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More from the future shock front

Mobile clubbing — basically, a mobile-mediated flashmob rave, only the sound system is provided by the participants' iPods. You're in a busy railway station one minute, and the next, hundreds of people around you are dancing to music you can't hear. They've converged from all over the rail network to this place and time to turn it into a spontaneous clubbing event that's invisible and inaudible to the people around them.

Prediction: when we get WiMAX and multicasting over ad-hoc networks on our MP3 players, this will get really interesting. (I give it 2-5 years.)



I am now imagining some hacker taking over control of the music and doing something. I don't think it will end up quite like the wartime propaganda clip that recut movies of the marching German army to fit with "The Lambeth Walk", and from what I've seen of modern dancing, I doubt it would look any different if you did something like that.

Oh, it's on Youtube...

The Lambeth Walk, Nazi style (though the quality is a bit poor, looks like a poor quality source).


MS's Zune has an early version of the sort of thing I think you're describing. It allows Zunes to share music with each other over a built in WiFi connection for a limited time.

I could easily see a few years from now a device that allows live music streaming to other devices in an area, and perhaps even mixing and editing in realtime. Then you could have one person acting as a DJ for all the others in range.

And if the device itself can't do all that, then a laptop for the DJ. :)


We have been witnessing the birth of a new art form. Distributed Happenings (to use a 1960's word) return us, mutated, to the era of Mousika in ancient Greece, before Pythagorus split Music off to join the divine disciplines such as Astronomy, due to the mathematical laws of harmony. Pre-Pythagorus, the art scene seamlessly blended drugs, sex, lute&roll, dance, costume, lyrics, and general wackiness. You know, like a Grateful Dead concert audience, or Woodstock. Opera was the first serious attempt, for several centuries, to reconnect the pieces. Now that everyone groks the computer and internet cloud as the universal glue that connects art forms, technical endeavors, and new human social networks, we are arriving. Art events of 1,000 participants quickly surpassed by those with 10,000, and onwards. I expect an art project/multimegamob involving a gigafolk within a very few years.

The further back I look, the further forward I can see. - Winston Churchill


It's that gig from Neal Stephenson's "The Diamond Age" where everyone got a little brooch that made them part of the music, isn't it? Well, sorta.


(I give it 2-5 years.)

I could give you the long, boring technical dissertation on why that's ridiculously optimistic, but you wouldn't believe me. It has to do with how multicast is implemented on IEEE 802.11 networks, issues with ad-hoc networking in 802.11, difficulties with developing standards for ad-hoc 802.11 mesh networking, etc. There's a whole other constellation of issues, revolving around the licensing of spectrum, that make WiMAX (and other MBWA networking systems) no help.

I can't see it happening for at least 5 years, more like 10 years, and I see a whole lot of forces converging to try to stop it from happening. I'm beginning to think that actually working on this stuff full-time is impairing my ability to suspend disbelief in cool science-fiction milieus. Do you have any idea how depressing it is that we still can't do IETF meetings over multicast teleconferencing yet? Do you have any idea how depressing it is that nobody cares about the fact we still don't have ubiquitous, cheap, global multicast routing?


A little further ahead, when you can get locative tagging talking to the heads-up display on your glasses, you could even look for dance partners with compatible styles— imagine the Viennese waltzers progressing around the swing dancers and ravers in the middle of the dance scene...


Something like this happened in Ian Mcdonald's River of Gods, but everyone had their own mix(es) which had the beat synchronised by the club (sorry, can't remember exact details).

When Walkman's went out of fashion I'd hoped that was the end of spending train journeys listening to versions of songs that were just loud enough to be annoying, but not quite loud enough to identify, but then mp3 players came along. (At least with mobile phones you can play the "fill in the other side of the conversation" game). I can only hope that this will be a fad.

(Feeling old as I just had a birthday)


Forget the meshnet gabble. It's always hippie wank. Think IP access. And Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner, wants to reallocate the 2.5GHz band from UMTS Extension to technology-neutral


Isn't the whole point of the iPod/mp3 player to NOT be forced to endure the bad musical taste of strangers?


