Pando

"The Audit": A science fiction nightmare about the quantified self

By David Holmes , written on March 8, 2015

From The News Desk

It was the kind of gorgeous San Francisco morning where the pre-dawn sky, rich with purple and orange sunlight gradients under a blanket of star clusters, looked every bit as good to Bennett Marcus as anything his 20th generation iPhone screen could muster.

The sky that humbled Bennett as he sipped coffee and read Twitter on his balcony was the product of a San Francisco entrepreneur posing a very good question to some very rich people: Why should most of the world's population, having migrated to light-polluted cities and supercities, be deprived of seeing the night sky in all its majesty?

And so, following an injection of venture funding, the first LED-powered StarBases were built in 2023 shining fake starlight down upon San Francisco's and Los Angeles' most affluent neighborhoods. Early iterations projected brilliant gold and turquoise supernovas, ringed gas giants suspended in air, and high-resolution replicas of the Pillars of Creation -- not to mention every constellation known to man, the Complete Works of Our Celestial Sphere.

But as the entrepreneur and her investors soon discovered, people wanted to see the stars as they remembered them in their youth -- or, if they were too young to have witnessed stars in person, as they saw them in old movies and video games. And so the second-generation StarBases looked less like a child's celestial glow-in-the-dark ceiling stickers on LSD and more like the shimmering ocean of stars that was still visible in Siberia and a few parts of Northern Canada where the supercities had yet to encroach. Bennett considered this and concluded that, despite what most of his favorite people say, technology could still inspire beauty.

In this rare and pleasant moment of introspective solitude, Bennett considered treating himself to another cup of coffee. But he thought better of it, remembering the hundreds of sensors clustered in his body -- which he sometimes imagined twinkling like the fake stars projected above him -- that sent millions of biometric data signals to his doctors and his bosses every day. While the ersatz star-maker had the good sense to keep her vision simple and humanizing, these sensors -- which millions had purchased in an effort to live healthier, longer lives, and that 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies required their employees to implant -- measured everythingincluding drug use, calorie intake, body mass index, cholesterol, blood pressure, and scores of metrics you never knew existed concerning organs you never knew you needed. The stars are sacred, but there's no restraint in the new tech industry's hunger for data.

Not that his bosses cared about caffeine. Bennett worked in advertising, one of the few industries that had successfully resisted the increasingly Puritanical mores of Zuckerberg's America. Nevertheless, Bennett had run out of CoffeeBlock --which hid his caffeine intake like an Incognito browser hid web activity, back in the old days -- and the Data Auditors had their quotas to meet.

By federal law, companies were banned from snooping on employee health metrics without good reason. But any "irregularity" -- like an uptick in caffeine levels -- could serve as an argument to open a full health audit. And while there existed all manner of black market privacy tools, designed to hide everything from cholesterol to cocaine from the consumer-grade health apps that came standard on every Apple or Google smartphone, the Data Oversight Committee of Bennett's company always found ways to suss out what its employees were really up to. The Committee had some pure, uncut military-grade tools at its disposal.

As a result of these audits, which always seemed to coincide with economic down-cycles, Bennett's employer and others like his never failed to find reasons -- like a chance encounter with MDMA at a music festival, or an addiction to heroin that was exorcised years ago -- to rid their companies of virtually any unwanted staffer, the key phrase being "with cause," and therefore without those inconvenient severance packages that corporations of old had to pay in the wake of layoffs.

Yet another technological revolution, this one coined by the gadget-obsessed tech press as "the quantified self," was over. And like every commercial revolution before it, the suits had won.

***
Not that Bennett was in any position to question how corporations collect data.

Through the glass door of his balcony, he heard the faint white noise of his work laptop, which powered up every weekday at 7 AM and automatically signed Bennett into his virtual office space. The company he worked for was called GigaBox, a two-year-old subsidiary of Giga founder Trevor Keller's ever growing empire of influence and profit. And the aggressive and inventive data tracking schemes carried out by Bennett and other staffers made even the government's surveillance efforts seem quaint.

The pitch for GigaBox, which Bennett helped write, was simple: The service would trawl through customers' web histories, purchasing habits, and biometric health data to create custom, personalized monthly boxes of consumer goods.

