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Sunday, 14 August 2016

A Realistic Utopia

A Realistic Utopia

Alexander Gordon Jahans

A commenter on my youtube channel asked for my thoughts on utopia and dystopia. Dystopia abounds and I write that a lot but thinking about utopia is a lot hard and consequently more interesting if you think about how to make it work realistically so here I shall show my working. The rules are:

  1. The utopia must be formed in the near future with a clear trend from current events. America is not going to get a national health service overnight.
  2. The utopia cannot be reliant on technology that we do not already see working examples of today. As much I may wish the Farsh-nuke to turn up with a memory gun, an albino sylph squirrel and a seghat, that ain't gonna happen.
  3. People are still people. Greed and xenophobia is not going to disappear because humanity has better tech.
  4. When the utopia is being judged, how nice the society would be to live in is not to be criticised as utopias are by their nature subjective.
  5. Utopia breakdowns are to be properly credited.

With that said lets begin.

The Catalyst For Creating The Utopia

Things get worse, much worse. Right wing governments let the corporations have free reign to destroy the planet, mistreat their workers and further corrupt governments. leftwing governments are hamstrung by greatly empowered multinational corporations and media empires. Automation starts slowly whittling down job sectors. Riots start breaking out and there are almost year long protests. The global economy slumps as a small minority of people make money. A man is arrested for attempting to blow up parliament, officially he's a terrorist following in the wake of Isis, social media dubs him Guy Fawkes. The security services send out armed patrols in response. Something has got to give.

Founding The Utopia

Companies involved in big data, social media and technology development (which will not be named for legal reasons and because they might not exist in the 50-100 years it could take for this to happen) meet in secret to discuss the current geopolitical situation. These are companies that rely on a large populace with disposable income for their companies to thrive, these are also companies founded and run by smart people, no matter how personally abhorrent, so they understand the threat posed by climate change and civil unrest. The world is a powder keg and right now the governments are playing with fire.

The companies between them control the very ways the world communicates. Oh sure, Radio, Films, Magazines and Books limp on, but the majority of the world gets their news from new media and they all willingly sign whatever terms and conditions are presented to them for use of the product. It is a well known fact by now that these companies spy on and experiment upon their users and very few people actually care enough to stop using them.

The companies agree to sign a contract which will ensure the world, their users and their businesses will thrive. It is ethically troubling and perhaps undemocratic but democracy was revealed as a sham by which the rich could control the government years ago. The agreement comes to be known as the Pax Singularis.

Establishing The Utopia   

The companies work slowly at first. They understand that the only way the Pax Singularis will work is if it has weight behind it. If a small number of leaders can meet in secret to found it then about as many can disband it. So they implement it at their backends first. Want to advertise with their companies? Well you'll have to agree to the Pax Singularis.

It was implemented slowly at first, partly so that when companies broke the contracts they could be taken to court and legal precedents set and partly so companies could start saving money into two different Pax Singularis accounts. The first was a war chest used to enforce the Pax Singularis in the courts. The second was a high interest rate tax avoiding account, well string of accounts to maximize how much money was generated by the collective contributions of the companies. The money was given on a monthly basis as a percentage of company profits after tax.

Once 5 different companies had lost to the Pax Singularis in a country then companies would begin offering their users a choice. They could keep agreeing to the old terms and conditions or they could opt into one that included the Pax Singularis. Those who opted in would transparently be agreeing to give every company involved in the Pax Singularis all their data. There was promise of optional bonuses to come but in general the expected reward would be reimplementation of old much loved GUI features or an otherwise easily added and much requested feature. It would be a transparent cheap ploy to get more data that was expected to get a minority of users to agree.

Until all major countries had shown five examples of the Pax Singularis successfully being enforced data would be collected from those users who volunteered their data and analysed. They needed to know how to sell this to people, they needed to ensure they could roll out measures to prevent their users abandoning the Pax Singularis. The Pax would be enforced on its corporate members and if necessary on governments but the users had to want to agree to it or the Pax had little point. Besides, the more data the Pax had the more companies could be convinced to sign up to the Pax and the more money would be generated for the Pax.

Once 3 different countries had shown that the Pax Singularis had legal precedent, the Pax Singularis started using its war chest to bring farms, mines and factories into the Pax.

At five, the Pax Singularis started trialling a program where select users could receive food if they underwent regular brain scans and blood tests, other users were offered money on top of the free food if they agreed to undergo training to work in areas such as farming, genetic engineering, coding or factories.

