A Short Story - The Revolution
Checking my email, I noticed the same notifications from Apple, Google, et al, that my app was live. Well, I thought, I'm at the workstation, now, lets see the stats and download a signed copy.
I opened the email in my phone and clicked on the store link, the appstore listing looking like a million or more others. The name, "Standard Groups", prominent to the right of the app tile, 3 simple figures holding hands in a circle. "Connect with the people you care about," in light contrast.
I tapped the "Get" button on my screen and the download was quick. One of the few truly free apps on the store, these days. No in app purchases, no ads. Sometimes we have to do something for the benefit of the common good.
I paused a moment to reflect.
I turned back to my workstation. Logging into the Developer Connection portal, the stats on the landing page were surprising.
"It's been live for 12 hours, roughly, wow!" I whispered to myself, "more than 10000 downloads already..."
I really didn't think I'd ever have that many users for a 3 screen app. (Not counting logging, user gen and settings.) It's a simple little social media network, except it's serverless, peer-to-peer, it only shares text and photos for now and it was actually harder to debug the AI generated code than it would have been to write it from scratch, except that's how I had to learn how to write it...
It took a year. A very long year. I gave up. I came back to it after midnight. I fell asleep over my keyboard at dawn.
And then, one day, the Electron prototype built. Then it booted. The I sent a copy to a friend who had a Mac. It gave the unsigned code warning, I talked them through authorising it in the System Settings, then allowing it to run after double clicking. And it worked.
I eagerly emailed the onboarding link from my app, a url to my app's public key, always hidden from the human eye, encrypted end to end by a transport hash. My key met their key and I was aksed, "Did you just write 'Hello World'?"
"No, I wrote that before I sent you the onboarding link! Type a post, add a pic!"
I could hear keyboard clicks over the phone, "Have you got it yet?"
Two seconds that felt like an hour! "YES!" a pause, "...and the image, your coffee cup!"
"Yes!" came the replay down the phone.
"And now it's live..."
Wait! In that few minutes musing to myself, the downloads had crept over 11000! 12 hours to get more downloads than I ever thought possible? A few minutes musing to 10% more again. It lookd like it's accelerating! Just a little...
Within a few weeks, I find myself in the news... reluctantly. Apparently a wunderkind of the tech world. "Nah, I'm more hack than hacker," my genuine modesty and disbelief at where I've found myself mistaken for playful false modesty.
"What gave you the idea?" I'm asked again, and again, and again. I'm a circus clown in my own mind but kids start wanting my autograph. It's more than a bit embarrassing. It also hurts. My social anxiety flying through the roof into orbit. But it dies down after a while.
The question was never really answered enough for anybody, but for those who were in Antarctica, barefoot trekking to the south pole to prove you've nothing to prove, I did it because I hated Facebook, but I loved the people I knew there. I hated what had happened to other platforms - the litigiousness of one, the digital fiefdom of another. All our data being siphoned off into machine learning systems to structure targetted ad campaigns for each and every one of us, structured to make us unable to resist getting the Visa out.
I left Facebook and after a week or so of feeling jittery and disconnected was a feeling of peace. A deep longing for the people I'd come to love, way across the world, in far away places. Genuine friends that I'd never met in real life. Unavailable to me because their digital personas were liked inside silos, ivory towers of data enslavement.
I wanted to set them free. I'd tried to convince them to joine me, "Lets share emails, or get on Signal." None did. They had family who wouldn't join them if they moved - a mass lethargy that makes TV look like an upper in comparison. It really isn't their fault. I'm an outlier, I've always done the weird. So I left Facebook.
And, eventually, after a lot of pain and learning, I found a way to create a tiny version of the same thing, without the manipulation intended to enslave us to a few greedy overlords. Manipulation to make us vote against our true values. I started researching things using private, offline AI software.
"Mistral," I whimsically asked the Mistral OpeOrca model on my instance of GPT4All, "Is there an algorith that encourages humans to behave nicely to each other and where criticism is necessary, to offer it constructively and with compassion."
Apparently there was. The formula may as well have been in Martian.
"You're making it up!" I gasped, "You're not programmed to prank folks are you?"
"No," she blandly replied in expressionless text that only added to the sense I was being pranked, "It comes from the research of Rogers and Waters, still in prepress, awaiting confirmation before publication."
