Author Topic: EP552: RedChip BlueChip  (Read 3677 times)


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on: December 05, 2016, 08:50:05 PM
EP552: RedChip BlueChip

AUTHOR: Effie Seiberg
HOST & NARRATOR: Tina Connolly


The AdChip technician’s rubber-gloved hand was cold on my chin. “Now hold still, Mi-kay-la.”

“It’s Mi-KEE-la,” I grumbled. My mother, leaning on the beige metal door, didn’t look up from her smartpad.

“Right.” He nodded, uncaring. “This is going to sting a bit, but don’t you worry. It’ll be over before you know it.”

He didn’t know how right he was – it would be over soon, once Sivvy found out.

He pushed my chin to the side, exposing my left ear, then swiped an alcohol-infused gauze in the soft area behind the star-shaped earring I’d bent from a paper clip the other day.

“Now, do you want to be BlueChip or RedChip?” He busied himself with the metal tray of instruments sitting next to me on the ugly green table. An enormous syringe-like tool lay there next to two tiny Chips and a graft gun. Both Chips were black – I guess the color names weren’t literal.

“Shouldn’t my papers already tell you that? Haven’t you already decided everything for me?” There were posters on the walls advertising Coke and Pepsi and IBM and Apple and Honda and Toyota. Stuff for each Chip.

My mother finally glanced up. “Mikila, be nice.”

“Oh it’s fine,” he said with plastered-on cheer. “The papers are only for backup, in case you don’t choose. We just want you to be happy!”

“OK, fine. I’ll choose not to have a Chip at all – that’ll make me happy. Can I go now?” I hopped off the green metal table and moved to grab my worn messenger bag.

He moved to block. “Ha ha.” His smile stiffened on his face. “A funny one!”

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!

A Biela

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Reply #1 on: December 06, 2016, 12:19:54 AM
Hi everyone. Quick intro, this is my first time posting on the forums and I'm not entirely sure if I am doing this properly. If not, then let me know and help keep the order. Okay, back to my reply.

I thought that Effie's dialogue with Mikila and the other teen rebels did well in capturing that desire to be liked and respected by that one certain person you idolize. It's all anxiety and longing and you feel like if they're not constantly talking or involving you, then you're clearly doing something wrong.

On the other hand, the story ended too abruptly for me to feel resolved about everything that happened. I wanted to know how Mikila was going to approach her mom about it, if at all, and what was going to be the backlash to discovering people were being lied to about their chip type? Would the teenagers be the only ones upset? Just when the story was about to pick up, it was over. 


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Reply #2 on: December 06, 2016, 07:14:17 AM
I'm not much of a commenter, but I felt the need to weigh in on this one. While this was, without a doubt, a fun story (well-written and engaging with an authentic voice that had me smiling throughout), I came away with some bleak feels. On reflection, I think I'm still recovering from our American election cycle, which turned out to be a profound crash-course in motivated reasoning and availability heuristics. I can't help but feel that in our current "post-truth" society, we don't even need chips. We do an excellent job of muting our senses to anything that doesn't fit our pet narratives without help from neural implants. I also have to think that if a corrupt corporate entity could be toppled by a single tweet, we'd be looking at a very different political situation...
Ugh. I'm not trying to be a downer. I really did enjoy the hell out of this story. It just hit me thematically in the way that I suppose the best art is supposed to. Thanks, Effie!

This sentence serves no purpose, so you don't have to read it if you don't want to.


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Reply #3 on: December 06, 2016, 03:11:00 PM
Hm, it was an interesting story, but I guess I did wonder too why the chips were even deemed necessary, because this is already a thing.  Pepsi vs Coke, Chevy vs Ford, etc.

The teenage dialogue was written very well, and the surprise turn at the end was an interesting new twist.  Though again, I'm not sure what exactly the point is if they have a counterculture chip, seems like a lot of work to produce subgroups that would've formed on their own anyway.  Is the point that they can then know who exactly is in what group to more effectively cater their markets? 


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Reply #4 on: December 06, 2016, 08:12:14 PM
I enjoyed this story.  As others have said, the narration was spot on, and the style of the story felt very authentic.

