(from the penthouse suite jacuzzi at the Grand, Stockholm, home away from
all Nobelists ;-)
> From: Robert Hettinga <email@example.com>
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Re: Why I Don't Read SF Much Anymore
> Date: Saturday, November 23, 1996 1:03 AM
> --- begin forwarded text
> From: Adam Shostack <email@example.com>
> Subject: Re: Why I Don't Read SF Much Anymore
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org (Sean Roach)
> Date: Fri, 22 Nov 1996 18:31:50 -0500 (EST)
> Cc: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
> MIME-Version: 1.0
> | >His, "Great Samolean Caper" for Time/Pathfinder was pure
> | I saved the whole magazine, I can copy it for you if you like. I
> | that I had the magazine in the dorm room but I can't seem to find it.
> Once available at:
> TIME Domestic
> SPECIAL ISSUE, Spring 1995 Volume 145, No. 12
> Return to Contents page
> THE GREAT SIMOLEON CAPER
> BY NEAL STEPHENSON
> Hard to imagine a less attractive life-style for a young man just out
> of college than going back to Bismarck to live with his parents -
> unless it's living with his brother in the suburbs of Chicago, which,
> naturally, is what I did. Mom at least bakes a mean cherry pie. Joe,
> on the other hand, got me into a permanent emotional headlock and
> found some way, every day, to give me psychic noogies. For example,
> there was the day he gave me the job of figuring out how many jelly
> beans it would take to fill up Soldier Field.
> Let us stipulate that it's all my fault; Joe would want me to be clear
> on that point. Just as he was always good with people, I was always
> good with numbers. As Joe tells me at least once a week, I should have
> studied engineering. Drifted between majors instead, ended up with a
> major in math and a minor in art - just about the worst thing you can
> put on a job app.
> Joe, on the other hand, went into the ad game. When the Internet and
> optical fiber and HDTV and digital cash all came together and turned
> into what we now call the Metaverse, most of the big ad agencies got
> hammered - because in the Metaverse, you can actually whip out a gun
> and blow the Energizer Bunny's head off, and a lot of people did. Joe
> borrowed 10,000 bucks from Mom and Dad and started this clever young
> ad agency. If you've spent any time crawling the Metaverse, you've
> seen his work - and it's seen you, and talked to you, and followed you
> Mom and Dad stayed in their same little house in Bismarck, North
> Dakota. None of their neighbors guessed that if they cashed in their
> stock in Joe's agency, they'd be worth about $20 million. I nagged
> them to diversify their portfolio - you know, buy a bushel basket of
> Krugerrands and bury them in the backyard, or maybe put a few million
> into a mutual fund. But Mom and Dad felt this would be a no-confidence
> vote in Joe. "It'd be," Dad said, "like showing up for your kid's
> piano recital with a Walkman."
> Joe comes home one January evening with a magnum of champagne. After
> giving me the obligatory hazing about whether I'm old enough to drink,
> he pours me a glass. He's already banished his two sons to the Home
> Theater. They have cranked up the set-top box they got for Christmas.
> Patch this baby into your HDTV, and you can cruise the Metaverse,
> wander the Web and choose from among several user-friendly operating
> systems, each one rife with automatic help systems, customer-service
> hot lines and intelligent agents. The theater's subwoofer causes our
> silverware to buzz around like sheet-metal hockey players, and
> amplified explosions knock swirling nebulas of tiny bubbles loose from
> the insides of our champagne glasses. Those low frequencies must
> penetrate the young brain somehow, coming in under kids' media-hip
> radar and injecting the edfotainucational muchomedia bitstream direct
> into their cerebral cortices.
> "Hauled down a mother of an account today," Joe explains. "We hype
> cars. We hype computers. We hype athletic shoes. But as of three hours
> ago, we are hyping a currency."
> "What?" says his wife Anne.
> "Y'know, like dollars or yen. Except this is a new currency."
> "From which country?" I ask. This is like offering lox to a dog: I've
> given Joe the chance to enlighten his feckless bro. He hammers back
> half a flute of Dom Perignon and shifts into full-on Pitch Mode.
> "Forget about countries," he says. "We're talking Simoleons - the
> smart, hip new currency of the Metaverse."
