Recently I subbed a Fiction 1 class in which all 3 workshop pieces were set in the future. It got me thinking….
In 2045, the U.S. government has mandated that everyone record every moment of their life on video. To fulfill this, it has teamed up with Amazon and issued everyone internet-enable glasses—Ovids. They shoot video and store it to servers. Shipped to everyone in the U.S. by Amazon, they are touted, on the internet and radio (yes, there’s still radio—but it and the internet are the only two broadcast forms that remain) as free gifts, generous contributions from a grateful Hix Administration to the voting public for having the patriotic spirit and moral fortitude to put him in office.
That the headsets automatically and unstoppably record everything that the wearer sees, is in the fine print.
Nobody reads the fine print.
In 2045, nobody reads anything other than FB, which is synonymous with the internet now, the rest of it having been eradicated.
There is debate among Americans about government overreach but also a feeling of inevitability. “If you’re doing nothing and live a moral life, what do you have to lose?” many say. These people are regarded well in their workplaces, of which a few hundred remain nationwide. They are members of the Prosperous Class.
Ovids are worn, Ovids are fashion, Ovids are status. But Ovids are only one facet of the project. Diveo—that is the product, the technology, the legislation, three things which are virtually identical in American now. It is all planned and launched and funded by the departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
Video shows a man in his early thirties seated at a desk, the corner of a hardback book at the bottom of the frame—the camera’s support, a book acting as a tripod, since they were long ago collected by the government their paper recycled. The man on video is of mixed race, with black hair in loose curls, the brown brow of an African, the cheerful eyes of a Caribbean, the purplish dark lips of an Arab, the calm intelligence of a Swede, the shoulders of a Russian.
“Hey, everybody. And I do mean everybody.” He laughs, grimly, in a deep, soft voice. “Welcome to the exciting unboxing of my government-issued Ovid. It’s so exciting to be here. I’ve always wanted to be mandatorily surveilled.” His deep voice rises and falls like an actor’s and brims with meaning, but he’s taken the edge off the sarcasm, tapered it to mere legal jokiness. “Let me introduced myself. I’m Jonathan Ridge.”
[time stamp] Video shows the man taking up a cardboard box in his hand, reading the white label stuck to its side, which has the familiar Amazon logo, a swirl like the heady spin that purchasing power gives you.
“Well, no—sorry I got that wrong. I used to be Jonathan Ridge. Now I’m 8f48Kw21p. And it’s great to be alive in this marvelous age of technological advancement.”
This out-of-the-box contempt of authority is pure Jonathan. And why not, given the lack of choice in this matter, so characteristic of the president and his regime. The delivery of such invasive technology was perpetrated with intentional deceit by appeal to Americans’ lowest but strongest urges. Jonathan had read on FB and heard around the office that if you opened and activated your assigned Ovid within 24 hours, you were awarded 500 credits at DivBase. Most Americans didn’t know what would happen exactly if you didn’t activate—though it was being debated all over FB. (Where else? Newspapers and TV were dead too.) But Jonathan, as a government employee knew: no activation, you’re on a watch list.
As for DivBase: this aspect is the most diabolical, the most disturbing to Jonathan. DivBase (DB) is the online site where everyone’s videos are stored. Every American, all 315 million. Everyone can view their own videos, 100% of them, all the time, unlimitedly, again and again. (They cannot be edited, however, and files are broken into hours, with every single user in the system assigned a unique time, running to five places, thousandths of a millisecond for writing to the Diveo server. In command-line terms, this is capacity is what had required the input of the world’s best techno minds; the code ran perfectly on servers that the DoD/DoH had built into Alaskan mountainside.)
All videos are available to everyone else to see, and it is leaked long before Day 1 (as it’s being called) that thousands of people from the beta test in Indianapolis had put porn of themselves on their DBs. People were eager to receive their Ovids and activate, redeemed their points, and start trolling for the goodies.
The government in essence treats the American populace like a pack of wild dogs, happy to leave the maimed behind, having the callous belief that every American will maul whomever they can to gain power and survive. Whether a Californian or a New Englander or anything in between, Americans’ willingness to serve themselves at the expense of others had only grown since 2013, when Jonathan was a high schooler. FB fed it; he watched it happen, and Hix’s policies cemented ego-fanning and enemy-trashing as a national pastime. Jonathan had had suspicions since high school history class about where this country was headed. The same history class that taught him about the insurgencies, coup attempts, party collapses—every catastrophe, environmental and political, that had presaged the meteoric rise of the Technocratic Party, victors in the elections of 2038, now in its second term, the only truly risen phoenix from the historical scorched earth of the Trumpian Wars.
Video shows the man with his arms on the table, elbows out, leaning in toward the camera. A clock over the man’s shoulder is only half visible, and the hour hand is on the 2.
“In all seriousness,” Jonathan says, “this will be an interesting project. I don’t plan to say anything incriminating or be provocative. Of course not. I guess we know now that video is here to say. It’ll be nice to have a record of my life. Who needs memory anymore? Just check your past. Check DivBase. This is great news for everybody but defense attorneys. No, really. One of the only things Trump got right was wiring the country with fiber-optic, the expansion that made this all possible.”
An extension of the 1934 Communications Act, for which trillions were borrowed, made universal high-def 24/7 for all, a reality. Most people didn’t care, or couldn’t articulate their unease that it came at the cost of their freedom. Those old Appalachian clans and Texan Militias were nothing against the weapons developed by the consortium of tech prodigies contracted by the DoD, called Zynex, staffed with former tech gurus (Musk, et al.) as generals and lieutenants. The last American freedom fighters went out in a hail of gunfire, even their AR-15s flaccid in their skyward volleys towards the upper atmosphere, pathetic pops far below. When they raided Washington, they were annihilated.
Now, the question on Jonathan’s mind, as he looked at his sleek pair of white glasses in attractive iPhone white and silver, was how much to discuss work, whether to intimate all he knew. Whether or not to mention it at all.
Jonathan’s job is that he’s been working on a development team at the Pentagon, called TransProse: software that can scan video and generate language-based text description of the contents. A hot-air balloon rises over a grassy field, a deep blue evening sky behind it. Four passengers ride in the basket. It’s gotta be perfect and it’s gotta capture every shade of meaning. They already had facial recognition, thanks to FB sharing its technology in exchange for a piece of the Diveo contract. Desired features that Jonathan’s team focuses on: 1) characterization of activity and 2) perfect transcription of all spoken words regardless of language and dialect. (English, French and Arabic were the betas.)
What he really wanted to do was test the waters. But how? Start talking about Allah? Talk about airports? Say, “President Hix is a pinko commie bastard?”