Of course we all know there was no internet during the time of the American Revolution. Nobody had computers then, let alone the connectedness we take for granted these days. The whole world was very different then.
And yet, what would have happened if there HAD been an internet two hundred years earlier? What would have happened to the American Revolution if our Founding Fathers had the use of social media and email and all the electronic paraphernalia of our modern age?
That’s the premise of a new and EXTREMELY quirky novel, Doctor Benjamin Franklin’s Dream America: a Novel of the Digital Revolution, by Damien Lincoln Ober. In 1777, colonial America is fully digitized. There’s the internet, there’s social media, there are all the kinds of connections we use in the 21st century. Everything is going well until a secret Congressional committee uploads a draft Articles of Confederation to the cloud. Suddenly an internet plague breaks out and anyone who uses a networked device is killed. Three quarters of the population is dead, the internet is abandoned, and the British take advantage of the chaos to move in on New York and Philadelphia, apparently destroying the rebellion.
George Washington then emerges from off the grid and delivers a crushing and surprising blow to the British at Yorktown, winning American independence. However, with the internet dead and the countryside in ruins, the new nation teeters on the edge of utter collapse. A secret group of the Founding Fathers get together to create a new operating system, immune to errors and internet plagues, designed to stabilize the cloud and ensure American prosperity.
Thomas Jefferson and his coterie of rebels sees the new operating system as a betrayal of the American Revolution, and sets out to fight the overreach of Washington’s Federalists. Jefferson’s secret weapon is Doctor Benjamin Franklin’s Dream America, an open-source portal that will bring real democracy (rather than the representative kind) to the people and make Congress and the President utterly irrelevant.
How can you not be curious about this alternate history? Just the thought of Benjamin Franklin messing around with the internet is enough to intrigue me, not to mention what other bizarre twists there might be to our commonly held ideas about how we won the war and what happened thereafter. For a wild ride through alternate history, check out Doctor Benjamin Franklin’s Dream America.