The year is 2016. President Jeb Bush is running for a third term as U.S. president. There has been major upheaval in the entertainment world, and the Long Tail has come to pass, with each of us gaining global access to all the music, movies and news and information we could ever want.
After a January morning spent swimming in the warm ocean water off San Francisco at Ocean Beach (thank you, global warming!), I finally settle down for a day of work in my home office. My desk is littered with papers, but there’s no computer in sight, no computer monitor. I pull out a largish cell phone from my pocket, and unfold it on my desk. Out pops a shiny pull-screen that stretches half the length of my desk. I hang the paper-like screen on a hook above my desk, and put on a headset and hear a familiar voice.
“Hi Mark, how was your swim?”
“Nice, Myrna. It was even warmer than last January. Can you bring up the news?”
“Local, national or international?”
“International, customize for my preferred topics.”
“Unrest in the Middle East, elections in Spain or downhill skiing competition in the Alps?”
“Let’s go with skiing first.”
The screen in front of me transforms into full-screen video of the competition taking place, with downhill skiiers taking turns going downhill at incredibly fast speeds. Ads flash across the bottom of my screen.
“Can I get the Swiss TV angle on this competition?”
“Sure, it will only cost you 50 Google cents per minute. Or watch an ad for your preferred topics to get three minutes free.”
“I’ll take the ad, but can you make it financial advice? I need to make some decisions soon.”
An ad for a local financial service plays, and I hit the Save button so I can contact them later. Next comes the Swiss TV shots of the competition, with cameras embedded in the helmets and skis of the skiiers. Pushing a button on my screen lets me toggle the angles. Obviously, I am procrastinating for the real work I have to do today.
“Myrna, can I get a different soundtrack for this race?”
“Punk metal, gospel hip-hop or electro-country music?”
“Perhaps something more ambient?”
Soothing music comes on the headset, and the competition finally ends. I’m startled to feel the floor below me rolling and shaking. Some photos fall off my walls and the ground moves violently. It stops abruptly. Was it an earthquake?
“Myrna, can you pull up San Francisco breaking news, earthquake?”
“Mark, USGS reports activity in your area. Looks like a 5.2 on the Richter scale.”
The display shows a map of the San Francisco Bay Area, and a point on the hills near Fremont is flashing, showing the epicenter. Soon, some choices pop up on my screen: Local Wire, Citizen Wire, National Wire. I choose Local Wire, and see some copy as it is written by a local reporter on what has happened. There is some damage to the 280 highway overpass near where I live.
Next I choose Citizen Wire, and four faces pop up on the screen in different windows. I choose a guy who is near Highway 280, using his videophone to show the damage to the freeway.
“One car seems to have gone over the side of the freeway during the earthquake,” he says, showing the place where the freeway guard rail has broken off. “Everyone stopped when they felt the swaying. We’re not sure how safe this road is at the moment. If you are driving on 280, try to avoid the 6th St. onramp.”
I pause the video.
“Myrna, can you message my family and close friends to make sure they’re OK?”
“Sure thing, Mark. Will let you know if there’s trouble.”
I watch more video of the scene on 280, and now choose the National Wire. This brings up more choices: Hard News, Soft News, with various political slants. I try Hard News Moderate. A news conference is in progress with San Francisco mayor Craig Newmark explaining that help is on the way to people injured on Highway 280 and at other flashpoints throughout the city.
As the video plays, I can choose to watch ads scrolling below the video, or can pay into my Google line of credit to eliminate ads. I can also choose to put some of the payment toward earthquake relief from the Red Cross, or to fund an investigative report by the Local Wire on earthquake perparedness.
Windows pop up showing my son is safe at school, and my wife is safe at her work. I breathe a sigh of relief.
“Myrna, can I see satellite images of San Francisco? Give me a fly-by of the damage zones. Switch to classical music soundtrack, something more dramatic but not melodramatic.”
After checking out various news sources and judging their work, I’m ready to file my own report as a news jockey for the Citizen Wire. The more people who watch my report, the more money I can make. Or if I reach the right people who are willing to support my work financially, I don’t have to worry about getting a big audience.
“Myrna, can you record this to my video news blog?” I look into the tiny camera mounted on my wall.
“Today at 10:46 a.m. Pacific Time, a 5.2 earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area…”