TO TECH OR NOT TO TECH
︎︎︎DEBORAH MELLENBERGH & NIENKE VENEMA / CRISIS
A big part of the world is urbanizing in 2031; the projections are that 70% of the population in 2050 will live in urban areas. Advancements in artificial intelligence, robotics, and other technologies are replacing human labor. This resulted in massive unemployment in the cities. Hence, new technologies created new job opportunities, like specialized engineering positions and jobs in AI/Avatar careers. Unfortunately, many people have not made the transition as successfully as others. Google and Facebook helped to complete Internet access to the poorest regions of the world. As a result, villages in the poorest countries have cyberspace access now.
03:00 * The city is awake. People don’t know the difference between day and night anymore. Most people work around the clock, factories produce large quantities and offices are always-connected. Due to high-tech possibilities, people demand immediate access to whatever they desire. The refinements of marketing via big data AI continually flood us with products, services, and experiences that we really want and need. Drones deliver our desires within a few hours, whether that’s a pizza or new shoes. All this accessibility generates a lot of waste. After robots took over my job as logistical-manager, I luckily was able to get a new job. Thanks to Massive Open, Online Courses and AI-augmented global study systems it is possible to get free public education nowadays. I managed to get a degree in psychology. Because of online daily businesses, many people are dealing with anxiety and depressions, which are common mental health diseases today. Personally, I believe in maintaining the human-to-human connection, but in this digital world it’s hard. Although our understanding of the brain and AI systems improved, there is little focus on increasing creativity, critical thinking and human relations. People are inside their digital devices these days and living a digitally-dream life as avatars.
03:40 * As soon as I leave the house to work, my phone buzzes: “Please, put on your face-mask”. It’s the fifth time this week I received a warning. The growing environmental disasters along urban coastlines caused by climate change and waste are still going on. Subway floodings in New York City and saltwater incursions in Bangladesh’s farmlands were more serious than foretold. People get sick from low air quality these days. Millions of robot vehicles fly the skies, sail the oceans, and drive on roads day and night controlled by AI systems. Air quality sensors measure the air conditions continuously and forward recommendations when and where you have to wear a face-mask. Before I put on my mask, I smell the disgusting fog that covers the city like a blanket. Greenpeace protestors hacked the billboards in the city last week. They showed that despite our smart-cities being packed with solar panels and other clean energy generators, it cannot outweigh the amount of energy the production needs. The government doesn’t do much about environmental issues, it’s all about fast money-making. Giant corporations have often grown beyond government control. Many are unsure whom or what to trust as the world continues to merge mind and machine. Rumors say that cybercriminals continue to be widespread and manipulate government decisions.
04:00 * My first client will be a young adult this morning. In our last session, she felt depressed because she is dealing with social isolation and boredom. I suggested that she could go to the Virtual Reality show “Do It Yourself”. On social media, I saw great reviews about this interactive show created by a group of artists. I saw on the news this morning that some future-oriented politicians encouraged media artists and music stars to make music, holographic media, and other forms of entertainment. It is good to see that the government is noticing mental health issues these days, the increasing amount of unemployment is causing political instability more and more. Human connection and community is something we are all longing for. Unfortunately, after the pandemic together with the rise of technology, social disconnection has grown into our lives.
The evolving high-tech possibilities have the aim to benefit everyone, something Zeeman also claims in it’s vision. This attitude is familiar amongst society and can thus be a strength in High-tech Dystopia. By producing large quantities they keep the product price fair. This means that Zeeman stays affordable. Since there are many people unemployed and therefore financially struggling, Zeeman is a conscious choice for them.
Opportunities for Zeeman lay within the sustainability aspect. Despite the fact that this world is nothing but durable, there are some counter movements and institutions in this world who go against this. Together with controversial, but simple marketing campaigns, this can be an occasion to make an ecological statement. Also, since society has some trust issues, being transparent is one of the strengths Zeeman can win consumers loyalty.
