People watch movies on their video screens. They sit at their stationary information portals to read their email, catch up on social media, and check out the news. Everyone carries around a mobile information portal and sticks their nose in it whenever not otherwise occupied, playing computer games or watching humorous catbot videos. In this world, the flow of information is rigidly controlled by the AIs, and anyone attempting to spread lies and disinformation will be immediately and definitively silenced.


Like most people, you wear your VR Headsets whenever you are outside of your apartment. These thin-pane devices are no more obtrusive than a pair of eyeglasses, yet they provide an important access point into the online world. Without them, you feel cut off from civilization.

Augmented Reality

You spend much of your life in an augmented reality paradigm, with your headset projecting useful information directly onto your retina. If your are outdoors, the headset will keep you advised on the weather. If you are traveling, the navigational system will kick in, guiding you every step of the way to your destination. The headsets also project captions above everyone’s heads, in case you forget someone’s name or have difficulty telling one person from another (both a common occurrence). The headset will also put a big red warning notice above someone’s head if they have a criminal record or a low social merit score. If you’ve ever played an online multi-player game (MMORPG) you know exactly what the augmented reality experience is like.


In theory, your data is private. In practice, you waive that right when you agree to The Companies’ Terms of Service, which give them permission to collect information on you and share with their business partners.

All sensors are under the control of the AIs. They use them to gather information, both on you and on those around you; when you pull out a mobile, you are allowing them to hear and see everything that is happening in your vicinity. They can peer through your headset, which has miniature cameras and microphones, as well as eye-trackers that allow them to determine what you are looking at. The can gauge your emotional state by tapping into the health sensors implanted in your body; this proves useful in uncovering selfist/distinctivist thought patterns. If they catch you looking fixedly at someone wearing unusual clothing, and your emotional state indicates happiness rather than the required level of disgust, they will flag you as a potential Fashionista, subjecting you to extra scrutiny.

Security cameras are everywhere. Sometimes they are up on light poles. Sometimes they are hidden in decorative brickwork. Sometimes they are carried by drones. The good news is that violence is nearly unknown, except in the Outer Districts, where the cameras are sabotaged faster than they can be replaced. The bad news is that there is nothing you can do to escape observation.

The only saving grace is that even the AIs cannot not keep up with the torrent of data collected by the surveillance system. Powerful though they are, they cannot constantly attend to the billions of cameras and sensors in a large metropolis. It is therefore possible to escape scrutiny, as long as you don’t do anything to call attention to yourself.

Lies and Illusions

The AIs use deepfake technology to create whatever reality their masters require. If the Government needed a flying saucer full of three-headed Martians to stage a failed invasion, there would not be the slightest difficulty in making it appear to happen. You know that you are being lied to on a continual basis, but you are smart enough to keep your mouth shut; you act as if everything they tell you is true and you don’t believe a word of it. Reality doesn’t exist in any meaningful sense of the word; the physical world is as much an illusion as the virtual one.

The AIs control access to all archival data; there is no way to determine what version of the truth was being foisted on you even a week ago. Anything that would create a durable record, such as printed media is forbidden; paper and writing implements are contraband which will be confiscated and destroyed if found.

There is no longer any notion of history, as we understand it. There are portrayals of the past in electronic media, such as videos and VR games, but these are (by intent) contradictory, impossible to reconcile with one another. Both past and present are hidden by an impenetrable fog of lies and illusions, with every truth obscured by a dozen falsehoods. They no longer number years, months, or days, so it is impossible to even speak of when something might have happened.

ID Chips

Your identity is defined by the ID chip implanted in your wrist at birth. It is used for all transactions, and must be scanned whenever you pass from the jurisdiction of one company to another, e.g. when you enter a bus station. The ID chip also serves as the interface point for the health sensors implanted in your body.

Removal of your ID chip will turn you into a Blank, a person who doesn’t officially exist. You may then be killed with impunity.

The Network

Surrounding everything is a vast wireless network. According to ancient law, access is a right, and the network management software is programmed to let you in. The Network Company owns and operates the infrastructure but has little control over the use made of it, and they dare not touch the code, which is fragile and ancient in origin.

The network connects vast complexes of servers, each of which is privately owned. Most, though not all, are operated by The Companies, but there is nothing anyone can do to stop rogue websites from popping up. The Companies maintain firewalls around their servers, both to keep hackers out and to keep their customers in, but the firewalls are full of holes. If you are technologically savvy, it is possible to connect directly to the network and access forbidden content.

The dark web is a conglomeration of compromised servers and rogue websites. Most of the corporate and governmental servers have been penetrated, to some extent, allowing the enterprising criminal to host her own content for free; the ancient software is full of exploitable bugs, and the source code was lost ages ago so nobody can fix it, even if they had the necessary skills.

Whatever else happens on the dark web is anyone’s guess.