I read this article in the New York Times and spent a morning gloating. After all, back in 2011, I built my first novel, Fatal Score, around the likelihood that there would be a cyber war and groups of good (white hat) and bad (black hat) hackers would be roiling cyberspace. How clever of me.
Then I spent the afternoon of that day thinking, Holy Shibbit—if an ordinary citizen could come so close to reality, why haven’t we been building that national firewall I predicted in Fatal Score? We apparently have known for years that security is weak, or at least uncoordinated and sporadic. Now, here we are.
And then there’s the Russian oligarch thing. We’re surprised at this vague force involving itself in cyber warfare? Really? It seemed an obvious evolution in Fail Deadly, which I’m currently sending out to agents. (sidebar: if anyone would like to be an advance reader, let me know through the ‘Contact’ tab.)
Am I clever? I’d like to think so. Of course, there is the fact that I can’t install a disposal and Google Drive won’t give me back the files I put there. But the cyberwar that’s coming is also an obvious development. I can only hope that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes involving huge resources and people at least as clever as the hackers.
The end of a year and the beginning of a new one is a time to reflect on things you got right and got wrong in the last year. (Which presumably leads to New Year’s Resolutions with that capital R.)
One of the challenges of writing in the future is getting technology right. As Mark Twain observed in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Merlin’s predictions always seemed to be true, as long as they were made about events far enough away as to be impossible to observe. My challenge is that I’m writing about at time less than a decade in the future. Since I was making the fundamental projections underlying Fatal Score’s plot in 2011, it’s probably fair to review them now. To be fair, I originally set Fatal Score in 2040. Fortunately, I never mentioned a date, so it was easy to pull back to 2026 as the technology moved faster than I thought. (The year is never mentioned in any of the books, and matters only to set days of the week.)
The two major assumptions were CyberWar I and HealthScore. I’ll cover these in this post, and the smaller, more obvious ones in the next post.
CyberWar I was the impetus for the national firewall I called the IAC, or ‘Yak’ in common parlance. The jury’s out on that one, but I think we’re in the early stages of a major confrontation. Listen to any sensible security expert (Malcolm Nance, for instance).
HealthScore: Back in 2011, when the rocky rollout of Obamacare was in process, a major concern was long-term inflation of medical care costs, multiplied by an aging population, would bankrupt us. In a cynical mood, I assumed the government would act by shrugging off responsibility to a system similar to credit scoring. So the current FICO score for credit became HealthScore for the twenty most serious genetically-related diseases (many cancers, ALS, MS, etc.). I assumed their genetic behavior would be fairly well understood by the time of the story. The optimist in me says that Obamacare, like Social Security and Medicare, has become so integrated into national expectations that it will somehow continue. The realist says Obamacare doesn’t do much for healthcare costs, the government writ large has no politically viable solution to cost control, so we may yet have rationing (my HealthScore). I hope not.