DY3x — The 140-year-old man?
Suckers’ Roulette — Chapter 1
Pertuis, France. 30 June, 2110.
The autotaxi had something loose under the seat that rattled every time it went over a bump. The car climbed up the D56 road heading north from the roundabout with the old boulangerie and, after leaving the residential speed zone, cruised up and over a low ridge and started winding gently downhill between the vineyards. Inside it, Sarah Kumar leaned back, closed her eyes, stretched her neck, and did ten controlled breaths. Her money was running out.
The car kept jabbering on in French and it wouldn’t shut up. Sarah had asked her earbuds to stop translating. Everywhere else, the cars would speak English, or German, or Mandarin, or really whatever language you wanted. But here, only French. The explanation, when she had asked, was that tourists all had earbuds now to translate, so it didn’t matter. Sarah suspected that the real reason was just, you know, France.
She opened her eyes and looked out the window. No matter what anyone said, being in Provence didn’t feel like living inside a Cézanne painting. A Cézanne, people said, or sometimes a Van Gogh. Sure. The subject matter was the same — the old towns and villages, the fields and vineyards — but the paintings were dreamlike, ethereal. Sarah’s Provence was a place distinctly and objectively real. That famous light that the artists loved so much only showed her the place with a painful clarity. Like now. Especially now. She had been chasing a ghost for a year, and now the money was running out and it looked like she’d be going home, empty-handed, to try and salvage a capstone project in which the main subject of her research didn’t exist.
“Si vous regardez à gauche, vous verrez notre destination, le village d’Ansouis,” the car said. Sarah didn’t understand anything but the name of the town: Ansouis.
She had only looked briefly the map to know where she was going, so all she knew about Ansouis was that it was a small village surrounded by farms and vineyards north of Pertuis. Although she had passed it before while crisscrossing the Luberon Regional Park, she had never associated the name and the place. The car always just took her to where she was going, and she didn’t pay much attention to exactly where she was on the way.
Before setting out that morning, she had not looked at the 3D view, and the false flatness of the map had suggested a few houses huddled together in a plain, with maybe a small chateau or church sticking up a bit in the middle. But as the car rolled down and around the broad arm of hills north of Pertuis, she saw instead, in the distance, a conical hill rising from the vineyards, topped with a stone-walled chateau forte flying a scarlet flag from the battlements.
“Regardez le château là!” said the car.
A jumble of brown tile roofs and beige walls spilled down the hillside below the chateau. Here, maybe, was a bit of Cézanne’s magic. But if so, the magic was not that it was dreamlike, but that it was real. Even after months of coming to France, Sarah had a hard time believing that the medieval towns and villages of Provence were real places where people lived. And yet, as beautiful and strange as the town looked to her, it was not nearly as strange as the person she hoped to find there.
The car continued down the hill. She took out her tablet and re-read the thread of texts from the year before that had started everything:
Tomasz: Hey are you still looking for a story for your capstone project? I may have one for you.
Sarah: Let’s hear it.
Tomasz: So… for my con-law class we have to do a project on an influential american jurist or legal scholar. my group chose Daniel Young, an american federal court judge who was active from around 2050 until about 2080. He’s super interesting for lots of reasons, but the important thing here is that he was part of the first generation to get rejuvenation.
Tomasz: He was actually born in 1970, and had a long career as an engineer. He got a phd from Carnegie Mellon, published some books, and was an active blogger, first in software engineering and later branching into other topics like cryptography and AI. After getting rejuvenation in the 2030s he enrolled in Harvard Law at the age of 67, wrote for their law review, graduated with honors and clerked for Justice Obama. He got an appointment to the federal bench, and then sat on the court of appeals for 21 years. The only reason he didn’t get a SCOTUS nomination was that there were no openings. All the sitting justices were getting rejuvenation too. The SCOTUS term limits amendment didn’t come til later.
Sarah: I’m not seeing where I’m interested in this.
Tomasz: I haven’t got to the interesting part yet. Before we started this project I’d been reading this cool/weird blog by someone who only goes by the handle DY3x. I started reading the blog because it had some really sophisticated and slightly radical posts on US legal theory, but it covers all kinds of other topics — theoretical physics, cryptography, software engineering, social science, and various political theses, always backed up with impeccable data analysis or computational simulations. The blog covers so much ground that most of the readers think that DY3x must be some kind of collective writing group, kind of like the writing staff of the economist. But the voice and style sound too consistent to me. I think it’s gotta be one guy.
Tomasz: So I start the project and I’m reading all this stuff by Daniel Young, and I notice that he sounds EXACTLY like DY3x. DY3x’s legal writings are in many ways an extension of the ideas Daniel Young put forward on the bench. The writing voice is the same.
Sarah: So okay, these guys at the blog are fans of your guy.
Tomasz: No! I think DY3x IS Daniel Young! I’m like 99% sure.
Sarah: NFW. He’d have to be like 130 years old! Even with rejuv, nobody makes it past 120.
Tomasz: He’d be 140 actually. I think he did it, somehow.
Sarah: You sound like a fanboy yourself. Anyway, where’s the data-journalism?
Tomasz: Well first, data or no data, it would be a serious piece of journalism to uncover the first person to break the 120 year wall. But someone with better data skills than me — ahem — could measure the similarity between the writings of Daniel Young and DY3x, analytically, to support this theory.
Sarah: Or refute it. Sounds like a red herring.
Tomasz: I have more.
Sarah: Ok, hit me.
Tomasz: First: Daniel Young went to Carnegie Mellon in the late 20th century. Back then they had an infosystem called “Andrew” where your user-id was a 4 letter handle consisting of your initials and 2 random letters or digits: eg. DY3x
Tomasz: Second: He retired from the bench and dropped out of public life around 30 years ago. He was 110, so he was anticipating his health crashing. But i can’t find an obituary or any evidence that he died.
Tomasz: Third: DY3x.net postings start around 10 years after Young’s retirement. That’s long enough for him to have gotten some training in advanced physics and started to do serious research.
Tomasz: Fourth: I found an article from when when he had just enrolled in harvard law, back in 2038. The article was about how all these rejuvenated old people were taking new careers instead of retiring. They asked him about his choice of law as a second career and he said that it had been between law and physics and he had flipped a coin. He said maybe after he got tired of law he’d go back again for physics.
Tomasz: Fifth: when he finally retired in 2080, he mentioned wanting to spend his final years “drinking wine and eating goat cheese on a terrasse in Provence”. And one of the strangest DY3x blog posts is a kind of drunken rhapsodic ode to Provence. It’s half travelogue, half art history lesson on impressionist painters, and half book review of a hundred-year-old book of anecdotes called “A Year in Provence”.
Sarah: That’s 3 halves.
Tomasz: it’s 150% weird. Anyway, it’s one of the earliest pieces on the blog, before he hit his stride.
Sarah: Hm. Ok. Still, it seems more likely this is just some Daniel Young fanboy, right?
Tomasz: Maybe, but the sophistication of thinking in so many different areas…
Tomasz: Like I said, I don’t think it’s a team, the voice is too consistent. Anyway, what if it is really him? Wouldn’t that would be earth-shattering news? Shouldn’t it at least be ruled out?
Sarah: Sure. Except I know you’re totally fucking with me.
Tomasz: I’m not I swear. Check for yourself.
Sarah: Yeah right.
But she had gotten out a tablet, opened an analysis notebook, and started downloading posts from DY3x.net and legal opinions by Daniel Young.
Continue to Chapter 2…
Or catch up on the story…