Waking the Future 2

Two years ago, the original Waking the Future presented a series of short newspaper stories from the future. They predicted a handful of future events, including:

* The inevitable emergence of the Asian Countries as the indisputed financial force in the world.
* Reality shows choosing the President of the United States.
* States' continued succession from a largely dissolved union.
* Complete private takeover of all public institutions by companies like Monsanto.
* Independent, Waterworld-style flotilla communities across the Earth's oceans.
* Extreme, final monopolization of world banks and institutions.
* Resource scarcity requiring food drops across all remaining states.

No way, you say. That's worst case scenario, doomsday talk. Won't our better natures balance these alarmist trends? Won't humanity break Star Trek? How about we: abolish money standards, establish planetary (and interplanetary) guidelines, pinpoint a strong moral center that regards social inclusion, social welfare, individual civil rights and a focus on exploration and humanities as major tiers propping up our civilization? There is nothing to fear. Everything will be fine. We can and will do better.

So sleep. There is more hope in the world than you think. Sleep, sleep, and wake and find the future in a better place. Here... this is a sleep facilitator. Let me just connect you, and... there. This damp fabric rests across your closed eyes. It might tickle a little. It will help you dream. There, there. Go to sleep, wake, and find the nearest news archive, and bask in the future.


You wake to the sound of percussive jackhammers and piercing sirens. The sleep facilitator has malfunctioned, so it's only 2041. Damn. You'd hoped to sleep for another hundred or two hundred years, at least. You notice a little device, called a NEWS BLURST, strapped to your wrist. It projects the very latest breaking news into a space hovering in the air in front of you. What you see is holographic, but there's no sound. Lots of big graphics and written phrases that make no sense. Your mind can't and won't process it yet.

One step out into the bright light and its clear that the wind has stopped blowing in this area. There are many people strolling about. They look like dark blobs in the blinding light. Your eyes take a while to adjust. The sleep facility you've emerged from is now shuttered and in disrepair. Every so often, someone stumbles out, but no one comes back in. It simply doesn't work anymore.

'Excuse me?' you ask the nearest blob. 'Where is the news archive?' They ignore you. They wear dark denim and suede with shiny strips of pleather. Up around you, way past the tops of the buildings, high, dark walls loom. Voices like loudspeakers come from the walls. It's like something out of Half Life 2, but it's very real, and you have so many questions that it's hard to keep them all in your head at once.

At last, a man with a blinking device grafted around his eyes - the latest iteration of Google's Glass - stares very intently at you and says you're not in the database. You ask him about the news archive, and he finds it for you using his AR overlay.

"Get yourself registered." he warns as you walk away.

Once you arrive at the archive, you discover that the curators haven't seen a visitor in a long time. They explain to you that they're a meager collective; what's left of Government, essentially. They retain control over the news archive, because the two main entities that represent the Remaining States in the Union, 'Monsanto' and 'YUM Brands,' don't have the resources to push the day's news out to a hungry public and manage vast news archives. It's too big a job, so it's been left to this tiny, ragtag group of impartial representatives.

"I want to see major headlines from the last ten years." you say. The curator points to your wrist and says "the day's news is all there for you."

"I want the last decade." you repeat. He sits you down with a collection of hard wired 3D pads, and you begin to read virtual depictions of news headlines. You read intently for any sign that the world has changed for the better. You aren't sure what you'll find, but it seems clear from your brief experience in 2041 that everyone around you is too focused on the present to care much about the past or the future.

President Snowden Cracks Down on Whistleblowers

The once promising political path of President Edward Snowden has hit another obstacle. Once considered a mythic figure in the fight against domestic surveillance and a fierce advocate for privacy rights, President Snowden has made enemies where friends once flourished, and his former enemies are either long dead or too discouraged to gloat.

Soon after his release from a life sentence in prison in 2033, the (then) 50 year old former male model and NSA employee became a figurehead for the vast anti-Government movement known as Amans Patriae. Just after his release, at the height of his fame, many referred to him at the next Nelson Mandela, a figurehead representing the possibility of healing for a deeply divided nation.

Snowden entered politics almost immediately under the Amans Patriae banner, and just a year into his term announced his intention to run for the office of the President in 2036. He was a reclusive and aloof figure, prone to self flagellation and secrecy, but his twenty year incarceration cemented the public's love and appreciation for him.

Once in office, Snowden was faced with many of the challenges that any President faces: pressure from different sides of a debate, fierce battles with the YUM Brands Lobby, relentless infighting with Monsanto's Majority in the Legislative branch. Snowden represented heroic fearlessness, but in the process of encountering the realities of Governing an un-Governable body, reality set in. Now, President Snowden, unable to live up to the myth constructed around him, is being compared to the very President whose legacy he ruined almost twenty years ago.

Scalia Rules SCOTUS With an Iron Fist (Literally)

The Chief Justice of SCOTUS, Antonin Scalia, continues to hold deep sway among his peers and colleagues in the SCOTUS. 2041 will mark his 105th birthday and 55th year on the bench. Scalia, perhaps best known for ingraining the concept of Constitutional Originalism to the public vernacular, is also well known for his relationship with Extendz, a life-extending technological powerhouse that has also equipped Senators Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Snooki with artificial organs and limbs that have effectively rendered them indestructible.

