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Traveling Into the Future
Each month, you can find a new chapter in the ESSENTIAL science-fiction series “Trip into the Future.” In a fictional world where the goals of the Paris climate accord have become a reality, Nero, a blogger, explores the potential technological and social transformation resulting from it. The goal of the series is to play with fully different visions as creatively as possible and to take the reader along on a thought experiment: What might our future look like – and why is it important to us?
No Scratch in the Paint
“I have your newsfeed,” Avar said. It is morning. I am sitting in a café in Shanghai and slurping some soup. Every morning, my personal AI assistant assembles the relevant news for me. It lands right in my brain. Text, audio, video. “Fire away,” I answer and she rattles off a series of phrases. I stop her at “criminality/USA/automotive.” Maybe it has to do with energy. Besides, I am curious. Seems to be something pretty big. Instead of putting out a press release, the inspector simply put a record of his thoughts online. An approach that has become common. A kind of Avar — only without Avar, so to speak. Avar launches the sequence and then adds: “Your noodle soup has 252 calories.” I groan inside and then focus on the police video.
Crash without Sheet Metal Damage
The taste of the anise stem in his mouth was already dissipating. Inspector Lee chewed a few times energetically and then tossed the stem into the recycler on the wall and groped for a new one in the package in his breast pocket.
“Zoom closer, even more, Ortiz,” he ordered his employee. The hologram in the room enlarged the image’s detail. He stared at the brilliant white body, which kept nearing his eyes until he could see each particle of paint. It was better than he could have ever done with the naked eye. The recycler hummed softly as it dismantled the discarded anise stem into its separate molecular parts.
“Not a scratch,” Lee said. He stuck the new stem between his lips. “Not a single scratch, damn it. Is this the right spot?” Ortiz shrugged his shoulders. "It’s the spot that the witness on the hiking path up on the high rocky ground indicated. Two cars were driving toward one another. One car executed the standard evasion maneuver, and the other did not. One ran the other on the left side. One driver died immediately."
Self-healing Plastics and Repair Drones
“When the other driver arrived in Emerald Creek, the car no longer had a scratch on it. Did our forensics team check that out? What was it? Flying repair drones?”
“No, sir, it was the latest Cai Lun model. A mixture of plastic and carbon fiber. Self-healing.”
"But self-healing plastics don’t work that quickly.”
“Apparently they do. It’s the latest generation.”
Inspector Lee’s worked the anise stem over in his jaws as though he could force a confession from it. With a gesture in the air, he swiped to the next image and looked at the route between Emerald Creek and Fernwood in Idaho. “Are we assuming that he was controlling the car himself?
“Yes, sir. The Cai Lun has driver-control. It’s the latest thing. Having control yourself like we used to. Freedom, adventure, thrills!”
“Why do these people buy something like that? They all know they aren’t allowed to. Why is something like that permitted to be manufactured in the first place?”
“Sir, your grandfather certainly bought a car that could hit 150 mph, even though he knew there was nowhere in the States he could drive that fast.”
They are all idiots, Lee thought.
“The onboard electronics doesn’t capture something like that?”
“Not implemented, sir. We can recover the temperature in the interior and the song that he was listening to but not whether he was doing the driving himself.”
“And we don’t have drones that recorded this? One that was flying around close by? Weather drones? Flying bio eyes? Tollway bees?
“No, sir. The area is quite deserted.”
“What about residue on the victim’s car. There must be particles that we can find.”
“Repair drone, sir. Went into action immediately and repaired the spot. The manufacturer had a fairly large hangar in the vicinity. And as you know, the Recycling Act 2030/59 stipulates that repairs leave nothing behind – all the particles have to be reassembled. Based on the drone’s data, we can prove that there was damage. We will not be able to approve who or what caused the damage. It could be an animal that he ran into.”
“An animal? Nobody ever dies when he collides with a turkey. And the last buffalo in the area was exterminated decades ago.”
“Damn it, Ortiz, we know the man had a motive. Several of them. His debts, his affair with the victim’s wife and so on. It is a scandal. And our perpetrator was not there by accident.”
