Emerging Writer Member Profile
I am an Irish technologist with thirty years’ experience in academia and entrepreneurial ventures. In recent years, I worked for a European institution, based in Brussels. There I led the implementation of education policies that seek to prepare citizens for the consequences of digital transformation, including artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous systems. Prior to that, I was a serial entrepreneur in the west of Ireland, creating several tech start-ups between 1995 and 2011. My published works include a PhD thesis and three patents, as well as over 30 scientific papers and book chapters. Now I am writing fiction about the social effects of today's technology, a genre that I call 'contemporary cyber-fiction'. I have completed, but not yet published, my first novel. It is called 'Privicide'.
“What are you thinking?” she asked.
“I am thinking, let’s forget the old mantra. That belongs to the last century.”
“What's the new one then?” asked Heidi.
I had not intended to share it with her yet. It betrayed both my conflicted conscience and a newfound cynicism that I struggled to contain. But since she asked, I told her:
“Privacy IS a perversion. People ARE currency. Thinking IS a trap,”
Her lips moved as she repeated the words inaudibly. “I get the People ARE currency bit. That’s about the likes of your employer profiting from all of the information that their users collect about other people. Is that right?”
“Yes. It’s called user generated content.”
“In other words, how to make money out of something without the inconvenience of paying for raw materials,” she said.
“Yes, a bit like wind farming. The wind costs nothing, right?”
“But in this case, it’s not the wind that is the raw material. It’s people’s lives.” Before I had time to comment, she had moved on. “Privacy IS a perversion. What’s that about?”
Privicide is a cautionary tale about surveillance, its effects, and our attitudes to it. But this novel is not about some far-off dystopia. Today’s technology means this future is already here.
Privicide is plot-led, set in the current time, and follows a three-act structure. The compromised, detached and somewhat unlikable narrator, Berndt, grew up in 1980s East Berlin under the Stasi. Other characters include Irish-American Aidan and his Moroccan girlfriend Nadia. Their intense but volatile romance is picked apart by Berndt, who derides Nadia’s descent into paranoia and Aidan’s response to online blackmail.
Aidan is one of three young scientists engaged in a scientific experiment, living together in claustrophobic confinement. He soon tires of the cameras, microphones and the suffocating intrusions of unseen controllers. Before they can be reunited, Nadia goes missing after she is wrongly implicated in a terrorist attack. Aidan hacks a server, where he accidentally finds his colleagues’ most intimate secrets. Berndt reacts violently. Breccnat, a down-to-earth medic, picks up the pieces.
Years pass and technology advances. Nadia is dead, lost to suicide; Aidan has become a reclusive hacktivist, living on the remote coast of Maine; and Berndt is now employed in Silicon Valley. Working on VisionDragon, a paragon of next-generation online invasiveness, his attitudes have mellowed and he hates his job.
Hacking, cyber-security and identity theft, as well as security responses to terrorism and the burgeoning market in personal data are key themes. Throughout Privicide, digital surveillance preys upon the complacent and uninformed. The gullible are coerced to share their most private thoughts and the distrustful suffer hallucinations. Only a daring few fight back. Like the remaining character, Anonymous, who could be either Aidan or Berndt. Conceivably, even Breccnat. All three become suspects in a police investigation to identify the cyber-terrorist who threatens VisionDragon’s servers. The reader is left to work out who is behind the Guy Fawkes mask.
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