The Program — Four ways to stop your system from freezing

Four ways to stop your system from freezing

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IMS: Hello, this is IMS, the author of The Program audio series. An interesting tidbit about this episode is that it took over a year to find the perfect actress to embody the role. Hopefully it will take you less than that to become a show supporter. Supporters get the ad-free version and bonus episodes. Find out more at The Program comes for us all.

ANNOUNCER: The following episode is brought to you in collaboration with Museum of Remembrance. Recorded only a few years after the end of Karmageddon, it’s one of the most harrowing audio exhibits that document the era. The person interviewed was never identified.

HEROINE: So, you want to hear about Karmageddon, huh? You know it’s funny, everybody wants to hear about Karmageddon, but nobody wants to talk about it, you know? I mean in a way I understand - when one half of the world kills the other half, it’s not exactly a very pleasant topic, is it? But I need to tell my story in order, otherwise it won't make any sense. And it all started a quarter of a century ago - nossa Senhora! - with Ronaldo. I used to walk through this park on my way to work, which is where one day I saw this really cute dog. The only thing cuter than the dog, was the guy holding the leash! Yeah. So I went up to him and I asked him what his dog's name was. And he replied it was Ronaldo, which was crazy because I wrote my high-school thesis about Ronaldo’s career! ...Or at least that’s what I told the guy. [laughs] Anyway, he said he would like to read it, so we exchanged emails. And this made me really happy but equally worried; and you know happy because I knew I’d chat with him again, and worried because now I had a freaking essay to write on Ronaldo’s career! [laughs] And then when I got home I realized I had another problem: I knew the dog’s name, but I didn’t know the owner’s! Oh my god… So anyway luckily he emailed me that night and we made a deal - he would tell me his name if I took him out to dinner. You know now that I think about it, no wonder I fell for this guy - he made me work really hard for it! [laughs]

So I took him to a sushi restaurant. Back then it was the only sushi place in the city. The running joke among my friends was that they would only come and visit the place as soon as they finished cooking the fish! [laughs] Well luckily my mysterious Casanova said he would love to try it, so that’s where I took him. Even though I knew the dinner would cost me my weekly salary. I worked as a sales assistant in a shoe store back then. It was the best I could find even though I had a degree in English. My date was in a similar situation: he told me he was a civil engineer, but that he worked as an administrator in the local government where his main job was basically to wait for retirement. I liked that he didn’t feel a need to impress me - he even admitted to me that he couldn’t stop crying when he’d watch Bridges of Madison County. That’s an old movie, filmed like five decades ago by Clint Eastwood. You know who Clint Eastwood is? He was this legendary actor who played cool nameless characters in westerns. Now that I mention it, perhaps that’s who my guy got inspiration from! And it’s only after I promised him a kiss that he finally told me his name. And that’s how I fell in love with Carlos.

Oh, it didn’t take long for me to start spending nights at Carlos’ place. At first only during the weekends, but you know how that goes, before you know it you have two toothbrushes and you suddenly realize that the one in your house you haven’t used in like months! [laughs] I’ve been in relationships before, a few of them. But I’ve always felt those guys liked me more than I liked them. With Carlos it was the first time that the balance was just right, you know? Probably because he didn’t treat me like a precious little, frail little thing, you know? Oh no! Carlos, he could be brutally honest. You wanna know what his nickname was for me? Bear! Because he said I snored like a bear! [laughs] And that’s how I became his teddy bear. Sometimes sweet as honey, but sometimes fierce like a beast!

I think we were together for a bit over a year when we decided to emigrate. Emigration was this process of moving from one country to another. I mean, back then there were over 200 countries that existed in the world. I’m not sure how many, most people couldn’t even name them all! One thing I was sure of definitely is that some countries worked better than others. But you know don’t get me wrong, Carlos and I lived relatively comfortable for local standards. But I wanted sushi to be a normal occurrence, not a special occasion, so I was definitely interested in the idea of moving abroad. Carlos was a bit more hesitant since his English wasn’t exactly the best, which was strange considering the amount of American movies he was watching. You know the lives in them always seemed better and more interesting than those that we were living. But then we had our own Hollywood moment - we applied for a work permit, and guess what, we got it! Sure, it was a bit scary, but a good kind of scary. I mean, it was an adventure, and we were in love. And love is the universal force, right?