Come to think of it, I had this in -Hardwired.-

issues with ad-hoc networking in 802.11, difficulties with developing standards for ad-hoc 802.11 mesh networking
Do you have any idea how depressing it is that nobody cares about the fact we still don't have ubiquitous, cheap, global multicast routing?
Actually, some people care quite a lot, and that, unfortunately may cause a defacto standard that won't be as general as we'd like. Where there are military applications (distributed sensor grids, self-healing battlefield networks, real mixed-force communications, not the silly thing we have now that lets a guy in a Warthog kill one of his own tanks because they can't talk to each other) there are going to be implementations, and while the war is going on, they'll be sooner rather than later.

Self-organizing, location-sensitive networks were a serious interest of mine in 2000-2001. What I was working on was a way to build such networks on top of tcp, though, so it wouldn't take so many years to happen. There are limitations to that approach, but so? Now, everyone I know who's working in this area assumes the only way to solve the problem is to build it in to the lowest-level protocol (and all the solutions are different). SIGH.

Of course, I was hoping to be create flashmobs of dancing robots to entertain other people, not themselves. I have this image of autonomous earthmoving machines doing a gavotte. :-)


Bruce, it sounds as though you have seen the JCB demonstration team.

{And here's the PDF of their 2006 calendar. As I recall, Space 1999 used the same trick in one episode. And there's Bill Brandt too.}


I wonder what will happen in Europe when the analogue TV spectrum gets de-allocated, which is supposed to be real soon now.


David: a clusterfuck. The government auctioned the spectrum a few years ago, for an astronomical sum ... then it turns out that there's a wee problem with an installed base of 50 million analog TVs to replace. Never mind, the race for flat screens means the consumer electronics industry can con most folks into buying a new TV set that sucks rather more electricity than the old model, with a cheap built-in digital FreeView decoder. But the BBC is campaigning for a huge increase in the license fee, so they can roll out extra services and provide free upgrades for those folks who need them. Meanwhile, the mobile telcos who bought the spectrum have somehow managed to sweep the gigantic losses the incurred under the carpet, and the impending clusterfuck has been put back a few years to provide more elbow room for upgrades.


WJW: I really need to re-read Hardwired. (My motto is "steal from the best" ;)


The broadcast TV situation in the US is similar, though we don't have license fees, of course.

With cable television reaching 85% of homes in the US, I'm not sure the big push to digital broadcasting and the worry over analog TVs is warrented.

Broadcast TV can be completely abandonded as far as I'm concerned. I'm more bothered that no cable providers offer an ala carte service. I don't want to pay for 160 channels when I'm only interested in about 30. I'd prefer a 100% on demand service with flat monthly rate.


I get cable. I also get all the BBC programming I can eat. Trust me, if it wasn't for a narrow selection of Discovery and Cartoon Network programming, I'd chuck the cable channels completely. The quality is, compared to the BBC stuff, lamentably poor. And that's with only 15 minutes of annoying advertising intervals per hour instead of the 20+ minutes you folks get to put up with!

(If I could select only the channels I actually want, I'd be willing to pay extra to get them ad-free. But too much spam has given me a general allergy to all advertising.)


That's pretty much what I watch for -- Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, the various "educational" channels. Plus BBC America. That way I get to watch a few select BBC shows a year after they've broadcast in the UK. :)

Mostly there are shows I watch scattered across the various channels. I don't just sit down and watch whatever's on a given channel anymore.

What I'd like is something like iTunes TV shows, but for a flat rate and on my TV.



No I haven't seen the demo team. I've been doing a lot of reading, though. especially about the work being done towards military and scientific "drop-in" nets of sensors. There's a group at Intel (Place Lab, not to be confused with PlaceLab) (in Seattle, not far from me) who's developing the infrastructure; far as I can tell they've decided to ignore everything we've learned about layered protocols and let self-organization do all the work. As interested as I am in self-organization as a scientific and philosophical study, I'm not at all convinced we'll be able to use it in robust engineering projects for at least another 5 years.

