Common Core – Flawless and Searching Chapter 2

Chapter 2


Data was everywhere. The information explosion that occurred at the turn of the century involved humans manually entering information about discrete objects. There was a concept of meta-data, the information that surrounded a piece of data, but it was poorly understood and utilized.

With the advent of not just embedded technology but embedded technology that was connected to the network the amount of data recorded grew exponentially. Billions of humans were recording every single event that was seen or heard. Most of this, from intimate moments to mundane tasks was shared across the network.

Some of the things that were shared were amazingly valuable. Not only was the data itself clear, the meta-data had been carefully crafted to give it context and nuance.

Other bits of data were worthless. A random clip, audio or video sometimes both often only one, of an unknown object or place. No meta data, not even date or time let alone location.

Sorting through the junk had become a major industry. EmbEd Tech owned the largest data curation company in the world. It was called Data Curata a name which played on the antiquated Boston accent.

Taryn sat in her office on the 137th floor of the Frida K. Ross building and faced the window. She had been working at EmbEd Tech for just over two weeks and was completely immersed in what was supposed to be her signature project.

One of the good things about having a flawless memory was that rules and regulations were easier to follow. There were still gray areas of interpretation but “I didn’t know” was not an acceptable excuse anymore. It was also easy to document laws that were technically in effect but routinely violated.

As a result of the impact tech had on the legal system several laws were repealed and others were amended for clarity. When Embed Tech partnered with the department of education to require students to have the common core installed the legal system reacted.

Laws governing the use and abuse of embedded technology were written, passed and rewritten at a blistering pace. The struggle for power had nothing to do with tech and Conrad Ross carefully navigated both sides of the argument. EmbEd Tech would be a winner regardless of the outcome.

As a concession to driving the tech through the entire population the government agreed to protect those that showed a biological incompatibly. During the introduction of common core an incompatibility waiver was relatively easy to come by. Doctors would complete the exemption filing based on a simple request.

Once embedded technology reached a tipping point there were fewer requests for waivers. Eventually most people were distraught to learn that they had a biological incompatibility. After half a generation people without embedded technology were physically unable to have it installed.

The poor people who could not get tech were the ones that need protection. In an effort to show compassion in the age of raw, cold computing power the non-tech (NT) protection laws were some of the strongest on the books. Changing them was not going to be an easy task.

To make matters worse Taryn was also learning how to deal with offline data. She had taken one course on offline data in her days at The Groton School. Her learning facilitator open the course by saying ‘If you’re working with offline data you’re either doing something wrong or pursuing a hobby.’

From that opening the facilitator had gone on to lecture them about responsible meta-data practices and the importance of data provenance. When adding a new piece of data to the network your name would be associated with it forever. If you failed to explain where you received the data and why you added it criticism would follow you.

The drafts of the laws repealing protections for NT’s were handwritten on paper, most definitely off line. Some form of security also protected them, so that she physically could not record them. This made it difficult to think about them without being physically with them.

“Taryn.” Her father startled her.

“You startled me. Did you disable your proximity setting?” Taryn asked.

“Yes. Why are you still collecting data?” Conrad’s steel blue eyes were set in a hard glare.

“The NT protection laws are strong. I’m struggling to find a corollary for overruling them.” She answered.

“Our strength is data manipulation. Having facts does not make one intelligent. Interpreting and extrapolating from a data set is how we make progress.” He spoke to her like she was still a child.

“I understand that. However if we extrapolate from the wrong data we will arrive at the wrong results.” Taryn was not a push over.

“Sample and project. I’m positive that they taught you that approach in school. Why is it that you’ve only made one projection?” Conrad was acting clearly as her boss and not her father.

“Please don’t look through my work stream without telling me.” She was more concerned with his intrusion than his criticism.

“No one can parse through a protected work stream.” Conrad Ross turned and stepped away as silently and unannounced as he had entered.

