Contraband, 2053

Jul 16, 2013 by     Comments Off on Contraband, 2053    Posted under: Brian Wrote This, Fiction
I probably won’t go to jail, but the data will end up on my permanent record. The algorithms see everything. All my electronics watch me, report on me, and if I drop off the grid, they’ll know I’m hiding something.

You don’t go to jail for this sort of thing, but there’s a pretty stiff fine. Worse, it ends up in your civil matrix, a permanent black point. The real trick is managing to avoid being detected. Not by human agents—there’s not enough FedSec eyes to watch everyone all the time, or even review the data streams we produce every waking and sleeping moment—they say. But the algorithms. The algorithms see everything.

They say the average person generates 451 prime-level data points per hour. The phonetab on my wrist has an accelerometer that will tell the system that I’m not in motion. The signal throughput to my home hub probably indicates which room I’m in, too, so the data cruncher surmises that I’m sitting in my living room. Biometrics will indicate that I’m not asleep. Video’s not running on any of my devices, so I’m not consuming authorized media, or using an input device. Not moving enough to be doing household chores, and enviro sensors won’t pick up cleaning chemicals or whatever. So automatically, without even suspicion, the system tries to surmise my current activity and rate it, as it rates everything all of us do, against the federal threat matrix. My background data—from school records to lifetime retail downloads—will indicate that I’m an at-risk person for this kind of violation. I’ll have gone an hour or more without updating my LiveStatus or sending a MicroBurst—silence is suspicious.

Worst thing is, they catch you with one of these, they’ll want to know where you got it. They’re relentless. They know there’s an underground network, and that there are a lot of people who, even if they don’t buy, trade or transport this kind of contraband, will turn a blind eye to those that do. A victimless crime, they’ll say, though it isn’t—shouldn’t be—any kind of crime at all. But the cops will sweat you for names long before you can apply for a lawyer consult, just so they can pass something good up to the FedSecs.

I’ve turned off the cam on my iGlaz, so there’s no record of what I’m seeing. It’s pretty hard to find the off-setting on the cam, so that alone is a suspicious act. You get profiled. Plus, I knew a woman who did this so often, and was so constantly nervous about it, that she nearly lost her health coverage. Her biofeedback suggested high blood pressure, heart condition, all sorts of genetic pre-exists. She had to quit cold-turkey for a good three months just to get her vitals in line again.

And here I go, about to take my first hit of this forbidden pleasure. I admit that for a moment I nearly chicken out. I could stream a video instead, or get this exact property from an authorized digital retailer. That time, that content, would get logged into my civil matrix, my lifelong evolving profile. What media I consumed, my biometric reaction, what that reveals about my state of mind, my attitude toward society and the system and whatever other meaning they decide to attach to it, until the day they profile me as a terrorist, a terror-symp, a deviant, whatever. Even being labeled an “intellectual” can make your life hell. They don’t arrest or rehab you for it, but just try getting a job.

Fuck it. I’ve gotta do one reckless thing in my life. So I manually turn on a lamp—the guy who gave me the package warned me I’d need my own backlighting—and hope that doesn’t add too much to the data picture. I feel the weight of it in my lap, heavier and larger than a handtab, and lacking the smooth plastic/glass feel of pretty much every object I’ve ever touched. Paper, surprisingly stiff and smelling like dust and old people. It actually crackles as I turn back the hard front cover. I run my finger over the words on the title page, imagining I can feel the texture of the ink.

Eyes closed, I take a deep breath. Then I open them again and, alone and unseen, start to read.

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