The Rogue Scholar

By Jbschirtzinger | clarion | 4 Mar 2022

Chapter 3 Part I

Sal Grimone had a serious problem. He glanced nervously through his programming interface. It had not worked. It should have worked. He checked the code again. Everything was as it was supposed to be. The object invocation was correct. The logic was perfect. The mesh topology was bent precisely according to the specified parameters. Yet, when Sal looked directly in front of him where the object should be appearing from the holonosphere, he saw nothing. Nothing at all.

Sal had never been formally educated. Formal education had disappeared when the holonosphere appeared. A few elitist people would, once in awhile, attend a structured academic setting, but it was more for prestige than utility. Before the old society had fallen, nearly everyone got a degree. The problem was that the degree had become separate from the concept of having an education. Instead, the degree was mostly useful to show prospective companies that one could jump through enough hoops to obtain the degree. This information was useful to companies because it signified the willingness of the potential employee to be led with a carrot and stick approach. The degree was dangled before students for four years--at extensive amounts of pain and cost--and yet students would seek it out due to the perception that it would help their careers. The degree was mostly pointless, the students were only striving for the promise represented by the degree--the possibility. If a student was willing to work long and hard for a piece of paper because of the promise it signified, just think of what they would be willing to do if the company could make their safety and prosperity have the appearance that it was tied directly to the quality of their work. The potentials were endless. Employees might work longer and harder on the mere pretense that some day they might have "made it" and could have enough money to finally do what they wanted. Of course, by then they were typically old and their health had left them. The only people who really got todo what they wanted were those who owned the companies. Only they could afford leisure.

When Protean science brought forth the holonosphere, there were suddenly no barriers to education. One did not need an internet connection, because the holonosphere was ubiquitous in its presence. The holonosphere contained more information in it that the entirety of humanity had published in the duration of its existence. I twas telling that the shift that had taken place in society no longer valued people who KNEW a lot, but rather it valued people who could USE knowledge well. Stories of ancient polymaths who memorized vast amounts of information or competed in games arranged to showcase their memorized knowledge were now seen to be foolhardy. Why would you memorize the number of feet in a mile when it was possible to simply look it up? How often did one really need the knowledge concerning a mile such that it took up valuable space in a person's memory? After the explosion of Protean science and the discovery that distance is all relative and a matter of scale, arbitrary measurements and mathematical truths were seen in the appropriate light--that is to say that they were used as mere conveniences to achieve an end as opposed to a starting place of conceptualization.

One's reputation as a knowledge-worker relied less on word-of-mouth proclamations such as degrees and relied instead on results. The utility of knowledge had value. Arbitrary rote memorization of knowledge was worthless.

Since the holonosphere had merged with reality, it was possible to manipulate the appearance of reality more than ever before. If one knew the appropriate code to construct an object in the holonosphere, one could sometimes fool another into believing that the object was there. In a sense, it was true the object WAS there, but what was untrue about the thing was that its nature was more ephemeral. The holonosphere was more like quick-silver since it changed at the rate of thought, whereas the "old world" or "physical word" was a lot slower to change due to thought. The two were rather like yin and yang. The old world was dull and plodding, and the new one was fleet of foot and constantly changing.

One such famous example of hacking reality had come in the form of real estate fraud. The Pitt Preserve had once been a tract of land with picturesque beauty. The surrounding land framed a shimmering lake and provided an abundant canvas for forests and creatures. People would often go there to re-attune themselves to nature and forget about the incessant honking and clanging of metropolitan life. With the development of cities, the grandeur of nature at the Pitt Preserve was valuable because of its rapid disappearance.

One summer, the Pitt Preserve experienced a drought. By August the land was so thirsty that locals had taken to asserting the only thing keeping the place watered at all was the sweat rolling off those who lived and worked there.

Everyone praised the heavens when an ominous black cloud drifted across the horizon late in the summer afternoon. Pitt Preserve would finally get rain.

The problem with nature, though, is that sometimes when she redresses imbalances--particularly ones of immense disproportion--she often solves one problem by creating an excess of another. Since pitt Preserve was so dry, all the rain that fell was instantly absorbed by the ground. With the amount of rain that fell, one expected there to be standing puddles. No puddles remained, though. Since this was the early era of the holonosphere, people were not certain whether or not what they were seeing was "true reality". They thought perhaps someone was playing a practical joke by making the land so dry.

