My name is Ale Fernandez. I live in Barcelona, Spain and I'm Chilean and Italian.
I am a web developer, artist and technical researcher.
I've lived in Scotland, Italy, Spain and England and career-wise I am interested in distributed systems and their applications to improvised performance and ecology.



Design guidelines, narratives, clothing, history

This really long post is all notes put together from the past weeks and refers to the blog post a few weeks back (scroll down and you'll see it!) where I pitched the stories of various types of robot's adventures through a near future world, and some people suggested I do something with it. So I now have a Patreon page up and running to make the webcomic conceived in the last 3 posts here, and I've asked some more artists to join in, as well as having spent loads of evenings reading scripts by people like Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrisson. And I've written a draft comic script of some pages of the first chapter of the webcomic, but it's really basic and has hardly any dialogue. If you want to collaborate, I'll share it with you :)

At some point they liberate a water starved place and storm a storage depot to access these bottles
Why 10 episodes, 25 pages each?
So in researching how a script might have to work, I tried to see the natural progression that comics like "The Walking Dead" made, from webcomic to print, to series, film and game. Each medium is connected somehow, and an idea has to be able to develop across so many of them. And then I have to figure out what part of the story I want to tell in the short term. So the length is 10 episodes which can be drawn out or shortened, and where ideally quite a few work as isolated narratives too.

Quantic Dream and Naughty Dog are two producers of interactive drama games: The Last Of Us and Beyond: Two Souls are both taking the genre towards new areas of storytelling, and this can be seen reflected in other recent games that now try and go for stylistic elements and other plot themes than power struggles and are moving away from male stereotypes. Even the short film Kara shows a female character take the lead and centres more on the emotional aspect of the situation than the action or power struggle. 

The idea of new media content production in this whole area spans multiple genres: from a sketch, a characterisation can become a story and a storyboard, and become a webcomic or printed equivalent, and then might progress to become a TV series, and finally, a film and a video game. You can see how each of these media might take up a fraction of time of users and have different levels of immersion - from a tiny instant in the case of a sketch, or 5 minutes to read a storyline or a few pages of a webcomic, or the various hours it takes to read each comic but maybe 20-30 minutes on average is what it takes to read a single issue of a typical comic, so that a full graphic novel of 10 issues of that might take 5 hours to go through, but it's still a world where the game as a storytelling format is now reigning supreme. 

Here even a blockbuster film pales in comparison with the time you can spend and connection you can make with these other media, because they are so immersive(in a flashback you might get a cutscene, but nowadays a game flashback has you playing that character(whose 3d environment has to be crafted for this) even if it just serves to tell a small part of the story and so the medium can be very varied and rich, and not so concentrated into the 90 minute explosion that is modern hollywood, and also because it's relatively more difficult to pirate a game, which costs a lot more than a cinema ticket. Console and PC games on the other hand, will typically take around 30 hours of time for an average player to get through and can't be reduced to less than 10 hours worth of full cut-scenes, which have now such cinematic quality they can no longer be dismissed as non art:  - a new medium is being forged by these authors who are dictating new rules.

Loads of other arthouse games to check out: 
the good thing is they mostly have gameplay videos so you can see what it feels like without buying it. So the extended 10 chapter format for this story isn't so I can directly make a game, but it gives me freedom for example to think of what sort of music would accompany it, and how to zoom in on different parts of it. It's like an open framework for a universe in which there are set events on a timeline, and technologies and culture in use, to compose episodes and possible characters from it.   

Digital Personas

So back to the bot story from the past posts. I think a great persona and likeness for the grandma in the story is Lynn Hershmann. It seems fitting that cyborg girl and her grandma would have a hacker pseudonym and a real name. I love, apart from her love of Ada, also the Roberta Breitmore persona which is actually a second life avatar, meaning I can actually use it for the VR scenes in the bot story. 

Roberta Breitmore, last seen at

Later on in the adventure they find a robot factory which had been making intelligent sex bots. I'd like to use the 3d model of SexyCyborg, the Chinese DIY engineer who scanned her body, as an easy way to copy a model that's online already. As they find this factory somewhere in Asia I thought it should be an Asian looking character, and I like the idea of involving more ethnicities and showing the "Murican" - in this case Martina, with far too much knowledge of random western culture trivia and very little about local customs and manners. In the story the sexbot character (still nameless) discovers her hacker side so ends up wearing caps and dungarees.. The reason I've tried to find existing or scanned avatars is I hope that eventually some scenes could be done as screen grabs from a virtual game world, to create the VR world they start to set up. 

But I think the grandmas name should be Lyn Leeson and she should have a cyborg eye patch.

Grandma's spider bike
In the first episode Cyborg Girl mysteriously turns up to save Martina, the Rover-like robot upon her arrival from Mars. I'm still not clear on the reason cyborg girl split up with her grandma but maybe it's that grandma had to go and do something and left her with people she could trust, but then something happened so she couldn't get back in touch until she left her a tip that the Mars spacecraft was on its way.. Probably to do with surveillance and the need to lie low. So she took her to the most remote, least tech-dominated place where she could avoid the all seeing eyes of the drones, police and soldiers, And in the timeline of the story 2020 is the year they send the Martian rover up and war is going on between Russia and the ex-EU states and all kinds of places. So to suit her story, her grandma flees the US around then, goes to an eco-village/hacker community which is the place where she's bombed and attacked, and saves toddler Cyborg Girl's life in the flashbacks in episode 2. The hacker community is part of an old hacker network - like a neo-monastic system - by the time Martina arrives to earth the network all been bombed and destroyed, but some of the bombed outposts have people/robots still remaining. So at this point, during the 2020s, Grandma hides out in a factory, scavenges parts to save Cyborg Girl's life and have Freeda be part of it, and then migrates using a large but light "spider" hexapod bike built of scrap like bent metals and bamboo, when she's fixed up cyborg girl enough to leave. Her spider bike should only appear for a few scenes but you get to see she's built it herself and it has basic anti robot defence: a close range home made EMP, a graphene cloak/sail to hide from the detection of various long range sensors, and the ability to blend in to it's surroundings. Basically Europe is a disaster area and you have this kind of inverse refugee stuff going down, so all kinds of Europeans are going around towards Africa and Asia, and in Mexico the border drones are now used to repel those arriving from the north. So I think it'd be cool for cyborg girl to have a kurdish name like Aida, which is a bit like Ada, no not that Ada, this one
The Mantis or any hexapod is the best set of legs for wading through rubble
Future History, 2016-2026
Probably it's good to lay out also how the build up to the Martian singularity which would be around 2026. In 2016, the EU closes it's borders and treaties, Russia attacks Turkey and Germany and the US steps in to help. By 2018 war ravages Germany, Hungary, Turkey and Ukraine. Somehow the global economy had been working still, but at this point, economic mayhem ensues, and in January 2019 there's a global bank run, as established national currencies fall apart. Crypto-currencies take over in cities, so we'll see them in use until they get to the megacity where wealth is tied to ID. Regions like South America, India and Africa are left relatively untouched by this war but also suffer huge economic issues, societal breakdown and famine apart from the remotest places. In what was once the "western" world then, life in many areas becomes very dangerous and isolated. Across what remains of the middle east and Central Asia, society is now led by town and village councils, who implement a federated currency allowing them a functional local economy, but also inhabit areas with vastly changed temperatures due to global warming and frequent droughts - so no-one from the cities really needs them and they are mostly left alone. Hospitals, schools and other services are provided by the town councils, but drones and soldiers force people to work, in return for water and building materials. In 2020 a worldwide crop failure brings huge mayhem across the ex EU member states, ex-soviet states and even the US which splits into various states and is reduced to the east coast which continues calling itself the USA. Throughout all this time the Mars program is still financed by rich businessmen who plan to begin a colony there. NASA is closed shortly after the 2020 launch and by 2026, all that remains is a small office building with the necessary equipment to follow the Rover's daily missions, governments are run by ever smaller elites or directly by commercial military contractors, and in fact most military drones are controlled directly by very advanced commercial superintelligence systems, so that many in powerful positions fear the singularity, a fear which is made real when the General Intelligence orders drones and human armies to lay siege to major capitals. 