"Imagine a customer named Ellen," Bennett remembered telling Keller in a speech he tailored to the founder's well-documented misogyny. "She's a white, single, childless, upper-middle class 33-year-old woman whose body mass index is on the high-end of what's considered healthy. She goes to the gym semi-regularly, and while her diet is fairly balanced, she often indulges in fatty or sugary foods, particularly during periods when GigaBox's language recognition bots note an uptick in stress-related words in her work emails and Facebook updates. In addition to selling her profile on the open data market, GigaBox would fill her monthly package with, say, specious 'age-defying' beauty creams, 'health foods' that contain more sodium and saturated fat than a Big Mac, and free trials of fitness apps that exist not so much to improve her physique but to feast upon even more biometric data than the health apps that come pre-loaded with every operating system. Meanwhile, the products never really fix Ellen's problems, but of course she'll blame herself, not us, creating even more demand for what we give her -- which at the end of the day is something more than beauty creams and fitness apps. It's hope."

Keller was sold.

Some GigaBox employees insensitively referred to users whose insecurities suggested a propensity for self-harm as "Box-Cutters." But even if the public found out about this morbid moniker, the controversy would be minimal. With more and more customers signing up everyday, America loved GigaBox.

Bennett began a new job earlier that year as Head of Media Partnerships under the assumption that, if consumer products could be hyper-personalized to each user, why couldn't journalism? (Or as Bennett referred to it in private, "the-content-formerly-known-as-journalism.")

He worked closely with Facebook -- along with the few major publishers like DotBuzz left standing after the great media purge and consolidation of the late 2010s -- to personalize every story through a mixture of psychological algorithms and human curation, in order to induce specific buying outcomes. For Ellen, a smart but insecure woman, that might mean celebrity gossip articles that were intellectual and progressive enough to avoid insulting her intelligence, but that nevertheless subliminally lionized celebrities and supported the notion that these ageless wonders represent a lifestyle readers can and should achieve.

One immensely popular post last July concerned an out-of-context quote made by an Academy Award winning actor suggesting he dumped his former beauty queen wife because she was too old. In a clever piece of synergy between advertiser, publisher, platform, and reader, the author crucified the man in a formidable display of raw social-media-ready outrage. But despite the article's feminist bent, the message was as regressive as the worst tabloids headlines of the 20th century: Stay young, ladies, or your husband will leave you for a younger woman. It was considered a win for everyone involved, from the publisher to the makeup company that sponsored the post.

Bennett was good at his job -- and why wouldn't he be? Earlier in his career, he worked at a storied but now-shuttered newspaper where he was the only editor who understood what everyone in media now accepted: That journalism existed to serve advertisers, not the other way around.

Bennett never hid his reasons for leaving the field behind.

"There was no money, no job security, and no incentive to produce anything of value," he told Giga's COO in his third interview. "The only courageous journalists left have been downsized, and the rest are doing hard-time for minor dope offenses, caught up in supposedly random data dragnets."

On occasion, Bennett still chewed the fat with old journalistic colleagues like Jack Douglas, his former editor-in-chief who was forced into early retirement after the paper went bankrupt.

"How do you sleep at night," Jack asked him once, playfully but with genuine curiosity. "That new paradigm you've refined over at Giga is really something, huh? Privacy's out of the door, ethics-in-journalism is an oxymoron, and it's all so Wal-Mart can sell us a few more garbage products than last year."

"And you know what the best part is?" answered Bennett, who loved to give Jack shit back. "With all the real journalists taken to the woodshed, Wal-Mart can act like even more of a corporate bully than ever, and nobody will call them out!"

Jack and Bennett both knew there was a kernel of guilt beneath this fatalism. Most days, however, Bennett considered the erosion of privacy to be an inevitable by-product of our always-connected, always-on world. If GigaBox didn't capitalize on it, somebody else would. And while he was deeply disturbed by the government's use of data as weapons against dissidents, the for-profit surveillance machine kept rolling because users consented to it. They had it coming.

Bennett was about to read up on dog rejuvenation therapies -- surely a scam, but a potentially lucrative one -- for the 1:00 PM Purina-DotBuzz meeting when his eyes caught a red notification button in the corner of his screen. A red notification could only mean two things, and neither of them were good.

Bennett clicked on the message, and when he read the word "AUDIT" in the subject line, his mind could think of nothing else but this: Alyssa's end-of-summer party.

***

When Bennett met Alyssa in an undergrad poetry-writing elective at Berkeley, one could have easily mistaken their lives as being on similar trajectories. They would pull all-nighters together, snorting Adderall not so much as a study aid, but to stave off the wearying and wrecking effects of so many beers and blunts. The two would allow nothing to dull their conversations, which frequently touched on philosophy and the merits of blank verse, but focused predominantly on mocking the awful poetry of their classmates and trying to one up each other to see who could find the sickest Japanese porn clips. Exclamations like "Don't put that eel in there!" regularly filled the halls of their freshman dorm. The Internet was still a wild and woolly place back then, and together the two ravenously explored its most dangerous corners.

