News from a Strange Future

NFASF: Chicago Re-elects Davidson Posthumously

Chicago Re-elects Davidson Posthumously

Residents say there was no other good alternative

Story by Loretta Sikes

Denizens of Chicago have once again re-elected Tom Davidson mayor, granting him his tenth consecutive term as mayor of the city. There’s only one problem: Davidson died two weeks before the election.

“Everyone knew he was dead,” Andrea Shooter said, her voice full of frustration. Andrea had been the only person to run against Davidson in the election, and when she died most people assumed it would be a landslide victory in her favor. But residents of Chicago had an unexpected trick up their sleeve. Despite the fact that Davidson had died, his name remained on the ballot.

“The ballots had already been printed, and since no other contestants made an effort to run after Davidson’s death, we decided to keep the existing ballots,” Carrol Dean, head of the election committee said in an interview. “We didn’t think having his name on there would have been a problem. After all, everyone knew he had died.” That didn’t stop residents from showing up to the city elections in droves, many of them casting their ballot in support of Davidson.

“Honestly, you know, Davidson was the best mayor we’ve ever had,” a long-time Chicago resident told one journalist stationed outside of one of many voting locations. “I just didn’t feel that anyone else was capable of doing the job.” The sentiment was apparently widespread: Davidson won by a 13 point margin.

“I just can’t understand it,” Shooter said. “I had a great plan, and I was going to do a great job.”

Normally, to combat situations where fictional people or historical figures are mistakenly elected via fill-in ballots, procedure dictates that the city council select a new mayor. The problem in this case is that Davidson, though dead, does still exist.

“His family had him cloned, and so he does not fit the definition of fictional person as defined in the city bylaws,” a city councilwoman said. “These bylaws were created before cloning was possible. We have no way to handle a situation like this.”

The fate of Chicago’s government remains in the air. While the current politicians argue over what to do, many citizens already have the same idea.

“If Davidson’s being cloned, then he can be mayor again, and we can take things right back to where they were,” one citizen said. Many citizens agree on this point, but when asked how a newborn would be able to administrate the city, most of them simply shrug. “Can’t do worse than anyone else.”

Think this is entirely too far-fetched? Think again.

NFASF: Controversy Brews over Plan to Publicize Memories

Controversy Brews over Plan to Publicize Memories

History buffs applaud publishing memories of those deceased, privacy advocates cry foul

Story by Ned Dion

When the personal memory and DNA backup system was first released over fifty years ago, it was hailed as a great advancement, ensuring that people all over the world could be restored to their original condition if something were to ever happen to them. Unfortunately, the price tag meant that most people would never be able to take advantage of the devices, and as time went on, it became clear that there were some longevity issues with the standalone units.

“It’s what drove me to start my service,” Don Donaldson said, referring to the aforementioned problems. “I wanted to make memory backup affordable and reliable.” Donaldson’s service, dubbed MemorySpace, has been in business now for nearly fifteen years. MemorySpace’s services are run by two main components: the memory reader–a small, relatively inexpensive device that interfaces with the firetooth connection on your computer–and the MemorySpace portal. It was the inexpensive reader device that put MemorySpace on the map.

“We wanted to make sure that the device was not only inexpensive, but free to share,” Donaldson said, showing off one of the early models. The fact that anyone can use the reader to upload their memories to MemorySpace’s portal for free finally made memory backup feasible for, literally, everyone.

“One company even operated a ‘MemorySpace Booth’ for a while, letting anyone come in, pay a nominal fee, and upload their memories right then and there.” Donaldson said, pointing to pictures showcased in MemorySpace’s company museum. All that glitters, however, is not gold. At least that’s what privacy advocates are saying after recent revelations about MemorySpace’s policies.

“Most people don’t realize that the terms of use you accept when signing up for the service–which the vast majority of people don’t read anyways–has you agreeing to accept any and all changes in policy they decide to make, past present or future,” Bill Masters, head of the Pangaeans for Privacy organization. “To give a tangible example, this means that if MemorySpace were to decide that they would share all of your negative thoughts about your friends with the world, they’d be perfectly within their rights to do so. There would be nothing users of the service could do to stop them.”

Donaldson wouldn’t comment on any specific claim. He merely dismissed them as “ridiculous fear-mongering.” Still, his company recently announced that it would provide anthropologists and other social scientists at New York State University with a “select collection of aggregated, anonymized memories.”

“It was a truly unexpected, but extremely welcome move,” Professor Swath explained. “Our task is to study how changes in society affect each and every one of us. For instance, we’re extremely interested in how the general populace felt about major historical events when they happened. This will allow us to go beyond the history books and get to the heart of the matter.”

Donaldson assures the users of the service that the only memories that will be released will be from those who have already died, and that all names and exact locations will be removed from the memories. The one exception would be the names of famous people mentioned in the memories. Pangaeans for Privacy is not convinced.

“We got a hold of a sample of these so-called ‘anonymized memories’ and were able to narrow the owner down to one of three people. If we could do that without knowing the person represented by these memories, how easy will it be for someone who actually DID know them?” Masters said. Time will tell for sure, but MemorySpace is not backing down on its plans.

“We feel it’s extremely important to the study of history to have this type of information available,” Donaldson said. “We’re sure that our users will agree, and will continue to make use of the extremely valuable services we provide.”

