Tag Archives: Afrofuture

Breathalyzer

Bump. Soft left turn. Slowdown. Bigger bump. Sharp left turn. Gilbright reluctantly opens his eyes, thereby deactivating his mobile storyteller. No need for an arrival alert to tell him he’s home, his body is familiar with this sequence. The autonomous commuter pod delivers the customary message anyway: 

 “Dear passenger, 82 Lower GT Drive reached at 15:22. Exit with current attire safe, no additional precautions required. Your next trip is booked for tomorrow, March 6, 2120, 10:12, boarding here same. Please say ‘adjust’ to reschedule or ‘confirm’ for confirmation.” 

 Gilbright goes “Confirm”, unenthusiastically, and waits for the pod to go through whatever routine always keeps it from unlocking the door at once. 

This delay can’t be about cash. He himself had taken a profit motive for granted until very recently and most people still assume as much, but that’s not the rationale.. 

To celebrate the bonus he got two months ago, Gilbright splashed out on the upgrade to the premium package his mobility provider just happened to offer, by one of those lucky coincidences. He can now ride as many pods as he fancies, whenever and wherever he wants, for a total one hundred and fifty hours or five thousand kilometres per month, whichever limit is reached first, without extra charge. 

His commute takes a good thirty minutes in the morning and rarely exceeds twenty in the afternoon. His non-job errands add up to less than an hour per day. He didn’t yet find the time to schedule any of the excursions he had in mind when he awarded himself the premium package. A couple of minutes of idling in the docking port won’t bring him anywhere near the limit. This delay can’t be his mobility provider milking him. 

 If the recurring lag period isn’t about profit, it might be one more case of government overreach. Always trying to mess with peoples lives, the elected super nannies. Would be like them, to force mobility providers to slow down passengers, under pretext of one more unproven and uncomfortable health benefit. 

Well, if this is about forcing him to calm down, it doesn’t work. Gilbright feels his blood pressure climbing by the second. He’s not claustrophic, not the fears kind of guy at all, but a man should be allowed to exit his pod whenever he so chooses, period. 

 Click goes the door, very softly, finally granting Gilbright his currently most fervent wish. Two steps to his front door. Zoom goes the camera, and green goe… What the hell?! 

The intruder alert is meant to startle, but if it gets any more effective at this task it will be a lethal weapon. The light above the door is also flashing red, but this is far less disturbing then the deafening howl of the siren. 

 Gilbright feels his bones turn into icicles. He’s a licensed resident, not some burglar, never mind one of those Caucasian intruders. He’s a regular citizen, no deportation material 

Unable to move, Gilbright has to endure an eternity of agony before the siren suddenly dies. The light has also switched to green and the door goes: 

“Apologies for the false alarm, sir, and congratulations, your new haircut is very stylish indeed. To avoid future inconveniences, please feel free to provide advance authenticated visual notice of any such alterations of your appearance. Or may we suggest to activate breathalyzer authentication? By far the best way to prove your identity. Thanks for your cooperation in making the world a safer place.” 

Gilbright is relieved, and proud. His home is well defended, exactly as promised by estate management. There’s this notice to all residents, next to the parcel retrieval area, informing about more stringent safety settings, in the context of a fresh wave of European refugees. 

If his new haircut triggers the intruder alarm, his wife has zero reason to worry about Caucasians in the cellar. Last week, there was a dire incident in an estate just like theirs, but someone must have messed up front door security. That’s what happens, when you go cheap on building maintenance, instead of using proper professionals. 

Two levels up and one corridor down, Gilbright braces himself for all hell breaking loose again, but no problem. His owner occupier profile has been updated to his new look, the door to his flat opens at once. 

Having awarded himself an early beer to celebrate this success, he decides to heed the advice of the system. He can’t waste energy and time on forever updating his profile picture to avoid setting off that hell of a siren. Time to switch to the modern way and activate the breathalyzer, provided this doesn’t interfere with the occasional beer. 

He asks his living room:

“Assuming I was to switch to breathalyzer identification, what happens in case of alcohol intake?”.

