The social revolution began when it was discovered that, through a quirk of quantum mechanics, transmissions from other universes could be received on slightly modified communications equipment. What had long been thought to be simple interference and atmospheric noise was, in fact, cellular calls, closed circuit cameras, television programs, and other data from an untold number of parallel universes.

By modifying the original device with an illegal or commercial receiver, one could evesdrop on phone calls meant for an alternate universe cell phone, view television programs or websites from an alternate reality, or even view publicly available webcam footage thereof. There was no way to hijack the data, or respond to it in a meaningful way, though people certainly tried; the communication was strictly one-way.

Quantum physicists protested that the transmissions were from a tiny minority of all possible alternate worlds in the multiverse, and that most would invariably use technology and signals incompatible with our equipment and undetectable thereby. Statisticians were overwhelmed as they tried to explain how, given infinite possible worlds, it was just as likely to hit upon one fundamentally different than one that was largely the same.

But through it all, people voyeuristically peeked in on other universes as much as they could, switching streams randomly or as the data cut out. Lovers would comb through an alternate internet through a quasi-search tool, Gaggle Googolplex™, for hints about what the other could or would do. Businesses scanned themselves desperately for mistakes they could avoid. TV programs retooled themselves based on high-rated alternate versions.

The end result was twofold. For one, a society more obsessed than ever with voyeurism and watching rather than interacting began to develop, one in which people were often held accountable for what an alternate version of themselves had done (in the court of public opinion if not in the court of law). Character assassination using pan-universe data became such a common occurrence that states hastened to pass laws against it.

The other result? There was an increasing move toward a more simple, Luddite existence, and signal blockers flew off of store shelves. For if we could see them, no one could say who might be watching us.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!
Advertisements