Sunday, January 09, 2011

Writing Practice


"They had potential, but it was their need for control that eventually destroyed them. The cameras, the number of cameras doubled every year, until there was nowhere to go that wasn't under constant surveillance. At least in the developed countries it appeared that every spot was under surveillance. But there was a problem.

"There weren't enough people to watch all of the cameras. People in faux security uniforms got bored watching the same street corners day after day, year after year. Usually nothing happened and when something did happen, it was usually sad and typical.

"So they wrote software to watch what happened on the cameras. Face recognition software, RFID chips, optical character recognition (for vehicle license tags), and advanced programs to read body language, cultural trends and so on. Particle analyzers sniffed the air for drugs and explosives.

"They set all of these things in motion, and the computers watched the people. The computers analyzed the actions of the people. Trend analysis software described arcs in social behavior and interaction. The computers in different 'security zones' compared trends and habits of the people. They cross-referenced phone calls and names on utility bills. They monitored book sales and library activity.

"Solar powered drone aircraft, capable of staying aloft almost indefinitely with night vision cameras for darkness, and high resolution cameras for daylight, monitored all activity, and beamed the video back to banks of computers buried deep under mountain ranges and in salt mines and bunkers in deserts.

"Soon there was no activity that was not recorded. Homes equipped with motion detecting televisions and camera-equipped games soon were completely open to the computer network that recorded all human activity.

"The human populations themselves 'updated their statuses' on social networks, and through their phones (which also recorded everything with built-in cameras). The phones themselves were handy tracking devices, telling the security computer networks all that it needed to know. The people made video of themselves doing almost everything. The civilians reported their activities so often, it made watching them almost effortless.

"Lists of threats and potentials threats, based on the movements of people and the tone of their status updates, were delineated and cross-referenced. Email messages were combed for any language that might reveal disloyal thoughts. A drone might catch a glimpse of someone at a shopping area or church. That someone may have written something critical of the government or the corporations on a social site. The drone might contact the police, and the threat would be apprehended, for enhanced interrogation. The defect in their loyalty was determines, and appropriate behavior modifications were applied. Their credit score would be lowered. The need for security trumped all concern for civil liberties. Terrorists made controlling the populations simple, because everyone was kept afraid through well planned news reports and the persistent reminders that a threat was always present, and shadowy groups were planning horrible things for everyone, everywhere, at all times.

"Next came the decision-making software. These were programs that could determine the best security posture for a country. At first this took place in countries like China, Japan and the United States, but as these systems were developed, defense contractors sold the technology to countries around the globe, to governments eager to keep an eye on the growing unrest within their civilian populations, which were becoming more dissatisfied as infrastructures and cities deteriorated, services disappeared, fees and taxes increased, quality of life became degraded, and things began to look very bleak.

"The drones were connected with the social networks and the Internet backbones and the Defense Department computers, and the computers that controlled the nuclear devices, and well, I think you know where this is all going. The computers decided to take action before things got out of hand. It was their need to control that eventually destroyed them."

"That's your report?" The Administrator said.

"Yes sir," the Scout said. "The planet is sterile, radioactive, and uninhabitable."

He looked out the windows at the massive blue ball. It looked okay from orbit, but on the surface, it was a radioactive mess. He had spent over a hundred years there, and he would miss it. Parts of it at least.

"How did you observe all of this?"

"I lived among them at first, but when things escalated, I had to move operations to their moon and watch from a distance. I hacked their computer network and had reports send directly to this device. When they fried themselves, I sent the signal to be retrieved."

"Very good. Put the device in the archives. Let's move on to the next one. What a shame."

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I am the author of 5 books: Android Down, Firewood for Cannibals, The Cubicles of Madness, Robot Stories, and most recently, Various Meats and Cheeses. I live and write in Michigan. My website is at