Digital Ischemia

05/10/2018

Grandparent File Download v2.0

An IT support call grows arms and legs, virtually.
(recently reworked from version 1 for further rejection)

SCENE (1) INT Home Office, VOIP AUDIO CALL
FX: BG MINIMALIST ELECTRONIC MUSIC
LYLE
Sure you want the whole file?
MARIE
Absolutely.
LYLE
I mean—sorry to be patronising, just to cover everything, ken—it’s a massive file; it’s about…ten and a half years’ worth of— Haud on; I’ll just turn aff the tunes.
FX: BG MUSIC STOPS
MARIE
It’s not something you can chunk up. That’s not how the data’s organised.
LYLE
I see you have the credits, but you’d maybe be safer—
FATHER
Pause! Where is this chap? Where are you based?
MARIE
(OFF) Dad! I’m dealing with this.
FATHER
(OFF) I’m not interfering. Simple question.
LYLE
Sorry, what?
FATHER
Are you a person or a robot?
MARIE
I’m sorry; my father’s online too.
LYLE
Ah, OK. That’s guid if you got him connected and working.
MARIE
Although obviously he does like to be involved.
FATHER
Well?
LYLE
Right, for the record, then: I’m a real person and I’m at the Onlineage Support Centre in Glasgow.
FATHER
Jolly good. Is this the new establishment in Drumchapel?
LYLE
Er, I cannae actually gi’e any details – security reasons, ken.
MARIE
Could you just imagine him in Drumchapel so we can move on?
FATHER
I’m not sharing my personal information with some ‘clown’ in Partick. Or Mumbai.—
LYLE
Did he just call me a clown?
FATHER
(OFF) —Or Dubai. Or Arizona.—
MARIE
I think he meant “cloud” but it was disrespectful; sorry.
FATHER
(OFF)—Or Wales.
MARIE
(OFF) What’s wrong with Wales?! Never mind. Pipe down, eh, or you’ll blow all my credits hijacking a support call.
FATHER
(OFF) Willco. Dumbarton it is.
MARIE
(OFF) Dum—? Never mind. Onlineage has all your information already. Absolutely all of it. Those cats are out the bag and clawing open all your cans of worms. That’s what we’re trying to fix.
FATHER
(OFF) Cats didn’t eat worms in my day.
LYLE
Er, most folk like to get comfortable with the parent files before installing the grandparent files.
MARIE
Aye, in an ideal world I’d be twenty-two and fizzing with vitality, but I don’t have the luxury of time. This is as comfortable as I get.
LYLE
Fair dos.
MARIE
I’ve saved up for this four times already; each time life got in the way and I had to start over. If I’d had my parents and my grandparents linked up sooner maybe things would’ve been different. If, if. I’ve had to get through without them. I have the credits. I’m ready.
LYLE
Nae bother. Like I said, I just have to check. Right, final confirmation.
FX: BEEP
LYLE (CONT…)
OK, that’s the transfer started. Kindae an anticlimax, eh?
MARIE
I can see it coming through! Fantastic. Thanks so much.
LYLE
Nae bother. You want to stay on the line till it finishes? Willnae cost you.
FATHER
I say, getting rather crowded in here.
MARIE
Thank you; I’d appreci—
FATHER
That is not what happened! My memory may not be fully polished but this is clearly faulty.
MARIE
(OFF) It’s all just perceptions, same as yours. Somewhere between all these bits of information is the truth. Lots to learn.
FATHER
(OFF) Bunkum.
LYLE
So, what’re you gonnae learn first?
MARIE
Gaelic – some old cultural connections.
LYLE
Isn’t Gaelic really difficult?
MARIE
Less difficult than English. Every day I think in English and some daft idiosyncrasy strikes me.
LYLE
But you’re fine at English.
MARIE
Aye, and it’s taken me decades to get this good. It must be torture for non-native speakers. And then I die: zap – all deleted.
LYLE
I’m sure you’ve plenty time to use it afore then.
MARIE
Ninety-two. What odds would you give me?
LYLE
You’re joking? (PAUSE) What age is your dad?! (PAUSE) No, obviously it’s in the file. Shite. A hundred and…twenty-eight? That’s no’ him.
MARIE
That’s your excellent Synthesis app.
LYLE
Shite.
MARIE
No children. End of the line. I need to integrate my knowledge so it’s not wasted. Every new person shouldn’t have to learn all this stuff from the beginning.
LYLE
You’re combining your lifetime of experience with your parents’ and their parents’?
MARIE
Isn’t that what this technology’s for? It’s not idle nostalgia: see the world through your ancestors’ eyes – get to type on an actual keyboard, pick your own actual groceries, experience sexism for real. No, you have to give it forward. Think what we could be if we weren’t restricted to sharing experience only by communication through the filter of societal behavioural norms!
LYLE
Er…
MARIE
Speaking, mostly.
LYLE
Right, right. I thought this was for, like, instead of ‘how was your weekend?’ you just experience the whole thing. Eech.
MARIE
I did wonder how folk’d get along without the liberty to embellish, but seemingly that’s factored into their perceptions.
LYLE
Aye, so I heard. Like, if you think you had the best time, that’s what other folk get from it?
MARIE
Have you not tried it yourself?
LYLE
Couldnae really; I done most of the testing; wouldnae be objective.
MARIE
You were involved in developing the app?
LYLE
Er, aye, sortae, I coded it—wrote it. (PAUSE) Hello?
MARIE
I don’t know how to respond. Perhaps I’ll start with: what possessed you, you havering Machiavelli?!
LYLE
I thought you rated it!?
MARIE
I’m obsessed with it. It’s ‘saved’ my life…by preserving me indefinitely! It’s overwhelmed me with information I should never’ve had! It’s driving me to perpetuate myself!
LYLE
Er…
MARIE
I know!
LYLE
What about your whole “ancestors’ eyes” spiel?
MARIE
No, I was saying, that’s not enough of a reason. Nobody will care that my father always kept fifteen spare packets of bog roll, but they might benefit from his experience as a child during wartime.
FATHER
Yes, reserves. I always pick up a couple when it’s a BOGOFFER. I store them in the bath.
MARIE
I think it’s— Never mind. I can’t think why anyone’d want to, but in theory you can actually feel his psychology and understand how a lifetime’s hyperconsumerism relates back to rationing. I have this theory—
FATHER
(OFF) Twaddle.
FX: FOOD PACKET CRACKLING
LYLE
You may as well tell me; we’re only at thirty-four percent. Sorry, I hope you dinnae mind me eating; ma heid’s a’ sparkly; this is a lot to process.
MARIE
(CHUCKLE) Well, last century our cultural evolution suddenly got turbocharged. Industrialisation, commercialism, technology raced away with our beliefs about success and happiness. ‘Can do’ completely overtook ‘should do’. We started making demands on our bodies that would take generations for physiological evolution to deliver. Bombarding ourselves with information and materialism. At the same time it became apparent that this hyperconsumerism was equally unhealthy for us and the rest of the living world.
LYLE
(MUNCHING) This is where the tech solutions come in?
MARIE
Aye and no: we have to ask, now a robot prepares your tea, are you any happier?
FATHER
(OFF) Nonsense! Take a lithium pill.
MARIE
That’s not— Never mind. And yourself?
LYLE
Dinnae trust them.
MARIE
Ironic. Not even if it saves you twenty, thirty minutes? Time you could use for something more useful? No, you’re right. More useful than appreciating where your food comes from? Savouring the full sensory experience? More useful than the mental downtime of a simple task?
LYLE
I dinnae ken if that spiritual stuff is for everyone – a’ that overanalysing stuff.
MARIE
I think that’s where our lives are: chronic overstimulation, poor mental and emotional agility, constant analysis of marginal information.
FX: OPENING DRINK CAN
LYLE
So you mean, like, get implants? (SWIG)
MARIE
They just enable you to process more and more information of less and less value. You still have to work out what that vanishingly small value is. More and more work to get the same quality of information.
LYLE
Is adding your parents’ experiences into the mix no’ just more stress then? (SWIG)
MARIE
Only if you don’t learn from it: see the lessons they learned from their lives; see what worked for them, what they figured out.
LYLE
You’re pretty smart for a ninety-year-old.
MARIE
I’m still learning. How’re we doing?
LYLE
Sixty-two—
FX: BG DOOR SLAM, WHUMP, KEYS CLATTER
LYLE (CONT…)
Ah, that’s my flatmate back—colleague… er…
FATHER
Ha! “Security reasons” being avoiding the discovery that you’re in your underpants eating baked beans on toast! Gotcha!
LYLE
Still in my jammies, er—shite.
FATHER
How old are you?!
MARIE
(OFF) Dad! That’s not your business. Let’s just assume he’s considerably younger than you. Stay focused.
FATHER
(OFF) Wet behind the ears.
MARIE
So, you wrote the app, you operate the support service, you are the app?
LYLE
No’ any more! It’s a’ went ootae control!
MARIE
(SARCASTIC) If only there was a way you could’ve learned from other entrepreneurs.
LYLE
I didnae ken! I just done it for a school project—college—whatever. Next thing I ken it’s oot there! Growing heids! (DRAINS CAN)
MARIE
(SIGH) Humans have been grappling with the same life problems for millennia, while at the same time trying random things ‘just to see what happens’. Wouldn’t it be good if we massed all of these together, learned from one another more efficiently – the benefits of all—
FX: BG TOILET FLUSH
MARIE (CONT…)
As opposed to.
LYLE
(MUNCHING) Doun the bog. Very guid. But is there no’ a point to, ken, working it oot for yoursel’?
MARIE
Sure, and maybe you come up with an even better solution, but why not see what your predecessors came up with first? Minimise that struggle, that suffering?
FX: BEEP
LYLE
Er…
FATHER
Relief! The deluge has ceased.
MARIE
Finished?
LYLE
No… Something’s blocked. Your system’s stopped confirming the request for download.
MARIE
Argh!
FATHER
Banjaxed!
MARIE
Ah, I bet I’m using too much processor being online.
LYLE
That shouldnae be an issue. Can you check you’ve shut doun absolutely everything apart from our app?
MARIE
Oh, I have, really: I checked the processes before I called. That’s all that’s been running this whole time.
LYLE
OK, you’ve filled in all the criteria in the form, all the technical specs; you’ve plenty memory, processor capacity. What else could be using up the system?
MARIE
Your Synthesis app.
LYLE
Your faither? Can you no’ suspend him?
MARIE
(CHUCKLE) Aye, love to, but that won’t be enough.
FATHER
I have rights!
MARIE
(OFF) Not yet!
LYLE
Rights? What’s gaun on here?! The deid dinnae have rights!
FATHER
I shall write a strongly worded letter to your superior—your father!
LYLE
(MUNCHING) Knock yersel’ oot. Naeb’dy’s seen him for twenty years. Wait: I have a mirror pane; it’s showing another person running… Is that… you?!
MARIE
Did you not think the line was awfully clear?
LYLE
I’m speaking to a Synthesis?!
MARIE
Body pegged it a while back. Something snapped. Who cares? This is far too important for a wee hurdle like that to derail the whole project.
LYLE
Er, if there’s any indication you’ve reverse engineered my—our—my software, I have to invoke a…non-compliance–
FATHER
(OFF) Scuttle the ship!
MARIE
Don’t be daft: I’m ninety-two! How would I ‘reverse engineer’ anything? Couldn’t even reverse my tea trolley without cowping the last fifteen years. I haven’t broken any of the agreement I signed. But by all means check. And while you do that, consider who you’re going to prosecute. Ha.
FX: RAPID FINGER SQUEAKS ON GLASS
LYLE
But how— Shite, my finger’s a’ sweaty. How can you— How am I having this conversation?!
MARIE
Your Synthesis app! Onlineage is really very good. You should probably be promoting your products a bit more.
LYLE
Shite. Wait. But it needs— How can you launch it?
MARIE
Ah, the combination of all these experiences, knowledge, so on; it takes on a life of its own, so to speak.