When the fire came, though, all ideas that this was some sort of joke diminished. Evidently, the lightning from the storm had set some nearby fallen timber ablaze. The fire spread throughout the preserve and destroyed many acres and facilities. So extensive was the damage that it was estimated that it would take the Preserver at least a century to recover from the destruction. Consequently, the holders of the preserve sold the land to a Mr. Prizer who was known for his investments in real estate. He would buy property low, make some improvements, then sell it again for a profit. He had done exceptionally well for himself, and everyone began scratching their heads when Mr. Prizer bought the Preserve. More than a few savvy business men accused him of being eccentric. Perhaps though, Mr. Prizer had plans to develop the area.

Instead, Mr. Prizer wrote a press release declaring his intention to form a partnership with the company Progressive Hydroponics. Progressive Hydroponics, it was suggested in the press release, had an impressive record when it came to applying technology to nature to produce results. One achievement which the press release seized upon was that Progressive Hydroponics had produced a Sequoia tree in a year that was equivalent in height to some of the trees which had taken thousands of years to achieve their extreme size. Mr. Prizer felt confident that within a realtively short amount of time--probably five years at most--that the Preserve would be back to its former grandeur with the aid of Progressive Hydroponics. Since the issue of time had still not been settled, people were not sure what to make of this estimate, but since the emergence of the holonosphere was still fresh, their sens of time from the older era remained sharp. Mr. Prizer's five year estimate seemed optimistically short and more like a miracle.

When people would glance toward Pitt Preserve during the coming years, they would see the signs of this recovery under way. At first they saw what appeared to be small shrubs covered by a white plastic material that fluttered went the wind blew. Then, they saw what appeared to be a subterranean complex of hoses near a tree nursery. Flowers abounded and the lake began to teem once again with wildlife. When two years had elapsed, Pitt Preserve looked to be on track to its five year recovery. The saplings were now large adolescents, and though the canopy of what would be the forest permitted more light than it ought to, it blocked the sun significantly. People began to wonder what Mr. Prizer was going to do with this miracle he was manufacturing.

When the former owners of Pitt Preserve expressed interest in purchasing the land back, Mr. Prizer magnanimously agreed to allow them to purchase it one again--and what's more--in a gesture of his good will toward them, he would allow them to buy it back for a fraction of the cost that the newly developed land ought to be priced. Prizer would still clear millions of profit, but the Pitt Preserve people would get their land back fully reinvigorated for far cheaper than it should have cost them. The scenario was a win/win, and the press quickly seized on what a humanitarian Mr. Prizer was.

Interestingly, however, whens oe of the biologists from Pitt Preserve came in to examine the development of the land, they made notes in their reports of how marvelous a recovery had taken place, but also most of them privately expressed some inner revulsion or aversion they could not identify. The people who were most bothered by this sense of revulsion where those who were closest to the land and nature--people who were landscapers, gardeners, park rangers. To their eyes, all indications were that the park was as pristine and recovered as possible, but in their hearts something was amiss. They just were not sure what.

When the deal finally closed and the Pitt Preserve people returned, most everyone in the park was thrilled right up until they began vomiting. All the former staff who had worked the preserve for years began to feel violently ill. There were few exceptions. Visitors could come seemingly without affliction for the most part, but anyone who had a strong tie to nature was immediately ill.

Pitt Preserve was completely baffled by what was happening. It was not until one of of the few remaining Native Americans came to visit the preserve that the answer to their predicament was finally revealed.

When Chief Otawanaga of the former nation of the Nez Pierce arrived, he cast his gaze panoramically from left to right. His eyes were slow, discerning, and deliberate. After finishing his scan, he turned to the park ranger nearby.

"Why are you here?" Otawanaga inquired.

"Because I need the credits and being a park ranger pays well," the ranger replied.

"There is no park here," said the chief.

"What do you mean?" asked the ranger clearly confused by the statement.

"I mean there is no park here, only charred rubble."

The ranger stammered as he looked out over Pitt Preserve. Where seconds before he had seen bountiful trees and greenery, he could now see a layer of ash with sparse grass dotting the ruin. The newly built facilities of Pitt Preserve were surrounded by absolute desolation.

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