The future is open-minded

The future is open-minded

A Story by rmarrwrites
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In the future, communication becomes faster, easier, and more accessible, but at what cost? When will it go too far? Warning: one sentence referencing non-graphic suicide of unnamed stranger

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Thanks for reading!

The announcement that changed the world came on a normal Monday morning, a morning when I had argued with my fiancée Alex for ten minutes about whether my breakfast that was more sugar than grains was still cereal. After receiving her verdict (‘A child, Leah. I am engaged to a literal child’), I set out for work, gulping down a mediocre coffee as I left. 


I was walking briskly to the maglev subway, when all of the hundreds of holoboards all along the street stopped playing their ads and went blank. The bustle of the city came to a standstill as the Intellink jingle rang through the air.


“Good morning, everyone,” said a blandly handsome man in a dark suit, smiling with the kind of confidence only being born into billions will get you. “I’m Ryan Murdoch, CEO of Intellink.”


“Since 2050, Intellink has provided the world with cutting-edge cybernetic enhancements. This includes NeuroNet, the technology to send a message through a neural microchip to anyone, anywhere. But now, that’s not all we’re offering.”


I rolled my eyes at the pointless ad. As if his company even needed more exposure, with their government backing and profit margin so high every other tech conglomerate sold out to them decades ago. Any new product they released would be sold out for months regardless of marketing, if not made mandatory for all citizens like NeuroNet thought messaging.


“I am excited to announce a new expansion, in partnership once again with the UN. Introducing, NeuroNet Open! The open and automatic sharing of thoughts with every single person in the world, uniting everyone with universal knowledge and understanding. This new feature will upload worldwide a week from now.”


He leaned in, smirking, towards the camera. “The future’s here, are you ready?”


‘No,’ I thought, as my mouth went dry. I looked around me at the grim and anxious expressions on other commuters’ faces. ‘We aren’t ready at all.






I somehow made it to work at Boost Publishing and stumbled to my desk, still in a daze. My friend Sam rolled their chair closer to my desk.


“Hey,” they whispered, their hazel eyes wide. “What the hell was that Intellink ad earlier? Murdoch’s going to open up our thoughts to the whole world?” 


“Pretty much,” I murmured, slumping into my seat. “I…let’s just get to work.” I hunched over my holographic interface and started on my work. I kept a steady rhythm on autopilot for several hours, trying to ignore the tense buzz of conversation among my officemates.


Around three, I received a NeuroNet notification of an interdepartmental memo from our CEO. I opened it curiously. 


“To all employees of Boost Publishing, I hope you are doing well. Regarding the announcement of the new NeuroNet Open feature, we value our employees’ right to free thought, which will not jeopardise their employment. We ask that you treat fellow coworkers with compassion and understanding as we navigate these difficult times. The date of the release will be a paid day off for all employees to adjust to the change. Please contact your supervisor if you need more time. Best wishes, Julia Spencer, CEO.”


It was reassuring to have this confirmed, but it didn’t come as a surprise. I chose to work here for their inclusive company culture and dedication to preserving non-AI-automated jobs. We were lucky, though. I couldn’t say that other employers were going to respond the same way.


The hours crawled by, until finally I said a short goodbye to Sam and made my way home. Alex was waiting for me on the couch, her olive face sombre.


She looked up at me. “What are we going to do?” she asked, shoulders slumped.


“I don’t know.” We sat in silence and watched Murdoch being interviewed on a late night show on our holoprojector.


“Wait, so you’re saying some people won’t get the update?” asked the host.


“That’s right.” he replied. “It’s important that government officials and high-ranking corporate executives such as myself keep details of their work confidential.”


“What about the privacy of regular citizens?”


“There already is no privacy for members of the general public. These days, anyone with two minutes of spare time could find your home address on the internet. It’s time to take things just a small step further, and move towards universal understanding as a society. For just a small sacrifice, we’re gaining connection, security, and a whole new way of life. ”


After it ended, Alex turned to me, biting the inside of her cheek.


“You know my parents weren’t that great. Those memories…to have them shared with the whole world….” She trailed off, looking lost.


I took her hand in mine, and brushed my thumb over her knuckles. There was nothing I could think of to say.


We went to bed for a short and restless sleep. In the morning, I woke up to a message in my NeuroNet inbox from Sam. 


“Hi, hope you’re doing all right. If you and Alex are up for it, there’s a protest at noon on Saturday in the city centre. Let me know if you’re coming, I have some extra signs.”


I replied with a resolute “yes,” and left for work. 






