WORDS Grant Runyon
If you were alive in the ancient past (the 1980s) you’ll remember Jersey’s reputation as the crime capital of Britain. Following the infiltration of BBC Drama by sleeper agents from Guernsey’s propaganda department, our Island home was consistently slandered as a depraved cesspit of vice, murder and … antique teapots.
To their dismay the plot known as “Operation Bergerac” would backfire spectacularly on the boys from St Peter Port, by convincing millions of tourists that Jersey was perpetually sunny as well as sexy and a bit dangerous. Via interminable midday repeats our reputation is somehow still preserved in the semi-glamorous 80s, like a Jurassic Park mosquito in amber. This appeal perseveres even if today’s dedicated Bergerac viewers would doubtless keel over if they as much as glimpsed a lacy bra, and Jersey hasn’t experienced a genuine crimewave since a spate of Halloween eggings in 2006.
If only we could remain in the low-crime paradise of our colour saturated past. We’ve been fortunate that the Island has been insulated from big city wrongdoing, the kind you get outside St Mary’s Village, but technology means that we’re now connected to the global village and it doesn’t have such a sensible speed limit. The days ahead of us bring culture, knowledge and opportunity, but also exposes us to types of lawbreaking that twenty years ago would have been unthinkable even in the wildest Guernsey fantasies. Padlock your door, renew your antivirus, and read on for a low-tech preview of the wide world of high-tech crime.
Dislike! Future crime: social media character assassination
For most of Jersey’s history, if somebody wanted to make you look bad they had to do it at the local pub, or perhaps walk door-to-door telling stories about how you think you’re too good for your own cousins. Thanks to the internet, anybody from any Parish can do this – and a lot worse besides. Hijacking, manipulating or besmirching our online identity is already a problem today, but leaving your phone unlocked and finding your profile picture has been replaced with a dog’s winkie will seem trivial next to what the future holds in store. Imagine if hackers could seize control of your accounts, using them to leave bitchy comments on your friends’ selfies, to insult their pets and babies, and perhaps to post digitally altered media where you hide racism or even (gasp!) give away spoilers to Game of Thrones. Your life would be OVER – shunned like a medieval plague-sufferer in real life and forced to eke out a miserable online life on whatever the future equivalent of LinkedIn is. The alternative? Pay off the hackers in BitCoin, which in the future you’ll be earning by sending foot pictures to kinky Russian billionaires. You won’t be able to bribe them with your normal wage, because Amazon will only be paying you in nutrient shakes and electricity, earned via ten hour days writing five-star reviews of socks.
Extreme brand loyalty! Future crime: corporate payback
In the future the likes of Facebook, Disney and Apple won’t just be our entertainers and employers, they will expand from supplying computers and video to delivering our roads and schools. Although obscenely powerful, these corporate behemoths will continue to compete for our favour, which will be great when it gives you a 5% discount on nutrient shakes, but not so great when it gives them the opportunity to punish us for disloyalty. Wrote a bad review of Amazon’s socks? Maybe local businesses might stop taking your credit. Didn’t feel like sharing a video Facebook made to celebrate the anniversary of your arranged marriage to one of its shareholders? Your next trip to the dentist might result in a few more mistakes and a little less anaesthetic. Watched an illegal stream of the latest Star Wars film? Better hope the iCops arrive before Disney’s Avengers-branded robot bulldozers do. For three hours of pixellated Yoda they’ll happily destroy the hovel your family leases in the polluted badlands south of NewsCorp’s pornography mills.
Ouch! Future crime: medical malpractice
My cousin’s cousin’s mate’s mate knew a guy who got really drunk whilst on an exotic holiday in the Far East. The last thing he remembers is accepting a free drink from a mysterious lady, only to wake up twelve hours later in a bath of ice on Gorey pier, missing a kidney, a lung, a testicle and three fingers. This won’t be as much of a problem in the future, because if you’re over thirty all your organs will be on loan from the Apple hospital and trackable via the same technology used in “Find my iPhone”. A replacement heart (Beats by Dre) will be included in your contract. What you will need to worry about is criminals who steal your entire DNA in order to clone your body in a lab, just so it can wake up twenty minutes earlier than you each day and make off with your daily ration of nutrient shakes. You’ll need to ambush the clone, overpower it and put it to work as a semi-sentient selfie stick. If you get enough likes you might even be able to crowdsource the money to buy your DNA back from eBay.
Game over, man! Future war crime
The future will be one where heartless mega-corporations compete for our loyalty, but like any competition there’s always a chance this could spill over into the only honest form of rivalry: warfare. Conflict will erupt without warning, like filthy popup ads, and will make use of the full horrors of technology, although the corporations will try their best not to damage the infrastructure that survivors will use to rebuild the sock review-based economy. With the absence of any civilian government to protect consumers it’s likely that your best shot at safety is being drafted in to do any meat-reliant fighting tasks that can’t be accomplished by an army of autonomous AI delivery drones. Imagine some of that humorous viral footage of a robot getting stuck on some stairs, except the robot has been programmed to laser your family because they refused to download Chrome “for a smoother (and less fatal) web browsing experience.” It’s not so humorous when you’re snagging Wall-E with your bedsheets and smashing his cloned brain in with a micro scooter.
You’ll be fighting for your life in the Disney streets, pursued by hordes of Facebook terminators, but also fighting for likes – as warfare will also be live-streamed and monetised for the viewing pleasure of audiences outside the conflict zone. Imagine the “thumbs up/thumbs down?” part from roman gladiators, but operated by the merciless whims of social media. The winners will be rewarded with temporary celebrity, gift certificates and increased bandwidth. The losers? In the future the biggest crime is waste, so if you want to keep enjoying those nutrient shakes please don’t ask too many questions about where the protein comes from.