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Part Two: Shit Makes Things Grow

t was a strange life. Something of a dichotomy - a word I was fond of spouting in our local 'cybercafe', which was the bar behind the church - where I'd go to talk about rural matters, when Taru allowed. More of a 'cider-cafe' really.

'Give over' was the usual farmers' reply. 'You won't finish that sentence before the cows come in' one of them once said to me in the middle of a Harry diatribe. Life here was rubber boots and fuzzy thoughts. But interesting. The combination of sitting at a workstation, sniffing the pig urine being sprayed on the fields, provoked thoughts about 'organic' democracy. What about a Decentralized Society? Could we do away with the Middleman Bogeyman? But these were not thoughts I shared over half a litre of cider. These were the chats I was having in the electronic drinking dens of the subversive.

It was quite a conspiracy. Wandering round the www no-go areas, I'd plugged in to a large group of secretive hackers, libertarians, anarchists and doodle-heads. I felt a bit of a prude in their company at first. But without really noticing, I'd become quite an expert on expert systems during my years as an analyst. I'd written all sorts of fuzzyware for work. And I did have a first class statistics degree after all - though that was years ago. So after a few weeks I was initiated into the inner sanctums of anarchism. And entered the 'real' chats. I felt like a serial bomber who'd been given Semtex for Christmas.

I didn't tell Taru about it for some weeks, expecting her to swipe me with that heavy metal spaghetti fork she always seemed to have in her hand when I'd stepped over the mark. But when I did, instead of getting dinged on the napper, we had the greatest conversation we'd had ever had in all our years of marriage. She wasn't Laura Ashley at all; there was a Patty Hearst under the flowerprints. And it was rather sexually stimulating - not that we needed that, but, with kids, you know how it goes. I let Taru review all the emails and downloads. Even our eldest, Dimitri, read it all through.

Stanley biography

We sat in the shade under the apple trees through that whole summer sipping wine and mulling it over.

It came down to this, we decided, that it would be possible to replace 'management' by expert systems. 'Management', according to Taru's definition, was any system of people intervening in the direct contact of people with decisions, and with other people - which could include Presidents, Ministers, CEO's, Chiefs of all kinds basically. 'We are the Indians', she said. And she meant it. Ugh! White Man talk with bifurcated tongue.

Now it was clear that there was the processing power to do it. The network was there. The conspiracy club had all the brains needed to write the software. But what was the software really going to do? It was Harry's turn to be a leader - though in the electronic company of all these anarchists, I avoided thinking of myself in those terms. "What we need to do", I announced in the Electric Minds chat, "was what Bill Gates did. Make a decision - like 'The Internet is where it's at' - and then focus all our resources on making 'at' happen". What I really wanted to say was 'Let's get somebody smarter to make all the decisions'. But being polite...

When I slumped in front of the tube with a cappucino that morning, I thought I'd been cosmically spammed. I'd never had so much email in my life. Every conspirator - and there were now hundreds - had a comment about how to implement Expert Systems for Democracy. Or 'Exsyde' as it soon became code-named.

Taru saw the problem before lunch. "We have to design an Exsyde for ourselves first, or we'll never agree how to go on".

to be continued...