Centraliseret
Markedsdrevet

Markedet har sin egen bevidsthed.
Alt er overlagt.

Velkommen til Alpha
— en markedsdrevet og centraliseret verden.

Virksomheder har udviklet sig til kunstige organismer med deres egne bevidstheder. Store virksomheder er vokset til enorme AI-drevne giganter, der næres af data fra deres altomfattende økosystemer. Brugere tilbydes hyperpersonaliserede services og produkter indenfor virksomhedernes lukkede mure — ofte kaldet netværk.

Dit netværk tilbyder alt fra bolig og sundhed til underholding og forsikring. Men alting kommer med en pris. Du kan skifte, men de fleste fødes ind i et netværk — ikke ulig tidligere tiders statsborgerskab.

Hvordan er vi organiseret?

Centraliseret
Ideen om stater og geografiske tilhørsforhold blev overflødige, efterhånden som mennesker følte en stærkere tilknytning til deres netværk.

Hvad driver værdiskabelsen?

Markedet
Et statsligt monopol på offentlige ydelser blev opfattet som for ineffektivt og for stor en forhindring for innovationskraften. Det offentlige kunne ikke konkurrere med de personificerede ydelser og forsikringer, som blev tilbudt af de private virksomheder.

Store virksomheder tilbyder deres kunder brede abonnementsløsninger med intelligente, integrerede og hypertilpassede services, som et privat alternativ til statsborgerskabet.

Virksomhedsdrevne økosystemer tegner et nyt lag af intenst bevogtede grænser.

Sofistikerede AI-drevne virksomheder med adgang til enorme datastrømme er i stand til at træffe sine egne beslutninger.

Omfangsrig tracking giver virksomheder et realtime 360-graders overblik over deres lukkede økosystemer og et ufiltreret indblik i deres brugeres liv.

Natur er kontrolleret og kultiveret privilegium.

Grænsen mellem det syntetiske og det naturlige er ved at gå i opløsning efterhånden som teknologien optimerer alle levende processer.

Efterhånden som byer vokser og det urbane liv optimeres bliver plads, luft og stilhed den ultimative luksus.

Stemningsmusik

Lyt til stemningsmusikken mens du hører fortællingerne. Musikken looper indtil du stopper den.

Introduktion

You can’t avoid recognising that the weather is perfect again today. There’s a subtle flicker in the canopies offering shade to the guests of the busy cafes along the boulevard. The sun is shining bright but neither your fluid balance nor any of your other metrics seem to have been affected by the heat. It shows how perfectly the breezes flow in this part of town even with such tall buildings; no wonder all the other networks try to copy the design of the area. 

Everything is deliberate. All the smooth surfaces around you are constantly capturing additional data points: The sentiment of the discussions happening around the tables of the cafes, the kinetic footprint of your movement, the flow of traffic, or the hormonal micro-reactions of you experiencing the same particular personalised ad from your insurer yet again, prompting you to work out. The gym membership is already included in your current plan but they would like you to use it more often, and they try to convince you by visually reminding you of how much fitter you were a few years ago. Everything is being tracked and used to optimise the experience and automatically decide what happens as you turn around the corner. 

Corporations have grown into complex world-spanning organisms. Underneath the attentive services are AI-powered behemoths: The companies feed on data and evolve and adapt organically based on what their vast network of data sources, sensors, and simulations sense. Much like in a living creature, the neural networks of these corporate entities are quite capable of making their own decisions; be it about production, development, design, distribution, or marketing. Only the fiercest survive — and that ferocity is all about knowing the prey and hunting grounds and adapting better than the competitors. 

You might not see it at a first glance but the power dynamic has changed dramatically over the last few decades. Power is steadily gravitating from government officials towards corporate leaders. A state-run monopoly on public services was ultimately considered too inefficient and too big of a hindrance to innovation. It couldn’t compete with the personalised services and insurance policies offered by corporate providers. Those who can afford it enjoy rich, healthy lives within the walled gardens of corporate ‘network providers’ including access to fully-serviced communities like this one; complete with seemingly public’ spaces and transportation for their members. 

