Back in 2008, two weeks after I finished writing Gods Tomorrow, my house was robbed. No one was there (thank goodness), but my wife came home to find the garage door standing open and parts from our XBox left in the driveway. She got inside, and found the whole place had been ransacked.
That was a tough time for me (as it would be for anybody), but it was especially tough because I’d spent the last six weeks living in the imaginary world of Hathor. I’d been actively thinking about just those sort of events, and imagining them in a context where they were significantly robbed of their sting.
In the world of Hathor, it would be incredibly difficult to get away with something like that, because the system would already be doing everything it could to identify you at every step of the way. Sure, maybe you get it into my house (maybe I forgot to lock a door, and you noticed that by watching the pervasive surveillance system), but when you walk out with my electronics, the system knows you just walked out of my house with my electronics.
Wherever you go to sell it, you’re selling my electronics. That record would be in the system. If you take it home to play with, you’re going to be connecting to the network with my stuff (and the network would know).
While we’re at it, everything is in the cloud. So you’re not depriving me of any of my data (I lost a lot of data in that robbery, including several chapters of several novels). Maybe you took away the devices I use to access my data, but the data itself is still perfectly intact.
For that matter, you’re not getting access to my data either. If you still stole my laptop (or, in the world of Hathor, my handheld), and used it to connect to the network, all you’d find on the network is your information. It’s a handy service when you borrow someone else’s device to check up on your documents, and it’s a security feature when someone tries to walk off with your sensitive electronics.
And, of course, as soon as Jurisprudence notices you’ve purloined my personal property, it goes right ahead and calls the cops for me. Ain’t that handy? I don’t have to wait to discover it, then wait for police to show up to take my statement, then wait for nothing to come of that.
Instead, Jurisprudence bundles up all the information the police are going to need in their report, dumps it on their desk, and goes ahead and supplies a glowing red waypoint on their cars’ GPS navigation showing exactly where the perpetrator is. All they have to do is show up and detain him.
As a result, Jurisprudence largely put the country’s detectives out of work. Katie mentions that in passing in Ghost Targets: Expectation, when she visits a sprawling precinct station that is mostly converted over into dusty storage rooms, its full staff reduced to a handful of workstations huddled in the middle of a mostly empty bullpen.
The police officers that are left really don’t have a lot to do. They wait for the alarm to go off, jump in their cars, and get carried straight to the villain. Then they throw him in the back of the truck like dog catchers, and go back to waiting.
Of course, there are still some superheroes out there. That’s what Ghost Targets is for, right?