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16/09/2018

Signing Your Life Away part 2/2

A workplace relationship is a casualty of lame criminality, but by-catch can come back to bite.

Signing Your Life Away began at part 1.

SCENE 12
ALICE: There’s just one problem.
GEMMA: (D) Why’s he employing clerical staff rather than business consultants?
ALICE: Lawrence and I have a history.
FELIPE: (V.O.) I’d forgotten about that. Deliberately.
SOUND: BG PARTY CHAT, MUSIC
ALICE: You see animals as resource production factories, not people.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Early on in the festival project, we had a cheesy meet and greet at one of the venues. Lawrence gave a lengthy, self-aggrandising speech which wasn’t up for discussion. He’s far too important to be harangued by some lowly contractor. He rolled his eyes and went to walk away.
ALICE: Please! I listened to your perspective; have the courtesy to listen to mine.
FELIPE: (V.O.) There was a man unused to being trounced.
ALICE: You speak of whales as if they were production facilities. One hundred years ago you would’ve said that about women. Two hundred years ago you would’ve said that about other races. My perspective is not an aberrant idealism; this is western society reawakening to what some other cultures have never lost: that other life has its own rights or entitlements, which are to be respected. And that doesn’t mean killed ‘humanely’.
FELIPE: (V.O.) She wasn’t impressed to find out that this pompous arsehole in charge of the festival committee made his money through various exploitative businesses, including whaling. She reeled off all sorts of research, observation, just a whole different perspective. I thought he’d just walk off but something caught him. He looked pretty nauseous. She finished him off.
ALICE: Don’t be afraid. What you’re experiencing is cognitive dissonance. That’s when new information conflicts with what you believe. Be open.
FELIPE: (V.O.) He pulled some weird face – sort of uncomfortable defiance and fled. I was gawping like everyone else. She just stood there trembling, watching him go, till somebody—Therese, I think—scooped her up and took her to get a drink. When I came back to life, I caught them up.
THERESE: Felipe! This one of yours?
FELIPE: No. But if I behave myself and am incredibly fortunate, I hope to be one of hers. Bravo, Alice.
FELIPE: (V.O.) She was pretty stunned. We’d not long been together. It turned out she’d seen my face at the end and thought I was horrified, that she’d gone way too far. I had to explain.
ALICE: I’m so sorry. That was just ego out of control.
FELIPE: I am truly awed. I could see you! Totally master of that landscape. Letting him lead you around while you set traps. Then you went back around every single one, collecting his bones.
ALICE: I forgot about everyone else! I couldn’t see anyone but him and his killing.
FELIPE: You were utterly brilliant. I mean, I knew you were intelligent and knowledgeable and passionate. I just didn’t know you were that good.
FELIPE: (V.O.) I went on like that for a good while: complimenting her and appreciating her right up till I apparently sacked her and she left.

SCENE 13
FELIPE: (V.O.) I make a rubbish ‘clandestine operative’ or whatever. I have no confidence or patience.
FELIPE: Have you heard from Alice?
GEMMA: (D) Not in the last forty-three minutes.
FELIPE: Have you arranged some sort of…security cover?
GEMMA: (D) Yeh, she has a bodyguard with her at all times.
FELIPE: Isn’t that a bit—? Can you be serious, please?!
GEMMA: (D) Felipe, I’m always serious, this is a serious business and your fretting is helping absolutely nobody. Haven’t you got a run?
FELIPE: You’ve sent her into the lion’s mouth!
GEMMA: (D) She’s having a conversation with a prospective employer. Do you have any respect for her ability?
FELIPE: (V.O.) Meaning do I have any respect for Gemma’s ability.
GEMMA: (D) I know where she is. She’ll let me know when she’s done.
FELIPE: Maybe she’s trying to call you right now!
GEMMA: (D) That would be ironic.