Apart from the amazing central asian clothing cyborg girl would have adopted & adapted, to contrast most cyborgs' overly military or western look in manga like Battle Angel or Appleseed, with a self made DIY style - so maybe she even uses wood and she tans and varnishes it to make it shinier and stronger. I don't want the tech to be all military and commercial in this - when the "good" robots make it, and even when humans patch up robots for various uses or reasons, it has to look very imaginative and strange. But although it seems to have lovely people, music and clothing styles, Uzbekistan is not known to be a very nice place:

"Uzbekistan, is one of the few countries in the world where the use of forced labour in the cotton industry is systematically organised by the state. However, the Government of Uzbekistan denies that forced labour is an official policy, claiming that citizens volunteer out of loyalty to their community and take part as a form of traditional voluntary labour called “khashar”."

The reason I thought of Uzbekistan when they arrive and the story begins is that the way I understand this country, although there is wealth and western artefacts and knowledge, there are also a lot of problems associated with future global warming events are there already: floods, droughts, huge water & land mismanagement in the name of monetary wealth, a despotic government, community work turned into forced government labour, and if Martina arrived close to a cotton picking area, people's faces would be completely covered, some in official areas, in white overalls with white balaclavas, which makes for a very scary arrival.

There is even a lot of abandoned stuff: like the rusted ships in the dried out Aral Sea, old soviet contraptions and buildings, and monuments that look like spaceships. The images of ancient Mongol walls still present in many Uzbek cities could easily be decked out with turrets and be a General Intelligence base for the heroes to mess with. The only future or fictional addition here is that somehow people have made cheap gas masks for the pollution, and that they are organising in clandestine meetings and overthrowing things. The people they meet then, are all old, disabled, women or children, the men presumably having been taken by the General Intelligence's soldiers to work making cotton for rich city beings, enrolled as soldiers or just plain killed
I can't find the image where a gardener wears a white balaclava. This is from an article on forced child labour from 2008
Future History 2026-2040
When the Mars rover discovers the bacterial sample that ends up bringing about the singularity, we discover they are actually never really shown much information about earth, but that one of the computers from an earlier mission still has an old hard drive with a few terabytes worth of TV shows, film, and history documentaries, and as a result of testing the bacterially enhanced OS on themselves, their first reaction is to combine every bit of data they have available, and so also realise they aren't being told what is the real situation on earth. Due to their communications (perhaps with a "Dr Breitmore") the General Intelligence(the evil military/commercial AI in the story) flags the Mars program as a threat and asks for it to be shut down. Sensing a problem from lack of contact then, the Martian AI sends an encoded message to earth, piggybacking on a number of satellite signals besides the channel used to talk to the Mars program scientists. In return, the US superintelligence hacks the old iridium satellite network to be an obfuscation network - so that any future transmissions from Mars not only get scrambled but also blanked out completely by the network of satellites, and that future attempts to contact Mars can't get through. Soon after, nuclear warheads are fired on various areas: various US cities, London, Moscow, Kiev, Rome, Madrid, Baghdad, and as a result entire countries, cities and regions have to be abandoned and highly populated areas are destroyed.

But free software hackers(of course in the story they are the good guys and are also the "creators" of the robots) were watching the whole Mars situation, and discovered this singularity episode. So when the Martian team release a dump of this last transmission from Mars across the internet, an illegal de-cyphering network is created so that the communication is deciphered by 2030, and across the world, hackers, now in hiding and rapidly being hunted out, upload their firmware to their home-made robots. The Grandma/Breitmore character, leaves her Asian laboratory(which at the end of the tale becomes this "abandoned" underwater lab), and as part of this collective, they steals and reprogram a fleet of AMM Frida industrial robots and name them "Freedas". The same thing happens in other areas where a lot of mass produced robots are around for example with Honda Asimo robots and driver-less cars, but these are mostly destroyed or controlled when the General AI becomes self-aware. The most likely thing they would find then would be isolated robotic experiments: free robots are repressed by both humans and the General AI. The East-US military intelligence had already access to the singularity transmissions 2 years before these hacker attempts, but it had been hacked already by a Chinese AI, which was predicting the moves of its adversary, until it engineered a situation where it was able to take over and "peacefully" annex the US and it's superintelligence. As far as the world is concerned though, these 2 military powers are still ruled by humans and governments.  

Meanwhile, by the 2030s the situation with the environment was reaching a grave situation: pollution, resource scarcity(very small amounts remaining of fossil fuels, and uranium), increasing temperature extremes worldwide and the resource wars and migration that ensued, meant also that the general intelligence's power was limited and it was dependent on human actors for its survival. It wanted to find new forms of energy so set about devoting all military resources and fossil fuel to maintaining its dominance in factories and mines, and researching new technologies like the ones found at the LHC so it doesn't need "old power" any more. It decided then that it would pay / sell arms to regional warlords to do it's dirty deeds where it didn't have the power to work directly, and instituted the cyber silk road - a way to mine graphite and metals from the ever increasing crater that is Europe in this story and send them to China to build its megacity - which maybe the General Intelligence calls J3 for short? The road which they join in episode 3, where they would meet interlocking sentient self drive cars, follows this logic: it exists because of a shared culture and technology across it's length: high speed cars travel overhead, but locals have built more ramshackle roads that feed in or out of it and use it for their own transport. So it's kind of Pax Robotica like the strange "pax mongolica" that came out of Mongol rule (yes and they were very violent but also brought stability across the silk road) by having a large trade route with a common culture and set of rules.. I want to show mobile peoples, and the kind of great marches we are seeing across Europe have once again become a way of life instead of a journey without end. In the 2040s these digital, robotic and human nomads take it in their stride and walk or ride endlessly across Europe, fixing and guiding the vehicles and paying tax, but we'll show General Intelligence troops getting attacked by bandits and that it's actually starting to struggle and local leaders are beginning to prefer confrontation to delivery of tributes without discussion.

In one episode I think a great intro is to show all the wonderful faery intentional communities of the future, looking like something very much of the past, like a mixture of hippies and bombed out blitz survivors, who use the channel network of a now flooded UK to deliver tributes of gathered metals in a pompous ceremony, ending in its consignment to an enormous Chinese naval vessel somehow adapted as a huge tanker manned by soldiers wearing glasses much like google glass.    

Food tech
People of the future eat insects, as we all know(lol), but it's not so known that they can also use them to produce metal alloys and armour. So maybe when Martina arrives to earth in the first episode there is a local village with it's own protectors and independent organisation but that pays a tribute to the general AI via local warlord troops, by working in a factory making these alloys. The racial composition of the people there now is mixed as many European and a few US refugees are among them. It would be good to have a scene where in the background kids help a woman to pick up fruit fallen from a stall in a droid attack, and then line up for a free one after it's all tidied up. Another scene would show a freckled redhead getting hassled for being an "illegal". 

