July 20, 2020

An excerpt from a short story about computers in the future


I read about a television series in which the government builds a computer the purpose of which is mass surveillance in order to predict so called acts of terrorism and stop them before they happen. The computer is also able to predict other “crimes” but considers this information superfluous and therefore does not pursue those potential predictions. (This reminded me of something I once read about the secret police in Russia, that they had gathered so much information, so many audio recordings, there was actually no way for them to process it all.) The inventor of the government predictive computer builds a back door into the program that allows him to access information about a variety of these “crimes that haven’t happened yet” and teams up with a former secret agent in order to stop them from occurring. Then a rival company builds another computer that is less ethical then the first one. Both computers gain sentience and the evil computer attempts to take over the world while the original computer (along with the inventor and former secret agent) work to stop it from doing so. When I learned of the existence of this television show, which by the point I learned of it had already run its course, it seemed to me somehow like the kind of thing I might write if I were to write about computers. But, of course, in my version at least one of the computers would be socialist.

I imagine a computer virus designed to redistribute wealth. It rushes through all the bank accounts and fiscal paradises in the world and, in any account that contains over ten million, it instantaneously redistributes all funds over the ten million mark evenly into all the bank accounts that are under five thousand. In a split second the rich are considerably less rich and the poor have considerably more money. I suppose there is a problem with this idea in that rich people don’t just leave their money sitting in bank accounts. They keep it in stocks, bonds, hedge funds and other investments such as art and real estate. Perhaps the more paranoid keep large sums hidden underneath a removable floor board. Nonetheless, my imaginary computer virus could still redistribute an enormous amount of wealth and serve as an intimate provocation to anyone who believes that wealth deserves to be hoarded.

When I told someone this idea they suggested it wouldn’t be very effective because poor people don’t have bank accounts. Not to be discouraged, I searched for various ways around this dilemma. A widely distributed note that encouraged everyone with a bank account to give some money to people without one. Associations in which people got together to distribute a portion of their newfound wealth to others out on the street.

There is another television show I heard about in which a computer security expert is contacted by an anarchist hacker organization. They want him to assist them in wiping out a massive amount of consumer debt. I haven’t watched any television (and hardly any movies) in well over twenty years, so I don’t know if they succeeded. But, once again, it sounds a little like something I might write and, in my version, they would definitely succeed in wiping out as much consumer debt as possible. In a novel I can take something I only wish were true and make it actually happen (at least on the page.)



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