How did I get to this point? It all started about 8 months ago, when I got my dream job at Skybot, Inc. I knew they built huge satellite maps and I knew they were hiring graphic assimilators, but the biggest draw was that they had the latest holographic computers and I would be using one in my job! I'd seen the online videos that guessed at what the holographic computers would look and act like, but these guys actually had working versions. When I went for the interview, I got to sit and watch some of their graphic assimilators in action. I was blown away by the graphic capabilities those guys had at their disposal, even though their assignments didn't seem that challenging. I was told that the job responsibilities would change over time, as the volume of visuals being assimilated grew. Of course, at the salaries they were offering and with the technology I'd have access to, the job itself was only secondary in my mind. I was ready to go to work for them anytime and there was no question of whether or not I'd enjoy the job.
Holographic Computer Monitor by Cinebo
Hologram - The Computer Of The Future by ConnorTheSlayer
Holographic Computer by BenMcEwan
2012-2112 : Orientation
I guess I should have asked more questions, like what exactly is a graphic assimilator, where are these visuals coming from, how is my job going to change over time, and what are the ultimate goals of this Skybot project? Since I started here, I've been getting those answers one by one, but with each answer, I come up with more questions. This whole company is a bit of a mystery, but I'm not sure there's anything malicious about them. I just can't quite figure out how some of these things work around here ... like upper management flying to the upper floors. But, I'm getting ahead of the story here. Let's start with my job - graphic assimilator.
It seems that Skybot, Incorporated has a large, very large, number of graphic images that they call visuals, that have been sent to them by people all over the globe. Unbeknownst to me, they've had a website up for about 10 years, asking visitors to send in photos of themselves, their surroundings, their pets, their city, anything that interests them. The only requirement is that every visual include at least one living thing, whether it be a person, animal, plant, tree, or whatever. Well, I guess it's pretty hard to take a photo that doesn't include at least one living thing, but that's one of the assignments of the graphic assimilators. We review the visuals to see that they include a living thing, that they're not representative of violence or any crime, and that they follow a few other special rules about things like pornography and discrimination. They also have to be unretouched, but that's checked in detail when we pass the visuals along to Visibot, the next step in the process. Finally, before passing them along, we do a geographic assignment based upon delineations provided to us, assigning each to a numbered sector. These delineations initially seemed rather random to me, but I later figured out that each sector related to the area covered by one of their 2012-2112 facilities.
This is the first time I've worked in a building this large. When I first arranged the interview, I was told to come to the 2012-2112 Building on Monroe Boulevard. That seemed like a strange name for a building, but I soon learned of its signficance. That was simply the address and the building actually did cover two entire city blocks, from the 2000 block through the 2100 block. I guess when you're that large, you can choose your own address, and Skybot, Inc. chose 2012-2112. The building is 21 stories tall, with most of the project activities on the lower 12 floors and upper management (and other mysterious goings-on) occupying the upper 9 floors. As a matter of fact, it took me a couple of months to even figure out how we underlings could even access the upper floors. The elevators stopped at the 12th floor and there were no stairs up that I could find. When I asked, I was told that was "need to know" - if/when there was a need for me to go upstairs, I'd be told how to get there. I thought that wierd, but not as wierd as when I realized how most upper managers got upstairs.
In the center of the 12th floor, there's a large patio where people gather on break, eat lunches, etc., with a large atrium rising above the patio up to the top floor. Sitting on the patio, you can look right up the center of the building to the top floor. Each of the upper floors has a walkway and railing facing the atrium, so we on the patio can actually sit and watch the managers walking around up there. This patio is a favorite gathering spot for the staff and is usually quite full of people for most of the day. In all the times that I'd been there, I'd never seen anything unusual until one morning when I got to work early and decided to get a breakfast snack. I went to the 12th floor patio and got a candy bar out of one of the machines, then sat down to enjoy it and plan my day. It was about 6 AM and I was the only one on the patio. It was about that time that some of the managers began to arrive. One came off the elevator, extended his arms, and then flew up into the atrium to the next floor. I thought as first that there was some sort of lift that I hadn't seen, until more managers casually got off the elevator, extended their arms, and magically rose to one of the upper floors. I just about fell out of my chair! I wasn't about to ask any of them how that was happening, but I immediately went downstairs to talk to one of my peers to find out what in the world was going on. Nobody showed up for an hour or so, but when they did, I explained what I'd seen. Nobody had an answer! As more people showed up, we continued to talk around about it, trying to find someone who had an answer. Then, an announcement came over the paging system on our computers - our supervisor had called an immediate meeting. We all pulled up a meeting screen and signed into the discussion.
