Stop right there.
This is your future self, and I’m here to warn you.
I can see what you’re doing, you’re reaching for that delicious chocolate bar aren’t you?
Don’t do it. They’re watching.
Not now obviously, but in the future, where I am. They’re watching everything you do, and I mean EVERYTHING.
You were going to pick up that chocolate bar and pay with your bank card weren’t you? Probably after picking up some ice-cream and vodka too. Are you crazy? Don’t you realize what kind of impression that’s going to make?
That chocolate’s going to be on your financial records forever. You see, everything you buy with your bank cards, or your phone, or online, is recorded, and it has your name against it. Forever.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. That smartphone you’re carrying, well, that’s recording almost everything. It knows where you are, always. It knows who you’re with, how long you sleep, how often you go the gym, how far you walk each day, what kind of restaurants you like; it can even tell how healthy you are by analyzing your face in all those endless selfies.
And then there’s the internet. The internet knows you better than you know yourself; the internet knows all your deepest secrets. What you watch, what you read, your favorite films, the music you listen too, your political preferences, your sexual predilections. The internet knows who you're friends with, which ones you secretly love, and which ones you secretly despise. It knows about you stalking your ex’s social media profiles.
But all this is harmless right? A bit creepy. Slightly invasive. But nothing to worry about?
Well, that’s where the whole future bit comes in. In your time all this information exists in different databases, owned by hundreds of different corporations. But not in the future.
In the future it’s been unified.
Just think of all the data that’s being collected about you right now: your bank accounts, your dating profile, your fitness tracker, your employment records, your [supposedly private] medical records, your secret government file. Well, in the future, all that data is going to be combined into one neat package for anyone to buy.
Just think about it. Today your credit card company knows how likely you are to get divorced in the next six months based on what you’re buying (hint: you don’t know it’s going to happen yet, they do). Your supermarket knows you’re pregnant, even though you’ve not told your family yet. Your social media app knows you’re having an affair. Your phone company knows you buy illegal drugs, and who from. Your browser knows your hidden sexuality. Your fitness tracker has predicted the age you’ll die of a heart attack.
And that’s today. Imagine what they’ll know in the future when all these datasets are combined. Imagine what they’ll be able to do.
Let me help though – just in case your imagination’s a bit rusty. Pretty soon they’re going to take all of that data and they’re going to build a predictive computer model of you. It’ll simulate your personality perfectly; it’ll know exactly what you’ll like, what you’ll hate, and how you’ll react in any set of circumstances. It’ll predict the entire trajectory of your life. It’ll know what you’re thinking; your hopes and dreams, your fears and deepest secrets.
It’ll lay your soul bare.
But I know what you’re thinking, (I am you, after all): you’re thinking there’s too many people out there and too much data, it’ll be impossible to handle it all. Maybe you’ll slip through the net?
It will be too much data for people to handle. So they’ll give it to the machines instead.
The unthinking algorithms of the future will be the masters of your soul.
They’ll manipulate that data like no human mind could. No one will know you as well as the machines – not your lover, not even your mother.
Getting the picture yet?
And they won’t be using it for ‘targeted advertising’ either, believe me.
In a decade you’ll be applying for the job of your dreams. But there won’t be any application forms, or interviews, or team-work exercises. The algorithms will grind your soul and tell your prospective employers everything. They’ll predict you’ll be successful for a few years, but that you’ll chafe at the corporate culture, and grow disillusioned. They’ll know that after a prolonged period of stress-leave you’ll eventually quit and change careers. You won’t be offered the job.
And just imagine dating in the future. Years from now (after your divorce) you’ll meet someone in a bar. You’ll click. They’ll have the same quirky love of 1970s sci-fi films as you; and those eyes, that smile! Your heart’s racing, you feel dizzy. But then that beautiful, perfect stranger checks your soul, and oh dear, it’s not pretty. You’re not what they want in a long-term partner, or even a short-term one. You don’t cut the mustard. They’ll make an excuse and head away.
In the future, you’ll have nowhere to hide. You’ll have no privacy, no secrets.
That’s why I’m here now.
You need to start making the right choices today.
You need to start eating a better diet and taking more exercise. You need to stop wasting your time with all that TV, those science fiction books, and all that aimless drinking with your feckless friends. You need to show the future that you’re someone to be reckoned with. You need to learn a second language, learn to code, and learn how to cook. You need to become the best person you can be. Because they’ll know. In the future.
It’s not too late. You still have time.
So maybe put that chocolate down and get your ass over to the fruit and vegetables, huh?