Hearts And Minds

Entry by: Alex Fleet

3rd November 2016
Their Hearts and Minds

It’s great, with this inserted microchip. It saves carrying any sort of paperwork with me – I only have to stand by the verification checkout in the shop and press a button to confirm I wish to buy something. The chip communicates with the system to report who I am, the purchase is debited from my account. I don’t need to carry a wallet. Ideal for the beach, especially if I’m going bare. And it’s the same for everything else – if I have some sort of medical emergency all my info is there for the first responders. If the car breaks down it will confirm membership of the rescue organisation: if the police want to check my driving licence they just scan me.

It’s not actually too advanced an idea – we’ve been microchipping our pets for the last two or three decades.

We’re only in the twenty-twenties and things are unrecognisable from just a few years ago. Things have advanced so much this century. I remember seeing TV programmes about artificial intelligence ten-odd years ago. Has anyone noticed that it is here? All our decisions are taken for us. We think we consult with computers for their input, but in fact they are driving us instead. Anyone noticed that? Ten years ago they were already influencing our choices of purchases with suggestions on the internet, anticipating our likes and dislikes. Things have now moved on apace and the system, in being self-teaching, learning from errors and mistakes, has become able to give us information in a format that we find positive or negative and therefore make a judgement on that information we have been given. So the computer system makes the decision and lets us think we have decided, so everyone is happy.

Like any organisation - political, religious or rebellious - computers are now manipulating us.

The system seems to work very well though. As far as I can see, the computers that run the world – and like any governing organisation, it is totally faceless, the process being spread amongst thousands, millions of individual computers worldwide – does seem to have a good balance of making things productive and ensuring increasing quality of life for us humans, mixed with sensible choices regarding the effects of its decisions upon the environment. It could easily be that the system would ignore the environmental factor, but in fact it seems to be increasingly sensitive to it.

For example, where humans have wanted to arrange eradication of various animals because it was considered that they affected our activities – for example the culling of seal pups to stop them becoming adults who eat our fish – the computer system has vetoed that decision and provided sensible alternatives.

However, I have noticed that we are not told things we might find unpleasant, unless it is for a purpose. What I mean is, that I am aware of things going on that are not being reported.

For example, I heard a rumour that there was a football match somewhere, that nobody came out alive from. Thousands of folks, all gathered in one place, just disappeared. I never heard anything about it on the news or on social media.

Other rumours reckon that the microchips buried within us have the ability to give each of us an almighty electric shock that kills us instantly. It apparently is double-redundant, affecting the heart and the mind, so even if the heart somehow continues pumping, and the shock doesn’t totally kill our brain, we are turned into cabbages, to be collected later.

I can’t imagine that is the case, though I do wonder if the computers might eventually make the correlation between there being too many of us humans on the planet and a need to cull us. Hm, there’s food for thought.

I’m now looking out the window, far into the distance, deep in thought. Beyond the pedestrian precinct a few floors below me are rooftops, then the railway, then the park, one of the rare stretches of green around here. I was there earlier, then on the way back called in the shops just below me.

Suddenly I realise that there is silence. I look down, at the street below. There is not a movement. Except for the robotised street cleaners removing a street-full of limp bodies. I go cold.

I think of the microchips. I think of those people’s hearts and minds, shorted out in one instant.

It is true. We have decided in the past it is best to cull when a population becomes unsustainable. Now the computers are doing it.

How is the decision made? It is the ‘who jumps out the balloon to save the others’ scenario. But this artificial intelligence is making that decision now.

It was the turn of those people in the street.

Whose turn would be next?

My eye is caught by a sudden movement across the street, in a building just below. I can see into the offices: one of the staff has glanced out the window, but even though I can not hear her scream, I can see it. It was straight out of Munch’s paintings. Her colleagues all jump up and run to the windows, I can see them milling around in panic. Don’t worry, wherever you go your fate will be the same.

Will it be your turn next? They drop to the floor as one, still and silent.

When will it be my tu