the Andrew Bailey

Insanity: 2020

Do you remember back when 2020 was supposed to be the glorious future? It was supposed to be this bright future where everyone would be happy, everything would be beautiful, and technology would solve all our problems. It's 2020, so I'm officially living in the future, but none of the good parts happened, nor did my clothes transform into polyurethane (not that anyone wanted that). From where I stand, 2020 feels a lot like 2019, just like 2019 felt a lot like 2018, and so on for every year, back to the dawn of time.

An illustration of a shiny future.

In yesterdecades, science fiction mostly gave us two futures. One was a curvy, shiny, transparent utopia. It would be clean and bright, on account of all the skylights. That future was the one where everyone was happy, things were solved, and everyone's physical needs were met. Everyone would have flying cars, or jetpacks, at least. Cancer, pain, and obesity were things of the past. Nuclear fusion and solar panels solved the energy crisis, and helped clear the air. Body implants worked so well for the disabled, that everyone else wanted implants, too. Unfortunately, this future isn't colorful, as all colors that aren't white or blue were almost entirely destroyed to make this dream.

The other future was a dark, neon-lit dystopia. Despite the constant rain, everyone spends their lives on the streets, because they don't want to be in their crappy apartments. Between the countryside wasteland and the authoritarian government, everyone lives in huge skyscraper-laden cities, as those are the only places squeak out a meager existence. Live fast, break things, die young, and leave a tired corpse is the point of life. Body implants worked so well for the disabled, that everyone else wanted implants, too. Unfortunately, this future is dark, as white colors were entirely destroyed to make this nightmare, but who needs white when you have magenta?

An illustration of a dark future.

What I've learned over the past few years is that these futures are two sides of the same coin. Both happened in very limited ways. Clean, uncluttered, bright spaces are fashionable. People install solar panels on their roofs, and wind turbines are popping up. Fusion power and artificial general intelligence are coming around the corner. Consider San Francisco: a city with popular multi-billion dollar companies in shining towers, surrounded by dirty streets filled with the homeless, poop, and drug use. The situation is repeated in many large cities across the world. In some cases, a corporate drone in a cubicle farm is closer to the hobo shooting up just outside the window than his co-worker. A disturbing number of people govern their lives based on what happens inside computers.

At least good jobs can still be had. Around 1970, the 1% decided that shareholders were the only group of people relevant to a company, and that a company's sole reason for existence was to maximize profits for shareholders. Who needs assets, employees, customers, or even a business plan when you have shareholders? If you realized that 'brand loyalty' was all about you giving all your money to shareholders (let's be honest: it is), you'd be pissed. People basing their identity around doing one job for multiple decades feels shallow when they discover that the company is a fair weather friend that will throw anyone under the bus without a second thought. It explains a lot of the reason behind all the rot and rust.

Fortunately, smarter heads prevailed. Just this year, some corporations admitted that all stakeholders (not only shareholders) are important. Stakeholders are people like customers, employees, and maybe even neighbors and contractors. Maybe this will build better relationships and communities, but I wonder if it will take a generation or two to happen. Can we finally start referring to people as customers, not consumers? There are real people on the other side of those numbers, not just unthinking robots destroying products, and demanding ever more.

Instead of extraterrestrial colonies or flying cars, we've settled for transient access to the sum of all human knowledge through a wallet-sized piece of glass. However, we still have infrastructure made of lead, and my hoverboard still touches the ground! What a ripoff!

The future isn't what it used to be. Maybe this is what it feels like to grow old. I have a feeling that anyone over 50 will file this rant under "welcome to the club". As for that bright future, I'm not expecting that until 2050, if it ever comes. Why can't we all have nice things?

(NOTE: While this post is dripping with enough sarcasm to qualify as an "insanity" article, it's meant to be a bit too real.)

(NOTE August 2020: I take that back. Everything about 2020 is insanity.)

Posted under Literature. 1 complaint.