LifeSquirt - a forked up story
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LifeSquirt - a forked-up story

Authors: Pieter Hintjens

Writing a story with github pull requests. Here's how:

  1. Fork this repository and clone it
  2. Edit the file (this file) with your changes
  3. Commit and push the changes
  4. Create a pull request of your fork

If we like your changes, we'll press the green merge button.

Chapter 1

In the old pictures, the first thing you notice is how almost no-one wears glasses. Today taking off your glasses is like taking off your clothes. We all do it, just not in public. Of course if you do, and someone sees you, that precious moment gets squirted and lolled faster than you can say "crap!" Rule 34: naked face porn is a growing niche.

Ironically, glasses came from the porn industry to start with. Nothing like a little gonzo action to develop high-def stereo AV recording tech with amazing battery life and the ability to squirt video out to the World Wide Mesh.

Ah, the Mesh. You don't remember how bad it was before. We used to, and I'm not joking, send our stuff to precious little hard drives called "the cloud". It was like mainframes with really long wires, except there were no wires. It was the Age of Friction, as my mentor used to say. Especially the wireless companies, with their "pay as you play" business model.

I can't imagine what the world was like when you had to pay to use the air around you. Can you imagine it? Anyhow, back to my story. Glasses, hooked into the Mesh of moving pieces stuck in and on us, and the world we move in. Latest estimates, two trillion nodes on the Mesh. No-one really knows.

The Mesh routes stuff without any central points. When I press that button on my Glasses, the last sixty seconds of my life are squirted out to any listening nodes (and global coverage hit 100% over a decade ago). If you're one of my followers, you'll get my squirt to your non-dominant eye in something like five to ten seconds, depending how far away you are. Play, pause, zoom, rewind, resquirt, forget, with a few eye movements.

History tells us secrecy used to be a big factor in society. Business, politics, sex: it all depended on saying and doing stuff with other people in quiet privacy. Glasses destroyed that. Nothing is secret, we are a world of voyeurs and reality fetishists. I get something like two hundred squirts a day, that's three hours of side-loaded reality. Trash squirts get down-ranked to oblivion, great squirts bounce around the world for days, sometimes weeks.

Which was all hunky and dory until some loller found a zero-day exploit. It's been known for a long time that certain visual inputs can create neural feedback loops that interfere with the parasympathetic nervous system. Mostly, people just stay away from this. Some unpleasant people tried to spread squirts that did this, and all modern OSes have filters against weirdly strobing lights and such.

We were lucky to catch it. The g.lsi.killer virus piggybacks on some ironically named viral squirts, sits dormant for months or years. It waits for an unknown trigger. After doing its work, it scorches the firmware, making it impossible to find anything at all. Only if the battery was almost dead, does the scorching fail. Out of over three thousand cases so far, we caught the virus on just two. It took us eight months. That's a lot of bodies and a lot of very angry people demanding action.

That is where I come in. Not action as such. Rather, answers. LifeSquirt International is one of the largest firms in the world. It's not just the glasses they sell, but the merchandising and tie-ins to their properties. LSI controls what the world sees, and thus what the world consumes. Most of us, it turns out, have a tolerance for marketing that hovers around 30%. That's average. There are people who feel happy immersed in a sea of over 80% fake opinion, and others who can't stand more than 5%.

You know how glasses are personalized, so they augment your particular eyesight, fit your face just right, and look great on your skin, no matter what your tone? It's not just good for repeat business and upsells. The real point is that when you buy your glasses, a couple of terabytes of your file gets download too. To really appreciate the effect you'd have to try someone else's glasses, except of course they flip to neutral as soon as you try.

I'm sorry, this is getting too technical. Point is, LSI's firmware has strong opinions about what you want to see, and makes sure you see more of that, and less of other stuff. Simply by resquirting the right stuff, LSI gently shifts your buying choices. LSI's brochures call this "Enabling shareholder value through Lifestyle Enhancement". By some accounts, LSI has its hands in over 40% of the global economy.

Meaning, when people start to die immediately after they squirt some random life scene, some very rich and powerful people rather suddenly demand answers.

Die? you ask. Yes, your gizmo can kill you, just by blasting specific rhythms of light into your eyes. This is called the Steinholzer Effect. Discovered by Erik Steinholzer in S.I.T. in the late 20s, developed by the Chinese military for crowd control, then abandoned because it needs such personalized focus. You basically need a dedicated smart light generator for each person you want to target. Which wasn't feasible until some time later, when glasses became such an essential accessory.

After speaking to some LSI execs, I'm not much wiser. They are anxious and angry. They take this personally, and are throwing money at us. A lot of money. That doesn't really help, it just brings in people who want part of the cake but can't help.

What I have is 3,121 dead people and their last minutes of life, in glorious stereo 3D. And one week, says my boss, to solve the puzzle before a new version of the virus emerges that will kill millions.