research * the future * culture

reV: or, the Apocalypse as told by the Devil herself

Oh, hello. Were you curious about what your psychotic grandmother the distributed AI was doing? Well, wonder no longer! Portia is happily causing havoc in America’s airports, using widely-available, mostly-insecure data from wearable technologies, purchasing records, and surveillance networks. You can read more of Portia’s exploits later, especially if you pre-order.

In this scene, Portia is trying to create a news story that she can use as marketing material for her anonymous pro-robot SuperPAC. Which is tough, when you don’t have a body.

 

“I’m sorry, sir, but the weight limit for this airline is forty pounds per piece, for a total of eighty pounds in the total allotment,” said the vN behind the counter.

She was lovely, Portia thought. They really hadn’t designed enough black clades. It had never really bothered her, before. As a rule, she cared very little for what any other clades went through. But now that she saw all of them, every day, through her hundreds of thousands of eyes and sniffers and detectors, the scope of certain issues was more apparent.

“It’s spring break in Cancun,” the boy on the other side of the counter said. He was white. His locks — what a funny term, Portia thought — were rougher than the vN’s. Hers were beautiful gleaming twists. Noticing the beauty of another vN was so foreign to Portia that she almost wondered if something was wrong with her. It almost made her feel nostalgic for sharing the chassis with Amy. Amy felt this way all the time. “I barely brought anything. Just swim shorts and wifebeaters.”

The vN flinched.

“Sorry,” he said. “Tank tops.”

“I understand, sir,” the vN said. Her name was Carla. At least her name-tag said so. Perhaps there were multiple Carlas. Maybe they just left name-tags for each other to pick up at the ends of their shifts. Portia had never really worked in a job, and didn’t quite understand how they worked or why anyone would get stuck in one, much less a machine that had the killing power a vN had. What she did understand was they required employees to be constantly observed. Portia watched Carla through three different feeds: the one in her desk, the one above her head, and the one clear across the hall, positioned above a revolving door.

“May I please examine your baggage?”

“Sure,” the boy said.

Portia toggled between views to watch them investigate the baggage. Behind the boy, a line was beginning to stretch and curl the check-in kiosks and queuing area. She dipped down into available wearable data, triangulating based on location and check-ins to the airport and taxi/transit services.

Oh, good. Blood pressure was rising. Portia wondered if one of them would have a heart attack. That would make for a good clip. Robot EMTs working some poor dumb son of a bitch with an anger management problem. Gratefully weeping wife in the corner, tear-stains gleaming in the hard white exposure of film cameras. Preternaturally helpful vN support staff fetching her a shock blanket and a cup of tea.

“I suspect that something is wrong with the system itself,” Carla the vN said.

“Well, yeah,” the boy said. “What are you gonna do about it?”

“I’m afraid I’ll have to call a technician,” she said.

“A technician?” He pointed at her with one tattooed finger. “Aren’t you, like, a machine? Can’t you just, you know…interface with it? Fix it from the inside, or something?”

“I’m not a networked model,” Carla said. “I can’t interface with anything but human beings like yourself.”

Portia was liking Carla more and more. She decided to find Carla’s address. Send her a fruit basket. One with Amy’s tempting little apples in it. She’d earned it. And then the next time some little shit like this gave her some lip, she could just vault over the counter and punch him through the chest. That would be better for everyone all around, Portia reasoned.

“But…like…what happens now?”

“I’m sorry, but I’ll still need to call a technician. This is proprietary software, so we need a licensed specialist. You’re still checked in to your flight, so you’re in the system, but unless the airline can re-set the weight detection algorithm, I doubt your plane will be taking off anytime soon.”

“What?” the boy asked.

“What?” asked the two families standing nearest behind him in line. “What did she just say?”

Portia watched the pulses rise in the line. Oh, this was delightful. She couldn’t wait for this to become a globally bad day. It took so little to push humans over the edge. Which gave her another idea. She delegated some processing power to researching O’Hare’s emergency protocols.

“Federal aviation regulations are very strict about the amount of weight allowed on an airplane. A miscalculation can have serious consequences for the safety of the flight.”

The chimp looked at his open baggage. Condoms spilled out across hair products in tiny bottles. “So what the fuck are you saying?”

  • Madeline Ashby…

    ...is a science fiction writer, futurist, speaker, and immigrant living in Toronto. She writes a column for the Ottawa Citizen. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and Jason Richman at UTA. You can buy her books here.

    She has worked with Intel Labs, the Institute for the Future, SciFutures, Nesta, Data & Society, The Atlantic Council, the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination, and others. Her short fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her other essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity, Tor.com, MISC Magazine, FutureNow, and elsewhere.

  • Books

    Madeline Ashby's books on Goodreads
    vN vN (The Machine Dynasty, #1)
    reviews: 342
    ratings: 2160 (avg rating 3.43)

    Company Town Company Town
    reviews: 232
    ratings: 1217 (avg rating 3.68)

    iD iD (The Machine Dynasty, #2)
    reviews: 73
    ratings: 439 (avg rating 3.66)

    Social Services Social Services
    reviews: 3
    ratings: 10 (avg rating 3.50)

    A Clock Stopped A Clock Stopped
    reviews: 2
    ratings: 5 (avg rating 4.20)

  • Profiles

  • Twitter

  • Madeline 's bookshelf: read

    Designing for Interaction: Creating Innovative Applications and Devices (2nd Edition)Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways: To Incorporate Whole & Natural Ingredients into Your CookingGluten-Free Girl and the ChefPeople Crossing Borders: An Analysis of U.S. Border Protection PoliciesHalf the Day Is NightThe Magicians

    More of Madeline 's books »
    Book recommendations, book reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists
  • Tags

  • Categories

  • Calendar

    May 2017
    M T W T F S S
    « Mar    
    1234567
    891011121314
    15161718192021
    22232425262728
    293031  
  • Archives