The other part of the current work that annoys me is that location is almost universally determined by analyzing the microwave radio signal of the other nodes. Of course this makes it difficult to use any other physical transport, like IR (no usable phase info), or long-wave radio (it's all near-field), although maybe you could use ultrasonic ( I think the Navy's working on this, for sensor nets, and mine swarms). My thought was, why not use GPS? When the whole GPS receiver currently fits on one chip, and will soon be able to fit on part of a one-chip node solution, it's not going to be a cost or physical size issue. Well, I can see why the military wouldn't want to use GPS, since they plan to disable it on the battlefield. But everyone else could use it, with appropriate fail-safes for when the US or the EU decides you haven't paid your GPS bill.


I don't agree at all. Meshnet, to my mind, isn't about hooking people together, it's about hooking machines into cooperative groups on an ad-hoc basis. I'll post a paper later today or tomorrow with some examples of use.


I would like to extend an invitation to you to join in on a collective blogging section of our upcoming winter issue of Reconstruction. The issue is the �Theories/Practices of Blogging.� In addition to the special section of posts on blogging there will be about a dozen essays on blogging.

The deadline is October 27th.

Our intent in this section of the issue will be to collect a wide range of bloggers and link up to their statements in regards to why they blog (something many of us are asked) and any statement they have on the theories/practices of blogging.

If you already have a post on this you can feel free to use it, or, if you are interested, you can submit a new one.

We will link to each statement from the issue at our site, with the intent of creating a hyperlinked list of statements on blogging that can serve as an introduction to blogging (or an expansion of knowledge for those already blogging).

If you are interested please contact me at mdbento @

On another note, just wanted to say thanks for the great reads--I look forward to the next one


Charlie, you're so lucky! -Hardwired- is being reprinted by Night Shade, oh, any day now. So you can re-read a nice, clean, reasonably-priced corrected copy.

Of the various things in that book that ended up actually happening, zonedance was probably the most benign. (Though I made it more of a dominance game, to mesh with other metaphors going on in that book.)

When I was writing that book there was a good deal of ballyhoo going on about the start of automated stock trading. Oho, I sez to myself, -that's- a recipe for trouble. People who know what they're doing can manipulate the stock market in order to send programmed trading into a tailspin. So that became a large element in the book.

Then, just a year after the book was released--- WHAM! Black Monday! The largest single-day drop in Wall Street prices since 1914! A stock market collapse that seemed to have -absolutely no rational cause-, and which has been blamed on programmed trading.

I figured it would happen, I just didn't think it would happen so soon.


Charlie: Prediction: when we get WiMAX and multicasting over ad-hoc networks on our MP3 players, this will get really interesting.

Everyone else instantly thought of the same Dr Who episode I did, right?


Link to the papers I mentioned previously:

Papers on Location-Aware Adhoc Networks, and Self-Organizimg Groups

The position papers are the things to read; both papers have examples of the kinds of things that could be done. They're similar but not identical.


Walter, what makes you think I don't already have a well-thumbed paperback of it? (Well okay, the corrected version would be good.)

Oh yeah, folks: if you haven't read "Hardwired" by Walter Jon Williams, then let me commend it to you as the book that should have defined cyberpunk in the 1980s, rather than that triumph of style over content, "Neuromancer".


Trying to get pragmatic again...

You know, this whole mobile rave thing, where everybody shows up and gets to bliss out to the same beat, is a whole easier to do with analog tech. All you need is a copier for the flyers, a DJ (or a suitable facsimile), and a low power FM-radio transmitter. Your partygoers only need portable FM-radio receivers and earphones. You're done.

So why don't we see more of those now? Because partygoers have iPod's, not FM-radio receivers. We're a long way away from getting the right devices into partygoers hands to make the kind of hippie wank Charlie is talking about even possible, much less profitable (even in the hippie wank sense of profit).


Doctor Who episodes?

At least with a Dalek invasion, we'd know there really was a Doctor.

Speculation: Torchwood (starting on the 22nd) in only possible in an alternate universe to the Pertwee Doctor and UNIT. And, when you check through, all the other Doctors. But Sarah Jane exists in the current universe. So we may hypothesise that a Tardid can travel between universes more easily than the Doctor thinks, but only if they're very similar.

