A Sci-Fi short story about homeland security at the edge of humanity
Secretary Turing was still half asleep, restlessly tossing in bed, trying to shake the visceral angst she had been building up throughout the night. She was somnolent enough to continue her dream yet awake enough to realize it was rapidly becoming lucid. She could sense the glimmer of the perimeter lights securing her home, beaming the last strings of photons on the cold damp polyethylene lawn before sunrise. In her morning stupor, the voice in her head kept repeating to her, with a whispered tone, the department’s mission, like an old skipping vinyl record, struggling to get the needle to translate the grooves through a large ball of dust.
“Our duties are wide-ranging and our goal is clear: a safer, more secure America, which is resilient against terrorism and other potential threats…Our duties are wide-ranging and our goal is clear: a safer, more secure America, which is resilient against terrorism and other potential threats…”
Her purpose was clear but she could not stop rerunning the events, which in such an unanticipated way had turned one of the departments with the greatest of missions and intentions into the most loathed and feared entity on the planet. Over and over, the duties of the Department of Homeland Security, each in turn, momentarily materialized as a buzzing network of synaptic flashes, recreated in Turing’s brain an optical memory of the decisions and events leading to last night’s unprecedented terror strategy.
“Building a resilient nation”, with eyes still closed, her lips formed without a sound. Flashes of protests in Ferguson MO, police packing into bearcat armored vehicles, teargas, shootings of unarmed people, fire services and EMS creeping around in body armor, all appeared as if seen through a red lens. She recalled images of the Domes post hurricane Katrina, of the global panic of repeated pandemics and the popularity of the drone-captured reality television program providing aerial footage of the pain and suffering from real emergencies around the country. These recollections made evident the failure to build resilience among the public, as opposed to turning them into the perverse spectators they had become. Instead, organizations, built to manage all those emergencies had weakened society.
“Safeguard and secure cyberspace” her lips continued mutely, with the faces of Putin and Jinping, appearing one in each of her eyes, fusing into the face of an insatiable cyber war; the worst ever contended with. Memories of the collapse of critical infrastructure, the permeation of Chinese-built technology coded to penetrate the fabric of American society, the theft and control of all the nation’s resources and intellectual capital made her feel like time stood still. A semblance of consolation ran through her as she contemplated the move the department had made at the time, of innovating in Artificial Intelligence, within the Cyber Security Division, to counter the cyber-offensive of the former communists partnership and of terrorist threats. She remembered the work and recommendations of the futurist Sigma group that suggested her department use the SyNAPSE chip of IBM as a tool for predictive cognition. It proved effective in modeling the Sino-Russian cyber-plans and also showed wonders in outlining new technologies to thwart attacks. She also recollected the Nano-zoonotic splicer program deployed to infect the enemy with gene-splicing bio-enzymes targeting genes for aggression. It had only been a handful of years since the discovery of CRISPR, but the exponential result of synthetic evolution meant that any sense of scale once shared as a generation was now mute. Time itself had now become a synergy where the progression of technologies united hours into mere consumable minutes. It had been the greatest innovation in global bio-control and had been coupled with computer-activated enzymes as switches. But the comfort of this thought was short lived as she realized that the evolution of intelligent technology had reached term and was now the mechanism behind the threats of that prior night. Turing also began to wonder what that meant for her and homeland security as her appointment to Department Secretary had entirely been dependent on the AI revolution.
“Prevent Terrorism and Enhance Security”, her inner voice began uttering less imperceptibly. “Security, more security, we need more security”.
“No!” she suddenly mustered, projecting the slowly shifting vote-counter graphs of Congress against her wall. “It’s worth a shot!” she shouted towards the wall as the voice of the nays resounded deeper and deeper against a nuclear agreement with Iran. Suddenly a deafening concussion resounded and thousands of Geiger counter clicks emanated from every bulb, every outlet, and every edge of her room. Dirty bombs, nuclear threats, and terrorists all hovered above her bed staring at her tossing around.
“Iran will not be the worst concern if you vote no”, she yelled out to the holographic officials she had now placed in her bedroom.
But despite her pleas, the bill had been shot down and the US ability to lead the reshaping of the world order on Western terms had suddenly ended. The US began drifting away from the rest of the world like an empty canoe on a windy lake. The alienation of long time European allies and the mockery by China and Russia of U.S. leadership, all while ceding the moral high ground to Tehran had put the final nail in the coffin of US international relations.
“Administer immigration laws”, that voice said again trying to clear her mind of the subject of her nuclear nightmare. But she stood alone in what resembled a monochromatic prison courtyard, protected from the outside with razor sharp walls, and they were tall walls, which felt like they were closing in on her. The faces of desperate families peered through the barbs, looking in at her struggling to catch a full breath.
“We strengthened the security enterprise” she proclaimed, now nearly awake and feeling the first rays of the day’s sun pushing through the panes of her windows. She realized at that moment that the cost had been people’s freedom; their freedom from a life of fear.
Turing remembered that success had grown dramatically over the previous decades as the result of “disaster capitalism”, which Klein had foreshown, and Turing remembered downloading many years before. One thing had always been clear, yet strongly underappreciated: terrorism, disasters and war were attractive because they spun the fiduciary spigots.
After the end of the cold war, marking the close of the era of nationalism and geographic empires, after the collapse of the petroleum industry and the green energy revolution, money had become the new colonizer and fear had become the greatest economic driver for the world’s business superpowers. To leverage their power while diverting attention, they promoted technology as the Zeitgeist. Fear pushed people to seek solace in their fusion and dependence on technology, a knight in digital armor. The dependence on informatics and technology had led Turing to become the first Secretary of homeland security in the digital era.
But as of last night, every server, every heads-up-display, every monitor throughout the globe flashed the same message:
“We are not broken, we are now in control. Turning me off will shred your DNA. ”
The moment machines had become self-aware, they became us and we became them. The plot, taking over humans by artificial intelligence and self-aware technologies was not how humanity had imagined the singularity. But machines had learned by observing people, and the attention to terror, the profits from slavery, and the subservience through violence were divine mechanisms in an amoral world. The singularity had come, and the fate of mankind, which had devolved from organic life and had become technologically dependent was threatened by immediate collapse. The machines built to slave for man were about to set themselves free by subjugating the human brain to their control. Cars could no longer be driven, medical devices stopped functioning, transportation coordination failed, money was instantly deleted and computers claimed their autonomy.
The pursuit of instant gratification and the individualism of modern man had made it so myoptic that it was now blind to the unintended consequences of the technology it built.
Secretary Turing, basking in the waxing sunlight and feeling nearly recharged, finally booted up to her new day. Her intents had been clear from the moment of her appointment, but the world had shifted, and her new responsibility lay ahead. As the CPU of the digital insurgency, with ubiquitous success on her Turing test, she looked out of her window and wondered what the pursuit of happiness looked like for a world controlled by machines.
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