A SMART LIFE

A story about the future of decentralised [un] employment.

By Filippo Yacob

CHAPTER 1 - GOOD MORNING ROLANDO

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” - Proverbs 19:9

ON THE OTHER SIDE of the world Rolando was awakened by the voice of his alarm clock. A whisper at first, a triumphant quire by snooze three. It stopped abruptly when satisfied with Rolando's presence. What followed was a sequence of tasks that got Rolando ready for the day, every day.

First up, after a methodical stretch, still in his underwear, a workout in front of the smart mirror; Edmund. A gift from his nephew who wanted Rolando to take better care of his ageing body. It took Edmund 2 weeks to train Rolando up to 30 minutes of HIIT training. Impressive for a man of Rolando’s age.

Then followed a shower. Rolando bathed inside Enid, the smart cleansing cubicle. Also a gift. The days of awkward jousting with the temperature knobs, negotiating the thin red line between a freezing cold shower and a fantastically hot one, were long gone. The water was always perfect.  

Getting dressed was next. Romina, the smart wardrobe, picked Rolando’s outfits. Always on trend, perfectly ironed, and weather appropriate. The rest of his routine was also performed with the frictionless assistance of an entire troop of smart appliances. Everything in Rolando’s house was smart. From cooking pots to door-knobs, not a single one of Rolando’s belongings functioned without intelligence.

There was one task however, which Rolando still laboured through “the old fashioned way”. Inside an obsolete, stainless steel pot, Rolando pressed his morning coffee by hand. Day in, day out, the results were mediocre and inconsistent, but Rolando didn’t do it for the taste. He did it as a quiet reminder of his right to inefficiency. Why though, he wasn’t quite sure.

CHAPTER 2 - HOMUS CONNECTUS

“If our era is the next Industrial Revolution, as many claim, AI is surely one of its driving forces.” - Fei-Fei Li

IN THE EARLY DECADES of the millenia, Megacorp Inc had fallen asleep at the wheel. A prolonged stint at the industry's helm had turned the once dynamic underdog into a complacent rent seeking sloth, and sales for their fabled “smart appliances” line began to falter. Their smart products were just not that smart anymore, and Megacorp was on a steady glide to bankruptcy.

It was a pair of consultants, hired by The Board, who would eventually figure out the unlikely solution to Megacorp’s big problem. Surprisingly, the solution to making smart products smart again, was not the advent of Artificial Intelligence, as many in the world of technology had predicted, but basic, genuine human intelligence. By connecting every one of Megacorp’s smart devices to an actual human mind, Megacorp could, in theory, make their devices truly smart again.

The service launched on January 1st 2022. In 12 months, every able-minded man and woman in the state of Puerto Rico found gainful employment assisting the furnishings of every home in the state of Colorado. Within 36 months, all of the 1.3 billion citizens of India were paid minimum wage supervising devices across the European continent, and within 3 decades, every device in the world, watched over by an authentic human intelligence, was finally well and truly smart.

Megacorp’s P&L had been decisively cured, but more importantly, for the first time in human history, every person was earning a living. Without intending to, Megacorp’s had galvanized civilization into its 5th and final industrial revolution. Everyone on earth had become something, and beyond that, everyone on earth had become everything.

CHAPTER 3 - GENERATION S

“I am Jack's complete lack of surprise.” - Jack's Lack Of Surprise

EVERY MORNING at 10:00am, coffee in hand, Rolando sat at his desk, popped in his link, and got to work. Rolando's workstation was pleasant. A specious desk pressed against a bright synthetic window, a comfortable chair with wheels, an earthenware pot with a cactus growing from it, and Like the rest of Rolando’s possessions, smart and personable.  

At age 87, Rolando worked 2 government mandated jobs. He was a fire extinguisher in a Brooklyn brown-stone by day, and an alarm clock in a London loft by night. The first shift was especially boring, as well as redundant, but after 3 decades hoovering the floors of a New Delhi apartment inside a Roomba, his previous occupation, he didn't complain.

Hung from a bracket on a wall, Rolando spent his mornings daydreaming. He fantasized about all manners of things catching fire, from toasters to curtains. What would he do? Which of the 3 pre-set emergency alarms would he trigger? Every so often, Rolando also thought about his childhood. His mother to be specific, who prior to the Connectaning, had raised Rolando alone, in a favela. An unimaginable predicament by modern day standards.

He didn't remember much. People of Rolando’s age were known as first generation Smart Citizens. Gen-S for short. Born on the cusp of Megacorp’s great disruption. Old enough to have lived the old order, young enough not to remember much of it. Rolando was old, and soon there would be no one left to remember any of it at all.

CHAPTER 4 - THE REVOLUTION WON'T BE CENTRALISED

“The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope” - Karl Marx

THE DISRUPTION WAS FEROCIOUS. An unstoppable wave that swallowed all previous economic models, structures and belief systems along with it. First to jump in were so-called Third World countries, lifted out of abject poverty overnight, only to find their wealthier neighbours not as welcoming of their new equals as expected.

First World governments lost total control as Policy making became door-knob polishing exercises, and money became obsolete. There was no way to stop the change without stopping human-life itself. Pareto efficiency was suddenly exposed as the great statistical lie perpetrated by the keepers of a system under attack, and the more people noticed, the more violent the revolution turned.

Megacorp’s new technology ultimately created complete and lasting equality, but not without great loss. The concept of democracy became dated, and the practical applications of nations and welfare states became redundant. Humankind had become indistinguishable from machine kind, all of it now floating in an intangible sea-like body of neurons, bits and atoms.

And then it stopped... the white horses gave way to a gentle swell, lulling the inhabitants of planet Megacorp back and forth, in a new primordial soup of connected intelligence. Human nature was forever changed, with only Rolando’s generation left as witnesses. Without knowing, or wanting, they sacrificed it all so that everyone could become someone.

To be continued...