Perhaps there are multiple parallel Doctors?

But the different origins of the Cybermen are not similar. So did something unusual happen in the war between the Time Lords and the Daleks?

And, obviously, the Cyberthingy Universe didn't invent the MP3 player.


Ah, in my day, back in 1999, we didn't need ipods to spontaneously turn Liverpool Street station into a rave venue one day.

"Do you have any idea how depressing it is that nobody cares about the fact we still don't have ubiquitous, cheap, global multicast routing?"

I care, JH. Let me know when we get it - it will transform my professional life utterly, as I'm an academic who teaches via distance learning, and is part of a global research community. I'm looking forward to it.

_Hardwired_ . . . that was amazing, I admit. Thanks, WJ. But I still put my money on Brunner's _Shockwave Rider_. And I can remember where I was when I first read _Burning Chrome_ in Omni; there's something to be said for style.

So why don't we see more of those now? Because partygoers have iPod's, not FM-radio receivers.
An awful lot of modern mobile phones (and non-iPod mp3 players, for that matter) have FM radios built in. The earphone cord is typically the aerial, and once you've got the rest of the device (screen, controls, etc) the FM is basically free.

The real reason you don't see this much, is that most people don't want it. They want big chest-thumping (in both senses of the word) sound filling the room.


The World Is Catching Up With Charlie Stross Faster Than He Can Write, part CXII:,,1923262,00.html

Reuters has appointed a Second Life correspondent and is thinking of creating a Second Life consumer price index...


The article about Reuters in Second Life ends:

Academics have become interested because digital worlds present the possibility of social experimentation without the mass graves and invasions of neighbouring countries which such experiments traditionally entail.

It would be wonderful if this were true, and virtuality could become the venue for all the dangerous social experiments. Cynic that I am, I think it's more likely we'll see ethnic cleansing in Second Life.


What, like the Goreans wiping out the Furries? Maybe they'll push-gun them all into big badly designed neon boxes. :)


"Let me know when we get it - it will transform my professional life utterly, as I'm an academic who teaches via distance learning, and is part of a global research community. I'm looking forward to it."

I'm working on it. No, I don't know how long it will take, and I can't really talk about it. But I'm working on it. It's a Layer 9 problem, these days.


And speaking of Reuters, they had this to say this morning:

Users of online worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft transact millions of dollars worth of virtual goods and services every day, and these virtual economies are beginning to draw the attention of real-world authorities.

"Right now we're at the preliminary stages of looking at the issue and what kind of public policy questions virtual economies raise -- taxes, barter exchanges, property and wealth," said Dan Miller, senior economist for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.

So where does the law in the US and the UK stand on where virtual territory is? If Second Life isn't in the US, I'm fairly sure that Infernal Revenue can tax US citizens who earn money there, but they have considerably less control over what documentation they can acquire to check on them.

For that matter, is all of Second Life in the same national territory? Does it depend on the nationality of the person who owns the land? Can I buy land in SL and then secede and establish an independent nation?

Uh-oh, if there can be separate territorial sections of SL, what about trade relations and constraints? Who checks on tariff collection?

This is going to bend some politicians' and bureaucrats' minds into pretzels (probably a useful end in itself).


It's possible than transactions inside the game aren't taxable, but the transfer from within the game to RL money is.

Which at least has the virtue of being easy to define and prove. And it's not unlike the way stocks and shares are treated--yoiu don't get a tax bill when the market price changes.

Of course, taxing income derived from playing a game has the implications that the costs of playing the game are allowable against taxable income. And then there's money-laundering.


Dave Bell: "...the transfer from within the game to RL money is."

And the difference between money in a virtual country and money in the Republic of Vanuatu is what again?

When I worked on a very early MMORPG for a company that shall not be named, one of the things I remember the legal department being very concerned about was running afoul of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and their insistence that the U.S. Dollar be the only form of legal tender in the United States.

Years later, I was reading The Bankers by Martin Gardner, and the thinking behind this became a lot more clear. Unless I'm mistaken, the people at Linden Lab are operating under a completely different view of the law than I remember our legal department telling me was safe. Nation states normally take threats against the status of their currency very seriously.