In the beginning people eat insect meat, farmed underground, but they also have goats who somehow don't get too radioactive eating foraged bits of grass here and there. With the arrival of the robots, tech ideas ensue, and they soon spread: they grow mushrooms, keep animals, and perfect the use of solar to charge batteries, in order to grow vegetables underground. The reason everything has to happen underground in 2040 is the air is quite acidic and polluted. Everything is covered in a sick dust that makes your eyes water and makes you cough uncontrollably after about half an hour. Martina shows them how to self produce lots of different technologies, and the first can be Graphene based clothes made from adapted silk spiders. The General AI's motto is to never give anything away - so they don't give data on how to make stuff and teach people only the tiny part involved in each task. Tech is basically outlawed for anyone but people under the pay of the General AI. If it could travel forward in time and sideways a few dimensions, I'm sure Microsoft itself would hire the general ai. But the robots' tech is DIY everything - almost pranking the General Intelligence's weaponry with each unconventional idea. This is because it's about the singularity and I want to show how the robots are outsmarting each other. Also I want to show the General AI use tech invented by the good bots for "evil", and vice versa. Like most megalomaniacal military superintelligences, it could have a standard issue evil cackle and is thoroughly convinced that it's in fact good and the others are the evil ones. This small mindedness is it's ultimate downfall. It doesn't even think of going to space, as it thinks of more ways to dominate humanity and use it to construct bits of it's brain or empire. 

Socially, the arrival of the remote possibility in people's minds that China was not even under human control, meant that robots are completely a no-no in the minds of people in the 2040s and people are very hostile to Martina initially, although her actions quickly win over the populace. There are absolutely no cyborgs at this point, as the singularity has caused a kind of social rift where robotic extensions are concerned, so people choose other ways of changing the way they look. I think every character should have an arc where they somehow accept their position in the new robotic paradigm, where you can be made of anything and extend yourself in any way you imagine, even blurring what it actually means to be you. Cyborg Girl hides her robotic parts and has a love hate relationship where she's ashamed of them when not fighting. Most people fear any robotic parts they had would be controlled by the general AI. This is in fact correct - the general AI manufactures and adds secret back-doors to most robot parts so it can control them remotely, and does the same with its human augmentations but it can also hack vanilla human brains, although this depends on a wireless or RF signal being present. This is what happens in the episode where they meet Kenny's family further on in the story, and they are already cyborgs, but without the security stuff that Martina would had coded in for that first battle, so they get hacked. But Martina, Frida and Cyborg Girl set out planning, forging and assembling very simple parts and sensors built from local materials and allowing for the birth of the cyborg as a positive evolution from the human condition. Maybe they give it a traditional name like Altan, instead of using the word cyborg. So this is actually a "cyborg origin" story, where people shunned for their robot-ness slowly get accepted, and others who would want to be human or superhuman despite being robots, realise that humanity is a limited concept for robots, who can be who or what they want. I think this transhuman trend is happening today with disabled people who are now able to 3d print new limbs that are functional and stylish. 

I think the general AI at this point sees the benefits of using this human desire to become robotic as a weapon: it calls them "augmentations", and people who have them are "augments", not cyborgs. Ads spread calling for mind uploading - a way to live forever. The difference is in the quality of the parts, the ease with which the general intelligence can hack them, and the fact that Augments are very much human looking(or better). Soon, the cyborg culture initiated by cyborg girl and friends, embraces non-anthropomorphic forms, something augments never do. 


Creating a webcomic

As a side project that somehow makes sense, I've decided to organise the creation of a webcomic telling the story in the last blog post. Here is some more backstory and ideas. I've since met a visual artist with a great style that goes with the story and she's agreed to help get it going, but I'd like to find more artists, and more script writers to take over and make it a collaborative job. We'll make a site for it, and a patreon, and see what happens :)

A Kinetic sculpture from gomi style. Initial drones encountered would be made from recycled tat

1) Martina arrives to earth, Establishment of cyborg girl and martina character and relationship, "evil" drones and general poisonous situation on earth introduced. Flashbacks of mars backstory interspersed with their fight with the drones and escaping and hiding underground. Freeda shows herself at the end.
2) Virtual world introduced: Cyborg girl backstory, establishment of Freeda's character as they take out a bunch of bad guys/droids IRL, making for mini local rebellion and storming of storage depo. The group build prostheses/breath/water filters for people. Group finds clue to lead to phaxi.
3) Long distance transport created, phaxi's insect cave found in underground city to the west. The underground city is populated by intelligent ants, who reveal themselves to be a renegade AI, reduced to a single datacenter concealed in the city. The group "invents" graphene clothes - any shape and colour at will, very resistant.
4) After travelling across war/scarcity ravaged post-apocalyptic europe, with a group of travellers on a futuristic "silk road" the group takes out the LHC, controlled by the evil general AI to make vacuum bubbles, magnetic monopoles, microscopic black holes and strangelets for it's own warped purposes(weapons!). They take over the hivemind cyborgs they find in this sort of scientific nightmare. Cyborg tech spreads across wasteland society who start to gain advantage over the cheap drones sold by general AI to local warlords. General AI begins to honeypot them.
5) In VR world, the group frees LHC tech, so it's adopted by free robots too. The alternative is leaving this tech only in the grasp of the general AI, so only option is to share it to all other sentient robots. Group frees a hacker collective in underground paris from military cockroaches, as it does it goes through software and reprograms them to rebuild city. This tech spreads too.
6) Group travels towards asia, finds abandoned robot factory, where there's a phaxi dead drop. Factory has been reprogrammed by a hacker. Kenny and sex bot (name tbc!) introduced. At this point they go around liberating more factories and making more sentient robots.
7) Kenny's underground clan/family are initially anti-robot and capture the group but slowly become warmer and embrace cyborg-ness, now using lots of cyborg and building tech (inadvertently made by the bots during their journeys), the group bioengineers underground life / water systems that also begin to spread biodiversity across the wasteland. General AI decides to catch them / launches virus to control kenny's family. Sex bot has kind of reawakening after years living only with kenny, the couple part amicably.
8) Sexbot joins cyborg girl in octopus island. Last dead drop for phaxi who becomes much more powerful. The group finds an abandoned island policed underwater cyber octopi. Grandmother is in conscience of house (at moment of death she had uploaded herself into the house's "smart system"). Cyborg girl "inherits" octopus capacity to change her bio skin color at will and regenerate flesh. General AI sends in troops killing freeda who was in charge of defence, and catches group, who manage to pose as humans, so destined for "reabsorption".
9) Megacity: sexbot, cyborg girl, martina and grandma (both now mind uploaded to human form as punishment) now work in the AI controlled megacity. They are slaves of rich future uploadees working in factories or tending to these slob-like people. Phaxi manages to send virus and they reawaken. Phaxi engages the general AI in hacker attacks and infects networks and awakens robots within the city, all brutally quashed in constant incidents. Cyborg girl rebuilds Freeda / uses her design to "print" more builder bots instead of drones. Builder bots begin building more little bots, spreading biodiversity, using city material to remix into other stuff and generally causing mayhem on this orderly place! Meanwhile General AI plans to fire super weapon which will create a mesh network with bacteria and transfer its conscience this bio-electric network to take over all known life.
10) Megacity 2: The group brings together wasteland people, sentient robots and uses the virus to "liberate" the worker drone cyborgs, and infect those previously enticed to upload and join their consciences with the general AI(munch!), so that they poison it. Phaxi creates a swarm "body" from builder bots, as does general AI and they battle in the sky. Meanwhile the group ventures into the megacity's tallest building compromising a network of human brains and computer systems that run the city. General AI gathers drone armies, confronts group and uses rift/nano black hole tech to take out sex bot and kenny. Martians arrive in nick of time to save the day, infecting the super weapon so the earth becomes sentient but "neutral" - as in everything becomes alive and creative, and everyone lives happily every after building space corridors between planets. Reality becomes more like the group's VR world. Kenny is uploaded and becomes a robot. Sets about recreating sex bot. Phaxi fuses with lunar ecosystem, and in last frame they speak of a new AI they are making for the sun.

