Title: Going Down Random-Access Memory Lane
Author: Dustin Ashley
Summary: The premise of this story is to highlight the possibility of a future where technology caused a larger rift between the rich and poor. The main character, a lone individual, observes the environment and remembers what life was like a couple years after the Singularity occurred.
“There it goes again,” I said to myself. “The beginning of a new day.”
At 8:00 AM, sharp, I heard my alarm going off to signal my awakening. After turning it off and stumbling out of bed, I quickly sobered up to the idea of a cup of synthesized coffee and a quick breakfast. I began my approach towards the bathroom for a quick moment of relief and a bath. Once I regained my cognitive faculties, I remembered my daily tasks for the day. A mess of decoherent thoughts and a few menial worries were what stood before me. These were the typical things one tends to think about. How bad traffic is, if that new promotion is going to be snagged by the new Johnny-come-lately, and whether or not the weather is going to sprinkle acid rain. Well, these would be the typical worries but no. Since cars were replaced by personal monorail transit, traffic has become nonexistent. Since most of the jobs within my occupation have become replaced by sophisticated robotics, no new opportunities have emerged. Acid rain? Now that is possible, since nobody has yet to make an attempt to siphon the toxins from the air.
Once entering the bathroom, the motion sensors kicked in and turned on the shower to my exact specifications. After a brief moment of relief, I climbed in and began to bathe. I typically have to wait at least a few minutes for the water to get warm. The custodian has yet to fix the water heater, so I must learn to adapt. I remember when they started equipping houses with motion sensors. They installed these bulky appliances to the walls with sturdy brackets so they couldn’t fall. This wasn’t one device, but several connected by hidden wires within the drywall. They had wired up like faraday cages, which excited and caused fear within the looniest people. It wasn’t until a few years ago that it was all infrared and all the wires disappeared.
After being dried by the built-in air nozzles and getting dressed, I walked out of the bathroom to venture towards the kitchen for my breakfast. I walked towards the table and said, “prepare breakfast program 1,” in a clear and audible voice. The computer responded with an array of choreographed calculations designed to prepare, cook, and serve my meals. A decade old, this technology resulted in people showing up for work much earlier but at the cost of making housewives and housemen obese. This never was an issue for me, since I haven’t even had a lover in some time.
“Here you are,” said the computer. “Scrambled eggs with synthetic bacon and coffee.”
I replied with a simple “thank you.”
These machines were built with a basic emotion chip, where the wrong response could lead to axel grease in your beverage. This was designed to make people cope better with robots and their “human qualities,” or whatever that means. To me, a machine is a machine and that is it.
“Computer,” I said to the machine. “What is today’s news?”
The computer replied, “On the 3rd of April 2068, the United States engages in yet another conflict in the Middle East. This time it is with an extremist group from the Republic of Israel and Palestine.”
“Oh please, that isn’t news,” I said. “What is going on in the tech world?”
The computer replied, “Today, Samsung and Google have collaborated to create the new exocortex model. Dubbed the Neurotix, it exceeds its predecessors by offering faster computation speeds and it comes in an assortment of colors fit for any eye.”
I have heard of this device but never seen any legitimate photos. I never did understand why they colored those things. They’re implants, so why color what you can’t see? At an $800 sticker price, I will stick with my old one prior to upgrading. I remember my father talking about how these devices would change the world and make everyone smarter. After five years of soaring sales, they made children more reliant on technology during class. If you disconnect a high school student from their exo, none of them know how to perform arithmetic. They didn’t make them smarter; they made them hopelessly reliant like a bunch of addicts.
I got my bag and headed out the door. With a simple swipe of the thumb to lock the door, I went onward to catch the next oncoming transit pod. These pods were roomy and designed to pick you up at your predetermined time. This made transit much quicker and less painful. No more taxis and no more cab drivers. In fact, one of the top causes of death has been former cabbies committing suicide because they can’t find a new job. Every time someone gets in a pod, they can smell the recycled leather and the tears of sad cabbies losing their jobs.
After a few moments of waiting, the pod showed up to take me to my destination. I walked up to it, opened the door, and sat down. This pod was new, lacking past smells and despair. Once I punched in the address to where I wanted to go, the hover engine engaged and I felt the pod accelerate towards its calculated route. I spotted the magazine holder and found the complementary magazine tablet. I turned it on to find a wide assortment of magazines, most of them I read from past trips. Most of them dated to a few years prior to the Nano Age, covering old topics like the “Singularity” and how things would change.
I remember when they first announced the creation of humanlike artificial intelligence. I was a young boy, curious and fascinated by AI. As I grew older, I saw how they used this amazing tool to accelerate developments and improve the economy. Unfortunately, they began to use this tool for greed and accelerated the growing wealth gap. These days, you either have enough money to feed your family or had enough for a hundred families over a thousand generations. You either have devices to regenerate your anatomy while sick, or you died a few days after catching the flu.
Once arriving at my destination, I scanned my wrist to pay the pod service and left the vehicle. There was a large sign that read “Unemployment Services” and a line from the entrance that measured at 200 meters. Without hesitation, I went to the line and stood to wait for the next available appointment. While standing, I looked around and saw the poorest of the poor with their devices. Most of them, gaunt from malnutrition and shaking from drug withdrawals, used software embedded in chips to manipulate their neurochemistry. This caused them to become feral, resorting to the streets for shelter and that next hit of code.
After waiting in line for several hours, I finally found myself at the front of the line and ready to meet the unemployment officer. My feet were in pain from standing so long and my stomach began to growl from hunger. I was anxious to get this over with. After waiting for so long, I heard my name being called to the next office. These “offices” were cubicles that looked like you were checking into a hospital. After finding my appointed office, I saw down with the officer. It was an artificial human, a replicant made in the image of a blonde woman. It bore the name “Cindy” and spoke with a thick Midwestern accent.
“Are you Mr. Douglas Adam?” Queried the officer.
“What was your previous profession?”
“I was a computer programmer,” I said with a somber tone.
“It says on this sheet you applied a couple months ago for unemployment,” said Cindy. “Is this true?”
“It is,” I replied.
“Well, our report for you came in and said you are not eligible for any assistance. I am sorry to say this, but you could reapply for it in six months.”
After hearing these words, I got up from the cubicle and walked towards the door with lingering feelings of disappointment. Upon exiting the building, I started walking down the road with an empty mind and not a single thought as to where I should go next. All I could think about was how things once were. With green trees and beautiful skies, all I see are grey clouds and genetically modified flora decorating the sidewalks. With all the promises we were given, all were gilded words created by intelligent minds and clever makers. I let this thought sink into my mind and eat at me for too long. Between the sidewalk and I, all thoughts will be cast into the wind for one walk. I just hope I don’t get mugged walking home.
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