This is a fictional piece anticipating a dystopian future.
The year is 2032 – 5,475 days from today – and the world is six years away from the long-anticipated Year 2038 bug. Unfortunately, there has been a significant economic downturn, and the only ones with a passable standard of life are government bureaucrats, lawyers, and computer programmers. Everything has been automated, no one makes money, and no one spends money. Because of this economic depression, there are not enough financial resources to make the world’s computers 64-bit. Prominent computer scientists have publicly stated that it is nothing to worry about as the most vulnerable banking and stock-trading systems have already been secured, but misinformation has percolated through the sensational media, somewhat reminiscent of the yellow journalism of old. Since a few months ago, the stock prices have been volatile. SMIC shares have dipped to an all-time low of HK$1. Talk about penny stocks.
Today, I am working as a programmer at GlobalOne, the largest technology conglomerate which essentially controls the Internet and even maintains its own private police force to crack down on users of The Onion Router (Tor), which allows users to evade the elephantine scope of their surveillance. International politics have also been dominated by GlobalOne and similar multinational corporations who have collectively spent mammoth sums assassinating or buying out almost every last politician, from African village chiefs to the Supreme Leader of the DPRK to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. There was not one honest politician spared from a gruesome death. But back to my story – fortunately, I know the programming languages in vogue, which should secure me my job for the next few years. However, the future is never clear in this globalized world dictated by powerful corporations. I live in constant fear that once the languages I know become deprecated, or when a college student decides to undercut my services, I will be relegated to a lower social standing. The world has become so much more mechanized, and the connection between me and the products of my labor is virtually nonexistent in stark contrast to the philosophy of the Marxists of yesteryear.
The world is one of unfulfilled promises. College was sold to us as an investment in our future, and was advertised for the numerous opportunities that it was purported to bring. But at this point, I’m not sure if it matters so much anymore. I regret going to college – had I been more ambitious, I might have been among those who established the new world order that now dominates the globe. Having attended SMIC for high school, I had a significant head start. But in today’s world, there is social mobility: southward social mobility. I know that I am undercutting my future self in my current position at GlobalOne. With every line of code that I tap into the computer, I delete a line of my future. I, and all others, are systematically oppressed under the less-than-benevolent governments and corporations. Globalization has unified everyone under the same oppression. The future is grim, and I am lost. There are nearly no factory jobs left; in fact, some of the least desirable occupations are now considered prime positions. At this point, there is only one thing left for us to do – what the machines cannot do: just like the Chernobyl liquidators, we were left with no choice but the clean-up of radioactive contamination that was a physical trail of GlobalOne’s irresponsible policies. But if even GlobalOne’s advanced robots melt down before the glowing rocks of the clean-up sites, what would the radioactivity do to us? There is only one way out of this globalized nightmare, and that is rebellion against the world order. Instead of a post-capitalist socialist utopia, we today have a fascist state.