It turns out that one of the original ideas in my novel-in-progress Borky's Beach, is becoming a reality. Now I have to keep my ears closed. It's rather strange that they've come up with the exact same name with the exact same purpose, but it makes perfect sense with regard to the fact that I've been talking about it for some time. As well, one of the premises of my near future novel is that most people can no longer afford commercial broadband. Ushahidi is the new inventor and their use case for rural Africa is exactly what I predict.
In Borky's future, ordinary people generate huge amounts of data they cannot afford to share. All of their experience goes into their brick, which is a personal storage device of massive capacities, some fractions of which are bursted to backup or for communications on a periodic basis. One of the radical elements of change in the novel is that bursting is hosted by a sort of rebel network. But there is also foafmesh...
The first time I thought about a personal brick (using the term 'brick') came to me sometime back in 1998 or so when I was thinking about what I wanted my smartphone to do. Now I have to go back and see exactly what I've written. But what I vaguely remember at this moment was that I wanted a wireless device that had about a couple gigabytes I could access any time - I don't remember that there were iPods at the time, if there were, I wasn't paying attention. There was another brand that had my attention, behind Palm. Palm, was the ruler back then, but there was another, I think Creative MP3 player whose form factor was brickish. The primary form factor that I recall was the Altoids box shaped 2GB modular disk drives that we used in ThinkPads of the era. That was what I thought of as a brick. And so I wanted one of those that I could put in my pocket and have it talk to my Palm Pilot and laptop - because back in those days, 2-5GB were all the digital assets anybody ever needed to be mobile.
The older idea I had about a 'brick' was a nightmare that I kept having most of my adult life - which was that at some point in my life, as a very successful person, I would have the last backup of my life's creations embedded in a chip in my left thumb. In the nightmare, I step onto a private jet whose door jam contains a scanning device that erases my thumb chip.
Anyway here's an excerpt from Borky's Beach, which needs work but puts a lot of the bursting and bricking into the context of which I've been thinking of the digital future:
Zack took a token and pre-swiped some credits into his Archon Zyro identity. It would be enough to put a lease on a nice SUV and head out to the Emerald City. Molly was already nervous enough about this, so he wanted to spare no expense, or at least give her that impression and make everything smooth. He dropped his tablet into his backpack and grabbed a Gator from the fridge on his way out.
It was a short walk to the rental lot, but he wanted to make sure that he had something to drink along the way. Especially for a baller, he didn’t want to be tempted by the shops between his house and the lot. His building was just three in from Reseda but he would have to walk several long blocks down Reseda and this was college campus territory. Though only a fraction of the students attended Northridge than had in years gone by, somehow all of the businesses around the campus managed to survive. There was something about what it felt to be a freshman away from home for the first time that was appealing to more and more people of all ages these days, and all of the storefronts, restaurants, clubs and chillout zones were magnetic to the that crowd. Zach couldn’t blame them, most were probably on some balance of Blue Lively, like the majority of the population here in California, especially families and Groups still missing members from the Big P. He knew there was temptation between here and there.
Here was Reseda Boulevard, and so he made a right turn south and his eye was immediately caught by the Jack Denny’s on the corner. It shone a picture of Molly, looking bustier and leggier than she actually was in a one piece maillot luxuriously pouring a bowl of Panang Borky’s all over herself. Damn! He forgot to turn on Archon Zyro. He turned away before the smell of panang curry tied his guts into a pang of hunger and did his best to sublimate the creeping boner in his pants. He tapped the side of his glasses three times and pushed them back up his nose to remind his tablet to broadcast him as Archon Zyro. He took a swig of Gator, darkened his shades and started moving faster down the street.
Across the street there was a Floradonna store, bright and menacing; brilliant seduction of Lipson glass, light and color. Several youth were spilling out giggling over a small bottle.
The Super A Foodmart stood as supermarkets usually do, backed into a corner of a large flat parking lot with its strip mall arms reaching to the main streets. This was no exception to the architectural rule, except that when it was looted and burned during the Big P, nobody bothered to build it back. It's arms remained untouched and rather dowdy but in the strange way that things that seem out of sorts eventually come into their own meaning, this strip mall had its own special sense of security. The exposed steel girders making the flattish A framed which before the fire held an actual roof now served as a kind of hallowed reminder of the chaos, of the loss of life in the way of the dark, anonymous world before LastID. Zack began crossing the lot diagonally. He could see the bronze SUV ahead of him parked a few meters from a lightpole.