Over the next fifteen years, however, their destinies diverged dramatically. Alyssa had achieved immense success as a poet -- meaning she received rave reviews and no money. Meanwhile, Bennett worked at a giant tech organization, run by a misogynist sociopath, that profited from human misery.

Maybe the divergence was inevitable. Whenever Bennett thought of Alyssa, he would recall Junior year and the night she accidentally lit her jet-black hair on fire trying to light a cigarette on his stove. It freaked her out and, in treating the fire and her fragile nerves, Bennett leaned in for a kiss which was received, but not enthusiastically.

Alyssa told him she didn't think of him that way, and Bennett quickly backpedaled, humiliated but not angry. Something about that night still haunted him, though -- as if he didn't really belong in her sphere of hipster decadence. And whatever insecurities were unearthed during that misfire, those same insecurities led him to quit journalism and work for an horrid capitalist gremlin like Trevor Keller. As much as it pained him to admit, he felt more comfortable around the Trevor Kellers of the world than he did around Alyssa and her coterie of artist misfits.

But with an impending audit staring Bennett down, the memory of that kiss took a backseat to another memory of a party Alyssa threw two months ago. Bennett still enjoyed her boozy, semi-annual drugged-out fests, but for his reasons for attending had become uglier and less genuine. They gave him an sense of superiority that Bennett was keenly aware of, though not at all proud of; superiority over the party animals -- because in a few years they would be dead, in jail, or back home living with their parents -- and superiority over his colleagues in the straight world, who could never hang with a crowd like this without embarrassing themselves.

This night was special -- as were all nights where psychedelic mushrooms had been procured. Bennett, however, had zero intent to partake in the chocolate-dipped fungus caps. He had long abandoned any hope for spiritual enlightenment and, more to the point, there were no sure-fire methods of hiding these active chemicals from the health sensors.

If Alyssa had merely made a joke about Bennett's straight-world status like she usually did in these scenarios, he would have easily turned down the psychedelic treats. "I would offer some to Bennett," she could have said, "but scientists say magic mushrooms increase empathy, and I don't think his bosses would appreciate that."

But instead, as she passed a mushroom cap to each person in the corner of the loft where they sat listening to Can's Ege Bamyasi, she casually skipped over him, her black eyes never meeting his for even an instant. Like a punch to the chest, he experienced the same feelings of insecurity that spilled out 15 years earlier when she rebuked his advances. He was merely a tourist in her world, Bennett thought, a guy who's just cool enough to not piss off the locals, but who would never survive as a full-time resident.

"Alyssa," he said. All it took was a nod from him and, as if by magic, she produced one more cap for Bennett.

And now he was being fucking audited and would almost certainly lose his job.

And for what? He didn't even eat enough to transcend his consciousness or see any serious visuals -- just a body-buzz and a few mild, hallucinatory trails of light. Even worse, the trip -- if you could call it that -- only intensified his insecurities toward Alyssa, as he watched her comfortably navigate the world of brilliant deadbeats in a way he never could. Late in the evening, she placed her hands in his back pockets and pulled him close to her. But now it was his turn to rebuke her advances.

"I would ruin you," he told her, with the sense of sad clarity he always felt when he took anything stronger than pot. And with that, the moment had passed. Twenty minutes later, he was home in bed alone.

***

Bennett didn't ask many questions when he was first told by his employer that his every bodily function, his every input and output, would be tracked and recorded. There was really very little he had to hide about his day-to-day lifestyle. The otherwise healthy 33-year-old probably drank too much -- though a certain amount of liver damage is a pre-requisite for his field. And he only smoked legal weed, none of that hyper-potent hash that his ex-girlfriend Kate got locked up for after her name popped up in a surprise DEA request of Google data.

Kate's arrest was such a shock because people usually saw these big data seizures coming. As mandated by the Data Privacy Act of 2020 -- which depending on who you ask was either a toothless joke or a deathblow to America's defense against terrorism -- government bodies like the NSA and the FBI were limited in the number of records and the frequency with which they can demand data from tech firms. So they made these requests count, which lent them an air of predictability.

