Saltwhistle Beach on Mayreau in the Grenadines
My alarm goes off at 7:00 AM, pulling me out of a deep sleep. At the ripe age of 77 I should not have to be woken up by such a rude and inconsiderate method, truth be known I never expected to have to use an alarm clock this late in life, this early in the morning. I should have been able to leisurely wake up and slowly enjoy the beginnings of a new day at that age, but the financial crisis of 2008, followed by the devastating monetary collapse of 2016 took a large bite out of my retirement age reserves and the rest was taken by the voracious appetite of an ever expanding bureaucracy of government institutions. The world changed a lot since Obama’s second term took the country into an rapidly accelerating slide towards a central command economy, supported by the election promise to create an avalanche of (un)funded entitlements. Despite all the policy failures in his first term as pointed out during the 2012 Presidential Debates, the country once again decided to place its trust in the promises of policies rather than the results. Now 16 years later, or just about 5 presidential elections ago, our economy has long been surpassed by China and India, while even the African continent has caught up on us. Brazil and Russia are licking at our feet and Australia has squandered its wealth on social programs. Korea and Japan have formed an economic alliance that has surpassed us as well. We are still somewhat of a military powerhouse, but our equipment is getting old and there is little money to replace it. Much money had to go to repair our national water supply pipelines and our electric grid structures; when both collapsed under the pressures of old age in 2018. We’re now a socialist society, less than 100 years after Norman Thomas – six-time Socialist Party candidate for President- equated in 1932 the following message to his followers : The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism; but under the name of liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program until America will one day be a Socialist nation without knowing how it happened.
So here is how I live on October 16, 2028
I roll over, grumbling a command, and the alarm obediently shuts up. I drift off again, but ten minutes later the alarm returns, more insistent. It won’t be so easily pacified this time; the loose sensory netting inside my down pillow will keep the noise going until it detects alpha waves in drastically higher numbers than theta waves. At first I had opted for 1970 rock music coming out of my alarm clock, but after several times not waking up and getting to work late because I thought I was at a rock concert, I had it changed to this nuisance sound. It won’t stop until it senses my head leaving the pillow and it gets the automated password from the shower. Yes, a morning shower is mandated by government these days. With a deep groan I roll out of bed, pull my Computing ID (CID) card from the alarm unit, stumble out of the bedroom to drop the card into my house computer and make my way to the shower. The alarm triggered the shower’s heating unit and the water comes out at a pleasant 108 degrees, exactly my preference. (42 degrees, as I remind myself — another transition to the metric system still isn’t second nature, after almost two full years.) I wash quickly to avoid exceeding my water quota, and step out refreshed, ready to meet the day. Next door I hear my wife of 24 years slowly awaken. We have individual quarters these days, since medicine still has not found an effective way to rid mankind of snoring. The time spent together is elective and mostly evolves around the weekends and holidays.
After the shower, I grab a bowl of cereal and head to the open living quarters. The real estate design of an “open floorplan” rules the home design these days and dry cereal is the prescribed and affordable breakfast for millions. Mixed in are all the vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants a human needs according to the Surgeon General, so it became a mandatory ‘side effect’ of Obamacare’s preventative health plan.
My wall monitor has automatically torrented last night’s episode of my favorite comedy show, saturating the municipal gigabit fiber connection for almost a full minute to grab the 20-minute program. I religiously kept on watching the Daily Show since the days from way back when Jon Stewart became a mouth piece for centralized sanity. But for more fireworks, the show added Dennis Miller as Jon’s political counterpart after the botched elections in 2016 and in spite of their advanced ages, Stewart is turning 66 and Miller turns 75 in a couple of weeks, they are still slugging it out every night.
At a spoken command
, the screen turns on and begins playback. When the confirmation box pops up on the screen, I state my name to authorize payment for the episode. Unfortunately, because I spent extra time sleeping, I’m in too much of a rush to finish the episode at my leisure so I tell the satellite to send the remainder to local storage, pull my CID from the desktop, and put it into my phone. While I get dressed, my phone plays back my social streams from last night, filtered to only the closest tier of relationships. After listening to our youngest daughter’s voice detailing plans for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, and my friend Ric summarizing the concert he went to (Ric just turned a wholesome 82 last week), I tell the phone to retrieve streams from one tier further down. Ten seconds into yet another political rant from a longtime MySpace
friend, (oh yeah MySpace was pulled from the ashes under the spirited leadership of one Justin Timberlake
) so I tell it to cancel and I set off for work.
