"Until all of humanity lives free - not just 'free' in the melodrama of liberty and independence - but free from abject suffering and spiteful division and all the seemingly minute things that can make one's life unbearable, then humanity cannot truly live - it can only 'be'."
-Joseph Hightower, New Age Technocracy
Joseph Hightower was a notable pre-war businessman and inventor turned criminal/insurgent revolutionary and is widely regarded as (perhaps the main) "founding father" of the New Frenco Empire. Sitting at the head of the "New Roman 12" before and shortly after the Great War, he directly influenced the founding ideals and principles of the New Roman Revolutionary Republic, and what would later become the Empire, later serving as Consul-Chairman of the Empire for nearly forty years before his death. He remains one of the most controversial and/or beloved (depending on who you ask) figures in modern history, and his extremely prevalent legacy can be found in every corner of the solar system.
Born into a modest middle-class Nevada family, Hightower was considered a "prodigy" of sorts from a young age, taking early interest in computers and programming. He reportedly designed his first computer game at age seven (a simple Tetris-like using freeware code) and programmed a simple operating system (based on Windows 95 legacy code) by age twelve. His talents in the Information Technology field were well-recognized during his upbringing, and he graduated as Valedictorian from A-TECH High School in 2014, and he was given a full scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, he instead opted to attend UC Berkeley so he could be closer to home and be among a more "interesting" student body.
As per his later memoirs, it was his time at the university that instilled within him a strong sense of justice and a vision for ideology, as he was socially active during one of the most divisive periods in U.S political history. He was reportedly involved in some capacity in the 2017 riots (Hightower himself claimed to be a part of the "peaceful crowd", and the intense partisan violence he witnessed stuck with him for the rest of his life).
He graduated near the top of his class with a Master's degree in Sciences in 2020. According to faculty, Hightower was an enthusiastic student, and was of much help in faculty projects, particularly those dealing with the emerging theory of Artificial Intelligence.
Government Employee and Whistleblower
Upon graduating from Berkeley, he was hired by the U.S. Department of Defense as a cybersecurity analyst at a time when the nation was extremely vulnerable to foreign interference from rival powers such as Russia or China, and the government was scooping up as many CompSci experts from colleges as they could to counter the threat. Despite his young age and general lack of experience, he stood out in his department and would eventually earn prominent places in many research committees and focus groups. His time at the DoD was marked with fierce militancy, and he was among those who believed that guarding against cyber threats wasn't enough - any incursions into America's cybersecurity network should be met with full force and retribution. He often said of himself that he was a "soldier without a rifle, fighting a war not a soul will ever write about".
In 2023, after it was found out that Hightower was part of a secretive cabal that released key documents implicating Russian involvement in elections and for the past six years and had intricate plans for a "counteroffensive" to undermine the Russian oligarchs in the 2024 election, he was among nearly five hundred government employees dismissed, and among forty-seven to be subject to congressional investigation (though was not charged with any crimes). Despite losing his government job, his work was undoubtedly key in exposing mortal weaknesses in the United States' technological security grid, and contributed directly to the fall of the long-running Republican administration in 2024 (which indirectly also destroyed the two party system of the United States, as the ruling Republican and Democratic parties both split apart that election cycle due to the news of foreign interference with the "ruling elite" of both parties).
Though Hightower wasn't the ringleader or even the primary figure behind the cabal (known to the media as the "Watchdogs"), he became famous to the general public for his conduct during the televised congressional hearings, in which he stood "unwavering and fearless" before congressional investigators, freely admitting all he and his accomplices had done (though without directly implicating anyone but himself, perhaps even "overselling" his role in the ordeal) with an almost "eccentric" eloquence. While he was never charged or harmed in any way by the investigation, Hightower had gained a reputation worthy of older whistleblowers, such as Daniel Ellsberg or Edward Snowden.
Business Success and Political Influence
After his dismissal from the DoD, he signed on with an IT startup with Harvard alumni and wealthy urban agricultural mogul Matthew Fren and fellow software developer Michael Walterstein in 2025. The startup was mostly intended to be a development giant, putting research into practical applications of AI for the commercial market, which was quickly emerging in technological feasibility for a wider range of applications. Hightower himself had experimented with AI technology (it being his favorite school subject) during his time with the DoD, and tested many applications in the context of cybersecurity.
