Allan was wrong. He might not have expected to be impressed with Novation, but, almost against his will, he was.
As soon as he entered the unprepossessing concrete-block building, he could† feel the data rush. Vibrating, racing, dancing. Whatever made a place blaze† on the very edge of the information front, this place had it.
His contact entered the lobby just as Allan did. On top of the moves. She was an Indian woman in her late thirties, dressed in khaki slacks and a red shirt. All† her movements were quick and light. Her black eyes shone with intelligence.
"Allan. Iím Skaka Gupta, Chief Scientist at Novation." Although of course Allan already knew that, plus everything relevant about her career, and she† knew that he knew. "Welcome to our Biorobotics Unit."
- Nancy Kress, Steamship Soldier on the Information Front (Asimovís Science Fiction, April 1998)
The internationalists is a distinct global culture. It has broken free from the old national and cultural boundaries, it embraces the new technology and confidently aims for the stars (or at least stock options). While there has been a jet set travelling and trading world-wide since the early 19th century, it was in the late 20th century global travel, trade and communication became so affordable that a large group of people could do it. As larger and larger groups began to use these possibilities they came into conflict with the old power elites that dominated the national states and large corporations. But due to their flexibility, the speed at which unexpected and transforming new technologies appeared and the rigidity of the solutions proposed by the old guard, the internationalists gained power in the 00's and 10's. They broke down the old system, not with violence but by inventing new and better systems that out-competed the old.
Today the internationalists dominate world economy. No national economy can compete with the power of the networked global economy. The Net is the glue that binds together the internationalists: it is not just the main information source, communications medium, economic forum and media, it is also used as the global political forum. Issues are brought up, discussed, analysed and dealt with by a network of discussion groups, think tanks, task forces and other associations of the network age in a flexible and distributed manner. Instead of going for centralication the internationalists are highly decentralised but can remain a cohesive force thanks to their net-based institutions.
While internationalists on average are wealthier than nationalists, it is not always the case despite the stereotype. It is more of a mindset and culture than a state of wealth. The main reason for their wealth is that they are connected to the global economic system in a way most nationalists cannot (or wouldn't) do. In principle nearly everyone can link up and find a niche, even with very small economic means, but in practice the cultural differences make things harder.
Internationalists tend to live and work in the International Zone, the distributed region that belongs to no particular traditional culture. In the 20th century it was mainly airports that belonged to the Zone, but over the last four decades it has expanded to encompass whole enclaves or regions. California, Hong Kong, the cores of many cities, parts of Marocco and the Caribbean, the floating islands and many other places are internationalist areas.
The internationalist lifestyle is one of flexibility and change. In a world where things change from week to week, you have to be flexible to survive.† Everything is optional, everything can be reconfigured: your home, your job, your life, your body. If your personality doesn't work, change it. If you dislike the way you look, change it. There are no fixed "human nature" or traditions that have to be retained at all costs.
There are no safety nets: your success is your and yours alone - but so is your failure.
The internationalist view the future is bright, but dangerous. Great new opportunities wait around every corner and the human condition is being improved in all directions - but the new technologies and social possibilities are not just liberating but could wreck everything. Many internationalists worry that as technology spreads terrorism will become so dangerous that the survival of mankind is threatened. The problem is that they do not have any adequate solutions, since their own ideology promotes the free spread of technology and has a hard time accepting the Orwellesque measures necessary to track down all potential terrorism or misuse.
The internationalists stem from people across the world. While the original "first generation" mainly were of Western and partially East Asian origin, the economic changes of the 10's brought forth a large contingent of internationalists from South America, Africa and exile-Chinese. Today the average internationalist is non-Western, at least appearance-wise. These days a second generation is growing up, the children of the first generation who took the step into the international world; these second generation internationalists take their lifestyle and worldview for granted and simply cannot understand why anybody would want to be tied down into a nation somewhere. It makes more sense to say "I grew up in Ecology" rather than list a long sequence pf temporary homes. Most internationalists identify more with their net-associates and subcultures than with any geographic culture.
To the internationalists the main virtues are ambition, openness and flexibility. They have reached their ascendancy thanks to them, and can't see why other people can't use them to do the same. Knowledge is power, but it is free for the taking on the Net.
"Charlie? Where are you?"
"What do you mean, where am I? Itís Friday, right? Iím at school."
"In . . ."
"Why arenít you in Denver?"
"Not this week, Dad, remember?"
- Nancy Kress, Steamship Soldier on the Information Front (Asimovís Science Fiction, April 1998)
Internationalist culture is just that, internationalised culture. It is largely based on the internationalist styles common in the 20th century, the Net culture that flowered in the 00's and influences from the "new wells" of former third world nations that have emerged onto the global market. As the joke goes, internationalists speak English, eat Indian and make love in VR. Critics often call it airport culture: it is the same across the world, comfortable, a bit bland and too technophiliac and commercial. But it has developed on its own, freely borrowing ideas and styles from other cultures to suit itself. Internationalists are generally open and tolerant, and have few inhibitions to explore new combinations.
The virtualist movement in lifestyle, philosophy and culture emerged in the 10's as people online began to see the world more and more as information and care less and less for physical implementation. It was a kind of new asceticism where information was more important than the physical. Becoming wealthy wasn't a goal in itself; you could be more respected for contributing an essential website or skill than by having money and traditional influence. People spent more energy on their virtual personas and surroundings than the actual world. One result was access living.
