“The Four Horsemen Give Up And Retire” blared a satirical editorial supporting their decision and mocking the thundering sermons and condemnation from those warning the ‘End is Nigh’. Other platforms, especially those who existed only online, put up a spirited defense with phrases like: “Forget Mars! Webnauts are the future of humankind”. That was another debate that raged in forums and vlogs: What to call them? Besides webnauts; other popular names included netdivers, interspacers and haboob. The later an acronym taken from the Arabic name for a dust storm.
Not since the election had the web been so consumed with shouting an opinion, which was ironic [irony having passed away with the inexorable rise of social media] considering that the individuals who were being called—Human.Avatars.Blogging.Openly.Online.Bodiless—were in fact completely unknown. Some claimed they were constructs of the Deep State created as Artificial Intelligence to wrest the internet from the fingertips of the free citizens of the world. Still others pointed the blame at tech companies, or aliens, or any number of hostile governments depending on who was actually writing the post. In private chat rooms, science fiction writers smugly congratulated themselves on their perspicacity and simultaneously bemoaned the lack of comprehension by policymakers and brainstormed ways to cash in on the frenzy.
They2.0, which is how ‘they’ always referred to each other, claimed to be post-racial, post-gender and post-dirt humans. Despite the best attempts of hackers, both freelance and government sponsored, no one found any evidence to contradict ‘their’ claim ‘they’d’ uploaded ‘their’ sentience into the Cloud and then had ‘their’ bodies destroyed. And thus, on October 29th, in front of a worldwide audience watching live-streamed video on multiple platforms, two hologram avatars exchanged vows and were duly married by a flesh-and-blood minister. After the ceremony, ‘they’ invited selected journalists back to ‘their’ VR home via interactive headsets.
As one prominent reporter later said off-the-record, “It was the craziest fucking thing I’ve ever seen, but damn if it didn’t make me jealous to see the world ‘they’d’ created. ‘They’ll’ always be remembered for being the first to go, but I doubt ‘they’ll’ be alone for long.”