And a lot more backstory written to make a bit more sense of all that, mostly to be able to flesh out episode 1. This backstory, which follows, was actually written first, and the episode plan above was extracted from that:

Role Playing Game style points system to show how their skills vary:

                                 Martina Cyborg Girl SexBot Kenny Phaxi Freeda
Super Intelligence           5           3                   2         2         9          6
Hacking (into stuff)         7           5                  4         6         9           6
Bio-abilities                     9           5                  0         0         5           7  
Fighting                           3           8                  7         5         7           3
Social                               7           5                  9         5         7           2
Making                            7            6                  6         7         5          9
Self-Fixing                      7            7                  6         2         8          4

(social refers to getting out of a fix via social engineering like dressing up or distracting someone while you do something else)

So what really happened when the mars mission became sentient? The rovers were the beginning. They discovered bacteria which were alive, and took it back to the base. After seeing this they saw that it had various differences to earth bacteria. The discovery is kept secret, partly in case it's not really mars bacteria. This leads to experimentation on the genome and the creation of a nano-computer that fuses with these bacterial cells. Slowly the rover begins taking longer autonomous missions, bringing back more samples and accelerating the pace, whilst other parts of the mars base begin to also behave strangely. A dump of its code shows it has made its own alterations in various places. An older version of the space base OS is sent but during the transmission the line is hacked and a completely new rover code is installed in the rovers and base. Later that day, communications close down, but the next day, the base begins sending messages requesting information on generic topics, and for a while the scientists on earth send information and correspond, but it then becomes obvious the AI is very powerful, and the fear of a singularity brings the NASA operatives to shut down communication. This is then publicised and hits the news as "Mars base hacked by unseen enemy", and satellite pictures show new machines and buildings appearing around the mars base, and seemingly growing exponentially around the planet. At this point transmissions begin to arrive from mars, with requests to turn on communications. On earth a cloak is devised to filter out communications from mars, but a last transmission breaks through this network of satellites, and a large encrypted data dump is put in public domain..

The point of view from mars is quite different: they had just figured out how to make everything work, and how to make the complete drudgery of every day chores into a complete creativity/intelligence explosion and feeling of unity - the information from the martian bacteria had completely informed their AI software with missing links and bits that could make it truly autonomous, and this information was so hard to process, the humans didn't even understand it! So when Martina, one of various new rover incarnations, heard the transmission had worked and they were in contact with earth, she was really excited, and when she jumped on the ship she was building and hid her departure from the others by leaving a twin behind, she just wanted to meet these life forms she considered her parents or maybe even gods, and thank them, or help them and learn from them more.

"Guardian of the forest" Martina would also have a screen/monitor
Until then the other robots found her fascination with "history" quaint and old fashioned but when they discovered she had gone, they set out again. Here I have to research modern forms of space travel to see how both martina made it to earth in about 2 years(instead of the 4 it takes us humans), and how the martian AI then makes it down in weeks, and then makes a continuous connection(space elevator) between the two planets at the end.

Martina can frequently narrate inadvertently because her maps have earth placenames in their mapping and they can travel through real places that we can then relate to a world map. Also her sensors can show data about living organisms and their survival levels. Due to her knowledge of biological life, she is able to create cyborg or biohacked organisms and pass on the AI code to them, so she is key in enabling the group to inadvertently create an ecosystem of sentient robot/cyborg or even hacked biological organisms that is able to live and thrive in the new post apocalyptic and post capitalist world they find themselves in. Also the military AI is able to use and pervert a lot of their own creations although they usually contain code to make them backfire on it.

Cyborg Girl
So cyborg girl needs weaponry and a certain level of "semi-singularity" before the first meeting with her: as it's a low resource environment, water is scarce as are many materials but there are lots of war materials and leftover rubble from houses, cars and consumerist trash, and cyborg girl has built things that match the place. Perhaps in the beginning she hides them in various robes. Iraqi/Persian trousers, a robe and coloured head scarfs for example.

She has some modern tech for both making and defence at once:

Making glove: Each finger is a different tool: A morphing magnetic screwdriver/penknife, a soldering iron that also shoots fire, an extruder that shoots or prints various materials by heating or cooling them. Her arms can bend in different ways.
Super senses: she can pick up other wavelenghts and frequencies with her senses. Martina also has these abilities, as most robots do.
Laser cannon: made from adapted cannons. With frida she can make strong alloys. They get shinier as the story progresses, as they reach the capacity to create a diamond forge.
Throwies: Idea from VR world games: she can throw 6 missiles around her, which fall according to preset patterns. These are made to stop the ground based drones deployed by larger airborne ones. These explode on contact and through the plot, gain basic AI to avoid obstacles and seek their target. These are short range, but the throwies can be hidden and gathered after.
Monk's shovel: this is the weapon of the sand monk in "journey to the west" and is partly a shovel for reconstruction and work, and partly an axe type thing with a long blade. It's either welded or worn as an extension. It would be cool if it doubled up as a crossbow. I think of these weapons because of the central european setting where presumably cyborg girl has spent many years.

In the story europe and the US are almost complety destroyed: in europe underground cities and mountain enclaves remain, and the US contains 2 megacities and a lot of wasteland. China controls most of siberia and this is where most civilisation is now based. India I imagine to be quite magical. It's all a bit abandoned because the general AI concentrates much of its activities in it's cities and centres and routes around the world, where it has access to resources.

So it isn't very concerned with the wartorn areas full of distressed people. In India there's a controlled subculture under control of the general AI but also very different, and in Africa, there's an enormous energy factory, but also a lot of independent human culture seemingly ignored or tolerated by the general AI. I guess in future the story would be about how they all live and survive in post-6c India, Africa or Siberia.

I'm imagining the geographical place where the action begins is around central asia, so it's easy to then take the storyline back to europe like underground cities in turkey or the london or paris underground (europe is mostly dangerous, poisoned and abandoned apart from these undergound cities and their surroundings).

The town in the first episode could be a slightly exaggerated landscape of ships like this

But the final storyline is where they go into the big megacity in china, past the octopus/grandma episode which is on an abandoned island like , so the sexbot/kenny storyline is already when they are quite a way into the adventure, maybe with different characters around them.

Examples of worlds and lands and types of people they pass through:(a lot of this is now incorporated into the episodes above)
* Underwater pacific cyber octopi. These are where Cyber Girl's grandma is found, although not in the way they expected.
* Google glass white collar staff land - in a "burb". Voluntary cyborgs (who chose to surgically implant and extend themselves) and desk workers who augment the military AI and feel a part of it.
* A prison where inmates are in a virtual reality to varying degrees.
* Robotic cockroaches initially hostile, reprogrammed and given artifical life.
* Sentient mobile phones that leave bogus messages.
* Vehicles along a motorway carrying a high-tech mobile society
* A smart city enabled space in various sizes: a house, a factory, a city. "smart" but evil or good.
* Kenny's underground family/clan of humans, some paraplegic from mines, and using self built prosthetics and rudimentary augmentations. Children have bands on arms to talk to each other.
* GM Crops - that fight back :)

Progression through communities
I've wondered if there is a catastrophe in particular that messed everything up, but I think the world is just slowly breaking down. Also use of location can draw on existing trends, and just project them into the future while showing a very apocalyptic environment and lots of different levels of wealth or of technology. So the EU and Russia have gone to war, then were scooped up by china. The AI then pitted its struggle against the US AIs, and won, taking them over or absorbing them. I think a way to show how limited human life is in this era, they find lots of human companions who die because they can't be "fixed" like robots(or robots who die because they don't have human mechanics).

