A chilling scenario portends a possible future.
I PReDiCt that in the near fu- ture a low-budget movie will become a phenomenon. It will be circulated on the In- ternet, shared in the millions
via mobile telephones, and dominate
Facebook for a full nine days. It will
show ordinary people going about their
everyday lives as slowly, subtly, everything starts to go wrong as described in
the following events.
A middle-aged man notices the advertisements that pop up with his Web
searches are no longer related to the
search, but to odd and random products and services—hair replacement,
sports cars, retirement homes, second
career counseling, fantasy vacations,
divorce lawyers, treatments for depression and impotence.
A young professional woman, recently laid off because of the bad economy, posts an Internet ad to sell her
piano. The ad doesn’t mention that she
needs the money to pay her rent. None
of the offers are as high as her asking
price, but two offer exactly what she
owes for rent (to the penny) and one offers exactly $100 more.
The seven most troublesome students at a high school notice that wherever they go, they run into one or more
of their three meanest teachers.
IllustratIon by VIktor koen
An elderly couple starts hearing
voices in their assisted-living apartment, faint whispers they can barely
“She just got out of bed.”
“The coffee machine is on.”
These merely perplexing events become ever more ominous as thousands
of people, then millions, realize they
are always being watched, they have
no privacy, and their every decision is
controlled by some unseen force. Four-sevenths of moderate Americans who
are likely to vote begin to slide from the
middle to the extreme right or left, not
knowing why. It gets worse and worse. It
seems like Armageddon.
pathizers were taking over America—
The Invasion of the Info Snatchers will
play on our high-tech anxiety as our
online lifestyles, position-broadcast-ing cellphones, and protective monitoring devices are inexorably compromised, exploited, and joined by ever
more subtle devices.
Just as the 1956 film Invasion of the
Body Snatchers encapsulated the Red
Scare zeitgeist with its depiction of or-
dinary people being replaced by exact
replicas who are actually aliens bent
on taking over the world—as many
feared that Communist spies and sym-
The preceding descriptions are in-
tended to be satirical, but all of these
scenarios are possible today, though
their probability varies. What seems
most unlikely to me, though, is that
people are and will be nervous about
being swept away in the rising tide of
pervasive information technology.
Pervasive computing, ubiquitous
computing, ambient intelligence, and