Taryn forgot that she was no longer in the confines of school. At Groton they were required to keep their work streams open. Learning facilitators needed to access them to provide feedback and instruction. This was the second time that someone at EmbEd Tech had scanned her work stream.

In a quiet corner of Taryn’s office Conrad contacted Quentin James, a department head in the research and development department.

“I need a docent for Taryn. I would like you to start working with her immediately.” No greetings were exchanged.

“Does it have to be me?” Quentin was an established scientist, he was not interested in teaching a twenty year how to use her tech.

“She is the future CEO of this company, it is an honor to nurture her in the mastery of our capabilities.” Conrad wanted this to be a welcome assignment.

“I think that my son may be a better match. He also continues to amaze even me with his innovative uses of our technology.” Quentin was not lying, his son had made remarkable advancements with the use of tech.

“This is not some simple project for your boy to make a name for himself. I want professionalism and focus on results.” The CEO punctuated the word results.

“Of course not sir. I’ll let him know to expect contact from Taryn.” The head of R&D said with hopes of completing the communication.

“No. Send him up right now. There’s no point in delaying.” Conrad Ross instructed.

“He is offsite working on a project for our China partner. It’s a high margin service, I don’t think we should recall him.” Quentin knew the key factors in the way Conrad made decisions.

“Very well. Have him contact Taryn as soon as he is free.” The CEO terminated the communication without further remark.

He looked at his daughter with frustration. She held so much promise. Her IQ tested extremely high and her ability to focus was exceptional. The biggest challenge she faced was believing in herself.

There was no tech offering for self-confidence. Work had been done on glandular tech that controlled the way the human body created chemicals. Studies showed exactly what chemicals were needed to create various sensations but implementation proved difficult. Patients were not responsive to tests for confidence and other feelings with elements of thought involved.

“Your docent will be Logan James.” Conrad spoke to his daughter in flawless Mandarin.

Taryns auditory tech identified the language and dialect easily. She had not been prepared for the change from English though so her memory load of Mandarin was buried beneath her research.

“No.” She replied in English.

“It took you over a second to process that simple statement.” Conrad continued in Mandarin. “Not only do you require a docent for your work you require one for your social aptitude.”

Common social practice was to respond to conversation in the language of your elder. Taryn typically adhered to the practice except for where it involved her father and his petulant tests.

“I have no problems socially. Just because I don’t jump for your foolish tests does not mean I lack social aptitude.” Taryn dismissed her father with a wave of her hand.

“Do not believe you can dismiss me. Where are your friends? Where are the young men calling on a wealthy young woman? I cannot have you trying to run this corporation while hidden away in your office. This role requires a public face and we cannot have you behaving oddly.” This was not a parent concerned about their child, it was an investor worried about money.

“Dad you don’t even know me. What you said is not accurate or fair.” Taryn was genuinely hurt.

“I have data points on millions of girls your age. In fact I have tracked billions of young women with the exact same tech installation as you. Twenty-year-old girls from around the world are strikingly similar.” Conrad was confident in his analysis.

“This is why we need to pursue the bio connector. People can have similar tech loads and even experiences, but we are all different. With so many people having the same memory loads and the same basic capabilities creativity and individualism are vanishing.” Taryn revealed too much.

“Carry yourself in the manner expected of a CEO or find an alternative career path. Connecting with the docent will provide me with your answer. I’ll check on your progress tomorrow afternoon. Best of luck.” Conrad left the office and entered the elevator without providing a chance for response.

For the last ten years Taryn’s education evolved from advanced individual contributor to global business leader. Her fathers tactics were transparent and aggressive but she had to admit they were effective. If she did not become the CEO of EmbEd Tech her career options were limited. She was smart and connected but she brought baggage with her.


Common Core – Flawless and Searching Chapter 1

Common Core is an idea I started thinking about a couple of years ago. It’s very much influenced by the education program of the same name. As a father of 3 I spend a lot of time thinking about education and who benefits from our kids all being the same and knowing the same things in the same way. Generally speaking it’s not the kids.

