Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Gentle Eye

For those just joining us from a 15 year coma, a brief rundown:

2019- satellite launches become commonplace daily events.

2023-surveillance cameras gain 310% saturation in urban areas

2025- the uplink program is launched. Emitime goes public.

Within 2 decades, our planet begins to record itself. Not in the well worn narrative sense of a Ulysses or a Julius Caesar, or books about World Wars. Not even in the fashion of the modern news media, or documentarians. All of these are subjective.
In 2025 the recording will be factual/ non-commentary (unless one desires an accompanying editorial track) and dimensional. The Emitime Corporation is the first, and thus far, only, company on the market in this field.

Here is an article printed in the year 2032:

The Gentle Eye

The Gentle Eye has been open for just over 7 years now. Most of us did not become aware of its impact until 2030, and even then saw it only as a novelty. That of course all changed last fall. In all the commotion and flurry of ensuing media stories following the day, most seem to have lost sight of the two largest questions.

What is its purpose? How does it work?

By combining multiple angle exposures of every inch of the earth with superheat topology, MRI technology, and virtual 3-D generating software, a 3d temporal “map” is extrapolated and stored in massive memory banks located in various offshore ‘warehouse servers’, and is radioed forward, in a five prong relay, on a continuous random chain, to other warehouses --to ensure that no data is ever lost due to natural disasters at any one of the warehouses.

“I think of it as Google earth. Remember that? Google Earth. Hologram-ized. And moving. “ -Mark Lanier.

There is no public outcry. Part of the public support is due to the superb ‘safety’ features built into the recording process. The company is privately held, global, and is therefore above any nations laws. Curiously, the WTO is siding with civil rights for the first time. It will not hand over any of it’s recordings to any governing bodies, even when those recordings are of thefts or violent crimes. And Perhaps surprisingly, the public seems to trust them.

Why does the public put such trust in them? It is only partly due to the fact that they have seen no evidence of bad intent in the company’s numerous public proposals. It only partly due to the fact that all have been granted immunity from any crimes they commit where evidence from the system is used against them.
In reality, most experts agree it is largely due to the fact that they all receive small checks from the company each year, as a thank you for adding to ‘the history of the earth’. This last addition, or scheme, turned into a 1.3 billion dollar bonus for the accountant (See “Howard Winegrass: Marketing Lighting Rod”- page 129) who came up with it. Winegrass aggregated his information and realized that the few hundred dollars each person would receive at years end would be massively turned around in the form of public support and subsequent advertising revenue.

This easily garnered public support is not wholly without merit either, nor is it entirely short sighted or self serving. By giving out the same amount to each recorded person, hundreds of thousands of poor are able to get enough money from which to buy months worth of food. Others are able to pay for badly need medical treatment. While poverty is not solved by any means, it is curbed. People feel better.


And Emitime’s encryption is top notch. One block…one house…one room from a street in Philadelphia is stored next to a room from a government building in Berlin. Faces are scrambled. Events are looped and woven a random number of times. To anyone who tries to break into the system-even the best covert programmers- what they extract is a stuttering 3-d mess of movement. People passing through bridges. Chairs the size of skyscrapers. Men with faces on their stomachs. And moments replayed 8,000 times before proceeding to the next, sometimes even reversing. A woman leaving her house one day might take 4 viewable hours to reach the doorknob. (See “The films of Martin Arnold: Prescient Avante Gardist?”, published by Knopf books, for an interesting take on this phenomenon).

Still, Local and National intelligence hacks are hired, at first, to get into the system. But even when they are able to clean up events into a somewhat discernable and useful reality, their evidence is summarily thrown out of court, as is any real physical evidence gathered as a result of initial hack findings, so this practice is quickly abandoned.

Curiously, even though law enforcement had been furious at the start — after all, their local and state governments were handing over their security source feeds to Emitime, but they were getting no rights to the compiled data in return (only financial compensation) — they soon discovered a curious thing.
While crime did not go away by any means, violent crimes dropped 9% the first year, 23 % the following. So in time, law enforcement stopped knocking on Emitime’s front door with court orders.

