Monday, November 19, 2018

Stub 9.3: Skillz

It is important to understand the nature of the programming that Tim-Tom and AJ did if one is to understand the nature of the program Dilip unleashed on Cali.

Tim-Tom’s specialty was to find under-utilized computer resources and to “borrow” them to run his employer’s social media apps.

The resources were abundant. Lights and microwave ovens had microprocessors embedded within them. So did every other appliance or device that could be voice activated. Then there were the smartphones in people’s pockets just twiddling their thumbs. There were swirling hordes of resources. The trick was to correctly predicting the best devices to "borrow" and to write code that minimized thrashing, excessively busy passing of data and programs.

The Social Media platform that employed Tim-Tom could not function without borrowed resources.

For instance, it is easy to predict which videos are about to go viral. They are the videos that are pre-loaded on the “borrowed” resources and then rebroadcast locally. Since bandwidth was a limiting factor, the only videos that can download at speeds that support unbuffered, real-time viewing are the ones that have already been downloaded to "borrowed" resources ahead of time. Slow video never goes viral.

Preloading data worked because memory had become free. Chips were three dimensional and bytes were alkali earth metal ions stored in zeolite garages. The byte was read by tapping it with a UV photon pulse and the capture/non-capture of the resulting 420nm radiation. Memory was written and overwritten by larger taps with the same UV pulse. Zeolites are a kind of clay. Clay and limestone are abundant and cheap. Memory became, for all practical purposes, free.

There was a symbiotic relationship, some would say mutually parasitic relationship, between the Cali government and the information technology industry, especially the social media portion. Controlling streaming rates controlled content. Controlling content controlled opinions. Controlling opinions turned citizens into domesticated animals.

Tim-Tom’s programming gift was to be able to predict who was going to be interacting with whom, when and where. And then to be able to render that intuition into concise, robust code that actually worked “in the wild”. The code he wrote worked in a seamless way that was completely invisible to the actual owners of the computer resources.  Tim-Tom’s code high-jacked millions of resources billions of times every day.

AJ’s coding gift was bent in a different direction.

AJ wrote code that wormed its way through networks and connected data in databases back to the parties that created that data. The data would be lifted and passed to the cloud. His code was also deft in its ability to substitute proxies for data that was missing.

By way of example: A person can hide income and transactions by paying cash and barter but defensible estimates can be imputed based on the value of houses in the neighborhood and “chaff” like expensive vacations and savings hidden in off-shore accounts. Residents of Cali who earned the median income were struggling to afford 2000 Calories a day. They weren’t going on cruises twice a year and shipping off a king’s ransom to accounts in the Cayman Islands.

Alpha-Omega make a pile of money advertising cheap plane fares to Switzerland to Cali government officials whose "chaff" suggested they had recently enjoyed a cruise to the Grand Cayman and had been forced to pay fees for extra luggage.

AJ’s art used fuzzy logic to draw unfuzzy conclusions.

Alpha-Omega, the corporation that AJ worked for, had databases filled with proxy and imputed data for every person on earth and AJ had the keys to those databases

Next Installment

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