The Technological Underground

The senator described to me her vision of society. We're on a train, she said. A runaway train steaming furiously toward a collision with a concrete wall and all she wanted to do was to put on the brakes before it was too late. I say it's already too late. I say if we want to survive, forget about the brakes and stoke the boilers. Let's get up enough speed now so that no lousy wall of concrete can dictate our doom. Enough speed to thrust this train right through the wall. We all know that a straw, driven by a tornado, can pierce a fence post. We have to ride that tornado. We have to ride that train. We have to find out if there is life on the other side of the wall, because if we give up now we are going to crash. Only audacity and nerve can serve us now.
Linda Nagata, Tech Heaven
Change is now, change is now.
Things that seem to be solid are not.
Byrds, Change Is Now
The technological underground stands in opposition to the status quo. It ranges from lone freethinkers to well organized networks of cypherpunks organizing subversion on an international level. What unites them is the desire to adapt themselves and society to the new possibilities, what divides them is the means to do it.

Around 1% of the population could be said to sympathize with the TU. Of these only 10% are actually involved in any form of pro-TU activity such as speaking out against the nanotech ban, spreading education, learning to use the new technologies well or organizing themselves. Of these, around 10% are actually involved in the real TU. They are fairly evenly distributed between various independent groups, WETF and the Concordat. In some regions the proportions are different; the UA has done an impressive work in parts of India, while the WETF has made great inroads in Australia.

Why do not more people join up with the TU? Most are simply too fixed in consensus reality to notice that anything is amiss or that they ought to do something. Many also think that they cannot do anything, it is better to leave it to the semi-mythical "Them" who fix everything. Some simply lack the ambition or self-discipline. To the general opinion the TU is just another kind of fringe groups that are best ignored. After all, the things they discuss are just science fiction, right?

The Concordat

The Concordat is the largest and best organized group of the TU. It is a loose confederation of smaller groups, held together by a mutual set of rules ("The Concord") and a carefully designed information and trade network. Unlike WETF and IAFAI it doesn't have a single ideology, but remains open for diversity.

See the Concordat chapter.

World Engineering Task Force

Here I am, I'm the master of your destiny,
I am the one the only one, I am the god of kingdom come,
Gimme the prize, just gimme the prize,
Give me your kings, let me squeeze them in my hands,
Your puny princes,
Your so-called leaders of your land,
I'll eat them whole before I'm done,
The battle's fought and the game is won,
I am the only one,
I am the god of kingdom come,
Gimme the prize, just gimme the prize,
Move over, I said move over,
Hey, hey, hey clear the way,
There's no escape from my authority -- I tell you --
I am the one the only one, I am the god of kingdom come,
Gimme the prize, just gimme the prize,
I am the only one,
I am the god of kingdom come,
Gimme the prize.
Queen, Gimme The Prize
Future shock [is] the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.
Alvin Toffler

The WETF (sometimes derogatory called the "technosurvivalists" or "revenge of the nerds") is a technosupremacist group. They strive to topple the status quo and replace it with a technocracy where the people with knowledge of the new technologies make up the rules and run the show. While some want to rule like enlightened despots and others just want to enjoy the power, most couldn't care less about the ignorant masses. If they cannot learn to handle the new technology it is their own fault. The WETF is in many way a reaction to the repression against technology and the way many people distrust and dislike people involved with it. If people don't treat the ones who support their world well, why should they care about the people?

Their main weapon is future shock. The WETF simply tries to push technology forward and spread it so quickly that the current system breaks down, preferably taking many of the "wussie" groups of the TU with it. Once there, the WETF plans to use its technological abilities to take control simply by building a new society on the ruins of the old, based on their own technology and abilities. Ideally they will not even have to force anybody, since they will be the apparent saviors from the chaos as they appear, armed with knowledge, resources and confidence. Another road is to simply make people more and more dependent on complex technological systems, until they are completely in the hands of the people with the know-how. The Concordat has pointed out that this is extremely dangerous; there is a great risk that instead of a new world there will be no world at all if things go badly. The WETF doesn't seem to get it; its members are more involved in their own projects and dreams than having an overview.