** * * * * * * * **

Just as police interest in Emitime waned, one of the most interesting applications of this technology began. The death nodes.

Initially, it was both a financial and government project, and only later blossomed into the thing we are all always talking about. I saw nine stories on the matter zoom across my eyes while taking the super-T this morning. 3 more when I got off at Lexington and hit streetside. I’m sure it was no different for you.

Here is the timeline:

December 9th, 2026.
For census reasons, and thanks to the financial input of the conglomerate of insurance agencies, Emitime is approached. The groups’ proposal is that all moments of death were given top priority in both security and sculpting protocols. As the insurance agencies stipulated, accidental deaths are to be regarded with the highest importance among that subset.

December 24th, 2026.
Emitime leases out all end moments to contributing agencies. These moments are then cleaned up, scanned for temperature anomalies, and stored on separate elite set of servers, and forwarded on a triple penta-forking relay.

Jan 29th, 2027. Hearing of this development, artist Mark Lanier applies to the GEA for a grant to study the results of this undertaking. Due to his relationship with the daughter of Met-Life CEO John Phillip Hodges, and a strong lobbying committee, his proposal is granted.

Jan 18th, 2028.
Death is now mapped in a coldly artistic light. Lanier begins to create an overlapping temporal quilt of all points of death on the globe. It can be viewed by color-coded long distance projection. 1/10,000th scale, on any projector.. “Hospitals generally being the brightest”, Lanier says.
Why did he choose brighter colors for death as opposed to the tradition black? “It’s easier to discern subtle tonal shifts with brighter colors.”
“And” he laughs, “I just like green”.

It can also be viewed by medium zoom, on any new model projector at about 1/14 scale.

But perhaps the most common way the nodes are viewed (…or does it only seem that way because it is public?) is on site, with a viewing amlet like the emod60 or i90.


The original amlets were devices that called up only a singular given moment- and only worked when in close enough proximity to the origination site, to project it where it ‘really’ happened.. They were one-use pieces, often viewed as disposable (although many creative hacks were found, and the items are still traded on E-bay at high values).
Nowadays, an algorithm is used so that a moment call can be programmed in on-site. An amlet can request any moment for which it has the hailing code. Most amlets cannot exceed (the more appropriate term is “hold”) hailing codes for more than 12 minutes, although some higher end models can stay inline for up to 36 hours. And most interestingly, some of the newer models can play two or more temporal hailing codes simultaneously, provided the spatial codes are close enough together.

This was Lanier’s idea all along, he says.
“I wanted to find out if there were any unrealized ‘power points’, or nodes. When a person leaves this world, I believe there is a great amount of energy released. You may call it a soul, I don’t. But i still believe similarly.
Where are these nodes strongest? Does death have fault lines? Does it echo tectonic plate formation in any way? Are there any other correlations? I wanted to see if there was, say, a corner block in Idaho where more than twelve people would die over a 15 year period.
What do these nodes look like? When aggregated, overlapped, how do they change? That’s what I’m trying to find out. I’m trying to see the unseeable. Like Einstein.”.

The boutiquing of this industry has been of much interest as well. Offshoot companies, many employing ex-Emitime employees, have been working at re-creating moments before the uplink occurred,. Historical events, War reenactments, etc. All are based not only on firsthand accounts, but also on DNA reconstitutions and archeological evidence. Life time moments, historic first meetings, all have and are being developed. But death has seemed to win out most of all. Religious groups have jumped on the bandwagon, reconstituting Christ’s last Walk, All Of the Previous Pope’s last moments, Mother Theresa, and others. Religion currently makes for 60% of the reenactment market, and has sparked a resurgence in Church attendance and a national debate of such vigor as has not seen in three decades. Pope John Paul the 5th is said to have been working on a response to this phenomenon for the past 7 months.

So the death nodes, in addition to their purely utilitarian features, appear to have theosophical underpinnings as well.

