I am an unashamed tech junkie and, like many, I focus on the utopian aspects of living in an interconnected world. I thought it would be interesting to look at a far more dystopian vision for a change.
Let's jump ahead in time, about ten years should do it, to the year 2024. The interconnectivity we often looked upon with great amazement, and perhaps a small amount of suspicion, has truly blossomed into an invasive entity which has insinuated itself into the very fabric of our lives.
The first thing we will notice is how the Internet has changed massively. Trying to access small sites or personal blogs and the like is akin to pulling teeth. Hosted on the archaic Internet 1 architecture what was once known as the Internet Superhighway is now nothing more than a rutted dirt road overgrown with weeds. Regardless of your access speeds (which are now vastly improved, more on that later) you're lucky to load a page inside of a minute and video streaming - even high resolution images - are pretty much dead in the water. However if you wish to access YouTube, Facebook, and the other high res video distribution services you can do so easily. Granted all are sanctioned by the cable providers ensuring any content deemed to be "dangerous or subversive" has been removed and strict age verification is in place.
User generated content is still widely encouraged on sites such as YouTube but the main providers of content online are now the major corporations such as Warner Brothers and Viacom. After a merger with Warner the Apple Corporation is also a big player in online content providing pay per view services through its iView platform. Naturally most of the major releases from Warners are tied exclusively to this platform.
Copyright theft online has dropped enormously. With the crippling of Internet 1 and access to the much faster and more reliable Internet 2 prohibitive to anything smaller than a medium business with solid venture capital backing the torrent sites and the like have dropped off the radar. Granted there are still some 'darknets" floating around but access is limited and often too confusing for the average consumer. The downside is the massive loss of tax revenue as millions of smaller online businesses and ventures have been driven to the wall by costs. The entertainment companies consider this a success even though it has cost the US alone billions of dollars in tax revenue per yer and no shortfall is being made up by the increased profitability of the majors due to tax breaks, off shore headquarters, and other such measures.
The evolution of the 3d Web gained ground five years ago and now you can shop in all of your favourite stores in 3d and in real time. All you have to do is slip on your Occulus glasses and away you go! Of course it's only major brands and companies who have the 3d Web facility as Internet1 couldn't support the bandwidth requirements. It's ideal for the corporations though because they can serve you the entertainment you need while selling you goods and offering micro transactions at regular intervals.
There is almost no electric device in your home which doesn't access the net at this point. Given that the Internet is now carried via your electrical supply every home has internet access or at least a point of access for your hardware. You only pay should you wish to access the net but your devices require neither access payments or permission. Your smart meter and thermostat relay your heating and cooling usage back to your provider so they can not only bill you correctly but also advise you on your usage and how you could minimise your carbon footprint. Prices won't go down but should you not follow advice your heat and cooling will be overridden by your provider ensuring you get what you need. After all, they know best based on research and information gathered over time from smart devices.
Television has come on a long way. The average home now has at least a 50" "smart" television as the centerpiece to their living room. Resolution is up, sound quality is up, and all your programming comes via the net (through your electrical system) for a very reasonable monthly fee. If you don't pay, or are late, your provider can of course cut your television off from source. Your TV will also be listening and using that ability, along with an inbuilt camera behind your screen, to track your viewing habits and even your conversations or ambient sounds to decide what advertising would be best served to you. You will obviously not be allowed to skip the adverts or flip channels during advertising but that's a small price to pay considering Google enabled you to have a subsidised monster TV.
Your smart TV will also be your portal to Internet 2. You may still have a PC or tablet but the television will be the hub of your online experience. Naturally it will be voice controlled and that voice control, linked to a simple AI, will also be used to guage your habits and drive advertising to you accordingly. By which I mean to your television, to your phone, to your games console and even to your fridge.
Speaking of your fridge, it too will have a screen on front to deliver not only advertising but also "items of interest" to you. It could be offers from your favourite store through to dietary advice. Speaking of which the price of chips has been lowered to the point all food packaging contains a chip which is picked up by the reader inside of your fridge. This way your fridge knows what you have, knows what you might need to order (it will be able to auto order your provisions if you like) and it will even give you healthy alternatives to the foods you have in there. Not only that but you can allow your fridge to order the healthier alternatives automatically. Of course, governments are looking for ways of making this compulsory but token resistance is still being made to the idea.
Law wise the Internet landscape has also changed. With the loss of net neutrality the corporations have acceded to the wishes of various governments to disallow what they consider to be "dissenting voices damaging trust in the government". As a result anti government propaganda could see you placed on a watch list or possibly imprisoned depending on the severity of the case. Certainly it would lead to access to the net being severely limited. Also speech laws would be modified so that criticism of any race or religion would result in an automatic hate charge being placed against you. More ominous still is the fact organisations such as the NSA and MI6 have carte blanche access to all of the data gathering devices in your home. You're not ONLY being listened to in order to serve your advertising, instead your conversations and habits are monitored by a huge system of mainframes constantly listening for keywords or phrases. Still, if you've done nothing wrong you've got nothing to fear. Right?
You might wonder, in this dystopian world, why you can't just disconnect your Internet access. To do this you would have to completely disable the power supply to your home as access is automatically piped to you. Having electricity without this gateway is impossible and furthermore access points are located on every street meaning if the supply to your home is disrupted for any reason important devices can still contact your various providers to tell them of the issue, and other things.
This is all pretty miserable, I know. But the good news is I just made it up. The bad news is, I'm lying about that. Whilst I've invented the always on / non-defeatable access to your home it's certainly within the realms of possibility, along with access points in the street. Information via the electricity supply is something which is definitely possible and was mooted as far back as the 90's (I remember a company considering it here, they decided there wouldn't be enough demand...Ooops!).
Fridges that connect to the internet and can serve you advertising are already planned, smart televisions already can be used to provide information to providers and further changes are inevitable.
As for the legal aspects, all I've done is slightly amplify what's already around us today. All of this is possible, much of it is probable, but not all of it is inevitable if you don't want it to be and I'm certainly no sooth sayer but I'll be damned if this isn't looking more likely by the day.