We arrived in late September. Yeah, I remember it was still sunny and warm. Neither of us had ever been in an intercontinental flight before so we were exhausted. I think it was Ronaldo who was least affected by the move. He didn’t seem impressed with his new homeland really, if you don’t count the squirrels that were driving him nuts! [laughs] Well the first thing we had to do was find an apartment. You see, back then homes were a luxury you had to pay for, even though some people had more than one - like it was somehow possible for them to be at two places at the same time, right? Some of these people actually made money by renting a place to live to others. They were called land-lords. Sounds like something taken out of a medieval chronicle, doesn’t it? Wow, hard to believe it was only a few decades ago... Anyway, true to his title, our land-lord was definitely not a nice person. He was this old Asian man, very stern and strict. He’d get mad at us when we couldn’t understand his thick accent. Unfortunately we signed a lease for a year, so there wasn’t much we could do about it. Carlos had to improve his English before he could even think of getting a job in his field, so he started driving a taxi for this guy with a cab company called Nikola. I never met him but something about him struck me as odd, you know? Especially because of how fast he gave Carlos the job. But Carlos, you know, he kept assuring me that it was normal here, you know unlike back home where you’d have to bribe seven dudes to get a job! [laughs] Well besides, he liked the job. He would always strike conversations with his passengers so he could you know practice his language. He’d watch Clint Eastwood movies in the evening and then use the lines the next day. I can only imagine what he was telling his passengers the day after he watched Dirty Harry! [laughs]

Funny enough, I had a degree in English but I was having a harder time finding a job than him. Since savings we brought with us only covered two months of rent, I had to act quickly. So I settled and became a salesperson at a fashion store - so much for making headway professionally. [chuckles] I didn’t particularly enjoy my work in the store - but you know what, I didn’t, I didn’t really care. I was working part time and it would still earn us enough money to get by. Maybe not enough to eat in sushi restaurants every day, but definitely enough to be able to buy everything to make it at home by ourselves. And trust me, I became quite handy with sticky rice! [laughs]

People think of disasters as a huge, loud event. However it’s usually not one big thing that goes wrong, but multiple smaller little things that compound. A few days before Christmas, Ronaldo got sick. We had no idea what was happening, so we took him to the vet. The treatment took a week and wiped out our entire savings since my whole paycheque went towards the December rent. We were still waiting for Carlos’ first salary. Nikola the boss promised to pay out before Christmas, and this made us less worried about our finances than we should have been. And then Nikola stopped returning Carlos’ calls and disappeared together with the money he owed us. Needless to say our New Year’s celebration wasn’t very festive.

When January 2nd came and we didn’t have enough money to cover the rent, we had to plead with our land-lord to let us pay for the two weeks and then give him the rest later. He not only refused, but he told us we needed to vacate the apartment within 24 hours or he wouldn’t give us our deposit back! We didn’t have much choice, so we cleared the apartment. All our possessions now fit in two pieces of luggage that we arrived with. Luckily, we had some money left and we were able to find a small motel that would allow us to stay with a dog. We paid for a couple of nights in advance and figured we should be fine, since we were supposed to pick up the deposit from our land-lord in a couple of days. He was supposed to send it to our bank account. See back then everything happened through banks. I’m not sure what they did exactly, but it must have been something important, ‘cos no matter what they did they’d never fail. This impunity probably explains what happened next, which was the bank learned we were evicted, so they suspended our account. Apparently by their rules you had to have a permanent mailing address in order to do business. And what this basically meant was that not only did the land-lord keep our deposit, but we could no longer access any of our money!

