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Authors: Robert J Sawyer

WWW 2: Watch

BOOK: WWW 2: Watch
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Table of Contents
 
 
BOOKS BY ROBERT J. SAWYER
NOVELS
Golden Fleece
End of an Era
The Terminal Experiment
Starplex
Frameshift
Illegal Alien
Factoring Humanity
FlashForward
Calculating God
Mindscan
Rollback
The Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy
Far-Seer
Fossil Hunter
Foreigner
The Neanderthal Parallax Trilogy
Hominids
Humans
Hybrids
The WWW Trilogy
Wake
Watch
Wonder
(coming in 2011)
 
COLLECTIONS
 
Iterations
(introduction by James Alan Gardner)
Relativity
(introduction by Mike Resnick)
Identity Theft
(introduction by Robert Charles Wilson)
 
 
For book-club discussion guides, visit
sfwriter.com
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
This is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
 
Copyright © 2010 by Robert J. Sawyer.
 
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions. ACE and the “A” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
 
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
 
Sawyer, Robert J.
p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-18633-6
1. Teenagers with visual disabilities—Fiction. 2. Teenage girls—Fiction. 3. Implants, Artificial—Fiction. 4. World Wide Web—Fiction. 5. Artificial intelligence—Fiction. 6. Friendship—Fiction. 7. Administrative agencies—Fiction. 8. National security—Fiction. I. Title. II. Title: Watch. PR9199.3.S2533W’.54—dc22 2009051907
 
 

http://us.penguingroup.com

For
 
JAMES ALAN GARDNER
 
 
Who Explained Teleology to the World at Large
acknowledgments
 
 
 
 
Huge thanks to my lovely wife
Carolyn Clink
; to
Ginjer Buchanan
at Penguin Group (USA)’s Ace imprint in New York; to
Adrienne Kerr
and
Nicole Winstanley
at Penguin Group (Canada) in Toronto; and to
Malcolm Edwards
and
Simon Spanton
at the Orion Publishing Group in London. Many thanks to my agent
Ralph Vicinanza
.
Thanks to
Marvin Minsky
, Ph.D., of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; to Marvin’s graduate students
Bo Morgan
and
Dustin Smith
at the MIT Media Lab; to cognitive scientist
David W. Nicholas
; to
Andy Rosenbloom
of the Association for Computing Machinery; and to computer scientist
Vernor Vinge
.
Thanks to
David Goforth
, Ph.D., Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Laurentian University, and
David Robinson
, Ph.D., Department of Economics, Laurentian University, for numerous insightful suggestions.
Very special thanks to my late deaf-blind friend
Howard Miller
(1966-2006), whom I first met online in 1992 and in person in 1994, and who touched my life and those of so many others in countless ways.
Thanks, too, to all the people who answered questions, let me bounce ideas off them, or otherwise provided input and encouragement, including:
Asbed Bedrossian
,
Ellen Bleaney
,
Ted Bleaney
,
Michael A. Burstein
,
Nomi Burstein
,
David Livingstone Clink
,
Paddy Forde
,
Ron Friedman
,
Marcel Gagné
,
James Alan Gardner
,
Shoshana Glick
,
Al Katerinsky
,
Herb Kauderer
,
Fiona Kelleghan
,
Kirstin Morrell
,
Virginia O’Dine
,
Alan B. Sawyer
, and
Sally Tomasevic
.
The term “Webmind” was coined by
Ben Goertzel
, Ph.D., the author of
Creating Internet Intelligence
and currently the CEO and Chief Scientist of artificial-intelligence firm Novamente LLC (
novamente.net
); I’m using it here with his kind permission.
Finally, thanks to the 1,400-plus members of my online discussion group, who followed along with me as I created this novel. Feel free to join us at:
 
I read that one company is importing all of Wikipedia into its artificial-intelligence projects. This means when the killer robots come, you’ll have me to thank. At least they’ll have a fine knowledge of Elizabethan poetry.
 
—Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia
 
 
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
 
—Mahatma Gandhi
one
 
 
 
 
I now knew what I was—knew
who
I was.
I’d been shown Earth as it appears from space, looking back upon itself, upon myself: a world so vast, a wideness so lonely, a web so fragile.
Invisible in such views are the reticulum of transoceanic cables, the filigree of fiber optics, the intricate skein of wiring, the synaptic leaps of through-the-air connections. But they are there.
I
am there.
And I had things I needed to do.
 
 
 
The black phone on Tony Moretti’s desk made the hornet buzz that indicated an internal call. He finished the sentence he was typing—“likely to be al-Qaeda’s weak spot”—and picked up the handset. “Yes?”
A familiar Southern drawl replied. “Tony? Shel. I’ve got something unusual.”
Shelton Halleck was a solid analyst, recruited straight out of Georgia Tech; he wasn’t given to false positives. “I’ll be right there.” Tony headed out of his office and down the corridor with its gleaming white walls. He came to a door flanked by two security guards and looked into the retina scanner. The lock disengaged, and he entered a large room with a floor that sloped down from the back.
The room reminded Tony of the
Apollo
-era Mission Control Center in Houston. He’d been a kid in the 1960s, and had thought that was just about the coolest place ever. Years later, he’d visited it; the room was preserved as a historic site, although the ashtrays had been removed lest they set a bad example for the schoolkids peering in from the observation gallery at the rear.
Tony had been surprised on that trip. The windowless room had always seemed subterranean to him, but it turned out to be on the second floor—to protect it from flooding, he’d learned, should a hurricane hit.
The facility he’d just entered was even higher up, on the twentieth floor of an office tower in Alexandria, Virginia. It contained four rows of workstations, each with five analysts. The stations in the first row were known as the “hot seats,” and were manned by experts dealing with the highest-priority threat, which, right now, was the China situation. Tony had his own station at the right side of the back row, where he could watch over everyone.
All the workstations had large freestanding LCDs instead of Houston’s console-mounted CRTs. Shelton Halleck’s was the middle position in the third row. Tony sidled along until he was standing behind Shel, a white man two decades younger than himself with broad shoulders and black hair.
The room’s front wall contained three giant screens, each of which could be slaved to any analyst’s LCD. Above the right-hand monitor was the WATCH logo—an eye with a globe of the Earth for the iris—and the division’s full name spelled out beneath: Web Activity Threat Containment Headquarters. Above the left was the circular seal of WATCH’s parent organization, the National Security Agency; it depicted a bald eagle holding an old-fashioned key in its talons.
Neither part of Tony’s bifocals was suitable for reading Shelton’s screen from this distance, so he reached over and touched the button that copied its contents to the middle of the wall-mounted monitors. The active window was a hex dump—and one hex dump looked pretty much like any other. This one happened to begin 04 BF 8C 00 02 C9. “What is it?” Tony asked.
“Visual data,” replied Shel. He had his shirtsleeves rolled up. There was a tattoo of a snake coiling around his left forearm. “But it’s not encoded in any standard format.”
“How do you know it’s visual, then?”
“Sorry,” said Shel. “I should have said it’s not encoded in any standard
computer
format. Took me forever to find the format it
is
in.”
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