Communication After The End

After the collapse of civilization, communication became a tricky thing. Records of information from around the time of the End are, paradoxically, pretty scarce, defying the general increase in the availability of recorded communications since the proliferation of the printing press. What is public knowledge is that, prior to the End, communication was effortless. You could echo-conference with a friend with microseconds of lag. Unfortunately, that type of communication was only easy because of constant upkeep performed on a vast array of infrastructure that most sapient beings don’t have access to any more. It turns out that reaching digital entities gets rather difficult when every network has its own addressing scheme quirks and supplemental protocols, and there aren’t any higher level authorities to enforce standards. Nowadays, most non-hackers can only do that type of real-time virtual interaction if both parties are projecting into the same node, which is not without significant risk. There are hackers who claim they can pull off the sort of real time remote connections once available in the past, but the few who are capable generally won’t reveal their methods and tend to charge a steep cost for the privilege. Most folks that ain’t connected to the federal government tend to be satisfied with their slower messaging methods, and for good reasons too.

So, nothing technically stops a drifter from recording a video missive and just hurling those packets into the ether anonymously – except for 200+ years of machine learning driven anti-spam algorithms that tend to reject all traffic whose origin isn’t verifiable. That can’t be hard to get around, right? Well, you could verify your legitimacy to the regional tide network with your nano-signature, but most folks wouldn’t want to hand their unique id and tons of useful metadata about themselves to anyone with the ability to formulate basic queries. Why, some sort of data miner could figure out just near everything about you if they could correlate all the endpoints you contact as an individual, even if they can’t understand the contents of your messages. Perhaps the designs of such an individual are benign, and they only want to use this vast wealth of information you leak to craft highly targeted advertisements. Of course, it’s just as likely that such an individual is fixin to collect a fortune from tracking down your movements till they can take you in for a bounty. Whatever their reason, most drifters don’t generally want the whole region to know everything about them, so they take great pains to obfuscate their communications until it becomes effectively impossible to determine the originator of a data packet. This privacy has a cost, however, which is paid in the terrible jobs that most nodes do efficiently routing messages sent this way to their intended recipients. These messages tend to take an amount of time that increases exponentially as a function of network (and physical) distance. Your daily status report probably only takes seconds to deliver to a node less than a mile away, but sending a message from a Birmingham node to an Atlanta-based digital address could arrive hours after it’s sent, assuming it doesn’t fall into a black hole. Packet drop rates are pretty terrible in the year 2319 AD, and most messages take multiple transmission attempts before actually reaching the intended recipients.

Things get even harder when attempting to transmit between different regional nanotide networks. The lack of proper maintenance and standards enforcing bodies makes it difficult to craft packets that can cross network boundaries without some degree of message corruption. This is a pain most hackers know well, as this is what makes invoking scripts from foreign Riparian Flows effectively impossible. As a result, information tends to be transmitted between different regions more swiftly from travelers spreading messages through the spoken word than by digital exchange, as surprising as that may seem.

There is one known group that doesn’t have to put up with this sorry state of communication after the end. The Federal government (or at least what remains of it) has managed to preserve and repurpose some of the backbone infrastructure that used to support the isolated military and departmental information networks that the pre-end government used to meet their legally mandated record retention requirements. They’ve managed to repurpose this large, isolated network into serving as the communications framework of their settlements, allowing federal citizens to enjoy interacting with a network capable of supporting a mediocre facsimile of the internet that existed before the End, though significantly more content-starved. Of course, using this network has several ‘gotcha’s to go with it. Firstly, you can’t access it at all unless you’re a federal citizen. More importantly, however, is that you shouldn’t use it at all if you value your privacy. The original system was intended to support record retention, so naturally it maintains a perfect record of every action you take on it. Sure, who can examine that information is restricted by a convoluted security clearance system. But it’s guaranteed that there’s at least one human being who can request and dissect every single packet you’ve sent on that network. As a result, most drifters don’t want to interact with FEDNet.

So how does the average drifter connect with others at a reasonable speed? Well most just stand up (or belong to) an instant messaging or threaded forum hub server on a local node. They’re flexible, and difficult to hack, rejecting just about every input that isn’t a valid message or query from an authorized user. Of course their locked down nature is a drawback as well, making it effectively impossible to run any code targeting such a server in an executable context. In fact, most of them will reject anything sent that looks remotely like a Script, on the off chance it might be malicious.  They’re also a pain to find and join. They’re hidden and non-indexable, meaning you can’t easily search for em. Even if you manage to stumble upon one, you can’t interact with em in many cases unless a moderator invites you with an access token. Even the “public” hubs often have somebody enforcing a basic semblance of order. The other big drawback these servers have is their lack of public addressability. They’re not hard to reach if you’re connected to their hosting node, or only a few hops away, but you’re not gonna be able to resolve one if you’re trying to reach one 300 miles away.

So there you have it -everything you need to know if you’ve been living under a rock for 300 years.