The benefits of technology and the loss of privacy
I slowly crept out from the hallway between the servers and headed back toward the exit door. For a second, I panicked as I grabbed the handle, but the lockdown was only for the perimeter and the door opened without a problem. I exhaled and darted into the hallway. Even in a lockdown, I knew that there was one door with an override.
My escape depended on secrecy. My blue-and-white jumpsuit and name tag singled me out as a tester for the implants, which meant that I wasn’t supposed to be out at night. Officially, it was to help organize when the implants would be observed for testing, but I was fairly sure that it was just to keep a closer eye on us.
The Harding Research Facility’s main building contained the engineering labs, spread out over five stories and connected by a maze of halls. Originally, the lab had been working in bioengineering to help control bacteria in the bloodstream, but one of the scientists had discovered how to control impulses from the brain, and the facility had turned its attention to neural implants. The discovery placed the small Indianapolis-based firm with some of the biggest tech companies in the world.
I was one of the testers for Harding’s’ newest model, which hadn’t been released to the public yet. This specific implant was designed to help people with colorblindness, and so far, it was working well. For twenty years, I lived with tritanopia rather than full color blindness, so I was no stranger to pinks and blue-greens, but the first time that I saw in full color…it’s impossible to describe that feeling. Harding had originally built implants that battled color- blindness, but it planned to extend the technology to people with other mental disabilities, and eventually make the implants commercially available.
The reason I was currently sprinting through the veins of Harding’s research lab was because of a rather disturbing message that I had come across while doing maintenance earlier on the computer of Dylan Harding, the C.E.O. of the company (I was Harding’s main computer technician). I’ll skip the details, but Dylan had effectively been bribed into handing control of the entire facility to Infinity Enterprises, an advertising and security firm notorious for violations of privacy. The transaction would happen tomorrow.
Though I had little information on the history of the deal, I saw enough to know that the transaction, or what had come to it, would be illegal. To top that off, if Infinity really gained control over people’s thoughts, then the implications of that were more terrifying than getting caught by the security guards.
I had to alert the police, but before I could contact them, the facility went on lockdown. Infinity wasn’t taking any chances. All electronic communication to the outside was cut, so my options were reduced to contacting them in person. Which meant escaping.
Reluctantly, I invoke my implant’s robotic assistant.
Welcome, Katherine, Cynthia chimed in my head, barely more than a thought. And yes, I had named the robotic voice in my head. The time is 10:53, 25 November 2044.
The outside guards would be changing in seven minutes (I had discovered the schedule on the facility’s main computer). I had used the implant for many things so far, including listening to music and calling up other testers on the built-in phone, but tonight I was nervous to invoke it. I knew that I wasn’t in real danger of being found because of it, but the anxiety that someone would be listening in on me through it was still there, palpable in the back of my mind.
I darted through the dark passageways. Once, I dodged footsteps from around a corner by diving into a storage room. My heart was almost racing faster than my feet, but I finally found myself in a T-junction. Off to one side was a short corridor, and then a metal door with a small touch screen panel in the wall next to it.
I ran to the panel and activated it. Please don’t be monitoring, I thought desperately, as I found the override. My original job in the facility had been a computer technician, and I recalled the access code that would open the door. My heart hammered against my ribs as I punched in the numbers, then waited for the password to load.
“Stop right there!”
The voice nearly made me jump through the roof. I spun, and standing in the hallway door was one of the security guards, leveling a handgun at me. And directly behind him was the visitor from Infinity Enterprises, his hair greased black in contrast with his gray suit, the triangular logo stitched into the jacket over his heart. He gave me an appraising look.
“Nice job, with your escape plan,” he said. “It may have almost worked.”
How?! I thought.
I saw it in your thoughts, of course. The man’s voice echoed in my head.
Of course he had an implant. Under other circumstances, I would run, but the guard with the handgun complicated things.
“Anyway, you’ll have to come with me,” he said in his normal voice. But as he spoke, I thought I heard something beneath it: The hints of an echo.
If I could use it…But how would I get into his mind without him noticing?
“Um,” I said. “What implant do you have?”
“A Mk5, I believe.” he said. “Dylan is certainly a genius.”
A plan clicked into place. I began to think of fear, letting it overwhelm my thoughts, which wasn’t that hard to do in my situation. Under it, I focused and saw into his mind.
It wasn’t pleasant. To distinguish our thoughts, I had to focus while somehow keeping up my facade of terror. But the threat of impending death gave me a spurt of energy. I saw an outline of what his plans were, and took a wild shot in the dark.
“I know that you’re planning to fire the security guards. You’ve seen in their thoughts and don’t trust them to keep your secrets about the illegal transaction.”
It was a total guess, based on sparse evidence, but from the pulse of shock that sparked across the man’s mind, I had gotten it right. Next to the man, the security guard lowered his gun and looked at the man in the suit. “Are you really—”
I threw my hand on the door controls and dove into the night as the metal rectangle slid aside. Someone yelled, but I was already running across the pavement, toward the fence, which, in my adrenaline, I scaled so quickly that I might have leapt it.
As I sprinted into the fields of the Midwest, I gave the emergency command for a full shutdown of the implant, and the world became a dark haze of teal and pink. Colorblindness wasn’t great, but the knowledge that my life and my secrets weren’t my own was even worse. Even if I hadn’t been running for my life, I would have made the same choice in a heartbeat.