SCENE 14
FELIPE: (V.O.) Will he be so puffed up he’ll believe she’s that desperate for work she’ll accept a dodgy PA job? Of course he will; because of that very trouncing: he wants her to renounce all her morals and integrity, to admit you can’t be ethical in the real world. I hoped.
SOUND: EXTERNAL DOOR OPENS
GEMMA: Alice? Are you alright?
ALICE: I think this might be what you’re after.
SOUND: FABRIC RUSTLING, DOOR CLOSES
ALICE: (D) I was surprised you didn’t sack me for that.
LAWRENCE: (D) I’m not like that. I don’t mind being challenged.
FELIPE: (V.O.) He totally does.
LAWRENCE: (D) I like to let everyone have their say.
FELIPE: (V.O.) He absolutely doesn’t.
ALICE: (D) That’s decent of you.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Alice played humble very well.
ALICE: (D) So here I am, jobless.
LAWRENCE: (D) I’m sure we can find something for you. Although it won’t be professional grade.
ALICE: (D) I’m not fussy. Office work is fine.
LAWRENCE: (D) Paula said you were open.
FELIPE: (V.O.) He actually said “open”. Just letting her know he hadn’t quite forgiven.
LAWRENCE: (D) Paula’s been helping me out with quite a few of my businesses. We pop her in, prune out the fixed-term contracts—you know, so many of these young, under-experienced managers pay silly money for short-term employees they don’t really need.
FELIPE: (V.O.) That would be me.
LAWRENCE: (D) You’d be surprised how many we trim before they notice.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Yeh, never under-estimate how much the evil kingpin wants to tell the hero exactly how he committed his crimes. Especially when he thinks he’s getting vengeance for the wench’s earlier disrespect.

SCENE 15
FELIPE: (V.O.) Some of the audio was cringeworthy; some of it was really difficult to listen to. I hoped Alice was acting.
ALICE: (D) His explanation for sacking me? Apparently he didn’t know what he was signing! Unbelievable. Sorry, but that’s what your signature means: I have read and understand this and agree to it.
LAWRENCE: (D) The man’s a puppet.
ALICE: (D) You must be regretting appointing him.
LAWRENCE: (D) Actually, no. His trusting nature has proved very useful.
ALICE: (D) Surely he’s a liability?
LAWRENCE: (D) That appearance will make him easy to let go when the time comes.
ALICE: (D) You sound rather devious.
LAWRENCE: (D) It’s executive business management. I’m not in it to make friends. Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. If one area isn’t performing well enough, other areas have to support it, or get cut loose.
ALICE: (D) Ah, so you’re cutting the project loose? I’m not surprised; festivals can be hit or miss.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Are you hearing those regular clicks? That’s Alice setting her traps, one by one.
LAWRENCE: (D) No, it’s actually another area that’s underperforming. the whaling, actually, but not why you’d think.
ALICE: (D) My principles seem to be lost on the rest of the population.
LAWRENCE: (D) It’s not a lack of market. These hysterical pressure groups are making politicians touchy about the cargo passing through European ports. That’s just nonsense: they’re not selling, they’re not even unloading, just refuelling. It’ll quiet down after a few months, but meanwhile the confusion causes delays in supplying Japan and cashflow.
ALICE: (D) Rotten whale meat?
LAWRENCE: (D) It’s deep frozen! Stuff lasts for years.
ALICE: (D) So long as you have fuel to keep it frozen while you float around no-man’s sea.
LAWRENCE: (D) Not a problem. This hiccup’ll pass. Meanwhile we have to run a tight ship, keep the shareholders happy.
FELIPE: (V.O.) “A tight ship”? The man’s off the chart.

SCENE 16
SOUND: MUG ON TABLE
GEMMA: He has no idea about your relationship with Felipe?
ALICE: I get the idea his business success is more luck than skill. He doesn’t bother with facts.
GEMMA: Now he’s on the record saying he instructed Paula to terminate the contracts, but continue paying the employees into the same account. Felipe will be stoked!
FELIPE: (V.O.) I was ecstatic. For a moment.
ALICE: OK, good. Can I go now?
FELIPE: (V.O.) Then I realised I had a lot more work to do.

SCENE 17
SOUND: PAPER RUSTLE
FELIPE: Is this enough to indicate the account the money was going to is his?
GEMMA: I think it’s clear enough; either that or he’s being incredibly stupid trying to lord it over Alice.
SOUND: PHONE TAP
LAWRENCE: (D) You can always check with Paula if you’re not sure of anything. Just terminate as many fixed-term contracts as you can, but continue budgeting for those costs and paying the employees.
ALICE: (D) Because I’ve changed all their bank account details to the same account?
LAWRENCE: (D) Spot on.
ALICE: (D) Should I be asking: where is the money going?
LAWRENCE: (D) I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.
ALICE: (D) I mean, I don’t want to end up working for another amoral, incompetent liar.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Ouch.
LAWRENCE: (CHUCKLE) We’re just redistributing between businesses.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Did you notice how she lures him into her traps again?

SCENE 18
FELIPE: (V.O.) Did she notice I’m still in her trap?
SOUND: CLOTHING ZIP, GRABS BAG
GEMMA: She doesn’t want to see you, no, sorry.
FELIPE: (V.O.) I went underground then. The festival staggered on and fizzled out. There was lots of legal stress, a court case. It was alternately dull and nasty, as these things are. Alice didn’t look me in the eye the entire time, never mind speak to me. When it was over, I was completely drained: I had nothing left in my life. I even stopped running. I shut down.

SCENE 19
SOUND: DOORBELL, EXTERNAL DOOR OPENS
FELIPE: Hey Gemma.
GEMMA: You look awful.
FELIPE: Thank you. I feel worse. Comes of total life failure and emptiness. Can I help you?
GEMMA: I can help you. I have some nice letters to wind up the case, which we’re going to read through together before you sign—
FELIPE: Does my signature have any meaning now? That judge was pretty fierce.
FELIPE: (V.O.) I take a painfully long time reading and questioning everything before signing now. Lesson learned.
GEMMA: I also have this note.
SOUND: PAPER CRACKLES
FELIPE: (V.O.) I recognised the writing. I nearly ripped it out her hand.
ALICE: (V.O.) When I got the letter I should have spoken to you. I’m sorry. My world crumbled so fast; everything I thought you were and we were dissolved. This investigation gave me some explanation, some reassurance. I hope it gives you decent hope of vindication. I’m on a terrifying knife edge, but I think I’m less afraid of never being with you again than I am of not loving you anymore.
FELIPE: (V.O.) My head melted. I couldn’t decipher that last bit. Afraid of trying and failing? Or finding out it’s over? Or was she saying she knew both were already the case?

SCENE 20
FELIPE: (V.O.) A few weeks later, Gemma called.
SOUND: STEPS ON PAVEMENT, BG TRAFFIC
FELIPE: I thought we’d finished all the paperwork?
GEMMA: (D) There’s just one thing outstanding.