> "Is this like E-money?" Anne asks.
> "We've been doing E-money for e-ons, ever since automated-teller
> machines." Joe says, with just the right edge of scorn. "Nowadays we
> can use it to go shopping in the Metaverse. But it's still in U.S.
> dollars. Smart people are looking for something better."
> That was for me. I graduated college with a thousand bucks in savings.
> With inflation at 10% and rising, that buys a lot fewer Leinenkugels
> than it did a year ago.
> "The government's never going to get its act together on the budget,"
> Joe says. "It can't. Inflation will just get worse. People will put
> their money elsewhere."
> "Inflation would have to get pretty damn high before I'd put my money
> into some artificial currency," I say.
> "Hell, they're all artificial," Joe says. "If you think about it,
> we've been doing this forever. We put our money in stocks, bonds,
> shares of mutual funds. Those things represent real assets -
> factories, ships, bananas, software, gold, whatever. Simoleons is just
> a new name for those assets. You carry around a smart card and spend
> it just like cash. Or else you go shopping in the Metaverse and spend
> the money online, and the goods show up on your doorstep the next
> I say, "Who's going to fall for that?"
> "Everyone," he says. "For our big promo, we're going to give Simoleons
> away to some average Joes at the Super Bowl. We'll check in with them
> one, three, six months later, and people will see that this is a safe
> and stable place to put their money."
> "It doesn't inspire much confidence," I say, "to hand the stuff out
> like Monopoly money."
> He's ready for this one. "It's not a handout. It's a sweepstakes." And
> that's when he asks me to calculate how many jelly beans will fill
> Soldier Field.
> Two hours later, I'm down at the local galaxy-class grocery store, in
> Bulk: a Manhattan of towering Lucite bins filled with steel-cut rolled
> oats, off-brand Froot Loops, sun-dried tomatoes, prefabricated
> s'mores, macadamias, French roasts and pignolias, all dispensed into
> your bag or bucket with a jerk at the handy Plexiglas guillotine. Not
> a human being in sight, just robot restocking machines trundling back
> and forth on a grid of overhead catwalks and surveillance cameras
> hidden in smoked-glass hemispheres. I stroll through the gleaming
> Lucite wonderland holding a perfect 6-in. cube improvised from duct
> tape and cardboard. I stagger through a glitter gulch of Gummi fauna,
> Boston baked beans, gobstoppers, Good & Plenty, Tart'n Tiny. Then,
> bingo: bulk jelly beans, premium grade. I put my cube under the spout
> and fill it.
> Who guesses closest and earliest on the jelly beans wins the
> Simoleons. They've hired a Big Six accounting firm to make sure
> everything's done right. And since they can't actually fill the
> stadium with candy, I'm to come up with the Correct Answer and supply
> it to them and, just as important, to keep it secret.
> I get home and count the beans: 3,101. Multiply by 8 to get the number
> in a cubic foot: 24,808. Now I just need the number of cubic feet in
> Soldier Field. My nephews are sprawled like pithed frogs before the
> HDTV, teaching themselves physics by lobbing antimatter bombs onto an
> offending civilization from high orbit. I prance over the black
> zigzags of the control cables and commandeer a unit.
> Up on the screen, a cartoon elf or sprite or something pokes its head
> out from behind a window, then draws it back. No, I'm not a paranoid
> schizophrenic - this is the much-hyped intelligent agent who comes
> with the box. I ignore it, make my escape from Gameland and blunder
> into a lurid district of the Metaverse where thousands of infomercials
> run day and night, each in its own window. I watch an ad for Chinese
> folk medicines made from rare-animal parts, genetically engineered and
> grown in vats. Grizzly-bear gallbladders are shown growing like
> bunches of grapes in an amber fluid.
> The animated sprite comes all the way out, and leans up against the
> edge of the infomercial window. "Hey!" it says, in a goofy, exuberant
> voice, "I'm Raster! Just speak my name - that's Raster - if you need
> any help."
> I don't like Raster's looks. It's likely he was wandering the streets
> of Toontown and waving a sign saying WILL ANNOY GROWNUPS FOR FOOD
> until he was hired by the cable company. He begins flying around the
> screen, leaving a trail of glowing fairy dust that fades much too
> slowly for my taste.
