Dark Spiral Publishing
- look beneath the surface of an ideal future at what can go terribly wrong

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Future Tense

/ a novel by John Johnson /

2 - Marcus

“Lock the door when you leave,” Aaron yelled down the stairs.

“Got it,” replied Marcus. After looking in the old refrigerator for several seconds, he grabbed a slice of cold pizza and a grape Mountain Dew and ran out the front door.

Marcus was going to be late for his first class of the day. “Graduate school is an improvement over undergrad, because the classes generally start at a more reasonable hour,” thought Marcus.

There were many classes that could be taken remotely these days. In fact, distance learning has already outstripped on-campus learning. Marcus thought that those uses of computer technology were extremely beneficial. He could also see the downside of more and more technology. That's why he joined OTM.

Software programming had changed over the past couple decades. The computer architecture relied on modular computers with traces that are several atoms across at times. The integrated chips measured millimeters on a side, sometimes less. They relied on Nanotech, microscopic lasers and wiring, room temperature super conductors and integrated, self-recharging power supplies. Most of the computer modules used little energy, with the most being used by the user interfaces.

Software was so complicated now, with millions of lines of code, required to interact seamlessly with common libraries and subroutines, that it followed strict standards. Humans designed software at a high level, and the details were implemented by AI. Liability required strict adherence to standards for security, privacy and to eliminate as many software bugs as possible before the code was allowed to interact on the net.

The popular computer glasses recharge built-in batteries by exposure to ambient light. They are extremely sophisticated, and full-featured. The first thing you notice is that they come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They are intended to be as much a piece of jewelry as anything else. With improvements in laser surgery and medicine, most ocular conditions are corrected and eyeglasses were uncommon before the advent of computer glasses in the past few years.

Computer glasses, called Viewz, have become somewhat a retro look and a fashion statement. They can be so innocuous that they are almost invisible on the wearer. They usually have autotint and adjust color and polarization depending on the desire or light levels. Some people filter everything they see and hear through them; giving a whole new meaning to “rose-colored glasses.” They have built-in sensors that transmit sound and pick up voice through the bone immediately below the user's ear. The public has now accepted the non-destructive lasers which project light directly on the cones and rods on the back of the eye, ever since the manufacturers started calling them “amplified light” instead of lasers. (This clever marketing ploy was successful in a similar manner to how Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) machines were renamed Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) back around 1990.)

While research has not yet been fully successful in creating a direct brain interface for virtual reality, Viewz come very close to providing a seamless user experience. These glasses also contain a high-powered computer with terabytes of solid-state storage. The processing power can be tied in with extremely high bandwidth (EHB) wireless connections in the classroom, office or at home.

Some people preferred a handheld PDA over jewelry or glasses. However, combined with GPS for positioning, retinal scanning for authentication and a media subscription, whether for entertainment, education or productivity, Viewz have become the hottest new trend in the past decade.

Marcus and his friends arrived 5 minutes late for their Programming Heuristics class, and they quietly crept into the back of the classroom. Even though they didn't make a sound, three lights flashed on the front display board. Their ID chips gave them away.

“Good Morning gentlemen.” Professor Hughes greeted them with an unusually large grin. “You made it just in time for a pop quiz. Please activate your desk screens and disable any electronic devices. Remember, every desk can detect emanations.”

The Berkeley administration was one of the only ones to pass a rule forbidding on-campus cameras due to privacy concerns. Strangely enough, it was now easier to cheat with scraps of actual paper then to use technologies that were monitored. It was rare that any students were caught though, since real paper had become too cumbersome.

The University's privacy policy was one reason why Marcus decided to attend UCB for graduate school. He became an OTM during undergrad. He was dating a “tree-hugger” and she dragged him along to protests for everything. “Bring Back the Whales”, “Re-forest the Amazon” and many others involving both illegal aliens and imagined extraterrestrial aliens. Finally, she introduced him to the OTM cause. Two years later and that was the only cause he still felt strongly about. While he hoped to someday make his fortunes in programming new and useful applications for the explosion of new tech gizmos – he also intended to develop software that would give consumers choices; choices in how to use the technology and how to maintain privacy from the ever-virulent marketers.

In comparison to Matt, who Marcus observed embracing today's technology without question, he questioned everything. He wasn't paid as much as Matt, who had already started working on his thesis, so Marcus lived in a house with twenty year old wiring, a simple wireless (encrypted) local network and physical locks on the doors. He invested in technology, since he and his roommates were trying to start their software company; yet he did all of this under an umbrella of unparalleled security. There was no law requiring you to broadcast everything you did in your own house to the FBI. At least, not yet.

“Good Job,” Professor Hughes said as Marcus headed toward the door. Marcus scored a 92 on the quiz, and the grades were posted on the front display screen as soon as the quiz ended.

Marcus put his glasses back on and twisted the cool ring on his pop bottle, cooling it immediately to a frosty 35 degrees. He headed toward the computer lab for his next class. Now that he was in the rhythm of the day, he felt synched and online.

 

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