Everyone in Silicon Valley knew why Google Glass was a complete failure, but they didn’t broadcast it to the masses for fear of insulting their intelligence. In public, technologists made a big show of new devices making it easier for people to live and work, but in private they had long ago learned that if you want to get rich in tech, you must execute one of two strategies.
The first is to entertain. Distract people with shiny movements and colors that don’t force them to think of their miserably boring existence and you’ll stand to make billions of dollars. The second strategy is to provide validation. If you can invent something which allows a person to think they are important, a superstar on a virtual stage of their making, an electronic wheelbarrow must be bought out to carry off the money you will make.
The reason Google Glass failed, it turned out, was because selfies could not be taken. Technically you could take a selfie in the mirror while wearing the device, but Facebook statistics showed that those pictures got only 10% of the total likes compared to standard smartphone selfies with one leg up on the toilet bowl and lips brought forward ever so slightly. Google Glass did not entertain or validate, and so it failed, leading to the eventual merging of Google and Microsoft. Products from the resulting Googlesoft touched nearly all of the world’s population. Any threat to one of its businesses by a plucky upstart could be bought for spare change.
After ushering in self-driving cars, which put one million drivers out of work (a negligible cost for lowering the road fatality rate to practically zero), Googlesoft failed to bring forth a single innovative product. Profits were flat for several years. Shareholders demanded something be done.
Edward Smiley worked in the Advanced Products division of Googlesoft. He played a big part in developing hologram technology for smartphones, where images and video were projected above the phone so more than one person at a time could view funny memes and Youtube pranks. While a huge step forward technically, enough to change the name of smartphones to geniusphones, it wasn’t mind blowing to consumers. It failed to increase profits. Edward’s next experiment was so basic that he was surprised no one had thought of it before: a drone with a camera that automatically followed its owner.
Drones had become popular enough that 40% of households owned at least one, but there was a massive glut of neighborhood, lake, and park flyovers. Their view counts on Youtube were pitifully low and the latest craze, at least on porn sites, were GoPenis videos where a man attached a tiny camera to the head of his penis and filmed the ensuing sex. The GoBody product line sold cameras that could even be swallowed, allowing people to broadcast their most basic of inner functions for the world to see, including, of course, their bowel movements. The first video of a woman giving birth with a camera attached to the baby’s head achieved over 2 billion views while even something as basic as gargling Listerine with a camera attached to the glotus could be remixed a hundred ways to provide much entertainment and mirth.
The first iteration of Edward’s device was a one rotor drone with a tiny camera sensor attached. It was not able to record sound. The device was programmed with facial recognition software so that the drone followed its owner at a distance of two feet away and six inches above, all while taking a selfie every five minutes. The user had only a few settings to play with using his geniusphone: power on or off, review photos, or take manual photo. The battery life lasted four hours.
The beta release of the narcissicopter, as it was called, led to many complaints. It was too loud. Battery life was short. It was slow to adapt to a user’s movement and often collided with heads, causing serious eye and ear injuries. The photo quality was mediocre and it was a pain to sort through all the photos to find the good ones and upload them.
Edward listened to the complaints and came out with a second version. He decreased the rotor size to half the length of an index finger while increasing battery life to 16 hours using the latest advanced in lithium fission technology. There was still noise, but it wasn’t much louder than the sound of a humming refrigerator. He improved the camera sensor and added a microphone that allowed video to be recorded manually. But what he did with how the narcissicopter processed photos explains why the device really took off.
In the first three days of narcissicopter ownership, the software presented the user with more than 500 photos of himself. It then asked him to pick the best twenty. The algorithm learned the type of posture, style, and environment the user preferred his selfies. After that, the narcissicopter would automatically upload the best photo of the day to his social networking accounts.
What a surprise it was for the user to log onto Facebook and see he had 258 likes for a photo of himself that he had never seen before, doing something cool and looking the most handsome he could possibly look in a 2D image, all without having to do any work. A software update would later not only allow him to upload more than one “best” photo a day, but also automatically upload the best photo of the month to all his dating accounts. This led to the male beta test users of the narcissicopter having more dates than they could handle. Women started taking notice of the device, but the price was so great, at $12,500, that only a few hundred rich male nerds could afford it. Six years later, the third version of the narcissicopter came out, and it changed the world forever.