> "Give me the damn encyclopedia!" I shout. Hearing the dread word, my
> nephews erupt from the rug and flee.
> So I look up Soldier Field. My old Analytic Geometry textbook, still
> flecked with insulation from the attic, has been sitting on my thigh
> like a lump of ice. By combining some formulas from it with the
> encyclopedia's stats . . .
> "Hey! Raster!"
> Raster is so glad to be wanted that he does figure eights around the
> screen. "Calculator!" I shout.
> "No need, boss! Simply tell me your desired calculation, and I will do
> it in my head!"
> So I have a most tedious conversation with Raster, in which I estimate
> the number of cubic feet in Soldier Field, rounded to the nearest
> foot. I ask Raster to multiply that by 24,808 and he shoots back:
> A nongeek wouldn't have thought twice. But I say, "Raster, you have
> Spam for brains. It should be an exact multiple of eight!" Evidently
> my brother's new box came with one of those defective chips that makes
> errors when the numbers get really big.
> Raster slaps himself upside the head; loose screws and transistors
> tumble out of his ears. "Darn! Guess I'll have to have a talk with my
> programmer!" And then he freezes up for a minute.
> My sister-in-law Anne darts into the room, hunched in a don't-mind-me
> posture, and looks around. She's terrified that I may have a date in
> here. "Who're you talking to?"
> "This goofy I.A. that came with your box," I say. "Don't ever use it
> to do your taxes, by the way."
> She cocks her head. "You know, just yesterday I asked it for help with
> a Schedule B, and it gave me a recipe for shellfish bisque."
> "Good evening, sir. Good evening, ma'am. What were those numbers
> again?" Raster asks. Same voice, but different inflections - more
> human. I call out the numbers one more time and he comes back with
> "That sounds better," I mutter.
> Anne is nonplussed. "Now its voice recognition seems to be working
> "I don't think so. I think my little math problem got forwarded to a
> real human being. When the conversation gets over the head of the
> built-in software, it calls for help, and a human steps in and takes
> over. He's watching us through the built-in videocam," I explain,
> pointing at the fish-eye lens built into the front panel of the
> set-top box, "and listening through the built-in mike."
> Anne's getting that glazed look in her eyes; I grope for an analog
> analogy. "Remember The Exorcist? Well, Raster has just been possessed,
> like the chick in the flick. Except it's not just Beelzebub. It's a
> customer-service rep."
> I've just walked blind into a trap that is yawningly obvious to Anne.
> "Maybe that's a job you should apply for!" she exclaims.
> The other jaw of the trap closes faster than my teeth chomping down on
> my tongue: "I can take your application online right now!" says
> My sister-in-law is the embodiment of sugary triumph until the next
> evening, when I have a good news/bad news conversation with her. Good:
> I'm now a Metaverse customer-service rep. Bad: I don't have a cubicle
> in some Edge City office complex. I telecommute from home - from her
> home, from her sofa. I sit there all day long, munching through my
> dwindling stash of tax-deductible jelly beans, wearing an operator's
> headset, gripping the control unit, using it like a puppeteer's rig to
> control other people's Rasters on other people's screens, all over the
> U.S. I can see them - the wide-angle view from their set-top boxes is
> piped to a window on my screen. But they can't see me - just Raster,
> my avatar, my body in the Metaverse.
> Ghastly in the mottled, flattening light of the Tube, people ask me
> inane questions about arithmetic. If they're asking for help with
> recipes, airplane schedules, child-rearing or home improvement,
> already been turfed to someone else. My expertise is pure math only.
> Which is pretty sleepy until the next week, when my brother's agency
> announces the big Simoleons Sweepstakes. They've hired a knot-kneed
> fullback as their spokesman. Within minutes, requests for help from
> contestants start flooding in. Every Bears fan in Greater Chicago is
> trying to calculate the volume of Soldier Field. They're all doing it
> wrong; and even the ones who are doing it right are probably using the
> faulty chip in their set-top box. I'm in deep conflict-of-interest
> territory here, wanting to reach out with Raster's stubby,
> white-gloved, three-fingered hand and slap some sense into these
> But I'm sworn to secrecy. Joe has hired me to do the calculations for
> the Metrodome, Three Rivers Stadium, RFK Stadium and every other
> N.F.L. venue. There's going to be a Simoleons winner in every city.