Access living is common among the most mobile people. The idea is that what is important is access to things, not the things itself. Having access to a computer, car or kitchen of a certain standard is more important than owning it - it can be leased and configured to behave like the previous one. Access living people own very little physical belongings, but as they travel their profiles and digital homes follow them and allow suitable "access hotels" to configure themselves into copies of the home preferences. The lifestyle is however going out of fashion as the New Materialism spreads.
The New Materialism developed as a reaction to the excesses of the virtualists. "Matter matters!" is the slogan promoted by the circle of Net philosophers originating the ideas. The New Materialism points at the human needs for stability and authenticity in a changing world, and suggests way of achieving them without giving up the dynamics that is the lifeblood of the internationalists. Actually owning a house at a nice place is a good way of finding stability, by developing one's tastes one can not just enjoy oneself but one can grow as a person. It is a restrained, aesthetic view that encourages people to live their lives like deliberate artworks, finding joy in all aspects of life. Of course, in practice most adherents are more materialists than neohumanists, but the ideal of the superdynamic renaissance epicurean is popular.
There are many subcultures and net.tribes among the internationalists. If you cannot expect to meet your friends physically often as you travel around, it makes more sense to meet with virtual friends on the Net, where you always can find them. Hence the associations of people across the net forms much of their real social identity, regardless of where they are and currently live.
TAG - Threat Assessment Groups
In order to detect and handle potential global or local threats, TAGs have emerged. Each TAG is a group devoted to assessing threats within a certain field, such as Astronomy-TAG (meteors, sunspot activity, supernovae, etc), Climate-TAG (glaciation, hurricanes, drought, etc), Finance-TAG (recessions, bubbles, fluctuations, fraud, etc) and many others. Usually the field-specific TAGs contain many smaller sub-TAGs dealing with specific dangers. The TAGs do their best to include the leading experts in the field and produce high-quality information - most are funded by selling the distilled information, acting as review boards and as recipients of tips.
Most TAGs work by data mining and analysis rather than field work; others collect the actual data the TAGs need, and they often have deals with many other organisations and national groups. Many TAGs are real infovores, and have significant economic flows.
On the top level International-TAG exists, a kind of moderator TAG compiling all the reports from the specialist TAGs, reviewing them (and their originators) and acting as a broker for requests. It is a respected organisation whose pronouncements and warnings are widely studied. I-TAG however is just a think-tank, it cannot execute any policy, merely act as a coordinator or advisor. It has close ties to the global task forces and various crisis consultancy firms.
NERD - Nanotech Emergency Response Division
A global task force intended to control nanotech (i.e. biobot and phage) emergencies. While many task forces deal with ordinary epidemics or the spread of bioengineered creatures, NERD was formed to deal with the problem of deliberate or accidental micro- and nanoscale threats. Many believe that in the next decade nanotech will become so powerful that NERD will be essential for human survival.
NERD has a research branch developing new ways of identifying and controlling biobots, and a response branch to contain and neutralise identified threats. The organisation has been accredited with most national governments and is widely regarded as one of the cutting edge defenses against runaway biotechnology.
If the hippest job in 90's and 00's was web designer and in the 10's and 20's biotech, in the 30's it is metareviewer.
In an advanced information society too much information accumulates, most of doubtful quality. There are thousands of information sources on any given subject, but which are worthwhile and which are of bad quality or biased? The solution has been the proliferation of review services, which forms the basis for the "middle class". Reviewers review information, companies, people, reviews and anything else and compile the information into databases which are then sold. Review boards have emerged from the academic journal system, putting their seals of approval on papers or other information that meets their standards; if something has been approved by several highly ranked review boards or reviewers, it is likely good. Of course, review boards are in turn reviewed, and so on.
Worldwide internationalist environmental organisation. It works closely with the environmental tags to preserve species diversity, keep biotech tame and if possible "ski on the climate change" - make the transition to a colder climate system as smooth as possible. It is often in conflict with national environmental organisations, which generally try to preserve local ecosystems rather than help migration or change. It is also heavily involved with ecotechnology corporations in Indonesia and West Africa, making it even less palatable to traditional environmentalism.
TTGs, Transient Tactical Groups are the international police of the internationalists. Various security and law enforcement outfits are hired and coordinated by conflict firms through the net when need arises. TTGs are rare occurences, but essential for the operations of the TAGs and other distributed international task forces especially when the normal forces are not enough. The appearance of a TTG usually starts a wildfire of speculation on the net.
Net Maintenance Audit Board
The key organisation for maintenance and extension of the Net. It grew out of the old IETF and various NIC's, together with the often competing standards groups of the 00's. NMAB is responsible for some of the core standards of the net, deciding how they are to be launched and what deviations are acceptable.
Epidemological network, based on the remnants of WHO and CDC. Well renowned and respected by everyone; it has been given a wide jurisdiction by most governments and national organisations gladly work together with it. It mainly deals with natural diseases, leaving the engineered strains to NERD. The organisations have local headquarters in most major cities, able to make emergency flights anywhere on the globe.
International Antiterrorism Task Force (IATF)
The most well-renowned and powerful antiterrorism group. Supported by internationalists and most major nations, it coordinates other antiterrorist forces when a threat has been identified.