The title kinda says it all, doesn’t it? File this one under “if this goes on…”
It’s spring, and when the all-too-frequent rain lets up, the birds are out doing spring bird things, which are the same things much of the animal kingdom are up to, including people — improving their nests or other lairs, wooing and being wooed, laying eggs whether internally or externally. So, naturally my mind rolled the spring birds in with the bits I’ve been reading about cybernetic eyes and Google patenting cameras contained in a contact lens and the seemingly inevitable tide of the surveillance, or at least very, very low privacy culture.
Also, I recalled an old may-be-rumor-may-be-real tale about the CIA wiring up a cat to spy on the Soviet embassy sometime back in the days of the Cold War, complete with spiraling a hair-thin wire antenna all the way up the poor thing’s tail.
Isn’t it just a matter of time before someone somewhere concludes that spy drones are far too obvious and fallible? The next logical step, if you want to peek at what everyone is up to in parks and backyards (where people go to talk in movies when they think they’re being spied on), is to wire up the wildlife.
If a camera can be built into a contact lens, why not into a squirrel’s retina? Or a sparrow’s?
Yes, it sounds a bit cruel and potentially detrimental to the health of the wildlife — especially if word gets around that the wildlife are spying on people — but when has that ever stopped the powers that be? Or about half of the general citizenry, if you think I’m being cynical? We’re still breaking up dogfighting rings — what’s to stop someone from injecting something into the eye of the ex’s dog to keep an eye on him or her?
You can ease your worries a bit — the technology probably isnt’ quite there. So you don’t have to worry about faithful Fluffy curled up by your side.
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I’m going to guess most of you have heard of good ol’ Monsanto. To many people and according to many opinion pieces, “good ol'” translates to “sonsofbitches” or worse. Among their many unpopular moves is the infamous crop seed that grows just fine, but the seed that crop yields is infertile, good for making food (how good or not-so-good is the subject of much debate) but not for growing more crops.
That way, the ages-old practice of saving seed can no longer “steal” Monsanto’s profits. Every time a farmer wants to grow a crop, they must buy new seeds. No more freeloading on the bounty of nature the way the last ten or twenty thousand years’ worth of humans have for you, 21st century farmers! And there are other entanglements Monsanto and their bretheren in agribusiness offer, but this is the one I’m concerned with here.
The imagination doesn’t have to stretch terribly far to imagine this principle of planned obsolescence (or rather, planned sterility) applied to things other than corn and wheat. If it could be pulled off with chickens and pigs and cows, the potential profits soar.
It seems villainous, but if it could be pulled off with humans, involuntarily, carried and spread perhaps by a common hearty virus or bacterium or similarly unicellular and ubiquitous — something common, like a cold or herpes or e coli or yeast — people would flock to whoever held the “baby-key,” cash in hand.
Unless they didn’t have enough cash.
There are enough people around now who despise the “leeches,” the “forty-seven percent who won’t take responsibility for their own lives,” the “useless eaters,” the “[massively racist or other -ist assumption about demographic X all being poor and shiftless],” or the class I belong to, “people who viciously choose to be born to parents who don’t have a hell of a lot of money.”
Can you think of someone who, given the chance, would happily release this hypothetical reproduction-ransoming virus and take joy in the idea of restricting reproduction to couples who can scrape together $100,000 cash, for example?
Some execrable Martin Shkreli of a human being, perhaps?
The only hope the poor would have would be the services of some gallant Robin Hoodesque genehacker, stealing the intellectual baby-unlocking property of the rich and giving pregnancy to the poor. There’s something very cyberpunky about the whole idea, isn’t there?
Let’s hope this scenario stays in my imagination.
(This story appeared on my Patreon page on the 19th – become a patron, because you see posts early, get FREE ebooks 30 days ahead of release, and also because I am straining mightily to make writing and dreaming into a family-supporting business. I need your help to do it, whether it’s by pledging or by reading and sharing my posts and stories!)