This particular story occurs later in the existence of my common core world. I started it for NaNoWriMo in 2014 but I wasn’t able to finish. I’m going to share a chapter every Friday and keep working on the story until it’s done. None of this has been edited or even proof read, so read it for what it is and let me know what you think

Chapter 1

The only memory Taryn Ross had of her mother was an image stored in a memory cell of the technology embedded in her brain. It was a beautiful image but it was static, like a portrait. Of the items stored in her EmbEd Tech memory cells the ones with movement came closest to making her happy. An image of your mother should make you happy.

Taryn had good memories and positive experiences, she was grateful for those, but they didn’t make her feel anything. EmbEd Tech had given her perfect vision, perfect hearing and perfect memory. She had the same common core capabilities as most of the other humans on the planet, but something was missing.

Feelings had been an area of interest for Taryn from the day she woke up from her ten year tech refresh. The normally simple installation procedure of swallowing a small capsule and taking a nap had failed for some reason. As the granddaughter of EmbEd Tech’s founder there was no way she would grow up without the common core. The delicate operation to repair the parts of her brain damaged during the failed install left Taryn in a coma for over a month. It was during that time that her mother had died. Every piece of tech in the world could not prevent a single person from choking on a grape.

When she woke up, all memories of her mother were gone. The ones she had collected before the tech upgrade were damaged when the old memory cells were removed. The biological memories were damaged during the repair and installation operation.

Sadness registered as the appropriate emotion but it did not bring a tear or alter her physical state in any way. Without the label and the meta data associated with her mothers image Taryn would never have even known the woman existed. As she read and progressed through her studies she realized that the disconnect she felt between memory and emotion was a common thread across the EmbEd Tech population.

As she walked towards the Frida K. Ross building, named after her mother, Taryn thought that this was her chance to make an impact. Her family owned EmbEd Tech, or at least they were the majority shareholders, and now that she had reached the working age of 20 Taryn was ready to begin the process of preparing to take over as head of the company.

In the ten years since her mother had died Taryn had only been to the building a few times. Her father, Conrad Ross, technically shared the brownstone she lived in but his office suite on the top floor was where he spent many nights. It was a fine arrangement and they saw each other often enough to maintain a relationship but they were not close.

Taryn and her father had discussed the impact of her mothers’ death, but only once. People with perfect memories did not tend to repeat conversations. When she tried, Conrad would tell her to replay the conversation and he could cite date and time if she even implied that she could not locate the memory.

At the door to the building she looked up at the sky, it was a beautifully clear morning with whisps of white adding texture to the flawless field of blue. Taryn loved looking at the sky. It was full of potential and hope. The vastness of it almost made her feel something.

The ever present clock in her optic display showed that she had almost twenty minutes before she was due to meet with her father. Normally she would go for a walk to raise her body temperature slightly but today she decided to sit and go through her presentation.

In the lobby there was a small seating area. It was vacant, as it had been the other times she had come to the building, and she was able to pick a chair that looked comfortable but in reality was not.

While she went through the data she was preparing to share with her father she cross referenced words and phrases with strong emotional ties. The embedded technology provided processing power and memory but it was still left to Taryn to manipulate data and present conclusions.

A silent alarm went off in her head signaling that the meeting with her father was about to begin. She was so engaged in the data that she had lost track of time.

Rising from the seat she hurried to the elevator. When the doors slid open they revealed a young man standing patiently inside. Facial recognition software scanned has face and raced out to the network to search for a match. His presence in the building helped to narrow the candidates and a name was quickly returned, Logan James.

Mutual connections were limited to EmbEd Tech, he was an employee as were both of his parents, they didn’t know each other. In previous visits to the building Taryn would not have engaged with another person linked only through the company. Seeing as she was preparing to become CEO that practice needed to change.