Edward spared no cost with the technology he jammed into the new narcissicopter, now the size of a toothbrush head. The rotor was only one inch wide and designed like the propeller of a stealth submarine to emit less noise than a computer fan. The surface of the device was partially photoelectric and took on colors of the environment, making it nearly invisible to the naked eye so that most of the time you’d forget the narcissicopter was even there. The battery was a tiny nuclear reactor, operating for ten years without a single charge. The camera sensor was slightly improved, but the biggest advancement by far was adding a 9G transmitter that instantaneously uploaded everything to the cloud. Not only could the frequencies of photos be increased to once every ten seconds, but the narcissicopter would also record video with sound, all day long. The cost of the narcissicopter was zero dollars. Googlesoft distributed it for free.
Just like with the introduction of the smartphone thirty years before, the narcissicopter changed the behavior of women more than men. Within only two years, most women in America essentially lived to perform for their narcissicopter, which they dubbed Narcy, so that the best representation of themselves would upload daily to Facebook, Instagram, Dubai Cupid, and so on. The average girl off the street became an accomplished manager of social networking and photo distribution—skilled enough to even manage the publicity of real celebrities.
Most peculiar was how the daily top photo of many girls were intricate model poses, meaning that a girl would simply make random professional poses all day long in random places while ignoring the human beings around her. Female participation in the workforce plummeted as women became full time Narcy users.
Gradually, women lost interest in sexual relations with men. No matter what men did with their own Narcy, women simply didn’t care about seeing boring images of them holding a beer can or flashing yet another six-pack as much as seeing themselves and other women they were secretly competing with. Ten years after Narcy was released, half of the country’s maternity wards were shut down because so few women were having babies. This affected even the Mexican immigrants who could be counted on to reproduce and make up the low fecundity of native women. The few babies that were born were given a Narcy by their mother at birth to double the attention she could receive.
Human relations degraded even further when the Reality TV software module was released. Just like how the Narcy would upload the best photos of the day, it was now programmed to upload a 15 second video containing the day’s best scenes with automatically selected background music and editing. Some early software bugs had to be worked out when girls complained that videos of them plucking their eyebrows and digging their noses were included in their highlight reels, but the new software allowed every girl to quite literally be the star of her own reality show, and all men could do was shower them with attention and compliments (or insults) in the hopes that she would take time out to actually go on a date to get real-life male attention instead of electronic praise.
Before the Narcy, it was assumed that women evolved to be highly sexual creatures who needed intimacy and love from men, but the Narcy conclusively showed that women are barely sexual at all, and are much more satisfied with images of themselves than being intimate with human males. Textbooks in the social humanities were politically correct in updating this reality, adding the controversial viewpoint that heterosexual sex is a primitive and dangerous form of human bonding and that the e-happiness units provided by Narcy were cleaner, safer, and less discriminatory against minorities and the transgendered.
You may be wondering how Googlesoft was able to give away the Narcy for free when the retail price was well over $100,000. Advertisers lined up to pay Googlesoft so that their products were highlighted and displayed in the photos and videos that were automatically uploaded. For example, if Susan went to Starbucks, and Starbucks had a deal with Googlesoft, a photo of her extra creamy lavaccino would be uploaded with directions to the viewer’s nearest Starbucks location. If Tide detergent was being used when Zoe did laundry, that photo would be uploaded with the Tide box clearly highlighted. Googlesoft made even more revenue when it did counter-advertising. Samsung paid double rate if it was allowed to plug its latest product when Mark was using a LG holovision. Not a single person became surprised when Googlesoft surpassed the oil companies to become the most profitable in the world.
Credible rumors that the FBI, CIA, and NSA had an uplink to Narcy’s servers didn’t damper demand for the newest version, since it still contained a pause feature if you wanted to drive after consuming three beers or smoke crack. Narcy’s size decreased to that of a bumblebee and the noise emitted was only audible to dogs and snakes. A second camera was added to film everything the user was seeing with software algorithms that could identify a potentially viral clip such as someone falling down or a cat sitting inside a cardboard box.
To log on and find that you are the owner of a new viral clip was like winning the lottery, because now millions of people would go through your Narcy feed and comment on you and your life, giving you the most scarce commodity available: attention. Within only three years of the new Narcy, Hollywood was on the brink of bankruptcy, unable to compete against millions of hours of user generated Narcy content uploaded every single day.
