© 2017 Liam Brown
Most people, if approached by a corporation and asked for permission to plant a microchip in their brainstem, would say “Nope” and back away from the crazy man. But David Callow isn’t most people: he’s a famous for being famous YouTuber whose main asset is a pretty face, and his time in the spotlight is beginning to fade. Becoming the star of a revolutionary new show and broadcasting Himself, Unfiltered! seems just the ticket for reigniting his career and avoiding the pitfalls of has-beendom. Lost on David in his anxiety to stay hip are the terms and conditions he eagerly signs on to, and by the time he realizes there’s more to the experiment than enhancing his stardom, he’s absolutely lost.Broadcast is a chilling look into the possible future of neurotechnology, and a not-too-subtle critique of social media’s effects on our mind.
David is easily the shallowest, most self-absorbed character I’ve ever endured in fiction — and I’m fairly certain that this is done on purpose. A youtuber and ‘influencer’, he spends most of his time snapping shots of himself and offering insipid thoughts about the meaning of life. His decision to take part in the experiment is not the result of a careful examination, or a purposeful interest in advancing neurotechnology; it is instead the reaction of a weak, vain main who fills his nights with booze and MDMA and shudders at the thought of losing his status as a celebrity. Were it not for for the sheer interest in the story itself — the possibilities of the Mindcast technology, and the knowing reader’s speculation that something horrible is going to happen, we just don’t know what it is yet — he would not be worth reading about. As the story progresses, however, as David begins to realize the awfulness of having his every thought exposed to the world, when people avoid him for fear of what he’ll think about him, when he becomes a total victim of his own solipsism — one can’t help but feel sorry for him. The vanity falls away, replaced by fear, isolation, panic. The technology can do far more than was told to him, and he is powerless to remove it — he is nothing but the unwitting prisoner of his own mind and the corporation that effectively controls it.
Broadcast is short, but effective in drawing the reader into this story that begins with an obnoxious dolt, and ends in existential dread, rendered especially salient by the reader being just as anxious as the subject.