No Country For Orbless Men

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A subcutaneous patch on my temple gently vibrates me awake — not quite my requested wake-up at 7am, but within a range the AI deems optimal. I peer through my window at a skyline built at humanity’s behest, but with alien designs, and wonder how much more it will change this year.

While I wonder, my shoebox-sized apartment’s sensors peer into me, scanning my iris, and cross-checking my biometric signature with the Patch in my forehead. A voice modulated by my permanent, bone-conduction implants graciously informs me that my Global Credit Score remains in a “probationary zone,” and that I am at risk of losing access rights to my AI-Subsidized-Housing.

“Your score, as always, was calculated privately, based on numerous private and public sources, without revealing your identity or exact score. Thank you for being a Citizen of the Globe, and don’t forget your morning Starbucks on your way to your job interview!”

The machine knows my addictions without knowing me; neat trick, that. I remain unconcerned about my apartment — today is my final interview, and I’m feeling good about my chances. On my way to the lobby to catch a car to the interview, I check my Worldcoin balance and–

Wait. Basic Income was 10 coins less this week?

“Patch, why is my AI-Assisted-Stipend lower this week?” I subvocalize.

The machine gods respond: “Pursuant to governance proposal 3712 for additional Treasury spending to subsidize high-coin-holder biometric security, the AI-Assisted-Stipend was universally lowered to maintain a sustainable Global budget. The vote was 71% in favor after a two week debate period, and resulted in an additional disbursement to all holders with more than 1,000,000 WLD (their privacy preserved of course, except for First Citizen Altman, who publicly donated his portion to the Effective Alignment Research pool). If you’d like I can send further details to your device or eyescreen–”

“No, don’t bother. Skipping coffee today I guess.”

“Wise choice, sir,” the gods volunteer and contradict.

I exit the lobby and enter my hailed car, surrounded by nothing but screens. I have enough WLD on recurring subscription contracts to pay to remove the sound, but the video remains — and the machines seem intent on advertising coffee to me today. Privacy-preserved or not, they seem keen on torturing me. Perhaps they think this will improve my chances at the interview, to be a little on edge?

… screw it, they win. I redirect the car to the nearest Starbucks and walk up to the register, my usual drink waiting for me without any explicit action beyond my change in destination. As soon as I touch the disposable cup, biodegradable fingerprint sensors confirm my identity (privately, or so they say), while an invisible iris scanner in the ceiling double-checks the cheaper cup’s work. My Patch vibrates its tell-tale “your wallet is getting thinner” pattern, and my eyescreen confirms 11 WLD leaving my universal wallet.

The coffee tastes burnt.

I exit, disappointing beverage in hand, and subvocalize another ride request to my Patch for my last interview. “Insufficient balance,” squawks my Patch into my inner ear. “Recommend public maglev.”

Am I really that strapped for cash? Sighing, I walk toward the nearest subway station. Unable to find a refuse bin for my uncharacteristically bad coffee, I toss the half-drunk cup in what I hope are well-shielded bushes a few hundred yards away from the station. My Patch vibrates in an unfamiliar — or perhaps forgotten? — pattern, but I instinctively dismiss it, assuming it’s some new invasive advert I can’t yet afford to suppress.

Upon reaching the station, I am confronted by business as usual; scanners of all sorts, casting their peerless gaze into the commuting mob’s amalgamated soul. I reach the turnstile, feel the tell-tale vibration in my Patch of my wallet being charged, then…nothing. The turnstile remains stuck.

My Patch suddenly interjects, “We apologize, but due to a lower-than-acceptable Global Social Responsibility Score, you are unable to access the municipal subway. While we cannot see your exact score due to Globe-guaranteed privacy protections, we can see that an event 7 minutes ago caused the drop below the threshold. We understand these stricter thresholds — proposed by governance proposal 2831, then ratified after 4 weeks of debate — may cause hardship for some, which is why you may appeal this decision with a combined jury of 5 of your simulated peers, while your subway fare will be processed in 3-4 business days.”

I didn’t have time for this. “Appeal now! Rush appeal. Whatever the added compute cost, just take it from my wallet.”

“Request unlock of private local data to share with the simulated jurors and judge.”

I still didn’t have time for this. “Granted, fine, let’s just get on with it.” The voices behind me grumble as I continue to delay their commute, but I suspect none of them was interested in escalating, not wanting to drop below the Social Responsibility threshold, as I did.

My Patch vibrates in what might be described as a warm, cheer-filled hug.

“Appeal denied. You should have thrown out your coffee cup. Your Global Social Responsibility Score will gradually regenerate on its own, but you can accelerate that process with vetted and approved Community Service. If you are interested in available community activities, I can send several to your eyescreen–”

“Goddammit, no I am not. Thanks for nothing.” No cheer-filled vibration this time, except perhaps from the crowd behind me as I leave my spot in the queue. Now how was I going to get to my interview–

Before I could even consider my next step, a new voice appears in my implants, solving that problem rather elegantly.

“Your final interview has been canceled, due to changes in your Global Credit and Global Social Responsibility Score that fall below our thresholds for employment. As an equal-opportunity employer dedicated to meritocracy and individual rights, we take these factors seriously, and do not have access to your scores or the changes that necessitated this cancellation — nor do your prospective co-workers, who were informed that you volunteered to cancel the interview of your own accord…to protect your privacy. You may reapply after the requisite six month waiting period. Thank you again for your consideration, and we hope you might one day join the West Ham Capital family in the future.”

I collapse into myself on the side of the road I can’t use, atop the subway I can’t access, pining for a job that would never be mine, while the cars and buses elegantly route around me without human intervention. I feel the tell-tale buzz on my Patch, and dismiss the voice immediately — I already know what it was going to say, and there’s no point heading back to an apartment that isn’t mine anymore.

Sighing heavily, I reach into my back pocket and find a cracked, beaten-up, ancient telecommunications device that — for all of its faults — has one overarching benefit: it’s off-Globe. It takes a little while to piggy-back an encrypted signal off another nearby device — I have no idea who or where they are, but I suspect they’re using one because their morning was not entirely unlike my own.

A connection is established into the broader sneakernet, and I can finally broadcast a message.


Minutes pass, then finally, a response.


You bolt awake. You are not at the inevitable conclusion of Sam Altman’s dystopian boondoggle. It is 2023 AD, and you have changed your mind. The future cannot come to pass. Worldcoin must burn.