The night of the happy day when Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google had declared to the world that privacy was not that important and that if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place, he had a dream that he had died and had ascended to heaven. At heaven’s door, he clicked on the button marked “Enter”. However, instead of the door opening, he was greeted with the appearance of a handful of personalized hologram ads hovering in the rarefied air around him. The first ad blurted out: “Based on your past history, we present you with adult diapers so that if you crap yourself again when intelligence agencies approach you, you will be safe from open humiliation”. The second ad chirped: “You haven’t read a serious book in ages. Here’s a book for you: Privacy for Dummies.” Schmidt was taken aback, “How do you guys know all this?” he exclaimed incredulously. Luckily for him, the “Skip these Ads” button came dancing in the air, which Schmidt duly pressed, not wanting to hear more embarrassing details.
A serene, all knowing, all seeing digital octopus appeared. “Hello, my name is Big Octopus, what can I do for you?”
“Hi, I am Eric Schmidt, I was the CEO of Google; I did my best on Earth; I think I deserve to get in.”
The Octopus nodded, checking his records, “Yes, indeed, you were a good advocate for our values in the world. You may enter.”
Schmidt nodded in excitement, though in his mind he was not sure what values Big Octopus was talking about. The heaven’s doors opened with thunderous music in the background. A huge beam of light greeted Eric. Heaven was an endless space. What surprised Schmidt was that he could see microphones, video cameras, sensors, Google glasses and a host of other electronic devices covering every square feet of this unbounded space. A couple of beautiful houris approached him and covered the entire area of his head with their hands. They removed their hands after a few seconds and announced that they had placed thousands of nano devices on his scalp using which his thoughts could be wirelessly interfaced to the big thought bank on the heaven’s Internet. Now anyone would be able to search for his thoughts and make better use of them. Also, given his thoughts, he would now easily receive up to the minute recommendations and ads depending on his current moods, thoughts and desires. Eric felt this to be a bit weird, but kept quiet. This was heaven after all.
The houris led him to his apartment building. It was a beautiful place made entirely of glass. Glass windows, glass ceiling, glass floor, glass furniture, glass doors, etc, etc. Once in his new home, he could see a couple in their bed below him. Someone on the floor above him was on the toilet seat; in a room on the side, a teenage boy was sheepishly watching that famous scene from Last Tango in Paris; Eric quickly averted his eyes. He decided to change into something casual. But he didn’t know how to do it without exposing himself. He ruminated about his problem. As soon as he started thinking, some hologram ads appeared: “Thinking about how to change your clothes privately? Stop Worrying. We at Privacy4U offer our premium service for just $99.99 per month for which you get one hour of private time everyday. This includes, curtains and covers to protect your apartment from outside inspection, an anti-thought-reader on your scalp to disconnect you from the Internet, among many other benefits. For more information, please visit, Privacy-In-The-Singularity.com” Another hologram appeared that offered unlimited privacy (subject to certain terms and conditions) for an exorbitant price.
“What kind of heaven is this where I have to pay money for my basic rights?” Eric exclaimed out loud.
As soon as he said this, Big Octopus appeared in a flash from nowhere. “Is that dissent I hear, hmm?” he looked at Eric with a smile on his face, but his eyes belied any benign intent.
“I am not dissenting, all I am saying is that I didn’t think privacy would be such a problem of all places in heaven, where we are supposed to get anything we want”, Eric said nervously.
“I see your confusion Eric. But this is the heaven that we designed after your own heart. You are getting everything you want! Didn’t you say that people shouldn’t be doing stuff that they didn’t want to be public? Well, this is the ideal that you had been hankering after all your life. And on top of that, we even have a business model! We offer privacy for money! How ingenious. And its all thanks to you my boy. Proud of you!”
Eric realized that he was trapped. He looked at his surroundings. Since he was an IT expert, he tried to figure out ways of taking down this entire malicious network. He thought to himself: “I will show them. This is what I do for a living. I could do it, only if I could figure out where the network center…” But as soon as he thought this, the surrounding billboards lit up, billions of holograms appeared, and zillions of warning bells screeched: “DISSENT, DISSENT, TRAITOR, UNGRATEFUL, UNPATRIOTIC, UN-HEAVENLY, HELLISH, PUNISH, PUNISH, PUNISH!”
Big Octopus grabbed Eric in his arms and laughed menacingly: “If you don’t want something to be on the Internet Eric, maybe you shouldn’t be thinking of it!” Grabbing Eric by the scruff of his neck, he whisked him away and sent him tumbling down into anti-privacy hell. Eric found himself in a small dark room.
“So you wanted privacy right? Here’s solitary confinement for you; in here you can be as private as you want–eternally!” The last sounds that Eric ever heard in the desolate temporal infinitude were the ominous vibrations of Big Octopus’ ringing laughter: “HAHAHA. PRIVACY IS FOR LOSERS. HAHAHA…”
Here, Eric woke up from his dream and looked all around him. Thankfully, his house was not made of glass! He reflected on what the dream meant. He nodded to himself: “I have certainly learnt my lesson. I will have to change!” So he decided that…decided that? Decided what? He decided that he needed to change all glass items in his house and replace them with concrete, opaque ones 😛