(reprinted from the Metro Spirit 02-22-16)
The year is 2076. Three centuries ago, a brave band of patriots pledged their fortunes together while gathered here in Philadelphia. It’s funny how history repeats itself.
Our division found ourselves outside Philadelphia after being driven from New York. We all know that the resistance is in a precarious state, and I guess that’s why General Washington chose to deliver my orders in person. The mission is critical, but I noticed the General smirk when he told me the circumstance of my mission.
“At Independence Hall, you will receive a data package from a man named Jefferson. This package must be brought online and shared with the people.”
“Nice. I’m glad the guys in the rear echelon still have a sense of humor.” Returning to the seriousness of the mission, “What kind of a data package, sir? Is it a special?”
A grim look returned to the General’s face. “Yes, soldier. You better start prepping.”
Starting shortly after the Apple Computer ruling in 2016, an individual’s privacy rights with respect to electronic data diminished greatly. The Apple ruling basically lead to a mandate that any commercially provided encryption device include a backdoor.
The ruling also asserted the government’s rights to any and all information generated by its citizens. The precedent was challenged on many occasions, but the rulings were very consistent – security always trumps privacy. Even in cases where no probable cause is present, if the government declares a law enforcement or national security rationale for obtaining data, the citizenry is powerless to stop the collection.
In response to these rulings, a group so-called “rebels” supporting privacy rights ramped up their methods to keep personal data private. A major breakthrough occurred in 2047 when a research team successfully transferred data directly into a living brain. This “special” cerebral upload mirrored the natural memory process, rendering the data indistinguishable from normal thoughts. The rebel groups argued that the individual could assert 5th Amendment rights if compelled to relinquish the data. Surprisingly, the courts agreed, and a balance between privacy and security appeared to be taking shape.
Then in 2063, the government developed the technology to involuntarily extract thoughts and memories directly from an individual’s mind. Shortly thereafter, the politburo took over the courts, and protections on cerebral held data were struck down. The tyrants gave themselves carte blanche to scan anyone’s mind at for the slightest suspicion of wrongdoing.
It only took a few years of corruption and abuse of power before a resistance emerged. At first, the resistance was peaceful, working through the system to create change. Then we realized a stubborn truth – tyranny isn’t interested in change. After eight years of civil war, we’ve never been this close to defeat. Our best opportunity to change our fate resides in a special data package and a patriot named Jefferson.
The moon emerges from behind the cloud as I arrive at Independence Hall on the night of the exchange. The power grid in Philadelphia was destroyed long ago, but I can make out the outline of an open door on the south side of the building. Inside, I spot the tell-tale signs of a gun fight, and I see Jefferson slouched against the wall. His breathing is very labored and fading. He’s barely able to look up as I enter the room.
“Yeah, I know this look pretty bad, but you should see the other guy. I’m glad you’re here. Are you ready to plug in?”
I take the fiber from out of my jacket and make the connection. I close my eyes as Jefferson’s stream of consciousness begins to flow over the wire delivering the mission data to my memory. Interspersed in the data flow, I catch glimpses of Jefferson’s other memories – his childhood, his training, his family. Moreover, I feel the love he gave to those close to him and the passion with which he lived his life. Jefferson lives as a free man, and he willingly gives his life to protect that freedom.
The exchange ends, and my consciousness abruptly returns to the reality of the dark room. I see Jefferson lying against the wall, his life completely drained from his wounds.
I pause for a moment to pay my respects to the fallen patriot. The president Thomas Jefferson once remarked that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. If so, that tree received a good watering tonight. And then I slip into the darkness, empowered with hope, my thoughts lingering on Jefferson and our shared passion to restore the home of the free and the land of the brave.