By: Octavio W
As year 2052 closes, I cannot help think how the world has changed in the past 30 years. I write this teletype as I look into a promising future, full of challenges and adventures for our race, the moon base thrives with miners and visitors, the first O’Neil Cylinder in Lagrange Point 1 (L1) is closing completion -the Council advisor announced it may be finished two years before expected, by 2055- and another one is being started in L2 by the end of this year. Seems the Amazon region is recovering well and cleanup of debris and plastic garbage patch in the Pacific ocean is finally reduced to one half in diameter what it was 30 years ago. The huge sun-sail satellites warm the northern territories in America, Asia and Europe and the south of Australia, the global warming seems to cede, last week, polar bear and seals population in the north reached levels close to those in the 19th century.
All these marvels are proof of the human spirit and the new social organizations we achieved nearly two decades ago. But this new age of progress was costly, you have been taught about the AI wars and the dark times before them. Sages still wonder how corporations were allowed to become so powerful as to even have their own local armies.
Today historians debate if these corporations, and their minion companies ever realized the dark path they were walking. No doubt they were perceived as harmless businesses that only wanted to thrive in a world where the next innovation awaited dormant to take over their place. That their desperation for survival made them dig their own grave (and that of millions) was perhaps ironic, but probably also a sign of the change that was so needed.
Take Connect-U Corporation for example, it started as a small enterprise called “Facebook” in the early 2,000s, they later acquired (some say fused with) former tech-giant “Apple”, specialized in electronic connection devices and creation of illusionary lifestyles and other aggregated value expertise. Both firms held very innocent names for sure: but at its peak, this corporation held the personal information, habits, contacts and other intimate details of nearly 5 billion people, the irony was that they were enticed into feeding this information themselves,the illusion of a community and connectivity with everyone, everywhere,the desperate living conditions lead to the need to be seen, heard, opinionate no matter how irrelevant the topic was, “give a like”, “exist by being shared”, conceptions now senseless.
I have to clarify that at that moment, people thought the internet to be a collection of servers and terminals linked physically or remotely (e.g. by satellite), not aware of the collection centrals that directed all such “traffic” through their own proprietary network infrastructure, to store and process such data away from inquisitive eyes, “Backups to prevent great loses to our users” they said, yet, those underground complexes were humming with the sound of mega-servers processing Yottabytes of information.
That would have been wonderful had the scope of their creators not been so lame and limited: targeted advertising, economy of attention, lifestyle suggestions and finally: brainwashing and control of the daily routines and activities. People rushed to a suggested restaurant or store to get a “discount” or “freebie” and earn “likes”, these becoming the currency of recognition and loyalty among our grandparents and some of our older parents, they attended “work”, listened/watched to their rigorous quote of advertisements, lived, commuted for months or years within their living quarters, some having “luxury” spaces of some 100 square feet with digital windows, food processing units and other commodities.
Connect-U turned billions into subjects, monitored by means of personal, portable or semi-portable (fashioned) aware-terminals that were no more than primitive synapses to the centralized network they were creating unbenknowst to governments and society. People were asked to change and update the terminals every year or two, paying for them at first, then getting one for free as long as they maintained their loyalty rating in acceptable levels (standard loyalty levels allowed for a small “smart-terminal”, higher levels could expect interactive suits or even augmented reality implants for free).
Competition had no chance in market terms of course, yet, some people still remembered a life without the rushed and fulfilled existence the corporation offered. There is always a nostalgic or rebel fraction in every society that yearn the customs of the past, and thus, those Artists and Tinkerers, created systems and local networks of limited capability but long reach. Connect-U of course tried to “buy” or integrate these into their own network, creating small companies that offered these people “solutions to their communication needs”. Still, the artists resisted, their spirits fulfilled by other, more creative interests, while the tinkerers devised, kept and maintained tools like this HR-teletype I am writing now.
Not long after, Connect-U saw no profit in capturing these audiences, neither for their money, nor for their attention span. I have to add that some of these Artists and Tinkerers were actually forced to play its game, as a Connect-U Citizenship (the pompous name given to membership), was required as proof of identity for several jobs and positions. In some countries, even medical systems preferred the history that Connect-U had to offer against the AI processed data of “Infinite-X” the other huge data corporation of the time. (Ref: formerly Alpha-Zon Technologies). Yet, the allure of augmented reality did not catch many of these brave humans. On the contrary, it was common that some Citizens, were more interested in the manual proficiency of an Artist tangible stuff that were not equaled even by the super-sophisticated sense-feeling of their terminals and many became free of them by following the ways of an Artist or Tinkerer.
