural light in the bio-walls of the smart-fitted building. Her daughter and son-in-law were on green shift, and she didn't see them as often as she would have liked - although they vid-chatted daily she preferred face to face, to touch and taste things for herself, no machines between them.

They were both IT workers in their 60s who had adjusted surprisingly well to the Digital Marxist reclamation of the telecommunications networks and means of nano-production. Linita, her daughter, participated in community forums and discussions and peer-reviewed new release nanobjects to be shared and downloaded by all. Her son-in-law, Kamuta, coded bio-prints for the nanos to make. The AI computers could code just as easily, but they let the humans have their idiosyncracies, and one of them was the urge to make their own `things'. Their collective coding had already helped re-introduce dragonflies, frogs and Ian Turpie back into the natural environment. Game shows were making a comeback in a big way, ironically, now that everyone was rich. Collective Unconscious Irony, the meme-hunters were calling it.

She shared a room with her thirty five year old grandson Harmine, who was a Sim addict. He was lying in his sleepbud wired to his headset, jacked into a Virtual illusion that was siphoning his life away. It sickened her to the core. When the oil peaked and the Great Slowdown began, she was there. She knew what it was like to lack resources. Harmine was the spoiled child of a Golden Age, powered by sustainable technologies and developments in biomimetics, robotics and nano-technology. Like everyone these days, he did not know his place in the scheme of things but took his privilege for granted.

"Computer, show homepage of BY GEORGE!" Vaka said, logging onto the ultraband and calling up her grandson within his vice --- a virtual world populated by Republicans in the Age of Unsustainability. Within the SIM he paid money printed on paper for dead animals that had grazed on land cleared of jungles, burgers wrapped in the ancient skins of trees. The sheer excess made her light-headed as she thought of him hungrily devouring food and washing it down with gulps of saccharine enriched water, colouring and caffine. He had more than he ever needed yet he kept buying to feed the thrill, and his real world credits from the iCommons made him rich in the virtual. Wealth addiction - she had lived through it before.





"Taalofa!" Vaka called from the kitchen cubicle -- with her voice, shunning the digital connection. She was sitting cross-legged on the mat-covered floor. Her image reflected in the mirror suit default Harmine wore on his bio-suit, her Polynesian beauty shining through her advanced age, garlands of fresh water lilies adorning her hair, the smell of salt and water clinging to her. Pretty good for 111, even if she did say so. "Kaiga i taeao, inuti! Come eat with me my grandson. Since you're the only one awake and on my cycle so I'm going to tell you my decision and you can pass it on to the rest of the family."

Harmine disengaged from his VR shell and came out of their room. His pale face was screwed up into a pout. Vaka pressed her face to her grandson's cheek and sniffed deeply, greeting him in the traditional way of her people.

"What's so good about BY GEORGE! that you have to play it 12 hours a day, anyhow? Spending all your money on the virtual --- it's not right."

"It's my credits, grandma, and I can spend them how I want. That's the rules."

"Boxes within boxes. You spend too much time inside, my grandson," Vaka chided. Just like your parents --- wired to the imaginary. Whatever happened to the real world?"

"It changed. Get used to it," Harmine snapped, then instantly wished he hadn't.

"You deserve more," she said, looking him right in the eye.

"I have everything I need."

"What about work? Good old-fashioned hard work, where you produce something yourself and it rewards and sustains you?"

"Information is the soil in which we toil," he quoted from the Digital Marxist whitepaper. "Data is our currency and sustenance, the food of our species."

"You don't even know what you're missing. There's something more - "

"The quest for more destroyed the old world, Grandma. The new world recognises its limits and all our survival depends on that balance."

"You have all the answers, don't you?" she said, passing him baskets of food. "Now I've coded you some bananas for breakfast (5 CREDITS). Just how you like them, with taro (1 CREDIT) and coconut (1 CREDIT)."

"I don't-" Harmine began, dipping his fingers in a water bowl (2 CREDITS).

"Have a cup of warm toddy (3 CREDITS) and listen to an old, old woman," she said, handing him a drink made from coconut sap. "I've decided I don't want to go on this way. Living in boxes, fed by machines, our every movement tracked and desire granted. It makes children of us all. Who wants to live forever if this is all we do? I want to be part of something¦ bigger."

Vaka got up and looked out the window. Down below, transparent aerogel robot-lilypad-kiosks one hundredth as light as air floated on the surface of the flooded urban canyons and opened like buds to catch the first rays of muted light and service the early morning traffic. Bamboo gangplanks networked the submerged aquaculture gardens that provided rich and nutritious plankton, vegetables and robot farming of salmon and trout re-introduced to the cleaned waters of the Bay. Across in the Stadium Precinct, the netizens who claimed Telstra Dome has turned it into an enclosed greenhouse space that fed the communities of West Melbourne.

"It's time for a change of my own. I'm going to join the Garden."

Harmine gasped and dropped his cup of toddy. The pale liquid seeped into the bio-grass floor and was converted into base molecules for re-use. Now he would have their room all to himself.

Most excellent.