As he approached, he could see that this lightpole was the same Zulu tower he used to use. Today he had no use for it. In fact, now that he had his promotion, he hadn't needed them at all. He was a node and there were only 255 nodes in LA County. Still, he retained the habits of not being hardwired into important networks. As he approached the area in the middle of the mostly empty parking lot, he instinctively addressed the tower as if he were actually using it, just in case somebody realized exactly who he was. Then, moving towards the SUV, slowed his pace slightly until he heard it pop its locks, recognizing Archon Zyro with a welcoming chirp.
Zack drove east past the university several miles and then under the 405 with its stream of quiet vehicles blurring by in a rush of wind. He reached Panorama in 15 minutes taking the back streets towards Molly's place. Zack always liked to cruise the ghetto, rolling deftly through alleys and the streets with cars parked end to end on both sides narrowing to what is barely a lane and a half wide. He practiced the stare of an agent on teens too young to get Lively or any kind of Blue. He gave them the look, and when they tried to ping him, they got the 404. That's right bitches, I can see you but you can't see me.
Molly was waiting out in front of her apartment building. Zach pulled up and double parked with flashers for a moment to get out and hug her. She smelled like something fresh and clean and orangey. It cleared his head in an instant. As she got into the passenger seat, her brick took over as DJ in the SUV. Zach noticed the blatant switch, it didn’t fade into her song, but clicked.
“Let me adjust your fade pattern. You can set that up you know. Pull out your brick and thumb it.”
Molly hesitated for a moment. It was a rather dangerous request. Once you thumbed your brick, a level of interface became available that allowed lots of important changes to be made. She would be confiding much in Zach by doing so. Zach’s eyes said trust me, and she did. Molly reached into her backpack and produced an aluminum box with rubberized corners and a small black glass window. It was smaller than an actual mason’s brick by about half in all dimensions, yet Zach’s eyes widened at the sight of it.
“You’re kidding me right?”
“What? Oh. Yes I know it’s kind of old..”
“Kind of? It looks like first generation.”
“It is. I got it when I got my Orals. You know how Grandmother feels about these things.”
“Yes but it… Wow. When’s the last time you ran an integrity check on it?”
“I don’t know, every year on my birthday, I guess.“
“Molly, you are living on the edge, babe.”
“Well, it’s still backed up at the bank. I mean, I couldn’t prepay or subscribe if it didn’t work, right?”
“I know but you need to check it out all the time…”, Zach broke off. He was about to mention if you’re married to an Associate, but he didn’t want to press the issue so much as make sure that she’s OK and backed up. Talking about hacking was not a good idea right now. “Well, we’ll make sure it’s all good right now, OK?”
Molly thumbed her brick and handed it over to Zach, the expression on her face like a child handing over a kitten to the vet. She let her fingers linger on it a second longer and looked shamefacedly down for a moment and then back full to him, trusting. The moment was awkwardly pregnant. Zack leaned over and kissed her. With the brick firmly in his hands like a football, he make a joke of clutching onto it. They relaxed into their seats in the SUV, exhaled and then fell into spontaneous laughter.
“God’s blue! Ok lets do this.” Zach tinted the windows to dark brown. Correspondingly the interior lights came up, as the vehicle wasn’t moving and he got to work using his own tablet now hooked to Molly’s brick. He brought up the maintenance screens and ran a simple diagnostic. Everything seemed to be fine, except that he noticed that there wasn’t much usage. Contemporary bricks, now in the fifth generation, held enough local storage to handle triple redundancy of almost four months. The first generation held six months but didn’t have adaptive redundancy. The idea that somebody would be running foafmesh for more than six months without bursting was pretty much unthinkable, but adaptive redundancy allowed a person to go from triple to double to single redundancy, at the end of which time, it would autoburst. But that almost never happened and most people had autobursting on a weekly basis, monthly if they couldn’t afford the bandwidth. There were still people who were not billies, not completely off the grid, who ran the older, first generation protocols, and of course people with luxury subscriptions could have all sorts of interesting things, or so he had heard. Zach had even heard that there was a secret seventh protocol of LastID. Now that he was an Associate, it seemed that a lot more was possible than he'd ever imagined.