The DEA seizures were particularly easy to spot ahead of time: One might take place following a down-turn in incarceration rates, at the behest of the politically connected private prison industry. Or the US Attorney General, eying a presidential run, might decide to appeal to people who vote by locking up a bunch of people who don't. There were even online communities where armchair prognosticators placed bets on when and where these seizures would take place, not unlike the stock market and with far better odds. Thus was the predictability of a justice system powered by algorithms.

This usually left the savviest tech users -- who read the right blogs, who followed the right Twitter accounts, and who were generally born into some flavor of cultural or financial privilege -- enough time to wipe their HealthKits and Google Fit histories of any potentially unseemly data points before the crackdowns began. Others were not so lucky. Apple and Google, companies that normally prided themselves on usability, purposely made these erasures difficult for users.

Of course, as Bennett learned over his years as a data dealer, nothing ever really disappeared. But unless you put a target on your back by, say, rallying anti-government protesters or filing Freedom of Information Act requests a little too enthusiastically, no one would waste time digging up your body's deleted history -- or at least that's what he had banked on throughout his career. As for Kate, a barista and musician whose arrest came without warning, Bennett figured she merely had the bad luck of getting high near the same cell tower as somebody the government really wanted to nab, like a drug kingpin. Or a domestic terrorist. Or an investigative journalist.

***

The audit would be conducted the following morning, the message said, on-site at Giga's corporate headquarters in Mid-Market. That gave Bennett a laughably small amount of time to figure out a solution. A manual erasure wouldn't do -- the auditors were no doubt monitoring his account for such behavior. He needed something that could effectively "hack" his internal sensors and erase every trace of data associated with the drug on any server in the world. He had heard of such pills existing, but not for organic substances like psilocibin.

At 6 PM sharp, Bennett closed his work laptop and powered up his home station in search of a savior. At work, he'd become adept at navigating the illicit online marketplaces of the so-called Deep Web, where he was often asked to work with clients whose products were just as suspect as the snake oil bought and sold illegally in the dark recesses of the Internet -- goods which lacked only the thin sheen of "corporate responsibility" that the products sold by giant brands possessed.

Only that day, he made sure to cover his tracks, routing his IP address through a succession of relays too labyrinthine for authorities to trace. As he leapt between drug marketplaces and user forums, dozens of dealers promised miracle privacy pills that could hide any organic compound -- only to have these claims unilaterally refuted by reputable community forums of seasoned drug geeks.

After hours of research, Bennett had found three options that didn't sound like total garbage. He went with the one sold by the highest-rated of the three dealers, whose handle was Wintermute. A little obvious, Bennett thought, but if you're going to buy drugs from a stranger on the Internet, a name like Wintermute, taken from William Gibson's Neuromancer, at least establishes some cyber-punk credibility.

Bennett submitted a request for the drug, providing an email address on one of the few private encrypted services he could still trust. Within minutes, he received an message asking for his location. There was little reason for Wintermute to question Bennett's intentions. Bennett had an equally high buyer-rating, superficially boosted by burner accounts created by Giga that allowed him to join whatever Deep Web forums might aid him in his research. Bennett requested a meeting at a sports bar two blocks from his apartment -- the last place anybody would expect a drug deal to go down.

Two hours later, Bennett was face-to-face with a soft-featured Norwegian-looking blond boy who couldn't have been older than fifteen. When the waitress approached, the kid ordered an over-priced, artificially sweetened bastardization of a Martini with such confidence that the woman was too perplexed by the absurdity of the order to card him. After she left the table, there were no second locations proposed, no drugs stashed in the back of the restroom toilet -- just a manila envelope that the boy handed across the table to Bennett.

"Here you go, man," the boy said in a friendly tone. "Take care." By the time the waitress returned with his drink, the kid was long gone.

The surprising normalcy of the interaction and the boy's friendly demeanor filled Bennett with a strange sense of hope. Unlike his colleagues who had been burned by audits, he could navigate the underground in ways the squares could never dream. As he gingerly handled the pill bottle through the closed envelope, Bennett finished his beer and, after a moment of internal debate, downed the hot pink cocktail and went home.

***

But as Bennett walked home through his neighborhood, which was already fast-asleep at 11 PM, past smooth Apple-grey walls washed clean of graffiti or any signature of the counterculture that had spawned this now corporate technocracy, Bennett's anxieties resurfaced. The world of Norweigan drug mules and beautiful poetry students was dying. If he avoided termination, it would not be because of any special street intelligence on Bennett's part -- it was because he was too important a cog in the machinery of this brave new corporate world. He belonged with the Trevor Kellers of the world, not the Alyssas and Wintermutes.

