Sunday Dec 04, 2022

Short Story: 50 Years from Now

the year is 2061. The Country is NigAfrica. what will it look like then?
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I read the coordinates scrolling across the screen of my Car. Only two minutes two go before our lunch break. Just then, another car zoomed above me, sending shockwaves over my roof. The maniac left his car in hyperdrive. Of course he was trying to oppress everybody. See, our cars were the old models that ran on water fuel, zero-gravity propellers and realtime GPS hooked up to NASRDA’s satellite, NIGSAT2.5. His was the new ElectroCorp 3000 fuel-less model, kinetically powered by the rhythm of his heartbeat.

It was a fancy car, alright. It was powered by Rolls-Royce jet engines, and fitted with the latest Hummingbird™ wings which allowed it to lift off the ground vertically (like the hummingbird) and make 0-600km/h in just 2 seconds. And worse, it travelled at supersonic speed. It was so fast that once it took off there was no chance of intercepting or even slowing it down save a computer break-in. You had to literally hack into the onboard computer to stop it. If you had one of those cars, you had to be either a chancellor being whisked between functions or a criminal being whisked between holding tanks.

My tooth buzzed- an incoming transmission from the boss. There’d been a robbery at the local InfoMall™ and the computers were fooled into allowing the robbers access. And then the robbers were killed in a car crash as they made the getaway. The chief said he’d forward the IP address of the robbed mall and further digital forensic data that had been retrieved from the scene.

As I relayed this message to Agah, my beat partner, her face mirrored my own surprise. The fact that InfoMall™ with all its security roadblocks cooled be fooled was a shocker in itself. And then the fact that there was a car crash was even bigger. See, these days, car crashes are virtually impossible. First of all, the cars drive themselves. Thanks to Garmin Navigation systems, Cars learn all your routes- if you’ve been there before, your car will never forget. In fact, entering the GPS coordinates into the trip computer would take you there flawlessly. Secondly, the cars are fitted with proximity sensors, so that they’ll never bump into each other. Y’know how they work? Magnetism- simple third grade magnetism. Unlike poles attract, like poles repel. By fitting magnets with similar polarity on the front and back bumpers of the car, the cars would NEVER touch even if you dropped one on top of the other. It’s called magnet suspension and it worked on advanced weight detection techniques. Critical Mass matters, as Nokia’s Director of research put it. IF the mass of an approaching object is in excess of two kilograms, the car would, depending on the amount of space available, completely stop; or take a different route calculated by the sensors to be Non-hazardous. Thus, if two cars were about to collide, their computers would quickly decide which way to take without posing a danger to oncoming traffic and then act.
If indeed there was no space, it would park itself on the tarmac where vintage cars like the 2010 Toyota Prado and the 2011 Hummers still drove: until the coast was clear. Therefore, it is actually IMPOSSIBLE for a car to crash! The only way a car could crash was if the computers were tampered with.

Now, we simply give out our GPS coordinates- In the past, people used to give out their home addresses, and send facebook/twitter/Friendster/MySpace requests and they thought they were experiencing technology. They celebrated Wifi hotspots; they thought they were advanced when they started using 10G connectivity.

But the 2020 Digital Revolution made nonsense of all of that. Why bother with a space-consuming palm-top, when you could have one mounted on your sunglasses? Why bother with an external hard drive when your brain is so powerful that at 0.001 percent utilisation you could store a trillion terabytes of media? Why bother with ISPs when you can simply have KiFi (Telekinetic Fidelity) installed in your frontal lobes? (The KiFi is so powerful that one can access a network from anywhere within the solar system). Why bother with carrying USB cables and Flash Drives when a USB port is installed in your left ear within ten minutes of birth? In our day, the Anti-Virus companies are king. The whole world depended on computers. If you left your KiFi on without 256-bit encryption, hackers would steal your passwords, your money, your bio-data, your entire life! But thanks to the Anti-virus companies, any attempted external access would alert the police instantly.

