Andra lay upside down on the twin sized bunk in her room, swiping away as her wrist display projected her intelinet search onto her wall. The bed, while comfortable, was designed to make the most of the small space. In a sense, Andra’s room was almost an entire house in itself. The bed, for instance, doubled as a table when turned over, with the pillows acting as seat cushions. In the morning, Andra would flip a switch and her bookshelf would expand to reveal a wardrobe. The bathroom was a small room off to the side, and the sink inside of it could be pivoted out into the room to double as the kitchen sink. With such design tricks, the comforts of a two storied home could be lent to the space of a single, reasonably sized room.
Apartments in the Efficiency Age were designed to accommodate anything from individuals to extended families, but under the constraints of doing so without wasting either space or energy. The reduced space requirements dramatically lowered the cost of air conditioning and lighting, the latter of which was supplied by either channeled sunlight or passively luminescent material when possible. At the moment, Andra had opted for darkness to get a more refined sense of depth from her display’s projection. She pushed nodes in the networks of data around, saving 3-D configurations of journal papers and video documentation for later use.
Her main goal was to determine the extent of progress in synergetic construction. Dr. Bramblett— Meyer— had given her much to think about with his treatise on automated teams of construction machinery. While watching the robots in person during the demonstration, a previously unrelated research study had recurred in her wandering thoughts. A collaboration between the observation discipline and the systems theorists had been developing principles for hive intelligence, specifically in the activity of biological systems. Something about her childhood had made that idea stick— a beehive in the forest next to her childhood apartment home, or perhaps the colonies of ants and termites in the parks just outside of the inner city ring.
Across her wall spread a three dimensional web of paper titles, with three large clusters. One hub contained papers on the hive intelligence studies that were performed nearly a decade ago, then dropped to make room for other research. The next hub was a series of papers on complex communication networks, designed to diffuse information as rapidly as possible through a collection of automata. The last set of papers were those written by Meyer himself concerning the construction intelligence models used in modern city creation.
The titles that she had read in full were drawn together into tight bunches of green text, sprouting out into branches of even further specification. Scattered around the green bunches were titles ranging from yellow to red, including all of the pieces that she had yet to complete. White strands branched off of the boxes of text, disappearing into the wall, but no lines connected the three main areas on Andra’s wall. She exhaled with giddy fervor and leapt from the bed.
The brilliance of the intelinet could be seen with those white strands. According to a user’s search specifications, a search could turn up not only papers and web sites concerning the main query, but also any connections to other special topics. By requesting two fields of study, an intelinet browser would pull up both of the sets of results, as well as papers and sites linking the two areas. The result of this methodology in network searches resulted in a dramatic increase in research efficiency. The number of redundant papers had been cut down, and specific niches had become well defined areas of pursuit for the institution’s constituents. Combined with standard open access policies and article classification techniques, users could be confident as to whether or not a new research opportunity was genuine.
Thus, when Andra failed to find links between the areas of hive intelligence and synergetic construction, she really had found a new path of research. As she opened up her permanent intelinet interface, the web of titles flew across the room and landed on the screen. She swept them into a permanent folder and opened up her communication browser. Meyer was currently unavailable, so she jotted down a note and sent him the file containing her web results.
"We need to talk soon."
Andra had become accustomed to the curt manner of conversation in the new institute, where sentences were judged by their construction and meaning rather than their eloquence. Of course, artful speech still held a place in society, namely in the realm of the theaters and expositions. The arts had not fallen out of favor with Efficiency Age citizens. In fact, proficiency in artistic endeavor was a sign of exceptional intelligence, just as athleticism implied superior physical structure. A well structured body and mind were ideals in the new society. Andra herself could play an assortment of wind and string instruments, and her average lap time in the pool was well above average. By all measures, Andra was a high level polymath, one of the greatest accomplishments that one could hope for in the Efficiency Age.
As she flopped back onto her bed, her customized door buzzer alerted her to a visitor. Through the peephole in her door, she recognized the back of Alec’s head by the tangle of short, messy hair. She hesitated to open the door, unsure of any reason that he would want to stop by. She stood idle by the door for a few moments, and Meyer stepped into view. She flushed, hurriedly jarring the door open.
"Sorry, I was—" Andra started. "It’s fine," Meyer interjected coolly, "I got your file on the way through the neighborhood. Alec and I were taking a walk, thought you might want to join us."
Andra, unable to speak, nodded vigorously and scrambled to collect her shoes, a hat, and the smooth black pebble lying on her bed. As she left, the lights powered off, and her interface disconnected from the communal supercomputer. The three engineers turned down the hall.
"So I actually know a few of the authors on that first hive intel paper, I’ve shot them a message—" Meyer began.