When Bennett entered his apartment, he poured three or four shots of Scotch into a coffee mug and powered up his work laptop to distract himself with Purina. As soon as the clean, muted interface of the virtual office loaded, however, he noticed another red notification sent only two minutes earlier. The message was terrifyingly brief:

"Due to scheduling conflicts within the Data Oversight Committee, your audit has been postponed for two weeks."

Bennett took a panicked gulp of scotch and felt instantly sick, letting out a horrendous belch that was just a few inches of esophagus shy of a full-blown vomit attack. Something wasn't right, he thought. Either they already knew about the mushrooms and were waiting to see if he did anything incriminating (like, I don't know, meeting an adolescent drug trafficker at a sports bar?) or they already knew everything and were giving him two more weeks to close another marquee deal before canning him.

With his anxieties replaced by a resigned assurance in his own demise, Bennett closed his laptop, crawled into bed fully-clothed, and slept the restful sleep of the damned.

***

The next two weeks passed without incident. He closed the Purina-DotBuzz deal -- ten sponsored listicles about makeup for dogs that an unpaid DotBuzz intern would probably write between lunchtime and an afternoon cigarette; plus a short video that gave viewers an "exclusive behind-the-scenes look" at a high-end dog spa in the Marina. Purina was willing to put major advertising dollars behind the campaign to ensure that choice demographics saw the video on Facebook. He required no "secret sauce" to make the content go viral -- just a dog food company that made millions of dollars poisoning pets and a tech platform willing to sell its captive audience to the highest bidder.

Meanwhile, Bennett dutifully took the pills -- twice a day until the bottle was empty. On the first day, he counted the pills: Fourteen. He would finish the course on the exact day of his audit. Bennett took note of this coincidence, but concluded that if he had been set up by his company, the auditors wouldn't have done anything so obvious to raise unnecessary suspicions -- unless of course they were intentionally toying with him.

On the day of the audit, a self-driving car delivered Bennett to the corporate headquarters of Giga. The building was a paean to Keller's favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, and the architect protagonist of her least hated novel, The Fountainhead. Some considered the grey, unadorned monolith to be an eyesore amid the city's more interesting architectural feats. But Keller relished these insults. When you run the fastest-growing company in the history of the United States, haters are undoubtedly gonna hate -- and Keller preferred that they hated on something as insignificant as an ugly building than his seriously atrocious and often extralegal corporate policies.

When Bennett entered the lobby, he remembered how intimidating it was. Equally unadorned, its lack of artistry made the lobby's sheer size all the more impressive. No decorations would distract from the only thing that matters to Giga: Magnitude. It's even right there in the name.

When the elevator doors opened on the 27th floor, the receptionist directed him down a hallway to the first door on the right, which was ominously cracked open. He knocked.

"Come in," answered a smooth, calm voice from within.

Bennett did not know what to expect of the room, but what he saw surprised him, nonetheless. There were no medical instruments nor electronic apparatuses of any kind; just a desk and some bad horse-themed corporate art on the walls. The man sitting behind the desk did not look like a doctor nor a data scientist. Clean-shaven, dressed in a $5,000 suit, and sporting immaculately gelled blond hair, the man was clearly an executive. He looked like he would have followed Hitler to the end.

"Please sit down, Mr. Marcus." The man stayed silent until Bennett obliged his request. He then began again in the confident, measured tone of corporate executives and serial rapists. "I am going to tell you some things that may come as a shock to you."

Seconds of silence passed before Bennett, unsure of what to say next, said drily, "I'm on the edge of my seat." Bennett had no idea why he said that. Was it supposed to be a joke? What was he doing?

The man continued, unamused: "We won't be auditing you today. Instead I have some news to share with you. Two months ago our insurance provider, who as you know monitors your vitals remotely, alerted us that you were suffering from a heart condition that, while rare, is slowly increasing in incidence across America over the past five years."

Bennett's chest tightened, and the blood drained from his head. "I have what? I... Why wasn't I informed?"

"Well as you may or may not know, Mr. Marcus, whenever we are made aware of a condition that is serious enough to jeopardize an employee's ability to work here, it is company policy to run a preliminary audit to determine if any, shall we say, lifestyle decisions were a factor in causing the condition. This is done before informing the employee in order to prevent he or she from taking measures to wipe potentially problematic biometric data recordings."

"Stop. Tell me what I have. How serious--"

"In our findings," the man interrupted at a higher volume but in a tone no less measured, "we discovered that on August 17th of this year you ingested a substance that is banned by federal law and subject to felony prosecution. I won't bother to ask if you dispute this because we both know it to be true."

