Modern surveillance states and politics
The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
Mega-companies (e.g. like Amazon, Google, Facebook etc.) will spend the next 20 years furthering technologies that integrate into user’s homes, work environments, and public spaces. These technologies will prove to be invaluable for analyzing individuals given their wide-spread distribution and suite of sensors that are used to monitor people’s actions and emotions. People in the society know that surveillance technologies are embedded in the environment but do not know where all of them are and many believe that the technology is being used to help optimize their own life.
United Corporations (UC) Council: UC is not a direct replacement to the United Nations (UN), which still exists, but it is far more powerful. The UC is made up of board members from these mega-companies and decide on new system integrations into society and about any conflict that is worth unifying against (e.g. a rebellion in a part of the world). The UN consults with the UC before enacting any policies.
Borderless World: although nations still exist, borders are found meaningless given that surveillance technology is standardized across the world – any one person can be tracked from point A to point B so if a threat is imminent, they will be targeted directly instead of stopped at a border.
Ubiquitous Sensing: Existing in rural and urban environments, ubiquitous sensor systems exist at all scales, from in-home to city-wide. However, not one company owns the entire suite of sensing systems. Instead, there are divisions where in-home sensors are made by one company, city-wide sensors (e.g. beamforming microphone arrays, high-resolution hyperspectral imaging systems) are made by another, and nation-wide sensing (e.g. satellites, radio towers, long-range radar) is made by a third. These companies work together and are the prime members of the UC.
Marketing: The sensor systems are being marketed as a tool to optimize society and are nearly given away for consumers to use.
Implantables: an implantable ID chip is mandatory for everyone in society so as to avoid anyone trying to fool the surveillance networks by changing their appearance and behavior.
Wearable technology: Wearable technology has been made obsolete since everything can be sensed using off-body sensing techniques (e.g. respiration through CO2 and camera-based technologies). More so than becoming obsolete, wearable technology has been banned given the rise of black-market devices that are being made to raise awareness of the sensing systems that are tracking individuals.
Social Unrest: There are small groups of people scattered around the world that do not share the same world vision as the UC. Instead, they design wearable systems than make users aware of the systems that are sensing them (e.g. you can physically see the radio sensor network). Although its not public knowledge, some members of the UN and other countries are funding these shadow organizations because they do not support the UC.
Purpose: The attention economy is the new gold so our spaces, both private and public, have been adapted to manipulate our attention. Since these companies can predict what users want and need, they need a way of delivering the advertisements directly and pervasively to the user.
E-Ink Display: the attention economy is the new gold so our spaces, both private and public, have been adapted to manipulate our attention. The technology of choice for this new, booming economy, is the evolution of the modern-day E-Ink display. What makes these future displays ideal is the discovery of a technology that allows each individual person looking at them to be seeing something completely different. This allows for personal tailoring of the visual stimulus to the user. Also, these displays are made with a photovoltaic chemical that allows them to run without a power source.
Phased Array Speaker and Microphones: a dense network of speakers exist in the environment that can work in parallel to direct sound to individual users without disturbing the environment around them. The microphone arrays allow users to speak and be heard without needing any on-body device. These technologies allow users to have conversations without cell phones and also to receive notifications at any time or place.
Appliances: all household appliances have an integrated E-Ink display that not only tells you the status of these appliances but also is able to present you with targeted advertisements
Consumer Goods: away from household appliances, consumer goods (e.g. electronics, books, furniture, mugs, rugs, etc.) also have a variety of displays associated with them. These goods are marketed as being fully customizable in terms of appearance, but they are really used for optimizing the shopping experience and presenting you with things you will likely want to buy.
Architecture: traditional buildings are fitted with flexible E-Ink displays that blend into the architecture so that when deactivated, they are hidden. These displays allow for buildings to adapt to the people near them (e.g. changing colors for an event, displaying advertisements, etc.).
Predictive targeting: the member companies of the UC use their technology to monitor your behavior and life experiences. With this data, they predict what users are most probable to want to purchase and target them as they commute using the phased array speaker system and visual displays embedded in the nearby architecture
Air and Space:
Drones: instead of airplanes flying giant banners, drones are used to form visuals in the night sky.
Cubesats: networks of cubesats are also used to light up the sky. Using sun reflectors to shine light below, these satellites can combine to form any type of image.
Billboard Liberation Front (BLF): other than the groups of rebels that are raising awareness of the sensing systems around us, the BLF is separate organization that makes devices to shield people from persistent advertisements.
Contact lenses: a pair of custom contact lenses are created that selectively shade out any visual displays in the environment
Audio privacy wrist bands: a wrist band that emits an ultrasound audio signal when the wearer is talking so as to distort signal received by any nearby microphones.
Public Police: the traditional law enforcement still exists but privatized security is found to be much more reliant given that sensor network data is not easily shared between the UC companies and the police force. Private police is called for what are classified as “large” crimes but most petty infractions are handled by privatized police.
Privatization: it was found to be inefficient and unbeneficial for the companies controlling the sensors to constantly relay potential threats to a more traditional law enforcement. Instead, the members of the UC have their own private security force at different scales. For any extreme crimes (e.g. murder), the private enforcement does report to the public police but for smaller disputes, they usually handle it themselves and the public police allows it, although not entirely legal.
Residential Security (RS): the company that owns all the sensor systems that are for in-home applications has their own security which not only addresses potential threats but also repairs any malfunctioning systems.