After his retirement, Edward Smiley was invited to the White House to receive a commendation for his invention. The populace was much more calm now than before Smiley developed the device. People were so busy managing their own “personal brand” that crime was reduced at the same time the state ushered in a Newer Deal that ensured guaranteed income to every citizen. All Americans had food, shelter, internet, and Narcy, everything a modern human needed to stay entertained and busy.
Most didn’t even notice when the permanent unemployment rate hit 70% since the content that Narcy put out ensured everyone remained in a pleasurable state of distraction, unwilling or unable to be useful or employable. Incessant drumbeating by the misogynist alternative media that a cultural decline was in progress was ignored, and people started to believe that this was the best time for human beings to ever have lived. Smiley ushered in a peaceful utopia that came from technology instead of ideology.
A speed bump developed with the next generation of citizens. They were born during a time when law dictated that a Narcy must be assigned to them at birth (for their own personal safety). The pause function was disabled. Everything a citizen did during their every moment was filmed. Crime was no longer possible since police officers would be immediately notified when someone was breaking the law, thanks to the permanent connection between Googlesoft and government servers.
This new generation, dubbed Generation Zero, was resentful of the fact that they were not able to choose whether or not to have a Narcy, not to mention the inability to turn it off. It was hard for them to accept that the government possessed video copies of them in their most intimate acts, such as crying while watching a sad movie or gently masturbating the anus of a sex bot. They were also less entertained with the narcissistic entertainment value that Narcy provided, stumping eminent Googlesoft psychologists at the time.
A strange movement rose up within Generation Zero that nostalgically looked back to the 1990’s as the ideal time where human free will, lack of government interference, and technological advancement was in perfect harmony with life. “We control the computers, the computers don’t control us,” was a common refrain in protests, as thousands of individual Narcys looked on, updating government files in real time with its owners’ participation in the protest.
The media, which now existed as one massive conglomerate called Fun News, labeled the protesters luddites who didn’t see the value of the Narcy. They argued that the luddites wanted to usher in an age of barbarism where someone could yell an illegal word or be generally offensive and not go to jail for it. The older generation who so embraced the Narcy didn’t understand why the youth would object to such a useful technological device.
The movement grew larger. Protesters figured out how to hack their own Narcy reels to display political messages and announce the arrival of “Destroy Your Narcy” day. Comments flooded the renamed MeMeMeTube to publicize the event further. Millions of citizens were ready to squash their Narcy and roll back the technological clock.
It wasn’t to be. As if expecting this type of revolt years in advance, the makers of Narcy had implemented anti-destruction mechanisms. The Narcy would simply evade all manner of attack, including sprays and nets, and maintain an elevated safe distance until the user became tired, as measured by his respiration and heart rate. Killing a common house fly was hard enough, but killing a Narcy was even harder, and those few hundred who managed to do it were immediately jailed and given harsh sentences.
The luddite movement failed. All it accomplished was teaching Googlesoft, a corporation that now openly and proudly had several former government bureaucrats on its executive team, new ways to make the Narcy indestructible while ramping up development of pre-crime algorithms to prevent even the beginnings of such a revolt in the future. By the time the next generation was born, the Narcy became as small as a beetle, with not only pre-crime functionality but also a pre-thought algorithm that wanted to know what a citizen would think in the future before the thought had yet to develop in his brain.
You can imagine the surprise of a mother when her 12-year-old Nerval got carted off to a “rehabilitation center” before he had even uttered an impure thought or committed any type of violation. These algorithms could be tinkered based on age, sex, race, and sexual orientation. When an AIDS-infected homosexual president was voted into office, there was a sudden surge of heterosexual attendance in rehabilitation camps. Fun News did not cover this event and anyone whose brains came up with a single cogent thought that the algorithm may have been made more strict for heterosexuals were detained.
Previous generations born before the Narcy would have probably been horrified of government and corporate intrusion that exceeded even the dystopian visions of George Orwell, but by the time the fifth generation of Narcy subjects grew up, such anti-Narcy thoughts would not even surface in the brain; the pre-thought algorithm was so perfected that anti-Narcy agitators could be re-educated into being Narcy’s biggest fans. The stubborn few who resisted re-education were jailed for life to not pollute the thinking of the masses. One can’t help but wonder what Edward Smiley, long since dead, would think of a device he originally invented to provide a little fun and entertainment to the masses.
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