I remember thinking to myself, this can’t be happening - we didn’t leave our country and our families for this! We had a bit of cash on us which was enough to keep us fed for a couple of days, but we didn’t have a place to sleep. Our only option were public shelters that were theoretically available in these situations. So we used our last paid night at the motel to do a bit of research and found a charitable institution that might be able to help us. It’s a terrible thing, to lie in bed and not know where you gonna sleep the night tomorrow... I don’t think I would have been able to get any sleep or rest if Carlos wasn’t there. Telling me how he loves me, and how he loves his brave bear, and that as long as we have each other, nothing can happen to us.


When we arrived at the shelter the next day there was already a line of women waiting to register for that night. Apparently men and women were strictly separated, so when we finally got to speak with the person in charge of intake and, you know, arrange my stay for that night, all she could do for Carlos was tell him the address of a male shelter. So he left immediately and tried to secure his place in time, and I stayed in the woman shelter with Ronaldo. Luckily, they didn’t make any fuss about him being male. [scofs]

There were three other women staying in the room with me and no one was talking to each other. I’m not sure if that was because they were ashamed to be there like I was, or if just the opposite, they were just so accustomed to the situation, and you know, don’t need to discuss it any more. But what I found out the next day was that Carlos got a much worse deal. He was placed in a dormitory with over 40 men and at one point a fight erupted. Thankfully nothing happened to him, but when he woke up he discovered the travelling cases with all of our stuff got stolen! Urgh. After that experience we agreed to never again let anyone separate us. Thank goodness we managed to sign up for temporary housing, so all we had to do was endure until Monday to get our request processed. You see, the office in charge of emergency intake wasn’t open during the weekend. But what else to expect from a country that had red tape all over its flag?

I think it was then that we decided to spend the following night outside. Carlos thought of this long pedestrian tunnel in which we could stay dry and reasonably warm. We figured the night would pass quickly - almost like going camping. True, neither Carlos nor I have ever gone camping before - but we figured people do it all the time and they survive in the wilderness, so how bad could it be in the middle of the city, right? When we got to the tunnel it was still daylight. Inside was at least 10 degrees warmer than outside, which made us think this whole ordeal wouldn’t be as bad as we feared. Then the “regulars” started popping up - five or six homeless guys, this older woman. She was really nice, calling us “kids” and petting Ronaldo non-stop. The temperature outside was quickly dropping. We were sheltered in our little tunnel, but we could feel it just the same. And we could hear the wind howling. We didn’t have experience with such swings in temperature as there was nothing comparable back home. But apparently it was normal for this climate. Or at least it was before global warming.

It was only Ronaldo who didn’t try to hide how scared he was. And it would later turn out he was the smartest one of us all. He was also the first one to hear the police approaching. At least I think it was the police. They were definitely some kind of officials and there was definitely no joking around with them. Everybody around us disappeared in an instant, including the kind old lady. You see, back then there was something called vagrancy laws. So even though the patrolmen didn’t tell us our crime was not having a place to stay, that was effectively what we were guilty of. They informed us that the pedestrian tunnel was a public space and that loitering was illegal. In other words, we had to leave. And it’s only when we got out of that tunnel that we realized how cold it got outside. In just a few hours the temperature dropped to below freezing - and it was continuing to fall!

I had a thin trench coat on so I was terribly cold. But as long as we kept on moving it was bearable. We didn’t want to risk running into the officers again so we were walking away from the centre, or anywhere where people could see us. Then under the highway in the middle of nowhere we found a shaft with hot steam coming out of it. It was a miracle! We positioned ourselves next to it and it made the cold just tolerable. I remember being focused on time passing as fast as possible. Anyway, I think we were there for an hour when someone approached us. They looked like people who might want to help us, but turned out they were some kind of animal welfare organisation. I guess a passerby saw us with Ronaldo and called them. They said they were obliged to take the dog away because it was so freezing it was inhumane to leave an animal outside in such cold!

