The Day the Net Stands Still

WELCOME TO THE FUTURE
A (W.T2.F.) Sunday Series

Short Story Time

“It’s a wrap team, go home, get some rest,” says Andy’s boss.

With a grave face Andy nods that look his AIssistant AIda recognizes as the “close it up and save everything,” expression. She triple checks all systems before shutting down and popping up in Andy’s VARAI* watch.

Andy waves goodbye to his colleagues and rubs his eyes, exhausted from an entire night of code work.

At exactly 21h00 last night when VARinc issued a software update release, the entirety of the VARnet* crashed, and remains so now as the clock strikes 09h00, 12 hours later.

In a caffeine daze, Andy strolls on autopilot to the tube lift that shuttles him from the upper laboratories of VARinc. to the ground level where his PorschAI* vehicle awaits. When he’s a few strides away, AIda signals for the car door to open and Andy’s able to semi-fall in as the seat glides back to adjust perfectly to his current mood. It’s rare that he sits back during the commute without glancing at some kind of work, but today with the VARnet down, Andy doesn’t have a choice.

Unable to fall asleep despite the hum of the car that AIda’s set to resonate at a level that usually lulls him to sleep, Andy gestures for the seat to raise and does something he’s done only a few times since he used to commute with his family; he looks out the window.

“Why are we slowing down?” he asks AIda, rhetorically now as he wonders at the throngs of people on the freeway.

“AIda, what is everyone doing?” he says.

His PorschAI is in one of the first traffic jams in over ten years. Thousands of people are out in the streets, walking in such a way that at all times shoulders gently bump as heads turn in one direction, then another.

“According to the news, the failure of the VARnet last night caused a shutdown of nearly 90% of industry,” AIda reads from the DAIly News.* “Unable to attend work, or to immerse on the VARnet, denizens of the networld took to the streets to protest. Shortly after the organization of protests, crowds broke down, extra security was dismissed, and a quiet overtook cities around the world,” says AIda.

“Why?” asks Andy, but he’s beginning to understand, and AIda notes another question where there is no need to reply as Andy gestures for the PorschAI door to open.

Andy’s heard of the city reclamation project, but this is his first look IRL* from the vantage point of the freeway. This is one of the older sections, an above ground route that takes Andy to his home far out in the hills.

He stares with wonder at the greenery before him and at the building windows that peak out between the patches of forest and ivy walls. A few old buildings remain where it’s clear the creepers have only recently begun to crawl up the side of the gray walls.

In other areas, new buildings are home to elaborate balconies with open green space and rooftop with trees for shade, seating areas and even tracks for running or walking. VARnet, where he works, has all these features too, but Andy’s always chosen the VARspace for training rather than to face the outside world.

But today, with millions of other netizens, Andy is reminded of the difference between the real and the virtual. There is something here that the VARnet can’t compete with and that he and the other developers of the VARnet have yet to grasp.

As Andy joins the throngs, he’s filled with a new determination to understand both the old and the new world. He wonders what it is that paints the IRL with a beauty still absent in the digital world.

A (W.T2.F.) Series

By @scifiannemarie

This story was inspired by the temporary failure of whatsapp earlier this week. 

*VARI – virtual and augmented reality intelligent …. watch. (a.k.a., the very smart watch).

*VARnet- virtual and augmented reality network (for example, as if Steam was down for gamers- but for an entire future VAR network).

*PorschAI- luxury future sports car with all sorts of 007 (tech.) apps and gadgets integrated into the design, as well as the capacity to host a personal AIssastant as sophisticated as Andy’s  AIssistant AIda.

*DAIly News- future news channel created through IT and AI collaboration.

*IRL- in real life

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