“Nice to meet you Logan. I’m Taryn Ross, may I initiate a direct connection?” She asked him.

“Nice to meet you Taryn. Technically speaking you don’t have to ask if we can make a direct connection, you are my boss and are entitled to do so.” Logan responded.

“I prefer to make connections personal when I can. I feel it strengthens the potential for collaboration.” Taryn was not looking to make friends.

“Did you know that in the past people would exchange a physical card to share contact information? I believe that the tactile experience of exchanging information was a key component of initiating strong business relationships. Factual data from the time is hard to come by but I feel my hypothesis has merit.” Logan was casual but confident.

Taryn’s memory cell was quickly filled with facts related to the environmental impact of harvesting trees and the paper manufacturing process. She could sight a number of different sources for proof that the practice of putting data on paper was generally a bad idea. Instead she chose from the quotes on leadership and connections.

“To quote Dale Carnegie ‘When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.’” Her background profile scanned had allowed to her make a reference that would resonate with Logan directly. Her instructors at The Groton School had taught her well.

“Ah you detected my profile note on History. I move it around as a way to test others and see who can detect it. You are the first one to find it in the current location. Kudos.” Logan responded with a smile.

“I was fortunate to have good instructors.” Acknowledging others was another tenet of leadership that had been drilled into her.

“Well they should have taught you how to secure your recent search history. For what it’s worth, my interpretation of the recent bio connector data is that the project is trending below the profitability requirements and is should probably canceled or re-worked.” Logan offered with more of his confidence showing through.

Taryn blushed with embarrassment. Fortunately it was a temporary feeling, her memory of this moment would be strictly factual.

The elevator stopped and Logan stepped off before turning to face her.

“Good luck with you father.” He said and started to walk away.

“Nice to meet you, and thank you for your input.” She called after him.

As the floors raced past on her way to the penthouse her tech handled the details of adding time, place and emotional connection notes to the memory files of her conversation with Logan. His comments about the bio connector were archived and she forced a data tag flagging them as unreliable.

Specific data sets and anything tangentially related to her plans for making the bio connector her signature success were loaded into her front brain memory. She was exceptionally well prepared to make her case and she was looking forward to engaging with her father directly on a professional level.

“You’re late.” Conrad scolded her before the elevator doors were fully open.

“Sorry. It’s only three minutes though I think we can adapt.” Taryn responded quickly and with confidence even though she was off guard and a little scared.

“Three minutes is ten percent of a thirty minute meeting. I refuse to let you waste ten percent of a time slot I have allotted for you. If this is what they are promoting out there in Groton I may need to speak with the head master about reducing future contributions.” His anger was painted across his face.

“Dad. It’s my first day and I was working hard to make sure I was prepared. I apologize for being late, it won’t happen again. Do not punish the school because of my actions.” Taryn was very protective of the place where she had spent the better part of her entire life.

“Bickering with me only wastes more time. I’ll hire a docent for you so that you can take advantage of all the capabilities of your technology and we can avoid meaningless discussion better in the future.” Conrad turned and walked back to his desk.

“I don’t need a docent. It was a simple mistake on my first day. You have been doing this for over thirty years. I’ve developed an action plan for my first year and identified a signature project that I would like to pursue. I’m sharing those proposals with you now.” Taryn hoped that moving on would end the talk of a docent.

Docents had become very popular with the upper class. They were quite knowledgeable about the technology but mostly they were gimmicks that taught people to do circus tricks that appeared as intelligence.

“Now that’s more of what I expected from a future CEO of EmbEd Tech. However the key word there is future. You do not get to set the agenda with me. I am in charge, don’t ever forget that.” Her father flashed a smile.

“Very well. As long as I am allowed to get engaged from the start things will go smoothly. I’ve spent the last ten years studying and preparing, I’m not interested and watching other people work.” Taryn matched the tone and quick smile.