Zeeman is focussing on basics and quality, not necessarily on trends. The consuming society wants varieties in products on a frequent basis. The threat might be that the consumer’s choice will not be Zeeman only, but also many others. Besides, Zeeman needs to put focus on their online platforms and experience, since retailers are closed and online selling is the common way to consume.
October 10, 2031
I remember the darkness, the kind that not even my candle could fight against. They were able to bring the electricity back up the year before, but only during the daytime. Life was harsh and unforgiving, a stark contrast to the current situation. I also remember my life before 2026 when the sun started bursting radiation towards earth, a solar flare. These memories seem to dissolve with each passing month. Do you remember how scared we were five years ago, dear diary? There were no lights, no heating, no more computers, digital money or identities. The tech crash also meant no more internet, mobile phones or advanced medical technologies, which would have been useful at my age. It brought an end to the 4th industrial revolution, and the 1% of society claiming more and more. The government pushed through the Universal Basic Income, now we are all the same, no matter your ethnic background, age or gender, it still sounds strange.
We did find new and enhanced old natural healing sources, and our close-knit communities are helping the elderly. I used to look after my uncle Ben, who was sickly and already over 70 when we lost technology. It took two days to reach him by bike, and most of the time I spent my nights at a travellers lodge in the middle of the country. Apparently, they still have no running water, after all those years… He passed away not long after. We lost a large part of the population during those years, we just had no way to help them without the right medical technologies.
While the maximum age has decreased since the solar flare, our living conditions have improved. I really enjoy the new ‘bubble colonies’ we created in the past few years. They used to be called ‘dumb cities’ before, but with our well connected bike lanes, climate adjustable houses and a focus on people, I don’t see anything dumb about these places. Trade is more local and we help and teach others what we can. The air has never been cleaner, and together with mother nature, we are cultivating our own drinking water and food.
I’m glad Ben didn’t live long enough to witness Tatjana joining the rebels in their fight against the new government. I really believe he turned around in his grave when we discovered that his eldest tried to attack unarmed politicians. The poor fool didn’t want to accept the new Gerbene, the trade agreement between Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, that replaced the already infamous European Union. Sadly, I do not know what became of Tatja. She disappeared with most of the rebels once they started to lose the favour of the people. I do hope I will be able to see her one last time, but who knows, maybe we will meet soon in the next life?
Last Friday I biked to one of the neighbouring settlements to trade some crops. It is clear that our economy is flourishing, I was able to get some extra fruit out of the deal. I’m sure little Boris is going to enjoy that. There is nothing better than seeing his bright smile. Now I just have to remember to file the trade to the government, so they can add the resources to our trade overview. After all those years, there is finally an agreement on what the economy should look like, where we as a society should no longer put our own interests before nature. They call this the Donut model, funny as I haven’t had one of those in over 5 years.
I’ve had a good life, with a nice big family and friends nearby. I have experienced a world of wonderful technology and of close-knit communities. While I did need time to adjust to all the changes, I am happy that I can leave a better world to my grandchildren. While my story is running to its end, another novel is just about to begin.
Zeeman is very much focussed on ‘being there for everyone’ and targets its consumers as a community. This group feel is something that is very prevailing in the ‘Digistalgia’ scenario and can thus help Zeeman. As Zeeman’s main consumer market is in the Netherlands, the loss of a world trade system would not hurt them as badly as some of their competition. On top of that, they offer affordable prices for everyone, even when the one income system would be introduced. However, this uniform income will make the catchy advertisements that question consumer choices obsolete.
The smaller communities that will form are easier to target for Zeeman than the current massive society. These colonies also offer an opportunity in their focus on community, helping each other and sustainability attitude, which fits well with Zeeman’s vision of offering clothing for everyone and clear focus on sustainability. Because of the downsizing of society and the smaller groups within the Unilux Zeeman will have fewer consumers to sell to and less countries to expand to. Additionally, the loss of technology means that Zeeman has to search for new ways of production to keep their stores stocked