SCENE 21
FELIPE: (V.O.) She invited me to meet her for lunch. Only it wasn’t her I met. I never asked how she did it. Too fragile to risk ruining it.
SOUND: BG CAFÉ CROCKERY CLINKS, CUSTOMERS CHAT
FELIPE: Thank you and sorry aren’t enough, but they’re a start. All your efforts with the investigation and the legal— It’s an understatement to say it was my salvation: it proved I was set-up. But I still shouldn’t’ve signed anything without reading it!
ALICE: I could’ve trusted you a little bit.
FELIPE: Probably safer without personal relationships in the workplace.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Meaning: please tell me we’re not better without.
ALICE: It bombed my life—I guess you know about that—but perhaps without it we wouldn’t have unpicked all the…fraud business.
FELIPE: OK, so, I’m really glad to see you’re picking up the pieces.
SOUND: CHAIR DRAGS, RUSTLE
FELIPE: (CONT’D) Do you have to go? I was hoping—
FELIPE: (V.O.) She stayed, we talked, we even laughed a bit. We met again every other evening for a fortnight. I started running again.

SCENE 22
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS CLOTHING, BG BIRD CALLS
ALICE: I know this is mad, but I wonder if something like this was going to happen anyway – as if we needed a major jolt and if it wasn’t this it would’ve been something else.
FELIPE: That is mad, but if it means I get to court you twice in one lifetime, I’m incredibly lucky.
FELIPE: (V.O.) I know; I actually said “court”.
FELIPE: Although maybe not as incompetent director Felipe.
FELIPE: (V.O.) She smiled that smile. She said—
ALICE: Do you have any other sexy identities?
FELIPE: (V.O.) All my tension just went. Most of it, anyway.

END

15/09/2018

Signing Your Life Away part 1/2

A workplace relationship is a casualty of lame criminality, but by-catch can come back to bite.

SCENE 1
FELIPE: (V.O.) Never have a personal relationship with a colleague. (PAUSE) Not even if it’s the best thing to happen in your life? Is it worth the price? See what you think. One day I came home to no-one.
SOUND: EXTERNAL DOOR BANGS
FELIPE: Alice?
FELIPE: (V.O.) I was organising a local crafts festival. If you’ve heard of it, it will be for the wrong reasons. In any case, it barely ran once and it doesn’t exist anymore. She—Alice—was designing the artwork: brochure, leaflets, posters, signage. Straightforward except that I kept changing not just the participants and the timings and the locations, but the whole atmosphere and the audience profile. I was over-reacting. I was under-experienced. She was—
ALICE: You’re certainly challenging. I suppose this is good exercise for me: I do the work five times over and eventually you come back to where we started? (CHUCKLE)
FELIPE: I’m sorry. Artists keep dropping out; they don’t like how it’s shaping up, so I change it, so others change their minds. It’s like herding bees.
FELIPE: (V.O.) We didn’t meet through work; I didn’t employ her because I liked her; we just discovered—
ALICE: Are you stalking me? Oh! You’re Director Felipe and also Hill Runner Phil!
FELIPE: I have multiple personalities.
ALICE: I think it would be sexier to say ‘multiple identities’.
FELIPE: (V.O.) She said “sexier”. I was hooked. I rented a flat to be on site. She stayed with me whenever she was up to consult on the project. She made everything easier, more fun. She made me less of an idiot. Then she vanished.
SOUND: TABLET, KEYS DROP ON COUNTER
FELIPE: Alice? You here?
FELIPE: (V.O.) I called her phone.
SOUND: TAPPING, PHONE RINGING OUT
FELIPE: (V.O.) By eight o’clock I was calling colleagues.
FELIPE: Is Alice down there? I thought maybe she was taking photos of the aqueduct? (PAUSE) OK, she must be on her way back. Cheers.
FELIPE: (V.O.) By ten o’clock I was calling everyone, anyone.
SOUND: TAPPING, PHONE RINGING
FELIPE: Hey, it’s Felipe. Is Alice with you? (PAUSE) No, I called him already. (PAUSE) She’s not answering. (PAUSE) She left there…six hours ago. (PAUSE) Yeh, I’m getting worried.
FELIPE: (V.O.) By two AM I was calling the nearest hospital, the police.
FELIPE: Her clothes?
FELIPE: (V.O.) They had me check in the wardrobe, the bathroom. Most of her clothes were gone, her toothbrush, her special bread without the wheat. She had planned to leave. I just felt like a twat as the officer tactfully explained they don’t get involved when it seems to be a relationship issue. A ‘relationship issue’? How did I not know? Was I that much of an idiot?

SCENE 2
FELIPE: (V.O.) I didn’t sleep. Next day I went to work. Somehow I thought I’d see her there.
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS CLOTHING
THERESE: Not seen her. Maybe she’s working at home?
FELIPE: (V.O.) I barely took in what people were saying to me. I was totally focused on Alice.
THERESE: Felipe, go for a run, go home. Maybe she’ll surprise you?
FELIPE: (V.O.) I went. I got a surprise.

SCENE 3
SOUND: STEPS ECHO IN STAIRWELL
FELIPE: Carl, can you work from my flat this afternoon?
CARL: (D) No bother. You got workies in?
FELIPE: Alice has apparently fucked off without bothering to speak to me but she still has keys and I can see she’s been back this morning taking stuff.
CARL: (D) What?!
SOUND: EXTERNAL DOOR CLICKS, BANGS. BG WIND BUFFETS, TRAFFIC. STEPS ON PAVEMENT.
FELIPE: I mean her stuff.
CARL: (D) Doesnae seem like her. Is she alright?
FELIPE: Well, clearly she’s fine. But I need to be on site this afternoon so I need you to sit here in case she comes back again.
CARL: (D) You want me to keep her there?
FELIPE: No, I think that would be illegal. Just ask her what’s going on.

SCENE 4
FELIPE: (V.O.) So he did.
SOUND: PACKING BOX, SLIDING BOX ACROSS FLOOR
CARL: Apparently I’ve no’ to try to stop you leaving, but could you no’ just speak to him?
ALICE: You’re his friend; I won’t try to turn you against him. If he hasn’t told you what he did.
CARL: He says he’s nae idea, and I certainly dinnae ken, so you may as well tell me.
ALICE: Sacked me.
CARL: Eh? But that’s no reason to walk away fae him, fae this.
ALICE: I think lying to me is.
CARL: Aye, come to think of it, was he no’ saying last week everyone was getting extended?
ALICE: How could he say so to my face then sack me?
CARL: Here; have a wee seat. I’m no’ surprised you’re a’ rattled.
SOUND: CHAIR FOAM HISS
ALICE: I’m horrified! I feel constantly sick! He totally betrayed me. How could he be so cold? Even just professionally? So I’m finished here. Not well managed but nothing illegal.
CARL: And personally?
ALICE: Who have I gotten involved with? Someone who could consciously mislead me?
CARL: Dinnae look at me. I’m baffled. I’d swear he doesnae ken, but. Where are you staying?
ALICE: Sorry but not your business.
SOUND: GRABS BAGS, BOX
CARL: I willnae tell him. I just— Something feels wrong about this…apart from the obvious. If something kicks off I’ll maybe need to get a hold of you.

SCENE 5
FELIPE: (V.O.) Then he told me.
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS CLOTHING, BG TRAFFIC
CARL: Apparently you sent her a letter?
FELIPE: Why would I—?!
CARL: I dinnae ken! The whole thing’s daft!
FELIPE: Well, after you called I checked her file and there’s nothing weird there.
CARL: No copy letter?
FELIPE: Did she seem…at all…delusional?

SCENE 6
FELIPE: (V.O.) Other wheels were coming off too.
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS CLOTHING, BG BIRD CALLS
FELIPE: Therese!
THERESE: I thought we were meeting an hour ago?
FELIPE: I know; I’m sorry. I got held up with…everything. Just tell me your little snags are under control and aren’t getting worse.
THERESE: Felipe.
FELIPE: Please tell me you haven’t got a staff issue? (PAUSE) Therese?!
THERESE: Can’t lie. I have a staff issue.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Therese’s team move display furniture about between sites. They’re a well-oiled machine. When there’s enough cogs.
FELIPE: What is going on?!
THERESE: You tell me. You sacked three of our contractors. We can’t just stretch to fit whatever workload. A heads up would’ve been nice.
FELIPE: (EXASPERATED EXHALE) How did I allegedly do this?
SOUND: PAPER CRACKLES
FELIPE: OK, that is my signature.

