0206 - Disruption - 2021.09.13



One of the criticisms Forward has received is that this supposedly utopian paradise, necessarily, features widespread surveillance, and is, therefore, actually a terrible dystopia.

I believe that every advance we make as a society is a tradeoff, and we don't always get to choose how that trade goes. Providing a civilization with the protections of law, necessarily, requires the writing and enforcement of those laws by fallible entities and some sort of tax to pay for it. The invention of money was, simultaneously, the invention of poverty and debt. The telecommunication network that provides you with this comic also.... y'know. It's the Internet.

Of course, most of these advances aren't choices at all. We'd certainly have a difficult time un-inventing the Internet, let alone money or laws. Usually, the question is not whether or not to incorporate something into our society, but how to mitigate its inevitable harmful effects.

On the one hand, I firmly believe that anyone who says "if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide" should have their bowel movements and masturbatory habits broadcast on the nightly news.

On the other hand, I also firmly believe that the aforementioned fallible law enforcement officers should have their on-duty activities recorded, and if they block or turn off their body cam immediately prior to an incident, it should be considered an admission of guilt and evidence of premeditation.

As with any other tool, cameras are good or bad depending on how they're used and who they're used against. Zoa, as a robot, is partially made of cameras, and cannot not be made of cameras. Casual demeanour notwithstanding, Zoa is fastidious about what it records, how that data is stored, how it is erased, and how it is communicated to others. In fact, Zoa is required to be fastidious, in the same way that it is required to obey the law, respond to emergencies, and not impersonate a human.

Forward is not a utopia. Utopia and dystopia, like positive and negative infinity, are less like destinations to which you could arrive and more like processes that move us towards an asymptote. Forward is utopian, in that it presents a future world in which humans have their needs met, war is bloodless, climate change is reversed, and people like Lee and Caleb are free to advance and achieve and excel (in theory). Forward depicts an optimistic vision of the next two centuries, but it does not depict a perfect world, nor can it, nor should it. I think that's been pretty clear.


0206 - 2167/07/06/16:54 - exiting elevator, fifth floor
CP: Why are you following me? I've already indicated that I don't want either of your services.
Zoa: "Either" implies two, and I assure you, I offer far more than that. Besides, your roommates are probably wondering what fantastic device sent you rocketing out the window forty minutes ago, so I figured I can pitch myself to them too.
CP: It's been forty minutes?
Zoa: It has been forty minutes since you jumped out of a fifth story window....... now. Time flies, huh?
CP: Well, I regret to inform you that I don't have any roommates. I got a single.
Zoa: Ooh, how'd you swing that? Lemme guess - some sorta veteran privilege?
CP: I am going to go talk to my therapist program now. You may leave.
Zoa: Or I could stick around and help! I'm very good at augmenting Therapro Psyhealth's services. Just ask Doc!
[standing outside Caleb's door]
CP: And how, exactly, would you augment my therapy session?
Zoa: Well, I can communicate directly with a fellow AI in a matter of microseconds, and I could dump my archival footage of every interaction you've had with Lee today. Suitably anonymized for their protection, of course.
CP: I think my own recounting of events will suffice.
Zoa: Really? Is there some reason why you wouldn't want Ziggy to also have access to third-party recordings of your actions?
[opening door]
CP: ...Fine, you can come in. Just try not to be disruptive.
Zoa: Disruptive? Moi? Perish the thought!
Zoa: Hey, by the way, it's cool if I hook up to your power and Internet feeds, yeah?