"Let's talk about legitimacy. I think that's always something to talk about with hitman websites."
That was part of research on YouTube a couple of nights back. That and some harrowing videos I had to FF through and barely watch because people are the kind of monsters fairy tales warn you about. I tend to start gathering research for stories very early when they need any and eventually everything you come by counts as research.
The plot for the story is as follows: 'Near-future scifi where everyone lives
off grid, and the real rebellion is living on the grid, being
exposed, part of corporations and governments and with few secrets to
your life at all. Most everyone lives off-grid following the PrivAct
Wars – which some call Privacy Wars, other Pirate Wars; depends on
what kind of history one wants to remember. The idea that being open,
being known, is scarier and far more transgressive than hiding
I figured the rough idea out long before the various election fiascos though I'm not about to pretend they won't influence the story. Science-fiction is, after all, a reaction to the present, and to the kind of future we see it leading toward. Often, the issue of privacy is pitched as that one can have freedom (privacy) or security, but you can't have both at once. This can be seen as a false equivalence, however - privacy advocates are generally not against 'here is data, we can use it to stop crimes' but where it reaches the point of thought-crime they are. But this is a novel, so it is going to go to extremes in both directions.
My notes include the line that 'History is the blade that informs how
deep the wound is' and this is a deep part of the story. Much of the history of the setting is data. Most of that has been post during the PrivWars when advocates for privacy went far off the deep-end and wiped census records, tore apart databases in the deep web etc. To be fair, it was reactionary. Also to be fair, a lot of it was earned. Immigration rules had been tightened the world over, insurance companies using data on citizens to only further their own goals (money) and many corporations doing the same. Governments, hemorrhaging money, were selling private data on citizens to keep the lights on. Everything was going sour and both sides wanted to protect the future.
The end result of the wars is that over 90% of the world lives off-grid, with many cities half-empty shells of themselves and the internet entirely decentralized, with cloud storage being spread out over the world and encrypted to hell and back (we're talking post-quantum cryptography, and probably stuff even further down the line) in an effort to be private and off-grid. This of course makes it much, much easier to do really dark shit and never be caught.
Governments still exist, in the ideal small-government form and mostly just provide very basic services such as trade arrangements, some import and export issues and basically keeping control over - and an eye upon - the much smaller and transparent corporate sector of society. If you work for the government, your life is an open book. To anyone. Ironically, this also keeps them far more honest and upright than other people ever need to be. The MC works for the government and the story is going to be about an assignment they are sent on and their exposure to the wild and dangerous 'world' of freedom.
And also fun things on cultural stagnation and how the obsession with privacy and freedom has limited the growth of technologies, nations etc. and issues over at what point the drive for anything goes too far and how the quest for pure freedom can created a totalitarian regime all its own. Should be very fun to work on. If the research doesn't get Authorities knocking on my door, of course :)