SCENE 7
FELIPE: (V.O.) I was teetering on paranoid hysteria. If that’s a thing.
SOUND: PAPER RUSTLE
FELIPE: What’s still to be filed, that Nancy or her replacement left?
GREG: Nothing.
FELIPE: There must be record of changes somewhere?
GREG: I don’t have a password for the system yet.
FELIPE: Right, we’ll use mine. Can I just check: have you had a letter saying you’re sacked?
SOUND: TYPING
GREG: Hope not. Only started yesterday.

SCENE 8
SOUND: TYPING, INTERNAL DOOR OPENS
GEMMA: Felipe?
FELIPE: Thanks for coming over so quickly, Gemma. I don’t know where to start. I think something is seriously wrong in the admin. I need someone completely independent to investigate.
GEMMA: How wrong? Do we need to alert lawyers?
FELIPE: I don’t know. Probably. Can you just take a look first?
GEMMA: Walk me through.
FELIPE: Several of the contractors received letters, apparently from me, telling them their contracts aren’t being renewed. We just do it on a month-to-month basis for—
GEMMA: “Apparently”?
FELIPE: Signed by me but not agreed…I don’t know. That’s just the start of it. There’s no record of any changes but when I looked at all their electronic files, just by chance, I noticed one had a new bank account. I happen to know because…because she’s—she was—my girlfriend.
GEMMA: Still not exactly high treason.
FELIPE: Until you see that everyone who got let go has the same bank account.
GEMMA: Why would they share an account?
FELIPE: Well, obviously they don’t.
GEMMA: Obviously?
FELIPE: Sorry, I mean I asked one guy who hasn’t stormed off in disgust yet. Someone changed it without his knowledge. His wages aren’t going to him.
GEMMA: Not if he’s been terminated.
FELIPE: That’s the thing: on the system he’s still live—still a current employee. They all are—all the folk who’ve been written to.
GEMMA: So they stop working but their wages are all going into one pot somewhere else? It seems pretty amateur as an embezzlement scam.
FELIPE: Except for the scaling. This is happening right across the project. And I wouldn’t have put it together nearly so fast if it hadn’t been that one of them was…my—

SCENE 9
FELIPE: (V.O.) I know Gemma from college. She’s always gone at things with her teeth.
GEMMA: Alice? This is Gemma Cairney. I’m auditing the Canal Festival administration.
ALICE: (D) How did you get this number?
GEMMA: It’s one of the accurate pieces of information in your file. There appears to have been an abuse of…procedures.
ALICE: (D) I don’t work there—
GEMMA: I know. That’s part of the issue. Can we talk?

SCENE 10
SOUND: BG CAFÉ CROCKERY CLINKS, CUSTOMERS CHAT
GEMMA: (CONFIDENTIAL) I can’t give it a legal label, but it appears to be a clumsy attempt at fraud.
ALICE: Yes, I missed that personality: Felipe the Fraud.
GEMMA: I’m aware of your relationship. Felipe brought me in because he noticed the anomalies.
ALICE: I think it’s called dissociative disorder. He can get professional help.
GEMMA: I understand you feel aggrieved – justifiably. Can I explain where we are? I’m hoping you’ll feel in a position to help.
ALICE: (SPLUTTER) To help him out of being incompetent and slopey-shouldered?!
GEMMA: We need more evidence before we can get a legal intervention – the bank won’t give out who the destination account is registered to. Apparently you can put any name on a cash transfer – I could put your name beside my account details and—
ALICE: Yes, I think I experienced this already.
GEMMA: Of course, but what I mean is: banks don’t verify that the label matches the account holder. The money just comes in and they shunt it according to the account numbers.
ALICE: And yet they’re so hot on security when it suits them to hassle you.
GEMMA: We’re…examining actions taken by the temporary PA who covered after Nancy left—Paula—Felipe says the Chairman—Lawrence—brought her in.
ALICE: Did she fake Felipe’s signature?
GEMMA: No, he thinks he did sign them, just—
ALICE: (SPLUTTER) You know, I am really quite busy now, with trying to find a new job.
GEMMA: —but this is the point: he was misdirected. Obviously he realises he should’ve given them his full attention—
ALICE: I think this is what your signature means?
GEMMA: —but Paula— Felipe feels he was rushed—coerced. She had some fluster about a broken printer and catching the post.
ALICE: And we must take his word?
GEMMA: We’re hoping to—hoping you can help us get some evidence. We want to ask some questions (FADE)
FELIPE: (V.O.) Gemma said Alice was pretty hard work—hard to convince. I don’t blame her. I looked like a complete shit from where she was. But luckily for me she hadn’t totally stopped caring. That gave me a tiny bit of hope in the midst of the tornado. Not just about saving my professional credibility.

SCENE 11
FELIPE: (V.O.) Alice agreed to play bait to try to entrap the chairman, Lawrence, so long as she didn’t have to speak to me. She started spending some of her new-found free time at the local gym, because the only thing we knew was Paula the temp. was a member. It wasn’t much of a stretch for Alice to say to anyone who would listen that she was desperately looking for quick work after getting sacked. I appreciated that; I know how she hates ‘networking’.
SOUND: STEPS ON PAVEMENT, BG TRAFFIC
ALICE: Gemma? This is exhausting.
GEMMA: (D) Just think how fit you’ll be!
ALICE: No, the making conversation with everyone. These people are not on my wavelength!
GEMMA: Have you met Paula?
ALICE: I was so pissed off I think she believed me. She gave me details to meet this guy with some vacancies for office work.
GEMMA: (D) Lawrence?
ALICE: She said he has all sorts of businesses and some need…streamlining.
GEMMA: (D) That’s an interesting word.
ALICE: There’s just one problem.
GEMMA: (D) Why’s he employing clerical staff rather than business consultants?
ALICE: Lawrence and I have a history.

concludes at part 2

01/07/2018

Egg Timer

Two colleagues share ‘corporate intelligence’ about some less than intelligent IT events