My comments - with the inundation we've had with American politics lately, I'm surprised it took me until today to make a possible link to Red / Blue -> Republican / Democrat.  The thoughts of a chip manipulating political preferences is scary...

My understanding of the story was that the chips didn't make it that you *couldn't* have 'off-brand' things, just that on-brand items were better / gave pleasure, etc.  Makes you what would happen if someone mislabelled Jif as Skippy, etc.  So, the Black chip wasn't there to make the Underground groups, but to tap into / exploit them.  Make sure that they buy the 'right' underground things.

Another interesting thought is what hackers of that world have done - obviously something, since its become illegal to 'tamper' with the chips.  Think of the damage that a virus hitting the chip.  All the sudden everyone becomes vegan.... 

But the scary thing is how manipulating preferences could be used to modify people's personality.  Start a campaign where people stop liking risky behaviour, prefer consuming entertainment to producing it, where they prefer reality TV to political issues.  The fact that school subsidies were linked to kids being chipped means that they have access to the kids when their personalities are being molded, and that they are at their most vulnerable  to peer pressure.


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Reply #5 on: January 05, 2017, 03:50:11 PM
This story is so mean. You can't put me in a box! I am unique! Just like everyone else.

The Red/Blue dichotomy felt more Coke/Pepsi than anything else. Also, with the veil being torn from our eyes at the end that everyone is just a market tool and Mikia's mother has her set up with a new experimental chip points to a Matrix association.

The teenage dialogue was written very well, and the surprise turn at the end was an interesting new twist.  Though again, I'm not sure what exactly the point is if they have a counterculture chip, seems like a lot of work to produce subgroups that would've formed on their own anyway.  Is the point that they can then know who exactly is in what group to more effectively cater their markets? 

If small business owners could directly market their organic, sustainable, locavore products to just black chips - they totally would to break through the noise of mass corporate advertising. You generally have to hunt for that sort of stuff.

Black chips would allow corporation to better market to the counterculture. For example, the definition of "organic" is pretty loose.

Also, the multinational macrobrew megacorps who produce uninspired American Adjunct Lagers have been feeling a small pinch from lots of little guys. So they've been investing in them all over the place, or buying them outright. They provide the little independent guys better access to things like OSHA resources and things that mitigate risk, as well as better distribution and retail shelf placement. And the megacorp gets a nice income stream, a great narrative about mentorship, and a great narrative about experiment factories.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


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Reply #6 on: January 27, 2017, 03:42:33 AM
This story was scarily believable to me, given the necessary technology. Much like stories that address similar issues such as targeted ads popping up everywhere you go, it was disturbing in that "this could be real someday" sort of way. Plus the teenage dialogue/psyche was really convincingly portrayed. I do wish that there was a sequel though, I'm with Schrodingrr in wondering whether a single tweet could really make much of a difference.


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Reply #7 on: November 06, 2017, 06:58:48 PM
Hi folks. Thanks so much for reading/listening! I really appreciate your comments.

My day job is marketing, and that really drove the background of this story. Every cool "underground" brand is either started by a big conglomerate, or usually gets bought up by one. And every single underground brand is working very hard to market to its target audience. Some even do acts of anti-marketing, like Cards Against Humanity, which does stuff like charging $5 MORE for Black Friday sales or sells you literally nothing for a $5 gift. But of course this is the marketing that appeals to anyone who wants to be counter-culture or subversive, and it has the same affect as traditional marketing to broader audiences.

Shroedingrr and DerangedMind, you're absolutely right that this applies to politics just as much. It's a scary world we live in, but it's carefully crafted to not seem scary at all.  :-\




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Reply #8 on: December 01, 2017, 04:34:00 PM
I really, really liked this story. Yes, it was bleak, but wow did it ever make me think. I can't ever imagine how anyone would ever agree to being chipped in this way, and yet I can. Mikeela does this amazing subversive thing by tweeting her mother's revelatory e-mail, but her main reason for doing so is to get with the "in" crowd. Such a great commentary on our current society!