Is it just me or does it seem that ever since the global health crisis of 2020 the world has been misaligned. Something profound, which I cannot put my finger on, has shifted. It is as though I am living a life that’s diagonal to the life I lived before the crisis. Like everything we know about our world is turned on its head and we are on the brink of a weird, new civilization. It almost feels like I am living in a real life dystopian society.

GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE

I personally care about the doom and gloom scenarios in dystopian fiction because they often depict a grim picture of the future that could become a reality if we do not course correct. Some common themes that dystopian fiction explores include, totalitarianism, subjugation of the masses, restrictions on personal freedoms, social stratification, suppression of individuality, environmental decay, mass propaganda and disinformation, technological control, and corporate and government control.

THE FUTURE IS ALREADY HERE

Dystopian fiction warns us that if we keep going down the same path, we just might arrive at a future where these themes have become the order of the day. I have a feeling that the future is already here. If we are not yet living in a real life dystopian society, with innovations like Digital IDs, Social Credit Systems, and 15-minute Cities, we might soon be.

DIGITAL IDs

A digital ID is an electronic version of a government issued identification that supposedly provides better safety, more security, and stronger privacy than physical identification cards or documents. It can be stored in a digital wallet app for smartphones and other digital devices like tablets and computers and will allow individuals and businesses to prove who they are both online and in person.

Digital IDs are touted as being convenient and secure. Since they are stored on mobile devices, they are always ready to use wherever and whenever they are needed, and your data is protected using strong encryption.

You can use your digital ID to prove your identity for simple things like picking up a package at the post office, or for age-sensitive things like buying a lottery ticket. The same digital ID can be used to apply for government assistance and other important things.

Many, however, have raised concerns that Digital IDs will not only be stored on personal devices but also on a central database, which will give governments full access to and control over it all the time, and in real time. In essence, the state will be like an omnipotent presence with the ability to track your every move, whether you are visiting your dentist or drinking your morning coffee. They will know where you have been, what you have been doing, and with whom. Just like in a real life dystopian society, privacy will be a thing of the past.

The innovation of Digital IDs is still new, and while it is not yet widely adopted, some countries like China, Estonia, Ghana, Philippines, and Canada have begun rolling out this technology.

SOCIAL CREDIT SYSTEM

The Social Credit System is a system that a government uses to keep track of its citizens’ behavior. It constantly monitors them in real time and online, making sure that they comply with every rule and regulation by assigning scores based on how an individual behaves.

Think of it as a giant scoreboard where everyone gets points for good deeds and likewise loses points for bad deeds. Good deeds would be like paying bills on time, donating to charity, donating blood, helping the poor, cleaning up the neighborhood, taking care of old people, and generally following the rules. Apart from breaking the law, bad deeds might include things like failing to pay debts on time, not following the rules, and even jaywalking.

Rather typical of a real life dystopian society, this system is used to encourage people to be good citizens. Those who earn a lot of points gain a high social credit score and are rewarded with perks such as access to loans, travel benefits, good job opportunities, promotions, waived rent deposits, tax breaks, and public services at subsidized rates. If you find yourself on the blacklist with low credit scores, expect to face the consequences like travel restrictions, loan refusals, loss of job opportunities, ineligibility for promotion, school bans for your children, and even public shaming.

Although the purpose of the social credit system is to promote good behavior and encourage people to be law abiding citizens, there are concerns about privacy and extreme government control as some worry about the extent of monitoring and the potential for abuse of power. China recently enforced the social credit system. But how long will it be before the rest of the world follows suit? 

15-MINUTE CITIES

Imagine a city where everything you need is just a brisk 15-minutes stroll or bike ride away from your doorstep. Picture a place where long commutes are replaced by convenient walks to work, school, healthcare facilities, and places of leisure. This is the essence of the 15-minute City, an innovative urban planning concept that reimagines how we live in our cities.

The 15-minute City is all about minimizing our reliance on cars, nurturing a healthy and eco-friendly lifestyle, and enhancing the overall happiness and quality of life for city dwellers. The idea is simple yet revolutionary. It arranges city life in a way that all essential services, from supermarkets and banks to schools and offices, fall within a comfortable 15-minute reach, whether you’re walking, cycling, or using public transport.

This concept is already in experimentation in the French capital, Paris, and the English city of Oxford is looking to incorporate 15-minute cities into its future urban planning. It is an exciting concept paving the way for what could soon become the new standard in city living, aligning convenience with sustainability. This is the utopian version of 15-minute cities.

Critics of this urban planning concept argue that 15-minute cities are just another device for government control. They present a grim scenario where the authorities force residents to stay within 15 minutes’ walk of their homes. Residents would have to get special passes to venture beyond the city boundaries. In such a scenario, imagine how easy it would be to put every resident under the radar, keep track of their movements, and enforce blanket lockdown measures if necessary.

Characteristic of a real life dystopian society, a 15-minute city could in a sense also be a form of social and economic stratification, since not all neighborhoods are created equal. What if you find yourself stuck in a poor 15-minute city with terrible housing, awful schools, and horrible job prospects? There would be little hope of upward social or economic mobility to escape your circumstances. And the descendants of your descendants would be condemned to the same fate.  

Read this far? You might also like my blogposts, Eight Astonishing Dystopian Society Facts You Should Know About, The Dystopian Protagonist: Not Your Everyday Hero and Why Dystopian Stories are Not Fairytales.

If you like my story exploring the topic, Astonishing New Technologies that Could Create a Real Life Dystopian Society, check out my Substack to get updates on stories just like this one. Apart from explorations of lore, myths, and legends, you will also get access to my inner thoughts and social commentaries from the perspective of an artist and storyteller.

Visit my store, Artistrophix, the corner of the Internet where relatable social commentaries are disguised as satire and humor delivered in the form of simple yet bold and fun illustrations and caricature – because sometimes it’s more worthwhile to laugh at ourselves than cry.

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Feature Image: No Dawn After the Darkest Night by Artistrophe – Powered by AI-generated Art

Face close-ups of mermaids surrounded by seashells gazing into the distance, illustration from science fiction comic book by Artistrophe

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