Always ready to help, the flat management system answers at once, in this wonderfully deep and melodious voice so suggestive of cosy private moments:

“No problem, sir, absolutely no problem. Neither with trace alcohol in pastries, sweets or apple juice, nor with more solidly ethanolic beverages, like beer and wine and even liquor. Zero problem. This particular aspect only constitutes a tiny fraction of the particles lacing your breath. Ethanol is actually ignored in the context of identification purposes, together with other components that vary strongly depending on food and drink intake. For authentication purposes, we rely on components that remain stable past age two, except in very rare cases of metabolic dysfunctions that don’t apply in your case. Please confirm breathalyzer setup sequence initiation.“

Gilbright hesitates. His jumpy microbiologist wife is full of scary tales about snoopy analytics. Her jokes about intercourse frequencies calculated on the basis of mere drops of blood, that didn’t sound good. But breath is far less substantial than blood. And one close call with the intruder alarm is more than enough. The next stage would have been the guard dog bot with the taser. The decision to activate the breathalizer is such a no brainer.

On the next morning, Gilbright is pleased not to experience a delay at the end of his ride to the office. The pod door opens at once. Funny, how some issues resolve all by themselves.

Bolda Bookbinder

„Blinking is not going to work, Arthur. With antique visio readers, the bat of an eyelid won’t get what was considered a display when this was called tech to move on to the next section. No embedded RMT connection. That kind of sophistication wasn’t even invented in the glory days of this device. You have to touch and swipe, to move on. Let me show you.”

Bolda grabs the resuscitated device, as expertly and confidently as befits a third year trainee, to show this coward of a novice how a pro handles an artifact.

She only wears her gloves and mask to protect an irreplaceable object, not out of fear of legacy germs. All kinds of nasties are known to lurk in the innards of antique information storage devices, but visio readers are as good as harmless compared to paper and carton books. To shy away from this innocuous morsel of history, that’s so sissy.

Bolda would never tell Arthur, she’s a polite person, but she considers him a terrible wimp.

How he always hesitates to touch the objects they’re working on. How he’s wearing cutproof ceramic chain mail gloves under the mandatory latex ones. How big beads of sweat form on his forehead as soon as they enter the vault to retrieve the next load of artifacts to be transcribed. Arthur is so sissy. Why did he decide to train for a craft, if he doesn’t have the guts? He’s the office type, should never have crossed the threshold of a workshop.

Bolda is still swiping away hard at the visio reader, browsing through its electronic library to check for anything worth transcribing.

The first dozen of book covers scream romance. Beaches, sunsets, flowery gardens. Holding of hands, hugging, kissing. Very traditional lady-loves-lady kitsch, basically.

Quite a lot of pure text, though. Anything above ten percent signals well practiced reading skills that were already getting rare in those days. As a third of this library comes without any pictures beyond the cover, the owner must have been an intellectual. 

Except there weren’t any of those around yet. The science of that age was more fairy tale than physics. Bolda tries to recall how the teacher called the phenomenon. Her mind delivers brontointellectuals. And probiointellectuals. Both don’t feel right. She has to activate her memory support implant to bring back the correct term: Protointellectuals.

The twenty first was awash with protointellectuals who thought they had figured it all out, despite considering most of what makes the universe go round a mystery, a.k.a dark matter and energy.

Must have been scary, to have so little clue, never mind control. Poor forebears.

If it wasn’t for the epochal obsession with extremely light skinned lead characters featuring ridiculously flat hair, some of this early twenty first century romance stuff might be worth republishing in a modern format. There’s good entertainment value in dire conditions.

A lot of people were still living, or rather surviving, precariously, in the frigid zones in the early twenty first. In those inhospitable areas, the outside gets way too chilly, for months. Without fur or feathers, people were forever fighting for mere survival, and the technique to grow these wasn’t invented yet. People resided in enormous ugly shelters with complex temperature control arrangements instead, to avoid freezing to death. And no just-in-time harvests. Most modern plants were yet to be bred, and shockingly lopsided diets did endless harm.

Bolda is proud not to limit herself to the technical handling of information devices. To do her bookbinder information preservation craft right, she takes an interest, cares for content. The vocational counselor back in her schooldays said so, and how right he was. Why would you strive to resuscitate a visio reader, if you don’t care about what it can reveal, about the past?

When Bolda picked her first craft and the corresponding second name, she opted into a tradition that combines a broad range of technical skills with intellectual pursuits.

Bolda Bookbinder sounds good, too, but this was just an afterthought.

Whereas Arthur Bookbinder, honestly? Bolda  can’t help adding ‘& Company’, in her mind only, because this name is so calling for alphabetical expansion. With some first names, you have to stay clear of certain professions, period. Unless you’re a total jerk.

Talking of total jerks, where the hell is Arthur?

Definitely not where he belongs. He should be right at her side, as close as possible, close enough for her to feel his body heat and hear him breathing. Otherwise, how would he get a good view of her skilled performance and learn loads? Arthur turns out to have repositioned himself a few steps back, as far away from the workbench as the wall allows.