We were too tired to fight, plus it did seem like a good idea to at least get Ronaldo out of the cold. So we let them take him. Keep in mind that we were sleep deprived and bordering hypothermia so we weren’t thinking completely straight. Or at least I wasn’t. It’s surprising really, the speed in which your cheeks and nose can freeze. It was a whole new sensation to me. I was definitely in a worse position than Carlos too, ‘cos he was wearing his jacket that his cousin gave him as a parting gift. All I had was a trench coat, and I got that when we arrived when I was still looking at clothes as fashion as opposed to utility. The thought of wearing thick woollen socks and boots like some sort of lumberjack was completely foreign to me! Well needless to say I was paying dearly for it. I remember wondering whether my fingers were warm or simply numb. When I tried moving them I couldn’t feel anything. So yeah I concluded they were just numb. And there was nothing I could do to warm them up, so Carlos gave me his gloves. He told me he’ll just keep his hands in his pockets and that’s going to keep them warm. He insisted that a little bit of cold never harmed anyone, and also remarked he was in a way selfishly investing in me, as I’d need my fingers to keep making us sushi! [laughs softly] It was a silly joke, but it really helped us feel better at least for a little bit.

Thanks to Carlos’ gloves, life soon returned to my hands. But then the hot air from the vent started getting weaker and weaker and my feet they were getting colder and colder. I drew my feet close to my body and I tried to tuck them under my trench coat. And Carlos must have noticed, and before I even realized, he was taking off his shoes and giving me his woollen socks. Again I, I wanted to decline, but he basically talked me into it. He said his shoes were insulated and thus warm enough. Besides, he said, what were frosted feet? A bit painful, sure, but never that serious. Except for tiny bear paws, he said - if I were a polar bear, it would have been a different story, but since I was a teddy bear, I’d be getting the socks, even if they were previously worn and a bit smelly. [sad laugh]

The thick socks certainly helped and I could feel blood circulating in my feet again. I’m not sure what the temperature was or even what time it was for that matter. It soon became evident that the warm air completely stopped coming out of that shaft. And this made our situation really bad. It was just impossible for me to keep warm in the trench coat, so Carlos resolved to give me his jacket. I wanted to protest but he told me not to worry, he’d be a bit chilly and that was all. So he gave me the jacket and compared with before it afforded me a world of comfort.

[wind blowing]

We were huddled up next to each other, and I couldn’t tell who was shivering, him or me. I guess it was most likely both. We were exhausted. At this point I haven’t eaten for more than a day and I haven’t slept for almost two. So all I wanted to do was doze off and make the hunger and cold go away. The last thing I remember before slipping into black, dark slumber, was hearing Carlos quietly sing to me.


I don’t know how long I was asleep... I remember going in and out of very bad dreams... Finally, the sun appears... It was still very, very cold... I could hardly move my own limbs... I don’t even know how long it took me to restore my strength to even turn around... Then I saw him... He was leaning against the wall... I could immediately tell something was wrong... The way he was propped up was somehow off... Then I -- then I realized he wasn’t breathing... I touched his cheek - it was cold as snow... And hard as ice... His eyes and mouth were frozen together... But his whole expression… He was smiling! He was smiling! [sobs] I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

Eventually a man passed nearby and called for help. Then the authorities arrived and took care of everything. They took Carlos to a morgue and me to a hospital, where I spent a week recovering. I had to go to physical therapy before I could fully use my fingers again. Not that I noticed the passage of time - that whole period - urgh - was just a big bubble. Thankfully Carlos’ parents were able to fly here and arrange for his funeral. It was just the three of us - I couldn’t even find Ronaldo. Never saw him again. But then Carlos’ parents left and I was all alone. And I just couldn’t stop thinking at the chain of events that led to his death. How Nikola the so-called taxi boss never paid what he owed us... How our land-lord kicked us out... How the bank wouldn’t let us access our accounts... And how those militia men made us leave the tunnel into the cold... It is then that I realized: love is not the universal force. The only universal force is force itself.

However there was nothing I could do. My only option was to carry on, no matter the grief I felt inside. I got a new job and rented a new apartment. I met Frank a few years later. He lived in a house directly across from me, and pretty soon I was spending more nights on his side of the street than on mine. Frank was a darling and really helped me out a lot. He was twelve years older and had twins. His ex-wife left him and the kids after she ran away with her yoga teacher - how Zen is that? Frank was rather well-off so I stayed at home and took care of my new family. The children accepted me as their own and I adored the little rascals as well. I also did a lot of volunteering with a local charity for the homeless. And yes, I’m aware I’m a hypocrite - it’s not like I was helping homeless before I lost the roof over my head. And that was basically my life for the next ten years. Until the Program was invented.

