Juniper Blakely, 34, a dark-skinned, slightly-built man of Armenian/English descent, awakens at exactly 6:30 AM, as is usual for his weekday schedule. Though he is able to control his sleeping and waking schedule, he finds he’s comforted by the implanted pacemaker-type clock that guides his sleep patterns and assures him of maintaining his prescribed number of hours of sleep each night. The clock allows him to effectively plan his days, but he can always change his schedule if the need arises.
Juniper showers first, and then goes to the kitchen where he finds his breakfast waiting for him. This morning it’s a meal of vitamin-enhanced orange juice, plant-based bacon, and eggs provided by organically raised chickens from a nearby farm. He likes to vary his breakfast, and has provided his automated meal system with a list of foods he enjoys that is organized to assure optimal nutrition as well as taste variation.
While having his morning meal, he watches the news on a screen visible to him from all points in the room. He is in control of the channels, but the communication system has optimized his viewing choices over time to cater to his preferences. The volume may be lowered, raised, or muted by Juniper simply thinking about the act and confirming it to himself. He doesn’t worry about mistakes that might accidentally interrupt his viewing, since all of his previous errors are accounted for in the process, affording him the luxury of seldom having to correct or make changes to his choices.
Juniper works from home, as do his colleagues at Enstro Technologies. His job is part of a collaborative effort that corrects and adjusts programming errors for communication companies, thus reinforcing security and improving their services. His home office is just a short walk down a hallway from the kitchen, and is basically empty except for a desk. The wall behind the desk is segmented into three screens that enable him to quickly analyze data as it comes in. Juniper is exceptionally suited for multi-tasking, and can concurrently listen to music, watch a game show, and do his work, which keeps him entertained as well as productive.
Juniper’s work colleagues are located all over the world. Most speak English, but others have their speech and writing seamlessly translated into English by automated systems that document and store video and text of all interactions between the team members, vendors and communications experts. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is employed to check the accuracy of his work and that of others, which it, at any time, can approve or override as it deems necessary. His interactions on screen, aside from work, are not recorded, so he is free to listen and watch whatever shows or news reports he finds enjoyable without fear of reprimand.
For several weeks, Juniper has been working on an accuracy evaluation of certain news reports issued by information centers around the world. Fact checking has become ever more essential as the world’s leaders become more and more influenced by AI. AI provides totally objective information and conclusions for scientists, humanitarians and leaders, allowing them to quickly respond to environmental issues caused by seismic shifts, volcanic disturbances, tornadoes and other destructive weather events. AI also alerts world leaders to local uprisings, reports of espionage from guerilla groups, and terrorist threats issued from rogue space stations, many of which were constructed prior to the 2040 Global Space Accord.
The most pressing issues facing Juniper’s group are the subtle variations in contextual information provided by humans in high-level discussions, and the methods AI uses to separate subjective and objective communication. Humans unknowingly often use words and phrases that have multiple meanings that, when translated, can project a meaning other than the one intended. The objective of Juniper’s team is to assure that facts remain constant from one communication point to another. As was explained to the team by its human coordinator, conversations are often like a game of “Whisper Down the Lane,” in which a story gets inadvertently changed as it passes from one person to another, so that the message delivered to the final person in the group has become radically changed from the one told by the initial person.
Juniper’s work schedule is planned out to optimize his efficiency. Therefore, if he begins work at 7:00 AM, he gets a break between 9:30 and 11:00, during which time he can do whatever he likes. Exercise is encouraged, and an online trainer is available who will personally design a program appropriate for an in-home office. Juniper generally will join in for about a half hour, but also often uses the time for one of his hobbies that include gardening, woodworking and a model train layout that he started several years earlier, one that evokes the atmosphere of pre-World War II America. Nostalgia is a major outlet for many people in the year 2060, since life has changed so radically that men and women have little relationship with their cultural roots. Even looking back just 25 years, the changes have been so extraordinary that it often feels as one might have felt transported back five centuries from the Renaissance to the Dark Ages. Because of the rapid social transformation, organized religion has gained a great boost in membership, since people of the 21st century hunger for community, a concept seldom available in the day-to-day interactions of the modern world.