> We are allowed to take 15-minute breaks every four hours. So I crank
> up the Home Theater, just to blow the carbon out of its cylinders, and
> zip down the main street of the Metaverse to a club that specializes
> in my kind of tunes. I'm still "wearing" my Raster uniform, but I
> don't care - I'm just one of thousands of Rasters running up and down
> the street on their breaks.
> My club has a narrow entrance on a narrow alley off a narrow side
> street, far from the virtual malls and 3-D video-game amusement parks
> that serve as the cash cows for the Metaverse's E-money economy.
> Inside, there's a few Rasters on break, but it's mostly people
> "wearing" more creative avatars. In the Metaverse, there's no part of
> your virtual body you can't pierce, brand or tattoo in an effort to
> look weirder than the next guy.
> The live band onstage - jacked in from a studio in Prague - isn't very
> good, so I duck into the back room where there are virtual racks full
> of tapes you can sample, listening to a few seconds from each song. If
> you like it, you can download the whole album, with optional
> interactive liner notes, videos and sheet music.
> I'm pawing through one of these racks when I sense another avatar,
> something big and shaggy, sidling up next to me. It mumbles something;
> I ignore it. A magisterial throat-clearing noise rumbles in the
> subwoofer, crackles in the surround speakers, punches through cleanly
> on the center channel above the screen. I turn and look: it's a
> heavy-set creature wearing a T shirt emblazoned with a logo HACKERS
> 1111. It has very long scythe-like claws, which it uses to
> grip a hot-pink cylinder. It's much better drawn than Raster; almost
> The sloth speaks: "537,824,167,720."
> "Hey!" I shout. "Who the hell are you?" It lifts the pink cylinder to
> its lips and drinks. It's a can of Jolt. "Where'd you get that
> number?" I demand. "It's supposed to be a secret."
> "The key is under the doormat," the sloth says, then turns around and
> walks out of the club.
> My 15-minute break is over, so I have to ponder the meaning of this
> through the rest of my shift. Then, I drag myself up out of the couch,
> open the front door and peel up the doormat.
> Sure enough, someone has stuck an envelope under there. Inside is a
> sheet of paper with a number on it, written in hexadecimal notation,
> which is what computer people use: 0A56 7781 6BE2 2004 89FF 9001 C782
> - and so on for about five lines.
> The sloth had told me that "the key is under the doormat," and I'm
> willing to bet many Simoleons that this number is an encryption key
> that will enable me to send and receive coded messages.
> So I spend 10 minutes punching it into the set-top box. Raster shows
> up and starts to bother me: "Can I help you with anything?"
> By the time I've punched in the 256th digit, I've become a little
> testy with Raster and said some rude things to him. I'm not proud of
> it. Then I hear something that's music to my ears: "I'm sorry, I
> didn't understand you," Raster chirps. "Please check your cable
> connections - I'm getting some noise on the line."
> A second figure materializes on the screen, like a digital genie: it's
> the sloth again. "Who the hell are you?" I ask.
> The sloth takes another slug of Jolt, stifles a belch and says, "I am
> Codex, the Crypto-Anarchist Sloth."
> "Your equipment requires maintenance," Raster says. "Please contact
> the cable company."
> "Your equipment is fine," Codex says. "I'm encrypting your back
> channel. To the cable company, it looks like noise. As you fig
> ured out, that number is your personal encryption key. No government
> or corporation on earth can eavesdrop on us now."
> "Gosh, thanks," I say.
> "You're welcome," Codex replies. "Now, let's get down to biz. We have
> something you want. You have something we want."
> "How did you know the answer to the Soldier Field jelly-bean
> "We've got all 27," Codex says. And he rattles off the secret numbers
> for Candlestick Park, the Kingdome, the Meadowlands . . .
> "Unless you've broken into the accounting firm's vault," I say,
> "there's only one way you could have those numbers. You've been
> eavesdropping on my little chats with Raster. You've tapped the line
> coming out of this set-top box, haven't you?"