The supervisor explained that there was nothing magical about the managers' method of going to the upper floors. Skybot, Inc. had developed a proprietary hand-held capability that used a combination of magnetism and holographic technology to "lift' the holder over short distances. The capability was kept in strictest confidence, both for the security of the upper management floors and for the protection of the technology, which they planned to market after a few more months of test and upgrading. As employees of the company, we were pledged to protecting the security of proprietary information, so were naturally asked to keep this information private. Since we really had no idea what sort of hand-held devices were involved, we really couldn't divulge much about the technology, even if we'd wanted to. As far as I was concerned, I valued my job enough that I certainly wasn't going to go blabbing that around town. In addition, since all employees had stock options, it was definitely to our advantage to keep this technology under wraps until the company had the proper patents in place and were ready to market the capability. With that, I dropped the subject, but still found myself wandering up to the 12th floor patio at odd hours on occasion. I learned that most of the managers entered that way each day, usually around 6 AM, with no such flying activity occurring after 6:15. Similarly, they'd fly back down to leave between 8:00 and 8:15 PM. I was really curious about what 9 floors of management did up there, but wasn't to learn about that until some time later. For the moment, I was processing the visuals and passing them along to Visibot, and the volume was increasing as promised.
Visibot is an automatic filter program that performs several intricate steps in the visual processing. First, Visibot verifies that there has been no retouching or modification of the visuals. I'm not sure how that works, but it has something to do with pattern recognition software and coincident point mapping. Whatever that process might be, the next step of graphic correlation is significantly more complex. Visibot, the visual robot, considers each visual and correlates it to all others, which number in the hundreds of millions. Here again, pattern recognition software and coincident point mapping are involved, but the objective at this step is to note similarities instead of differences, as was the case in the retouch check. Visibot correlates similarities and "joins" in terms of color, texture, topic, orientation, and a variation of the "180-degree rule." All of this involves application of Visual Research and Artificial Intelligence concepts in a manner that's way above my level of understanding. The result, however, appears to be a combinatory visual consisting of geographically-consistent individual visuals. The number of visuals that will eventually be combined, the determination of the area which is considered to be geographically "consistent", and the ultimate objective of this project remain a mystery to me and my peers, known only at the upper levels of management. Many of us are naturally curious about all of this, but it isn't discussed much and little is done to pursue the answers, since it concerns matters that Skybot, Inc. obviously considers to be highly proprietary and possibly would be grounds for termination. We all like our jobs, our salaries, and the fact that we're part of something much larger that will undoubtedly be publicized at some point in the near future.
A few weeks ago, I managed to put together some information regarding "geographically-consistent" and the 2012-2112 facilities. Note that I mentioned above that I work in a building two blocks square with address 2012-2112 in Tampa, Florida. Well, I was hanging around the mailroom recently and noted that many of the packages going in and out were being sent and received from other Skybot facilities with that same strange address, but in different cities. I wrote down a few of the addresses, with the intent that I'd try to put together a map to try to determine whether these provided some sort of answer to my questions about what "geographically consistent" meant, what this whole company was all about, and where this project was ultimately heading. I started out making a list of addresses, but soon figured out that all of them had the same street numbers and different street names. The cities themselves seemed to be the key to finding answers, so I simply continued with a cities list.
• 2012-2112 Monroe Boulevard, Tampa, FL (our office)
• 2012-2112 SW 14th Street, Chattanooga, TN
• Av. Alvaro Obregón # 2012-2112 Jardin Matamoros Tamaulipas, Mexico
• 2012-2112, rue Hassiba Benbouali, Algiers 16015, Algeria
• 2012-2112, rue Lainerie, 69005 Lyon, France
• No.2012-2112 Renzhai Beijie Road, Jinshui District, Zhengzhou 450000, China
• str Piata Muntenia nr 2012-2112, Pitesti 110063, Romania
• Tampa, FL (our office)
• Chattanooga, TN
• Matamoros Tamaulipas, Mexico
• Algiers, Algeria
• Lyon, France
• Zhengzhou, China
• Pitesti, Romania
• Baghdad, Iraq
• Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
• Khartoum, Sudan
• Alice Springs, Australia
• Montevideo, Uruguay
But enough about the mystery of the addresses. I'll just keep adding to my city list and get back to that later. For now, let me catch you up to date on the strange and mysterious events that have led up to my flight today.
On my first day at Skybot, I was immediately registered in their 2-week orientation, where we were simply told that the project was involved in some highly advanced mapping that involved integration of graphic "visuals" into the mapping process. We were each assigned a geographic "plot" and would be receiving visuals sent by residents within our plot. My plot was about a mile and one-fourth wide, stretching South to Northern Honduras and North almost up to Mobile, Alabama.
