The Broker and the Miller

While technology may change, human behavior does not. At least, that’s what reading the collection of Aesop’s Fables suggests. The characters and motivations in the parables, attributed to Aesop after he died in 564 BCE, remain relevant today.

Aesop 2021 projects these well-known (and not-so-known) stories into an age only a stone’s throw from our own. When cynicism and pessimism abound, hope becomes a rebellious act against the tyranny of the default. Each story recasts a fable’s lesson from our upcoming solarpunk future as a software tale.

The Aesop 2021 project is part of the Never Break the Chain March Writing Challenge. The original sources were translated by George Fyler Townsend and provided under the Project Gutenberg license. Addition reference provided by a Library of Congress interactive book adapted from the public domain book “The Aesop for Children: with Pictures by Milo Winter,” published by Rand, McNally & Co in 1919.

Below is the latest installment.

A picture

In the aftermath of the Billionaires’ War, society drastically reformed itself. Comprehensive digital identity reform was among the most profound changes felt daily among the revolutionary reset. The practice of data hoarding, inference, and reselling by corporations was over. Instead, personal data of all types became viewed as a closely guarded treasure, accessible only by the individual to whom it belonged. People carried their data in charms, often worn as part of a bracelet or necklace. When prompted as necessary for a service, they could consent to share only what was required, a practice that reinforced the new appreciation for privacy and autonomy. Storing data “just in case” or, worse, aggregating it beyond the original intent was forbidden.

A former data Broker who once thrived in the old system found himself chafing at the new world order. He reminisced about the “good ‘ole days” when information flowed as much as oil and inferences were commodities to be assembled and sold. Now, the Broker stood in the millhouse, a place of honest labor, far removed from the digital apparitions he used to conjure. “You have to understand,” he lamented to the community Steward, “back then, I moved markets. Stocks rose or fell based on the analysis I published. And now, what? I make flour?”

The Miller, accustomed to such gripes, offered a practiced response. “You miss a past that benefitted you by disadvantaging countless others,” he said. “It’s like a credit score -creating a problem only to sell the fix. That world, with its inequities and imbalances, is behind us now. We chose not to gatekeep financial stability for a reason. It’s up to you whether you find your way toward something better or persist in reminding everyone at whose expense your fortunes came.”

Original Fable

A CHARGER, feeling the infirmities of age, was sent to work in a mill instead of going out to battle. But when he was compelled to grind instead of serving in the wars, he bewailed his change of fortune and called to mind his former state, saying, “Ah! Miller, I had indeed to go campaigning before, but I was barbed from counter to tail, and a man went along to groom me; and now I cannot understand what ailed me to prefer the mill before the battle.” “Forbear,” said the Miller to him, “harping on what was of yore, for it is the common lot of mortals to sustain the ups and downs of fortune.”

Moral of the Stories

Software or life is filled with changes, and fortunes fluctuate. We must accept the transitions as they appear without overly romanticizing the past or lamenting what we’ve imagined we’ve lost. Rather than dwelling on the past, finding contentment and purpose in the present is better.