City Enforcers: the city enforcers are the ones who are focused on the city commuting population. They usually report any small disputes to the Residential Security that originate at or near homes. The City Enforcers are the largest private police force in the world, surpassing the NSF and RS by more than double.
National Security Force (NSF): the NSF focuses on rural communities and try to stay away from cities given their own disputes with the City Enforcers. They have a close partnership with Residential Security and often work side-by-side in the factory communities.
Mega-cities: most of the world’s populations has gravitated towards a few mega-cities across the world. Smaller cities have either been abandoned or converted into either rural manufacturing communities or farming land. The mega-cities have been designed with efficiency and sustainability in mind.
Wireless charging: wireless charging is embedded in furniture, floors, and even roads to charge various electric devices (e.g. cars, automated vacuums, sensor systems, etc.)
Skyways: all the buildings are interconnected via skyways for extreme weather situations and for sea level fluctuations.
No emissions: there are no vehicles or buildings that emit environmentally harming emissions in the city, so the air quality is the cleanest its been in decades.
Rural: rural manufacturing communities have all the resources they need to keep people happy (i.e. think of Google-like business model). However, there isn’t much room for economic growth but not many people have the urge to pursue that given their comfortable lives.
Autonomous Home Carriers: every city residence has a Home Carrier that feels like an extension of the living room. These autonomous vehicles allow users to enter them and feel like they are relaxing in their living room when instead being transported to another location.
Roads: roads are now made with an E-Ink type of pavement that allow for an adaptive commuting experience. This way, sidewalks are a thing of the past since now sidewalk designated areas can expand and contract depending on the flux of people. Since the roads are now made of this photovoltaic ink, they provide power to nearby facilities.
General care physicians no longer exist and instead, diagnosis is made by A.I. systems developed by member companies of the UC who have access to the historical sensor data of each person.
Specialized Doctors: specialized doctors (e.g. optometrists, heart surgeons, etc.) still exist and have patients referred to them by the A.I. primary care physicians.
Localized Climates: Buildings now have personalized HVAC systems that personalize the climate to each individual using actuated HVAC ventilation. Users’ thermal temperatures are constantly monitored and the HVAC system dynamically adjusted.
Deepfake Professors: online learning platforms have risen to be more popular than brick-and-mortar universities given that they are a more scalable and efficient model. With the advancement of artificial intelligence applied to human physiology modelling, online platforms now have artificial legendary professors (e.g. Einstein, Newton, etc.) teaching the courses.
Dynamic Feedback: with the sensors embedded in the environment, the online learning systems can see when you are paying attention to the content and how well you are grasping the new information. The artificial lecturers can adapt their content in real-time to better focus on problem areas that you may be experiencing.
Tailored content: now that media creators know what stimuli are stimulating for each person, they can design content that is individually tailored to every user. Using deepfake A.I. technology, actors are no longer needed, content can be made and presented in real-time, and Rotten Tomatoes no longer exists since everything is rated at 100%.
No war between nations: large-scale war is nonexistent given that many countries fear that the one that would win would be the one that the UC favors the most. Instead, they are more focused on sustaining what they have and keeping the UC satisfied.
Farming: farming has been made fully automated, from planting the crop, to managing it, to delivery. These automated systems are monitored by humans in large, urban, control rooms.
Meat: although raising animals for meat still exists, its popularity has vastly diminished since lab-grown meat is a more economical and environmentally-sustainable option.
Unstoppable Monopolies: Since these large companies have bought out most startup companies and prevent new ones from spawning, they essentially form a monopoly on data and become much more powerful than any individual governments. Although governments tried to break up these monopolies, bribery and blackmailing has made it easy for them to thrive. In addition, world leaders tend to turn a blind eye since after their tenure in public service, they eventually grab a seat on the boards for these companies, effectively being set for life.
Currency: physical currency no longer exists and the main currencies are the cryptocurrencies that are offered by the member companies of the UC.
Effects of automation:
Rural Communities: much of the manufacturing world has turned to automation but humans still exist in the loop to maintain the robots and fix any large errors. Factory towns have boomed in rural communities where people live in housing right next to the factories. The people living in the communities are incentivized to get paid with their company’s currency since most goods (e.g. groceries) in the area need to be paid with that currency. Its rare for people in these communities to be able to afford to transition to urban life.
Urban Communities: automation hasn’t impacted urban environments all that much. However, many of the automated machines across the world are monitored in urban office environments. Amongst more traditional urban jobs, these control rooms are found riddled across the city and are operated 24/7.
Sea Rise: adding to the rise of the mega-cities, the sea level has risen significantly so that many coastal cities, like Boston, no longer exist while New York City has been able to build a flood barrier and elevate their city by elevating their roads.
Weather Volatility: the weather has grown increasingly volatile to where it can be snowing one day and then feel like a summer’s morning the next. Because of this, most city building are interconnected with underground and in-the-air pathways while the roads E-Ink roads can reverse-bias their power circuits in order to heat the roads and melt any snow accumulation.
Electric-only vehicles: gasoline is a thing of the past and all vehicles are electric with charging stations being embedded into the roads (i.e. conductive charging).
Nuclear Power Plants: E-Ink photovoltaic roads provide most of the power for cities but that still isn’t enough. Although wind turbines still exist in rural areas, nuclear power plants have risen in popularity. The main reason being that the data centers where all the center networks pipe their data into require a massive amount of continuous power that only a nuclear power plant can provide.