cambridge book review

Origins of FIS (Factory in a Suitcase)

cbr 5 / winter 2000-2001

From Redshift: Greenstreem
By Rod Clark
CBR Press 2000

Appendix II
Selected Terms
from Encyclopedia Cybernetica
as of June 2nd, 2094


Factory in a Suitcase. (Illustration by Spencer Walts from "Redshift: Greenstreem.")

A macroset is a set of interdependent nanobots generally containing at least a billion nanobots whose operations are directed and coordinated by an AI matrix commonly referred to as a “hive.” Macrosets can be powered by a variety of means, including microfusion, old-fashioned microwave technology, and a multitude of biochemical reactions, in particular those related to the binding and unbinding of DNA molecules in bi-knit flow systems. The latter technology was combined in 2053 with human-derived DNA and neurotransmitters to produce an AI system that simultaneously powered and directed the newly invented micro-machinery matrices. Although such neurotransmitters and DNA matrices may be synthesized, the purest and most economic means of producing them is in human beings themselves, thus allowing a large portion of our planet’s population to earn a basic subsistence wage for doing almost nothing, and helping to solve the massive unemployment problem of recent decades.

The first experimental macroset was created by Engineer Jack Dougal McCool in 2042. He called it a “factory in a suitcase” or FIS, and stunned observers in the granite shield country near Rainy River, Minnesota by pouring an early FIS out of the back of a dump truck and having it carve part of a roadway through a half mile long granite shelf in less than three hours. This crude pilot model was nicknamed “the lamp.” It was set in motion not by an external switch, but by rubbing the titanium shell of the cylinder to excite and “wake” the blubit matrix, which then projected a tiny hologram avatar which requested verbal commands from the set “master.” It would then process the commands as riddles to be solved, and proceed with attempted solutions. Today, the macroset descendants of Jack McCool’s early FIS prototype can direct a wide range of nanotech “soups” to perform an astonishing variety of manufacturing or reengineering tasks at a high speed (and at any scale, including terraforming or metrostructing, depending merely on the size of the macroset and its parameters ). Today macrosets are capable of folding all their components into much smaller spaces with much greater capacity then was once contemplated. The massive FIS hives of the mid 21st century have given way to systems that can fit into a 5 kilogram attaché case. “Worldmaker” macrosets the size of McCool’s original FIS can now terraform and urban plat entire planetoids, complete with big box retail and Macrodonald arches from horizon to horizon in as little as forty-eight hours. All the marvelous achievements of macrosets are acomplished with essentially four kinds of bots: sensits, the eyes, ears and nose of the set; blues or blubits, which analyze, program and direct; quicks or quickets, which provide inter- and intra-energy transfer and communications; and redniks, which construct and deconstruct. These collaborate through the aforementioned system matrix called a hive.

Once set in motion, a macroset can be a dangerous tool, since it has the ability to radically transform any matter in its path, creating an astonishing repertoire of buildings, machines, goods and artifacts of all kinds—limited only by the sources of energy and matter available for it to tap, and by the reins of its managing software. Because of its potential for destruction as well as construction (as demonstrated by the tragic art-deco redesign of Cincinnati in 2068), the security, development and improvement of management and control systems has always been the focus of macroset engineering as carried forward by the Greenet Consortium.

Even in the early days of macrosets there was a considerable controversy over the best way to develop guidance systems to manage, direct, and control the energies of trillions of molecular sized nanobots in order that they might perform the many complex and sophisticated tasks that nano engineers anticipated for them. McCool’s orginal FIS was an “evolved” AI system which grew slowly at first, matured rapidly into a brief and useful life, and then became unmanageable as its experience grew exponentially—requiring “macrocide” when the system matured, began to question, and eventually overwhelmed control systems. This early control design was built on the “democratic” hive concept—with each class of nanobots being assigned tasks which it could carry out in any fashion it liked within crudely defined parameters. The “education” process proved extremely difficult, as the creative bots periodically found inventive ways to subvert and overwhelm their parameters—sometimes, as noted earlier, with disastrous results.

