It is the day before Kate's 21st Birthday!
Kate wakes up at 7am to the light from her phone illuminating her bedroom. She already has a list of notifications from her personalized chat rooms, morning updates, and texts from friends. Kate has less than 24 hours until she turns 21 and will be granted access to her file; she is excited to finally have access to her file but it also reminds her that the government is monitoring everything. She rolls over and goes back to sleep until 8:15am when she hears a voice from her phone telling her it is time to wake up. At this point, her computer is automatically turning on and downloading any necessary documents she needs for class and she already feels overwhelmed. Everything in her life is managed through her phone and computer and she is always connected.
As she checks each of her messages, she remembers hearing about how someone liked the ideas behind the Bulletin Board System and online chatrooms and decided that everyone should be able to communicate and share ideas. But back then you could share ideas without worrying that they were always being monitored, that was before the government took control of the Internet. The government took control of the Internet in the United States because they did not trust private companies to have access to everyone's information, and with that change came constant surveillance and monitoring. One change led to Americans always being connected and everything stored and saved online.
At 9am Kate logs onto her computer and places her notes on one side of the screen and her lecture on the other. As her professor teaches, Kate looks at the familiar faces on the screen of her classmates, and notices that behind one person it is snowing outside while another screen shows blue skies. Although Kate sees these faces several times a week, she has never met any of them in person, but this does not seem strange to her. As Kate begins to get tired and close her eyes, an alert on her computer tells her to wake up; her computer has detected that she is not paying attention and sends a message to remind her that she is in class. This is yet another way the government has intensified the way it tracks citizens and Kate tries not to let it anger her since there is nothing she can do about it. As the day goes on Kate gets alerts each time someone has posted or messaged in one of her many chats, whether it be for one of her classes, her family, her running group, or one of her other hobby groups. She checks the government’s page to see if there are any updates or alerts she needs to be aware of. She has one personalized message from the government:
Today is May 19th, 2080, it is almost your 21st birthday. Below is a username and password that will become active at midnight tonight. Go to the Citizens page to log in and access your file.
As Kate is making lunch she video chats with her friends. Everyone communicates over the internet, whether it be through online chatting or video chatting, with their friends and family because that is how everyone has been raised to interact. Kate and her friends debate what the first thing Kate should look at when she is granted access to her file at midnight tonight. Should she start with the oldest part of the file from when she was a baby, her favorite memory with her friends, or should she look back at moments with her family? None of them mention how much they actually hate this tradition or the fact that it reminds them that everything they do or say is recorded. Getting to relive old memories is not worth having the government monitor everything you say and do. But none of them say anything because they know the government is recording this conversation too. Some people have tried to resist the government tracking them by creating secret chat rooms and a couple have succeeded, but each time the government has found out and now it is almost impossible not to be tracked, so most people just accept it. Kate, however, does not accept it and she and her friends have secretly been working on a way to resist being tracked without the government noticing.
Outside the window there are several drones flying, and Kate is waiting for one to land on her balcony. She and her family have ordered food for dinner and Kate is waiting for it to be delivered. Food, clothes, and other services are all accessible through one webpage owned by the government which can be narrowed down based on a specific search and delivered to your doorstep or balcony by a drone. As Kate stands on her porch looking out at the empty streets she tries to remember the last time she even had to leave her apartment. She wishes she could have the face to face human interaction that her grandparents used to talk about, where you could speak freely. That was before the government decided that private companies should not be trusted to track information and the government took over. Americans were happy in the beginning because the government said they were taking control of the Internet to protect the citizen's privacy. But then they started monitoring and recording everything people did on the Internet and slowly started tracking people offline too and it changed how people interact.
After dinner, Kate places her hand on the device next to the keypad on her computer, which takes her temperature, her blood pressure and other vitals and automatically uploads it to her digital file. This has always been part of her nightly routine so she does not even think about it when she feels the small prick on her finger from the needle that takes a drop of blood, which is tested and the results sent to the government. Everyone has to do this each night so their information can be processed and stored in their folder. This way the government can keep track of any illnesses or repeated problems and can measure symptoms. The computer makes a “ding” noise as it reads the information it just collected and alerts Kate that she is beginning to get sick and that medicine will be at her apartment soon as a preventative measure.
Kate’s family waits up with her until it is officially her birthday because they all know this is an important day. As the clock changes to midnight Kate is officially 21, which means she can log into her file and see anything she wants; she can reread any conversation or watch any memory from her life. Kate opens her search engine, slowing typing in the page she wants to reach and inputting her new username and password when promoted. She opens her folder, not sure what to expect. Her folder has sections for each year and within that there are videos, conversations, and all of her health information neatly stored. She scrolls back to try to find a folder from ten years ago so that she can replay a video of her with her siblings. The government tracks everything which means every grocery purchase, post, text and conversation are stored in a specific persons folder. There are cameras in each household that record each interaction so that every thing can be stored and no memories are forgotten. Most people have accepted that everything they do and say is monitored and they think of it as a good thing because once they turn 21 they can access anything they want from their folder on the internet. They can access all of their information and replay a conversation whenever they want or watch a video of themselves from when they were young. But Kate and her friends feel differently. Once the government took control of the Internet they started tracking and recording everything people did online and offline too and it changed the country entirely. Most people do not see the negative sides of everything revolving around technology and therefore everything being tracked. Since all of this information is stored, there are never any controversies about what did or did not happen because there is evidence of every aspect of peoples lives and a memory can be replayed with a click of a button. But it also means there is no privacy and citizens have to be careful about what they say since the government can hear everything.
Everything is online which means it is easy to spread information, whether that be from friend to friend or from one community to another. Doctors can work together and share their findings even if they are not in person, which means there are less diseases. Everyone can communicate with one another and join different groups to share ideas or talk with friends and family or find people with shared interests. It does not matter where people live because the whole world is accessible through different platforms and you can communicate with anyone, whenever. There is a lack of physical interaction but most people do not even realize that it is something they are missing out on because they always feel connected. Kate and her friends feel differently though because they do not want everything they say and do to be tracked by the government, they want to have the freedom to say what they want and to not only interact over a screen. They do not know how long it will take to create a method to get around being tracked but they are sure that others feel the same way and can help them resist tracking.
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