Accelerando by Charles Stross

Book: Accelerando by Charles Stross Read Free Book Online
Authors: Charles Stross
shelf. “Markets afford their participants the illusion of free will, my friend. You will find that human beings do not like being forced into doing something, even if it is in their best interests. Of necessity, a command economy must be coercive—it does, after all, command.”
    â€œBut my system doesn’t! It mediates where supplies go, not who has to produce what—”
    Gianni is shaking his head. “Backward chaining or forward chaining, it is still an expert system, my friend. Your companies need no human beings, and this is a good thing, but they must not direct the activities of human beings, either. If they do, you have just enslaved people to an abstract machine, as dictators have throughout history.”
    Manfred’s eyes scan along the bookshelf. “But the market itself is an abstract machine! A lousy one, too. I’m mostly free of it—but how long is it going to continue oppressing people?”
    â€œMaybe not as long as you fear.” Gianni sits down next to the renderer, which is currently extruding the inference mill of the analytical engine. “The marginal value of money decreases, after all: The moreyou have, the less it means to you. We are on the edge of a period of prolonged economic growth, with annual averages in excess of twenty percent, if the Council of Europe’s predictor metrics are anything to go by. The last of the flaccid industrial economy has withered away, and this era’s muscle of economic growth, what used to be the high-technology sector, is now everything. We can afford a little wastage, my friend, if that is the price of keeping people happy until the marginal value of money withers away completely.”
    Realization dawns. “You want to abolish scarcity, not just money!”
    â€œIndeed.” Gianni grins. “There’s more to that than mere economic performance; you have to consider abundance as a factor. Don’t plan the economy; take things out of the economy. Do you pay for the air you breathe? Should uploaded minds—who will be the backbone of our economy, by and by—have to pay for processor cycles? No and no. Now, do you want to know how you can pay for your divorce settlement? And can I interest you, and your interestingly accredited new manager, in a little project of mine?”

    The shutters are thrown back, the curtains tied out of the way, and Annette’s huge living room windows are drawn open in the morning breeze.
    Manfred sits on a leather-topped piano stool, his suitcase open at his feet. He’s running a link from the case to Annette’s stereo, an antique stand-alone unit with a satellite Internet uplink. Someone has chipped it, crudely revoking its copy protection algorithm: The back of its case bears scars from the soldering iron. Annette is curled up on the huge sofa, wrapped in a kaftan and a pair of high-bandwidth goggles, thrashing out an internal Arianespace scheduling problem with some colleagues in Iran and Guyana.
    His suitcase is full of noise, but what’s coming out of the stereo is ragtime. Subtract entropy from a data stream—coincidentally uncompressing it—and what’s left is information. With a capacity of about a trillion terabytes, the suitcase’s holographic storage reservoir has enough capacity to hold every music, film, and video production of the twentieth century with room to spare. This is all stuff that is effectively out of copyright control, work-for-hire owned by bankrupt companies, releasedbefore the CCAA could make their media clampdown stick. Manfred is streaming the music through Annette’s stereo—but keeping the noise it was convoluted with. High-grade entropy is valuable, too . . .
    Presently, Manfred sighs and pushes his glasses up his forehead, killing the displays. He’s thought his way around every permutation of what’s going on, and it looks like Gianni was right: There’s nothing left to

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