Chapter 4

Social Machines and the Future of Humankind

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.

—Carl Sagan

Sybil rolled into Shinjuku late. Actually, it was early; around 2:00 AM. Everything had gone smoothly but nothing could prevent the raucous October weather that caused her flight delay. As she sat in the back of her cab crawling toward her hotel (this much traffic at 2:00 AM?), the fact that she knew exactly nothing about the latest happenings in Tokyo began to seep in. But she was used to the feeling—had gotten used to it over her past two years of ceaseless travel.
She came prepared. She unrolled her wireless computer screen and called up her Reality Graph, an application she had written last year that had made friends with every social machine in the city. Tokyo was much more advanced in this respect than most other cities and provided an unbelievable amount of data for anyone and everyone to see and use. The Japanese network carriers had managed to get virtually all product developers to put their products online, making available highly specific data sets from things such as parking meters, air conditioners, gas pumps, and taxicabs. In addition, private citizens, organized groups, universities, corporations, pirates, and criminals also published an unending kaleidoscope of data for others to build upon. The result was a bottomless pit of informational resources available ...

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