It’s 2053—twenty years since you needed a computer, tablet or smart phone to go online. At least, that’s true in the developed world: you know, China, India, Brazil and even some parts of the United States. Cybernetic eye implants allow you to see everything with a digital overlay. And once facial recognition software was linked to high-speed records searches, you had the lowdown on every person standing around you. Of course, in polite society you still introduce yourself as if you don’t instantly know another person’s net worth, arrest record and Amazooglebook search history. (Yes, the fading old-tech firms Amazon, Google, and Facebook merged in 2033.) You also get a tax break these days if you log into one of the government’s immersive propaganda portals. (Nope, “propaganda” doesn’t have negative connotations anymore.) So you choose the Iraq War 50th Anniversary Commemoration Experience and take a stroll through the virtual interactive timeline.
Look to your right, and you see happy Iraqis pulling down Saddam’s statue and showering US Marines with flowers and candy. Was that exactly how it happened? Who really remembers? Now, you’re walking on the flight deck of what they used to call an aircraft carrier behind a flight-suit-clad President George W. Bush. He turns and shoots you a thumbs-up under a “Mission Accomplished” banner. A voice beamed into your head says that Bush proclaimed victory that day, but that for years afterward, valiant US troops would have to re-win the war again and again. Sounds a little strange, but okay.
A few more paces down the digital road and you encounter a sullen looking woman holding a dog leash, the collar attached to a man lying nude on the floor of a prison. Your digital tour guide explains: “An unfortunate picture was taken. Luckily, the bad apple was punished and military honor was restored.” Fair enough. Soon, a digital General David Petraeus strides forward and shoots you another thumbs-up. (It looks as if they just put a new cyber-skin over the President Bush avatar to save money.) “He surged his way to victory and the mission was accomplished again,” you hear over strains of the National Anthem and a chorus of “hooahs.”