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Part Two: Shit Makes Things Grow

he making of Exsyde took about three months. Code came in from all directions. 'Big Bopper' in Canada co-ordinated it all. 'Bongo Mutato' in India tracked all the mammoth database stuff that arrived. 'Speed', 'Jungle Jim' 'Padre' and 'Sideboard Bob' hacked together all the interface people.

And amazingly it began to work. It's amazing what millions of focused brain hours can do. It was all done object-oriented. And where we had different solutions to the same problem, we bunged them all in. Just in case we got different shades of nuance on the same data. Like the brain. Massive overcapacity.

Taru and I were 'elected' to a theoretical group to test the system. The idea was that we'd run a few questions by Exsyde and see what we came up with. We plunged into the deep end. The Death Penalty.

First, Exsyde had to bot all statistics available on murders, convictions, punishment regimes, rescidivity, affect of death penalty on murder rates and anything else it could find on the global keyword trawl. It would also have to compare all global societies' attitudes to the death penalty, from religious sources to law to public opinion.

Exsyde was supposed to then fuzzy analyse all this information and present it graphically and understandably to all members of the network for review. Next, Exsyde would take feedback.

Stanley biography

That's where it began to go awry. Hundreds of carefully argued points of view streamed in. Exsyde could handle opinions - it was just a poll, but the conspirators were not ready to hand over to a machine just yet. So many were afraid that their view would not win. It was a somewhat heated subject - to say the least.

So I put out a challenge. "If we accept democracy, then must we accept the decision of the majority? But can we really be sure that we have covered every pertinent fact and shade of opinion? Can we deal in discrete decisions, when we know that everything else is connected to everything else? Is every decision doomed to be cosmic?"

I got spammed again.

Taru had just returned from stacking potatoes in the earth cellar when she came out with the answer. "Forget the death penalty for now. It's too emotive. Let's start by defining democracy. That'll put the cat among the pigeons".

The process began anew. Statistics, Trawling, Presentation, Feedback...and then Exsyde itself came up with a little bit of wisdom. It sent forms to everyone with a set of correlated questions about Democracy. If your answers revealed that you had failed to understand the debate and failed to listen sympathetically to all sides, Exsyde would exclude you from voting!

The reaction was predictable. Accusations that some Fascist fuzzy coder had slipped that in, turning Exsyde into the Great Dictator. Some autocratic clique had kidnapped the interface. But when Exsyde was asked to reveal its reasoning, it came back and told them they wouldn't understand. And as someone pointed out, no-one had ever seen all the code, let alone understood it, so how could anyone but Exsyde be responsible.

It's like Luke Rheinhart's book 'The Diceman'. You know, the one we all read in the Seventies. You invent 6 possible courses of action - three possible, three radical. You throw the dice and then do whatever the dice tells you. It's absolution! We are forgiven! We blame Exsyde. We are guiltless. We must accept democratic decisions if, and it's a big if, we can be sure that each voter has all that they need to make the decision. And Exsyde is biased toward reasonable people, so we get reasonable decisions.

'Cogs whirr, Exsyde sums up' to paraphrase Descartes.

"But what is reasonable?" asks Taru, as we walk inside to the warm glow of the log fire.

"Let's ask Exsyde!.... want a drink?"