Tuesday 30 January 2024

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Extracting Humanity and Other Stories by Stephen Oram


Orchid's Lantern Press

My thanks to Isabelle Kenyon for the invitation to the blog tour

In this remarkably perceptive collection, Stephen Oram blends cutting-edge science and tech with everyday emotions and values to create 20 thought experiments with heart.

Extracting Humanity is a skilful exploration of smart currencies, memorials, medical care, treatment of refugees, social networks, data monitoring, and justice systems. Always without prescription or reprimand, these stories are simply the beginning of the conversation.

From an eerie haptic suit that Tommy must call Father, to a protective, nutritious bubble that allows Feng Mian to survive on a colonised Moon; from tattoos that will earn their wearers a mini-break in a sensory chamber, to Harrie anxiously awaiting AI feedback on her unborn child… These startling, diverse narratives map all-too-real possibilities for our future and the things that might ultimately divide or unite us.

I'm delighted to be able to share this short story today from Extracting Humanity 


“I don’t want to beg, but we are best mates ‘n all that.”

“You have to be kidding. They’ll trace it so easily, and then where will we be?”

I shrugged and carried on tinkering with the code of the car that had been brought in to have its latest patches installed. I wasn’t paying proper attention to what I was doing, but then if they couldn’t pay me a decent wage, why should I?

I tried again, speaking loudly but not directly to him. “I have to buy food and heat the house and it’s the wife’s birthday. All I want is for you to do some shopping for me. I’ll pay you back straight away. I don’t see how they’ll know it’s for me and not you.”

“You’ve heard the rumours. Anything that smacks of reparation avoidance is swiftly dealt with. Shame laundering, isn’t that what they call it?”

I kept my eyes firmly fixed on the screen in front of me, trying not to make a big deal out of it.

“It’s only one weekly food shop.”

“Apart from the illegal bit, your lineage owes my lineage and until that’s done…”

He had a point, but he was wrong. It wasn’t my forefathers who stole stuff from other countries and locked it away in the British Museum.

I stared at him. “That genetic profiling is crap. Completely ignores the fact those elite fuckers were stealing from my sort at the same time as robbing the heritage of yours.”

He mumbled something I couldn’t make out.

“It’s too generic. It should be a class thing, not a country thing. No way does it trace those who were really responsible.”

Another mumble.

I looked away. “Still, we are where we are as my mother used to say. For better or worse we have programmable money, and it has rules.”

He came and stood next to me. “You’re my friend. I get that. And that’s why I know we’ll rise above this whole reparation thing. It only lasts until it’s all paid back.”

I nodded, unable to reply. He just didn’t get it.

“Not the sins of my fathers,” I muttered under my breath. I was innocent. My whole family line was innocent, and yet my Heritage Pound was worth less than his because the cost of re-balancing the abuses of other people’s ancestors fell to me and mine.

I continued talking while working. “I wasn’t asked about the British Museum being privatised. I wasn’t consulted about the contents becoming the asset behind the most widely used private currency. It wasn’t my decision to give it favourable interest rates and lower tax rates than the other currencies. It’s those bastards in charge of the Bank of England’s digital currency.”

I rubbed my temples and sighed. “I agree with the government offsetting the reparation obligations of its colonial past, but there’s a world of difference between agreeing with the what and agreeing with the how.”

He tutted and went back to his bench.

We ignored each other for the rest of the day, but as he left he called across. “I’ll see if the kids have any ideas.”

My teenage daughter met me outside, determined that I should buy her mother a birthday present.

“Just a small one,” she said.

I told her we couldn’t afford it and that her mother understood, but she insisted.

“Why don’t we use a different currency? One that works for us, not against us. Then we could afford it,” she said.

I explained as best I could how difficult it was to be accepted by any other currency. Their rules of interaction with the CBDC were predicated on how risky their customer base was, and we were in one of the highest risk brackets.

She pushed hard. “Why not do what Sasha’s dad does? He owns shares in art that’s worth more every day. Non. Fungible. Tokens. Get it?”

“Fine for him”, I explained, “but we don’t have any capital to begin with.” She huffed and puffed, throwing one superficially thought-through solution after another at me. It was as if she considered me to be stupid. As if she thought I’d not explored all these options.

She made that disgusting sound with her tongue.

“It’s crap.”

“I know,” I said. “You’re right. It’s the very people whose ancestors were responsible for the appalling past of our country who use the other currencies. They escape any consequences of the national reparation.”

She was fuming, and with the familiar cry of every teenager, she pointed out that it wasn’t fair. All I could do was agree with her. Replying with the age-old parental response that life just isn’t fair.

I told my mate about it the next day, and despite the seriousness of the situation, I found myself laughing along with him about the idealism of youth. We reminisced about our own teenage years and how we’d been certain that we knew how the world worked and how it could be a lot better. It was good to be back on jovial terms, and he was trying to tell me something his daughter had said, but talking about our kids behind their backs made me feel uncomfortable.

I ignored him until he stood by me, looking pleased with himself. “Here, give me your phone,” he said, grabbing it from my bench.

I frowned, but with curiosity. He swiped the screen and then held his own close to it.

“There,” he said. “You’ll never guess what. My daughter’s been using her Heritage Pound advantage to invest in that new youth currency. Know the one? She’s made a mint out of limited-edition skins in those games she’s fixated with. And… wait for it… she wants to gift your family some shares.” With a thumbs up he added, “It’s allowed.”

I was speechless. What a brilliant mate, and what a great father.

X/Twitter @OramStephen


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