Acting Editor’s note: as our Editor is at a conference in Sweden on investment in broccoli, I am filling in for him, and am taking this opportunity to post a couple of items we received earlier but which for some reason seem to have been overlooked until now.
One of my neighbours went up the university the other day to find out what sort of value we’re getting for all the money they take out of our taxes. He wasn’t very impressed, but if you ask me I don’t know how he could tell because he wouldn’t know how much all the wages were and how much money all the students were paying to go there, and all that side of things. He did say it seemed like a sort of park, very nice living conditions, and lots of people wandering about not doing much. But the thing that really interested me, was he said he met these scientists. They said they were all scientists and they were all wearing white coats so it’s probably genuine. They told him that scientists are getting cleverer and cleverer and they told him that now there are lots of subjects they teach up there where scientists can prove most things you want, so long as you tell them what it is you want and find the right scientists, and give them enough money, and get the right journalists to put it on the internet, though how journalists come into it I don’t really see. But one thing I’d like to see them find is a way how you can get a crooked banker into jail. Marvellous isn’t it. Politicians are all issued with get-out-of-jail-real-quick cards, but the bankers must be top of the whole shooting match because it seems like what they get is never-go-to-jail-at-all cards (and pass go, and collect £2 million pounds).
It may all be too late but just in case it is not, may I suggest to those reading that they should start trying to work out strategies for surviving the near future, in case they do. The terrors in store are legion. New 3-D printers mean lethal weapons may be in the hands of every other teenage hoodlum. And it is certainly not simply a matter of teenagers and weapons. Leave a key unattended for just thirty seconds, and a camera can take three quick photographs, which the internet and 3-D printing can use to produce a copy, without the key’s owner having the least idea that a copy exists. The sculpture side, at least, of the art market will collapse. Forgeries of all kinds from birth certificates to driving licenses to fraudulent contracts will flood the corridors of bureaucracy to waist height. Meanwhile, genetically modified human beings with powers of memory and speeds of reaction out of reach of the most talented today will be growing up to fill all places in top universities and sports teams; the uncouth among them will make it dangerous for the unmodified to visit nightclubs; the criminal among them will accumulate wealth allowing them to purchase whole countries as their personal playthings. Nanodrones will fill the air in such numbers that even the genetically modified joggers (at their steady fifteen miles an hour) will have to wear masks to avoid swallowing one. Every second the nanodrones will pour a torrent of information about each citizen into the megadatabanks of their government (and, simultaneously, into the megadatabanks of that country’s enemies). The sensors on the nanodrones will record every sideways glance towards the window of those who can still find work to be done by humans, will analyse the bacterial and alcoholic content of the breath of each commuter arriving home, and will capture each facial reaction and muttered remark in front of the screen emitting the evening’s choice of what will still be called entertainment. If the facial reactions, as analysed by a government-run computer programme, are categorised as anti-social, another computer will issue an order to the police for your arrest, you will be tried before a jury of a single computer programmed to deliver twelve opinions on your case, each one being a prediction of the reaction of a typical human (from a databank of average citizens established by a government computer programme), and after being found guilty you will be free to walk to the prison the next day, knowing that any failure to arrive on time will prompt instant tasering delivered at five minute intervals by nanodrones, until you appear at the correct destination.
Now we know why such large numbers have applied for the several projects already begun, for one-way trips to Mars. For those who prefer to keep their gravitational attraction at normal levels there seems no chance of finding any overall strategy for a comfortable and untroubled existence, but some individual measures may help a little here and there. Buy a bullet-proof jacket and a plausible university degree soon, if you do not already have one (and apart from anything else the price is going to soar in coming years anyway). Borrow a 3-D printer and run up some forgeries of your own, for instance you could try your luck with a certificate from the government of Montenegro confirming that your house is a diplomatic residence and therefore not liable to be entered by British police or any other officials (nor required to pay council tax). Become accustomed to staying indoors as much as possible. and in particular avoid visits to nightclubs. Do not buy sculptures, or, to be on the safe side, any other works of art. For dealing with those nanodrones, you will obviously keep the windows shut, and it would be wise to buy, online, one of those electrically charged ping-pong bats and pretend to be using it to kill flies – as you swipe around you, shout aloud and very clearly ‘Damn all insects’. Keep tight control on your reactions when watching any screen; a smile in the wrong place can be just as dangerous as a frown. Quite generally, be as inconspicuous as possible. Do not respond to government surveys, except to say you are fully satisfied. Do not respond to those invitations, on air or on the internet, to send in your views on some current topic whatever it might be. If you have to go out for some reason, give way to everyone, especially the genetically modified; always obey official notices, policemen, and anyone in uniform; walk with your head bowed and a shambling gait. To be honest, even if you do all this, it cannot be more than a temporary measure, but you may perhaps at least survive long enough to hear the news that all contact has been lost with the colonists on Mars.