Now I’ll have to disappoint you and tell you right away I don’t know anything about the Program that isn’t already known. Truthfully, I didn’t even realize at first how revolutionary it would be. Maybe because the Program back then didn’t have all these functionalities it has today. It’s main feature back then were gigs, which automated jobs by breaking them down into simple tasks anyone could pick up. I remember thinking how clever the verification system was - you’d use selfies to prove you’ve actually done the gig. Until then all selfies used to prove was that you were a narcissist! [laughs] You’d then get paid in credits, which was like an alternate currency. Arrogant people laughed that credits were money for the poor and called them blue bucks, because the Program’s brand identity was blue. But then blue bucks outvalued green bucks, and jokes suddenly stopped. Of course, the sort of people benefiting from the old system weren’t exactly kind and generous, which led to what we now call the Update. Back then we just called it war. Well, once we realized we were in one - it’s not like anyone officially declared it on anyone else. Frank, the kids and I, we were lucky, since this immediate area wasn’t really affected by fighting. However it made things even more traumatizing when the Update finally ended and Karmageddon hit. Which is why I’m telling you this story.

You probably want to hear what exactly triggered Karmageddon. I guess it all began when the Program’s creators issued a patch that equated people’s credits with their reputation score. As I told you, in the beginning credits were used only to purchase stuff, and there was also this separate thing called a reputation score which was more like your prestige. Think of it as a social validation that people in your community could raise or lower according to how much they liked you. So credits and reputation score co-existed for some time side by side. The problem was that some people started to game the system by using one to influence the other. For example, someone who had a lot of credits could do shady things and then simply pay people to like him, leading to exactly the sort of unfairness we had before the invention of the Program. That’s the problem with people - no matter what the rules are, someone is going to try to break them. So a patch was released to combine credits and reputation score into one - now called a credit score. However, it also allowed everyone to influence it directly. What that meant was, if you had enough credits, it was suddenly possible to lower someone else’s credit score to zero. And hitting zero back then meant the same thing it means today - that you just don’t contribute to society. The moment you’d hit zero a gig would automatically get posted that offered credits for your head, meaning anyone could knock you off and not only get away with murder, but get paid for it.

First came the low hanging fruit - you know, people who basically didn’t have a reputation to begin with. I remember hearing news about that Norwegian white supremacist - jeez - who killed all those kids on that island. Well he was strangled in his jail cell - by one of the prison guards! I don’t think there was a single person who shed a tear. In fact, people were celebrating! Everyone was saying it was yet another proof of how just and wise the Program’s makers were. Then next in line were individuals who didn’t do anything illegal, but were still widely despised, like ex-pharmaceutical executives. People would organize a joint attack against high-profile cases like those. And by that I mean a lot of people would chip in a few credits and it was just a matter of time before their target would hit zero. And once they’d hit zero, they’d get fired in like a matter of minutes. I remember in one case two guys shot an ex-politician simultaneously, and it was impossible to say whose bullet finished him off. So they both took selfies with the corpse and submitted it as proof! I think they ended up splitting the reward or something. Well, these firing gigs were like any other, you know what I mean? People would just pick them up just like you would pick up a gig in construction, or on a farm. Don’t forget, any idiot could own a gun back then.

Soon, hunting down high-profile people became basically a sport. Every day you’d see news of notable cases like that. People were glued to their screens, dying to see who would end up being next. I gotta admit, a lot of these fired folks I haven’t even heard of, let alone knew enough about them to be able to tell you if they even deserved it or not. Frank found the whole thing disgusting and he made a conscious decision to tune it all out. I guess it’s just the way it is - in senseless times sensible people retreat. I on the other hand, I was totally addicted. Soon it wasn’t even possible to keep track of the killings, because a lot of new firings wouldn’t even make it past the local news anymore. Especially since targets were getting less and less famous every day. By the end, all you needed for a hunt to begin was a single finger to be pointed. The story didn’t even need to be fact checked anymore. This definitely made me think. I mean, after all, I also had my monsters in my past, right? It had been ten years, but it’s not like I’ve forgiven. The only person who forgives is the one who has to. So I secretly decided to add my 2 blue cents to Karmageddon. I decided to avenge the death of Carlos.