As the door closes behind me, I automatically, almost absently, wave my iPhone 20 by the doorbell panel. The embedded RFID chip triggers the house management and security system and sends a command to start my car. Most people are not allowed to have cars to drive to work anymore, but the phyle council thought it would be beneficial to keep me productive in the propaganda department, so I became the privileged user of a council issued automobile. I climb in and place my phone in its dock. It quickly checks the car’s charge, my preferred temperature, the accuracy of my weight in the seat, the tire pressures, any foreign objects attached to the vehicle and its wireless connection, and when all systems go to green, I say, “Rollem’ Rollem’ Rollem'” and lean back into my spacious seat as it rolls out of the apartment complex’s driveway. For some undisclosed reason Clint Eastwood and the wide open spaces of a Rawhide TV episode mistover my eyes. I must be getting sick!
Now I’m telling my onboard computer to resume playback of the Daily Show and after my windshield quickly turns black, I watch the rest of the show, waiting for my commute to finish. (I’m only vaguely aware that the car isn’t making the same turns today — there must have been a stupid hackcident — and I’m irritated once more at the low speed limits, wishing there was a way to shut them off unnoticed.) After the show is over, I access my work email and calendar on the window screen, and prepare for the rest of the day. It’s not until the car comes to a halt and softly beeps at me that I realize I’ve arrived in the parking structure. As the induction coils top off my car’s charge, I exit the structure and enter my building’s entrance. After waving my phone past the entry sensor, I stand as still as I can and slowly concentrate on my FULL name, yes that includes all four of them… Johan Anne Marie Hubert!! The fMRI sensors process the input quickly and agree that I am who I think I am and unlocks the door.
Walking into to my office, I drop my phone into yet another dock and flip on the display, thus interacting with the only two objects on my desk. The display, nearly five feet across ( sorry 1.5 meters, I mean) scans my CID and instantly restores the projects I was working on yesterday. Yet I notice that a handful of button icons are different than they were before. There must have been an Operating System update overnight. My mild curiosity over finding a ‘changelog’ fades when I realize I can’t remember the name of the OS to look for it. I guess I need to increase my Ginseng intake in my morning and evening cereal. It’s unlikely anyone else at my agency does, either, except perhaps the CTO.
Frowning at some irritating messages on my display, I remember when I used to have co-workers who dealt with that sort of thing. As my attention returns to the projects at hand, I realize that the world has evolved too fast for anyone to stay on top of a wide array of topics and specialization is salvation. I used to build websites for emerging companies and professional organizations, which in hindsight were just old world adaptions to new technology. Ten years into the internet technology, back around the turn of the century, I often remarked that surrounded by a handful computers I could do the work I used to need half a dozen employees for. Now at almost 78 the thought sensor in my Apple Centaurion translate my thoughts into designs as it manipulates the contents of my screen. Sometimes I can’t help myself and find my hands moving along the top of the desk, sometimes gesturing in midair as a frustrated afterthought. For particularly precise work, I used to detach a stylus from the side of the display, but since eye sight perfection has been re-calibrated, the stylus became a relic in less than a decade. On predetermined timeslots I pause to read or listen to an email and vocalize my response and occasionally I take a moment to check in on my subordinates’ screens, watching in real-time as they manipulate data and imagery. When needed, I open the intercom channel and provide direction.
By lunchtime, the global advertising (propaganda) campaign my team is working on is nearing completion. I package it up and open a connection to headquarter’s AI provider (Artificial Intelligence), working quickly to minimize the bandwidth fees. Setting the AI to “Human Approximation” (and using “Moderate” fidelity to make it finish in a reasonable amount of time), I run it through the consumer adaptability campaign and monitor the psychological reactions over a matrix of common phenotypes and personalities. The response from the Super-Rationals isn’t good (well…is it ever?), and I spot weaknesses in the campaign’s ability to reach females in one subculture, and males in two others. I make a quick list of potential improvements to background music and the facial expressions of the computer-generated actors, and send the list off to my team.
This project has been particularly stressful; in addition to the legislation currently being debated over how AI’s can be used (or whether they can be turned on at all), several patent suits involving advertising methods are hanging over the company’s head, and I have to carefully review my team’s work to ensure it doesn’t cause another. I know far more about patents now than I ever wanted to, but I don’t want our company to be one of the early victims. I hope the advertising industry doesn’t go through a reckoning as happened with the computer and entertainment industries about ten years ago. There’s still money to be made in those sectors, but nobody’s getting rich, and I have my mind set to retire before I turn 100 into one of the extra terrestrial communities. I have heard that Venus has beaches like the Caribbean and my wife and I have been talking for many years that we would like to return there.