One of the very bizarre aspects to these online game economies that has always made me wonder is why the Treasury men aren't coming down on these systems with a much heavier hand. With the status of the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency in some doubt these days, it seems extremely silly to be looking the other way from people who are openly running a black currency operation right under your nose.

I must be missing something obvious. I wish I knew what it was.



The nasty thing about taxing virtual activity is that it is a tax, which means there's incentive for a politician to apply one, even if it doesn't make any sense from an economic (or even common-sense) point of view. So they're going to want to tax in-game activity if they can figure out how to do it. Then the question is: who's "they"?, and which they gets the tax, when some of us are citizens of the nation of they_sub_one, and others of they_sub_two?

The last time white anglo-saxons in North America faced this problem, they threw a tea-party and seceded from the British Empire. That party is remembered fondly here, and every once in awhile, someone tries to do something similar. I'm really interested in seeing if someone tries to do that in virtual space. I'll be even more interested if someone succeeds in creating some sort of extra-territorial area or independent nation in virtuality.

Of course if someone does succeed, that will only make the multi-nationals jealous, since they don't have their own flags, so they'll try to do the same thing :-)


Without adding anything useful to this debate and being a few threads off track, I wouldn't necessarily call this future shock this has happened regularly at Liverpool St for well over a year. It's bad enough as it is on the bus and tube with kids playing crap I don't want to hear out of tinny MP3 phones. Heaphones may as well never have been invented as nobody under twenty five uses them. I have seen arguments break out because somebody is playing music over somebody else's phone. I don't necessarily want this technology to improve and I certainly don't want WiMAX DJ JAMS whilst I'm trying to read my book.
On the other hand...a device that broadcasts a signal to some sort of bone conduction device could have an appeal to outdoor field ravers who want to minimise the chance of getting caught, at least from the sound of the music.


All you need to do is put your server farm somewhere that already is a tax haven.

Setting the tax point at when you move wealth from the game into a real-world currency has the virtue that you can exploit the existing banking system to spot non-payers, and also lets you distinguish between Second Life and Monopoly. "Chancellor Taxes Toytown" is a bit of an awkward headline for a politician.

You still have the problem of in-game money-laundering, but you could at least require the game operation to report large purchases of game-currency.

Where the nasty legal problems come is with something like Charlie's "Halting State" scenario--at least, the original version when he still used the C word in the book. The game runs on the machines the players use, but that may mean that a game will need an 'official' central bank, so that the lawyers know which set of laws they have to deal with.

And a central bank for the game gives you a controllable transfer point. If it wasn't for the not-really-official ways of transferring characters (and fun) from one game to another.

Charlie's opening scenario was a robbery rather than money laundering, but the latter is effectively the existence of a fence for cash.


Tax havens are only useful if they don't offend those in charge of the IRS. When they do then notions of secrecy and the like go out of the window. Switzerland - the daddy of them all - opened its books when the USA knocked hard enough. Anyone remember the Dutch Antilles? The islands around the UK rolled over and died when the UK govt wanted to get its hands on NUM money. The list goes on and on. Tax havens are allowed only when they serve the interests of the rich and powerful.

Now, if you really want a bank that's immune to any tax authority likely to be interested in anyone here, try Beijing.

Which would be an entirely different can of worms, but you'd be okay as long as you don't forget to pay this month's protection.


To WJW: I've been meaning to re-read Hardwired for yonks; thanks for reminding me.

By the way, do you recall that discussion Charlie and I had at the San Jose con dead dog about Millennium Challenge 2002? Iraq rather turned out as we expected, no?


Hi, Martyn. I prefer to think of it as, "Tax havens are allowed only when they serve the interests of the citizens of the country where the wealth was generated," but I'm a commie, and it's damn refreshing to hear somebody make the point so clearly.


of course - the wishes of most of us don't really matter, unless we end up moving together, like a stampede. For the very rich, far fewer people need to be aligned in their interests, and they can write checks. That's far easier than standing in the rain, waiting to vote, hoping that your candidate doesn't screw you over.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on October 14, 2006 1:15 PM.

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