As you know, The Lightstream Chronicles is a cyberpunk graphic novel set in the year 2159. A lot has changed. Last week we looked at 10 futuristic technologies that are more or less ubiquitous in that time. This week we’ll look at 5 things that have nearly disappeared.
In the 22nd century, death is optional. Medicine has eliminated nearly all forms of disease see (#6) and genetics has isolated the gene that causes aging. The aging gene can be switched on and off (usually in a human’s 2nd decade), through a simple medical procedure. Living forever is not for everyone, however. The suicide rate in New Asia is extremely high. Apparently, after a hundred years some people actually get bored with it all. Taking a dive off the Top City Spanner or jumping in front of a mag lev train are the most popular methods of suicide. Some humans can choose natural death over an unlimited lifespan. They are known as agers. They may take advantage of replacement organs, or other enhancements but avoid the genetic tinkering to stop the aging process. Average life expectancy of an ager is around 148 years. Despite the most popular enhancements, agers often find themselves as social oddities.
As the result of a brief, but bloody war executed by drones and initiated from rivalries in the Middle East (known as the Drone Wars), millions died. Religion and politics were blamed but politics survived. Religious assembly became illegal and all faiths were included, and while individuals are permitted to believe or worship anything they want, it must be kept private; no evangelizing or congregating is permitted. An individual can still visit a priest, mullah, or rabbi but it must be one-on-one. When it comes to morality, (that could be item number 7 in this list) the government has had to legislate to stave off a widespread moral decay. For more than 60 years the ban on religion has been tightly monitored, however in the last few years it has not been as rigidly enforced. Those who practice their faith in private are “tagged” as such in their profiles and they tend to come under more scrutiny than non-religious. The government knows everything.
This brings us to privacy. I’ve written extensively about the Mesh network that sees everything. It was developed as a deterrent to crime and is quite successful at that most of the time. The network enables “impartial” software to monitor anything that constitutes “suspicious” activity. What constitutes suspicious activity? The law of the land is contained in the multi-volume, Hong Kong Protocols where most of what is considered illegal is that which infringes on the rights of another. Therefore, almost anything that is individual, or consensual is within the law. For the system to work, however, it needs to see everything. Most of the public has grown accustomed to the idea that every waking and sleeping moment of their lives, including their thoughts can be, and is monitored. According to recent polls, the public takes comfort in government assurance that no humans are interpreting their activity, and hence, not making any judgments on their behavior no matter how bizarre.
Reality has taken a big hit. Most of the population spends dozens of hours a week living in their minds via the V, (virtual immersions). These programmed immersions are infinitely detailed, environmental and sensory simulations. When you’re in the V, there is no discernible difference from the real world. Participation can occur with the users identity, or by assuming another from limitless combinations of gender, race, and species, and may entail a full range of experiences from a simple day on the beach to the aberrant and perverse. Immersions are highly regulated by the New Asia government. Certain immersive programs are required to have timeout algorithms to prevent a condition known as OB state in which the mind is unable to re-adjust to reality and surface from the immersion, a side effect for individuals who are immersed for more than 24 hours. Certain content is age-restricted and users must receive annual mental and bio statistical fitness assessments to renew their access — all of which is monitored by the government.
And if that isn’t enough to jog your faith in what is real, another departure comes in the area of all things replicated. Replication of inanimate objects is widespread for food, beverages and hard goods. Many insist that there is a difference between a real and replicated apple, thus, “pure-stuffs” are still sold but they are very expensive and scarce. Replication is based on duplicating molecular “fingerprints” of actual objects. With the escalating population and less people dying, replication has saved the world from starvation.
Though this might also fall under the category of reality check, #4 is the lack of real humans; in the technical sense, they very hard to find. For a time, the word post-human, or transhuman was in vogue, but this dissipated. Now the only discernible difference between humans and synthetics seems to be DNA. Everyone is enhanced to some degree. Enhancement itself, has come to mean, “…considerable intervention… beyond the basic human faculties and senses…” There are a host of human enhancements, and nano-level implants that have become common place mostly to adjust brain function and regulate body chemistry; spike adrenalin, induce sleep, reduce stress, enhance sexual activity, release pheromones, communicate telepathically, enhance athletics, muscle tone, elimination of excess fat, etc. Everyone can have the body they want, including more fingers, toes, or other innovative additions, and if it isn’t available from their own DNA, it can be spliced in the lab to enable the growth of fur, a tail, or other combinations.
6. Disease and illness
Though many diseases in the 21st century were thought to be genetic in origin, medicine turned its focus to the cellular level. This provided the cancer breakthrough and eventually almost anything that can wreak havoc on the human body, particularly at the cellular level, has been brought under control. This includes cancer, neurological, and muscle diseases, organ failures, and old age. Then genetic engineering fine-tuned the genome to enable zero-defect births and isolated the genes that cause aging.
Since most cellular damage is done through abuse and environmental toxins many people may still choose to smoke, or put other damaging substances into their bodies with the assurance that diseased lungs, livers and kidneys can be grown in the lab from their own DNA and replaced on an outpatient basis.
Taxes are still collected.