Not at all hiding her irritation, Bolda goes:

“Heel, Arthur! Can’t have you not seeing anything, that wouldn’t be fair. Now you tell me what is on display here. Come on, Arthur, take it, it’s not going to bite.”

Most of Arthur’s face is hidden by his mask, he always chooses them extra large, but his eyes widen in terror and he retorts:

“But I’m first year, Bolda! First year, that’s ‘see yes, lots, touch no, never’. The tutoring instructor said so, Bolda. What if I let it drop and it breaks? I don’t want us to get into trouble, Bolda. Very kind of you, to be prepared to share the opportunity to handle such a valuable artifact…”

Bolda makes what she likes to think of as her poker face, despite being hopeless at deceit, while pretending to wait for her junior sidekick to step forward and take the gadget. He won’t, obviously. But she’s going to make him pay for being such a wimp, by forcing him to keep pleading.

Arthur is actually rather good at coming up with excuses. He keeps it up for a couple more minutes before ending on a unexpectedly conciliatory note:

“… OK, OK, OK, see your point, Bolda. See and touch it is, then, as you wish.”

Bolda is so surprised she doesn’t even try to withold the visio reader. She lays it into Arthur’s outstretched hand instead, half expecting him to drop it. But no, he doesn’t shrink back. He grabs the device instead, so firmly a tiny drawer pops open, revealing a shiny metal… thingie.

Now it’s Bolda’s turn to step back. And to set off the biohazard emergency alarm.

This bloody idiot of a novice is going to get them killed. Never ever does one open an artifact. Resuscitate, yes, no recovery without restoring the energy supply by hushpropping the rudimentary battery. Browse, yes. Open, no. No as in no, no, never. Not without wearing a full body suit and breathing from a safe oxygen tank.  What wrongs did she commit, to get herself paired with the most stupid jerk to ever enter this profession? Bolda is so mad at Arthur.

Five weeks later, things are starting to brighten up in the quarantine section of the local hospital.

They’re both recovering well, from the Covid 19 infection Arthur brought upon them. Walking to the table is no longer a challenge, their rejigged lungs will reach full capacity any day now.

They’ll have to spend another two months in quarantine, though, but that’s fine with Bolda. She needs some more time, to convince Arthur of a couple of details.

Where to celebrate their marriage. How to customize their two future kids, to make the best of their combined genes. What type of flat to rent. Arthur very much into bamboo, for their future home, Bolda insists on palm. And she’ll get her way. She always does.

Veblen* Vacation

Only ten minutes until pick-up time! Not prone to panicking, Ako takes a deep breath and sits down at the kitchen table. First things first now. He activates the screen mode of his implant by double pressing the first phalanx of his left pinkie with his right thumb and index to check his travel documents.

It’s all there on his left forearm, displayed in cool turquoise letters. Perfect contrast with his dark skin. The interface upgrade didn’t come cheap, but this is far more comfortable to read than the yellowish scribbles delivered by the basic version. And much more classy to display in public.

Ako discards the wave of career & earnings pride. At this stage of their vacation, he has to focus on the essentials.

First of all, his own passport, with a permission to access the wild zones formerly known as EU. As part of an organized group and in the company of a tour guide only, of course. No sane individual from a civilized country would freelance into this mess. 

A copy of Ebu’s passport, also validated for their adventure trip. 

Their health status, including a long list of vaccinations that took them half a year to acquire.

Who would have guessed there was an ailment going by the name of permafrost scabies, and that one had to vaccinate against it?

The recommended health precautions sounded a bit scary at first. But the tour operator as good as guarantees a safe trip, for participants with their kind of global health care coverage. And the neighbors did it.

Last not least, enough cash in the bank to buy a minor EU town. They’re easily able to afford purchasing whatever additional items they might need. No need to worry about forgotten face masks, toothpaste or anti-frostbite unction.

Satisfied with his trip readiness, Ako calls towards the sounds of frenzy emanating from the bedroom: “Honey, just close that bag and come sit with me for a ready-to-go coffee, please? We’ve got two days in Paris, we’ll go shopping.”

Ebu might be in panic mode, but that’s not going to stop a multitasking champion from arguing back. Shouting to make herself heard above the sounds of her own frantic packing, she goes: 

“Shopping in Paris? Are you mad? We’d pay ten times the Lagos price! And for some items, there’s no way, they’re just not there.

Ever seen a picture of what Europeans call a pharmacy? You’re better off heading for a bar if you need anything as basic as painkillers. The pharmacy will probably sell the very same moonshine, but the bar is less likely to have run out.

