Illinois Students Use the Internet to Communicate With Chinese Hive-Mind
September 19, 2000
A special sort of cultural awakening is going on in the quiet Chicago suburb of Hanover Park. Ever since the state funded the installation of an Internet link at West Lydon Middle School two years ago, students there have engaged in pen-pal programs with other students all across the globe. Reports from students detail Internet communications with such ethnically diverse populations as Eskimos, Israelis, Indians, Leprechauns, and even a few long-dead historical figures.
But this semester, West Lydon Middle School has gone one gigantic step further; with its newest and boldest cultural exchange endeavor, the school has earned still more local praise and has even attracted some national media attention.
As of Monday, September 18, West Lydon Middle School became the first American school of its kind to foster a pen-pal relationship between American students and their slant-eyed Chinese peers. The new project, known within the district as "e-Buddies", allows students to communicate directly with the collective Chinese hive-mind via a text-based instant messaging system similar to ICQ or AOL Instant Messenger. When an American student types a question and clicks on Send, the message is zipped halfway across the globe at light-speed (56K), where it is intercepted by Chinese censors who act as sentries. The sentries guard the interests of the Collective from potentially threatening outside influences. If the student's question is deemed non-threatening and doesn't include any references to democracy or individual identity, it is allowed into the collective hive-mind, where it is promptly evaluated. A response is then generated from the colony and is transmitted in the form of a neurochemical signal to the typing drone, who dutifully pounds it out and sends it back to the waiting student in America. Due to the efficiency of group-thinking and distributed processing, the entire procedure takes only about 10 seconds.
"This is an amazing time to be a teacher," says Leona Baxter, a fifth-grade teacher at West Lydon. "I never thought I would see the day when American students would be able to subtly plant the seeds of revolution within the Chinese Collective without fearing assimilation." Baxter points out that after the first few hours, the Chinese were no longer closing every message with "Resistance is futile," and the initial threats at imminent global domination gave way to discussions of favorite foods and Jackie Chan movies.
"I think the diverse American students and the genetically identical race of Chinese worker-drones have a lot to they can learn from each other," Baxter added.
The kids themselves are having a ball with the new program. Gina Weuttle, a fourth grader, asked her new Chinese pal, "What is it like to be a bee?", to which her pal responded, "Irrelevant."
Shawn Holbin, another curious fourth-grader, asked his Chinese e-Buddy, "How do you tell each other apart when you all look the same?" The Collective informed Holbin that the Chinese government assigns a unique identification number to each member of the Collective at birth.
The newfound free exchange of ideas and information has already allowed for a kind of openness between the two cultures that was never imaginable before. This became more and more evident as the first communication session wore on and the American students relaxed considerably, even sharing jokes with the soulless Chinese drones.
Bobby Dulee, a sixth grader, details one of the pranks he played on his e-Buddy: "I knew the government was watching everything we typed to each other, so I kept sending him a bunch of messages like, 'We will strike on your orders' and 'Your efforts in organizing the revolution will bring freedom to your people'. He begged me to stop, but it was just too funny—even the teacher was laughing. Eventually the drone just disappeared; I probably got him shot or something."
Other students have had fun trying to sneak references to pizza, pop and rock and roll music past the censors. One girl even momentarily incapacitated the hive by sending a riddle that has no answer. The hive crashed, but was able to re-boot intact within minutes.
Not all students are fully at-ease talking to the Chinese, however. "It's kind of creepy," admits sixth-grader Melinda Plonski, "Everyone I talk to says the same exact thing, and they're all named Ling."
"I expected the hive to have more interesting things to say," lamented a Teacher's Assistant who tested the program, "but it was more like trying to talk to an ant hill than a person."
The e-Buddies program is expected to run through the end of the Fall semester. The Chinese Collective assures West Lydon administrators that they will have bred a new crop of e-Buddy drones by the start of the January term.
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