Section 4: Nuclear Shadows Chapter 3: Team 3Gen Forms
The dinner for four diverse computational talkers pleased Casey. Conversation on computing history and diversity continued until nine o’clock. Meantime, all had taken a bathroom break extended to listen to their Whisperer profiles of each other. Sally had meditated her way through an episode of ‘low battery’.
Casey’s Whisperer had computed a Word Cloud and Venn Diagram for their various technical interests. She uploaded it to her web site and displayed a 3D version on her iPhone. Casey realized she’d found a new way to use Whisperer social profiles for group introductions. The diagram showed topic clusters around privacy and web quality.
Their party almost had the room to themselves so they strolled out to the patio to get some night air. Marilyn introduced Matt, via Face Time, to Bob, in their home computer room. The group encouraged Bob on his awesome wildfire simulator updates using ideas discussed with Sally that afternoon.
Marilyn learned that Bob had used Matt’s ‘Life Launcher’ app. Matt planned an after-school visit to Marilyn’s home after he returned from an invited visit to the Santa Fe Institute. Meeting Matt would give Bob his first entrepreneurial encounter and possibly start a mentor relationship.
Sally would be planning a memorial with Marilyn until after lunch, so Casey would be on her own to nap or visit nearby Indian ruins. Then Casey and Sally would wander down the mountain and back to Albuquerque for their trips home.
Sally used her white cane to follow Matt from the porch through the maze of tables, chairs, and trays of dishes. All sat down back at their table as the head waiter allowed them to close out the evening.
Matt looked around the table and nodded at each of them. “Here I am, an Ivy League graduate with an embarrassing wad of stock. Yet, I’m clueless about the origins of my field. Now you’ve made me curious about its prominent figures and back stories. Plus, I’m intrigued with those lost languages and radically different ways of approaching programming. I’m so lucky we met at the LANL Museum tour.”
His young face flashed with a new idea. “Hey, all evening, something has been tickling my brain. If ParaLog can calculate consequences from rules that ordinary mortals can write, then there should be a game that plays people against the program or people against each other guessing what the program would deduce about their future lives. My ‘life launcher’ app goofed around with teenagers in love for the first time and then what happened next.”
He showed a scrolling timeline on his iPhone home screen. Casey remarked, “I recently volunteered in one of those maze games where young adults have to create budgets and understand financial responsibilities, like babies. Life comes at them so fast. ”
Matt continued, “So much data is online in the great Zuckerberg ‘social graph in the sky’, now managed by CumuLinker. Maybe we could build something new in ParaLog that could predict quality of relationships. Wow, this would be cool for kids, or maybe their worried parents, not to mention me.”
Casey took the bait. “Well, actually, Sally and I have been crunching on this stuff. You know that term TIRex that we use in the social media resistance movement?”
Matt shook his head no, so Casey explained, “Well, the term goes back to ‘Total Information Awareness’, the DARPA program after 9-11, when you were in high school. That program went dark, then emerged in the 2013 Snowden revelations along with the expansion of all the social media privacy-gobbling apps created by you young innovators. Some writers and tech leaders want to reverse the business model to protect what’s left of privacy. You’ll meet the EU activists in London.”
Sally interjected, “A more concrete topic is the so-called ‘Pink Page Rampage’. Is your Lifeline web site vulnerable, Matt?”
Matt laughed, “Yep, we suffered an insider attack. One older employee, I mean he was 45, didn’t like his stock option distribution. On his last day of work, he ‘grayed out’ the text for the newsletter subscription form. Nobody noticed for a week until the requests stopped coming.”
He mocked a napkin covering his eyes. ” After that, I revoked everybody’s permissions to those complex CSS files that nobody understood. We were down for three days while we restored the web site from web servers we’d never heard of before. I thought our investors would fire me! I should never have made that crack about ‘Granpa Joe’ and his correctness fixation.”
Sally jumped in. “Casey and I want to help Rebuild The Web. Web site’s are too complex. CSS is a vulnerability just there to compete for diminishing human attention. There’s momentum from TimBL and Dasher and OREM and ScriptMan. The Great Trickster unleashed chains of mischievous tweets that web searches cannot untangle. ”
She made a gagging motion then continued. “Most people, especially you Millennial, know when to walk away from untrustworthy web site’s. But too many tribes and activists and dissidents now have the Pink Page itch to f—, I mean fix, their enemies’ web representations.”
She looked at her tablemate’s using her best focusing skills. “The world needs a serious analysis of these rampage attacks and attackers. Casey is our threat caster. I know accessibility and progressive enhancement. Matt has a serious product and an intact reputation. Marilyn can turn our analyses into intelligible stories. Bob has more ideas than he knows what to do with. Wouldn’t this be a nice project for us collectively?”
Matt raised his wine glass. “I Want a mature professional role,not another round of adolescent apps, no matter how lucrative. I never had time to think much about ethics and nobody ever made me worry. Actually, resource utilization drives me crazy. My web site’s loads slow as molasses and sucked up to every social media service. We didn’t worry about accessibility in our app or website because we only cared about young eyes. Ok, I’m in, what’s next?”
Casey raised her hand. “Now, wait a moment. We may have over-sold ParaLog. We’ll soon learn the difficulty of modeling attacker, victim, weapon, accomplices, unknowns, wounds, and other warfare terms. Consequential Reasoning might give us solutions of no value. Our project is either a grandiose experiment or a trivia game. ‘Just warning’, I must say.”
Pausing for more sips of wine, they all clinked glasses, circling Sally’s Merlot.
Casey was ready. “Let’s each pick a path and get back together, somewhere or by Zoom, in a week. We actually have two branches to this river, one understanding modern web culture and the other technology.
They all laughed when Matt asked, “What do we call this crazy group? Reverse ParaLog’? ‘The Old and the Restless’? ‘Parasol’? ‘the Jaws of TIRex’? ‘Generations United’? ‘Chips On Our Shoulders’?”
Marilyn suggested, “How about Team 3Gen for our diverse ages and perspectives?”
All cheered. A minute later they agreed on Matt’s displayed logo with three tiers of concepts reaching toward a Sputnik satellite button that emitted those famous Sputnik beeps.
Casey relaxed, thinking her allies would help her face the trials of leading one or both sides of the Pink Page Rampage to avoid more algorithmic travesties like she’d experienced at her OMG Reunion. What a night!