Bennett sat stone-faced. He no longer cared about the mushrooms or losing his job or going to jail -- he just wanted to know if he was dying. But the man had a carefully-planned script to adhere to and would suffer no further interruptions.

"This presented us with... let's call it a unique opportunity," the man said. "As you know, we're beginning to make major inroads with the pharmaceuticals industry. I won't tell you the name of the client, but a Fortune 500 consumer healthcare firm has been looking to test a drug to treat the very condition you suffer from. The FDA, however has not yet signed off on human testing, and there is a limit even to Giga's lobbying power. The pharmaceutical-maker needed a test subject who not only had the condition, but who we could leverage to stay silent. And then you came along, quite frankly, wrapped up with a bow."

Wintermute. The boy. The pills. It was all a setup.

"As you should know, if you don't already," the man continued, "we closely monitor your Deep Web activity, even when you think you're protected by encryption. Thanks to our government contracts, we've been given limited access to backdoors installed in that technology allowing us to see everything our employees do online, anonymously or not."

This man is revealing way too much, Bennett thought. I'm done for.

Here, the man appeared to go off-script. "Mr. Marcus, I must ask: Did you really think we would fire you just because you ate some mushrooms at a party? Personally, I was skeptical that you would take the bait. But the rest of the executive board -- and particularly Keller -- were convinced. In any case, I've said too much already. We wouldn't have hired you if you weren't smart enough to put the rest of the pieces together."

Bennett stood up and threw his chair against the wall, knocking down a picture of a horse eating an apple out of the hand of a toddler. He wanted to scream at this fucking Nazi psychopath but when he began to speak his voice cracked like ice. "Okay, I get it. So fire me. Arrest me, for fuck's sake." His eyes began to burn with salty tears. "I don't care, just tell me what I have. Am I dying?"

The man sighed. "This is unpleasant." Another unbearable pause. "Yes, you are dying. After surveying a number of experts, the condition is fatal. And preliminary reports suggest that the drug is, in its current iteration, ineffective at treating the condition. We wanted to put this project together sooner but there were a lot of moving pieces involved as you might imagine."

Moving pieces. Even when telling another man he's dying, the fucker uses business jargon.

There was only one question left to ask, and Bennett had never been more terrified of anything in his life than of asking it.

"How long?"

"Three months."

"Excuse me?"

"Well, that's from the time the doctors discovered the condition. So now it's one month."

Bennett had no words. He had spent two of his last three months on Earth working for a corporation that had twisted what was beautiful and life-affirming about technology into a corporate, capitalist nightmare, destroying everything standing in the path of profit. Two months he could have used to say goodbye to his friends and family. Two months he could have spent living his life according to the very values Giga systematically defiled everyday of its subhuman existence.

Bennett had almost no time left, and somehow Giga already took most of it away from him. For all he knew it was the sensors they forced into his body that were killing him. He could sue, he supposed, but he had no proof -- Giga had almost certainly wiped clean any evidence of their gambit. Meanwhile, the company could easily paint him as a drug-addicted deviant with the data they collected from his devices. He could go to the press, but the only outlets left willing to attack a company as big as Giga were so fringe that, at most, it might make a few dozen people think twice about using the company's services. And for how long? Six months? Less?

No, Bennett would not waste another moment's breath, not another anxious thought, on this company. He left the room without complaint from his adversary -- there no calls to security made, no authorities waiting outside the door to pound his ass and send him to jail. Although a lawsuit or a damning press report would make little difference to Giga's longterm profits, it was clear that the company would rather avoid these inconveniences and grant Bennett the freedom to live out the final days of his life as he saw fit, in return for his silence.

After exiting the building, Bennett took out his phone. Staring at the black screen, which was still connected to hundreds of tiny sensors littered throughout his body, he had a moment's desire to smash the device against the sidewalk, laying waste to this piece of technology that ruined most of the little time he had left.

But the moment passed. Instead he unlocked his phone and texted Alyssa.

[illustration by Hallie Bateman]

...

[Editor's Note: This article is part of Pando's "Go On With Your Quantified Self” series. The series is sponsored by New Relic, so you’ll only see their ads around featured articles. But the series was conceived, commissioned and edited entirely by Pando. New Relic had no input whatsoever in the editorial. For more on our policy towards single sponsor series like this one, see here.]

[Image credit: ForestWander (Creative Commons)]

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