Now governments and more importantly right wing media empires started asking questions of the Pax Singularis. It would be slandered as slave labour. Except the program is entirely opt-in and it freed up the users to spend more money on things, therefore boosting the profits of the companies in the Pax Singularis and the reputation of the Pax Singularis. Grass roots movements start supporting the Pax. The Pax then spreads to infiltrate the governments and the newspapers, buying off politicians and journalists with funds from the war chest. Would Sir like to get exclusive content about the Pax or perhaps Sir would like a cushy position on the board representing the interests of the Pax Singularis?

The program spreads across the countries and people increasingly sign up to be users of the Pax in case they can get on one of the programs. Meanwhile those that have finished training are offered entirely part time positions where they work in factories, farms or AI development labs for the Pax. In return they will make a little more money than they made being on the training programs and have time enough to find a proper job. AI development increases with the extra data and trained researchers, plus the boost to the economy created by minimum wage workers who don't have to spend what little money they have on food.

As the strength of the Pax Singularis increases plots of land start being bought up in undesirable countries and building begins. The Pax uses the media and social media to start lobbying for science to be better funded. The Pax Singularis creates an off shoot academic research institute in each country to compete for that funding. In each case the institutes offer themselves up as actual expensive universities but offer cheap rates to users of the Pax Singularis and are more likely to hire people who received training through the Pax. These academies are used to research Artificial Intelligence and Genetic Engineering. These Academies make use of the data collected by the Pax.

Construction finishes on what is revealed to be a massive housing project in each of the various countries the Pax operates in. Each project has solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal power plus a whole host of other features to be energy neutral in operation on average. The projects are equipped with communal parks, hospitals, shopping malls and recycling centres. Each flat is its own separate accommodation with all modern conveniences, pets are allowed and two people can stay in the same accommodation indefinitely if they wish though it may be cramped. Smoking in the flats is allowed thanks to filtration systems in the flats and a design that prevents fires spreading between flats and puts them out fast, though there is a fire crew on every floor just in case. And a flat is yours to have indefinitely, with it legally becoming your property after fifty years, if you agree that your dna may be sampled, mapped and copyrighted, and that your body will become property of the Pax upon your death. This does not prevent organ donation, just that anything left can be studies and used by the Pax as they see fit.

With the Pax Singularis displaying a more overtly philanthropic footing the the left and the right seize upon it as a political football, each championing it as way to to beat the other side since the Pax Singularis is at once a kind of welfare system to look after the poor with socialised costs and an example of private companies removing the need for state welfare. Successive governments start paying tax payer money into the Pax Singularis. Money that of course the Pax Singularis mostly avoids paying back in tax.

With the Pax increasingly supported within the governments it starts buying up bus, coach and plane companies so it can offer free or cut price rates to Pax Singularis users to ensure users can easily get from the housing projects to the academies, factories, farms and other Pax assets.

With support from the majority of countries the Pax Singularis operates in a time release part of the contract comes into play ensuring that carbon emissions will be drastically reduced where possible, that fossil fuels will no longer be used where possible and where not possible research into achieving these targets will receive the most funding.

At this point the rightwing and the corrupt are very angry and they want to fight against the Pax but the Pax is too big and too hard to fight. The Pax Singularis is not a single company, it is thousands, possibly millions of individual companies in every important country on the planet, some of which are now dependent upon the Pax Singularis and billions of users across the world whose very lives depend on the company. Oh and they have an established track record of defeating challenges in the courts. I mean you could always declare war on them but then you'd have half the world against you at least, not to mention your own angry citizens. Plus they aren't forcing you to use their services but good luck competing.

Utopia Itself

In this utopia the world we are familiar with continues to exist. There are still jobs, houses and private property. Brands still vie for control of the markets and democracy still decides whether the welfare state will shrink or grow. Culture doesn't change radically. but there are differences.

Climate change is being fought effectively, AI development is leading to increasing automation and redundancies but the people are happy because they know they can go for a brain scan to get a week's worth of food to suit whatever their dietary needs are. Those who want to make more money, to work their way up to a job or just want a challenge can sign up for a position that will best suit their needs. Everybody has somewhere to live comfortably and the media is booming.

Breakthroughs from studying the brains, dna and bodies of Pax users have led to more effective treatments for illnesses and screening programs.

IVF treatments are cheap enough now to be relatively common even for couples who could conceive and give birth naturally. Thus the issue of designer babies is in the wider cultural understanding with mild screening being allowed to filter out cells that have dna likely to produce severe growth defects. The populations of countries are less burdened and more physically fit as a result with some even opting to select cells with only genetic traits that seem favourable. The long effects are of course being studied via the Pax.

New smart drugs intended to help users achieve a variety of moods and mindsets are being trialled and thanks to some success the rate of development in technology is increasing.

Brain computer interfaces are much improved thanks to the new data and this itself is leading to breakthrough prosthetics for the disabled and further AI advancements.