As per Fren's guidance, the "Fren Corporation" (FrenCo for short) was started in San Jose, California in the heart of Silicon Valley, where Hightower, Walterstein, and the dozens of other contractors picked up would have first exposure to emerging high technology necessary to fuel their endeavours. While Fren was a "trendy" venture capitalist who had already seen great success with vertical agriculture investments and wanted further success in the field of AI, and Walterstein was a veteran in the field interested mainly in making a name for himself, Hightower saw AI's potential as nothing short of "revolutionary" on the global stage, capable of empowering - or destroying - the current geopolitical situation. A definite holdover from his idealistic college years.
By 2030, FrenCo was a household name, primarily due to Hightower. His already public name had garnered great interest in the company, and in 2027, Hightower put his cybersecurity AI theories into practice with FrenCo's pilot product - "Hunter Killer". Hunter Killer was an extremely innovative home software program, tailored for "full optimization and protection" of individual computers. Using practical AI concepts the likes of which were only (barely) available to government institutions, Hunter Killer was marketed as a "smart" antivirus program, that would perform constant manual program sweeps with precision and strength unmatched by any conventional software at the time. Aside from that, it was also well-received for it's "optimization" protocols, making home computers run faster and more efficiently. Technology experts and publications soon considered Hunter Killer "mandatory" for all home and business computers, and a lucrative government contract made Hightower a millionaire.
Though Hunter Killer was a great success, Hightower continued to invent and innovate. In 2032, FrenCo released its own operating system, "DataPal", the name in reference to the (at the time) innovative AI at the helm of the system operation. DataPal would prove to be FrenCo (and Hightower's) best seller, and by 2035, almost half of all new personal computers were being shipped with DataPal as the standard OS, easily overtaking Windows and Macintosh. All the while, tech companies and governments across the world were paying FrenCo royalties for AI templates and codes, of which FrenCo held many ironclad patents to. By 2038, FrenCo had become a trillion-dollar company - not-so-coincidentally colliding with the 2038 Problem, of which FrenCo products were protected against.
While Fren was soon the wealthiest man in the world, Hightower was a familiar sight in Washington D.C. An outspoken supporter of the Progressive-Democrat party, he became their largest single supporter (as the PDs didn't often accept large donations from corporate interests), and turned up at rallies to drum up support. His peak involvement, however, was the 2036 presidential election, of which millions of Hightower's dollars were poured into the campaign of Vermont governor and former Senator, Alexander Winslow. Though Winslow was often labeled an "extremist" by the opposing three parties, he had a tremendous populist following and great appeal with youth, the working class, and minorities, making him an easy choice once the voter base could be mobilized.
The 2036 election, however, caused a serious divide between Fren and Hightower - Winslow was an anti-corporate candidate, and promised a "new age of trustbusting" intent on "reorganizing a rigged economy". Hightower enthusiastically supported these measures, and some rumors indicate he might have even been one of Winslow's confidential inside sources documented in his 2034 book detailing rising income inequality (which by the 2030s had risen to over .50 Gini) and corporate corruption - some of which was directed at FrenCo, which was shaping up to be the largest tech company in the world by the mid-2040s. Fren confronted Hightower and demanded he stop "working against their interests", though Hightower continued - after all, though Fren was the majority shareholder and primary financer, Hightower owned thirty percent of the company and it was undeniable that, as the foremost expert in Artificial Intelligence in the world, he "was FrenCo".
Winslow was elected with 56% of the popular vote and carried almost 500 of the 542 electoral votes. This also came with notable majorities in Congress and state governments. Despite rumors, Hightower was not considered for a spot on the Cabinet. However, as a trusted friend of the President, Hightower was often brought in as an advisor and given security clearance fairly deep into the White House.
New Rome and the "Great Dispute"
The Winter War
The Empire and Later Years
- "We have an abundance of rifles, shielded suits, and men to wield and wear them, yes? Then why do we remain still? Get to work, Julian."
-(Supposedly) Joseph Hightower's nonchalant first words to Chief Provisional Marshal Orwell after being informed of the devastation wrought by the nuclear firestorm of 2054
- Hightower's appearance and some aspects of his personality stem from Howard Hughes.
- His birth-date is shared with the individual behind the New Frenco Empire, Frencoverse co-founder and creator of Hightower.