One note. The term ‘Death node’, was, at its inception, slightly misleading. For legal and decency reasons, Emitime initially would not release the actual moments in which a person expired, but rather the moment previous to that. So what Lanier received was a mass of 3d images of suicides jumpers hovering just an inch above the sidewalk, of car crash victims thrown forward, beginning to smash through their windshields.
However, after five months, the corporation relented, and released the final seconds as well. In certain cases. For an added fee. 9 months in, it released all of them.

Now, the process is not perfect. Even with the support of global national census takers and the full force of the Insurance industry, the maps are not full.
This has been the problem from the beginning. In underdeveloped areas of the Earth, especially in those areas where electricity is still not commonplace, there are not enough cameras to reconfigure the deaths in close up. Satellite’s top down imagery is not enough to complete the picture.

I have been shown some of these moments. The bottom halves of faces are formless. Often hands have no fingers, and in some untouched moments the arms or legs of the person will appear fused to the ground, like a low relief sculpture (see “Pillars Of Salt?”, page 44).
One-time Emit employee, now expatriate Steven Long ( and director of the new stilm ‘Everyone’s Inside’ review in next month’s issue ) had this to say, “that was the first thing I told them. I didn’t like it and I tried to see if we could move more cameras in to these areas, or even just apply normalizing loops, we might be able to at least get the anatomy right- even if the features are blurred. There response? 2043. 2043. I didn’t feel like waiting around for 12 years to have them find out the project had been doubling in complexity every day.”
“That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. One little stilm at a time. I can’t solve the bigger problem, so I’m trying to introduce some small measure of dignity.”

** * * * * * * *


Then of course, came the Node-out. The near disaster that happened last year. It’s now been fixed and according to official press releases, can never occur again.

Just two days after the new amlets were released Death watching was happening all over the globe.

And one thing hadn’t been taken into account. The satellites, cameras, and MRI’s were now going to be recording these new “old” deaths side by side with real ones. The result? Everyone started dying all over again. Somehow, this obvious fact was overlooked. There had been blips in the past, caused by massive replays of events on various (often historical) sites. But error correction had taken care of those without fail, normalized the recordings after the fact by airbrushing out the anomalies (see “Reflecting The Genuine Moment”, sidebar).

This, on the other hand, was new- and massive. Ed Albers, technician, said this: “The problem was in the launch hype. This wasn’t a case of a device being released and a niche use developing organically a few months after. In this case the intention, and even a supporting infrastructure for that intention, was already in place.”

So almost immediately after the new amlets hit the market, there were too many moments to airbrush. Three EC correction centers went down within the first two hours. Within eight all servers on the grid started reporting heavy usage and some were already reporting failures. Census death tolls were through the roof. Apparently, the whole world was dying. Overview software showed entire cities blanketed over in death times. Some newscasts, filming from a distance, even reported old deaths in replay as new (See “The Fox Pandemic?” Time, April 23rd ,2031).

Spiking hit uncontrollable levels by day three. Due to the various automation processes and the various brown outs at Recording centers, no one really knew what was hitting them till the early hours of Tuesday morning, and were unable to get the word out. Official press releases claim this was solely due to power outages. Critics claim it was due to a corporate edict. Bad press was worse than no press at all, it seemed. Those who didn’t realize what was happening caused mass panic. 13 hours into day four the servers shut down completely.

Said Ed, “We almost lost everything.”

Interestingly though, in that moment, the entire planet was briefly recorded as the most alive it had ever been. Census software recorded zero deaths for over 9 days. There was a stillness all around that reached into every corner of the earth. “I felt it” said Susan Lamais, of Grenoble, France. “It almost felt like the whole world was breathless.” This lack of death was of course a set of false positives, and was later corrected.

What does Mark Lanier have to say about it all?
“It’s kind of beautiful, don’t you think? I’m surprised we didn’t see it coming.” Then he laughs, and returns to replaying the scene from those days on his projector.