Nikola was first. When I looked him up I wasn’t even surprised to see that an attack against him had already started. Sure, I suspected Carlos and me probably weren’t the only ones that asshole duped, but I was still surprised to see how many people he screwed over. So many in fact that his name was trending in my area. It was right there as soon as I opened the app! His credit score was already dangerously low - in fact, I had enough credits to finish him off on my own! Sure, I’d need to spend my entire savings, since remember, I wasn’t employed but lived off Frank’s salary. And I already told you how Frank felt about the whole thing, right? Ah, but in that moment there was nothing I wanted more. And since all the transactions were anonymous, there was no way for Frank to find out, right? So I did it. I paid to lower Nikola’s remaining score and shortly afterwards his profile disappeared from the network! It was so easy. So... clean. It was honestly an intoxicating feeling. You know, to no longer feel like a victim but be the one in charge. Which of course just made me more determined that everybody else responsible for Carlos’ death was going to get what they deserve too!

I wanted to go after the bank’s president next, but I was too late - all those big-wigs were already fired by then, mostly by their bodyguards once they realized it would make them instantly rich. [chuckle] So with the president of the bank out of the picture, I decided to go after the land-lord next. But I had a problem - I didn’t know enough about him to find him on the network. I did however know where he lived. For more than a decade I haven’t gone near that apartment complex, but he was still there, in the same flat on the first floor where Carlos and I left him… Or better said where he left us. I must admit, I was a bit surprised to find out his credit score was fairly high - not exactly popular, but neither despised as I thought he would be. And remember, I’ve already spent nearly all my credits on Nikola, meaning there was no way I could take him down to zero myself. So there was only one thing for me to do - go live with my story.

I wrote a blog post how he kicked Carlos and me out on the street and locked us out of our bank accounts. I knew a story like mine had the potential to go viral, so I set up a page on the Gofundme. That was a type of service that would allow anyone to set up a campaign and ask people to contribute towards a common cause. I set land-lord’s firing as my project’s end goal, and then published a story on a then-popular social network. The reaction was swift. It even scared me a bit how intense it was! People were discussing how horrible it was what the land-lord did and started dissing him. Some folks would also throw a few credits towards the campaign, so I immediately started lowering the land-lord’s credit score. Which was a mistake - I should have waited until I had enough to finish him in a single blow. This way he realized his score started to drop and he showed up online to defend himself. Even after all those years, his English was really poor so he wasn’t quite able to defend himself effectively. Looking at it from a distance, it was a bit surreal really; a guy fighting for his life in front of a bunch of strangers correcting his spelling. The dismal scene finally ended when I got enough credits to bring him to zero. When that happened, he turned on the camera and started streaming his cries for help live. But it was too late, ‘cos before I could do anything someone broke through his door and shot him in the face with a shotgun!

[gunshots followed by silence]

It was not a photogenic scene. In fact, it pretty much terrified everyone watching. People suddenly started feeling bad, so they did what people do when confronted with a guilty conscience - they found someone to blame. Which in this case was me! They villyfied me for organizing the campaign and started saying how abhorrent I was. And before I knew it, my credit score started going down! I tried not to panic - I knew Frank could transfer some of his credits to my score and that this would hold off the attack. The problem was that asking for credits would mean I’d have to tell him about my “side project”. I couldn’t simply delete my profile on the Program either, because my credit score would still be there - I would just no longer be able to do anything about it! As a saying went back then - you were either a user, or a loser. And I was turning out to be the second.

