This Article on DMNews.com makes some educated guesses about changes to be expected for the year 2020. As might be expected, the picture the article paints is rather grim, even though the predictions are not made by a conspiracy theorist or neo-luddite, but a marketing man.
Here are some excerpts “for immediate use” with your Cyberpunk 2020, CyberGeneration and esp. Cyb3rpunk campaign:
“Auto tracking. Every car will be required to have a transponder, and automated highway readers will record all trips. The transponders will allow agencies to monitor driving habits and to issue electronic tickets for violations. The system will collect fees for using congested roads, replace parking meters and prevent undesirable people from driving in certain areas. For example, pedophiles will not be permitted to drive near schools. Driving with a malfunctioning transponder will be illegal. A black market will emerge in cars registered to “clean” or dead individuals.”
Can you say “new business ventures for fixers and techies”? I thought you could.
“Very personalized PC. Every computer will have a static IP address. No one will be able to operate a computer without registering through a token, fingerprint or other identification device. All e-mail will be stored permanently, and records of other network activity, including searching and transactions, will also be retained. Stolen computers will be a hot black market item for criminals who will use them to avoid accountability for online actions.”
For Netrunners, this means that either they have to tinker with their expensive Cyberdecks all of the time, giving them new (false/stolen) IP addresses, or to change tactics and use “disposable decks” for a limited time, then buy the next (stolen) deck.
“MySpace is mandatory. Every individual will be required to maintain a personal Web page with basic contact information accessible by the government and the public. People with out-of-date pages will be fined. An individual will be allowed to post minimal information for public use, but the government will demand more. Everyone will be required by law to have an active e-mail address. Official government notices will be sent by e-mail rather than by post.”
Actually SHADOWRUN 4.0 addresses this same thought of a “mandatory online profile” for their Wi-Fi spin on things (in SR 4.0, people are required to set their Personal Area Network (PAN) on active mode in the better parts of town, so that their profile and contact information can be read. While it’s not generally “illegal” to run the PAN in hidden mode, it’s considered rude and socially inaccaptable – and the Corp in control of the area will certainly enforce their “policy”).
For Cyb3rpunk, this same idea is integrated in the idea of a personal wearable computer gadget that everyone uses because it’s just so damn practical (see the article about the Keé and the iSpy feature elsewhere on this site).
Good news for all media characters: The big zines and stations may have removed all honest reporters from the networks, but theree’s still good money to be made in writing blogs and managing “fake” MySpace profiles for Edgerunners and other “shady” characters.
“Society caught on tape. Surveillance cameras will be even more universal than they are today. You will not be able to walk down a street, enter a store, park in a garage, ride the subway, sit at your desk at work, open your front door or do anything else outside your home without being recorded.”
Well, nothing new here. I just want to add that not all cameras and microphones have to be installed: The Cyb3rpunk setting for CP2020 adresses the problem of corporations, government agencies, cops and – of course – punx “riding” the cameras and sensors (read: vehicle sensors) of people in the vicinity and possible “remote control” of people via the iSpy technology.
“Penniless marketplace. Currency will disappear and all money will be electronic. Every transaction will be permanently tracked. Private money systems will develop using tokens, gold and other forms of intrinsic value. Paying in private money will work for some things, but prices for non-tracked activities will be double to cover the risks involved.”
Nothing new here, too, but keep in mind the various ideas given in the WILD SIDE sourcebook for CP2020 and the fact that in CP2020 there are AIs managing the huge databases (making requests to trace someone or to draw up a personality profile with matching hangouts and routines exceedingly simple).
“Dog tags go digital. Identification chips implanted in the human body will be banned after some people are maimed or killed to obtain their chips. However, governments will promote the wearing of personal transponders so that scanners can identity each person within range. Personal transponders will first be touted as a safety program for children and then as a protection against terrorists. If your transponder does not work, you will be subject to arrest in any public space. Trafficking in transponders will be illegal, but widespread.”
Taking this idea one step ahead, I think it more likely that you will have one central device for identification, tracing and communication. We see this already with “pay per mobile phone”. Now fuse mobile phone /slash minicomputer and credit card into one device, attach it to your genetic code or other biometric data connected to you and you have your very practical, but very possibly sinister (and therefore state- or corporate-sponsored) device for the upcoming “revamped” Cyberpunk era.
“Fast food goes under the table. The health and insurance industries will try to control costs by monitoring food purchases. They will begin by offering discounts to individuals who allow monitoring of their eating habits, but monitoring will eventually become mandatory. Separate checks will be universal in restaurants. Restaurants will prosper by putting fish on the menu, but will tell customers that the halibut is actually a hamburger. Eventually, insurers will audit restaurant food purchases to try to keep the reporting system honest. There will be a black market in unregistered junk food.”
This is a new spin on Cyberpunk first featured (AFAIK) in “Demolition Man”. Today we see that under the label of “health care”, “climate care”, “environmental protection” or “child care” a lot of pressure can be generated. Look at smoking, for instance: Whatever happened there was unthinkable 10-20 years ago. And it not only might, but WILL happen again. To “unhealthy” food or alcohol (or both) remains to be seen.
“Healthy living is a must. Government and private insurers will mandate that individuals agree to health treatments as a cost-saving measure. Computerized health records will be centrally reviewed to monitor compliance. If you don’t get a required treatment, your insurance will cost more or be cancelled, you will lose your job, your tax return will be audited and you will be labeled as unpatriotic. Digital health records will permit precise scoring of individual and family health risks. Each insured person and family will be individually rated and priced, even under employer-provided health insurance policies. An underground system of healthcare will develop for people who don’t want their insurer to know about some medical conditions. People will pay privately for care to avoid higher rates, uninsurability or monitoring.”
And that, in a nutshell, is the lesson to be learned: By 2020, control will be so tight that you HAVE to cheat, or suffocate.
At first, everything will be very “voluntary”: Do this and save x% on your insurance/telephone bill/tax/whatever.
Slowly the people will realize that if 90% of the population follow these voluntary suggestions, the remaining 10% are, effectively, being “fined”. And they become an “unwanted” class.
Welcome to 2020!