Young people find it cute that passports used to just be tied to geography and belonging to a ‘place’. The state’ is becoming less and less important in the day-to-day life compared to the network you belong to. You knew someone who had their comfy plus plan cancelled after a messy divorce. They couldn’t afford the new premium and had to move to another part of town and take their kids out of school; something about the circumstances impacting the risk ratings. It wasn’t even one of the religious communities, it was just a matter of statistical analysis. Imagine suddenly being disconnected…

Fortællinger

Dominic
Dominic har for nylig fået et nyt job inden for produktion.

For nyligt blev jeg overflyttet til en ny afdeling. Det er endelig lykkedes virksomheden at automatisere hele udviklingen og produktionen af lemmer til syntetiske husdyr, så der var brug for et helt nyt team til at monitorere processen. Tilsyneladende vurderede den kunstige intelligens at jeg var en stærk kandidat. Jeg ved ikke præcis hvorfor, men der blev i hvert fald lagt vægt på min passion for fuglekiggeri. Jeg har sans for det naturlige, fik jeg at vide. Jeg er så heldig at være på et netværk med en fornuftig pensionsplan, men jeg har nu ikke tænkt mig at gå på pension lige foreløbig – og det behøver jeg selvfølgelig heller ikke med den bioteknologi, vi har i dag.

Da jeg blev overflyttet fik jeg også opgraderet mine biolinser, så nu kan jeg virkelig drage fuld nytte af vores nye augmenterede kontorer. Sammen med linserne fik jeg også et ny kognitivt implantat, der stimulerer alle mine andre sanser, lige fra hørelse til berøring. Vores kontor er egentlig bare en glaskasse, men ved tankens kraft, om man vil, kan jeg flytte det hen, hvor jeg vil: Til en fredfyldt skov, til virksomhedens virtuelle campus i alperne, eller til vores automatiserede fabrik mere end 20.000 kilometer herfra. Når jeg har brug for at inspicere eller interagere med noget, kan jeg bare gøre det virtuelt eller koble mig op på en drone.

Vores produktion plejede ligge tættere på os, men blev flyttet for et par måneder siden. Natten over, mere eller mindre. To uger senere var det hele oppe at køre igen, bare tusindvis af kilometer væk. Blot et par dage efter ødelagde en gigantisk orkan alt i miles omkreds af det sted, hvor produktionen før havde ligget. Den kunstige intelligens må have set det komme.

Olga
Olga arbejder med distribution på tværs af grænser.

Jeg arbejder med distribution for en af de helt store corporates. Selve distributionen sker sådan set automatisk, så alle varerne kommer fra A til B uden nogensinde at være i menneskehænder. Vores arbejde består hovedsageligt i at overvåge de automatiserede processer. Vores distributionscenter håndterer millioner af forsendelser hver eneste uge, men vi er sjældent mere end to-tre personer til stede ad gangen. En sjælden gang imellem sker der fejl, der kræver at vi foretager en manuel undersøgelse. For det meste har den kunstige intelligens allerede fundet problemet, og så skal vi bare verificere den løsning, systemet foreslår.

Vi håndterer forsendelser verden over. Så vidt jeg kan forstå, har den kunstige intelligens hele tiden styr på hver eneste forsendelse – hvad den indeholder, hvor den er henne, hvor den skal hen, og den estimerede leveringstid med præcision ned til sekunder. Ruten reevalueres og optimeres konstant i forhold til faktorer som indpakning, vægt, trafik og vejrforhold. Sidste år var der en gruppe aktivister, der lavede en happening i byen. De spærrede flere veje. Allerede i timerne før den fandt sted, kunne jeg se, hvordan den kunstige intelligens begyndte at omlægge ruter, fordi den kunne fornemme, at noget var under opsejling.

