Short Story: An apple a day keeps the algorithms at bay

Stop right there.

Yes, you. Stop.

I can see what you’re doing. You’re reaching for that high-sugar, high-fat snack aren’t you?

Well don’t, because they’re watching, and I’m here to warn you.

Oh stop looking around like that, you look foolish. They’re not watching you now, they’re watching you in the future, obviously.

You’re thinking about that snack again aren’t you? You don’t believe me? You’re thinking what harm could it do? Hell, why not pick up some pop-tarts and vodka too, maybe some cigarettes, really push the boat out?

OK, don’t.

You were planning on putting that snack on your card, weren’t you?

Fuck me, what are you thinking? Don’t you realise what kind of trail you’re leaving – what kind of impression you’re creating? If you pay with your bankcard they’ll know who you are. That snack will be on your records forever.

Think about it, everything you buy with your cards, your phone, online, it’s all recorded, and it has your name against it, for good. That might not seem very important today, but imagine what they’ll do with that data in the future?

And believe me, what you buy is just the tip of the iceberg.

That smartphone you’re carrying, you know it records everything, right? It knows where you are, always. It knows who you’re with, how long you sleep, how often you go the gym, how far you walk each day, what kind of restaurants you like, it can even tell how healthy you are by analysing your face in all those selfies you pretend not to take.

And then there’s the internet. The internet knows you better than you know yourself, the internet knows all your deepest secrets. What you watch, what you read, your favourite films, the music you listen too, your political preferences, your sexual predilections. The internet knows who you’re friends with, which ones you secretly love, and which ones you secretly despise. It knows how often you stalk your ex’s social media profiles.

But all this is harmless right? A bit creepy, slightly invasive, but nothing to worry about? You’ve got nothing to hide.

Well, that’s where the whole future bit comes in. In your time all this information exists in different databases, owned by hundreds of different corporations, but that’s not the case in the future.

In the future it’s been unified.

Just think of all the data that’s collected about you today. Your bank accounts, your social media accounts, your dating profile, your fitness tracker, your employment records, your supposedly private medical files, every email you’ve ever sent. Well, in the future, all that data is going to be combined into one neat package for anyone to buy.

Today your credit card company knows how likely you are to get divorced in the next six months based on what you’re buying (hint: you don’t know it’s going to happen yet, they do). Your supermarket knows you’re pregnant, even though you’ve not told your family yet. Your social media app knows you’re having an affair. Your browser knows your deepest sexual fantasies. The company that makes your fitness tracker has predicted the age you’ll die of a heart attack.

And that’s today. Imagine what they’ll know in the future when all these datasets are combined.

Imagine what they’ll be able to do.

Let me help though, in case you’ve not grasped the full implications yet. They’re going to build a predictive model of you. It’ll simulate your personality to 99.9999% accuracy. It’ll be used to predict what you’ll like, what you’ll hate, and how you’ll react in any set of circumstances. It’ll predict the entire trajectory of your life. That model will know what you’re thinking, it lay bare your hopes and dreams, your fears and deepest secrets. It will be your soul, in a handy digital format.

You can forget targeted advertising. Yes, your modelled personality will be used to sell you all kinds of junk. But when corporations know you better than you know yourself, worrying about advertising is like worrying how your hair looks as the devil consumes your soul.

In a decade you’ll be applying for the job of your dreams. But there won’t be any application forms, or interviews, or team-work exercises. The algorithms of the future won’t need them, they’ll see right through you. They’ll predict you’ll be successful for a few years, but that you’ll chafe at the corporate culture and grow disillusioned. They’ll know that after a prolonged period of stress-leave you’ll eventually quit and change careers. You won’t be offered the job.

Years from now you’ll meet someone in a bar.

You’ll click. They’ll love the same books and films as you. And those eyes, that smile, your heart’s racing, you feel dizzy. But then that beautiful, perfect stranger will run a check on you. They’ll find out it won’t work out, that you won’t become the person they’ll want you to be.

There will be no privacy in the future, no secrets. Corporations, governments, lovers, everyone will know the value of your soul. There will be no excuses, nowhere to hide.

So you need to start making the right choices today.

You need to start eating a better diet and taking more exercise. You need to stop wasting your time with all that TV, and all that aimless drinking with your friends.

You need to show the future that you’re someone to be reckoned with. You need to learn a second language, learn to code. You need to become the best person you can be, because they’ll know, in the future.

It’s not too late. You still have time.

So maybe put that snack down and get your ass over to the fruit and vegetables, huh?

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