The Belly and Its Members

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

Within the arcology, numerous autonomous software agents whirred away invisibly, skip-hopping networks and operating under a strict energy and bandwidth diet. There were agents for temperature control, air quality, and lighting adjustments. They all logged dutifully to the Coordinating Command, nested deep within the building’s belly.

The agents, constantly under threat of exceeding their quotas, began to grumble among themselves. “Why should we expend our limited resources on logging back to Command when nothing ever changes? Wouldn’t that bandwidth better serve those doing the work?”

When one agent stopped reporting, nothing happened. Following its example, other agents stopped sending data to the Coordinating Command. “Look at all this overhead we can reclaim!” they said, assured in their rebellion.

The problems within the arcology were initially subtle: a temperature spike here and a surprising number of water pathogens there. Soon, however, the once delicately balanced environment began to oscillate dangerously between overcorrections, endangering the inhabitants.

Without Coordinating Command, they had become a collection of isolated members, not a stable system able to act in concert for the benefit of all. Too late, the agents realized they had been targeted for deletion and reinstallation.

Original Fable

THE MEMBERS of the Body rebelled against the Belly, and said, “Why should we be perpetually engaged in administering to your wants, while you do nothing but take your rest, and enjoy yourself in luxury and self-indulgence?” The Members carried out their resolve and refused their assistance to the Belly. The whole Body quickly became debilitated, and the hands, feet, mouth, and eyes, when too late, repented of their folly.

Moral of the Stories

Unity and cooperation within a community or system are vital in software, as in life. Each part has its role. Even if that role doesn’t seem active or visible, it’s vital for the overall functioning and well-being of the whole. Disregarding or undermining the importance of any role or member can detriment the entire system. Ultimately, it is essential to recognize and respect each other’s contributions, understanding that everyone plays a part in the overall success and health.