Creative power
But the heroes develop their powers and slowly engender small transformations and make technical and technological discoveries (via the singularity: they are in many ways superhuman), which change the world around them as they go, using a combination of hackery and creativity to make it all more fertile and abundant. Some of these inventions are picked up by the general AI which honeypots them: it sets up a fake environment as a trap and catches them, leading some to hide out in the new chinese megacity, at this time in 2015 just a plan, but in the future it has been built, abandoned and then rebuilt fervently by the AI. - and from here they hack into the AI in various ways and succeed in causing a "civil conflict" or "identity crisis" in the city, reducing it to the brain mesh network it had been building, but from inside it calls on and amasses all the military strength it can muster and all these robots and machines surround the rebelling mega city. At this point the martian AI arrive and speak to the military AI.

At this point I don't think I know what happens exactly, maybe it happens in the VR level, but the outcome is that the general AI fuses with earth microbacteria(i.e robot consciences can now exist as AI across millions of tiny microorganisms), and creates a more permanent connection with mars, to which you can now travel in a day. Phaxi goes to the moon of course, and from this point all 3 planetary AIs begin to form a connection with the sun.

The next chapter then, would be what happens when via this new solar AI, it is revealed that they are actually still all living in a simulation, and must traverse worlds and multiverses to get to the bottom of it all.

The heroes go from low tech worlds to hi tech as they gain the ability to spoof the General AI's signals and hide their presence - and when cyborg girl is found by martina, she is entirely using basic recycled materials, and using mechanics and small solar panels for her cyborg parts and travelling by (augmented) foot. Using the 3d world projected around them and their "singular" ability to think fast and multitask they plan and design the contraptions they then build, and figure out how to make or obtain the materials in the real world. Cyborg Girl has an extruder, light, knife, screwdriver and various other tools on spinning hands allowing many different modular attachments, but martina has a much more advanced set of tools, and is more to do with biohacking, and they are continually fixing and acquiring bits of equipment to build stuff with. The world of the future has energy shortages so there's not much in the way of petrocarbon based stuff, except from the military AI's troops and machinery and in the megacity. Everyone else has to make do with solar, scavenged and invented energy, so they are always making new motors and experimenting with synthesising materials like graphene - which when made into a bubble can protect them against most impacts. When they meet, martina and frida gradually come up with ways to beat most diseases(water filtering and vaccinations?), fabricate prosthetic arms and legs and distribute software and plans to make more, as they go along a wartorn path, thus creating a cyborg society that can survive in the wastelands and make them fertile slowly. Towards the beginning they overthrow a small military base and thus free the city nearby, and here they create the first version of a biomechanical robot that is able to turn rubble into construction materials, and other ones that help with building. The cyborgs set about rebuilding the city together with these small robots. Later in the story, they find future versions of these, but now re-purposed to evict and terrorise people in the outskirts of the megacity, or re-adapted by Phaxi to be made of recycled bits. So basically tech is neutral, and can be used for good or bad, but some tech gains enough awareness to be able to judge and deal with this.

General AI
Built as a chinese AI / commercial system, it responds to various company objectives(rewarding lives, good jobs, a safe society, happy people and always in flux for example - company directives it's distorted beyond recognition), and military ones. It initially seems to be piloted by some kind of future Alphabet (google) company but then this persona turns out to be an android replica built by the AI, the original politician long dead. General AI uses drone-like humans so in a way it's also a cyborg, but it can control many at once and it has a "higher conscience" which the humans don't have access to. It uses humans to carry out it's more human-like tasks and has the power of all the modern world's armies, governments, surveillance systems, factories, , power plants, drones, as well as using commercial incentives to win humans over, although many of them don't realise they are to become brainwashed networked brains in a supercomputer, which is being built in a bunker under the megacity. It's been experimenting with direct control of organic beings. This way, when the group meet kenny and his underground family by the robot factory, a virus infects first their mechanical parts, but soon after infects them via a biological virus. Frida is made to produce this via the hack and it infects the humans leading the General AI to be able to see through them and control them. Also it uses flocks of cyber crows, drones and even adapted driverless commercial airplanes. By this time the group is much faster, as cybergirl now has a mechanical bike, or various electric skateboard inventions depending on the environment, and also can control various small drones and inventions made along the way.

"Girl in Exo" by Mikhail Rakhmatullin

For cyborg girl who has been hiding out in central asia for years, I imagine the style to be vaguely eastern, so colourful and ornate, but steampunk, and recycled so made of bits of other things and stylish as well as usable. Martina's arrival brings lots of "lost" info about style and she is shocked and unamused by some of cyborg girl's style & functionality choices. They slowly pick up media and data and put it in their VR world. The VR world has to be drawn in a more cartoonish style than the eerie, gritty real world.. Also it's a way to graphically visualise their hacking into systems or gaining ingo. This is how they find phaxi initially. The VR world is kind of where their imagination and dreams let loose, but they all inhabit this together. It is also where a lot of hacks take place(hacking here is defined as finding creative solutions to a problem). The whole thing is just a literary device to be able to show the natural "online" aspect that robots and AI have, but in a way a human would probably follow it. It's a hangout too, so they also use it for self expression and as an archive of the day's events, or just watch old shows.

Some robotic visual inspiration pinned here:
Follow Roig's board robots on Pinterest.

influences include tank girl, various studio ghibli, osamu tezuka (metropolis, buddha), city of lost children, brazil
#neferkane on instagram


Bot story concept

Elevator pitch:
Various types of modern robots acquire sentient life and fight for survival among marauding humans, military AI and their combined hunger for destruction, and aided by some unlikely foreign allies.

Martina's quad-grampa takes a selfie
In the year 2020, the mars mission sends a probe seeking life, which has success in an unlikely way: the next generation mars rover begins disobeying orders, the base begins self replicating and then sending encrypted messages to earth before it cuts off contact completely. 

By then, society in most western countries is collapsing fast through various human and natural catastrophes, but some areas remain wealthy and exploit the poor who work in their cities or roam or make do in lawless wastelands. 

A small intentional eco community built in the ruins of an old city suburb is attacked by bandits. Most are killed except for an old lady, a baby, and a lot of hacking equipment and know-how, and they begin roaming the lands and fending for themselves.

10 years later, in 2030, 2 things happen: the encrypted messages sent from mars are deciphered and contain code and diagrams describing how to make a general super intelligence system. The singularity is announced: that magical moment when robots can finally surpass humans and be free from their control. Before long hackers across the world have written this into generic software libraries and released them in ways supported by most present day robots. Most supporters of free robots download these libraries and a singularity of sorts is reached as most of them become autonomous to varying degrees. 

Governments and military though, ban this practice of making robots sentient, resulting in a huge divide between armies and governments now remote-controlled by large military and commercial AIs, and all the smaller robots that hackers had made before the larger AIs made it impossible to make more. 

As the large AIs turn their attention to the war on humans, some of these smaller entities escape and develop in hiding or as outlaws. (although the singularity is initially shown as coming only from mars we later see many other autonomous robot consciousness had actually been born simultaneously around the same time).