> "Oh, that's typical. I suppose you think we're a bunch of socially
> inept, acne-ridden, high-IQ teenage hackers who play sophomoric pranks
> on the Establishment."
> "The thought had crossed my mind," I say. But the fact that the
> cartoon sloth can give me such a realistic withering look, as he is
> doing now, suggests a much higher level of technical sophistication.
> Raster only has six facial expressions and none of them is very good.
> "Your brother runs an ad agency, no?"
> "He recently signed up Simoleons Corp.?"
> "As soon as he did, the government put your house under full-time
> Suddenly the glass eyeball in the front of the set-top box is looking
> very big and beady to me. "They tapped our infotainment cable?"
> "Didn't have to. The cable people are happy to do all the dirty work -
> after all, they're beholden to the government for their monopoly. So
> all those calculations you did using Raster were piped straight to the
> cable company and from there to the government. We've got a mole in
> the government who cc'd us everything through an anonymous remailer in
> Jyvaskyla, Finland."
> "Why should the government care?"
> "They care big-time," Codex says. "They're going to destroy Simoleons.
> And they're going to step all over your family in the process."
> "Because if they don't destroy E-money," Codex says, "E-money will
> destroy them."
> The next afternoon I show up at my brother's office, in a groovily
> refurbished ex-power plant on the near West Side. He finishes rolling
> some calls and then waves me into his office, a cavernous space with a
> giant steam turbine as a conversation piece. I think it's supposed to
> be an irony thing.
> "Aren't you supposed to be cruising the I-way for stalled motorists?"
> he says.
> "Spare me the fraternal heckling," I say. "We crypto-anarchists don't
> have time for such things."
> "The word panarchist is also frequently used."
> "Cute," he says, rolling the word around in his head. He's already
> working up a mental ad campaign for it.
> "You're looking flushed and satisfied this afternoon," I say. "Must
> have been those two imperial pints of Hog City Porter you had with
> your baby-back ribs at Divane's Lakeview Grill."
> Suddenly he sits up straight and gets an edgy look about him, as if a
> practical joke is in progress, and he's determined not to play the
> "So how'd you know what I had for lunch?"
> "Same way I know you've been cheating on your taxes."
> "Last year you put a new tax-deductible sofa in your home office. But
> that sofa is a hide-a-bed model, which is a no-no."
> "Hackers," he says. "Your buddies hacked into my records, didn't
> "You win the Stratolounger."
> "I thought they had safeguards on these things now."
> "The files are harder to break into. But every time information gets
> sent across the wires - like, when Anne uses Raster to do the taxes -
> it can be captured and decrypted. Because, my brother, you bought the
> default data-security agreement with your box, and the default
> agreement sucks."
> "So what are you getting at?"
> "For that," I say, "we'll have to go someplace that isn't under
> "Surveillance!? What the . . . " he begins. But then I nod at the TV
> in the corner of his office, with its beady glass eye staring out at
> us from the set-top box.
> We end up walking along the lakeshore, which, in Chicago in January,
> is madness. But we hail from North Dakota, and we have all the
> cold-weather gear it takes to do this. I tell him about Raster and the
> cable company.
> "Oh, Jesus!" he says. "You mean those numbers aren't secret?"
> "Not even close. They've been put in the hands of 27 stooges hired by
> the the government. The stooges have already FedEx'd their entry forms
> with the correct numbers. So, as of now, all of your Simoleons - $27
> million worth - are going straight into the hands of the stooges on
> Super Bowl Sunday. And they will turn out to be your worst
> public-relations nightmare. They will cash in their Simoleons for
> comic books and baseball cards and claim it's safer. They will
> intentionally go bankrupt and blame it on you. They will show up in
> twos and threes on tawdry talk shows to report mysterious
> disappearances of their Simoleons during Metaverse transactions. They
> will, in short, destroy the image - and the business - of your client.
> The result: victory for the government, which hates and fears private
> currencies. And bankruptcy for you, and for Mom and Dad."
> "How do you figure?"