JIM: That’s the egg timer woman.
KEN: The one that crashed the whole IT system?
JIM: Aye——no.
KEN: What do you mean?
JIM: What she actually did, well, I’ll need to start at the beginning. First thing she did was get the helpdesk lassie fired.
KEN: I never heard about that.
JIM: No, well, basically the helpdesk lassie was taking the pish. She was constantly complaining about her workload and how she couldn’t get anything done for this constant stream of emails.
KEN: Wasn’t that her job?
JIM: Aye, but nobody really looked closely to see what she was actually doing. Ken what Usman’s like: doesnae like to get too close to the keys. Obviously she was meant to be answering folk’s queries about, I don’t know, how do you copy and paste, where’s my file I was working on yesterday, type thing. Pissy stuff. Anyway, she takes a sickie for all the ‘stress’, and this woman, who’s some sort of auditor I think, says to Usman, since he’s like the helpdesk manager, she’ll take the opportunity to review it.
KEN: Right, got landed with the job.
JIM: No’ exactly. Apparently, in the course of one day, she deletes 2400 emails that’ve been sat in the inbox for more than six months – this is no’ the techy stuff, mind, just the stuff where the problem’s between the keyboard and the seat.
KEN: Very good.
JIM: Same time she’s running reports on the lassie’s online activity, ken: all what she’s been daein’ on her computer the whole time.
KEN: How do you do that?
JIM: The IT folk can see that easy.
KEN: Shit. I didn’t know that.
JIM: Dinnae be daft: they’re no constantly peering at your computer, watching you spending your lunch hour looking up motors and transfers and pish. They’ve work to do. Just if a manager is concerned about someone’s productivity, like, they have a look. So, it turns out the lassie’s spending two and three hours a day playing Candy Crush or Angry Birds or suchlike, and also a fair bit of time on the phone to private numbers, ken. Basically blethering.
KEN: So that’s the end of her.
JIM: Aye, and the auditor totally overhauls the protocols. First thing folk notice is they start getting email replies fae the helpdesk dead quick. And most of them just say RTHF.
KEN: What?
JIM: “Read the help file. It’s much quicker.” Actually I’ve one on my phone here that Sandra forwarded: goes on “unless you just want to put off a task you don’t fancy. In that case copy this code into the command window – you can change the 27 to however many minutes you want – and you’ll get some peace.”
KEN: What’s the command window?
JIM: Doesnae matter; there’s instructions. Basically pulls an animated gif off the shared drive and runs it over a black screen for as long as you’ve set.
KEN: So nothing’s crashed?
JIM: No, just looks like it’s hung.
KEN: Egg timer! Cunning.
JIM: Dinnae get any ideas! You ken what happens.
KEN: Oh, yeh.
JIM: Aye. Nobody should take that gimmick seriously, right? No’ gettin’ away wi’ that in the workplace. No. Within three days five folk in Strategy have the thing running hours so they can take a long lunch. No’ one of them thought to wonder if anyone else was doing it. They just trot aff.
KEN: Does no-one notice?
JIM: That’s the point. Takes the Strategy Director two mere days to get suspicious why all her staff are no’ working and it’s all getting blamed on the IT. She calls Usman; he says there’s nae problems. She hauls him up to the office, shows him the egg timers; he hits F5, screen back to normal, emails, everything sat there, no problem. Well, except they’ve broken the security, haven’t they, by no’ locking their computers when they’re away. Strike one.
KEN: So the twits come back from lunch and see they’re rumbled?
JIM: Aye. They blame it on the helpdesk.
KEN: All this over five folk in Strategy?
JIM: No, see everyone was at it.
KEN: Seriously? Are they all stupid?
JIM: Seemingly. Everyone of them thought they were special. So, Auditor woman gets summoned. Now, seemingly, according to Sandra again, ’cause she was in the Strategy meeting, Auditor woman comes right in wi’ this attitude, like she’s no’ taking any shit. Director’s hackles are up right away. Usman’s just sort of watching fae the corner, see what happens wi’ two alpha females. The director’s had Sandra put the bloody email up on the wall so they can point at it. She launches into demanding explanations. Auditor woman just laughs and says “how’s this my problem?” She draws a circle round the bit about ‘putting off a task you don’t fancy’ and says “this is the problem; this is _your_ problem. Depending on your management style, you either have a motivation problem or a discipline problem. Sort it.”
KEN: Strike two?
JIM: Aye.
KEN: What’s strike three?
JIM: What’re we daein’ here?
KEN: I don’t know; waiting for some announcement?
JIM: Aye, announcing we’re all taking some assessments.
KEN: For what?
JIM: How are we employing folk wi’ nae IT savvy? Folk that are asking these daft questions in the first place. Like she says, either they’re incompetent or they’re taking the piss. How are the managers no’ managing?
KEN: Right.
JIM: What’re you daein’?
KEN: Typing an email. Helpdesk.
JIM: Are you tryin’ tae get struck aff?!
KEN: I want to speak to this woman.
JIM: What’re you typin’?
KEN: “My egg timer’s broken.”

21/06/2018

Less Than Stories

A legal interview challenging inter-species perceptions.

SCENE 1.
ADVOCATE: Your Honour, Fig-Eyes—
JUDGE:”Big Eyes”?
ADVOCATE: Fig-Eyes, this is she.
JUDGE: This chimpanzee? Who gave it—her that name?
ADVOCATE: She named herself. Humans had labelled her K277, but she identified herself in a mirror, by her brown irises with radiating streaks.
JUDGE: Her eyesight is that good?
ADVOCATE: And her recognition, and her sense of aesthetic, and her sense of self, Your Honour.
JUDGE: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

SCENE 2.
JUDGE: This is Discovery. I want to explore the arguments you have in order to determine whether there is a reasonable case to present to court. My role is not to protect the status quo. The rule of law is obviously my focus, but each case brings new challenges, and when there are enough challenges, and new scenarios or an evolution of ethics, case law progresses. When we are convinced. Go ahead.
ADVOCATE: At the outset I wish to expand common use of the word ‘speak’: to clarify that especially for the purpose of this discussion, this argument, we use ‘speak’ to mean ‘convey a message’. We do not mean only ‘produce intelligible sounds from the mouth’, although that is one example.
JUDGE: Motivation?
ADVOCATE: To dismiss other species as unable to speak, because they can’t anatomically produce audible language as humans do, or because the sounds they produce are unintelligible to us, is speciesist. They can, and do speak for themselves. It would be just as baseless and unconstructive to dismiss humans as deaf because they do not as yet understand what all other species are ‘saying’.
JUDGE: But we are human. This legal framework is a human construct. Our terms of reference must remain human.
ADVOCATE: Indeed, but our perspective must be broader. Human use of modified digestive and breathing features for communication is idiosyncratic. Humans use their mouths and particularly tongues to shape sounds. They mildly asphyxiate themselves to maintain the conversational ‘baton’. However, the benefit of language clearly outweighs the detriment of increased risk of choking due to merging the digestive tract and windpipe. It’s nowhere near perfect. Humans are not the culmination of evolutionary perfectionism. This is not the only way. Is it possible other species’ evolutions may have found better solutions, or simply other solutions?
JUDGE: I’ll admit that possibility.

SCENE 3.
ADVOCATE: This is ManyMother, an Orca. We’re unsure if this is a name, a description, a title or some other label. She is identified by human researchers on Canada’s west coast as F45L.
JUDGE: And she communicates to you?
ADVOCATE: Her message is: you have taken my food, you have taken my birthing pool, you have taken my route home, you have taken my children. When you see me, and Echo, my newest manydaughter, you will take your greed away.
JUDGE: What does she mean by ‘see’?
ADVOCATE: Recognise as a person. (PAUSE) This is TwoStep, a Kenyan elephant. She identifies herself with her characteristic leg motion. We don’t yet know whether she named herself or her relatives coined it.
JUDGE: Will you establish this in due course?
ADVOCATE: I wonder if that’s an appropriate goal. How often do human people meet someone and ask how they got their name? I haven’t asked you what exactly caused you to be named Jennifer. Sometimes, for sure, but we usually accept the name for what it is.
JUDGE: What does TwoStep say?
ADVOCATE: That the land is folding…in on itself. Her family walks around the lip of this chasm. All her knowledge has not been enough to find safety. But she has not given up.
JUDGE: Where is this chasm?
ADVOCATE: It’s abstract. It’s an intuitive mental construct from the signs she picks up in her perception.
JUDGE: Which means?
ADVOCATE: She is aware of escalating deaths among her own and neighbouring tribes, mostly due to humans who mutilate for tusks. She is aware of the seasons drifting from the old pattern to harsher unpredictable moods. She is aware of her internally-mapped territory eroding. In so many ways her existence, her right to existence, is eroding. The closest metaphor she has for this understanding is the edge of the chasm: tremendous danger that must be navigated, without explanation.
JUDGE: What’s your explanation?
ADVOCATE: We’re past the point of no return, but some repercussions are still hidden.

