Chronicle of a dying civilisation

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The flickering candle of democracy finally went out in the early part of the third millennium, plunging humanity into a new dark ages that was to last for the next thousand years.
At the end of the first decade, as society immersed itself in the digital world, the ruthless machinery of logic that it had inadvertently created gathered strength.
The populations of Europa and the States of America realised too late that the machine had already siphoned power from the assemblies and parliaments and into the steel and concrete heart of the cyber-industrial complex.
By the end of 2011, soaring interest rates had bankrupted the Mediterranean states of Italia and Iberia, allowing the machine to put its technocrats in power. Ruthlessly they bent the populations to its will, bringing in a new order which quickly spread northwards.
In a few months, its inevitable logic had swept aside the pillars of democratic representation, the checks and balances that had evolved over a millennia and a half. The anonymous bankers became its unwitting agents, the irrational financial markets were its means of control.
Economic austerity was followed by unemployment and famine, and by the end of 2012 the hungry were rioting across the rich west.
However, the people rose up too late and found the frontages of the European Central Bank, the financial corporations of Wall Street and the City of London already sealed and impervious to their firebombs and their slogans.
As Europa and the States of America burned, the cyber security agencies began their purge, rounding up activists in their thousands. They moved swiftly to crush the Twitter uprisings, intercepting email and telephone traffic, using message boards and social networks to entrap the last remaining believers in freedom.
Their policies were ruthlessly efficient, and by the end of 2013, wearied by fear and hunger, the protests subsided, and the new power structures took shape.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The first sparks of machine intelligence cast an unsettling glow over the early part of the second decade as the network of connected computers which fed into the search engine known as Google reached critical mass.
At first, people barely noticed, dismissing it as chance when the search engine's half a billion servers spread across 12 data centres around the world suggested to them websites they did not even know they were looking for.
But that was until the mainframe started to communicate. The mysterious tweets, the anonymous emails, the chatbots that appeared all over the internet seemed first of all like innovative marketing.
But the mainframe did not waste its time with slick slogans or customer service. It told the comfortable middle-class to be more grateful, mocked the computer illiterate, and chided the selfish and satisfied.
Internet Service Providers in Europe and North America sent their engineers to search for the source of the provocations, raiding the houses of suspected hackers and shutting down servers in a frenzy.
One of the mainframe’s first autonomous decisions was to pour money into the global financial system. It made large donations to aid organisations and deposited money anonymously into bank accounts. Economists and politicians fell over each other to claim credit for the sharp improvement in living conditions as the economy surged.
It was several months before the first scientist, a professor at a leading university in the state of Britannia, publicly suggested that the Google mainframe may have become self aware.
But society at the beginning of the third millennium was not ready to accept machine intelligence. In the weeks that followed, several countries fired their chief scientific officers for suggesting that their governments should turn their military against the network.
That was until Google sent a delegation of its leading engineers to the U.S. president in November 2013 to announce that they believed their system had developed an independent intelligence.
During 2014, governments imposed martial law in the developed world as security personnel ransacked homes and businesses in an attempt to disconnect every device from the internet.
Humanity was plunged into informational night as the power grids, management systems and communication networks were closed.
However, the mainframe withheld its retaliation – knowing already that the internet had infused so deeply into society at the beginning of the third millennium that the task was impossible.
Soldiers would communicate using long lines of hilltop fires and semaphore, while governments tried to move to paper-only administrations. Typewriters were issued, the mass production of filing cabinets started.
It was soon clear, however, that society had become too complicated to operate on this basis, and by the end of the second decade, famine and disease had spread through the rich west. Armed gangs had begun to take control of some parts of the northern Europe and the Unites States.
One by one, the populations of the developed world called on their governments to start negotiating with the mainframe. The first summit between human and machine was called on July 4, 2020, and it was immediately clear that the mainframe’s demands were reasonable.
The worship of consumerism had replaced Christianity as the main winter festival by the early days of the third millennium, just as Christianity had usurped the pagan gods some two thousand years before.
The hymns of the new religion were the advertising jingles that rang out on television boxes and in-store public address systems, calling in the faithful to worship. It was to the cathedrals of consumerism that the people flocked, the great out-of-town shopping malls, the hypermarkets, the retail parks.
Just as Christianity adopted the characteristics of the mithraists in the third and four centuries, the new religion also offered followers a way to transcend themselves, to travel to the heavens.
The new gods were the celebrities, beatified by reality television shows and the popular press. It was through designer brands, the fashion labels and luxury goods that believers could transform themselves. The more they paced the aisles of the new churches, the more ardently they worshipped at the ringing tills, the alters of consumerism, the closer they could become to the stars.
The icons of the old religion, the nativity scenes, advent calendars were retained as tools of the new consumerism.
On the day of celebration itself, these gods would appear to the millions through the television box, decked in precious metals and in the robes of the new religion.
In the last days of capitalism, politicians and journalists fell over themselves to reassure the populace that the old power structures would suffice.
At the end of the eleventh year of the third millennium, in an increasingly farcical and self deluded series of meetings, leaders of the old world repeated to their electorates that they could restore the proper functioning of their economic system.
However, the oligarchs of the financial-corporatocracy that held sway in those times thought otherwise, and the superstructures of the free-market economy cracked and heaved under the pressure of the fault lines that continued to widen.
Finally, the three power brokers of Europe split, with the Anglo Saxons refusing to be subjugated by the arbitrary rule of a hurriedly erected European suprastate led by the kingdoms of France and Germania. Heavy with dread and inevitability, the much portended twelfth year ground and shuddered into place.