The McCool theory was that this nursery method of cultivating and educating macrosets, although expensive and difficult in its early stages, would produce the finest macroset hive in the long run. Challenges included the uncertainties generated by chaotic variation and the difficulties inherent in calculating Brownian tolerances of nanobot matrices when such systems are allowed perfect freedom and maximum learning opportunities (within loosely structured strange attractor parameters). The expenses and danger inherent in this process, which McCool called “training the genie,” plus the reasonable doubts of Greenet Executives that total mastery could ever be achieved over such continuously evolving AI systems, combined to move the “control” initiative in a newly secure and responsible direction. AI queens were established to build security envelopes around macrosets and help commercial interests direct them with tighter discipline. McCool, more interested in science than safety, did not care for the new approach. Unfortunately, his irrational opposition to the new control protocols deranged him, leading him into the unconscionable criminal activities of the 80s, and tarnishing his reputation.

In the interests of greater macroset security and control, Greenet’s 20th century predecessor, a clumsy and loosely structured capital matrix called the Fortune 500, directed Lucent and other ancient firms to create “plug and play central” control systems that would send predefined (fully cooked) imperatives directly from corporate engineers to the systems—crisply separating the problem solving and execution modes of macrosets. However, this proved too restrictive to be economically viable, since such macrosets did not have the creative freedom to sufficiently modify projects when presented with unexpected anomalies or flawed instructions. After a number of tragedies resulted from this well-intentioned but over-restrictive approach—this too rigid format was abandoned. Hence today’s “Chinese Box” macros in which successively more heavily controlled layers of directly programmed security bots encase a free thinking hive like the layers of an onion. Within this secure corral, the macroset is allowed to “think” freely, but is only allowed to “act” when off-system approval of change options is granted. Vicious rumors that some macros have escaped their molecular prisons and are prowling loose on the moons of Jupiter and elsewhere at the Solsystem’s rim are entirely false. Greenet’s management of such systems is secure and absolute.

There are, however, a small handful of FIS lamps—created for the use of McCool and his criminal descendants—still believed to exist, operating irresponsibly free of Greenet. These systems were deliberately released into Solsystem by McCool following his conviction for subversion under the Greenet protrust laws of 2063, and subsequent escape from custody and disappearance among the moons of Jupiter in 2087. These include three lost lamps, and one experimental “ring” which disappeared with him and may be at this very hour in the hands of subversive elements that are either ignorant of the dangers of such self-energizing, continuously self-modifying units or are involved in criminal conspiracies to perpetuate their use. The control of these maverick macrosets, sometimes called the “Y” series, can only be exercised by an imprinted male who shares (by direct descent) the same “Y” chromosome as Jack Dougal McCool. If the reader has any knowledge of these “loose lamps,” or the location of any direct male descendants of Dougal McCool, it is that individual’s responsibility to report this information to the nearest Greenet terminal so that these individuals can be placed in protective custody, and these maverick macrosets can be tamed or deactivated, and made safe for the good of all.

Solsystem, into which we are locked until (or if) the FTL drive can spread Greenet across the dark matter between suns, has a finite and diminishing amount of matter and energy supplemented to some extent by solar and galactic radiations. The FIS lamp piracies which may now operate sporadically throughout solsystem, may be depleting this precious reserve of matter and energy, maintained by Greenet for the good of all, thus threatening the very foundation of civilization as we know it. Remember, energy not managed by Greenet is energy mismanaged: “Loose Lamps Lose Amps!” Be sure to report any information you come across regarding these maverick lamps or McCool descendants to Greenet Central. As the reader is no doubt aware, these maverick lamps are known as Aladdins.

Redshift: Greenstreem is available from or


Rod Clark is a life-long Wisconsin resident. A professional writer and media-consultant, he is also the editor of Rosebud, a national magazine for people who enjoy good writing.

January 1, 2001 Posted by | fiction | , , | Leave a comment