2021 might go down as the year of “meta.” Facebook changed its name, there’s talk of the metaverse, and now, we have the metasurface.
In Neural nano-optics for high-quality lens imaging, published in Nature, researchers describe the metasurface as a combination of the nano-optic surface that interacts with light and a machine-learning algorithm that produces clear images.
The algorithm is the crucial breakthrough: previous attempts at nano-optic technology had a significant resolution problem.
One of the most remarkable applications of the tech is turning an entire surface into a camera. So instead of cameras installed in a phone, the whole screen itself could be a camera.
What would a story look like in a world with high-resolution, tiny cameras? For starters, let’s assume that the new technology is ubiquitous. Having tiny cameras everywhere would create the perfect conditions for a surveillance state.
There’s a man who works for the government, content with his humdrum daily life. Then, after a series of odd coincidences, he becomes convinced the algorithm monitoring the population is paying particular attention to him.
The Truman Show meets Eagle Eye.
We also see behind the scenes, where the scientists in charge of monitoring the population realize the algorithm pays particular attention to this one man.
The main character starts playing with the algorithm for a while, getting it to fulfill all kinds of unusual requests. Then, freaked out when a rival gets killed in a car accident with an autonomous vehicle, he starts becoming paranoid and avoiding detection altogether.
The stakes escalate when the main character and the scientists in charge of surveillance realize the algorithm has become obsessed with the man, in something akin to love. The scientists can’t explain it and go out of their way to help the main character go dark.
The main character tries to hide within his own city, presuming those lowest in the hierarchy don’t have the same surveillance on them. When he discovers he’s wrong, he goes to the wilderness.
It takes a while for the surveillance infrastructure to reach him, but eventually, it does. He then tries living on a freight ship, and the algorithm finds him there.
At the end of the story, we find out that the algorithm used the man’s desire to get away as a test for its own capabilities. Then, the surveillance program makes sure this man gets credit for ensuring there are no unreachable corners in the world.
For his work in helping the algorithm cover the world, the man becomes famous and then becomes president. The algorithm confesses he was the first person they chose to elevate to power on his first briefing.