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On Earth, time has moved on. Media has existed in various forms for several generations. Newspapers, radio, and TV have become an integral part of modern life, primarily providing entertainment but also acting as an important and increasingly ‘up to the moment’ source of information on local, national and international current affairs. Virtually every home, vehicle, place of work, and social venue, has a media source of some kind.
From the outset, it had been glaringly obvious that in its capacity to directly address the population, the media offered enormous potential in actively influencing public perception, opinion and sentiment. Used wisely, it was a facility that could be used to great benefit, but unregulated it could also be highly destructive, allowing unscrupulous people to present distasteful content or promote negative propaganda to a population already susceptible to deception and misinformation.
It was essential that all media was only allowed to present acceptable subject matter. So, the challenging task of regulation was appointed to powerful controlling moderators. As a result, the capacity to use the media as an instrument of mass influence was limited to a very privileged few. That is why, from the very outset, the media has been controlled by the Elite.
The people now understand and accept the media for what it is: a source of entertainment and information, restricted and edited to meet the standards and requirements set by a governmental controlling authority. They accept how a degree of censorship is applied ‘for their own good’, and consider whatever they read in newspapers, hear on the radio, and see on TV, to be close enough to the truth to be believable. It makes their lives easier.
The UCC watches on as Humanity progresses ever deeper into the technological age. It witnesses the familiar uncomfortable air of freneticism as it builds and spreads through virtually all sectors of society. The tension is then further exacerbated as a new phenomenon explodes into existence, an advanced digital communication system known as the internet. The internet allows increasingly large quantities of information, in the form of pure data, to be exchanged almost instantaneously between computers that are linked into a global network and accessible in virtually every location.
Other, simpler forms of electronic communication have been around for a long time, but the internet is far more than simple communication, and its potential is boundless. Its digital nature has allowed it to spread exponentially around the globe with such rapidity, and to such an unprecedented extent, that it is now effectively an independent entity. As it continues to grow, no one person, nation, or organisation has the ability or authority to control or regulate it. Furthermore, the quantity and complexity of the information it can handle is expanding rapidly. What began as basic messaging, became digitised sound, then video. Now, computers exchange vast amounts of complex data at astounding rates, in real-time, and with incredible accuracy.
The early pioneers were quick to spot the potential of unrestricted digital communication. One advantage being, unlike setting up a newspaper, or a radio or TV station, which is difficult, expensive, and heavily regulated, establishing a domain within cyberspace was relatively simple. Regardless of their motives, any individual or group with the right knowledge and the necessary equipment could do it overnight. Consequently, with little in the way of licensing and regulatory authority, ventures within cyberspace were being undertaken with wild disregard. New domains began springing into existence everywhere; and once established were instantly able to compete for dominance. Some were very genuine, others were not. Regardless, once up and running, information of any kind: truthful, speculative, or completely fabricated, could all too easily be carelessly published into the public domain within a matter of moments.
Initially, it happened so quickly. The population screamed for faster and easier access to what seemed like a whole universe of endless information, and before the sluggish mechanics of officialdom could respond, literally millions of independent websites appeared. Anyone from genuine service providers to paranoid conspiracy theorists, suddenly gained access to a massive audience. They could say anything they wanted, to anyone they wanted, in any way that suited them. Countless websites began to present themselves as reliable sources of news and current affairs. It was virtually impossible to identify the good from the bad, or to impose any level of censorship and moderation on websites whose physical locations were almost impossible to identify, and that could disappear as fast as they appeared.
In their desperation to gain a commercial advantage, every business from private retailers to industrial giants, and from local governments to international defence institutions, hurriedly threw caution to the wind and exposed themselves to the same digital communication system being used by private individuals and criminal organisations alike. The ability to monitor and respond to competitors in real-time, turned competitive marketing into a frenzied cut-throat free-for-all.
To the majority of the innocent public, the emergence of the internet seemed a wonderful addition to their lives. It gave them instantaneous access to comprehensive research and information facilities. It allowed convenient and seemingly confidential communication with associates, friends, and loved ones, even over vast distances. So, in many ways it was, and still is, wonderful; but in other ways, its potential is treacherously dangerous. Every event that takes place, regardless of privacy or political implication, financial or emotional impact, is almost immediately subjected to online scrutiny. No subject is sacrosanct. Age-old secrets, sensitive classified documents, personal and private activities, can be exposed so quickly it is impossible to keep up. Unfortunately, not only has the ability to keep something secret been severely compromised, but there is also no way to distinguish fact from fiction either. Consequently, the internet is awash with misinformation, deception, and propaganda.
There is so much conflicting information available, people don’t know what to believe. Individuals build up a picture of current affairs based on a cocktail of rhetorical, circumstantial, truthful, and entirely false information, which they are gathering not just from official, verifiable sources, but also countless unreliable websites and local hearsay.
It is intensifying the confusion. Some people are choosing to completely ignore the mayhem, while others are revelling in the madness, adding their own opinion to the chaos. Media websites casually pick and choose what news they wish to present and which celebrity they want to promote or destroy. It is a situation even the least intelligent person can see is dangerously fragile, incredibly vulnerable, and certain to increase the general feeling of unease.
In the background, as the capacity for ever increasing rates of data exchange progresses, a new phenomenon is affecting the lives of young humans in the same way as it did those of the Seraphim. Vast domains of alternative reality are emerging within the cyberspace of computer gaming. Fantasy realms are being created, some almost as big as the universe itself. Digital environments that are so vast, complex, and absorbing, that individuals are becoming immersed to the point where the cyber-world feels more familiar than the physical world in which it exists. The effect is a distortion of their reality, with the bizarre and surreal in game attitudes, behaviour, and philosophies regularly spilling out into the real world.
Denial is no longer an option. The power of digital interaction can no longer be dismissed, ignored, or eliminated. So instead, the Elite explore ways to exploit and maximise its potential. And the ideal instrument for that exploitation soon reveals itself in what begins as a simple, portable communication technology.
Ordinary people do not like to be pushed, but they are easily led. Experience has taught them about the dangers of sharing personal information. So, on a personal level they have become, and remain, secretive. However, under carefully contrived circumstances, it seems they will happily disclose anything from bank details to passwords, intimate photographs to family secrets. Even extreme political opinion will be openly expressed publicly via websites that suggest they provide anonymous communication or data storage. They quite happily allow their fingerprints and precise facial details to be recorded and stored by companies whose country of origin is not known, let alone their precise address. Websites quite openly demand that visitors give them full permission to scan their device for useful information… and people mindlessly comply.
Handheld devices quickly become critically important to the information gatherers, consequently their attractiveness to a gullible population is increased dramatically.. Telephone communication becomes an incidental feature on ultra-efficient, multifunctional devices with incredible features and services that stealthily and continually collect data and statistics. They look innocent, attractive, and appealing, but they are incredibly capable. What began as a novelty, has been transformed into a perceived necessity, people feel dependent upon a device they now consider to be an essential part of their lives.
Soon enough the presence of technical communication will not just be desirable, it will be mandatory. Already, home based devices are being marketed that have no essential purpose beyond being ever present, always switched on, and constantly active. Continuously listening, watching, and monitoring every movement, instantly transferring information to unseen databases where it can be logged, analysed, and used for whatever purpose required. The units are even given names, so that people can converse with them and consider them a personal assistant, an invisible friend, a sentient guardian that is wise, all knowing, resourceful, and always ready to help… An old, familiar concept… rejuvenated.