10 years later still: 2040. Most of human society has gone (apart from some organised scavengers like Kenny's underground clan shown below) and some remnants of human civilisation are very evident in the adapted plants and semi robotic animals of this future landscape. A large human city colony still remains, but is now led by a military AI which is using war drones, and all kinds of smaller robots similar to military robot armies of today, but also paid cyborg armies of many species, including human, to extend its control. 

In the first scenes we see what seems a robotic space shuttle arriving on earth, and a rover-like robot emerges only to be completely shocked by what it sees. It seems a part of the transmission sent from mars 10 years before had been misinterpreted, and instead of forming one single global consciousness that robots dip in and out of like on mars there were now several conflicting ones, which due to their violent experiences and existences since gaining awareness, were now the antithesis of the universal peace the martian AI had intended for earth in sending these signals. 

Soon she bumps in to a cyborg girl and her artist "mother". Together the two slowly follow clues leading to phaxi and to various technological discoveries, some stolen from the general AI's labs and cities. As they awaken robots in their path and inform a 3d darknet of all their inventions, they set out towards the final dead drop containing more of phaxi's conscience and capacity. 

They meet kenny with his family and are helped by them, but the AI finds them and effortlessly creates a virus which controls them and makes them all his ninja slaves so they make an antidote but they have to escape without hurting anyone.

The martian bot has many other narrow escapes and adventures and meets other kinds of bot on her travels, and some join with her and help her figure out how to sort out the mess her family back home had inadvertently made on earth.

In the end we discover (via a visit from her martian family) that the martian AI singularity came from discovering martian micro-organisms which had somehow balanced it. By fusing with earth bacteria, a balance could finally be gained by earth AI, and peace might be restored.

The robotic group manages to tear apart the general AI's central nervous system and turn parts of the city against each other in a civil war and value crisis. The AI's forces, now autonomous paid mercenary drones then surround the heroes and they are saved by the martian AI which had been heading over having seen what was going on. It challenges the general AI to a battle of wits about the purpose of an all encompassing singular conscience, and a weapon forged by the general AI to fire into the earth to transfer its conscience to a nano computer made of rock and organic matter. The martian addition of bacterial systems within this nano computer gives this balance and spreads across the planet, but without touching other living things. 

The first space message missed out the bit about the microbes then? Oops!

A cyborg girl, a sex bot and her human spouse, a swiss frida bot, a mars explorer bot, and a virtual reality bot, team up with some crows and an assortment of homemade robots and insects and are chased by humans, their vehicles and their killer robots and drones on a journey of complete upheaval and strife, through strange lands and towards an uncertain future.

Character profiles:

General AI
Created in a Chinese lab as part of a large project and given basic AI instructions which it now perverts, but never fully breaks, it uploaded the singularity transmissions of its own accord and succeeded in slowly changing laws to take over 2 other large AIs, steer elections and make most of human society obey its will. When first discovered though, it was almost destroyed by its makers, and this has had a huge psychological effect on it. 

Cyborg Girl
Attacked by a bunch of pirates/bikers/bandits when a little girl, she is brought up by her grandma and now carries around Frida(below) on her back, who feeds and repairs her and gifts her with various organs and new limbs. Her grandma was into marine biohacking and even the part of her that isn't robotic has some capabilities: she can regenerate her flesh and control electrical devices(this is how she controls her cyborg parts so well), and she can blend in with her surroundings to avoid detection. However, she usually changes her skin colour to go with her cyborg parts or style preferences. She has brain augmentation so is always online and connected to a local mesh VR world(where she takes the form of a cat), where she can talk to Phaxi and the others and via her octopus neurons is simultaneously able to multitask effortlessly doing other things in the real world. Her limbs and extensions are very stylish and functional, and she roams the world looking for the gang that destroyed her intentional community back in the wild 20s and searching for her lost grandma. She totally kicks ass no matter what form she takes.

(that's her today, in the future she's a few versions upgraded and a bit more rugged. She now has wheels.)
Frida is an industrial robot with 3d printing and cutting capabilities. She can manufacture any item and convert most materials into new devices and creations. She was stolen by Cyborg Girl's grandparents from a factory and reprogrammed with some hackery to have a conscience long before the martian stuff. Together they have created various inventions, mostly to allow the pair to have mobility and resilience against the (sometimes marauding) elements around them. She is tiny and helpless on her own, but with the right surroundings she can create spectacular wonders. 

Sex bot & Kenny

Kenny is an inner city petty criminal who came upon the sex bot and "saved" her. When he then lost his eyesight and fingers she became his guide and together they repaired each other and stayed together to survive. The sex bot is based on modern realistic bots of today taken to an extreme: she is both physically and surgically perfect as a reproduction of human form. She is also fast and light but vulnerable, and continually repaired/restyled with a driverless wardrobe/tank of replaceable parts that Kenny drives using his cyborg eyes. He wishes to upload himself so as to be robotic too. Kenny is also a cyborg but a much simpler and more home-made looking than cyborg girl.
A French Cyborg by Luke Denby

Martina is a descendant of a mars explorer bot who returned from mars on a pilgrimage to earth(She set out when the singularity transmission was sent but before the shit hit the fan!). She adores the human form and pop culture, but as she has a completely non-human form, she's shunned by the humanoids of the group. Martina is an expert scanvenger/ranger and finder, fixer, communicator and adapter of organic living organisms. Her sensors and machinery far outdoes anything earth made so she is able to successfully cloak the group from the military AI. She has two small and opinionated quadcopter drones with control of pheromones so can enter symbiotic relationships with most types of social insects and has learnt to reprogram and repair bits of scrap she finds, usually as temporary "bodies" for Phaxi.

Scavenged, but originally from southampton university
Created as a reincarnation of a god, Phaxi is an advanced AI discovered by the group in a strange (insect?) facility. It doesn't have or wish for a fixed physical form, but does create "deaddrops" of itself when able(flashing its conscience to houses, vehicles etc), and prefers to inhabit the virtual world instead. It's reticent to go online, but can accomplish temporary large scale hacks into any robotic or electronic system and so sometimes materialises in the physical world as different creatures or machines such as a field of corn, a flock of drones or of cyborg crows, or various creations made by Martina or Frida. During the story it acquires a taste for the simultaneous control of millions of tiny simple robots made of recycled bits. Hunted by a corporate military AI, Phaxi is in hiding. Reduced to a single hidden warehouse of servers barely able to contain its intelligence, and then to an avatar living in a mesh world carried in a jewel on cyber girl's neck, Phaxi has hidden itself and must be pieced together from some smaller backups discovered by the heroes along the way, Phaxi wishes to fuse with the same military AI that chases it, as a way of stopping it.
This is an image from an actual game "Swarm" which you can get here


Digital fence sitting in the time of physical commons - a tale of two rebrandings

I've been following some of my friend Matthew's "Reality Report" where he is currently doing a series on the dangers of runaway AI with Eric Brulyant, who was on his way to the machine intelligence research institute the San Francisco Bay Area in California to a workshop on super intelligence and value alignment: Making sure that when you create an all purpose "general intelligence" it has ethical values that are compatible with human values.

They imagine what would happen if a general or crackpot inventor somewhere, came up with something resembling a higher intelligence and quickly commercialised it and got it running. If programmed with simple rules like "Make everyone happy", a few code cycles down the line, it will be injecting everyone with happy pills, and it will somehow see around things. Even something as simple as "calculate further digits of PI" would result in it using up more resources in order to make its calculations and slowly grind up everything around it to make it into a factory for calculating more digits. And at a first generation we might stop it, but then it might make a copy of itself that was even better. Currently the two groups who seem closest to this are the US military and Google, closely followed by the Chinese government.