The WETF is divided into a cell structure, communicating using secure channels and anonymization software similar to SubNet. Membership is by invitation, and usually new members are kept in the dark about the purpose and extent of the organization for a long time (although most guess quite clearly the ethos right away). In the past there has been several major cases of infighting and takeover attempts by different fractions, but at present the situation has stabilized into an uneasy alliance: first get the snowball rolling, then decide exactly where it should roll. Status is determined by skill and reputation, leading to an endless jockeying with greater and greater "hacks" to prove oneself.

Different projects are developed by different cells, sharing their results with others when they are ready. Much of the activity is aimed at furthering the spread of advanced technology into society, undermining regulations and stealing new results from other groups. Another important goal is to survey the available tools to gain control over important functions in the world society after the Cataclysm; the WETF is always on the lookout for new information that could be of use to the technosurvivalists.

The WETF and the Concordat are not on friendly terms, but there are some (usually secret) contacts between some Concordat groups and the WETF. Without WETF the Concordat would likely have a much harder time. The radicals attract more attention, and act as a buffer between the FOG agencies hunting the TU and the Concordat -- they tend to concentrate on the WETF, and while they fight it out the Concordat quietly slips away.

The dynamic is this: We geeks create and run the systems and try to keep the suits from screwing them up. The suits hate us because they don't understand the systems and are dependent on people they never even had to acknowledge. We hate them because we have to work for people dumber than we are and because they always -- always -- screw the systems up, and we have to bail them out. It's a kind of secret civil war going on in zillions of businesses. One day, they think, they won't need us. One day, we think, we won't need them. It's a race.

International Association for Free Academic Inquiry

The IAFAI was formed as a response to the increasing attacks on academic freedom. The organization both has an underground and an overground presence. The official IAFAI is an international pressure group trying to support academic freedom, freedom of speech and human rights. The unofficial IAFAI consists of a network trying to support these goals more directly, by setting up secret communication channels between scholars, disseminating suppressed information, supporting harassed academics and even some physical action to prevent further coercion.

One major problem for the IAFAI is that there are many academics who do not think there is a problem; they are actually quite happy about the situation -- from their point of view money is being re-routed from materialistic, reductionistic research towards socially responsible research. The critics of the new measures are all hegemonistic old-fashioned positivists who cannot adapt to the new era where academia becomes an integral part of society, and so on. The IAFAI usually recruits from academics who get a rude awakening when funding is withdrawn for political reasons, or find their theories opposed because they do not fit the climate of political correctness.

The IAFAI has comparatively cordial ties to the Concordat, but has problems with infiltration and suffers from complicated infighting between different factions. It supports the Underground Academy, and overlaps to some extent with it.

Dr Frankensteins

My colleagues at Heidelberg laughed at my theories but who's laughing now? HA HA HA HAAHA!
Saturday morning cartoon mad scientist
There are some people working alone in the TU, without any allegiances. There are lone terrorists, crackpot inventors, scientific consultants for hire, sane people who don't want to get involved in the InfoWar, would-be members of the Concordat who haven't yet connected and technophiles with no ambitions larger than acquiring the latest VR-rig. Many Frankensteins are simply bright people who work alone for one reason or another, they don't have to be particularly weird. Others are too weird to get accepted into any group.

Of the Frankensteins, the NetGods are an interesting and important group. A very loose grouping of the best hackers, crackers and information hunters around. They are respected, feared and mistrusted; unlike the information people in the Concordat they do not necessarily follow any rules, although many at least claim to follow their own versions of the hacker ethic.

Another group worth watching is Deus Ex Machina V2.0, a splinter group of the Concordat that has become one of the most radical enemies of the Knights of the Oppressed Earth. Unlike the Concordat Deus Ex is actively waging counter-ecoterrorism, using its resources and know how to fight the militants, Green Nation and everybody else. The rest of the Concordat wants to stay well away from them; they are becoming far too similar to those they fight, and lash out against their former allies at any provocation.