Just get up and help me find those bloody protein gel sachets, please, darling, now!”

She’s the doctor, and his wife, and hot, in every sense.

Ako joins her in the bedroom and starts rummaging through the second wardrobe before starting to argue back: 

“Honey, half a billion people live where we go. Suggests survival is possible. And we’re with an experienced tour operator. Our guide will know where to find essentials. They won’t come cheap, OK.

But being able to afford not cheap, that’s exactly the point of us making good money.

Besides, it’s only just pick-up time. On past form, we’ve got at least an hour to go until the driver shows up, to give us an earful about Lagos traffic.

Why not close that bag for now, and join me for a cup of coffee? It will help us remember where we put…”

Ako doesn’t get to finish his well calibrated plea.

With a triumphant “In the fridge!” Ebu rushes past him, travel bag and what must be the designated protein gel sachet container in hand. She’s sort of doing what he suggested. Ako counts himself one up on the authority score.

Three high rush minutes later, a proudly grinning conductor heaves their bags into the trunk of the red three seater before complimenting them onto the passenger seats. Mister Grin will be sitting up front behind the wheel, to take over in case of an emergency. For now, there’s no need for him to do anything.

It’s Ako giving their trip the go, prompted by a cute flashing traffic light icon on his left forearm.

While they roll towards MMA II airport, past waterfront holiday resorts and the kind of gated communities he aspires to buy into for the family stage of their marriage, with Ebu checking whatever on her pink-on-black forearm display at this side, Ako is both cursing and priding himself.

He of all people should have had Autonomous Only Saturday in mind.

No conventional driving in Greater Lagos on Saturdays, except in life-and-death emergencies.

And LMA, as in Lagos Mobility Authority does mean it, the fines are huge. No traffic jam on Saturdays. No need to schedule their trip with the usual delays in mind.

At their current speed, they’ll reach the airport in twenty minutes, and will have to wait for their flight to start boarding for six hours. 

Amazing, how smoothly the pretty thick traffic flows.

As foretold by their preliminary study, there is a higher proportion of taxis and carshare vehicles on the road. They get subsidies to go solar, and all electric vehicles are autonomy enabled.

But there are also a lot of private eVs around. It has become a trend, and it’s picking up speed.

A moment of quiet engineer pride for Ako. He’s behind this. Not just him alone, but he’s definitely a major contributor to this marvel. Without the base stations he installed, none of this would happen.

Outside, the pretty estates with their palm groves have been replaced by box-type buildings surrounded by easy-upkeep carbon capture greenery.

Some manufacturing, mostly high-end components based on petrol intermediate inputs. These well paying companies take advantage of the big refineries and recycling plants further downstream.

Some logistics, often displaying the company names in both Mandarin and English. Very Asian, logistics. Like electronics.

A lot of foodstuffs. All kinds of, all stages of processing.

The African tropical belt feeds most of the continent nowadays, mostly via Lagos. Plus some processed food gets shipped towards the few Europeans lucky enough to be able to afford imported supplements to their very basic diet.

Amazing, how one climate event can affect billions of people. Back in the 2020s, they were the lost souls living it what was referred to as a hopeless country, in polite company, and promised to suffer most from climate change. People aspired to be allowed into the EU. Until things went topsy turvy, out of a sudden.

Ako missed the early stages of the switch.

He was too busy scrambling for his degree while failing to seduce beautiful fellow student Sophia. She went for a hotshot wedding with the UK visa holder  instead, leaving Ako too heartbroken to care about world events.

Something will have featured in global news, about Greenland ice and the Gulf Stream. But this is not what you notice when struggling with romantic misfortune in a forty degree high heat wave.

By the time the dimensions of the switch registered with Ako, Europe was racing to the bottom faster than a bob slides. Most of it just froze over, for most of the year.

Remittances stopped. Their former senders started to beg for job recommendations, to be allowed to return. Sophia called to casually drop the news of her upcoming divorce and refound freedom.

Ako smiles at the memory of him mentioning his happy marriage with wonderful Ebu. “You’ll love her” he told Sophia, “let’s meet for a drink one of these days”. He would have gone on for a while, to savour this little revenge, but Sophia hang up with a foulmouthed curse. He’s so lucky not to have conquered this bitch.

Time to blow an air kiss at his wonderful wife at his side.

Yes, Ako is a lucky man. In the right time, at the right place, with the right qualifications. And here comes the airport.

With a frisson of anticipation, Ako gets ready to enjoy his first poverty porn trip.

*Please check the definition of Veblen Goods if the title fails to convey meaning