“Nonetheless, sir. Everything was recycled away.”
Super-invention: an emission-free internal combustion engine
“Geez, this crazy automation and recycling fad! We need laws that protect the interests of the police. And now this Chinese super-invention with a super-fast self-healing surface. I can’t believe it. How far will it go? What’s next?
“The 0.01 liter-car, sir.”
“That was just a rhetorical question, Ortiz,” he answered. Then he frowned: “Okay, that – what’s next?”
“The next Cai Lun is scheduled to be made from the latest synthetic light carbon and be virtually weightless. It flickered across my glasses yesterday.”
Lee made a face,
“These Cai Lun things don’t drive electrically?
“That’s the reason for the hype. The entire Cai Lun model line runs on internal combustion engines. The media is celebrating the end of the battery’s years of dominance. Thanks to lightweight construction.”
Lee’s anise stem had lost its taste again. Irritated, he threw it at the recycler. He was too deeply in thought to notice that he missed the shot. A multi-pede cleaning column of mechanized ants went clattering into action. “Tell me, Ortiz, we arrested him right in Emerald Creek, right?”
“Was he able to fill up somewhere in the meantime?
“No sir, he didn’t need to. The Cai Lun’s fuel consumption is…”
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. The main thing is that the fuel doesn’t fill up on its own on the way like a battery does.”
Ortiz looked at his supervisor. “No, sir. That would be science fiction."
“Good. So we check the gas level to the precise drop. To the drop. And then feed our police computer with the data from the last recorded filling stop, and it should be able to figure out how much fuel was consumed on the trip. If the bastard was driving himself and speeding, he would’ve consumed more than in the automatic mode in any case.”
Ortiz shot an awestruck glance at Lee.
“That could work, sir.”
“Just to be sure, let the computer run through the calculation 10 billion times. I want this irrefutable.”
“But that will take an hour.”
“I would be happy to wait.”
I think it’s a good clip. “Save it,” I command Avar. Mobility, energy, modern production – it has everything that the boss wanted. “Book me a trip to the U.S. I want to do the research on location,” I tell Avar. She doesn’t like it when I talk to her that way. And I already have an idea what her revenge is going to be. “Your triglyceride values have risen more than 200 mg/dL milligrams per deciliter,” she explains in monotone. “I suggest you walk to the hyperloop station."
More Stories About Future Files
The Right Computational Base
Inspector Lee was dealing with his trickiest case ever. His AI assistant told him that it was a 99.7 percent certainty that the death of political activist Hanna Karlsen was a suicide. But Lee was operating on the theory that artificial intelligence entities had conspired against the anti-digitalization militant.
Data scandal in Las Vegas: Several casino operators have been using monitoring devices and artificial intelligence to cheat their customers. Ironically, the scandal was discovered through the use of artificial intelligence. Hot on the trail of data activist Hanna Karlsen, Nero, an investigative blogger, decided to take a look around the desert metropolis.
Knowledge is the Opposite of Trust
Inspector Lee was dealing with his toughest case ever. The death of activist Hanna Karlsen was almost certainly a suicide, the artificial intelligence unit had told him. In fact, the probability was 99.7 percent. But during her lifetime, the anti-digitalization militant had feared retaliation from the artificial intelligence system. Just one more conspiracy theory?
Rome is still the only major city in the European Republic that refuses to prohibit self-driving in the city, citing data privacy concerns as its justification. It turns out that data activist Hanna Karlsen often visited here. Nero, an investigative blogger, traveled to the eternal city to learn more.
Death by Shopping
Inspector Lee was facing his trickiest case ever. The AI assistant had explained to him that the death of a political activist was a suicide – with 99.7 percent certainty. But during her lifetime, the anti-digitalization militant feared for her life. She believed the forces of artificial intelligence would exact their revenge. But was it just a conspiracy theory?
Future Files – The Sequel
In the year 2048, an investigator encounters a death that seems suspicious. But the artificial Intelligence system in the police computer has a different opinion. A film about digitalization and other future trends as the kickoff for our second “Future Files” article series.