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The race into space is not merely between the scientific elite and those who wish to consider themselves autonomous. The dynamic that maintains the very structure of this society will insist that we will all spend time in space, either voluntarily or involuntarily. (I mean, we don't want to see any more repeats of yesterday's events...)
Future Excavations Incorporated exist to project cultural, social and industrial models into deep future situations, to pinpoint problems, and to provide (if necessary) solutions. Our recent work has taken us into considering the outer atmospheres and the moons surface as feasible solutions to the impending crisis of social order.
Our methods of operation are designed to thwart both publicity and a wider understanding of our tasks and aims. We like to draw on specific expertise without the awareness of the participent, a strategy developed in computer programming projects such as weapon guidance systems whereby programmer expertise was syphoned into modular projects such that no individual had an idea of the project whole - eliminating both security and individual 'conscience crisis' risks.
For the purpose of this conference we are willing to give a little more away than is usual. It is common knowledge that the stability of capitalist economics is less about production and more about social control. The industrial infrastructure is moving elsewhere. For the new generation, Factory was just a record label. Contemporary trends have seen the nature of modern work move towards data adminstration and production of information. Each data processing unit produces information that meets with other information and eventually becomes data for another processing unit. The cycle goes on without end. The work environment is the office... it becomes a way of life. Commuting in, work, commuting home is a dead zone whereby any romantic sense of job satisfaction or relationship (alienated or otherwise) to a tangible product is non-existant.
Social control was maintained initially through the leisure system, and most recently through cultural consumption. As work becomes more meaningless then the importance of culture in providing a reason for existence increases. This means that culture has to re-invent itself, permanently. It has to provide new models that people can identify with. It has to constantly change and fracture. Our paper on cultural crisis theory written 4 years ago suggested that culture could not attain the required rate of diversification and renewal, that a problem for social control was on the horizon.
As we began to look for feasible solutions we drew on various key projects and documents. Howard Slater's research into psychological control systems and Kafka style immiseration within office life suggested that office life could not improved, that the burden of responsibility for life enhancement stopped short of the office door. This was the bottom line: either the nature of work had to be changed, or the office environment had to be re-located. The latter option has been chosen.. and to coin a phrase 'space is the place' - our experts believe that the cultural prestige gained from becoming an astronautical office worker will be enough to allay the pressures on cultural mechanisms. I mean, look at the interest in the AAA its very 'cutting edge' to want to get into space.
The first experiments involved the ill fated Mir space station. Hiding behind the well publicised crisis of outer space mechanical failure was the first stage of a global plan to re-animate the heart and soul of deadend office work. It was suggested that by creating offices in space (either orbiting offices or moon based offices) the impending global crisis could be resolved. What went wrong with the Mir experiment was that the astronauts were just that - trained astronauts. When sent into space with 'nothing to do' other than maintain a few database systems; boredom, paranoia and panic eventually set in. Subsequently the astronauts felt obliged to double-check and tinker with the scientific structure of the space-station, resulting in malfunction and near tragedy. If the astronauts had been experienced office workers, then none of this would have happened - they would have simply passed the hours playing Microsoft Solitaire games, wasting time on the web, or trying to outdo each other with the fanciest screensaver.
We decided the time had come to test drive office workers in space. Of course, we all know that its impossible to send ordinary people into space (that is why the bulk of you are here today), so the thrust of our project was to simulate space conditions and bring in the test subjects. In essence, monitoring the psychological effects of performing routine office work in space. For this we needed our 'hostile environment' - a place that replicated the extreme environmental factors that are ever present in an outer space situation.
The choice of our 'hostile environment' was the triangle of land formed within the fast interchange system between the Ml and Ml 8 in South Yorkshire. This is a crucial intersection linking all routes south to London, all routes into Yorkshire, all routes west to Hull, and all routes to the North East and Scotland. Various suitable factors for replicating an outer space environment were available including : a constant noise from the 24 hour volume of traffic, an alien atmosphere due to the pollution levels, and permanent light effects throughout the hours of darkness. The thrust of the experiment would be to see if the test group could internalise and block out these alien conditions, and maintain an 'office mentality'.
In addition the following geographical features were noted: the geometry of the 'triangle' is actually a curvilinear triangle - a shape which has important implications in cultural modelling due to the fractal nature of its 'negative space and the evidence of possible autonomous space activity through the found grafitti and strangely positioned bench which affords a view to nothing more than constant traffic (I refer you to our information display).
The architecture for the project was taken from another ongoing project to construct self-contained office space stations. We had utilised the anonymous architecture of the late 70's industrial estate to build a number of mock-up space stations, chosen for their quick build features ideal for the surface of the moon. Into each we had to incorporate a local area network database, a simulated web system, and all the necessary features for office life. Obviously we needed to provide piping systems for oxygen, food, waste recycling, water, etc. Previous tests had been performed for compatability using office workers, and a successful prototype had been agreed on. This was quickly put together in our triangle, and our test group spent an initial period of three weeks in the base - maintaining a database of records, receiving, preparing and sending out reports generated from the database.
The project proved a near complete success - with only one test subject proving to have an adverse reaction. At first we thought it might be a mutant strain of hayfever caused by gusts of g.m. pollen from a neighbouring g.m. crop site, but a little bit of research at the local studies library revealed that in the 1930's 56 cows had been destroyed after contracting foot and mouth disease, and their corpse had been buried close to the test site. It was concluded that our unfortunate specimin had caught a form of foot and mouth - and so the problem of them providing a statistical 'outlier' to the main results from the project could be eliminated.
And so it is with complete confidence that we can predict the massimplementation of moon-based and orbiting offices within the next decade. An implementation procedure that will simultaneously free our cities of manifesting office developments, and free our cultural control systems from potential overload.
A presentation hy Dorothy Matrix for AAA 'Space 1999' conference, London, 19/6/99
Space 1999 was a 10 day festival of independent and community-based space exploration organised by the Association of Autonomous Astronauts (AAA). It was part of the AAA's Five Year Plan to establish by the year 2000 a world-wide network of groups dedicated to building their own spaceships.
AAA activities and writings during the Five Year Plan are available online.
After the end of the Five Year Plan, activities virtually relocated to the Association of Autonomous Astronauts' [AAA] Guyana Base/AAARosko forum.