When in 2027, governments were proposed to handle democracy as a matter of social-network value, the tide started turning against the Corporation, they were simply too ambitious or to arrogant to see the magnitude of what they were asking. For all the world of bliss they and other Corporations offered, social conditions around the globe were by no means egalitarian, developing countries struggled to reach the commodity levels of rich ones. Connect-U thought it would be easier to get into those “markets” as they would be willing to accept the “free connection” benefits in exchange for their attention, nothing far from true.
The experimental implementation was a total failure, the corrupt politicians and dominant classes of these countries became an example of what was to come in other societies. The privileged became dormant, addicted almost instantly to the Connect-U system, not being educated or trained in the culture or other uses to “expand their reality” they became subject consumers of everything they could afford, addicts, even pouring public resources into it to keep consuming for -virtual- “existence currency”. Its worth adding that these 3 or 4 years saw a tremendous increase in social-network celebrities from these countries. Such conditions, similar to that in France 250 years before led to a social collapse and the start of several movements demanding better conditions. Nobody cared about the marvelous interface offered. At some point, Connect-U used its security forces to repress protests, killing protesters as example and labeling them as terrorists, all under the cape of the local government. Revolutions threatened to engulf all of the developing countries in question, had not been for an unexpected leap in human achievement that offered a new dream.
On Apr. 9 -2032, the first, non-government, non-corporate, community-founded Space Colony was launched. It was not one of those experiments to test rocket capabilities, such technology was well developed by 2025. But this one was different, it aimed not to take tourists to space, or offer 1 year living experience on the moon, it was aimed towards constructing a space colony at Lagrange Point 3, -one of those spots in space where gravity pull is equalized- where people would be free of the chains of Corporations.
When the magnitude of the project was announced, even the second site underground mega-server collapsed. Mankind had a new project, not one that aimed inwards, but outwards. Connect-U tried to offer their subjects the best virtual-reality experience of colonizing not space, but entire planets, fantasy worlds, whatever they wanted. It was to no avail, sure, they were prepared for such an eventuality, yet, one single announcement of the Space Wonder was enough to crush the technology giant: Besides the initial announcement and sporadic news, they will not broadcast or inform of any of their activities through Connect-U or Infinite-X, the technology they will be using will be based on OS Teletypes.
Some sages claim that the company lost almost 700 million subjects the first day, over the following weeks citizenship would be reduced to a mere 500 million -out of the 5 billion- and by the time they reached 50 million some years later, they shut their service. Ten years after the announcement of the first SW launch, Connect-U president declared the company-owned city of San Jose would live the dream of being the first of the company assets to close its doors to outsiders in order for their most loyal subjects to enter “Caer Ibormeth”. Here, as in other Caers, their citizen-subjects live permanently and surgically connected, sustained by machines in a never-ending dream state of joy, connected to the U1 Server, living experiences they never had and none they will ever live. One Teletype from a surveyor scout who entered Caer Nyx two years ago, depicts an horrendous image of the interior, where the subjects dream submerged in life keeping pods, life being slowly extracted from their bodies, the report could not continue as the Teletype was damaged by an attack from one of the robotic security sentries that guard the complex and keep the installations working.
But before we finish this story (because I still have to tell you about the destiny of the other Mega-Corporation, Infinite-X ), you will naturally ask: How do people started living without the centralized, technological social network again? Well, you know we still have such social-networks, small communities with simple systems that communicate to each other via non-centralized, universal protocols, the result of the Tinkerers ingenuity, you can still share a picture, an important moment, a work of your own creation in your guild.
At some point, everyone looked to space, to the new home of humanity and understood that human interaction could not be turned into a merchandise, that the human mind is not for sale. Our generation cannot be enticed with crumbles of illusory happiness, also, the shadow of Connect-U and the stories about the deplorable state of their last loyal subjects inside Dream-Cities is looming over everyone and preventing anyone to commodify human interaction again. International laws prevent a network to have over 1,000,000 members yet, most are inhabited probably by less than half, also, any kind of marketing or proselytism is banned, not by laws only but by the network members (these still exist on other channels of course). Nationality is not an issue to belong to a guild, clubs and societies of interact-networks allow for expanded communication and self regulation, devices are truly individualized now, most kids learn to build their own device at early ages, when we reach adulthood we already have our own version of interactive terminal, we still love communicating, sharing, aspiring… Dreaming alive.
To be Continued… (Maybe)