Lunchtime comes at 1:00 PM, and Juniper has the freedom to eat, interact with his wife, and work on his hobbies until 2:00. His workday normally ends at 4:00 PM, but sometimes is shorter, or can extend long into the evening, depending on the urgency of his tasks.
Leonder also works from home, in a pottery studio where she throws bowls on an antique potter’s wheel. She was educated as an engineer, but her skills were limited, so she was encouraged to find a productive endeavor more suited to those skills. Leonder had little education in the arts, but she understood mechanics, so chose to give pottery a try. In the process she discovered that she was better at the craft than she had anticipated. She also found that she could expand her output to include personalized cups, jugs, ornamental tiles, vases and sculptures. Since income wasn’t a factor, she was able to spend as much time as she liked on any one piece, and found that friends and acquaintances would gladly pay her well for “replacements” of their existing machine-made crockery, dinnerware, pots, and planting containers.
Needless to say, their own home’s interior is decorated with brightly colored tiles, as is the exterior of the house, and it’s remarkably distinctive. Juniper is somewhat envious of his wife’s success, and wishes that he could spend more time on his model railroad, recreating the scenic beauty of the trestles, train yards, saw mills and villages that once dotted the American landscape.
Despite his regrets, Juniper finds his job satisfying, often imagining it as a large jigsaw puzzle missing only a few pieces, with his job and those of his colleagues being to find each errant piece and place it in its rightful spot to reveal the complete picture of an issue. Unfortunately, Juniper is finding that the number of missing pieces keeps multiplying, with breaches developing more quickly than can be managed, and with more workers like him needed to protect the world from phishers and spammers. To compound the problem, the sophistication of the intelligence guiding systems is making it nearly impossible for human programmers to understand which alterations are safeguards and which are Trojan horses designed to trick humans into believing their efficacy. Juniper often feels that the world should be more secure than ever, while in reality all nations seem only a hair’s breadth away from collapse.
Human leaders know that “reliability” of information isn’t a new problem. It’s existed for centuries, but is more troublesome to leaders now since there is so much more information to be analyzed. Ultimately, scientists and philosophers agree that the world’s problems have become more “human” in nature, as truths and facts have become more evident and predictions more accurately proven.
Few of the answers provided by science are necessary for human life and, despite their accuracy, there consistently remains a 50%-50% balance between beliefs in religious and spiritual answers, and scientific ones. This ratio remains constant even as scientific discoveries are being utilized by nearly all of the world’s population.
Juniper thinks of this late one evening as he faithfully populates the train layout of his 1940s miniature universe, molding and painting 1:87 scale (3.5 mm to 1 foot) figurines sawing wood, climbing ladders and thumbing for rides from drivers in pre-WWII cars. His thoughts are far away as he divorces himself from the world in which he lives and works. The world in which he pretends to live is guided by false memories that ignore the plagues, mistruths and hypocrisies of the past, no doubt in an effort to cope with the hard realities of the modern world, in which there are no excuses, no falsehoods, and no hope for a better future.
“Leonder has her pottery, and I have my trains,” he thinks. Both are means of escape, while others turn to religion or hacking into the world’s computer networks. “Deliver us from evil, please!” he raises his head in prayer, before turning off his mind to focus on a tiny figure of a farmer in overalls that he’s painting with a small brush. The man is seated on a bale of hay, with folded arms and one foot on a bag of seed. He is looking upwards to a point above the horizon, perhaps at a sunset, or dreaming of a better life. “How fortunate you are, my little man,” Juniper thinks as he places his completed sculpture on the train layout next to a wagon with two children playing beside it.
Juniper turns off the lights and returns upstairs to his wife, who is already asleep, and welcomes the oblivion he will enjoy before tomorrow’s dawn.