Speculative Fiction: Right on Cue

This work of speculative fiction explores the topics of cyberbullying and ransomware in the future. The world was created using a methodology called Systems Mythology, developed by the Institute for the Future. The story is set in a Blue Future, which values structure, logic, and objectivity.

Robot Judging System Fujitsu

The Gymnast’s score appears on the screen the instant her feet hit the mat. The ring of cameras surrounding her mapped and measured every angle of her body as she twisted and turned. Her score of 9.087584 is just under the 9.087589 needed to qualify for the 2036 Olympics in Berlin. A wave of disappointment rushes over her. Even though she knows the system is fair and free of bias, it still hurts. Nearby, her coach shakes his head and mutters under his breath. She wonders if the rumors that he’s a Looper are true.

She enters the locker room with her head down, shoulders slumped. It’s quiet. Her shoes squeak on the polished floor as she walks past rows of metal lockers. When she reaches 56A she looks up. Click. Her locker unlocks automatically. After changing, she sits on the cold bench and opens her Hiver account. She begins scrolling through the comments. Her friend Jeremy posted “Good luck!” to which she rolls her eyes. He’s always using old sayings like that.

The Gymnast has one comment from outside her Hive. Would she like to see it? Without hesitation, she taps the yes button, expecting it to be from a fellow Olympic hopeful. Instead, it’s from a boy she doesn’t recognize and the comment simply reads “Break a leg… and DIE, bitch.” She inhales sharply. It’s times like these that she wishes the Bradley Act had gone further. After all, punishment only works as a deterrent if you have something to lose.

Once the initial shock wears off, she pulls up the incel’s profile to check his Digital Citizen Score or DCS. It’s low. No surprise there. Next to his comment, she clicks the Report Hateful Speech button and watches with satisfaction as his DCS drops below 10. His profile is now frozen. He can submit a petition to Hiver’s automated review system or wait the full 90 days for it to defrost. Having fulfilled her civic duty, she packs up her bag and leaves the locker room.

As she exits the arena, she spots two Loopers waving protest signs that read: “Disqualify AI” and “Keep Humans In the Loop”. She’s never had much sympathy for their cause or understood their distrust of the system. When it comes to her gymnastics routines, she’d much rather have the AI as a judge. Humans have one fatal flaw. They blink.

As she reaches the curb, the car she ordered slows to a stop. She raises her sunglasses and the door unlocks. Once her seatbelt is securely fastened the car takes off. The intelligent single passenger vehicle or iSP-V has been designed to be as lightweight as possible to reduce the amount of electricity needed. This results in a sleek, if not sterile interior, with a firm seat and minimal leg room.

Sensing her distress levels were elevated when she entered the vehicle, the iSP-V has generated a series of upbeat pop songs engineered to boost her endorphin levels back to within a normal range. Feeling better, she decides to grab a meal on her way home. She taps the iSP-V screen in front of her and scrolls through the list of healthy restaurants within a .25 mile deviation of the route home. It’s been a long day and she’s craving a bit of comfort food so she sets course for her favorite taco truck. It’s a .5 mile deviation, but it’s worth it.

As the iSP-V pulls away from the truck, the car suddenly lurches to a halt, nearly sending her tacos flying. A moment later, Mavis, the iSP-V operating system announces that the car has been attacked and the hackers are demanding 23 Mondo coins to restart the engine. She curses under her breath. The taco truck must not have installed the latest security protocols. Their Health & Safety score is downgraded to an F and her DCS is dinged .13 points. She’s annoyed, but knows the iSP-V company will pay the ransom quickly. Right on cue, Mavis announces that all systems are fully functional, apologizes for the inconvenience, and drives off.

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.