Once a frail man, the squat, metallic Scalia is now feared throughout Washington for his take-no-prisoners approach to ruling. His right leg and both of his arms are crafted from an immutable metal alloy and can each lift between 750 and 1500 lbs. Scalia's eyes have been replaced with infared sensors (adapted from Microsoft's XBox 6) which can detect even the slightest eye roll or snicker in Court. Scalia has been known to burst through the bench using his immense strength, and detach the limbs of visiting counselors hoping to make a dent in his logic circuits.

Scalia's brain has been wirelessly grafted with one of the largest and most protected Lexis Nexis legal databases in the world, making him - in effect - the smartest and the strongest man in the world. When asked recently about his retirement, Scalia paused thoughtfully (just for show, since his brain is simply too fast now), and answered.

"You know, I've been asked that question for well over fifty years, and my answer is: look at me. Under what circumstances would you deem me unfit to serve? Ask yourself if you'll be around in fifty years, or even ten years. Or ten minutes, if you keep up this line of questioning. I could crush you right now."

There is also an unconfirmed rumor that cyber-Scalia keeps the brain of former Justice Clarence Thomas in a jar in his private office. Predictably, the brain - though no trace of electrical activity is evident - is said to be eminently more active and talkative that Justice Thomas ever was in his many years on the high court.

Security Beefed Up Along the Colorado River Channel

Monsanto has added extra private security forces to man the walls guarding the dwindling currents of this highly contested water source. The Colorado River, long tapped by Southern Water Utilities and Central Californian agricultural interests, is now one of the single most valuable private resource.

The Corporate Sponsors that managing the Remainder States have, in the ten years since the Water Wars of 2022 - 2030 and the Colorado River Massacre of 2028, outfitted the land around the powerful sluice into a top of the line security apparatus. Anyone caught breaking into the enclosed wall and into the waters of the Colorado is shot on sight. Anyone caught siphoning water through utilization of underground channels will be imprisoned for life and likely have their Corporate Sponsorship revoked.

This security measure, despite the already strong presence along the borders of the river, comes after a recent internal report, leaked to the public. This report, already disavowed by YUM Brands and the Water Collective, states that the States' UFE (Urine Filtration & Extraction) plants are only currently extracting about 60% of the urine during it's extraction process. What this means, in short, is that people are paying more money to drink more pee instead of water, and that has a lot of citizen sponsors very upset.

In addition to the Colorado River's heavily controlled and guarded supply, Monsanto's latest plan involves gradual erosion of the river bed as to eventually convert the river into an almost inaccessible underground supply. Environmental advocates have expressed alarm that the increased sediment will surely offset the purity of the West's only natural remaining water supply, but Monsanto Executives have remained quiet.

YUM's IP Arm Patents Human Behavior

The intellectual property division of YUM Brands has finally pushed legislation through its junior executive lobby in the Congress, allowing for patents covering human behavior, emotion and thought. The legal justification was written by former tenured Berkeley professor and former Bush Administration lawyer John Yoo. Now nearing his eightieth birthday, Yoo argues that process patents in network systems and devices are 'not dissimilar from processes in human systems.' In addition, Yoo writes that 'given recent technological advances in brain grafting with advanced circuitry, the human brain is now legally an electrical device, subject to the same processes and protections as any other device."

The success of this Legislation means, in essence, that certain predictive patterns of behavior can be patented and owned by Companies who possess the foresight and the money to consolidate their patent portfolios. What does this mean in a real world sense? It means that mood patterns, as long as the law establishes that they are 'predictive,' such as jealousy, fits of rage, or moments of extreme elation, and all the behavior that accompanies it, are now owned by Companies.

This does not mean, as many have suggested, that humans will be banned from sudden mood swings or from expressing certain behavior. Far from it. What it means is, now that such moods and behavior (or as the law states, 'processes') are owned by a Corporate entity, the Corporation is owed royalties on these processes.

For each emotion you experience, for each mood you demonstrate, and for each 'predictive' behavior you engage in, you must pay a very small fee - siphoned very conveniently so that you don't have to keep track of each payment - to the Corporation that holds the patent on that process. Have a good day and do a quick jump and spin? Five cents isn't too much. Find out your business partner is stealing money from you and get angry about it? Ten cents. What if you honk your horn when someone cuts you off in traffic? Only two cents. There are many other examples of human behavior that will, in the future, not belong to us.

Opponents of this sweeping legislation question what this means for autonomy, freedom of choice and individual liberty. Some even fear that ownership by another over our moods may force us to suppress our feelings to avoid paying the fees, turning us all into a group of expressionless, dead-eyed zombies. These terrible prospects are enough to render one inert and speechless, which may be a useful thing to learn, for as far as this humble reporter knows, the absence of thought and mood has not yet been patented.


After hours of reading, you stand up and exit the archive, back out into the bright, still air. The sun is still high in the sky and the droning on from the distant loudspeakers is impossible to ignore. You haven't given up on humanity; not yet, but that doesn't mean you like where you are. There must be a way to get back to sleep, you think. Surely things can only get better from here. You woke at the nadir of our society, at the dissolution of its greatest values, so if you just sleep another few decades, everything will get better.

There must be a working sleep facility around here somewhere, something that can make all this go away. As you near the checkpoint, the one that reads 'Registered Sponsors Only,' it becomes increasingly evident that the NEWS BLURST streaming out of your wrist device has gotten louder and more vivid, and it's gradually taking possession of you.


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