By the time Mia’s message made it through the filters of the system it was already too late. Jim could read it but was powerless to do anything about it, to actually communicate with his long lost daughter. Luckily, Randi was still nominally in the picture and held some sway on the board and could recognize when the system was acting against Jim’s wishes.
Jim had met Randi in those days in Ottawa at a message parlour on Montreal Road in Vanier. She was truly unique, a sex worker activist closet academic, although Jim was just there for a session, he managed to talk to her enough to get her email out of her; but it would be months until she responded and they got together to talk.
“It’s kind of awkward, you know”, she would say on the email strings.
But Jim and Randi hit it off so well that they began to plot. Jim didn’t yet want to spring the learning system on her but thought the two could collaborate on some websites.
Out for coffee one day Jim came out with it.
“Randi, I am working on something big.”
“What Jim, like a multisite for the escorts we work with.”
“No, something that jives with my convictions that the internet is unfair.”
“Ya, I remember what it was like in the early days, the USENET groups, the Yahoo directory. It’s all a bunch of government and corporate spyware now.”
“That’s the thing Randi. What if it no longer was?”
Jim was working from a different premise now. The decentralized web was growing more sophisticated weekly and there would come a time when these old corporate centralized services would just get switched off and users would be onboarded to the new system, and that was precisely what he was aiming for.
“How much do you know about peer-to-peer Randi?”
“Enough,” she said.
“Well, what if not just simple aspects of the internet was peer-to-peer like file sharing and bit-coin, but government and credentials. That’s the way it’s all moving Randi and I am hitting specifically everything to do with education. I believe these old institutions are on their death-legs, just waiting for someone to pick up the pieces and that’s going to be us.”
Jim was referring to the nascent education coop he was spearheading, but he hoped Randi would bring in the activist underground groups she had always cultivated as part of or on the sidelines of her sex work.
“You’re going to have to walk me through the details Jim, but it sounds like something I would get involved in.”
Great she likes the idea, Jim thought. Very encouraging. Others might seek the council of high powered lawyers or VCs on Sand Hill road in Silicon Valley, but Jim put more stock in real people like Randi. Sidelined, but otherwise brilliant people who knew how to use this modern technology to grow and motivate activist circles. Jim needed these type of people to keep the system ahead of its competitors, free to use, and technically a marvel.
Dear Mr. Sheen,
My name is Mia Rodriquez and I am at level 45 on the system, and am only twelve years old. I wholly appreciate what you have done, and are doing for all of mankind with this education system and want to offer my services as an early beta and alpha tester for new features.
You can check my records and let me know how we can proceed.
Jim read this message over and over and over again. His body vibrated strangely in its suit. He was chocked-up to hear from his daughter after all these years, with her having no idea. Jim saw on-screen that Randi had moved the message into the todo pile at an indeterminate date and that was all Jim could do about it right now, and perhaps forever.
The system. The system. It all hinged on the system Jim would preach at his turn at the Day Program. While others talked of their addictions, broken family lives, and struggles to find any kind of work, Jim’s had become a one track-mind. He jumped up with the Salvation Army staff member called on him and he waved his arms.
“We were all duped, from the time we were kids,” said Jim.
“We had no real chance. Our paths to the Sally Anne were inevitable from those days of rote learning, SAT scores, and the corporate grind.”
“Jim – we are here to talk about our addiction problems.” The Salvation Army staff member was interrupted as Jim went on rambling “This is my addiction problem, I am addicted to the truth. To why things are the way they are. It is not the Illuminati, it is because our whole system is screwed up.”
Randi had been sitting there that day at the Day Program – as women from the female shelters were allowed in. To her, she recognized that Jim was half-crazed and what he was preaching, and who he was preaching to, but she nonetheless thought Jim a majestic, heroic figure, very much in line with Saul Alinsky, or even Jesus Christ himself. He was right that the central battle now in society was taking place online and that the internet had long ago changed hands to the hucksters, the deal-makers, the backhanded liars, and especially to the libertarians who would tear down all government and let this new fangled surveillance capitalism roam free.
As Randi listened to Jim rave about how an online education system could turn the tables crazily, she found herself more intrigued than she had been at countless leftist meetings and workshops. She would have to find a way to help him out.
What would it really mean, Randi thought to herself, a truly egalitarian way to learn. Free from all previous societal pressures. The modern university had developed in Europe under certain constraints and lived largely under these to this day, but with the new collaborative decentralized technologies, she imagined the possibilities.
Randi herself was Chinese and grew up poor in Spanish Harlem, but nonetheless managed to finish a literature degree at Columbia financed largely by her sex work. She wouldn’t give up her sex work to this day as she enjoyed it most of the time, feeling like a truly liberated woman. But she would be very active in America and Canada in sex worker’s rights and told all this to a rapt Jim who seemed to be sympathetic considering the circumstances of their meeting.
Years later after Randi had purposefully overdosed on pills, trying to kill herself, it would be only the activism and Jim’s dream that would allow herself to be rehabilitated online and in real life and eventually take up the number two position in the hierarchy of the system.
Randi would regularly attend the Day Program to hear Jim preach as his turn came around. The Salvation Army staff members did not take much mind of Jim, thinking him just another “client” to be served a hot meal and be kept away from the bottle or the pipe. But as these weeks went by Jim would be very active both at various locales around Ottawa and especially online putting together the basis for his internet revolution, and increasingly, Randi would be there at his side.
Jim knows a great battle was being waged – which seemed straight out of David and Goliath. With fringe dwellers like him occasionally pulling off a coup against the internet sovereigns of search, social, academia and high finance, but mostly forced to live in squalor. But he thought, the tide could turn as the rabble-rousers put their tech together and the true power of P2P and decentralization could be felt, along with a benevolent AI and very sophisticated visualization both in VR and AR worlds, and not least with an opening up of the research and publishing process, he could imagine how the master switch to the internet could simply be turned and as the old line Bob Dylan line went, “the slow ones now will later be fast”.