Noon in the antilibrary: Science fiction: What happens when fake news is everywhere?

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From the MIT Technology Review:

Marius cursed and jammed a mic stand between the crash bars of the TV studio door. “If SWAT’s on its way, we don’t have much time,” he said.

“I don’t understand.” Michaela, who up until a couple of minutes ago had been streaming their interview live, still sat on one of the oval chairs under the hot lights. “What are they talking about?”

The cube-shaped television studio had black-painted walls surrounding the bright stage area. Big monitors on the walls were showing the same “live” feed as they had five minutes ago, but now a red banner flashed at the bottom of the screens: ACTIVE SHOOTER AT COMPLETE PICTURES BUILDING.

Michaela pointed at a moving figure on the screen. “That looks like you—but—”

Marius nodded. “Uh-huh. Apparently I like assault rifles.”

Adan, their cameraman, had called up a local news feed after the first shouts of panic and confusion filtered through the studio’s thick doors. What it showed was entirely and completely not what the three of them were seeing. Marius was inside the windowless second-floor studio, empty-handed, yet the monitors showed what looked like a drone feed of him moving into and out of view through the building’s windows on the 10th floor. He was armed, and every now and then he would pause and shoot, calmly and methodically.

Marius shook his head in disgust. “Hey, Adan, could you give me a hand with this?”

The cameraman was hunched over his laptop. “Sorry, gotta figure out who’s hijacked our signal.”

“The same people who own the SWAT team,” said Marius. “But forget what I said. I think you’d better get out of here.”


“Look.” Marius pointed at the monitors. They were showing a jumble of witness cell-phone videos. “There!” A jiggly shot showed a man lying in a corridor, dead eyes staring upward, a dark stain on his chest.

“But …” Adan gaped. “That’s me.”

“Yes. This scene’s not real yet. Listen, Adan, I mean it: you need to leave. The SWAT team’s not on their way here to save any of us. They’re here to make sure that what’s up there”— he pointed—“matches what’s down here.”

Michaela stood up, staring at him. “So it’s real. The anti­library is real.”

“And soon, the antinet. Michaela, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything. I knew they might be watching. Figured they’d be mad if I revealed it, but I never imagined they’d do this.” With the door at least somewhat secure, he went to join Adan at the mixing console. “Any luck?”

Adan shook his head. “I don’t know whether they’re intercepting our feed in here, at the router, or somewhere outside.”

“All this footage,” said Michaela. “It’s being computer­-generated in real time? Like you said—by an antilibrary?”

“Yeah.” He smiled ruefully at her. “You got more than you bargained for, I guess. Honestly, I was only going to talk about Augmented Manners. I guess you pushed my buttons, I—”

“The SWAT team’s not on their way here to save any of us. They’re here to make sure that what’s up there matches what’s down here.”

“That’s okay.” She glanced at the monitors, a little rueful herself. “Digging for the truth is what I do, or used to. Apparently I’m good at it … What do we do now?”

The TVs showed a black armored personnel carrier plowing up the avenue, with the Complete Pictures building a few blocks ahead of it.

“I think,” Marius said with a grimace, “we’re about to disappear.”

Link to the rest at the MIT Technology Review and thanks to Jan for the tip.

7 thoughts on “Noon in the antilibrary: Science fiction: What happens when fake news is everywhere?”

  1. There’s already been a few times when not all the ‘facts’ lined up to the evidence of what happened – as if someone wanted the story to go a way it hadn’t in real life.

    And while most of us may not have the computing power to do it ‘real time’, CGI can give you just about anything you can dream up (as anyone who has watched movies of late is well aware.)

  2. The story is fun. It matches up with a Scientific America article I saw the other day.

    I’ve been asking for almost a year now:

    – Why are smart people so stupid?

    I mean, I’ve noticed this my whole life, but never asked the question like that. Over the past year bits and pieces have started to come together with a possible explanation. This is the latest.

    Unknown Unknowns: The Problem of Hypocognition

    The earlier pieces were Factfullness by Hans Rosling I posted months ago on another interesting thread, and about Joel Shepherd on another. Follow the threads back and you will see that they build on the same theme.

    Whose Dystopia Is It Anyway?

    YouTube, the Great Radicalizer

  3. Back in 1981, Michael Crichton made a movie called “Looker”, about a company using real-time computer image processing to manipulate televised political debates.

    Back in 1967, Vernor Vinge wrote a short story called “The Accomplice” about a company that moved from being a supercomputer manufacturer to a movie studio, making entire movies via photorealistic computer graphics.

    Science Fiction then, pretty much off-the-shelf software now.

    • “barely extended”? – No, “swatting” is barely related. This piece concerns sending a set of murderers to a location with orders to kill all people at the scene who were shown dead on a synthesized video broadcast. That’s different from calling police with a false report of an emergency.

      • Yeah, the main difference is that in the story, the SWAT team is clearly complicit and intending to murder people they know to be innocent, whereas swatting involves the illegal misuse of a SWAT team, where the SWAT team is acting in good faith against what they believe to be a credible threat and acting as they would against any credible threat. That’s not a small distinction.

        Super creepy story, though.

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