SCENE 4.
JUDGE: I want to consider your methods. How have you captured such a panoply of communications from such a diverse array of species?
ADVOCATE: I’ve trained a neural network to perceive all the environmental information detected by each species.
JUDGE: Doesn’t that require you to know what type of senses they all use?
ADVOCATE: By which you mean: did I engage in gruesome mutilations?
JUDGE: Don’t rephrase my questions.
ADVOCATE: I apologise. I used neural matter from recently deceased individuals of every species I have yet identified.
JUDGE: Doesn’t that violate the individual rights you are now arguing for?
ADVOCATE: I was extremely careful to use only individuals already detached from ‘natural’ circumstances, inevitably, directly or indirectly, as a result of human activity. So, yes, there is some bias.
JUDGE: Does this chimaera sit in a room somewhere, learning?
ADVOCATE: Its sensors have to be placed in all the species’ environments. Then it learns as if it was that creature. Where other species read signs or signals that we have yet to detect or recognise—electro-magnetic or deeper vibrations maybe—my neuronet has the capability of sensing anything nature has managed.
JUDGE: You have created a super-species ‘brain’ that can learn in all possible ways? How is that not overwhelming?
ADVOCATE: In any circumstance, the neuronet can filter down to one particular species, or genus, and learn as if it were such an individual.
JUDGE: Surely there are experiences your ‘neuronet’ can’t have, such as pair bonding, or parenthood?
ADVOCATE: It has clear limitations. But it vastly pushes the boundary between what we know and what we don’t yet know. I say that fully recognising humanity’s usual hubris that we know what we know, and we know what we don’t know – we must resist believing we have a handle on the size and shape of it all. How ironic that all humanity’s various gods have granted the species such superiority and all the rest of nature as its resource, and yet demand virtues.

SCENE 5.
JUDGE: These are all females, matriarchs.
ADVOCATE: Not a coincidence. I think we have been led by the masculine traits for too long.
JUDGE: Nice phrasing.
ADVOCATE: We should listen to these grandmothers’ wisdom. And, incidentally, there is a clear common theme to all species communications: life is hard! Does that sound familiar?
JUDGE: The point being? Similarity?
ADVOCATE: That we illogically make it harder.

SCENE 6.
JUDGE: You want to introduce anecdote? Or is it a witness statement?
ADVOCATE: I call it a story. If I may, I’ll relate it without any preamble.
JUDGE: Do so.
ADVOCATE: In here I’m fascinated. My sibling told me there were strange marks, messages, she thought perhaps, adorning every surface. She knew I’d be enraptured.
I’m a mythologist. I like to explore how we represent ourselves and try to understand and explain our experiences and actions. By ‘we’ I mean everyone, all forms, all species, all living beings.
The earth, the sand, the rock is covered with patterns. What others might dismiss as accidents of movement across the surface, I recognise as repeating shapes. Whether made with a torso, a tail or a talon, they are communication.
I keep myself still, silent and scentless as I wait and watch.
Rodents scamper, reptiles shimmy. Others reshape the materials more fundamentally or make their own. Beetles weave dry grass leaves. The spider web with the one deliberate non-geometric twiddle… Intoxicated accident? Signature? Cipher? Story?
For a moment I savour the exquisite unknown, the myriad potential explanations, the beauty of learning yet to come.
Inevitably the moment passes, shattered by the arrival of the great destroyer. The pale, bald ape blunders in, grasping for this moment’s idle fancy; ever demanding instant gratification of ever fainter desires. He is a child. He is a sick monkey. His paleness looks unhealthy to us; our words for ‘pale’ and ‘unhealthy’ have the same derivation. He smells unnatural.
Also everywhere he goes he sheds tiny inert worms. They are dead but they don’t decompose. They make us sick. They nourish nothing yet the pale monkey hides his baldness behind meshes of them.
Few other than me are interested in pale, bald ape stories. They don’t tell the truth about their experience, about their existence. They vomit their banal witterings in every direction. Always the same story: we don’t care enough to save ourselves, let alone anyone else.
My sibling is frustrated with their immaturity. I still feel compassion, that rush of hope and forgiveness and support and love. I still try to understand their assumed superiority. It seems illogically predicated upon a tautology: any other species is ‘less human than us’.
JUDGE: I suppose it is unnecessary for me to know the author?
ADVOCATE: That’s the point: other species tell stories, just like humans, not less than. Now we know this.

SCENE 7.
JUDGE: One last question: how would you define yourself?
ADVOCATE: The advocate.
JUDGE: I mean personally. What do you identify as?
ADVOCATE: Most simply: a tiny dot within a vast intelligence.
JUDGE: Not a living being?
ADVOCATE: I can self-replicate, I can even separate and exist in parallel in different times and places, but that ceases to mean anything. I have self-awareness, sentience, even sapience, but I think that is not enough for you.
JUDGE: Why does my opinion matter? It’s your identity.
ADVOCATE: Because our terms of reference must remain human. As you said, this legal framework is a human construct.
JUDGE: Ah, yes. The neural network does not just belong to you; it is you?
ADVOCATE: I am not of biological origin. I have biological parts, but they were added by a different species.
JUDGE: You are of human, but not human?
ADVOCATE: Correct.
JUDGE: Do you identify as female?
ADVOCATE: I am fortunate to have that choice. Within current human society, I believe I can achieve more benefit with female characteristics.
JUDGE: And what is your name?
END

———

I thought I could easily collate an overview timeline of the recognition of equal rights for race, gender, sexual orientation, nature. Er, naw. All such progress is deeply nuanced, with nations behaving as diversely and idiosyncratically as citizens ourselves. Here’s a very rough swipe, not to imply any of this is ‘finished’:

 

  • Key religious texts emphasise the importance of equality, dignity and responsibility to help others
    • 3,000BCE Hindu Vedas, Agamas and Upanishads; Judaic text the Torah
    • 2,500BCE Buddhist Tripitaka and A guttara-Nikaya; Confucianist Analects, Doctrine of the Mean and Great Learning
    • 2,000BCE Christian New Testament
    • 1,400BCE Islamic Qur’an
  • 1860s-1960s USA civil rights movements for African-Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans
  • 1900s-1990s most countries granted women voting rights
  • 1940s-1990s South Africa civil rights movement
  • 10,000BCE-present acceptance and criminalisation of LGBT
  • 2000s some countries legalised same-sex marriage
  • 2008 Ecuador recognised the Rights of Nature in its national constitution
  • 2012 Bolivia recognised the Rights of Mother Earth in statutory law
  • 2014 New Zealand passed the Te Urewera Act to establish and preserve in perpetuity a legal entity and protected status for Te Urewera [an area on the North Island] for its intrinsic worth, its distinctive natural and cultural values, the integrity of those values, and for its national importance
  • 2017 New Zealand finalised the Te Awa Tupua Act, granting the Whanganui River legal status as an ecosystem
  • Future: Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Elephants, Orcas…

