Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Data Store

[a story written long ago, but one that is frightening me how accurate it is becoming]

Civilization began with division of labor, with specialized labor, with surplus. Soon, someone had to manage that surplus efficiently and fairly, and thus begat government and bureaucracy. Someone had to defend that surplus, and the military was born. Someone had to sell this idea to the unbelieving public, and marketing came along. And that brings us to today.
The Data Store was the brainchild of Felecious Mumps. He devised a software/hardware gadget called The Key that used infinitely detailed codes to identify anyone and anything, anywhere this gadget the size of a grain of salt (often made into fashionable jewelry!) was placed. He made life very convenient for everyone, as no one really had time for details between a job, classes, and soccer practice. Gone were keys, checks or credit cards, identification cards, passports—anything that needed a password or number was made obsolete.
And then Felecious Mumps began to compile the data. Privacy advocates were appalled, but they were in the minority. With life so convenient, who cares about a bit of privacy? Marketing became much more efficient, and people were very pleased with that. No longer were they bombarded with messages about products and services they didn’t need. With the Data Store’s information, every consumer was assured that every ad they saw was something they needed.
In fact, it was practically impossible not to use The Key. Each person, product, and activity is assigned a number. One certainly had the “right” not to use The Key, but no transactions could be made without it. In the cities, tales arose of the country people (the Centrillic) not using The Key, but these tales were rarely believed. Who had the time to go back to paying for things, or worse yet, bartering? It was ridic to think these tales were real. Of course, the non-urban legends could not be verified because the InterSTAN Hiway did not go into the country.
And so it went, life becoming more and more efficient, creating more and more time for people to consume the need for more time to enjoy these things. Felecious Mumps sat in his castle, built upon the mountain, built upon what used to be the Sangamon Islands before the rising seas covered the tallest trees. Felecious played computer chess and ate tiramisu, and life could not be better, or worse, until the end of the system of things we now call civilization.
Although Felecious scoffed at his critics’ predictions of the end of the world as we know it and developed sound marketing strategies to defeat their concerns of overconsumption, he did listen to them and plan accordingly. It did not take a smart man to realize that resources were finite, although wealth was not. And Felecious Mumps was a very smart man.
The crash came at the end of June, a few days before Felecious’ birthday. He hadn’t told anyone about the upcoming shortage, and it wasn’t hard to keep it a secret since The Data Store’s recent takeover of UniCorp, its biggest competitor and fiercest ally. For weeks, he had been shifting around employees, even building new factories, so that all of the resources would run out simultaneously.
There was panic, of course, but Felecious appeared on television and radio to calm the masses. He had known, he told them, but they shouldn’t have worried. He had written a New Key that worked in conjunction with the Old Key but far exceeded the efficiency and usefulness of the Old Key. Since everyone’s buying habits, income, and personal data was programmed into the Data Store, the information would keep speeding along, just as if everyone were still working and consuming.
The people were relieved to hear that Felecious had thought of them and kept them in His plans. The New Key kept everyone notified of what was happening in their lives—promotions and raises, births, deaths, marriages, etc. And so it went on peacefully, for a week or so.
The people looked into their refrigerators and saw nothing there. “What will we eat? What will we drink?” they asked Felecious. “Do not worry, my children,” He said. “According to my records, your refrigerator was replenished at 10 a.m. today.”
And people held on for a few more days, until they realized that, suddenly, they were obsolete.
And Felecious Mumps sat in the tower of his castle built on the mountain, built upon what was known as the Sangamon Islands before the glaciers melted and covered even the tallest trees, playing computer chess and eating tiramisu, knowing that he was and would forever be the richest bastard that ever lived.

No comments: