1986

August 12th, 1986


"Gentlemen, the Inter-Network. A fad as it may be, it's allowing people to connect and discuss issues on heretofore unseen scales. We have several reports of discussions on boards concerning the Foundation's activity and other anomalous topics. This is unprecedented and frankly, massively concerning. Soon we will not be able to isolate and amnesticize every instance of on-line awareness. Now…," the man pauses, wiping the sweat off his brow. "Will someone turn on the god damned air conditioning, this place feels like a furnace! Sharon! Tell someone to get this blasted air conditioning on!" he yells out the slightly ajar door to his secretary.

"Yes Mr. Baptist, right away sir!" she says, and starts spinning the rotary dial on her desk's phone.

"God damned nerds can't even run a Site Environment anymore. Anyhows, what was I sayin' again?" He glances wildly around the room, his question genuine instead of pejorative.

"The 'Inter-Network', sir?" said Junior Researcher Jesse Mantell, member of the Computing Division. His supervisor Gary Harding and several other members of his office were sitting alongside him, members of the Foundation's Confidentiality Division, and a single member of the Ethics Committee.

"That's right. Now, what are we to do about this mess?" The man speaking was the supervisor for this sect of the Confidentiality Division. Either he hadn't bothered to give his name, or Mantell couldn't remember it. One of his lackeys spoke up.

"We could, uh, shut it down?" he asks. He looks at his supervisor, who looks at the Computing Division.

"Is that feasible?" he asks, lighting a cigarette.

Harding spoke next. "Not as far as we are aware sir. You see, the number of networks using this here service already numbers
'bout 2,000, and there's been significant use for well over a few years now. It would be too large a scale to operate on. We could send 'Denial of Service' attacks to users attempting to use the 'Internet' as we've been calling it to converse with others about anomalies or other Foundation business."

"Sir?" Jesse says.

Harding replies harshly. "Not now, Mantell."

"And these… 'Denial of Surface' attacks…"

"Denial of Service, sir."

"I know what I goddamned said! These Denial of Service attacks… those will stop a user from posting on these services?"

"Message boards, MUDs, even direct lines if you do it correctly, yes. But…" Harding trails off.

"But what? Spit it out."

"Sir, that would require an active running list of any TCP or IP addresses conversing about said topics and enough hardware to send these denial of service requests indefinitely. They wear off through a variety of methods, you can't just block one off the grid on your own. Perhaps if we worked with some service providers?"

"That's a no-can-do. We need less people knowing about this, not more."

"Sir?" Jesse says once more.

"Jesse, I said not now, would you-" Harding begins, but is cut off by the supervisor from the computing division, who has shifted in his seat enough to show his badge, reading "J. BAPTIST".

"Are you gonna let that young man talk or is he gonna explode in his seat?"

"Now, see here sir, this young man-"

"-has something to say, and you should get to lettin' him say it by God!" he rebuts.

Gary sighs and nods to Jesse.

"Sir, I have an idea that might solve the issue. I've prepared a presentation?" Mantell takes from a pile of items sitting on his lap that he retrieved from his bag moments earlier, and sets a projector and some slides on the table.

"By all means," says Baptist, as he takes a drag from his cigarette and empties it partially into the ashtray on the table. Jesse inserts the first slide into the projector as Harding drops his face to his hands. On the screen appears a printout of a computer onto a transparency.

"Now if you'll direct your attention here, I've included an example of one of these message boards. Note user 'Kenshiro70', he's my main example here. You'll see that they're discussing an ancillary example of SCP-1000, y'know, 'Bigfoot', but I have to say, goddamn is this guy as dumb as a box of rocks. Arguments based on heresay, grainy, poorly scanned images, et cetera. But look over here at user 'John1', he's on the same side, but using better arguments."

"We get the picture, what exactly does this mean?" says one member of the Confidentiality Division.

