The Caddy That Zips

May 1, 2074
SEATTLE–In a local showroom, officials from Boeing and General Motors today demonstrated a Cadillac concept car equipped with a Quantum Matter Compression Drive based on the same compression technology currently used in Boeing’s commercial aircraft. “We’ve been shrinking passengers and cargo for a while now,” notes Boeing representative Peter Shimp, “Our goal now is to extend compression technologies to other industries. Our work here, with GM, is a fist big step towards that goal.”

Built on Boeing’s proprietary ZipTopia compression platform, the Cadillac prototype, currently known as the “Houdini,” can be compressed up to 70% in both volume and weight. “It’s the ideal car for use in a crowded, urban environment” explains a GM spokesmodel. “You can find adequate parking space almost anywhere. When fully compressed, the Houdini can be easily wheeled about by one person, and conveniently stowed for later use.”

Boeing’s ZipTopia technology enables users to compress physical objects up to 80% in both volume and weight. Exploiting a quantum uncertainty phenomenon known as “superposition,” the ZipTopia device encodes “adjacent, homologous matter units” as a single “unit” of the same type in multiple “superpositions.” Boeing’s Shimp explains: “Imagine you have something very simple, say a thread, one atom thick, made entirely of carbon atoms. There’s a lot of redundancy in an object like that. What ZipTopia does is take that thread, and, ideally, shrink it down to one carbon atom superposited with itself multiple times along a line in the shape of the thread. That’s the basic idea.”

The degree of available compression varies with the complexity of the object, with simple objects made of a single, purified material subject to the greatest compression. For more complex objects, ZipTopia employs industry-standard and FDA approved compression protocols, including HPEG and BPEG for people and other biological objects. To prevent the loss of objects due to excessive compression, the ZipTopia specification employs volumetric micro-sonar to keep objects to a manageable size.

While the initial Houdini prototype uses ZipTopia to facilitate vehicle parking and storage, future models will make use of the technology to improve fuel efficiency. “The Cadillac Houdini is not currently equipped for passenger compression,” explains the GM spokesmodel. “A dash-mounted scanner disables ZipTopia when passengers are present. But, at GM, the environment is a top priority. Future models will enable fuel efficiency through drive-time compression. You’ll be able to enjoy the roomy luxury of a Cadillac and experience the fuel efficiency of a compact or mini.”

In addition to development agreements with GM and Samsonite, Boeing has also recently announced the availability of customized, industrial strength implementations of the technology for the commercial and residential real estate markets. “We’ve already had some serious inquiries from major developers in space-constricted markets like New York, Tokyo, and San Francisco,” notes Shimp. “Developers can really leverage their square footage. A 900 sq. ft. studio apartment can, in many cases, be fit into a 500 sq. ft. space. The same goes for office space. Even storefronts, using a ZipTopia Threshold or Lintel, can easily fit more customers into their existing space. This will be the biggest thing to hit real estate since the door.”

Toddler’s Conviction Upheld, Execution Looms

April 11, 2088
Tallahassee FL–A divided Florida Supreme Court today upheld the capital murder conviction of two-year old Jake Fritter, permitting the state to proceed with its plans to execute him at 12:01 am on May 1st.

A jury convicted Fritter last January of the murder of two Dade County police officers during a foiled convenience store robbery, a robbery that was not to have taken place for nearly 30 years. Under controversial new evidence rules, the prosecution introduced detailed evidence of Fritter’s future crimes obtained through use of “temporal networking” equipment supplied by research and financial services giant Futurefeedforward. “This is a big ruling for the good guys,” notes Assistant District Attorney Gerry Freon. “With the admissibility of evidence like this, we’ll be able to prosecute perpetrators before they’ve committed their crimes, increasing the effectiveness of the System in deterring crime and saving the victims from unneeded suffering.”

The evidence that convicted Fritter, including high-resolution surveillance videos of the crime, was obtained using special computer networking equipment that permits communication between present-day and “future-side” computers. “The evidence was of the best quality imaginable, very detailed, very concrete, very graphic,” explains Freon. “It wasn’t really as difficult as we anticipated to persuade the jury of the reality of a crime which hadn’t yet happened. The real trick was to establish identity, to convince the jury that the cute little toddler they saw at the defense table was the same person they saw, thirty years older, in the video evidence.”

