Postcards from the Future: Augmented in 2037

3 minute futures scenario: ‘channeled migration’, China leases Siberia, AI-Augmented facial communication called ‘Zengaged’, Neo-pastoralism with Neo-Mammoths

I love to spin future scenarios. This one is related to a more detailed treatment I created a few years ago for Back Channel: What Will A Corporation Look Like In 2050?. They share some characteristics, especially a mention of the Human Spring of 2013.

2037 is a year of great upheaval, given the side-effects of global warming, widespread AI, and continued stresses from — on one side — hypercapitalist globalization (HG), while on the other the Human Spring of 2023 led to entrenched humanist socialism with political and legal checks on HG. This geopolitical tension defines 2037.

Because of massive ‘channeled migration’ away from the equatorial zones and the coastlands because of rising sea levels, large regions of the globe are undergoing drastic change, like China’s 250 year lease of Siberia from Russia to create vast new farmlands with migrant laborers and neo-pastoralists from Africa, West Asia, and India. Neo-mammoths (hybridized African elephants with mammoth DNA), American buffalo, and other genetically tweaked mammals and birds have adapted well to Siberia, Southern Canada, and parts of Antarctica.

The economy has fallen into two rough tiers: unaugmented workers and climate migrants operate at a huge disadvantage, and live precariously at the bottom of a two tier economy, while the ‘augments’ — those who operate and communicate through AI-mediated communication — live and work in the top tier. Neo-pastoralists, neo-serfs, and the dispossessed operate at the bottom of the bottom. Widespread cost reductions due to AI in supply chain makes a disrupted world still ‘work’, economically.

Starting in the early 2020’s, AI technology was employed in business as a direct counter to human bias and cognitive blinders, and by the 2030’s through widespread adoption of AI-based driverless management or ‘business operating systems’. Driverless is no longer limited to autonomous vehicles. By 2037 the term is principally directed toward driverless business, meaning companies with little or no human management.

A bleedover from the business world led to widespread augmented sociality practices the West and China like Zengaged and Karma Sutra.

Zengaged — A suite of wearables (particularly headgear), AI, and training allowing its adherents to communicate and share understanding through rich interpretation of facial muscles, subvocalization, and voice tonality increasing the bandwidth of human communication and shared understanding 20X or 25X. Most obvious manifestation is that zengaged groups can have several on-going ‘zengasations’ at once in a group of 5 to 10 members.

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source: Brian Christie

Karma Sutra — An outgrowth of an early popular business ‘operating system’ called Karmarama: originally was based on an AI platform monitoring and helping workers to work cooperatively, and which assigned ‘karma’ to the users based on how well they cooperate. Those who amassed more karma had more of a voice in decision making and allocation of resources. Karmarama was largely displaced by Zengaged in business circles. However, a popular movement grew from an open source implementation of the commercial product, and hundreds of millions worldwide adopted Karma Sutra as an augmentation of everyday life, as a means to establish trust between strangers, to find partners, and to involve others in making life decisions. A secular religion of the augmented, basically.

The divergence between the culture and interaction of augments and the unaugmented is more than economic, and is increasingly more like colonialism, except that the world of 2037 has been colonized by an AI-augmented culture and civilization, with 4/7ths of the world’s population managed — ‘channeled’ — more like assets in a supply chain than nations or cultures.

I’ll report back on how this scenario is perceived by the folks at the Summit.

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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