living in a dystopia

We are Living in a Dystopia – and it’s pretty boring

Imagine a world where your every move was tracked, where there were multiple databases of your bio-metric data, from your face to your voice. There were programs that could replicate your face and voice making a digital copy of you that was nearly impossible to distinguish from the real. Every communication was tracked and logged while powerful super AI’s worked to predict and figure out how best to sell you junk.


You wake up in the morning to a chime on your comsat, the central database logs the time the alarm started and the time it took you turn it off.  You took longer than your average in shutting off the alarm today so you must be tired, the system makes a note to push a coffee ad your way just before you get into the office.

You shuffle into the living room of your small apartment, telling your home assistant to turn the news on as the coffee machine prepares your morning preference. The home security camera logs your position and posture, you seem stressed, a note is made to recommend a new meditation program to you at a slightly higher cost than the one you use now.

After showering and getting dressed you head out to your mid level job at one of the mega corps.  Doing the work that they haven’t been able to automate away.  You have to commute in on the aging public transit system this month, Macrocorp raised the subscription cost of their entertainment package again and the added cost means you can’t justify ride sharing any more.

Sitting at your small desk, this is one of the few days you actually have to be at the office. In an effort to save costs your company promotes a work from home program.  That way they can pocket more money for the shareholders, money that would normally be spent on a larger office. Combine that with automation and soon they will be able to operate completely remotely.

Every action you do at work is logged and monitored.  Partly to justify the cost in hiring you and partly to help train the AI that will eventually replace your role. You have to put in more hours than five years ago, the cost of living keeps going up but your pay isn’t reflecting that.  The only way you can stay afloat is through overtime.  There is work to be done though, after the last round of layoffs overtime is the expectation.  You’re thankful that you’re paid for it, you have friends who work just as long but for half the money.

On your half hour meal break you surf the web on your comsat. Scrolling mindlessly through ads that know you better than you know yourself. Keeping up with people you met once at a bar, observing life through the glass screen. When you walk back to your desk you feel uneasy, inadequate. Maybe you need a new home entertainment system, yours is starting to look a little dated.

Before settling back down to work you post a status update about how happy you are to be here. Your company monitors your social media and likes to see this kind of stuff. You make sure they are tagged sufficiently and try to include a good shot of the logo on the wall in the background.

On your way home on the overcrowded train you pass the ever expanding camps of homeless and unemployed. With no tax income from the offshore megacorps the government can’t do much about the problem, there is simply not enough money. The news programs remind you that those people are just lazy and unworthy of the life you have.

You look up Ellian Muskerson on your comsat, a billionaire with a plan to help the planet. One of the few who seems to care. He has a plan to assist these expanding numbers of homeless and unemployed, he’s going to build a new rocket factory and use human labor to do it, paying people for work that could be automated. The government considers this an act of charity and has granted him tax exemption for his facility in return.

Your search is logged and linked to your personality profile. A personality profile that raises a few red flags for discontent. Your entertainment feed for the evening is going to consist of light comedy to sooth you back to feeling decent. You will also receive a few ads for a new strain of marijuana, one that elevates mood without making you too unproductive or violent the way alcohol does.

By the time you get back into the apartment you’re too wiped from the day to spend time working on your novel. You keep putting it off, you simply don’t have the energy. Plus there is so much quality entertainment out there, it’s impossible to resist.

A beer and microwaved dinner in front of the entertainment system that you can only see as outdated. You yell to your AI assistant to add the newest version of the system to your wish list, telling yourself that you’ll sleep on the idea, knowing that you’re going to buy it anyway. For some reason you keep thinking of it, you can’t get your mind off the idea.

You’ll have to put it on the credit card, but that’s fine. A little more debt is manageable, it’s not like there is anything else to spend your money on. The cost of just existing takes most of it. As you doze off you can’t shake the feeling of boredom and loneliness, you ask your AI to put another show on, at least the recorded voices are better than silence.

When you fall asleep is logged, added to the databases and your growing personality profile.


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caught in a web

Caught in a web

Now obviously this is exaggerated with some made up companies and technology, but it’s not too far from the truth we live in now. We are under constant surveillance, not by an evil government like in Orwell’s 1984 but by companies looking for better and better ways to sell us stuff. By companies building better and better AI’s to replace us.

These companies turn record profits and pay minimal taxes while public works crumble. Jobs are going to start drying up as AI’s and automation start replacing work and there is no safety net in place to deal with the coming unemployment.

We are working more and more for less and less money, the cost of living keeps going up while wages are pushed down. People don’t have time to pursue their dreams any more, too bombarded by constant entertainment and distraction. Whenever you feel yourself escaping the distraction your phone makes sure to pull you back in with a notification. Then when you have your phone in hand you end up checking on other apps and maybe googling something.

If you told someone living in the 1960’s the level of control companies have over us they would think you were writing a science fiction dystopia novel. Companies are constantly researching ways to influence your behavior and they are succeeding. You probably only want the things you want because you’ve been told to want them in subtle ways. It’s not as obvious as a pop up ad any more.

The reason Facebook and Instagram moved away from a chronologic order timeline was to push ads more effectively, but not the ads you see. The plan is to push content that mentions products further up on the feed, so if your friend talks about how much they loved their Lyft ride, that will show up higher in your feed than someone complaining about it.

With a little AI tweaking they can start to guarantee this to advertisers and offer to let them pay to have positive mentions of their company rank higher in what people see.  It’s all controlled, planned and manipulated.

We are living in a dystopia, but it’s not one where government forces are bashing down doors arresting ‘free thinkers’, rather it’s one where people can think what they want, they’ll just be ignored. It’s one where we are under constant surveillance, not to make us better slaves to Big Brother but to make us better consumers.  It is one where the AI robots have risen and rather than killing us all they are just taking our jobs and making their masters richer.

If the government started kicking in doors to control us there would be an uprising, a revolution. This is a slow burn of control, a slow burn of the ceding of freedom and quality of life. One we hardly notice, one being orchestrated almost by accident, not some grand master plan.

It’s interesting to observe, and fun to think on how we are living in a world that would be seen as a science fiction future only thirty years ago and how we are profoundly bored by it.  Try paying attention to the things you take for granted and see what I mean.

Thanks for reading.

 

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