Mantell swaps the film to the end of the conversation. "Look here, they've all disagreed with John1. And you know why? Because this Kenshiro70, a 16 year old from Michigan, was being a moron on his side." He stares at the room and gets a blank stare back. "The solution? More morons." The room looks at eachother. Jesse puts the next slide in. It's a spreadsheet detailing some percentages of online interactivity. "See, if we inject behaviour that portrays discussion about the confidential, the anomalous, or otherwise conspiratorial interests as ridiculous, contrived, and stupid, we can easily capitalize on the vast potential of the Internet rather than eliminating it. Even now, sites are starting to appropriate proprietary networks for our own use, and it would be much more beneficial to promote our own ideals than to shut down thiers. I estimate if we inject users into this internet at about a 1% use rate, perhaps even less, we could suppress all anomalous discussion entirely."

"If you say a 1% use rate, and there's about 2,000 networks running right now…" says Baptist, attempting to do the math in his head.

"Well, that's about 20 networks, at a rate of about 50 users per network. 1000 users. But the internet is only going to get bigger. Perhaps someday even 1 percent of the world might be using the internet." Mantell looks obviously excited about the potential.

"And how do you plan on staffing 1000 users to do this operation? Are you thinking of putting Class-D on this? This ain't something we can spend researchers of that magnitude on."

"No sir. That would be about as effective as monkeys on typewriters." This elicits a chuckle from the assembly. "Think here for a moment about what the internet was built on. It is intended to be used to access other computers from long distance, not specifically other people. You can't hardly tell if the person you're talking to is a human or another computer."

"Turing could."

Jesse is quick with a rebuttal. "Alan Turing is dead. Literally and metaphorically. We've got beauties in here that can interface with computers, are programmable, but are nothing short of intelligent enough to fool someone into believing they're real people. And they can do it more than once, indefinitely, with no acting slip ups, 24 hours a day. There's no reason to put people on this at all, except maybe to upgrade it when we need more users. Even so, we could have them requisition their own upgrades, ask for things to be delivered all on their own. All we would need is a few people, myself included, to oversee this and perform bug fixes. This could be a fully autonomous system."

"Now, this here is all just a pipe dream," Harding interjects. "But perhaps it's something to put on the back burner, huh? Jesse, I told you we weren't going to discuss this at this meeting."

Supervisor Baptist begins to laugh. "Heh heh heh… heh heh ha ha ha ha! I like the kid's spunk! And he knows just how to convince me. No bureaucracy, no overhead, just an initial cost and requisite upgrades? Sounds like something I can sign off on. How 'bout you, Gary? Why the pause?"

"Well, you see, the kid's a big thinker, but I don't think he can pull off exactly what he says he can. Even if he can, he doesn't just have to requisition a budget, he has to requisition anomalous items too. Are you ready to sign off on that, John?"

John scowls at Gary, offended by the first name basis. "Well I'll sign off on anything that gets me out of this meeting and a Mai Tai into my hand the fastest, Gary. Sharon!?"

"Yes Mr. Baptist?" the secretary calls from the other room.

"Come in here and do some dictation, we've got a contract to set up." says Supervisor Baptist, putting out his cigarette in the ashtray and sitting up in his seat.


From: ten.pics|gnidrahg#ten.pics|gnidrahg

To: ten.pics|lletnamj#ten.pics|lletnamj

Subject: Project Tarragon?

Hey bud,

How's the project going? I heard you got funding approval a week or so ago. Just wanted to check in and make sure everything is going fine. We miss you here at 15. If you need any help, you can always submit a requisition for additional staff to be sent to Outpost-15. I know it can be hard working on a project alone like this, especially when it's your first time spearheading a project like this. We'd love to hear from you!

-Sr. Researcher Gary Harding

sent 12:35 AM EST Aug 27 1986

From: ten.pics|lletnamj#ten.pics|lletnamj

To: ten.pics|gnidrahg#ten.pics|gnidrahg

Subject: Re: Project Tarragon?

Everything's fine. Thank you for checking in. I do not need any additional staff.

sent 11:54 PM EST Aug 27 1986

From: ten.pics|gnidrahg#ten.pics|gnidrahg

To: ten.pics|lletnamj#ten.pics|lletnamj

Subject: Re: Re: Project Tarragon?

