About twelve years ago I started writing The Religion War,
a sequel to God's Debris
. It was published ten years ago.
The story was set in the not-too-distant future. I chose that timeframe in part because I wanted to be alive to see how my fiction-predictions turned out. Let's see how I did.
My main fiction-prediction was that a charismatic Muslim leader would unite the Muslim countries and create a Caliphate. In the book, that leader was named Al-Zee. In the real world, a leader named Al-Baghdadi has carved out a caliphate from parts of Syria and Iraq. He's calling for all Muslims to unite. I don't think he'll unite all Muslims, but he might someday succeed in killing the ones who disagree with his plan.
In the book, Al-Zee allowed his terrorist lackeys to use hobby-sized drones to bomb American cities on an ongoing basis to keep morale high at the Caliphate while Al-Zee publicly denied any involvement. We know terrorists are interested in drones. That part of the prediction seems assured. And in the book they have access to chemical weapons to arm the drones. The real-world Caliphate includes parts of Syria, so chemical weapons on hobby drones can't be far behind.
A key plot background in the book is the existence of what we now call Big Data. The protagonist uses big data to search for the Prime Influencer - the one person who, by virtue of personality and connections, can kick-start an idea that will become viral. I would think Facebook is close to knowing who the Prime Influencers are. The common view today is that virality springs from the qualities of the content, e.g. funny, shocking, or surprising. But I think someday we'll realize those are minimum requirements and what matters more for virality is who started the ball rolling.
The Religion War imagines a military general rising to power in the United States. His last name is Cruz, and he's a conservative extremist. General Cruz pursues a military strategy of containment and then extermination of the entire Caliphate because anything short of that is unlikely to stop the drone attacks in the long run. But first Cruz has to grab power from his own weak civilian government, which he accomplishes by using a false flag
Today, public support for the President of the United States and Congress are at historic low points. And Senator Ted Cruz from Texas is a leading voice in the conservative movement, thus making him a potential candidate for President. If the homeland is continually attacked by drones, citizens will quickly become conservative and militant. By the time Cruz becomes President, the Caliphate will have consolidated power and only severe military action is likely to stop the continuous drone attacks. How would he respond?
In the book I imagined that the government would combat terrorism by strictly limiting digital communications. If someone is not on your approved list you can't call, text, or email with them. If you want to add someone to your list, there's a bureaucratic process to do that. That part of the prediction is unlikely to happen because the NSA can monitor every form of communication, and that's a more effective solution. I didn't see that coming. But I'll take partial credit for predicting that the government wouldn't allow unfettered private conversations over networks in the future.
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book