Malcolm Defroster: Chapter 1

1: Welcome to Place

The Hansberg Project.  That’s how the UN writes it in official papers; but to the inhabitants, it’s Place, and for them, the rest of the earth—the UN included—may as well not exist.

The debris left by an experiment of the fifth industrial revolution, Place is a tightly controlled world of computers and math, where everything is precise and predictable.  Back in the day, it was populated by fifty-nine volunteers eager to undergo a social experiment.  Impossibly sophisticated Artificial Intelligence analyzed each participant and manipulated them by a series of stimulants for their greater happiness, ostensibly at least.

The outside world watched with fascination.  TV news covering the Hansberg Project rated only slightly lower than the race to land on Jupiter.  Not that everyone thought it was all good.  There were plenty of warnings of an army of zombie-like manipulated experimental humans being trained to conquer the world.

At the height of the excitement Paul Hansberg went missing.  Six days later, a janitor found the greatest political force in the world dead of dehydration in a malfunctioned back elevator of the UN headquarters.

After the nine days’ wonder, Hansberg’s colleagues remembered his Project.  Six months of arguing and paperwork later, they decided to shut it down.  No one could agree on who should control it.

They could have skipped the bureaucratic squabbles.  Not only was Hansberg gone, the keys to his Project were gone too.  No one could figure out how to control Hansberg’s AI, not even for long enough to shut it down.

Then speculation caught wind of the fiasco, and rumor had a field day.  Hansberg had implanted his AI with his own dreams of world domination; the zombie army was coming to attack society any day now.  Or, someone inside the project had hacked the AI and was keeping UN officials out for his own nefarious purposes.  Or maybe someone outside had hacked it and was building a zombie army.  Or, the AI was just going about life as usual and the participants needed to be rescued before they died of starvation in their isolated world.

Rumor could have spared itself its ingenuity—no one could get in or out, and that was that.  To the outside world, the Hansberg Project is still a mystery—an unknown blip on the map of earth.

All that happened 99 years ago.  Place is now a world of its own, with a population of 876, completely self-sufficient, governed by a central AI with 876 individual ground units each taking care of one single human from cradle to grave.

Continue reading Malcolm Defroster: Chapter 1