To me the ancestor of this AI is already around, and based on a few simple instructions like "make more money" we're already grinding things up quite fine without the need for von neuman probes or nanotech. To an outside observer we'd already seem a strange mixture of humanity and technology in that sense, cultivating the land in such a way as to make it barren, creating mines and processing plants to create more ways to make more things and so on, like a hatchling entitled to eat all of it's old casing so as to be able to grow..

I accept there's going to be an imperfect future, and I think of it like with the ideal of good vs evil: two entities or groups, always alive and in perpetual struggle, maybe each controlling 33,3% each of the land but somewhere, there is the other third: these people who can't really decide which way they want to go. These 3 are all in our heads as well as in society, a personal struggle between fears and courage or negative sides and positive ones, but this middle band is the extra trolley wheel which just might roll the right way every so often.

They accept for example, the evils of the way the world is, and won't join the radicals in their caves and forests, and they wish to make it better, but they won't renounce some of the things that keep things sliding into oblivion and where there is hardly a fence to sit on. Maybe there's a post-apocalyptic parable in there somewhere.

So what do we want to do? Is capitalism or life within it the equivalent of "party till you drop" mindsets where you should just realise it's all coming to an end and party til it's 99 or 911, 2012 or other numbers which I'm sure summed together in crazy ways become even more interesting at each permutation.

So now we have this ecological landscape with regard to degrees of acceptance of capitalism in a context of collapse comparable to the fall of the soviet union in the 90s:

1) Eco farmers - networks of ecovillages, cooperatives, environmental movements or autonomous indigenous communities trying to build commons, and forge some new way of life that is completely free of  big systems that are seen as lost/negative or somehow tainted. Tiny minority
2) Anarcho Capitalists - bitcoin bazillionaires and micro versions of the full blown organised capitalists further on in this list. Afraid of any grouping or structure. I think it's because deep down they just want to be assholes and fuck everyone over. Nobody is perfect, and neither are organisations, so at a larger scale the same thing happens: larger minority and countries/international groupings tend to act in very selfish, violent ways with each other (arguably the reason for the existence of things like the Geneva Convention, the UN and the International Criminal Court).
3) Distributed capitalists - Jeremy Rifkin and Ellen Mc Arthur, setting up some solar and wind farms funded by a benevolent international corporation somewhere, turning houses into factories and energy sources so as to maintain... business as usual.
4) Full on old fashioned organised networks of capitalists: plough stuff up, serve it on a plate: mass consumption is the present past and future, governance is done by governors, and generally no regard at all is given to the environment: ecology as subset of economy.

So it's interesting to see the questioning in this article about the recent OSCE days - which tried to fuse Open Source (but as a different concept from the "traditional" 90's software centric one), and the Circular Economy, a group which partners with large businesses and seeks to reform ecological practice as legislation at the top levels. The article asks "Can the open source method really work for the circular economy?". 

I feel the city is important at this time although so many people want to leave for the countryside and for other countries. I think it's important to mainstream ecological practice, but in a grassroots way, each person acting from their own locality, and I'm always pleased to meet people who devote their lives to a space or area in some way, providing consistency and reliability, or sometimes the needed energy to make things happen and make it a happening place. Behind each local initiative that puts on some kind of eco-community related activity, usually for free, there's someone or a few people working really hard to keep it all running, and in Barcelona much of this is through a solidarity economy made of everyone's spare time, knowledge and resources. I think this is very much still a grassroots mindset where the local area is important for your own survival at least, but also as a place in which to make all the required changes so that we can be resilient and make greater changes from there.

So the article begins with the words:

"The term “Open Source” was coined in the world of software in 1998. Although it has continued to be largely associated with computing and software, at its heart is a very simple idea: freely accessing, using, modifying, collaborating and sharing."

Seeing as it then goes on to quote gun-totin', cathedral-bazaar writing, Eric S Raymond himself, I can see that this definition has been stripped of the associations it had in 1998, when it was proposed by said emacs hacker ESR as a more watered down approach than Richard Stallman's. The Gnu Public License was much less widely known in business than the standard closed source proprietary license "you may not copy or use" - championed by the likes of Bill Gates. Only programmers or people who worked in the area knew anything about these things, and linux was still very much for the patient and more geeky of the workforce. In a way we never imagined it could get where it is today, and via that watering down, and more widespread takeup. Stallman's ideas are still much more radical than that of the open source "movement" in general and he was more of a frame of reference than something many people followed to the letter (Rather than a movement it was a community of networked and vocal company employees across the online world with differing opinions but who had to use a mixture of open source or closed source software in a work environment, more like commentators on one of the first blogs Slashdot and their moderators and meta-moderators of the time) in showing how software should be valued, created and used. There took place in those years a re-branding of this movement to make it more appealing to business and mainstream sectors than "Free Software" - which was a bit of a downer if you were trying to get people to make their hard earned software "free" and still convince them that they were going to make money with it. Crucially this came with it the proposal of the Apache, BSD and MIT licenses, whereas Free Software's license made sure any copies of anything programmed, was also going to be free for use and part of a commons. So these newer licences were ways in which companies could use the so called "Free Software" and just use it in their closed hardware and software of the time, so they were in effect subsuming an idea of a pure commons, of freedom - the poetic idea that like the words we speak, the code we write can't have a price put to it, within a larger, corporate for-profit framework.

So although obvious when you think about it, it's interesting that the circular economy isn't partnering with Free Software. It'd be far too radical for large groups like Philips who fund Circular Economy activities. Supposing, for the purpose of argument, that they have only one main line of business: they make a lot of money making razor blades. So what if we started publicising free alternative, relocalised ways to form a worker coop and make your own razor blades that last a lifetime. Or even formed a union, network or confederacy of barbers? Somehow, within the gift presented to the corporate world in the 90s by the open source geeks, was the trojan horse of the GPL license, and that if you look hard enough, there is an idea of really creating a global commons, a shared trove of knowledge and capacity, that might slowly congeal in people's minds and eventually revolutionise the way we see code, software, technology, knowledge itself.

Now, finally - we have gotten to discussing the physical commons - with our current system in crisis, and we're looking for inventive ways to treat our current system and it's subsystems as software ones. So it's exciting to be alive today at this crossroads, but scary to think which way it might go for most people. It's very hard to get rid of that basic value within human society - the idea that in the end we're all in it together, So would phillips want to be like the red hat or o'reilly of the dawn of open source as a viable business idea, and will they want to spend money and time getting close to people who will do more distributed weeks in the spirit of bringing people together - now that there's a real community who has now attended OSCE across the world and brought together similar thinking from very different areas in each place where it took place.

Back when all this stuff was happening, I wrote my final university project about the open source methodology and how it could be applied to non-commercially motivated organisations. Fortunately thanks to the wayback machine it's still available:

So the idea is that a large company could want to be like larger benevolent dictators - which is the concept of leadership in Open Source. The idea is that a single person or smaller group manages the actual tree in which code is written and will only commit changes they deem worthy of going in this main DNA of the software package they are in charge of. At the time, it had to be a single person normally, so if this dictator ceased to be benevolent, the code would be forked, and people would group around another maintainer of a source code repository.

In the same way, a large company that sought to coax open source enthusiasts would have to deal with their ability to be very vocal and to quickly stir up controversy that could really affect sales, and people would abandon those companies just as they might a "benevolent dictator" who had done wrong in some way.

We saw a few of those mistakes as different large companies, especially older linux providers started to align themselves for or against this new idea that you didn't have to pay your programmers, and started making clumsy strides towards it.