Speaking at a press conference after the ruling, Fritter defense attorney Lillian Cree descried the Court’s validation of the use of evidence of future crimes and vowed to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. “This is a travesty, yet another case of the accused being persecuted because the legal system doesn’t yet know how to deal with a new technology. We haven’t yet had a chance for deliberate, democratic dialog on the weight that should be afforded evidence of this sort. My client has been convicted on the basis of evidence of a crime that, if the sentence is carried out, we know will never happen. Is that justice?”

“It’s not as confusing as the defense wants us to think,” retorts ADA Freon. “We can’t very well ignore a crime we know is going to happen. To do so would make us accessories of a sort. The fact that a proactive prosecution prevents the underlying crime justifies the sentence that much more. The challenge presented by a case like this is more subtle. Because establishing identity was so essential to the case, we were able to justify delving into a number of Fritter’s ‘prior bad acts.’ We had to construct his entire future criminal career, create a sort of ‘chain of custody,’ in order to prove that the perp in the tapes is the Fritter we have in custody today. That let the jury hear lots of things about him that they probably wouldn’t have normally heard. In this case it was justified, but would it be so in all cases? I don’t know.”

Fritter’s case has spawned a storm of litigation involving Futurefeedforward, the supplier of the temporal network used to gather evidence against Fritter. “Our contract with the State of Florida specifically prohibits use of our system for purposes of this sort,” notes a company spokesman. “The State is in breach of the licensing agreement, and we have initiated suit to compel Florida to live up to its commitments.” In addition to commercial suits against Dade County and the State of Florida, the company is also contesting a host of subpoenas from prosecutors around the country seeking evidence of future crimes.

Fritter’s mother, Abigail Fritter, returning from a court-authorized visit to her son’s death row cell, broke down. “He seems to be holding up pretty well. He’s got his ‘blankie.’ I asked him did he want anything. He just looked at me and said ‘Happy Meal.’ […] Is this right? Is this America? Jake’s going to die for killing somebody who hasn’t even been born yet. I heard they asked for a warrant before Jakey was even born. This is wrong. This is evil. I’m not going to let this happen!”

Inside Florida State Prison, death row officials have begun construction of a miniature electric chair to accommodate Fritter.

Aniston, Pitt Anonymized, Keys Lost

April 23, 2072
MALIBU–Spokespeople for celebrity activists Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston confirmed today that the longtime couple is currently anonymized and that the decryption keys have been lost or damaged. “Brad and Jennifer have always enjoyed mixing with the public,” explains a spokesperson for the couple. “They’re very down to earth that way. They had just turned on their anonymizers for a trip down to Pizza Bell to pick up some dinner. When they went to turn them off, they found that something had gone wrong. They’ve both remained encrypted for the past couple of weeks or so. We’re hopeful that the technical people will be able to recover the keys in due course.”

Pitt and Aniston both use recent versions of PGP-compliant anonymizing hardware sold by Oakley under the GygesTM brand. The Gyges system includes millions of self-replicating nanoMEMS that reside in the epidermis. The small machines each control a nanoscopic mirror. Networked by low-power RF connections, the MEMS form a giant neural net dedicated to anonymizing the wearer through control of the mirrors. Light striking the wearer is re-directed in a seemingly random fashion, disguising the wearer’s true appearance. Recent versions of Gyges have begun using distributed 65K-bit encryption of the “façade” in order to thwart filter-enabled lenses and glasses.

“We’ve gotten quite used to seeing anonymized patrons,” notes Sally Okibuchi, manager of Sony’s New Fish Experience, a popular L.A. celebrity haunt. “It was disconcerting when they started to show up a few years ago, looking all blocky, like some kind of whistleblower or secret government witness or something. And those scrambled voices were a real hoot. But some of the newer anonymizers have a real sense of style, some of them are really beautiful.”

According to sources near the couple, Pitt and Aniston regularly used a beta patch to Gyges that enables “cross-keying,” or the sharing of keys between users and specially enabled HUD glasses through a proprietary PKI. Pitt and Aniston were known to use designer HUD glasses to enable them to see each other while they remained anonymized to the general public. Experts who have examined the couple hypothesize that a bug in the patch is causing their anonymizers to export the dynamically generated keys to the associated HUD glasses while deleting the local copy of the key, preventing the systems from decrypting the couple.