NFASF: Woman Upset Over “Unauthorized Cloning”

Woman Upset Over “Unauthorized Cloning”

Claims donating her husband’s body to science didn’t authorize them to clone him

Story by Marshall Grey, Op-Ed Writer

A local woman, exasperated and running out of other options, is bringing her story to the media, and it’s quite a story. Joann–Jo, as her friends call her–Willman is a sixty-one year old widow who has lived in this city her entire life. Don’t let her age fool you: she’s still as spry as she used to be, and is determined to fight this “sad circumstance” as long as she can. You see, a little over thirty years ago, Jo’s husband Rex passed away.

“He was always so into technology,” she said, looking at a picture of him forlornly. “He was a first adopter for everything.” It was true. Rex worked hard and saved his money so he could afford the latest and greatest offerings from the world of technology. As she showed me around her apartment on the upper east side, I spotted all sorts of devices that were top-of-the-line when released. Rex had collected several versions of different DNA and memory backup systems, both of the memory disk players put out during the studio wars of the 2170s, and a myriad of implant accessories. Rex’s love for technology didn’t stop there, however.

“He told me one day, you know, that his dream was for his body to be donated to science when he died so they could improve human-machine interfaces,” she told me with a distant look in her eyes. “I didn’t think anything of it at the time, because it seemed like something he would say.” Of course, it was always assumed that this would happen far off in the future, at the end of Rex’s golden years, but fate has a way of making fools of us all. Rex died at the age of 30 in a work-related accident. Jo made the tough decision to respect her husband’s wishes and donate his body to science. What she failed to do, however, was to place restrictions on what type of research Rex’s body could be used for.

“It never even occurred to me at the time,” she said, glaring at the wall over my shoulder. It was a tragic mistake. One thing led to another, and Rex was cloned for a research project. Once the project was complete, a local family adopted him and raised him as their own. The clone of Rex is now thirty years old, the exact same age Rex was when he died.

“I had no idea it would happen. One day, two years ago, I was at the grocery store and saw him–the clone I mean. I couldn’t believe it! I ran up to him and started babbling like a maniac, telling him he was my husband and what was he doing alive and…” she trailed off. “It was damned foolish of me.”

Once Rex’s clone realized who he had been, he filed a civil suit, demanding that Jo turn over his memory backup devices. The long court battle has stretched out for the past two years, but a verdict is set to be delivered tomorrow. Jo’s argument centered on the fact that she didn’t authorize cloning. Rex’s attorney–and attorneys representing the scientists that performed the cloning–say that she didn’t forbid it from happening, so they were within their rights to do so. Analysts suggest that the court will rule in Rex’s clone’s favor.

“Once I found out who I had been, I felt I needed to get those memories back. My life had been cut short, but science brought me back, and I feel very strongly that being cloned was something I would have wanted,” Rex told reporters outside the courthouse yesterday. Whether or not he is correct about that is anyone’s guess. Reading private memories stored in a memory backup unit is currently forbidden by law, and security measures within the units themselves only allow the owner–verified by DNA–to access the memories to begin with. Regardless, Jo isn’t buying it.

“I just want to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen to anyone else. Scientists shouldn’t have the right to clone anyone unless the person and their family specifically authorize it.” Jo also wants to know if there are any other copies of her husband out there, but the scientists refuse to answer, citing the fact that much of their research is classified, and they wouldn’t be at liberty to say. When this article is published, she may very quickly find out.

“I wish I could take it all back!” she said, weeping, her head in her hands. Don’t we all, sometimes…

News from a Strange Future: New VR Movie Takes Bollywood by Storm

This is one of the last new features that I’ll be adding to the site for the time being: News from a Strange Future is a look into Vera’s scrapbook containing “clippings” that she printed from the News Portal. Enjoy!

New VR Movie Takes Bollywood by Storm

Opening of the sci-fi action movie Portal Chase sees strong gains at the Box Office

Story by Adelina Macey

The opening of the Virtual Reality flick Portal Chase took movie goers on the ride of a lifetime this weekend, but those in the theaters weren’t the only ones taken on an incredible journey. Bollywood insiders who had predicted the movie was “too big, too expensive, and too campy” were stunned as the movie exceeded all expectations, taking in nearly half a billion viewers in the first weekend.

“It’s simply amazing to see the reception that the movie has received,” explained Carl Conrad, Manager of Intellectual Property for Virtual Adventures Ltd., the company that produced the film. “VR movies have been slammed in the media, but public interest is clearly there,” he added.

This isn’t the first virtual reality film to be released, but it is the first one to do so well. Previous VR releases were either over budget, underperformed at the box office, or were poorly received by critics. Early polls taken after The Horsehead Nebula Wars, one of the first VR movies released, showed that audiences had mixed feelings about the new technology. Many complained of headaches or discomfort caused by the VR system.

VR movies have also met with a significant amount of controversy. Three years ago, the release of one VR movie resulted in the death of a man with a weak heart condition. According to the coroner, the movie–a horror/thriller mystery that simulated a murder in graphic detail–“literally scared the man to death.” The family has filed a lawsuit against the producers of the movie, and the case is still pending.

Since then, public interest in the technology has exploded. Movie-goers looking for a thrill are more willing to part with their money for such an experience, especially since it is something they cannot easily replicate at home.

“Memory chips containing our movies have long been the target of piracy,” Carl Conrad said. “Pirates have figured out how to easily copy and distribute illegitimate copies of movies that everyone has worked so hard to create. Protecting the content is an ongoing battle that we intend to continue to fight. One of those ways is the new VR system, which provides a unique way for audiences to experience movies that no pirate can replicate.”

Due to the runaway success of Portal Chase, Bollywood insiders say that VR movies will soon become the norm.

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