Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Stub 8.1, Holes in the net

The Salinas river valley is as flat as a pancake and it took Zev three hours to cross it.

Zev sighed in relief when he was able to leave public roads and start zig-zagging his way up into broken country on foot trails.

In his previous life as the Chief Executive Officer of Cali's largest pharmaceutical firm, Zev had an insatiable curiosity when researching quality and process monitoring methods and equipment.

Zev had been relentless in his pursuit of state-of-the-art monitoring equipment. Consequently he rubbed elbows with all of the parties involved in Cali's surveillance programs. They all salivated at the prospect of selling Azrael Industries billions of Callors of optical and computing equipment.

Zev made a point of getting lost deep within the facilities of his potential suppliers and talking to technical types who were not affiliated with marketing. For the price of a cup of coffee, a pastry and his rapt attention, they were eager to share what they saw as the shortcomings of Cali's approach to surveillance.

Those conversations now served him well.

The fundamental blind-spot in the Cali system was that it had decayed to an IFF system. That is, it depended on the tacit cooperation of the surveilled in their detection and tracking. All new and therefore "fashionable" clothing contained accent features in various fluorescent colors.

It was not necessary to discriminate between the thousands of shades of brown and gray to discern what was human and what was not. The system only need look for a few, very specific wavelengths and track them. Done. Done.

The second major shortcoming was that optical systems require maintenance. Dust degrades performance, especially when looking into the sun. Windblown grit crazes optics and necessitates replacement. In urban areas, people deliberately destroy cameras and cabling just before committing crimes. Like every government, it was far more tempting to invest in monuments and festivals than to maintain infrastructure, especially when that infrastructure was in the middle of BFI.

Over the past decade, entropy had diminished the vaunted Cali surveillance system and it had become a placebo; it worked only because the surveilled were convinced it was powerful medicine and that resistance was futile.

The third shortcoming of the Cali system was its heavy reliance on the infrared portion of the spectrum to track large mammals, i.e. humans. The problem was two-fold. There had been an order of magnitude increase in large, wild mammals in the mountains since Cali separated from the US. Those large mammals, mostly deer and feral hogs but some mountain lions, increased the number of false-alarms.

The other problem with reliance on infrared was that there was no discrimination during large segments of the 24 hour diurnal cycle. The system was not capable of picking out a human when the background contained a large number of boulders between 90-and-100 degrees F.

Most government officials considered the issues with IR to be self-correcting. A significant number of the large mammals were mountain lions and they had become accustomed to taking down drunks and lovers who wandered too far up into the hills at the wrong times of day. Hikers typically moved in groups and informed authorities of their itineraries.

Zev confined his walks to the five hours in the evening when the sun was low in the sky and thermals most inconvenienced the IR systems. He wore dirty grays and browns.

He also took great care to avoid deer habitat and ambush sites within an hour of sunset. He had no desire to end up as a pile of cougar poop.

He dropped down into the valley early in his walk each day and picked up food and water. He found that his small stash of painkillers was far more valuable than money. He had no problems finding somebody to trade him for anything he needed and the transactions were all outside the official, Cali economy.

Next Installment


  1. Replies
    1. This is a tough segment to write without it sounding like a lecture. The opportunities for dialog are zilch.

      We will see how it goes.


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