Her eyes, fogged by the pixel mist, burned, tears brimming, adjusting to the sting of the the acrid, smoke-filled air. The smell of burning components filling her senses and a buzzing, crackle and hiss jittered in and out of phase between her ears. Somehow her connection held steady and, cursing loudly, she stumbled to her feet. A wave of nausea engulfed her as she moved – lag clawed at her limbs; giving them a sickening, disembodied feel – she watched as her arms seemed to drift through the thick air, followed by stuttering, ghostly after-images, febrile and jerky in their movements. Staggering to the doorway, she looked out… it was far worse than ever she’d expected.
Metanoia they’d called it – a term first coined back in ’14 when the Trans-Globe I.P. Bill was passed. It completely failed in its intent, of course; rather than stamp out intellectual property issues, it simply sent them underground – what it did achieve was far worse. Netizens grew paranoid that their every move was being monitored and watched; they developed ever more sophisticated ways to allay their fears and secure their freedom – everyone wanted to be safe from prying eyes and with it came the urge to fight back. The Dark Web flourished and an ever-increasing number of viruses, trojans and databombs proliferated, infecting and destroying both the government sentinels they targeted and millions of ‘innocent’ users – if ever such a thing existed – alongside them. It was anarchy: and so the paranoia grew… people became more scared, more belligerent and more angry. It couldn’t be sustained. The viruses blossomed and expanded their grip exponentially – the .net simply couldn’t keep pace and the world watched in horror as the information superhighway lurched relentlessly toward Tipping Point.
Inevitably, horrifyingly, it happened. The .net imploded, coming to a fatal halt, then an inexorable and total crash on Black Wednesday.
For three months, the world ground to a halt – without the .net and the multiplicity of networks and systems that relied upon it, commerce, transport and communication were thrust headfirst back into the Dark Ages. Some systems survived – mostly small-scale LANs and private secure networks, including – to the surprise of many – Second Life. Unofficially, the word was that the Linden architecture was so poorly constructed that it failed before any real damage could be done – the official version was rather different: According to the Lab, SL security was far more robust than anything on the web and that all those residents who had complained for years about the Lab’s ponderous approach to change would do well to thank their lucky stars that the Lindens were such a cautious bunch. In a keynote speech at SL12B, the Lab CEO – Q.A. Linden – spoke to those few residents who had been able to reconnect after Tipping Point: “We told you so! This is precisely why we banned TPVs and switched to closed source code. Viewer 5.4 is the most secure to date because – quite simply – we control every aspect of it and we will not allow Second Life to be compromised because of a misplaced concept of ‘freedom’. Second Life: Our world – Your imagination!”
Famous last words, she thought as she gazed, shocked, at the devastation around her.
It was a rogue texture that was to prove to be the downfall of SL – uploaded from what remained of the .net by an unwitting resident. The malicious code was hidden in the alpha channel – invisible, but deadly. Unobtrusively, it replicated itself across the Grid, establishing copies of itself on every processor core, silently biding its time, waiting for its unwholesome network to become complete… then, it struck without warning – initially insidiously – quietly wreaking havoc; destabilising the virtual world and weakening it until the moment came to strike with shocking and awesome force.
In the beginning, it just seemed like a bad week in SL – inventory going missing, rampant lag and constant bake fail. It was only when the sheer scale of the problems became evident that the alarm bells started to ring – by that time, it was far too late. People really started to notice that something was badly wrong when Windlight began going crazy – who would have thought that a passive environmental system could completely destroy the shared experience? Yet, with hindsight, it was obvious – when the weather began to call the shots, rather than the residents, the resulting mayhem was a showstopper – virtual fire and brimstone rained down upon the virtual world: Armageddon in pixel form. Then came the griefing – SL began to look and feel like a battlefield and, as the loading on servers increased and inworld conditions deteriorated, it was just a matter of time before the total collapse of SLociety became inevitable… and no-one realised just how quickly it would happen.
Only two days ago, the scene she had looked out upon was idyllic – now it was a nightmare.
The disruption was appalling – much of SL appeared to still be functional, at least until she looked deeper. Friends flickered on and off line – all too briefly to be contacted; TPs were possible but many destinations appeared ‘unavailable’, whereas some of those she did reach often failed to rez and would frequently blink out of existence entirely – a result of cores overheating, she surmised. Garbled messages clogged the channels, Sim crossings were next to impossible and media streams spluttered and died.
It seemed to her that SL was dying – being drawn inexorably into an electronic black hole that was crushing the life from it. As she stood and watched the mayhem, the world around her suddenly flicked off – for a few brief moments everything went black then, in fits and starts, items began to re-appear: now terribly broken and flawed.
“Can anybody hear me? Is there anybody out there?
If anybody is receiving this message, please come to me – i’m broadcasting my SLurl on channel 10. i’m convinced that others, like me have succeeded in returning to SL, although in the 3 days i have been back inworld i have yet to find another soul. Surely there are others, like me, who have hacked back in? Please come to me, join me… we have a world to rebuild.”
She sighed – nothing, still. She gazed around at the flat, empty plane that surrounded her and called up her world map. What was she expecting to see? How many times had she done this in the past three days? The map, as featureless as ever, had not changed… the once vast world of SL, now reduced to a handful of regions, most of which were derelict, empty and devoid of form. She sighed again and opened her inventory… almost completely empty.
‘Well… may as well start filling it again’, she thought, ‘this world’s not going to rebuild itself!’
There, in the middle of nowhere, she rezzed a new object, and despite herself, she couldn’t help smiling…
“It all starts with a cube…”, she whispered.
Metanoia, reshaping the world
It can teach you
And reprogram you
MGMT – Metanoia