Now we enjoy all these benefits. You wouldn’t fall sick, because one of our ancient Nutritionists in Nigeria (Dr. Jeremiah Abalaka) discovered that drinking AGBO everyday (a herbal tea made from a very bitter tree) could keep you alive perpetually? I know it’s horrible, but then it didn’t take long for Yem-Kem int’l and NAFDAC to develop a sugar-coated capsule. Inside this capsule were packed vitamin A (for bright eyes,) B(for iron in your blood), Vitamin C (for fighting diseases), Vitamin D (for efficient Calcium production), Vitamin E (to promote hair growth and self-regenerating skin) and Vitamin K (for instant blood-clotting). The effect of taking this capsule is that you’d grow tall, tan and toned. In fact, you stop growing at age 21. You can’t die except the government wants you to. You can’t even commit suicide. Because if your vital signs (heartbeat rate, blood pressure, etc) should fall below the 92 percent, the monitors in your brain would automatically signal the police and hospital would come save you. So the only way to identify older people is in their slowed reaction to stimuli; the speed of their KiFi and the number of children they have. You see, the government regulation allows only one child per family; any other pregnancy will be automatically terminated once discovered. The only class exempt from this rule is the group of those who were born fifty years ago and have already had their children.

As a result, anybody 49 and under has no sibling. We read about brotherhood, about family, about sibling rivalry, about uncles and aunties. But it’s all vague to us- as vague as riding horses or “running through the countryside with hair whipping in the wind”. Horses were extinct by the time I was born. I only see them in my 3D books and the old 2020s movies. It’s just as difficult as imagining having psychic abilities!

It wasn’t easy to get here. Twenty years of a continental war on terrorism. Government-sponsored killings, rogue agents and the whole works. When the world discovered that the main sponsors of Al-Qaeda was the United States and Russian Governments, who pretended to be enemies all along, the world rebelled. Turns out that the so-called war on terror by the American Government was merely to increse the price of oil in the middle east and africa; and the prices of diamonds and gold. It took the willpower and superior military might of the Nigerian Government to restore peace to the continent.

In my world, now, the government controls everything. The government plans your family. The Government determines what schools you go to. The government determines what the fashion for this winter/fall season should be. The government decides what kind of job you’ll do (i’m lucky to be among the thought police) The government determines when you’ll die. The government is god. There is a ministry of sports, ministry of aviation, ministry of fashion, ministry of friendship, ministry of war, ministry of politics, ministry of health, ministry of agriculture, ministry of building and the ministry of Worship.

There’s no religion but humanism. It’s a crime to insult another human being. It’s also a crime to abuse an animal, for today, all animals are equal. It’s a crime to disobey the government. And in fact, you’ll be caught; for your brain stores a record of everything you do. Everywhere you’ve been everything you’ve seen, everything you’ve said. Robotic Cameras everywhere you go, so if a crime was committed, all it took was to summon the concerned robots and command them to replay the 3D/HD video coverage of the specified period. And if you were a suspect, all the government had to do was summon you for questioning and download the relevant data for examination. So even if you’d cheated on your wife or in an exam, or worshipped another god than the president, you’d be discovered. What about privacy? Privacy is a thing of the past!

See, privacy is dangerous, for rebellion can grow only in privacy. And because rebellion would destroy the equilibrium of the society, it cannot be allowed. It must be crushed. As the ancient law professors said, what matters is not the actus reus, but the mens rea. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether you actually committed a crime- thinking of committing it is a crime already. What matters is your motive. That’s probably why the government announced that from next month, EVERY citizen is to upload his memory to the Central DataBank everyday at 11:59 Gmt+1. What if you forgot? We never forget. All we have to do is schedule the upload. To prevent network congestion, every citizen of the republic is to direct his upload to the local InfoMall™.

The Computer blackmarket is swarming with software that supposedly allows you to edit your memories before uploading. It’s only a feeble attempt because even if you edit your memories, you can never convince the robots to forget. And if someone else saw what you were doing, you had to track them down and erase their memories. There’s NO way that could happen with perfect success.

Now it made sense, WHY the robbers attacked a virtual mall. They were trying to erase someone’s memory from the databank. But in editing the memories, they had to upload them to the system, edit the memories and download the edited version to their brains. Probably there was a glitch in their software, because their memories had been corrupted. Or a virus had been introduced to their brains. Either way, their risky operation had created a memory malfunction. They forgot their way home, entered an erroneous flight path, overrode the safety features of their cars and crashed to their deaths.

Or maybe the Anti-virus companies had actually struck gold and were not merely bluffing. They’d installed the latest defences against hackers. The systems would not report an attempted hacking to the police. It’d crash your brain and kill you.

You might think it’s horrible, but We have all sacrificed our privacy to safeguard our freedom. We have given up our individuality so that the organism will survive. George Orwell was right- War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. If drudgery is the way to preserve the perfection of our world, we’re willing to pay that price.

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NOTE: I wrote this 2 years ago. I like to think that the errors and cliches were because I was younger 🙂

Peter

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