> "Your agency is responsible for screwing up this sweepstakes. Soon as
> the debacle hits, your stock plummets. Mom and Dad lose millions in
> paper profits they've never had a chance to enjoy. Then your big
> shareholders will sue your ass, my brother, and you will lose. You
> gambled the value of the company on the faulty data-security built
> into your set-top box, and you as a corporate officer are personally
> responsible for the losses."
> At this point, big brother Joe feels the need to slam himself down on
> a park bench, which must feel roughly like sitting on a block of dry
> ice. But he doesn't care. He's beyond physical pain. I sort of
> expected to feel triumphant at this point, but I don't.
> So I let him off the hook. "I just came from your accounting firm," I
> say. "I told them I had discovered an error in my calculations - that
> my set-top box had a faulty chip. I supplied them with 27 new numbers,
> which I worked out by hand, with pencil and paper, in a conference
> room in their offices, far from the prying eye of the cable company. I
> personally sealed them in an envelope and placed them in their vault."
> "So the sweepstakes will come off as planned," he exhales. "Thank
> "Yeah - and while you're at it, thank me and the panarchists," I shoot
> back. "I also called Mom and Dad, and told them that they should sell
> their stock - just in case the government finds some new way to
> sabotage your contest."
> "That's probably wise," he says sourly, "but they're going to get
> hammered on taxes. They'll lose 40% of their net worth to the
> government, just like that."
> "No, they won't," I say. "They aren't paying any taxes."
> "Say what?" He lifts his chin off his mittens for the first time in a
> while, reinvigorated by the chance to tell me how wrong I am. "Their
> cash basis is only $10,000 - you think the IRS won't notice $20
> million in capital gains?"
> "We didn't invite the IRS," I tell him. "It's none of the IRS's damn
> "They have ways to make it their business."
> "Not any more. Mom and Dad aren't selling their stock for dollars,
> "Simoleons? It's the same deal with Simoleons - everything gets
> reported to the government."
> "Forget Simoleons. Think CryptoCredits."
> "CryptoCredits? What the hell is a CryptoCredit?" He stands up and
> starts pacing back and forth. Now he's convinced I've traded the
> family cow for a handful of magic beans.
> "It's what Simoleons ought to be: E-money that is totally private from
> the eyes of government."
> "How do you know? Isn't any code crackable?"
> "Any kind of E-money consists of numbers moving around on wires," I
> say. "If you know how to keep your numbers secret, your currency is
> safe. If you don't, it's not. Keeping numbers secret is a problem of
> cryptography - a branch of mathematics. Well, Joe, the
> crypto-anarchists showed me their math. And it's good math. It's
> better than the math the government uses. Better than Simoleons' math
> too. No one can mess with CryptoCredits."
> He heaves a big sigh. "O.K., O.K. - you want me to say it? I'll say
> it. You were right. I was wrong. You studied the right thing in
> college after all."
> "I'm not worthless scum?"
> "Not worthless scum. So. What do these crypto-anarchists want,
> For some reason I can't lie to my parents, but Joe's easy. "Nothing,"
> I say. "They just wanted to do us a favor, as a way of gaining some
> goodwill with us."
> "And furthering the righteous cause of World Panarchy?"
> "Something like that."
> Which brings us to Super Bowl Sunday. We are sitting in a skybox high
> up in the Superdome, complete with wet bar, kitchen, waiters and big
> TV screens to watch the instant replays of what we've just seen with
> our own naked, pitiful, nondigital eyes.
> The corporate officers of Simoleons are there. I start sounding them
> out on their cryptographic protocols, and it becomes clear that these
> people can't calculate their gas mileage without consulting Raster,
> much less navigate the subtle and dangerous currents of cutting-edge
> A Superdome security man comes in, looking uneasy. "Some, uh,
> gentlemen here," he says. "They have tickets that appear to be
> It's three guys. The first one is a 300 pounder with hair down to his
> waist and a beard down to his navel. He must be a Bears fan because he
> has painted his face and bare torso blue and orange. The second one
> isn't quite as introverted as the first, and the third isn't quite the
> button-down conformist the other two are. Mr. Big is carrying an old
> milk crate. What's inside must be heavy, because it looks like it's
> about to pull his arms out of their sockets.