Basic AI butler programs which utilise the vast data of the Pax are allowing users to be more productive so they can take more time off for leisure without affecting global productivity, thus populations tend to be happier, less stressed, more effective when they are productive and less violently angry at the state of the world meaning governments don't have to take such overt preventative measures which might otherwise escalate tensions.

Cultured meat is being mass produced at high cost as part of a program to reduce carbon emissions and the lessons being learned are allowing the process to get vastly more affordable quickly. Plus it actually results in a minor saving for the Pax since they need to provide food for their users anyway.

As part of an attempt to prevent rape and curb feelings of isolation and lonelyness in the population companies in the Pax are using plastics made from oil crops with advancements in AI and scans of users in the program to create life size, anatomically accurate, purchasable companions. The companions can't really walk and they certainly aren't sapient or sentient but they are programmed to give a good enough suggestion of it so as to provide the comfort.

This is being worked on in tandem with development for companions that are purchasable for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality where AI can be more easily programmed at the experiences can then be synchronised with the physical companions. This way, while a physical companion may only have a limited number of conversations and sentences hard coded in, new conversations can be downloaded along with a sense of continuity between the digital world and the real world. The effect won't be flawless or anything approaching it but thanks to a person's ability to develop feelings for inanimate objects that won't be necessary. Besides it's purely optional and something to make being rich in the relative post-scarcity of the Pax, worth something.

As governments try to compete with the Pax Singularis they plough money into other research programs the successes and failures of which only advance technological progress.

Serious Crime in the Pax has a near one hundred percent catch rate when it does happen as the Pax runs on the agreement to share basically everything with every company in the Pax across all the countries so if you live in Pax accommodation, use Pax transport or work in Pax premises everything you do or say will be recorded and analysed.

Pax Singularis works as a safety net for many governments and citizens allowing governments and citizens to focus more on the things that really bother them. The media thus undergoes a renaissance and national space agencies make great headway in their own positions since the Pax is letting people get educated cheaper, freeing up tax payer money as more people are able to pay tax while services are cut back, plus if Pax looks set on establishing a new world order on earth, suddenly establishing a colony on another planet looks like quite the political power move.

The Simulated Brain Project is receiving a massive boost thanks to the data from the Pax Singularis. A brain scan every week, a near complete record of everything said or done by the person, their genetic record, a complete breakdown of where they lived, worked and who their friends were then finally their brains. That's a research gold mine and there are a lot of them. No sign of simulated brains becoming a reality yet but with this it looks a lot more likely.

Finally the Pax Singularis can actually operate a match making algorithm to hook its users up with one another and keep producing future users. This will naturally happen without the aid of the Pax of course and every time it does the Pax gains more data.

Oh and with all the new data and the fact that Pax buildings are by their nature ridiculously safe sexual reassignment surgeries are increasingly commonplace with the stigma all but dead and a burgeoning demand for cosmetic surgery as people no longer have to worry about rent or food. As cosmetic surgery increases so it gets cheaper and easier to do, with a greater ability to automate, allowing less conventional cosmetic surgeries to be purchased more frequently. Cat girls become the latest demographic to demand equality. Once you transition beyond scarcity and necessity, vanity becomes a right, or at least that is what is now debated.

With humanity now self sustaining in a manner that is not destroying the planet, and even making greater headway into settling down on other planets, work begins on undoing the damage. Breeding programs and genetic engineering are used to bring back dead or dying species that were once so vital to the ecosystem. Great swathes of the world are given back to nature, albeit with the occasional factory, farm or server warehouse hidden underneath. Rumors abound that the megalodon shark has been brought back and swimmers are advised to stick to pools unless they are prepared to accept nature's wrath.

There are occasional concerted attempts to turn the public against the Pax Singularis yet they all fail as an apparent mass outpouring of support counters it before other news catches the public's attention. Of course if you were to ask any individual company whether they had any part to play in covering up bad news up they would reply "Absolutely not. Our algorithms are completely unbiased, they only reflect the will of the users." Which is absolutely true. After all, known conspiracy theorists regularly talk about the dangers of the Pax Singularis. Yet oddly the only posts or articles that seem to go viral either are clearly from well known conspiracy theorists or are mocking the idea that the Pax Singularis is anything other than a benevolent, non-threatening collection of corporate entities. Anyone who notices this fact and is not a conspiracy theorist, typically finds themselves either meeting the love of their life quite by chance, getting their dream job or stumbling upon their idols. Odd how that happens.

What do you think?

Judgement on whether this is a utopia is not allowed to affect whether it passes the rules but I'd be interested none the less. For me this would be utopia.