Speculative Fiction: It’s Fire Season Again

This work of speculative fiction explores the topics of doxxing, trolling, and deepfakes. The world was created using a methodology called Systems Mythology, developed by the Institute for the Future. The story is set in a Red Future, which values heroes, competition, and winning.

Screen grab from YouTube. Source

ChefBoyArtie stands alone in his kitchen. The lack of decor in his modest apartment gives the impression that he’s either just moved in or is on his way out. He takes a deep breath before hitting the Go Live button on Seismogo. “Hey guys, ChefBoyArtie here. Today I’m going to show you how to make Michelin star ramen using ingredients from your local 24/7. Let’s get cookin!” What follows is an assault of pure, unscripted, comedic genius. As he’s cooking, his fans’ comments whiz across the screen in a cacophony of dings and whistles. He picks out a few and responds with a “Whoa! JollyRancher85 that’s nuts!” and “Holy shit, PoPeye23!”.

About an hour into his show he notices his engagement stats are flashing red in the bottom corner of the screen. He’s losing viewers. Distracted, his knife slips and catches his finger. His white countertop is covered in blood. He’s cut himself dozens of times while working as a chef, but never on Seismogo. In an instant, he makes a calculated decision to play up the pain, dancing around the kitchen holding his finger while cursing like a sailor. His viewers eat it up.

He signs off a little after 10 pm, drained. Shit! He’s late to meet a friend for drinks. He grabs his N100 Filtr mask on his way out the door. On the street he walks quickly, head down, eyes alert. Zzzzzzz. A 7/11 drone zips past, just missing his right ear. Inside, the bar is dimly lit, but oddly familiar. He can’t quite place it. Music pumps through the speakers. He’s only a foot away from his friend but has to shout to be heard over the thumping bass.

The door behind the bar swings open and he catches a glimpse of the kitchen. He suddenly realizes why the place seems so familiar. He’d filled in as a part-time chef for a hot new restaurant here a year ago. Was it Ethiopian tacos? Or Korean soul food? He couldn’t remember. Either way, they never lasted more than a few weeks. He opens his crypto wallet and transfers 15 bones before stepping back into the night. The air is thick with smoke. It’s fire season again.

The next morning his phone buzzes incessantly. It’s a notification from Seismogo that a clip of him cutting his finger went off the scale. It’s the Big One. He’s jumped from 10k subscribers to the elite 100k club overnight. He always knew he was funny, but now he has proof in the form of the shiny gold star in the top right corner of his profile picture. Verification that he has value. That in a crowd of shouting voices, his is one of the few worth listening to.

The next two weeks are a complete blur. His nightly shows are a rollicking affair, but fame is fleeting. He starts to lose subscribers. Slowly at first and then in droves. He’s freaking out over reports that a copycat in Iowa tried to Seismojack his way to fame by cutting off his hand. On top of everything else, he’s become the target of an army of trolls. Most of what they post is just unimaginative garbage like, “Eat a can of dicks ChefBoyArtie”, but recently the threats have taken a darker, anti-Semitic turn. He’s spiraling out of control. He can’t put it off any longer. It’s time to fight back. Time to cut off the head of the snake.

After the fake shooter incident at the Mall of America last year the police have been on high alert, but the Trollhunter he contracted on the dark web is using the latest deepfake generator. It’s all executed in a matter of minutes. ChefBoyArtie watches as the SWAT team bursts through Pepe-roni88’s door, guns blazing, expecting to find him shooting down 7/11 drones from his window. The camera clatters to the floor and the feed cuts out. He almost feels bad for the little shithead.

As a Design Strategist I am ever curious about people, culture, and technology. I spot trends, uncover connections, and tend to think A LOT about the future.