Future Shock

This is the story of one particular day that dwells on what a brand intrusive future could be like…

The neuralcast of my morning dream was interrupted by a digitally simulated hand, gently shaking my mind into consciousness.

The time flashed before my eyes, with a wake up message from some brand of cereal that I never seemed to buy. It was 7am sharp and the day was Sunday. The year was 2071AD.

I cursorily glanced at the nocturnal neuralcast update revealing the three dreams I had chosen to experience that night. And there were tell tale signs on my anatomy as to what they were. At the bottom of the sheet there were the top ten rated dreams across the world with a note on the entailed costs and sponsorship rates. Not to mention separate charges for those dreaded ‘innovations’ wherein brands popped in seamlessly (in a manner that you couldn’t screen them) into your dreams

The world of brands, the world of entertainment, the real world and the subconscious one were converging in a manner that meant big business, lots of it to be precise.

I asked the automated house valet (aptly called Jeeves) for some breakfast.

He began by characteristically making some laconically humorous remarks about how at my burgeoning size, I would rather be better advised not to break any fast. But once that was out of his system he was back to his stiff, cultured, aloof and businesslike self.

My breakfast requests were greeted by a myriad range of choices popping up, from astronaut food to a Swahili concoction that; though you should have had a death wish to consume, promised everlasting fresh breath (explaining the unprecedented proliferation of that tribe over the last few decades).

However, me feeling rather circumspect that morning, I stuck with my old routine, quickly subduing the incessant brands trying to still peddle their wares (last micro second switchers) by blinking them away authoritatively with my eyes.

The bathing ritual had Jeeves showcasing some of the most high end status symbol products in the galaxy.

Since ‘natural’ was increasingly rare, there was a huge premium and aspiration associated with such. From rose petals growing at the base of the Angel falls, for bath fragrance, to puffed dust from one of the lost moons of Saturn that promised your skin a healthy, ‘unearthly’ glow, Jeeves ran through the entire list.

Since there were no pack purchases, one could change loyalty by just paying for the quantity consumed on an hourly, minutely or secondly basis depending on your hygiene fixation.

Brand loyalty was facing the same future as an electromagnetic wave with the temerity to think it could survive in a black hole.

Thus refreshed and socially compliant, I sat down to enjoy some virtual vision -VV. This lifestyle gadget had relegated television to the Jurassic era; it directly connected to the viewers’ brain using invisible sensors and teleported him live to the programs being telecast.

My attention finally zeroed in, after walking through some 7 million options, on the live telecast of the first manned voyage to the Xylus Andromeda galaxy (XAG) that was some number, followed by an outrageous number of zeroes, light years away.

I magically materialized on the deck to thunderous worldwide adulation; a feature that was in built in all these programs to make virtual viewers feel ‘special’.

I shook hands with all the star trekkers. There had been a previous resolution passed to address all such people as ‘space cadets’, but it was withdrawn after clinical research revealed the detrimental effects on the morale of the people involved.

The captain of the crew was a strikingly beautiful black woman with an I.Q. that resembled the measured height of Mount Everest in meters.

There were other vitals available on her ‘check out’ display, but being of the gentlemanly sort I shall desist from delving any further into these. She read through my profile and smiled back in a kindly manner.
“I wish I was smarter,” I said to myself and instantly five million kinds of brain power enhancing concoctions appeared on my screen, I blinked my eyes instantly to dismiss them.

“Yeah and while you are it, why don’t you do something about my shape?” I remarked and instantly cursed as a host of fitness programs, pills, gadgets and instructors appeared. Rejecting the first three, I dwelt on some female instructors when a message appeared.

“Should we be charging you for any of these?” I immediately blinked that statement away, my mood angered by the fact that some of my secret preferences had now been picked up by UNISEL

UNISEL was a very advanced computing system; touted as the single greatest marketing invention of all time.

It was a cosmic consciousness, created to sense the needs of consumers through spoken words and other intuitive judgments, like eyes lingering on objects.

Marketers paid literally with their souls (valued on the ethics exchange) to get displayed on this system. It strode the galactic economy like a colossus; some said it was the economy.

There were rumors being furtively whispered that it was being upgraded to actually sense the thoughts, feelings and desires of people. Maybe in time even influence them.

Rebel factions were appearing across the world in revolt, as this was a question of ‘free will’, something mankind had always risen to protect.

At lift off my mind, heart, stomach and any parts I could put together at such a time, began to churn. Once we were safely beyond the clinging possessiveness of gravity, we all eased up.

There were cheers on the successful launch and a million beverages instantly appeared before our eyes. We took our picks (or packs) and ‘eye washed’ the others away.

The captain was clearly pleased with the way her crew, especially the unwanted ad-hoc, VV driven additions had performed.
She smiled an irrepressible, effervescent pearly white one at us and I urgently felt the primal and rank suicidal urge of fancying my chances with a beautiful , intelligent woman in power (strangely, not enough effort was ever spent in trying to quell this urge, though it was widely regarded as having started most of the ancient wars).

I whispered under my breath, “I need some great pick up lines” and then cursed myself for having forgotten that the captain had access to everyone’s control systems.

She glanced at her display screen and smiled. Then something happened that made her face lose all color.

I looked down at my screen and saw that a rebel virus had entered the mother control system of the spacecraft. We were tottering like we were being hit by asteroids.

“The presence of UNISEL is always at its most concentrated around space events because of their high profile nature, translating into increased potential for marketing activity. Conversely, it is also in its most emaciated state here, due to the sheer load of marketing transactions generated by this event.” She bit her lip in determination and punched a few keys to combat the invasion of the mother system, but it seemed hopeless.

“The rebels knew that, their whole philosophy is around the protection of free will, which they believe UNISEL desecrates. But anyone accessing dating spheres is exercising free will, even if it is the free will to get embarrassed as in your case, and this enables them to send their virus on board to infiltrate UNISEL Didn’t you read the mandatory clauses before you came on board?” she furiously asked, as the trekkers began fulfilling their last requests courtesy UNISEL.

There were things ranging from ‘kick your boss where it really hurts’, to ‘a meal so tasty and unhealthy, it might as well be your last one’ programs that were still being executed gamely by UNISEL for the trekkers.

“Are we going to die?” I asked her feeling a tad guilty about the whole thing, but she, like all other women of that time, chose to ignore what I had to say, concentrating intently on the job at hand.

“Would you like to go in for life insurance?” these words flashed before my eyes, followed by an analysis of over three million schemes that would best suit my needs.

I reached forward to sign on one of them, randomly of course, I wasn’t really in the frame of mind to evaluate, and without even bothering to read the fine print.

And then my whole world went 100% black.

Post by Vinay Kanchan

Vinay Kanchan is a creative thinking trainer and an independent brand consultant. He is the author of the book, The Madness Starts at 9 and also the patron saint of a footballing movement called Juhu Beach United, that celebrates, the unfit, out of breath working professional of today. He blogs at http://vinaykanchan.sulekha.com/and can be contacted at vinaykanchan5@gmail.com

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