The Virtual President
Sometimes I get some crazy ideas.
You know when you are watching a film or even the news and then suddenly an idea comes into your mind, sparked by something that was said? Well, something similar happened to me today. I imagined a world in the future, not too different to the ones we have seen far to often in films. A mix of oppression and fantasy. ‘Hang on’, I hear you ask, ‘isn’t that the one we are already in?’
A lady was talking online, about the Presidential campaigns in the USA and how Trump has basically, not paid any attention to the social distancing rules. Holding rallies in person with thousands of other people, apparently undisturbed by the Coronavirus (which actually leads him in strong stance will millions of people around the globe that think that all the mask wearing is for those that are ‘living in fear’ and ‘sheeple’). We are not yet sure of the consequences of these maskless rallies and many have claimed that the virus will mysteriously disappear after the elections as Trump has been promising since the beginning of this pandemic.
So we have Trump on one hand and Joe Biden on the other, whose political campaigns, incidently, are following all the rules. Biden with all the rules. (Okay, bad joke!). Due to the restrictions in place in some states and the social distancing measures, some of Biden’s campaigns have even been virtual — and he has appeared in public only via live stream. What if this became common practice?
Is my money really in the bank or is it just pixels on my computer screen?
This got me thinking of Max Headroom. Do any of you remember him? Max was used in a number of films, ads and media, you may have seen President Reagan ‘imitating’ him in ‘Back to the Future II’ in the diner?
Anyway, for those of you that don’t know, Max Headroom was a 1980’s British fictitious artificial intelligence character, known for his ‘stuttering’ wit and electronically tuned voice. He was a very popular character in the UK and gave us a certain degree of insight as to just how the future could be.
In a sense he was the personification of the future, the digital era and our thirst for visual consumerism. It was no coincidence either — that was the intention of the creators.
You can read about it here The Max Headroom Story
With the current pandemic many ventures have become virtual, so it is not surprising that political campaigns might go the same way, but there is fear that the more we step into the future, the more virtual it will all become. People working from home, virtual transactions, virtual lessons for schools and universities, virtual workouts. Before it was fun — a gimmick. How often have you heard somebody say that they never go to a store anymore and prefer to buy everything online, even groceries? You can learn a bunch of stuff online too. From how to speak a foreign language to how to make an explosive device (there are actually ISIS’ online tutorials on bomb-making!). My son learned all he needed to know about coding online. Never even went to university, you can read one of his articles here on Medium.
We can become characters in virtual online games, we can reach out to others across the globe via social networks. People who before, were isolated have found lasting friendships and even love. But what about when all this virtual interaction stops being for our amusement alone, and becomes a necessity? It kind of puts a bit of a damper on it all. How much of it is real? Have we been scammed? Is my money really in the bank or is it just pixels on my computer screen? We are ‘virtually’ living in a world where technology has both seduced us and blinded us all.
The future is already here and we didn’t even see it coming
We get told all the time. ‘you have to do that online’. We painstakingly fill out forms that take forever to submit, the connection fails and we have to start all over again, without knowing if we submitted it or not! (computer says no). Our lives are already online. Our bank transactions, medical records, dentist records, shopping preferences and don’t forget all of that information we just give away to social media…Damn you Mark!!
Will we soon be subject to a points system like China?
We have had plenty of years to ‘play’ with our gadgets, but now with a pandemic hanging over us and restrictions being imposed all over the globe, the whole thing seems a bit more ominous than it did before and even a little 1984ish. Many feel that the COVID-19 apps are just an excuse to abuse our privacy. Computers, iPhones and androids have all become a major part of our lives, tracking us for years. (Incidentally, androids never turned out like I had expected! they can’t even make tea!) Take a good look around because the future is already here and we didn’t even see it coming — maybe we all expected it to be a little shinier and clean cut.
Our past desire to want to be able to do things remotely may just be transforming into a modern-day necessity.
Maybe that has been the plan from day one, or maybe it has panned out like that and will be to our advantage in the long run?
So, let’s get back to the thoughts I had at the beginning. (I had almost forgotten about that!) The virtuality of it all.
My question isn’t whether Biden will become the next US president, but, will the next president be ‘President Max Headroom’? The first semi-virtual ‘talking political head’ observed and obeyed from a screen? Never appearing in public, safe from potential threats and pandemics. An Avatar dictating what is and what isn’t from a shiny screen in Time Square?