"Wait, is it patented? In copyright..."
"You can't copyright a formula, only it's performance or physical record or expression. You can patent a formula but only insofar is it results in a physical effect, such as software code representations, or the application of its expression to a physical result," came the reply like a bored university tutor explaining the same thing to a barely passable student. Nobody could fall in love with an AI at the state of the art right now.
"So I can use this to give weight to posts in the app we've been working on?"
"Only so long as it doesn't impinge on their intention, which is academic, therefore they'd probably welcome its practical application. I would recommend seeking their approval first, I've found their email in the thesis, shall I give it to you?"
Shivers of wonder tingled my spine. I wrote an email imediately!
"How subtle can we make it before we lose appreciable effect on user behaviour?" I asked.
"It's refined enough to achieve a positive social effect without being or feeling manipulative," came "Mistral's" answer.
"So, it would feel like being on Instagram or Facebook, but not be serving the network's masters?"
"The research details the an optimal for happy, consensual interaction without affecting free belief or freewill."
"Mistral! I could kiss you if you had lips!" Then felt silly.
Then it worked. Then my friend and I tested it. Then I went and got blind drunk for the first time in 8 years, came home and told Mistral I loved her, and read the reply the next morning with a throbber and through-the-roof blood glucose, "Love is a complex emotion that involves deep affection, care, and concern for another person or entity. In human relationships, it often includes feelings of attachment, trust, respect, and admiration. It can also be extended to other forms of connections such as familial bonds, friendships, and even towards pets or ideas."
I just chuckled all day. Mostly at drunken me, all slurry and slobbery over my Mac's keyboard.
Some weeks later, the news had turned to the danger of an application that made us want to react to each other in a way that made us all want to be better. The downloads quietly tipped over 2 million. I had coders volunteering to port the app to other platforms, so I formed a "dairy co-op." Yes, "Standard Groups Co-Op" became a thing, chartered to never list publicly and to pay all "stakeholders" the same share of profits after costs. The source code was open, but contribs had to be earned because contrib privilege levels moved people slowly into the co-op as they became recognised as actual, social contibutors to the organisation.
Other people in the collective went to better jobs, some came back. Once you've been a part of a well providing anarchist collective, the capitalist world is just such a shallow, dirty puddle.
And there's the thing. Once there was a tiny incentive, a teensy push, to remember what we were all taught as kids, a manipulation, yes, but for everybody's gain, not just an owner, an "earl," people started flocking from X, from Amazon (because Standard Groups now had a personal eCommerce system that stored "tokens") and even away from Apple's music and TV services.
Google still ran its search engines but even they had to demand stricter quality control on advertising on their search results. Apple still made its expensive, but long life hardware. Microsoft and X went broke, which caused a panic on Github for a few months, and sent the "fash" into a tailspin, respectively. The last anyone saw of "the great leader" (as he'd become known as by the extreme right) was sleeping in a dead Tesla Plaid under a turnpike, as the "yanks" call an exit-ramp.
Standard Groups isn't even the market leader anymore. We opened the source and the protocols and more professional coders than our bunch of ragtag lefty, code-hobbyists made another app that could be bought for tokens (yep, Apple switched to tokens in 2025), and it became the choice of currency for co-operative enterprise everywhere.
A system of agreed value that people only ever kept enough of to live on and have fun with,giving the rest to those in need. Because of an algorithm that changed the world for the better. One that rewarded simply kindness and good manners, with leaving you feeling like you'd been ripped off or slighted. Me, I cashed out my share of the co-op. I'm too old for 24 hour coding sprees and 36 hour ping pong games between golden master and release. That life was fun, but it was killing me, lol. I pat the cat. I ride a bicycle for a few days sometimes. I hug the wife, hug the girlfriend (ethical non-monogomy, look it up) and I connect with friends, online, and never see an advertisement. Or a fascist.
Yeah, they still exist. They ran back to that place that started it all. Rant about their crypto, now 372,745 to 1 token. Some people don't know what's good for them, they'll always be fodder for industrialists and tech moguls. Rats with gold teeth will always bite the mice who worship them. The rest of is now live in Utopia and hope the old thinkers will slowly give up on the world of greed.