After the 2-week orientation class, I was assigned a private office with very comfortable furniture and one of their latest holographic computers. From the first day I sat down at that machine, I started receiving visuals of everything from people to animals to trees to just scenery and landscapes. I quickly got into the process and soon became an expert at making the checks for a living thing, no violence, etc. and passing them along to Visibot for his processing. I also soon learned that the company kept track of the speed at which we processed the visuals and that I was consistently in the top 2% in terms of both speed and accuracy. They published a ranking list weekly, showing each of us where we were in relation to our peers and whether we were improving from week to week. From this list, I calculated that we have 520 graphic assimilators (GAs) at our facility, indicating that we're responsible for 520 plots. Through a few casual discussions with other GAs, I learned that each of us has a similar sized plot, each being that same 1.25 miles wide and stretching North and South the same distance, about 700 miles, so the area of a plot is approximately 875 square miles. So what? I don't know ... just seemed interesting.
Interesting is what happened after I'd been onboard for just over 3 months. I was called into a meeting and soon learned that the participants were the top 2% of our GAs. The ten of us listened intently as we were told that we were being promoted to the next level of responsibility and that there would be a pay raise associated with this promotion. This new level of responsibility involved handling larger, combined sets of visuals. Up until now, we were just looking at one visual at a time, doing our prescribed checks, and passing them along to Visibot. Now, we would be receiving sets of combined graphics back from Visibot to do some further processing in terms of esthetics, colors, shapes, and other factors that weren't possible through the automated Visibot analyses. One of the more difficult filters was to try to eliminate photos of living things that were outside of their sector of primary residence. About the only ways that we could find to determine out-of-residence were to eliminate visuals of tourist locations where most of the people are obviously visitors, crowds at functions such as sports functions, and similar activities where people or animals are clearly outside of their usual place of residence.
To handle these combined visuals, we were each given a set of hand-held Computer-Aided Transmitters (CATs). I'm not sure who thought that name up .... I guess it was an extension of mouse technology. The CATs were like a fingerless glove that fit over our hand and with a tubular, leather-like cylinder gripped in the palm. Using these, we were able to move huge visuals around our holographic displays, even extending the displays to larger sizes as necessary. After using these for only a short time, I was soon able to build graphic images the size of my office wall and to work with hundreds of images simultaneously. Within a couple of weeks, I was making significant modifications to the combined visuals that I was receiving from Visibot and was able to further combine them based upon new sets of rules that were emerging daily. It seemed that the more we worked with them, the more ideas we all were having on the best ways to combine and assimilate them to create ever-growing visual spectaculars.
One of the primary instructions we'd been given relative to our new positions and the handling of the CATs was that we were to always leave them locked in our desk, whenever we had to leave our office. I religiously followed that instruction, along with all of the other rules that were being heaped upon us, until today. I had come to work a little late today, so had worked until long after most of the staff and management was long gone. It was around 9:00 PM and I decided to grab a little snack up on 12 before heading home. I'd come up to the patio and gotten a candy bar and drink, then sat down to enjoy the peacefulness of the deserted patio. I was sitting there eating my candy bar when I realized that I had the CATs in my pocket. Oops! Not sure exactly what kind of problem this might cause, but here they were. I took them out and put them on my hands, immediately feeling a sort of electric buzz from the cylinders in my palms. When I stood up and raised my arms, the buzz got stronger. I wrapped my hands around the CAT-cylinders and twisted them forward like the grips on a motorcycle. It was then that I felt myself rising slowly off the floor! As I twisted them further, I rose higher. Bring them back, I'd lower myself. So this was how those managers "flew" in each morning! And this was why they had told us to keep them in the office. Wow! I had discovered something that I'm sure I wasn't intended to know, and that could probably get me fired if the company found out.
I flew up a few floors, slowly learning how to manipulate the CATs to move left, right, up, down. Then I noticed a light in an office on one of the upper management floors. I'm not sure who that was, but I'll bet I'd be in big trouble if I was seen, so let's just settle back down and get these back to the office where they belong.
Back in the office, I sat there looking at the CATs, wondering what would happen if I took them outside. Would I be able to fly across the countryside? I wouldn't be surprised, however, if the company didn't have some sort of alarm set up to detect if anyone left with the CATs in their possession. The managers take them out each night, but who knows if they might have some sort of method for knowing which are managers and which are underlings. Whatever the situation, I planned to keep them in my office from now on, until I knew more about how they work and how much security the company had to monitor their location.
For now, I'm really pleased that I made that mistake and learned how to fly. One of these days, I may spend some time exploring those upper floors, when I'm sure that won't get me fired. In the meantime, I'll make sure I continue to do the best I can at my job, but still try to find time to learn more about this mysterious company and our project.
Coming in Chapter 2
Mapping sectors vs worldwide Skybot facilities : what it means to your future!
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Author's Note: In late 2009, I had a dream about people rising into a "mosaic" of beautiful images with an overwhelming feeling of warmth and contentment. Based upon that dream and elaboration from my imagination, I've written the following to describe how the UIM is created, humanity's acceptance of it, and the mysterious and exciting adventures I had in discovering it.
For your entertainment and enjoyment, here is "UIM".