> "Mr. and Mrs. De Groot?" he says, as he staggers into the room. Heads
> turn towards my mom and dad, who, alarmed by the appearance of these
> three, have declined to identify themselves. The guy makes for them
> and slams the crate down in front of my dad.
> "I'm the guy you've known as Codex," he says. "Thanks for naming us as
> your broker."
> If Joe wasn't a rowing-machine abuser, he'd be blowing aneurysms in
> both hemispheres about now. "Your broker is a half-naked
> blue-and-orange crypto-anarchist?"
> Dad devotes 30 seconds or so to lighting his pipe. Down on the field,
> the two-minute warning sounds. Dad puffs out a cloud of
> smoke and says, "He seemed like an honest sloth."
> "Just in case," Mom says, "we sold half the stock through our broker
> in Bismarck. He says we'll have to pay taxes on that."
> "We transferred the other half offshore, to Mr. Codex here," Dad says,
> "and he converted it into the local currency - tax free."
> "Offshore? Where? The Bahamas?" Joe asks.
> "The First Distributed Republic," says the big panarchist. "It's a
> virtual nation-state. I'm the Minister of Data Security. Our official
> currency is CryptoCredits."
> "What the hell good is that?" Joe says.
> "That was my concern too," Dad says, "so, just as an experiment, I
> used my CryptoCredits to buy something a little more tangible."
> Dad reaches into the milk crate and heaves out a rectangular object
> made of yellow metal. Mom hauls out another one. She and Dad begin
> lining them up on the counter, like King and Queen Midas unloading a
> carton of Twinkies.
> It takes Joe a few seconds to realize what's happening. He picks up
> one of the gold bars and gapes at it. The Simoleons execs crowd around
> and inspect the booty.
> "Now you see why the government wants to stamp us out," the big guy
> says. "We can do what they do - cheaper and better."
> For the first time, light dawns on the face of the Simoleons CEO.
> "Wait a sec," he says, and puts his hands to his temples. "You can rig
> it so that people who use E-money don't have to pay taxes to any
> government? Ever?"
> "You got it," the big panarchist says. The horn sounds announcing the
> end of the first half.
> "I have to go down and give away some Simoleons," the CEO says, "but
> after that, you and I need to have a talk."
> The CEO goes down in the elevator with my brother, carrying a box of
> 27 smart cards, each of which is loaded up with secret numbers that
> makes it worth a million Simoleons. I go over and look out the skybox
> window: 27 Americans are congregated down on the 50-yard line, waiting
> for their mathematical manna to descend from heaven. They are just the
> demographic cross section that my brother was hoping for. You'd never
> guess they were all secretly citizens of the First Distributed
> The crypto-anarchists grab some Jolt from the wet bar and troop out,
> so now it's just me, Mom and Dad in the skybox. Dad points at the
> field with the stem of his pipe. "Those 27 folks down there," he says.
> "They didn't get any help from you, did they?"
> I've lied about this successfully to Joe. But I know it won't work
> with Mom and Dad. "Let's put it this way," I say, "not all
> panarchists are long-haired, Jolt-slurping maniacs. Some of them look
> like you - exactly like you, as a matter of fact."
> Dad nods; I've got him on that one.
> "Codex and his people saved the contest, and our family, from
> disaster. But there was a quid pro quo."
> "Usually is," Dad says.
> "But it's good for everyone. What Joe wants - and what his client
> wants - is for the promotion to go well, so that a year from now,
> everyone who's watching this broadcast today will have a high opinion
> of the safety and stability of Simoleons. Right?"
> "If you give the Simoleons away at random, you're rolling the dice.
> But if you give them to people who are secretly panarchists - who have
> a vested interest in showing that E-money works - it's a much safer
> "Does the First Distributed Republic have a flag?" Mom asks, out of
> left field. I tell her these guys look like sewing enthusiasts. So,
> even before the second half starts, she's sketched out a flag on the
> back of her program. "It'll be very colorful," she says. "Like a jar
> of jelly beans."
> Copyright 1995 Time Inc. All rights reserved.
> --- end forwarded text
> Robert Hettinga (email@example.com)
> e$, 44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
> "The cost of anything is the foregone alternative" -- Walter Johnson
> The e$ Home Page: http://www.vmeng.com/rah/
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