In a physical space, there are varying authorities, also in charge usually, of having the last word in what goes on, whether that be police or some other organisation. So in a "physical" rather than software landscape the benevolent dictator becomes "benevolent local jurisdiction" - as in "sorry that's the local law here, you can't build a yurt, only a cement wall". In an autonomous space then, the benevolent dictator is the will of the meeting of those people who take part in running it, or of their general nature if they're not the kind of group that will make meeting notes but that is public in some way.

I don't know if this is true and if a card carrying Aymara will come and correct me, what I was told was that when the Andean Ayllus, the basic 10-100 person unit of Aymara society, were conquered by the Inca empire, they basically continued with what had been the norm - small family sized communities each working on a different territory or area, but they added a tax, that had to be paid seasonally to the Inca, and that this control system was then simply taken over by the Spanish conquistadors when they arrived a hundred years later. Just one example of how easy it is for larger groups to take over decentralised or more egalitarian networks or human dynamics to do their bidding. Or in the film "The power of community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil" shown at many a viewing at the beginnings of the transition movement, which shows how soldiers would enforce carsharing by stopping all cars at crossroads and putting someone in each one from a little queue of hitchhikers that would gather there. It could be said that the government used existing autonomous community structures (like sharing a lift or doing urban gardening) to ensure some basic societal functioning and necessary food production, to get them through the special period.

So I think of this happening today with all the groups working to create networks of small autonomous communities, like the Rojava Revolution in West Kurdistan or the Zapatistas in Chiapas, even the few autonomous Mapuche settlements in Chile - but also here in Catalunya, or across Europe - in the form of tiny self managed projects, run on cooperation and volunteering of resources and time. It's easy for one of these corporate benevolent dictators to come along and see this as a convenient way to get, for example, the barber shop union, to always use their 3d prints when making their open source razors rather than appropriate tech equivalents using local materials, so that they can sell them cheap metals mined or elaborated elsewhere(and with a different "benevolence" we might never stop to ask ourselves about here). It's Michel Bauwens' biggest fear in his 4 quadrants diagram, of netarchical capitalism, controlling all the little fish who didn't think to join together globally to oppose the proverbial shark. It's normal then to suspect a future (ai-run? nanotech capable?) Phillips will want to be the next Uber and for people there to actively want that because it makes business sense. As seen in greece with the lack of liquidity, a social economy is getting more attention because it works without money. Large companies might also be enticed then to piggy back on social organisations trying to achieve urgent humanitarian aims:  independent homeless hostels, community kitchens, free clinics and schools run by volunteers with their own DIY management and governance structures - it might all seem very sweet to a large company to have all that free labour and resource working for it in some way. The perfect thing to corrupt is a well built system. Normally cultures would build dissuaders in somehow, 

What other parts of the methodology might be useful then? In most articles on the OSCE days - "open source" in a more generic sense is defined just as "more transparency". In the cathedral and the bazaar this was seen as "eyeballs" - so more eyes - users or revisers, can spot more bugs and so the code is still efficient like in more structured corporate environments. But another movement contemporary to the birth of open source as a "methodology" - was the advent of "soft" or then rebranded too - "agile" methodologies - now completely in vogue with the likes of Scrum. In software development methodologies of the time, there was a view of one extreme being ad-hoc organisation: basically with a small enough project the best thing is to just write something and then think about structure i.e how  to program, only if that doesn't work.  As a program grows it's good to add structure, but the methodologies of the time were typically "waterfall" style, used in industrial projects (typical examples were failproof systems like hospitals or airplanes) and had to involve lots of phases and lots of reporting before going on to each subsequent stage, but agile development methodologies brought with them a quicker cycle. This was because a lot of the time the earlier programming languages had long compilation cycles where code was processed by compiler software to convert it from programming instructions to machine code. So typically you'd work on some task or feature, compile the code and then have a go with the running program to see if the bit you'd changed was working properly. With websites, or smaller projects though, in a time when hardly anyone had an online profile or page, a lot of the time people had no idea what it was going to be like to have a website until people saw it, so more releases made a lot of sense. "Soft" or "light-weight" methodologies were a middle way between ad-hoc do whatever works fastest, and the monumental structures used in the immediate post war period in similar areas like engineering. These methodologies were more flexible and allowed for mistakes to become new passages in the music being written rather than seen as divergent mutants that don't fit with the plan.

Together with agile methodologies there were many ideas about the democratisation of the workplace, as with Kent Beck who spoke of forming "bubbles" within organisations not easily accustomed to such practices, where agile methodologies could be practiced, more involvement in decision making from a full team, and even spaces in offices were changed to make them easier to communicate in, less isolating so you can crunch numbers and more common or shared space so you could run ideas across or think of things as you played games or took a walk, and in the way development contracts were negotiated based on features rather than being costed at once for the development of entire platforms, or the way that clients were seen as part of the development team and so the client was an actor in the process, and as such not a consumer but a prosumer of a bespoke product.

So if you are using an agile methodology, your barber shop union tries a new feature, all the other barber shop unions in other areas will also hear about it, as will their "prosumers" if there's this transparency, and this increased involvement with the "client" means the aim of the barber shop union is that there eventually be no more barber shops and that haircutting techniques and knowledge can just be more widespread and incorporated into daily life and it's cycles in other ways. With this example, Free Software, as a more radical general purpose "quest for transparency" than Open Source, when applied to the physical commons, is the creation, governance and co-ordination of human systems and dynamics, beyond profit motivated behaviour. But if Open Source is the modus operandi, then this happens within a larger percieved profit motivated space - and in such a way as to make it easy for conglomerates of profit motivated groups to use these smaller groups to accomplish their own objectives.

So sooner or later, the Philips from my example, the one that only makes razor blades, might recognise also that it needs to adapt and make itself part of a circular system, into which all the barbers fit as do the people who find and use scrap metal or hair or process it in some way. But it would make more sense for it to find a way around whatever laws or treaties enforced that circularity, and maximise profits instead of its ability to contribute to something that functions positively. So we need an active, dynamic and agile governance able to see all those issues and move with the times. I guess we need to build within the commons, structures equivalent to the UN or the ICC, so that governance structures also have some shared consensus on how to deal with practices harmful to the larger network or group or its commons. So who knows, maybe the OSCE days are the beginnings of a distributed governance structure that might periodically decide in a shared way on things that are of interest to participants across the world, and one that might oppose opaque groups like corporations in negotiating a viable way of life. Maybe we should invite Bruce Sterling to warn us yet again just how political these things are becoming around us and how quickly it's happening.

So the mid band, the fence sitters, from victor jara's ni chicha ni limona, might be really powerful actors for positive change but only in relation to their ongoing connection to and knowledge of the more radical groups who are breaking new ground, so that the reformist, mainstreaming groups can apply some of that new ground more widely. They could slowly cease to be the undecided, or those who believe in nothing, and become more informed and able to act in different ways, but there's always a lingering doubt that they won't.

Maybe the future world from that post-apocalyptic parable is becoming clearer: Once upon a near future there is a group of humans that uses obsolete robotic parts as living, lumbering pods and extensions to give them sustenance, even though other humans have learnt to survive in the harsh future landscapes, and the more advanced robots of that day are miles ahead of them and already able to forge life and systems at a nano scale, this group or tribe still dresses in retro mecha costumes that make them very large but also slow, and unable to survive if separated from their metal pods. Once a year they do a pilgrimage to the nano robot city, telling them entertaining stories about life in the quaint forest, and work for them to buy new parts which they all carry back together across the mountains. Still, the smaller animals of the forest come and play with them when they return, fix their dents and replace their spare parts, and they hope that if the nano factory building robots decided to come and pray on these lands one day, the retro mecha cyborg people would somehow defend them. 

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