No politician worth his weight in salt is interested in this place
Mid-afternoon rolls around before I realize it and my stomach demands attention. Actually I feel mildly uncomfortable all over. Talking the stairs one floor up to the building’s Sundial restaurant I seat myself in a booth that reminds strongly of a record listening booth when music was still pressed on vinyl records. I select my preferred music channel and call up the menu on the table’s display. Finding a likely-sounding sandwich, I browse quickly through pictures, read a few reviews, and the nutritional information before confirming my order. Switching the table to browse-mode, I catch up on the news while waiting for my food. It seems another Middle-Eastern country has severed its last wired connection to the outside world as a desperate defense against continual cyberwar, a long road that started back in 2012 when a atrocious video about Islam was posted on youTube (now GlobalTube) supposedly igniting riots in the Middle East. It was later uncovered that it was just another lie from an administration that already had long lost the fight against terrorism. Economic interests in the Middle East forced Washington’s hand and youTube became censored.
Local police forces became tasked with controlling wireless transmissions, but were soon run ragged trying to construct monitoring stations and conduct wardriving patrols with limited manpower. Nobody is willing to take chances after last year’s nuclear incident involving Kashmir and Pakistan . Browsing more, I learn that nothing is new with the coastal flooding situation in Europe, except that China has once again increased its level of economic aid. I also note with dismay that the U.S. election campaigns, underway for over 18 months already, are both distancing themselves from the current plans to return to the Moon. The organization that replaced NASA is likely to face budget cuts regardless of who wins, all this while China and India have already bases established on Mars.
The server robot finally rolls up to my table and deposits my sandwich, along with a glass of water (soda is a rare treat these days, because of the sugar tax. An 8 oz can demands a $100 bill and if hyper-inflation continues that may soon be $1,000. After eating half my meal and picking at the rest, I realize it’s not hunger that’s making me feel poorly. As I briefly remove the CID from my phone and wave it across the table to pay for my food, I leave a small tip for the robot maintenance engineer and walk back to my car, calling work on my way home to notify them I’m feeling ill.
Once I’ve instructed the car to go home, I recline the seat and take a short nap. The car gently chimes to wake me when I safely arrive home. Heading inside, I walk to the bathroom and root around in a drawer for my phone’s medical attachment (I refused the option to APP-in my medical records). Once connected, I instruct it to contact the CDC’s servers for a virus definition update. I quickly swab my nose and throat, and place the samples on the attachment’s sensor, then step into the kitchen to make some tea while I wait. In 20 minutes, the results come back, showing a very strong likelihood that I have the seasonal flu. The results are automatically sent to the CDC, where their algorithms verify my CID and confirm that I had contact with several other people exhibiting similar symptoms. It’s encouraged to not expose myself the way I do as it increases contamination chances. If I keep on doing this I may loose some of my medical priviliges according to the Obamacare act. For now they instantly prescribe an antiviral drug for me at the nearest pharmacy, which I electronically dispatch to my car to pick up.
Laying back down in bed, I pull my CID from my phone and place it into my tablet. Checking my social feeds, I see several get-well-soon messages already from friends and family. I absently browse through some of the media my “friends” have been reading, watching, and playing, but nothing captivates my interest. After my car returns, it dispenses the meds in an air chute to my apartment and I settle back down with a cup of tea. Undoing four small latches at the corners of the tablet, I softly pull at the sides, stretching the screen until it’s 30 centimeters across (you figure out the inches here, I’m sick) and fire up a game of chess. After quickly losing two games, I’m vaguely aware that it won’t be good for my A- rating to play while sick. I briefly consider pulling the CID and playing anonymously, but decide against it. Returning the screen to its default shape, I detach it from the tablet and grab an e-ink screen from the drawer. Once I’ve firmly seated it on the tablet, the ebook I’ve been reading appears on the screen right where I’d left off a couple of days ago.
After reading a while, I begin to nod off. Sensing the increase in theta waves, my pillow’s sensor web shuts off the tablet, dims lights throughout the house, and silently monitors my vital signs to see if my symptoms are getting any worse. As I drift off to sleep, I dream of the time when we people touched, talked, interacted, made love, kissed, shared laughter and tears, danced, partied and genuinely cared for each other.
I know I shouldn’t be working full-time at 77. It has become so crazy in the workplace that 4 and 5 generations are known to work next to each other in one office!! I should have taken my wife years ago and moved back to a Caribbean Island that nobody cared about politically. Medical Technology, even if not always morally defensible, has made it possible for us to live up to 120 years on average. The Question, as it was back in 2012, is: how much longer can we really afford these entitlements, before the masses in China and India claim the money we owe them in a pursuit of their right to a better life. We’re living in an age of feathered balances and I guess the next fifteen years will bring more answers to the ideological questions of big government versus small government, Romneycare versus Obamacare, entitlement economy versus production economy, socialism versus capitalism, one party system versus multi party system.
But until then I will dream about a little 1.5 square mile Caribbean island called Mayreau. One church, 12 bars, 2 restaurants, a couple of cars and 300 inhabitants on a busy day in the height of the season. Look for us on Saltwhistle Bay ten years from now.
This church survived many a hurricane