“You will be fully engaged. Your signature accomplishment is going to be the repeal of the laws protecting non-tech citizens. Your work starts as soon as we wrap up.” Conrad held his daughters gaze.

“I think that the bio connector holds significantly more promise. The work has progressed nicely and tests show that it has a chance to solve the connectivity issue for most of the people whose bodies rejected tech.” That was not the outcome she was hoping for but the data showed her that it was a more likely path to success.

“The margins on the bio connector are atrocious. It’s as if the development team was planning the project to be a charity. If I don’t shut the whole program down it will likely be shipped off shore so I don’t have to be reminded of it daily.” Conrad moved across his office and sat in front of a window looking out over the city of Boston.

Logan had been astute in his assessment. Taryn knew that the margins were not as high as the other projects she had reviewed but she expected they would improve. Several manipulations of the data showed the margins improving as the bio connector moved outside the United States.

Unfortunately, Taryn also knew that arguing with her father was a futile effort. He would not concede and eventually he would simply stop talking to her.

If she was going to bring the bio connector to market she would have to find a away to do so outside of her fathers extensive purview.

“It’s estimated that five percent of the US population claim tech exemption status under the current laws. Adding them as customers this year would generate a nice return. History also shows that soon after the United States, foreign nations will follow suit and over time yield even more profitability.” Taryn rattled off a sampling of data that had been hastily retrieved.

“There are a few versions of the new laws in our offline archives. This project is not to be connected to the network. If our competitors got a hold of the draft laws they could lay claim to the non-techs and five percent would give them the in to slowly erode our share.” Conrad completed an extended blink while he checked his calendar and moved data in preparation for his next meeting.

“I’ll do my best.” Taryn didn’t think her father would expect or accept anything different.

Without any further conversation Taryn walked towards the elevator and prepared to head down one floor to her new office.

“Oh Taryn.” Conrad called to her. “It was nice to see you.”


A common core

Now that school is back in full swing and homework is coming home regularly, parents (in)ability to help their children also returns. It’s not a new complaint, but in recent years a more direct target has emerged – Common Core. This school years first winner came from a father of two in the form of a check written out in what was described as ‘common core numbers’.

When I was in school I moved to a different state twice, between fifth and sixth grade and then between tenth and eleventh. In both cases I was academically off from my peers. In the first move I was ahead in math but behind in english. After the second move I was behind in both math and english. In theory common core would have prevented that.

It is my understanding that common core is less a curriculum than a set of measures. The goal being that every student in the country have the same core set of skills when they complete a given grade level. The humorous check and the fact that it went viral highlight the emotional and political impact of this policy, I’m going to stay away from that piece.

Instead I want you to think about a world where we all have the same core capabilities. With the use of technology, vision, hearing and memory could all be enhanced. Not just enhanced, but leveled. Kids wouldn’t have to learn the state capitals, the information would be pre-loaded in a memory chip implanted in their brain. What a cost savings for our education spending.

Savings sounds like a justification that governments could use to force technological implants. It’s less expensive to care for and educate people when they all have the same core capabilities. Thos in charge would make the claim that people will still be different based on how they use the common skills but embedded technology would level the playing field.

The truth is more sinister. In a world were we have fewer differences we are easier to control. There is less incentive to explore, try new things, or invent. If our experience is no different from the person next to us, what do we get from that experience?

Those that choose to have an original, non-enhanced experience in the world would be rogues. Their differences would make them dangerous. Strength would come from their weaknesses because they will work and struggle to adapt. They would not be tolerated.

We’re the sum of all our parts – strengths and weaknesses. If we all share a common core we add up to nearly the same thing. Instead of investing to make sure that every sixth grader has the same level of math skills, maybe we should invest in teaching them to adapt to their differences. Of course that would be more difficult to measure which means it would be tougher to justify the costs.

This is a story idea I have been working through for a while. There are so many different angles to take with it – thriller, romance and mystery. I see a dystopian world full of good people lulled into silence.

How would you see a world where we all share a common core?