"Your second chance, today!"




The Plot


A brilliant young software programmer stumbles upon a technology innovation that enables him to create a neural-network based world that exists in cyberspace. It is a game that brings together two types of players - those that represent "Cyberlians" that "exist" inside the game and those that create "strands" that represent feelings, emotions, and other phenomena that "Cyberlians" employ. The object of the game is to live the life you always wanted. The game mirrors real-time but does support a "fast forward" feature for general use as needed.


The Cyberians


The game enables a player to create a cyber-person in their own likeness or in the likeness of anyone else they know, past or present, or in the likeness of someone completely different. The principle being that you have a second chance to be whoever you wanted to be in a world (albeit cyber-based) that to all intents and purposes, is a real person. You play out a second life in the certain knowledge that it does not harm or relate or impact the real world.


If you ever wanted to be an Industry Leader, a millionaire, an actor, a singer, a famous sports personality, or miner - Cyberlia is the second chance you have to make that dream real. As adults we have the good fortune of hindsight - but we have no vehicle to exploit what we know now in the past. Those that don't play Cyberlia leave their chances to reincarnation. Those of the digital persuasion can exploit that knowledge and experience and create a whole new experience.


Take that exam you flunked. Ask that girl for a date that you avoided. Play in the game you missed. Visit that city you always wanted to. Read the books you always wanted. It's all possible - anything is possible in Cyberlia.


The idea is not unlike living in Sim City. The difference is a player is limited to operating one and only one Cyberlian at any time. So if you are fed up with real life, behind the eight ball, can't keep up with the Joneses, then you can become the Jones'! In this manner you create a new "you" - one that you can work as hard or cheat as much as you want to. You create a whole new person with his or her own distinct personality. You create whoever you want to be. No one can stop you.


Cyberlia mirrors the real world so you can have a second chance - while you are still alive. You can climb the corporate ladder. You can marry that girl next door. You can climb that mountain.



The Strands


The software needed to make Cyberlia is vast and very complex. It was a daunting task to bring Cyberlia to fruition. This existence of this cyber-world is in fact made possible through the Internet world. It exists on the Internet and in fact exists in hundreds of servers around the world. In fact linking the servers and creating the self-synchronizing software was the main work effort of Digital Games Inc., or DGI, as they were known.


Cyberlia is as big a project as any known to man. The technology is as far ahead as the computer was to the telephone. It was a great concept. But to make it real would require many, many resources. Resources (programmers) that would be required to create and quality assure the code. To reduce the time to market, DGI advertised to the programmers the world over that they needed help coding Strands.


A player "born" into Cyberlia has almost as many variables that a real human does. Each player can create a Cyberlian that is as complex as they want him or her to be. To support this goal of "second chance" a vast array of alternative character traits, feelings, emotions, skills and personifications had to be made available. DGI decided to hold an ongoing competition that invited programmers to submit "strands", bits of code that would "plug into" the Cyberlia generating engine that would, upon successful QA and upload, be available to all Cyberlians. For example, "laughter" is a particularly complex strand that, prior to its inclusion, meant that Cyberlians were unable to invoke it. They could still find certain things weird, or humorous, or silly, but not funny. That is, assuming that "weird", "humor", and "silly" had been coded, and made available.


Strands are very complex. DGI created a Road Map that listed all the strands and their relationship with each other that they wanted to program in to Cyberlia and offered financial awards for the successful adoption of submitted strands. All approved strands were uploaded to a central server that made available these strands to Cyberlians. As players, users could create a character that simulated life and invoked all the strands as needed. An example may help to describe what is a strand:



The idea is that any event that one experiences in real life is and can be experienced again in Cyberlia. Only this time you create a character that can re-live old feelings or can experience new ones. It's up to you. What are available to you to "invoke" are the strands in the central game or nervous system.


In the early weeks and months Cyberlia was very basic. In today's terms, the game was very much today's leading edge simulation games such as what you would get if you crossed 3-D with Sim City and so on. But as the game caught on, more and more programmers submitted new and challenging strands that found their way into the game. Instead of a single strand, users had many options available that were themselves derived from combination of strands. In other words, users (not programmers) could invoke several strands at a time in order to create hybrid strands. In other words, this looked more like a tapestry rater then a series of loosely coupled threads.


After about two years, Cyberlia was a robust, flourishing cyber-world where hundreds of thousands of people were living their second chance. There were lawyers, factory workers, managers, stock brokers, school teachers, holidays, money, arguments, love, whore houses, marriage guidance councilors, love triangles, stock market crashes, economic booms, and so on. If you did not know it, and you had physically woken up in Cyberlia, you might have thought that it was the real world.


The Plot


Central idea: A character in Cyberlia has been found murdered. The person was stabbed through the chest many times and was found with a knife sticking out of their chest. The interesting thing is that "murder" had not yet been uploaded into the game. It had not even been submitted as a strand. So the question is: how come a Cyberlian be found murdered when that was not possible? Was it murder? If not, how could it happen?


Two human characters pontificate the logic behind the arguments. They conclude that it is impossible to resolve. They dig into the Cyberlian character to try to understand who he was. In Cyberlia, the identity of the real person that "owns" the Cyberlian is hidden. It is not confidential - it is just locked away in a code that ensures continuity but ensures confidentiality. But this is one line of analysis. The other line, the interesting line, is the background of the dead person.


It turns out that this person was in fact a scientist at a university that had (himself) created a second, separate cyber world! This world was operational and in fact was in its early stages in comparison to Cyberlia - but it was a world within a world. Research concluded that the world was "live" but it could not be located on the Internet. No servers could be indentified.


The second twist is that this scientist had created a replica of the Cyberlia engine and had in fact submitted to it a new and powerful strand called "life". Research concludes that this strand is in fact that which is responsible for the "real world". And so an apparent paradox is defined. However, it turns out that this is not a paradox as this new world is not "real life" but more a tool to control or manage "real life". This is similar in nature to what a voodoo doll is to the target of the magic. As the doll goes through changes, so does the target. This strand was the code that had been created that would have allowed the "world within a world" to control the real world.


So much for the twist.


So how was the murder committed and why?


The why is very simple. Someone had found out about "life" and was afraid that the real world was about to be taken over. So the man had to die. That is the motive. The way in which the murder was concocted is strange to say the least. "Murder" had been uploaded to the second world. A character in that world, who was created by a Cyberlian, that was itself created by a real person, "stepped out" of the inner world and crossed the Internet divide to Cyberlia to stop the submission of "life".


The final twist.


The game seems to have been faulty. The news of the murder slowed down new users; many old users left; economic gloom kicks in; recession; etc. GDI decides that the game is no longer viable and decides to close the game down and start a new venture. They attempt to close Cyberlia down. After some effort, they do so.


Parts of the code live on in small, isolated servers around the world - just like Pacific Islands after WWII. People on those islands did not know that the war had ended for months - even years afterward. But the gateways for new players to enter were closed.


GDI assumed that had closed Cyberlia down. They were supposed to think that. Users in the inner world had wanted the real people to think that they had closed down Cyberlia. In fact, they had not. Cyberlia was alive and well and feeding all manner of new players into the inner world. The inner world was in fact the real world. The story ends with two characters discussing the failings of the "real world". The reader ends the story not knowing any more which is the real world and which is Cyberlia.



Delboy December 1999