We are MoreCorp's secret keepers. You probably don’t know we exist. And that’s for the best because Discovery’s mission is a production so inconsequential it will go totally unnoticed. We're the last line of defense.
Readers on the Secret Keeping Initiative — SKIers — have a knack for tactical text reduction. We slalom through texts, from one red flag to the next, searching for trouble, subtleties, and stuff the company's not legally required to reveal.
Machines highlight key words and phrases, then humans review for context, and SKIers check for slip-ups. It’s not efficient and Prose Control hopes to eliminate us soon, but the artificial intelligence isn't there yet. For now we work, and certainly SKIing at MoreCorp is a privilege. I learn the world’s most important dirt and read powerful people’s mail, though that's not the point of course, just what's interesting about the job.
The point is minimizing texts, whatever topic we’re working on for whatever purpose — and TLDR has a few — we reduce writings to tidy spreadsheets. After machines weed out waste, readers review the remains and assess relevancy. When something's super relevant, it’s usually a secret and withheld. That keeps things neat.
But it also does a number on SKIers, this work, it burdens us. Innocuous statements can seem dangerous, so we speak little, and sometimes read too much into nothing. Although supposedly exceptionally able with language, we use it rarely, instead seeking answers in tea leaves and spreadsheets. Which is difficult when the question is — what is my destiny?
The SKI Team Lead, Ampersand Matrix, assigns work on an electronic tracker to prevent unnecessary discussion. I read the chart religiously, like the Torah or a horoscope, analyzing it for clues about the future. Will I stay or will I go?
Veterans warn me not to worry because nothing here makes sense. But I'm not alone in my quest for meaning. Haiti also reads the tracker and is not happy about what she doesn't see. "No assignments all week," she tells me.
Named after her ancestral island nation — excluded from the Single System System (SSS) for extreme inefficiency marring universal metrics — Haiti, for obvious reasons, doesn’t feel entitled. She’s careful not to unnecessarily draw attention. But the tracker concerns her so much that, at what she considers great risk, she's lifted her invisibility shield to talk to Ampersand Matrix.
He claims there's nothing to his totally random assignments, no meaning. This only makes us more nervous. “Totally random? That’s what he told you,” I ask. We are out in the back of the Clubhouse parking lot in what is now our spot, smoking.
“That’s what he said but I don't believe it.” Haiti lights another cig with the one in her hand. We just got contract extensions and should be relaxing into greatness instead of chain-smoking by garbage bins on breaks, but somehow the good news is stressful ... maybe because a bunch of people also got fired. Haiti says, “I guess you don't need to worry though, with all those texts on your desk. You got work?”
"Nothing official," I reassure her. “I’m reducing patent practice to make up for my last fiasco.”
“Hmmm,” she replies noncommittally, exhaling smoke. “You asked Ampersand about it?”
“Yeah. It was a disaster. I talked to him in person without pre-pinging, so it shocked him. He said to send an electronic summary, 20 emojis or less, then he assigned me the whole subject, for Founders' sake!” It's a bigger task than I sought but has helped me understand why we hate words in the triple-post-mod; people used so many in the past, super circuitous assemblies too. Still, as Spam would say, this is not a lit crit -- we're talking suxess, which I don't get.
It’s iffy and that’s the idea. No one's sure of suxess in the SSS, but that's practically a feature of the system. Worker expendability is important to corporations and the economy. It is an unspoken rule, a secret we SKIers are meant to keep even from ourselves.
When Eclair said on the first day to forget the Lovesport and yet keep the games always in the back of our minds, she wasn’t lying. We are in competition but we’re never sure what for. We should shoot for the moon and expect nothing because this is not an ideal world.
It’s a reduced one, depleted by billions. Scrambling for a spot on the scrap heap (forget the top) is a fortunate lot, thus we must always strive, readying ourselves for opportunity should it arise.
Is there a secret, a key to suxess? Anything might work, even if most things don’t — leaning in or bending over backward, playing dirty or excelling, all have led to wins before, according to the stories. What will work now is anyone’s guess. Following our bliss? There are just yarns, tales that don’t tell how feats are repeated, heroes' journeys admired because net worth.
Haiti and I study the accounts closely. We're American Dreamers. Raised here by strangers speaking strange tongues, we’re accustomed to making stuff up, informing ourselves with myths, stray rhetoric, whatever sticks. This is the central nation of the SSS and there's no shortage of lore to inspire. Still, despite excelling at English such that we are on the SKI Team, we don’t get all the subtext, the culture’s secrets.
When we were young the smart money was on certification, so we mortgaged our futures on education, regi-prof status -- something staid that says we’re top grade, certified USA beef. Now that won’t work in the SSS; you gotta win with a vid by the time you're a teen. For us, it's already too late to be great. Our only hope is to be flexible, more like bamboo than steak, or that's what the experts say.
It’s exhausting, all the advice and wanting, this quest. In my walks in the forest I sometimes spot dilapidated huts hidden in mosses and am green with envy of the inhabitants. Could I live like that, free from the jumble of desires and cultural junk? I am not a monk. But away from Silicon I do sometimes dare to dream of life deep in the green, where forest eye can tell.
Would that be a win? The Tao’s long form, which was cryptic and which I reduced on a philo project in Metropolis, advised reserving judgment on loss and gain because favor and disgrace are things that startle. They are two sides of one worthless coin, external validation. The sage stays behind and so is ahead.
When I remember this message, that's what I try to tell myself, and now Haiti. “We don’t even know if we want to win. Or if there is anything to win really. Maybe we have to stop reading tea leaves and worrying about greenies and just be. Y’know?”
“No. Not really,” Haiti smiles. “I heart you Ellipsis but you're funny. Just be! We need greenies. They make the world go round. And, in case you forgot, there’s no work for us in Metropolis. So let me know how that goes, being or whatever, doing you. I’m gonna do what MoreCorp wants.”
“And what’s that?” I laugh. "Do you know?"
“No, El, I don't, clearly. That’s the big secret." Haiti stubs out her cig and gets up, heading toward the Clubhouse. "But I'm sure we can't just do us. No one wants that."