VRTV
by Paul Kalemba



II. :::Welcome to the GARDEN, Vaka::: a gentle voice said to her on the wind.

"It's beautiful," Vaka cried, as the heat hit her in a wave of sweat and raw sensation. The rooftop gardens were open to the air, letting the new technorganic plant life thrive in the carbon dioxide hothouse the planet had become. A bonsai tropical rainforest covered the roofscape with layers of large, tender leaf plants that captured the low-level ambient light and acted as networked RAM for the telecommunications hub. Robovines coiled around the central telecommunications tower that grew from the centre of the lush server jungle. The sound of frogs filled the air. The moss floor was covered with a layer of robopods whose small transparent petals opened and closed, sucking in carbon dioxide and feeding the plant mainframes on the floors below that ran the building.

Colours deepened and Vaka felt light-headed from the rush of fresh oxygen all around. As the green landscape seemed to breath in and out and small nano-gnats buzzed around exchanging data with the plants, her eyes tuned to a row of small fruit bearing trees which moved slowly in the wind. Their fruit was red and ripe and she plucked it off and bit into it. A cool, sweet juice trickled down her throat and dripped over her hands.

The earth is a living being::: it inhales and exhales over seasons::: It has a circulation:::a pulse and a sensitive skin:::And now it has a:::VOICE:::

:::Do you know :::WHAT::: we are?::: the voices pulsed.

"You are our Masters. The GREENS," Vaka answered calmly, her stomach all warm and tingly. They didn't like the pejorative `GREENS', they preferred the term, `POST-HUMAN.'

:::You:::CALL:::us :::Masters:::What could we :::DO::: The energy was there::: evolutionary nature drove us to it::: another voice pulsed across Vaka's connection. :::it is our duty to :::BE::: what it is in :::US:::to be:::just as it was in:::YOU:::to make us:::

It was pure bio-physical determinism --- as the net energy consumption of humanity kept rising, humanity itself started to change. At first it merged with its technology, and through it, the GREEN. Emergent hybrids of plant, human and techno thrived in the warmer environment and looked back on what they had been with a benign kindness and ruthless efficiency. The last remnants of humanity were housed and clothed and well looked after in sustainable enclosures, whilst the GREENS inherited the Earth. And they tended their Infinite Garden with infinite patience, untangling the data roots and weeding out who and what wasn't needed, keeping everything in perfect balance.

:::The human species was the only species that had not been tamed::::Did not respect it's place in the:::WEB:::

:::Because Wo/Man is:::WILD:::S/he could never domesticate hirself:: so we did :::IT:::for you:::

"And what are we to do with our domestication? Slowly pleasure ourselves to death?" Vaka demanded, picking another of the delicious fruits. Sets of binary code floated to the surface and faded away as she bit into it.

::: ALL we expect from you is that you stay within your limits:::

"I want more."

:::You :::have::: everything:::

"I don't have Sopoanga. I never see my children. My grandson shuns reality. You give us all the material goods we need but what about what about what really sustains us? Where is the meaning?"

:::I/WE:::SEE:::LOOK::: here:::

And streaming holo-footage of them from the orbiting satellite grid appeared in the water on the pond, lotuses within lotuses. Augmented data captions showed virtual flow-chart schematics that mapped the energy-exchange mechanisms between humans, animals and the plant life, between the robots and the AIs, all starting and feeding back to the same central spot: the sun.

:::Netizen Vaka, you have:::CHOSEN::: to end the cycle of :::consumption::: and give:::BACK::: your greenprint to::: the global :::BIO-MASS::: is this a fair and accurate statement of your will?:::

"Yes," Vaka whispered, mesmerised by her own graceful slowness, the delightful lightness and euphoria ballooning from within her. "Don't need much movement when you're connected to everything," she whispered to herself, ideas/greenprints/understanding flooding through her as she became IT. "The energy doesn't stop, does it? Plants eat the light, but what feeds the light? Is THIS what you connect to?"

:::ENERGY::: is neither created nor destroyed:::only transformed::: into different forms::: another voice said, warm and tender green tentacles wrapping themselves around her, pulling her into a writhing, buzzing forest of pulsing thought and life.

:::EAT::: it pulsed, :::EAT::: and be EATEN:::Because:::EVERYTHING in the GARDEN reflects us:::and we the :::GARDEN::: Energy equilibrium has been achieved:::We are all part of one another:::And so the Garden grows:::

And as her body melted into a liquidised greenprint of dna that trickled back into the bio-mass reservoirs to feed the community's sustainable lifestyle, her moss covered face broke into a beatific smile. While her body went down, her energy went up and up - merging with the AI-plants and through them the stellar-cosmic energy from the stars, and that which fed the stars.

Vaka became one with the green warmth all around, tugging at her molecular cohesion as Nano bots swarmed around the flowering buds on her breasts and scaled down her arms. She dug her data-root structure down through the grid of the building, linking up to the profiles of the thousands of netizens below, saying her last goodbyes, one word on her lips:



:::YUM:::



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Originally published as part of "Future Cities 2055", an exercise in fictional futurology backcasting in conjunction with the Sustainable Living Festival 2005 images by Paul Kalemba All images licensed courtesy of Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC license