“Okay Edith, I’ve been bingeing on KTS,” said Julian. Then, self-deprecatingly, “More stupid questions.”
“Then I have a chance!” she joked.
“Some basic ones, and maybe not so basic. First – do you know what Google was?”
“What happened to it?”
“Yes, it eventually turned into a utility, in the 2060s. Core parts more or less taken over by the government, in stages. The very short version is, it became KTS.”
Julian thought about this. “But, except, more professionally-developed content?”
“Exactly. Well, and other changes, too. Unregistered accounts were outlawed, ads mostly eliminated, and – well, stop me before I start lecturing.”
“You’re a serious sociologist, aren’t you.”
“How did you know?”
“I KTS’ed you.”
“KTS’ed?” she asked. Julian had expected a chuckle, but the reference to “Googling” flopped.
“Never mind. Next question?”
“This one’s tougher, it’s... I’ve been looking at some of the news. It’s... well... you know I was a politician, a Republican. And I’m looking at, I can’t help looking for the conflicts. The political arguments. It seems different. Though, I’m sure there’s stuff under the surface that I can’t recognize.”
“I’m with you – go on...”
“Yes, bear with me here.” Julian tried to boil it down to an example. “In my day, for example… there was a conflict between... ‘traditional values,’ and progressive, multicultural...” He stopped, unsure what to say next.
“I understand this question, Julian. Tell me if this relates at all. There’s been a lot of historical work about how modern media changed people’s worldviews throughout the twenty-first century. They say the concept of ‘foreign’ has become less meaningful. One of the most basic things was, everyone learned that people in other groups actually had thoughts like them and had different world views—and, that none of the world views was ‘privileged,’ except to the extent some had more political power.”
“Ok,” said Julian hesitantly. “That sounds sensible. And… totally obvious – pardon me for saying.”
Julian peppered Edith with questions for nearly an hour. She explained some of the societal changes that had occurred, as well as the things that hadn’t much changed. Social media had become much more organized, with many online “institutions” performing useful functions: watchdog groups, software development, fact checkers, policy ‘clubs’... Some older intellectual divides (e.g. communism/capitalism, race) had lost relevance... A number of earlier governance problems had long been patched up: budget control, control of special interests, regulatory bloat... And government now did much more to ensure all citizens could have work.
Julian digested all of this as best he could.
“This all sounds great,” he admitted. “I almost have to ask: what problems are left?”
Again, Edith laughed. “Oh, there’s plenty!”