8 am GMT, Tuesday, 30th September 2130

The full foundation team was present: John, Jocelyn, Maria and Sven, along with Slavica, Ferdinand and Aloysia.

"Do you actually work for your Dad already?" asked Ferdinand of Sven, voicing what was already in other peoples' minds.

"Not exactly," said Sven. "I'm just a student, like you guys. But obviously my future is in the business, so I'm always in and out of the offices, learning how they do it. There's been a lot of discussion about whether I should go on to 19-25 training, or pack it in now and join part of the firm. This may tip the balance away from carrying on with academic training. If I'm going to be involved with the foundation, commercial skills are probably more useful. And there aren't any 19-25 courses that are directly relevant to the foundation, anyway. But I'm only a suggestion of Dad's - you have to be comfortable with me. I'm not being parachuted in by a long chalk."

"Oh, we're over the moon," said John. "Truly. You seem like a good guy anyway. What more could we ask for? How do you see it working on a day-to-day basis between us? Then there's your Dad's executive team that he's offered. How does it all fit together, do you think?"

"Well, there are some components we've already got. There are lots of sites where we invite submissions which are open to KISS, there's one in Blue Grass performances, for instance; then we weed out the better submissions using the KISS data along with our own opinions, and if something stacks up then we give it marketing support, and the rules are that we can share the extra contribution with the originator. Our share can be converted into cash; the originators are just stuck with the credits, but they're happy enough if the material does well. If they do really well, we sometimes give them cash in fizz, where it's more useful to them. We'll have to tweak the systems to handle 'alignments', they're in a different format, obviously; but that's a minor thing. It's the KISS enabling that's so important, and that stays the same.

"All those sites have got front ends that allow our editors to view the submissions privately, without incurring any KISS charge, so that's what you would use, either in one of Slavica's RCCs if you want to do it jointly, or just using a special type of RCR we developed. But then you might only see a very degraded version. Anyway, once you've selected a contribution as worthwhile, and classified it somehow, which is the trickiest bit, then it goes into marketing. But instead of trying to get extra contribution for it, the foundation has got a more proselytizing purpose, and that's where we going to spend most of the money, spreading the stuff around with media-casts. There could be talk-shows, explanatory educational programmes, all sorts of things. Haven't really worked it all out yet!" He grinned disarmingly.

"I'm a bit worried about the volumes," said Jocelyn. "Slavica says there are already 40 million downloads of the open RCC. We just may get swamped with input, and how are we going to handle it?"

"Two things," said Sven. "First is that we always offer - impose - a classification structure on the invited-submission sites, so that the uploader has to go through a multi-level choice process before they can upload. They won't necessarily get it right, but it's a big help. Getting the classification right is one of the most important first steps, and if possible we really ought to have that done this week, so that we can launch the foundation for real just as soon as possible."

"And definitely before the election," added Ferdinand. "Anything that can be done to publicize change, that's good. It's going to be a tough enough job to shift opinion as it is."

"We'll work on it today," said John. "We've been talking about it quite a bit. Maria is in the lead there. And something else?"

"The most important thing," said Sven, "and that's the KISS filter. I'm sure you know how KISS works, in terms of measuring connect time and valuing it, but most people don't realize that it has very sophisticated reporting functions. You can use its own classification structure, by geography, age group, medium etc, or you can map that across to your own structure, and either way you get ranked tables of top-responding items, for any time period you want. All of that information is completely free and open. So in our case, you can set the filters to be as fine as you want, and just see only the top few current 'hits' for our particular medium, in a specified set of categories; or if you are feeling brave you can go wider. It's a wonderful tool for a publisher."

"Oh, that's very reassuring," said Jocelyn, "I was seeing myself spending hours every day trawling through acres of, well I'm sure it will all be very inspiring, but anyway acres of material."

"Our experience," went on Sven, "is that less is more in this type of business. It's better to pick just a few really good items and concentrate all our fire-power on them, rather than josh out dozens of items and do a half-baked job. And you need to do it in depth; concentrate over time on building up a set of coherent presentations. Back-list, so to speak. It's amazing how often people will go back to something they liked the first time around, showing their friends perhaps, just enjoying it over again while relaxing."

"It all makes sense," said Ferdinand. "Sven, what about Slavica? Do we know what the timescale is, anything like that?"

"Well, I'm not directly involved," said Sven, "but when I was talking to Dad last night about this, he mentioned that he meant to get the trustees to set up the research institute this week, for the same reason, to be able to talk about it before the election. He's hesitating about whether to have it in fizz as well as RCCs. But however it functions, it won't be an instant process to get it started; research staff have got to be interviewed, hired, programs have got to be agreed. I know he means to have a meeting with you, Slavica, so you can get going on it. He said he'd call you today."

"No class today," said John. "It's getting end-of-termy. We can work on the classification. But first of all we've got a date with the girls, right, Jocelyn?"

"How's that?" asked Aloysia, in parental mode.

"Don't worry, Mum," soothed Jocelyn, "No touching. We tried out Slavica's new telepathy model RCC yesterday, and we thought we did manage to open a channel, so we're going to try connecting to 301 this morning. But it's very hard to know what we were experiencing. Most of the time, in an RCC, there's so much structure there already you never have to think about where to go for a particular outcome; the indexes are already shared between all the e-clones and there's a matching structure in the RCC, so you go straight to where you need to be, all at once. We all have that experience every day. But if there's a new pathway, you have to grope for it, you only know roughly where it is, and people may take different times to find it. And I say 'pathway', but it isn't one until you've trodden it. What Slavica has done is to remove walls which are there in the standard RCC model. That opens up new territory; we've got access now to the pineal gland and the amygdala and some other areas of the mid-brain, which is where you might expect to find some traces of earlier communication techniques. They are in the e-clone, just normally covered up. After that you're kind of blundering around trying to find particular types of experience and you don't really know in advance what they even feel like, unless you've had some sort of esp training, and how many people is that true of? We felt we needed a guide. Can you imagine eight blind people in a big black space, looking for a faint, glimmering light? And we don't even know it's there in the first place. And if we find it, surely some of the actual communications software, so to speak, is going to be down in the pons, at the other end of the thalamus, which is outside the e-clone anyway. So our pathway may lead nowhere. But then, the forebrain, the tectum had evolved hundreds of millions of years before there was any question of semantic communication, which only came along with mammals. And we thought we did find something. It was quite weird, actually. Totally impossible to describe, something like suddenly entering a cathedral when you've been in a cellar, so much space, and the feeling that there are . . beings . . . intelligences . . . I don't know how to describe it . . . receptive organs waiting for you to communicate. We all had the same experience. But we had agreed that if we broke through anywhere, we would stop and re-group.

"So that's where we've got to! This morning 301 is going to try to have the same experience, then my group, 430 will try again and see if we can contact 301. After all, we have a very clear characterization of them because of the previous work on alignments, so it may be possible to find them."

"If this was the Middle Ages, you'd all be at the stake by lunchtime," joked Ferdinand. "Are there any risks? Of mental damage, I mean?"

"That's one big advantage of e-clones," pointed out Slavica. "There's always a spare one to use. But we didn't sense danger. I'm not saying there wouldn't be any, but each one of us, well, the group, sensed excitement, opportunity, possibility. Nothing frightening about it. Quite the contrary, rather as if magical things could happen."

"I'm still going to worry," said Aloysia. "All morning. Can we have lunch so that I can inspect you afterwards?"

"OK, Mum," laughed Jocelyn. "I'll order my salad from you by telepathy round about 11 o'clock."



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