Life on the Blockchain

Maria stirs from her sleep. She is awoken by a combination of soft tones, the opening of her curtains, and sounds of birds chirping. After she rises, a warm artificial voice informs her that her sleep has been logged and is being distributed to the proper databases. Upon opening her eyes, she notices that her wall display indicates account totals higher than usual. Sensing her pleasant curiosity, the voice explains that several of the AIs studying sleep recognized a gap in data regarding young women of Hispanic descent, so she was given an extra 20% incentive for participating. Maria pauses, and sighs with relief as she remembers the anonymity clause in her sleep-data smart contract; she is still getting used to life on the blockchain.

After preparing for her day, Maria walks out onto her front porch where her car service has just arrived. “45th and Reynolds,” she announces, confirming the destination already displayed on the car’s front panel. She glances calmly as cars pass by, eating the breakfast burrito she chose to prepare herself.

She steps out of the car moments before it whizzes off to its next destination. Keith, absentmindedly swiping away at the panel located on his sleeve, slowly raises his eyes as he becomes aware of her. “You really shouldn’t do that without paying attention. They’re paying you,” she scolds. “Eh,” he shrugs. “So what if some bloke gets a little bit of fake news in his feed. There’re millions of us.” “That’s not the poi-” Keith interrupts with a smirk. “Yeah, maybe if these contracts paid me like they pay you. How much did you get for your location data on the ride here?” “I don’t know; I didn’t check. It’s automated. No one’s in charge and no one’s out to get you. I’m not obsessed with tokens like some of us,” she replies. “Well, one of us has to be. This project’s gonna take a lot more energy than we originally expected. We can’t just rely on standard allowance; we’re gonna have to dip into our energy tokens.” “I’ll talk to our people in the Philippines when they wake up.”

Hours later, Maria finds herself deep in an argument with a roboticist contractor. “Frankly, these tokens just aren’t enough,” scoffs the man. “That’s not what we agreed on, Hank.” Maria finds herself holding back her anger. “Take up a contract conflict if you want.” Maria leaves, trying to contain her frustration.

On her ride home, Maria motions the computer to pull up nearby a restaurant the size of a walk-in closet. “Jarvis’s Place” reads in neon lights across the top of the sole entrance. She seats herself in the well-decorated private room and exclaims loudly, “Today’s been rough, Jarv.” “The usual, then?” replies a calm voice. “Nah, something stronger,” she sighs. “Very well, your wait will be four minutes.” She doesn’t mind the usual long wait. She enjoys staring through the transparent ceiling and looking at the clouds before noticing a drone appearing from the corner of the window, lowering a tray of steaming falafel and two colorful cocktails. “We’ve been getting a lot of these lately,” notes the voice. “Yeah, well,” she sighs again. “This smart-grid upgrade is more costly than we thought… ” She finishes her last drink and makes a hastily-scribbled mental note about the food tokens spent on her way out of the restaurant.

Maria unwinds with a sigh and raises her feet up onto the ottoman. A small display illuminates her wall. Just as the text becomes visible, she swipes her hand at it and it fades. “Not up to fulfilling your civic duty tonight?” asks the home narrator. “Why do they always have to do it at night?” she whines. “I believe that’s part of the point, Maria. The contractors are hoping you might be too tired to vote.” “Well,” she says, “tonight, they’re right.” She shuts her eyes, hoping for a brighter tomorrow.