Design has really advanced in the triple-post-mod, yet conference rooms still stump space-makers. Today I sit in on a low hard seat that folds out of the wall in a large spare white room, surrounded by teammates, and staring at the backs of superiors around a central table leading this Secret Keeping Initiative (SKI).
There are other rooms of readers listening to the sync and they signal their presence electronically on screens. Above us is a magnified spreadsheet on a large screen on the ceiling. It is meant to provide an overview of our project — we’re going to dump data that shows MoreCorp collected private user data — but the work is so densely packed as to be purely graphic, accidentally artistic, rendering the room a sort of corporate cathedral.
Our priest is Bank Lust, Analytics Master, tall and thin, a weak-chinned mustachioed man wearing bright yellow tek-tites. He explains our purpose and path. “Alright guys! We wanna get these records reduced lightning-quick! If you don’t know what to keep, use the cheat sheet, that’s why we made it! Also gonna forward you the info up there.” Bank points at the ceiling.
A beep from another room indicates that readers listening in can’t hear the instructions. Soon, a chorus of beeps sounds, complaints from all over the Clubhouse, and the screens go blank. There’s a sys-glitch, which calls for a tek-fix and puts an immediate hitch in Bank’s plan to get things done quick.
For a while there is silence, and Bank exchanges with other implanted people in other rooms, presumably those not having problems connecting. Sys-glitches are unpredictable and we could be waiting for some time if it’s serious. Efficiency is not an exact science and not even our beloved tek is perfect.
As this sync will soon reveal, getting in too deep — like your brain — leaves you vulnerable. That’s why I’m not wired. Apart from the privacy issues that are the subject of our present project, the Metropolis blackouts last year proved that self-reliance is still a handy skill. Then there’s Error 53, when MoreCorp just shuts down someone’s system because the user was caught on the infra-webs or downloaded disapproved content. Plus, the battery recharging issue! Implanted people are always hooked to the webs and have so many programs running algorithms filtering info based on prior consumption that they can’t function without constant charging.
Bank Lust is a prime example of how the problem manifests. He forgets to recharge at night, or else is always on overdrive, and so wears his chargers all day. They resemble headphones, the old-timey kind used for listening to music privately, and look particularly strange when he’s talking to a group, like now.
As he speaks, Bank readjusts the battery set over his ears and taps body parts to make the most of every moment. That’s wise time management, multitasking, doing two or ten things at once. Even his clothes are working! Bank wears gear electronically tuned to his his breathing, heart rate and more. His outfit beeps and lights up in key spots, reacting to the daily marathon he runs in a sports pod. While we wait for word on the tek-fix, Bank checks his knee and sleeve for metrics.
Finally, the other rooms join us again onscreen and he resumes the meeting, saying, “OK, what you guys do is not rocket science, so we’re fine. But what we don’t have is time, so hey, let’s not waste any more. And let’s keep chatter minimal.”
This is a hushed and rushed record reduction, elimination of evidence that MoreCorp has been collecting private user data it previously claimed was inaccessible to the company. It’s a PR problem, which could cause a backlash.
MoreCorp can’t be transparent but it must champion transparency for the people must trust. Otherwise we won’t feel we’re in this together and will become wary of the system we now submit to voluntarily. The company spins our data into gold, which we tolerate and even encourage, but if we discover they actually stole stuff thought off limits by implanted victims, then we might get mad.
Legally, the corporation already got the all-clear on the info crime. The Data Management Bureau (DMB) exonerated MoreCorp chiefs, who blamed rogue employees, but it does not change the fact that the internal info-structure failed somehow while data was illegally gathered. Was it authorized, ignored, or missed? Regardless, it went on for years, so now it’s time to clear tracks.
Realistically, this is no huge risk to MoreCorp. I mean, seriously, what would you even do if you knew? Still, a quick text reduction eliminates details and nasty possibilities, like infra-webs chatter about the Good Guys being evil, which won’t change anything big picture but could create a publicity headache.
Bank gets down to business. “As soon as we’re done here, I need you to log on to the platforms. Tear through the batches and make it fast! Any q’s?” He waits a second but no one speaks. “Perfect. Sometimes it takes you guys a while to get it, but not today, so great, let’s meet the fabulous Cookie Swank. She’s with us from Sharp, Swank & Strong Data Management and we’re blessed! Cookie’s a Discovery Guru with a great reputation and — get this! — the niece of the Sirloin Swank!”
Cookie stands and speaks with a practiced bright white smile, her blonde bob forming a golden helmet around her pale square face. “Thanks for the intro Bank, but I take after my father, the Swank in Sharp, Swank & Strong. It’s my uncle Sirloin who spills the beans. And that is most definitely not what we wanna do here. You got that? This is not JustFaxMan!”
She laughs at her own joke, a reference to her uncle’s nows show, then explains her role. “Now, what I do is manage data. And I’ll advise you on making this reduction production perfect.” She pauses to take a sip of her drink. “What do I mean by that? I mean, and I can’t overemphasize this, do your best! Read, reduce, refine. But remember, when it comes to these reports, less is more. So if we decide that what you decided is no good, it’s erased from the data pool. Saves space, which is really great.”
“Excuse me, Cookie," Bank cuts her off. "If I could jump in real quick….”
“What Cookie is referring to here is the Junk Heap.” Bank adjusts the charger on his head and sends a txt. “If we find your work consistently junky it goes in JH and impacts your ERR, so make sure that R’s are R’d and NR’s are NR’d or dings will abound! Your metrics will suffer. I’m not messing around. My guys ding everything. So you could be in danger. If you’re missing calls, first we ping, then we ding, and finally we fling.”
I suppress an anxious laugh, mystified. My neighbors betray nothing, no emotion, no doubt, their faces blank. I dare not ask them to confirm what I suspect was just said, that we get fired if we make any errors.
Meanwhile Cookie takes back the floor. “So there’s 100,000 records to get into two spreadsheets we mentioned. It’s pretty straightforward, as you can see…” She holds up and flips through a sheaf of documents so thick it should be illegal under the green regime. “You can just use this cheat sheet. It’s basic stuff. There’s 20 major players whose mails we’ll reduce into 10 categories with 6 subsets each, should be easy. It’s all broken down for you to get up to speed.”
Cookie raises her cup as if to toast us, but stops. “What am I leaving out here? Oh! Process. Consultants will QC you and Bank will OK that and the higher-ups will give it a once-over and then we’ll be good to go and we’ll put most of the proof in the Junk Heap and just wrap this up ASAP. Sound good?” She smiles primly. “Back to you Bank. Tell ‘em what to do!”
The priest signals release, raising two hands above his head. “Ok guys, get out and get it done and get in touch. Let us know what’s happening so all benefit. That’s our biz, isn’t it? Discovery! So go disco! Let’s boogie, Ninjas!”