By Alex Van Hamme - March 9, 2022
(This is Klaus Shwab, Head of the World Economic Forum)
For the last while, I've been waking up in my apartment with this sublime feeling, like reality has been subtly warping into a surrealist cyberpunk dystopia while I was sleeping. I can't seem to shake this overwhelming impression that reality feels...off, as if we've all collectively wandered into some weird storyline of a dystopian movie or video game, sort of like Thomas Anderson feels in the beginning of The Matrix.
Lately, I've been paying attention to the various news articles in my social media newsfeeds. Today I've made a list, and now I'm quite sure it's very possible I'm dreaming, or in some kind of simulation, and that this whole reality we're in is really just a plot in some giant virtual video game we're all playing. Looking at my notebook, it seems clear to me that the nightmarish futures depicted in so many cyberpunk movies and books have now all merged together to somehow become our actual reality.
Based on my list, here are ten clear markers that we're now officially living in a hellish cyberpunk dystopia:
1.Evil megacorporations seem to run the world
One of the most defining aspects of cyberpunk media is the focus on powerful multinational megacorporations obsessed with profit and lacking any regard for the sanctity of human life. Film examples of corporations like this include Tyrell Corp in Blade Runner, Buy & Large in Wall-E, Wayland Corp in Alien, Omnicorp in Robocop etc.
Today, corporations like Pfizer and Moderna play a major role in international politics, making record profits during the covid era, and being a major influence in Western nations' decisions to impose a "vaccine passport" on their citizens in various ways. Their name and corporate logo are advertised excessively now on corporate television, and their influence seems to have affected people at all levels of government. This alone feels dystopic, but when one considers that Pfizer is a well know criminal "habitual offender" convicted of corrupt marketing practices, bribing physicians and suppressing adverse trial effects, one might understand how Pfizer has earned the perception of being a megacorpration from something Philip K Dick novel in the minds of many people.
2. Megalomaniac billionaires have way too much global power and influence
Clinging to the rise of megacorporations are parasitic billionaires with God complexes as one might predict. Examples include Bill Gates, Klaus Shwab, Elon Musk, and of course Jeff Bazos.
Bill Gates openly talks about the urgent need for population control while simultaneously shilling "vaccines" to help everyone stay alive, and the masses don't seem to notice the contradiction, which is pretty funny in a dark way as long as you don't dwell on it too long.
Jeff Bezos ran Amazon while it was exploiting the shit out of people around the globe for cheap labour and now seems to be trying to mutate himself into Lex Luthor.
Mark Zuckerberg literally looks like Data from Star Trek, with soulless eyes, awkward body language and bizarrely coloured synthetic looking skin. He is now pushing his Metaverse, a creepy crude pseudo-Matrix kinda thing.
Any billionaire I can think of could easily be swapped into the plot of a generic cyberpunk film as the evil soulless capitalist billionaire villain and fit right in.
Transhumanism is now a very real part of life for some Canadians, and the government has open plans for a push towards a significantly more transhumanist future for it's citizens, with digital IDs announced for Ontario and British Columbia and other provinces expected to follow suit. At the same time, a bill for UBI is currently in it's second reading in parliament, and fears of a coming Chinese style social credit score are not unrealistic, meaning more centralized control in the form of biodigital convergence is part of the future we're heading into at full speed. Some of the more enthusiastic technophiles I know eagerly await the day when human nervous system's are integrated with "the cloud" and all their biofeedback can be tracked and monitored in real-life by a benign AI system that can help them live life more efficiently. Whenever they talk to me about this I half tune-out and picture Ted Kaczynski screaming in his prison cell somewhere.
4. Artificial Intelligence is an increasingly exasperating part of modern life
My former job as a line cook became unbearable when the boss removed the stereo-system and installed a Google Home, meaning I then had to verbally ask a machine to play each song I wanted to hear, and tell it when I'd like it to start and stop. Having to speak to a machine like it's a person to get it to play music makes maintaining the illusion work doesn't suck significantly and isn't dehumanizing more difficult.The fact that our phones and TVs now spy on us 24/7 adds to the growing A.I.phobia I am developing, and makes relaxing after a long day of shitty work less satisfying than it should be.
5. Hackers are actively supporting the state/megacorporations
In February, during the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa, hackers actually played the key roll in acquiring and doxxing the people who donated to the freedom convoy (a convoy that was a completely legal, federally approved not-fo-profit) and leaking that information to the public. Usually in cyberpunk dystopias hackers are anti-establishment, so I admit this is a bit of an inverted troupe, but the fact hackers are playing a key roll in digital political warfare these days is just another reason it feels like we are in a William Gibson novel.
6. Rise of petty authoritarianism in the West
As I space out writing this, I think about the events of last month, when I was in Ottawa covering the freedom convoy and protests. It's surreal for me to reflect on the fact that Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act to deal with peaceful protestors, parked trucks, street hockey, and a bunch of bouncy castles with kids playing on them. Making this even more surreal is the fact that a week later Russia actually invaded Ukraine, demonstrating what a real emergency and threat to state power really is.
7. Artificial meat is something people are into now
When I first saw an online add for this years ago I assumed it was a joke. There's something about imitation meat products that have alway felt creepy and dystopian to me. If you want something that isn't meat, why not just eat something that doesn't pretend be meat?. Why the need to imitate meat with some chemical-filled frankenburger? Every time I walk by the A&W billboard by my house advertising Beyond Burgers I get serious Soylent Green Vibes.
8. Virtual Reality
When a buddy of mine first invited me over to his condo to try out his new Occulus virtual reality headset, it took me about 30 seconds of experience with it to realize I wanted nothing to do with it. It's so hyper-realistic in some ways, and getting more realistic by the day, the dangers of it to me are self-evident. As humanity continues to morph into the Wall-E people before my very eyes, with IQ levels plummeting, obesity rates rising and sales of motorized scooters skyrocketing, it's fairly obvious to me that the mass of humanity in the future is probably going to want to live in a digital avatar online than in the actual physical body their consciousness actually resides in.
9. Face tattoos and bod mod are normal
This month in Ontario, for the first time in many months, I have been able to go into a bar and sit and have a drink. I haven't been able to find a place near my house that has a normal bartender without face tattoos, however. They all seem to have the exact opinions on everything (which line up perfectly with the opinions of corporate media) and the same fashion style, too. I have this deep secret suspicion these people are literally NPCs in some sort of virtual reality video game we're already in. Recently I read this CBC article showing reports claim up to 50-70% of people don't have an inner monologue. I assume these people with face tattoos are in this 50-70%.
10. Massive wealth inequality and overpopulation
While we have a housing bubble creating a crisis for a generation of working class people who can't afford homes now, our tyrannical government is dramatically increasing mass immigration into the country, the majority of which will be forced to pool together in the already over-crowded cities. It reminds me of the rats in John B Calhoun's rat utopia experiments, but on the level of a Judge Dredd scale megacity, and makes me shudder at what the consequences of all this are going to be. Elysium was a cool movie but I don't want my world to resemble that movie any more than it already does.
I admit, upon reflection, this list paints a pretty bleak picture of our society. We're not headed into the Star Trek future so many people were expecting. At least on the plus side, marijuana is extremely easy to get now, and videos games are hyper realistic, so for those people who want to just forget about all this, cheap soma is just around the corner.