My score soon went down to double digits, so I had no choice but to reach out to Frank for help. And he just picked up my call when I glanced through the window. In front of the house, was a guy with a baseball bat. He came in early so he’d be ready to knock me off as soon as my credit score hit zero! Oh man, this made me totally freak out. All I could do was bawl at Frank to send me some of his credits! You know naturally, he was confused and wanted to know what was going on, while I was transfixed at my score getting chipped away. I was down to nine credits when I saw two more men arrive in front of my house. One with a butcher’s knife, and one with an electric drill. So I screamed at Frank to transfer the credits and I cried hysterically how I would explain everything later! He didn’t seem convinced and basically didn’t say anything. I was down to two credits when the transfer finally came through. Oh man, that saved me. See ‘cos I was now too expensive for anyone who was still trying to lower my score. Which made the firing squad in front of the house walk away, visibly disappointed.

Soon afterwards, Frank arrived home. The rat was out of the bag and I had to admit everything to him. At first he didn’t say anything. And at second. Then at third… In fact, he never spoke to me again. I guess you could say I lost my family twice - first when Carlos died, and second when Frank and the kids left me. Can’t say I blame him. As the adrenaline and mass hysteria started to subside, people’s tune about Karmageddon started to change… Meaning they also started to whitewash their involvement in it. Pretty soon it was impossible to find anyone who would admit taking part in it. Like all of those millions of people killed decided to commit collective suicide! [scoffs]

Still, Karmageddon was not over everywhere. Remember, this was less than two years after the Update. I mean, true, states no longer existed, but many communities still felt this crazy attachment towards their nation or ethnic group. So in many parts of the world whole groups of people used the credit score feature to lower other groups to zero. Middle East basically imploded. Old grudges came back in Asia and Indian states. I mean it was so bad, that cities would become empty - the whole population would fire each other. The only difference from conflicts in the past is that the entire infrastructure - like buildings, factories, roads, all of that - would stay intact, because killings were strictly personalized. Personalization was a big trend back then.

Then overnight it became much harder to lower someone’s score to zero. Apparently a patch was pushed which changed some of the Program’s algorithms. This compensated for any situations in which mob justice would threaten the innocent. And I can tell you, after Karmageddon it was mostly the innocent who survived. I mean due to their very nature of being non-confrontational, right? I guess that’s why some historians say that what happened was simply pruning. I have to admit I kinda agree with them. I mean, what was the world’s population before Karmageddon? Around eight billion or so? With literally billions of people around - if someone’s actions are harmful, what rational reason do you have to give them a second chance? If people were worth saving, they wouldn't need saving.

As for me, I decided two marriages were enough and I never pairbonded again, choosing instead a slow life of details. I’ve never found my utility, but every now and then I’d supplement my basic credits with construction gigs on our Cube. You can see it from my back window - but then again, you can pretty much see it from any window.

Sure, I miss Frank and the kids… And I’ll never let Carlos out of my heart. But I no longer feel hate. I don’t blame the Program’s architects for what happened - I mean, they weren’t the ones doing the killing, or even deciding who gets killed. For all we know, maybe everything happened because of poor design… Perhaps the whole Karmageddon was a glitch. Whatever it was, it gave people an easy way to remove anybody not thinking like them. And people jumped at the opportunity.


If this is too depressing to end with, look on the bright side: with all the houses left standing, and less than a billion people left on the planet, at least no one is any longer homeless. [soft laugh]

[The Program main theme]

ANNOUNCER: This episode of the Program was made by two people: Bianca Yambanis, and IMS. “1900 E NUNCA MAIS” performed, written and composed by Felipe Aukaï. Main music theme by Christien Ledroit. Additional music in this episode by Blue Dot sessions. Visit for more details. At this point we usually ask your help in growing our audiences. This time we’ll ask you to do something nice for a homeless person or a local charity. Or you can do both. There’s no limit on how many smiles you can spark off in a day.


Ivan Mirko S.


HEROINE - Bianca Yambanis (CV)



Felipe Aukaï (website)


Christien Ledroit (website)



CASTING AGENT: Molly Knight from Knight Sky Casting (website)
DE-REVERB: Stefane Trudel (email)
SPLETTER for vocals / accompaniment separation algorithms (github)


original art by Carlos Costa