In "Maneki Neko", Bruce Sterling created a net-based artificial intelligence that gently, perfectly, runs society by giving people simple instructions, and takes care of those who listen. Simple instructions, like buy a quart of milk and leave it on the third bench in the park. And you do that because by listening your life has gone smoothly. You owe it your peace, your job, your marriage. It is good, this voice of the net. It is the synchronicity behind the thousand tiny events that make up any human's day. It sees all, knows all, and shapes all. Sterling has brilliantly tied together so many perceptions in this short story that he's made a lot of other fiction feel obsolete. It's one of those books that I hold up to people and say, "That's it! He gets it!"
Now, in NYC there is a man who produces an enormous body of work, every day. Who seems to read everything on the web and miss nothing, who is always there in the best forums, always replies to his email, and is the body-surfer of rising above pettiness. Sure, there are pictures of Jeffrey Zeldman on his website, and some have claimed to have met the man, but I've never actually met any of these people.... I can't shake the idea that if I were to go to New York I would not find Jeffrey at his address. I'd find an enormously impressive piece of hardware with the single red eye of Hal to greet me. Sometimes I sit back and simply can't believe Jeffrey is real. Much easier to think Sterling's AI is upon us already, and that Z is the initial warm persona to get us used to the idea. Maybe Bruce is in on the deal, too. I've never met him either.
And I can't say I mind. Not if it's Jeffrey. I can't manage to get scared. Kind of looking forward to it taking over, really.
This site is strictly personal. I give no guarantee to the accuracy of my facts or my fictions.
© 2000 Owen Briggs
last modified on 03sep00