Vision - The Digital Dystopia
Digital will Surpass Reality
Our central thesis is that the digital world is becoming so attractive that it will soon surpass the physical world in terms of efficiency, value, immersion and physical-digital interface. Combined with bioengineering, the very existence of humanity and reality will change.
Predictive and algorithmic digital services have already transformed how we interact. The next stages of digital will accelerate this to unimaginable dimensions.
Digital Transactions have already been Transformed
(Any brands mentioned are indicative only)
We don’t visit bank branches: the human experience is terrible. We transact online.
We don’t call travel agents: it’s easier and cheaper on Booking.com or Skyscanner.
We use Amazon to order everything from food to equipment.
We use food delivery platforms to access hundreds of dining options every night.
We stream films on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, AmazonPrime, HBO
We read books on devices using Kindle.
We date online using Tinder, Date.com or Bumble.
We listen to music using Spotify.
We socialise on Facebook or Instagram.
We recruit on LinkedIn.
We no longer call a taxi dispatcher: we order online.
The Future is Digital Immersion and Augmented / Virtual Reality
4K OLED screens make life online better than life in the real world. We will soon have 12K screens.
Augmented and virtual reality will change the say we interact inside and outside the digital world. Inside the digital world will be far more seductive, empowering, and rich in terms of experience and self-validation.
Big data and machine learning / AI will push services and products to us, rather than us pulling them.
Repetitive, menial tasks such as doing accounting work or going to the supermarket will be fully automated. Accounting will simply be done on a non-cash basis with all credit card or bank transfer information automatically consolidated; supermarket orders will present options and delivery to home.
We will interact with our favourite TV shows in a totally different, immersive manner – the same applies to hotels, music groups, friends, cinema. Mass customisation using artificial intelligence, big data, and artificial intelligence will soon lead to individual entertainment.
Work will be increasingly dominated by immersive and augmented reality. The marketing of tourist destinations or products, for example, will almost certainly be done using immersive reality online prior to departure. Team cooperation currently using 2-D screens: it will soon evolve into holograms and big data. A number of professions will be replaced or massively reduced.
Human Relationships and Social Structure will Change Irrevocably
Our relationships with other humans will become even more distorted. We will opt-in to relationships, rather than having these as the default setting. Because the digital world will be more attractive, we will spend 60-80% of our waking time there, and prefer control over our environment rather than messy human interaction of any kind: family, couple, work, social. Things like cinemas will become obsolete: we will have a better experience at home, online, with no need to park, stand in line, listen to people chewing.
Economic Relationships and Stratification
Society will further accrete into classes. At the bottom are those with no digital skills and few other skills: they will essentially be "pizza delivery men", or work in food processing, or serve the interstices of the economy where a digital and robot-served system is impossible. They will likely be heavily controlled in terms of surveillance, spending and crime. These are the Digital Helots.
A subcategory of digitally-unskilled workers who nevertheless have "real world" skills will flourish, depending on their competence and work availability these include plumbers, electricians, gardeners, skilled domestic workers, renewable energy installers, etc.
The mainstream of the digital economy will be Digital Plumbers: the content creators, coders and community managers charged with keeping the digital economy humming.
The hidden elite will be the Digital Titans at the forefront of AI, machine learning, gaming, etc. who will be responsible for creating, maintaining and evolving the Digital Universe. This category is already well-known: Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Travis Kalanick and others.
The Digital Stars will be the non-founder Netflix actors, rock stars, and wannabes: influencers, online gurus, etc. who will be providing content and interaction.
The Digital Enablers will be the legal, consulting, finance and political professions that provide a supporting role to the capital interests that control this universe.
There will be a massive digital security apparatus, the Digital Praetorians. This security class, probably at least 5-10% of total jobs, will be responsible for maintaining internal order. This includes data security and online control in addition to police and army.
These unskilled or semi-skilled citizens will probably account for anywhere between 30-50% of the population in the "developed" world. They will be tightly controlled, with a limited voting franchise, struggling to stay in housing, working in bad jobs that cannot be automated, receiving some form of state support in return for being “productive” members of the system. The debate about universal income is probably destined to turn into a tarnished handcuff for this class.
Bioengineering and the Human Species
The digital dystopia described here will only increase as humans increasingly rely on genetic therapies, biochemistry hacking, or technical implants to improve human performance. This will only serve to increase the divide between rich and poor, and between the digital underclass and the elite.
In order to support our monitoring of this vision, we have set up a Resources Page for Tracking the Digital Dystopia. We will be adding resources to it moving forward.