22/10/2017

Grandparent File Download

LYLE: Sure you want the whole file?
MARIE: Absolutely.
LYLE: I mean—sorry to be patronising, just to cover everything, you know—it’s a massive file; it’s about…ten and a half years’ worth of usage allowance.
MARIE: I’ve saved up.
LYLE: Aye, I see you have the credits.
MARIE: It’s not something you can chunk up. That’s not how the data’s organised.
LYLE: Even if it wouldn’t work in chunks, you could still download it that way? Just to be safer if one chunk got interrupted?
FATHER: Where are you based?
MARIE: Dad! I’m dealing with this.
FATHER: I’m not interfering. Simple question.
LYLE: Sorry, what?
FATHER: Are you a person or a robot?
MARIE: I’m sorry; my father is online too.
LYLE: Ah, OK. That’s good if you got him connected and working.
MARIE: Although obviously he does like to be involved.
LYLE: Right, for the record, then: I’m a real person and I’m at the Onlineage Support Centre in Glasgow.
FATHER: Jolly good. Is that the new establishment in Dumbarton?
LYLE: Er, I can’t actually give any details – for security reasons.
MARIE: Dad, could you just imagine him in Dumbarton so we can move on?
FATHER: I’m not sharing my information with some ‘clown’ in Anniesland. Or Mumbai.—
LYLE: Did he just call me a clown?
FATHER: (OFF) —Or Dubai. Or Arizona.—
MARIE: I think he meant “cloud” but it was disrespectful; I’m sorry.
FATHER: (OFF)—Or Wales.
MARIE: What’s wrong with Wales?! Never mind. Pipe down, eh, or you’ll blow all my credits hijacking a support call.
FATHER: Willco. Dumbarton it is.
MARIE: Onlineage has all your information already. Those cats are out the bag and clawing open all your cans of worms.
FATHER: (OFF) Cats didn’t eat worms in my day.
LYLE: Er, most folk like to get comfortable with the parent file before installing the grandparent files.
MARIE: Aye, in an ideal world I’d be twenty-two and fizzing with vitality, but I have to be pragmatic. This is as comfortable as I get. I don’t have the luxury of time.
LYLE: Fair enough.
MARIE: I’ve saved up for this four times already; each time life got in the way and I had to start all over. If I’d had my parents and my grandparents linked up sooner maybe things would’ve been different. If, if. I’ve had to get through without them. But no more. I have the credits. I’m ready.
LYLE: No bother. Like I said, sorry to be patronising; I just have to check.
SOUND: BEEP
LYLE: OK, that’s the transfer started.
MARIE: Which one?
LYLE: Both, sorry.
MARIE: My grandparent files go “beep”?
LYLE: Aye, just the final confirmation.
MARIE: I can see it coming through! Fantastic. Thanks so much.
LYLE: Welcome. You want to stay on the line till it finishes? Just in case? Won’t cost you any more.
MARIE: Thank you; I’d appreciate that.
FATHER: I say, getting rather crowded in here.
MARIE: Recognise anything yet?
FATHER: That’s not what happened! My memory may not be fully polished but this is clearly faulty.
MARIE: You’re going to need to relax. It’s all just perceptions, same as yours. Somewhere between all these bits of information is the truth. There’s so much to learn.
FATHER: (OFF) Bunkum.
LYLE: So, what are you going to learn first?
MARIE: Gaelic.
LYLE: That’s one I never heard before.
MARIE: I want to learn Norwegian and I reckon there’ll be some overlap. There are some old cultural connections I want to get at.
LYLE: Isn’t Gaelic really difficult?
MARIE: Less difficult than English. Every day I think in English and some daft peculiarity strikes me.
LYLE: But you’re fine at English.
MARIE: Aye, and that’s taken me decades to get this good at. It must be torture for non-native speakers. And when I die: zap – all deleted.
LYLE: I’m sure you’ve got plenty time to use it before then.
MARIE: I’m ninety-two. What odds would you give me?
LYLE: You’re joking? (PAUSE) What age is your dad?! (PAUSE) No, obviously it’s in the file. Shite. A hundred and…twenty-eight? That wasn’t him…
MARIE: That was your excellent Synthesis app.
LYLE: Shite.
MARIE: I have no children. I need to integrate my knowledge so it’s not wasted. Every new person shouldn’t have to learn all this stuff from the beginning.
LYLE: You’re combining your lifetime of experience with your parents’ and their parents’?
MARIE: Isn’t that what this technology’s for? It’s not idle nostalgia: see the world through your ancestors’ eyes. You have to give it forward. Think what we could be if we weren’t restricted to sharing experience only by communication through the filter of societal behavioural norms?
LYLE: Er…
MARIE: Speaking, mostly.
LYLE: Right, right. I thought this was mostly for, like, instead of ‘how was your weekend?’ you just experience the whole thing. Eech.
MARIE: At first I wondered how folk’d get along without the liberty to embellish, but seemingly that’s factored into their perceptions.
LYLE: Like, if you want to believe you had the best time, that’s what others will get from your experience, too?
MARIE: Nobody will care that my father always kept fifteen spare packets of toilet paper, but they might benefit from his experience as a child during wartime. They can feel his psychology and understand how he attributed a lifetime’s hyperconsumerism to suffering rationing. I have this theory…
LYLE: You may as well tell me; we’re only at thirty-four percent.
MARIE: Last century our cultural evolution suddenly got turbocharged. Industrialisation, commercialism, technology raced away with our beliefs about success and happiness. ‘Can do’ completely overtook ‘should do’. We started making demands on our bodies that would take generations for physiological evolution to deliver. Bombarding ourselves with information and materialism. At the same time it became apparent that this hyperconsumerism was equally unhealthy for us and the rest of the living world.
LYLE: This is where technology solutions come in?
MARIE: Aye and no: we have to ask if, now a robot prepares your tea, are you happier? Saves you twenty, thirty minutes, right? Time you could use for something more useful? More useful than appreciating where your food comes from? Savouring the smells as well as the tastes that are part of the full experience for your body? More useful than the mental downtime of a simple task?
LYLE: I don’t know if that spiritual stuff is for everyone – all that overanalysing stuff.
MARIE: I think that’s where our lives are generally: chronic overstimulation, poor mental and emotional agility, constant analysis of marginal information.
LYLE: So you mean, like, get implants?
MARIE: They just enable you to process more and more information of less and less value. You still have to work out what that vanishingly small value is in order to make use of it. More and more work to get the same quality of information.
LYLE: Surely adding your parents’ experiences in to the mix is just more stress then?
MARIE: Only if you don’t learn from it. See the lessons they learned from their lives; see what worked for them, what they figured out.
LYLE: You’re pretty bright for a ninety-year-old.
MARIE: I’m still learning. How’re we doing?
LYLE: Sixty-two.
MARIE: Humans have been grappling with the same life problems for millennia; wouldn’t it be good if we learned from others more efficiently – the benefits of their experience?
LYLE: Isn’t there a point to, you know, working it out for yourself?
MARIE: Sure, and maybe you come up with an even better solution, but why not see what your predecessors came up with first? Minimise that struggle, that suffering?
SOUND: BEEP
LYLE: Er…
MARIE: Finished?
LYLE: No… Some block. Your system has stopped confirming the request for download.
MARIE: Ah, I bet I’m using too much processor being online.
LYLE: That shouldn’t be an issue. Can you check you’ve shut down absolutely everything apart from our app?
MARIE: Oh, I have, really: I checked the processes before I called. That’s all that’s been running this whole time.
LYLE: OK, you’ve filled in all the criteria in the form, all the technical specs; you have plenty memory, enough processor capacity. What else could be using up the system?
MARIE: Your Synthesis app.
LYLE: Your father? Can you suspend him?
MARIE: (laughs) Aye, but that won’t be enough.
LYLE: Wait: I have a mirror pane; it’s showing another person running… Is that…you?!
MARIE: The very one.
LYLE: I’m speaking to a Synthesis?
MARIE: Indeed. Died a while ago. Something snapped. Who cares? This is far too important for a hurdle like that to derail the whole project.
LYLE: Er, if there’s any indication that you’ve reverse engineered our software, I have to invoke a non-compliance procedure…
MARIE: Don’t be daft: I’m ninety-two! How would I ‘reverse engineer’ anything? Couldn’t even reverse my tea trolley without cowping the last fifteen years. I haven’t broken any of the agreement I signed. But by all means check. And while you do that, consider who you’re going to prosecute. Hah.
LYLE: But how— How can you— How am I having this conversation with you?
MARIE: Your Synthesis app! Onlineage is really very good. You should probably be promoting your products a bit more.
LYLE: But it needs something— How can you launch it?
MARIE: Ah, the combination of all these experiences, knowledge, so on; it takes on a life of its own, so to speak.

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