“It’s a real shame from our perspective,” notes AOL Studio Chief Marianne Asse. “Two of our most bankable stars have just plummeted in value. Sure, they can still see each other, but what about their obligations to us and to their public? Their contracts specifically require key escrow. They should have given us a copy of the key to hold in case of emergencies like this. They didn’t, and that has put them in default. According to contract, that grants us a right to use their likenesses digitally on stand-ins, and that’s probably where we’re headed.”

“There’s a good reason Jennifer and Brad didn’t trust the studio with their keys,” explains the couple’s spokesperson. “They’ve had trouble in the past with the studio leaking the keys to contracted paparazzi and poaching extra-contractual public appearances. We’re prepared to talk about exactly who has broken the contracts and when. The default clause specifies that AOL gets the right to digital likenesses only if Brad and Jennifer are substantially unable to perform their duties. Sure, their bodies and faces are anonymized and won’t show up right on camera, but their hair remains perfectly shootable. As long as they can shoot the hair, they’ve got their stars. The studio can digitally add their own likenesses to them. This ‘stand-in’ talk is just the studios trying to get out of paying the stars, and it’s not right.”

Though fans remain hopeful, encryption experts outside the Pitt-Aniston camp doubt that the couple can be decrypted. “This is an example of bad design and inadequate testing in a life-critical application,” notes one expert. “Getting them decrypted would require something like harnessing the quantum computational power of a body the size of the sun. They’re just not going to be cracked for centuries.”

Engineered Corn Communicates, Crunches Numbers

Jan. 14, 2047
LINCOLN, NE–A team of researchers at the University of Nebraska announced this week the successful growth and testing of a new strain of corn endowed with rudimentary computational abilities. The strain, to be marketed by University of Nebraska sponsor Monsanto under the brand name SmartCorn, makes use of principles of distributed, networked computation to communicate information about the health and condition of the plant and to solve computation-intensive problems. “Our goals with SmartCorn were twofold,” notes Monsanto VP of Corn and Pomegranates Leslie Studebaker, “first, to help growers gather information about their plants, and second, to generate surplus computational cycles that growers could sell on the open market. I’m happy to say that these recent results indicate that we’ve found the solution we were looking for.”

SmartCorn makes use of “genetic” or “DNA” computation in which genetically planned biologic processes function in computer-like ways to solve problems and to generate and follow algorithms. “Basically, SmartCorn includes an additional set of chromosomes responsible for development of computational organelles and structures,” explains Nebraska Professor of Bioinformatics Jules Gasse. “In conjunction with additional modifications to the traditional NovaLink genome, this genetic material gives SmartCorn notable computational power.”

In addition to its computer power, SmartCorn is also equipped with networking functionality. Each stalk dynamically generates “micropollens” that encode information, and tag it with a destination and origin address tied to a stalk-identifying signature composed of a series of genetic polymorphisms. The leaves of each plant “route” information by duplicating and spreading micropollens addressed to other plants, and absorbing and processing instructions and data that match their genetically encoded address.

“We call SmartCorn a smart crop/dumb network solution,” notes Professor Gasse. “We were willing to sacrifice efficiency on the networking side just to get access to the phenomenal computational power involved. Imagine all of the cornfields in the Midwest functioning as one giant super-computer. We would probably be able to discover a new prime number every growing season!”

Growers can communicate with their SmartCorn crops through a pollen-generating interface box that connects to a computer through a standard USB2 port. Using special software, growers can “harvest” the excess processor cycles generated by the crop and auction them off through an automated exchange.

More importantly, growers can also gather information about the health of the crop, and send instructions into the field, including instructions for individual plants. “One of the interactive instruction sets we’re looking at will connect SmartCorn to the irrigation controls so individual plants can request water as-needed,” explains Professor Gasse. “The increase in yield and efficiency alone would be spectacular.”

Contacted about the SmartCorn announcement, FDA officials confirmed that the new plant is undergoing fast-track testing for human consumption-grade use. “We’re very confident on Federal approval,” indicates Monsanto VP Studebaker. “To be frank, we paid more attention to our focus groups, who all rated SmartCorn at least as tasty as NovaLink, and, on average, more flavorful than AuntMableSupreme. That’s the kind of approval we’re looking for.”