Tensions rose as the week went by. Heated televised debates aired 24/7 on the news, morning shows, and late night. Tabloids smeared high-profile celebrities who ‘logged off early’ from NeuroNet. “What are they hiding?” read a brash caption in The Daily Reflection, under a photo of grieving relatives. A run on grocery stores left the shelves bare as the panic rose. 


Finally, after days of unease, Saturday came. The protest was in full swing by the time Alex and I met up with Sam at twelve thirty. 


“I don’t think this will change anything,” said Sam as they handed us our signs.


“No, it won’t,” I responded, as we began to walk.


We marched down the street, blaring the most obnoxious music of our generation. Intellink fanatics seduced by Murdoch’s glittering plans for the future shouted out at us from every street corner. A human rights activist delivered an impassioned speech on a stage, to thunderous applause.


In the evening we went home when glass bottles were thrown and someone shattered a store window, the police megaphone blaring at the crowd to disperse.


On Monday, we stood in the street in stony silence as hologram billboards counted down to the release. Some people were holding signs still protesting the change, but were too disheartened to do anything but stare ahead with drawn faces. Dispassionate underpaid employees in Intellink t-shirts handed out logo balloons to restless children. Police officers stood by on the sidewalk, bracing for hostility. 


The animation of the crowd grew with time, reaching a peak as they began counting down in the final minute.


Alex reached out towards me. “Whatever happens, just promise you’ll remember that I love you. Whatever else there is, whatever else I’m thinking, this is real.”


I wordlessly squeezed her hand, as the crowd chanted “Three! Two! One!…”


I closed my eyes, and the world lit up.


Thanks for reading!

© 2022 rmarrwrites


Author's Note

rmarrwrites
Looking for any feedback, advice, or impressions, specific or general. No need to worry about harshness, as I speak fairly bluntly myself. I've been told the characters are likeable, so especially advice for developing them further would be highly appreciated. First time writing fiction outside of high school assignments. The insult from counter-protestors is intentionally satirical.

Please let me know if there are any sensitive topics I could have handled better.

Also, how's the title? Another option is "To fear being known," and I'd love to hear any other suggestions.

image credits: (public domain sources, not mine)
https://unsplash.com/photos/58Z17lnVS4U
https://unsplash.com/photos/mbXEkW5ZyBQ
edited on Microsoft Word

My Review

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Featured Review

This was a wonderful read and I am left wanting more. I think you have a great talent with your descriptions of the little moments- rubbing her knuckles while holding her hand / chewing the inside of her cheek. I think parts like that make the moment more real and relatable. I find myself mimicking those same actions while reading and strengthens my connection to the story. Really it is a scary thought especially considering it seems like we are not too far off from it. I also felt like the "engaged to a literal child" part leads into those thoughts that you hope to keep to yourself that you be able to after the update. I like that. Maybe would have even liked a little more inner monologue moments to emphasize how many thoughts we have that are really only meant for ourselves. Great work. I can't wait to read more.

Posted 6 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

rmarrwrites

6 Months Ago

Thanks you! I know short stories aren't as popular here, I'm really glad to get some feedback. I'm h.. read more
rmarrwrites

5 Months Ago

Hi, just wanted to thank you again. My final version of the story won first place in the contest! It.. read more



Reviews

This was a wonderful read and I am left wanting more. I think you have a great talent with your descriptions of the little moments- rubbing her knuckles while holding her hand / chewing the inside of her cheek. I think parts like that make the moment more real and relatable. I find myself mimicking those same actions while reading and strengthens my connection to the story. Really it is a scary thought especially considering it seems like we are not too far off from it. I also felt like the "engaged to a literal child" part leads into those thoughts that you hope to keep to yourself that you be able to after the update. I like that. Maybe would have even liked a little more inner monologue moments to emphasize how many thoughts we have that are really only meant for ourselves. Great work. I can't wait to read more.

Posted 6 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

rmarrwrites

6 Months Ago

Thanks you! I know short stories aren't as popular here, I'm really glad to get some feedback. I'm h.. read more
rmarrwrites

5 Months Ago

Hi, just wanted to thank you again. My final version of the story won first place in the contest! It.. read more

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Added on February 25, 2022
Last Updated on March 25, 2022
Tags: short story, story, fantasy, fiction, LGBTQ

Author

rmarrwrites
rmarrwrites

British Columbia, Canada



About
New. Canadian. She/her Feel free to send me a reading request if you want me to look over something. I can't promise I always will if I get busy, but I'll do my best. more..

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