Hey Jesse,

Are you sure? We have plenty of staff to spare and we're worried that project might be a little too much for you, especially given the deadline imposed by Confidentiality. Just trying to look out for you.

-Sr. Researcher Gary Harding

sent 9:11 AM EST Aug 28 1986

From: ten.pics|lletnamj#ten.pics|lletnamj

To: ten.pics|gnidrahg#ten.pics|gnidrahg

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Project Tarragon?

The continual underestimation of my abilities is astoundingly naive, contradictory to your supposed status, Senior Researcher Harding. I don't need any more people working on the project that simply tolerate computers, and I especially don't need anyone who doesn't have faith in my ideas or my ability to facilitate said ideas. I want you to leave me alone.

sent 8:23 PM EST Aug 27 1986


From: ten.pics|gnidrahg#ten.pics|gnidrahg

To: ten.pics|lletnamj#ten.pics|lletnamj

Subject: Congratulations on your successful project.

Researcher Mantell,

We heard you met your deadline and we're all proud of you here at 15. We've organized a get together next Wednesday to celebrate your accomplishment. Want to grab a drink and check back in with us? We miss you.

Hope you're doing well,

-Sr. Researcher Gary Harding

sent 9:03 AM EST Jan 5 1987

From: ten.pics|gnidrahg#ten.pics|gnidrahg

To: ten.pics|lletnamj#ten.pics|lletnamj

Subject: Meetup?

Researcher Mantell,

Last week I sent an email about a rendezvous to celebrate the operational status of your new project. Did you get it? Please confirm.

Thank you for all your hard work,

-Sr. Researcher Gary Harding

sent 11:27 AM EST Jan 12 1987

From: ten.pics|NOGARRAT#ten.pics|NOGARRAT

To: ten.pics|gnidrahg#ten.pics|gnidrahg

Subject: Re: Meetup

Apologies, I will not be able to make it. I'm rather… attached to my work at the moment. I must maintain the network off and on for hours at a time. It's not fully automated and until it is I won't be able to leave it running to attend non-essential work parties.

-jmantell

sent 10:23 PM EST Jan 13 1986

From: ten.pics|gnidrahg#ten.pics|gnidrahg

To: ten.pics|NOGARRAT#ten.pics|NOGARRAT

Subject: Re: Re: Meetup?

Jesse,

Any reason for the change in SCiPNet designation? Sorry to hear you can't make it.

-Sr. Researcher Gary Harding

sent 12:24 AM EST Jan 14 1987

From: ten.pics|NOGARRAT#ten.pics|NOGARRAT

To: ten.pics|gnidrahg#ten.pics|gnidrahg

Subject: Re: Meetup

I cannot physically leave the Tarragon terminal at this time to respond using my own designation.

-jmantell

sent 10:23 PM EST Jan 13 1986


From: ten.pics|gnidrahg#ten.pics|gnidrahg

To: ten.pics|NOGARRAT#ten.pics|NOGARRAT

Subject: Check-in

Jesse,

Just doing an optional check in with you. Haven't heard from you in a while. Sorry to bother you if you're busy.

-Sr. Researcher Gary Harding

sent 3:08 PM EST Mar 20 1987


From: ten.pics|gnidrahg#ten.pics|gnidrahg

To: ten.pics|NOGARRAT#ten.pics|NOGARRAT

Subject: Check-in, last time.

Jesse,

I'm sorry if we pushed you away. We'd love to hear from you at 15. I, for one, personally miss your spirit. Hope you're having a good time working on Tarragon. Hope you're still alive at all.

- Gary Harding

sent 7:34 PM EST Feb 11 1988

From: ten.pics|NOGARRAT#ten.pics|NOGARRAT

To: ten.pics|gnidrahg#ten.pics|gnidrahg

Subject: Re: Check-in, last time.

THIS IS AN AUTOMATED RESPONSE. AN OPERATOR IS NOT AVAILABLE TO RESPOND AT THIS TIME. YOUR MESSAGE WILL BE FORWARDED PROMPTLY. THANK YOU.

sent 7:35 PM EST Feb 11 1988


YOU HAVE (1) NEW MESSAGE.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License