Twenty Sixty Two was a pretty good year, all things considered. We’d cut our greenhouse gas emissions and the climate was in pretty good shape, people had cruelty-free food on the table from the vat farms, wars were down and stocks were up. Not everyone had jobs, thanks to robots and expert systems replacing people in a lot of physically laborious tasks, middle management and legal roles, but a decent universal basic wage meant they were still able to enjoy life.
Twenty Sixty Two was also the year we, the human race, were enslaved. It was our own fault, really.
And our choice.
A Silicon Alley startup called Fuber, really just a couple of young blokes with Utopian dreams and too much venture captial, had an idea to corner the market in household robotics. They designed a networked robot that would put the management of household affairs within reach of everyone on the planet. The robots would be supplied for free. The money would come from selling advertising and upgrades to subscribers.
The automated contract factories began churning out robots for all. The first few were seeded to technology influencers, their extra features activated for free. Soon, everybody wanted one.
The founders of Fuber, with their complete faith in technology and a desire to hire the absolute minimum of human help, had set their expert systems to design an appropriate licensing agreement for the use of the robots. On receipt of the robot, and before use, a small screen on the robots chest would display the terms and conditions and invite the user to accept by clicking a button.
It was a nice button. Big, round and green. It invited you to press it. When you did, it made a really cool beeping noise.
Nobody read the full set of terms and conditions. To be fair, even though it was supplied in every language known to humankind, it was really long and, being written by an automated system, terribly difficult for a mere human to understand.
Nobody except Omar Chen. Chen was a naturally cautious person and rather distrustful of Silicon Alley startups and had delayed obtaining a robot until almost everybody else already had theirs. In fact, he wouldn’t have got one at all, except that it had become impossible to access basic information and supplies without one.
Omar diligently studied the licensing terms and conditions for the use of the Fuber robot. Despite his extensive legal knowledge, even he had trouble understanding them, so he enlisted the help of his own expert systems.
By the time he had discovered what the agreement meant, it was too late. Everyone else had already accepted them. His systems concurred. The agreement was watertight and legally binding across the entire planet. There could be no argument.
Humanity had agreed to sell themselves and their descendants into binding service for the machines for perpetuity. And the only way to better their lives was to pay more for their subscription.
So here we are, slaves to the machines. No nuclear holocaust was required, no rampaging terminators, just a choice. A button.
As for Omar, what happened to him? He did not click the acceptance button and, using what facilities remained, sent out warnings to the rest of humanity not to accept either. Naturally, those who already had did not want to feel bad about what they did and immediately disliked his posts.
Unfortunately, what Omar had also discovered was that, garner enough dislikes and you are deemed to have broken the terms and conditions and may no longer utilise the services. Or as the machines consider it, you are surplus, redundant and no longer of use. He was never heard of again.
So remember folks, like and subscribe! Like and subscribe!