For three months after, the project went offline to the public. No replays, although it was still doing some internal recording for statistical purposes. During this time amlet protocols were rewritten. They’ve now been fixed, and you can see their orange lights glowing in most tourists’ hands.
Ed Albers- “the solution was to shift them to a slightly different light frequency, and only broadcast at close range. On our gathering end, we mute the faint out-shifted frequencies. Its sort of like a reverse of the old Hollywood chroma-key system.”

The recording is back on track, although demand for some services seems on the wane. Still, Emitime has already made a kings ransom in its first few years, and in a way they have seen all of this as a plus, because it took a lot of long term stress off the error correction department. Now only events from the original disposable amlets still need airbrushing. E-Bay is keeping Reflectors like John Neville business. And while death watching has declined 32% in the last quarter (and industry insiders predict that drop will continue), Emitime already has 6 new projects in the works to compensate for the lost earnings. Expect an announcement mid-April.

Ed Albers- “It was kind of morbid, I suppose. I feel a lot better about Beta-wave. It’s going to be good. I think it’ll be very popular.”

** * * * * * * *

This article has spent the bulk of its time answering the second of the first two proposed questions. Now let us return to the first. What is the purpose of the Emitime project?

We’ve been in it, all of us, for over five years now. We’ve seen an unheard of drop in crime rates, learned more about other cultures, and with a greater verisimilitude, than ever before, and seen a general ‘bettering’ of our planet. Who knew? A Corporation can do some good on this planet, and still turn massive profits. But what’s it all about, ultimately? What was their initial goal? This company started with backing in the billions (one report even tips it over into the trillions). They must have had ten, twenty, fifty year sets of business projections in order to garner such financial confidence. So where is Emitime going to be taking this?

There is talk of turning some of the satellites outward. Industry insiders have stated that a launch of 3,000 class 9 telescopes (the great grand-children of the Hubble) is due in 2035. Emitime was unavailable for comment on this front, but I talked with expat Steven Long and he told me he’d heard of it. He summed up the project this way: “we already see who we are, now they want to find out where.” [ ]

(sidebars follow on next pageà)

Sidebar one: Expedient piece of mind is the latest impulse buy. And a Luxury item at that.
Do people really want to spend into the hundreds of dollars instead of a few extra minutes? According to Emitime’s earnings figures, they do.

I once paid $1,245 dollars to find my car keys.” Says John Fields of Indiana.
“It was my fault though- I could’ve sworn I’d had them the night before, so I only purchased a ten minute scene. For the first one I even forgot to turn off the feature filter. But according to the scene, I hadn’t put them anywhere. Well I went on like that, going back in ten minute increments, for almost half a days worth.”
Did he ever find them?
“Yeah, I’m an idiot. Finally found them- I’d put them by the fridge and they fell behind it. It cost me a fortune…but y’know? it almost felt worth it to me at that moment.” He says his friends still kid them about it to this day. But he need not be embarrassed. He isn’t alone. Emitime estimates that 23% of its direct sales revenues come from such ‘helper/finder’ scenes, and of those 9% make multiple purchases before their search is ended. The total average cost to find the book you misplaced, or your glasses? $150.

Sidebar 2: Reflecting the genuine moment
5 year veteran editor Michael Neville (now of Time-Brushers LLC, a subsidiary of Emitime) explains “It’s called reflecting because what you’re doing is picking up on the differences in light from the big now and the little then. Usually it’s fairly obvious. A night-time scene being replayed in the afternoon will be covered in ink— totally different shade. Same in day-at-night cases, just reversed.
But sometimes, rarely, such as if the replay and original happened at the same time of day, it gets a bit messier. By far, the most common trick then is just to wait till a cloud goes by. Anything not genuine gets revealed and swiped. That takes care of about 95% of the overlaps”.
But what do the editors do when they encounter a cloudless day?
“we wait” Neville replied.

-Dennis Argo is a journalist who covers new-media and history topics for Ti-fe Magazine. He lives in New York.


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