De fleste af vores forsendelser sker om natten, så vi sørger for altid at have et par folk til stede. I gamle dage var det mig, der lavede vagtplanerne, men de er også blevet automatiseret nu. Planerne bliver udviklet på baggrund af medarbejderdata såsom søvn- og produktivitetsmønstre, hormonniveauer, tidligere præstationer osv. Hvis vi for eksempel har en medarbejder, der er ved at blive syg, bliver vagtplanen altså automatisk tilpasset lige med det samme. Nogle gange finder systemet alternative løsninger, såsom at omdirigere forsendelser eller hyre nye medarbejdere ind. Automatiseringen ordner de besværlige planlægningsproblemer og giver os en meget større fleksibilitet end før.

Imaani
Imaani evaluerer risici og rejser meget.

I’m part of a security and risk analysis team in the personal mobility division of one of the big corporate networks. Our team is focused on the risk factors relating to our manufacturing processes. We stress-test the security around the production system to make sure no external event can disrupt its functions. We have to make sure that the AI knows how to make the right decisions if things are about to go wrong. A lot of money is at stake so we have these practice matches against the AI as a way of testing its strategies.

Corporate intelligence has a good picture of almost all the risks but it can struggle with humans. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it wasn’t for an old international convention that mandates that humans are ultimately able to override any AI decision. In practice, it doesn’t change a thing about how things operate. The AI still runs the show on its own. What it does change, however, is that all sites need to have a certain number of humans “man the desks” so to speak. They need to be able to shut it all down, alter the decisions of the AI, and access all data feeds. This is obviously the biggest security vulnerability. People seem to like the idea that there is a human at the other somewhere even though everything that goes on is completely unfathomable to the human brain. The AI does a good job vetting the candidates but still, the risk of social engineering, data leaks, and corporate espionage is there.

I have to travel a lot, as data shows the biggest weakness is physical interactions. Our network has one of the most extensive transportation networks in the world so it’s pretty easy to get around. I usually have my own comfy premium pod. It picks me up at home and the AI decides what the best route is. Most often the pod heads to the closest jump station which then launches it into the hyper rail network but not always. Sometimes air travel or local rail or road systems might be necessary depending on the location. I even once had to be picked up by someone in a manual car to get to a site in the mountains — that was pretty nerve-wracking. Traveling so much isn’t as bad when you have premium solo pods — I do feel sorry for the people who have to make do with shared travel solutions though.

Hitomi
Hitomi leads the production of welfare technology.

For næsten 30 år siden grundlagde jeg en virksomhed, der fremstiller robotter til sortering af medicin på hospitaler. Vi blev ret hurtigt en af de førende udviklere inden for velfærdsteknologi – ikke kun til hospitaler, men også til privat brug. For 13 år siden blev vi opkøbt af et af de store konglomerater. De udvikler og driver alt fra traumecentre og specialiserede klinikker til beskyttede bofællesskaber og børnehaver. Alt sammen som en del af deres velfærdsforsikringer. 360-graders livsplaner, kalder de det. Vores produkter passede lige ind.

I gamle dage brugte vi månedsvis i laboratoriet på at justere en ny prototype. Nu klarer den kunstige intelligens det meste. Vores job består i at fodre den nye inputs, og så holder vi ellers bare et øje på processen mens den designer, simulerer og evaluerer tusindvis af nye prototyper hver eneste dag. Vi følger med i den data, der bliver trukket. På det seneste er den kunstige intelligens begyndt at trække data fra en række nanosensorer, der indsamler viden om insekters migration. Det ligner, den tager ved lære af deres bevægelser. Udover at overvåge og understøtte processen, skal vi også af og til godkende større ændringer. Men ellers er hele processen, fra produktion til markedsføring, altså fuldstændig automatiseret.

Der er ikke kun sket store teknologiske ændringer i industrien, vores fokus er også et helt andet nu. Tidligere var vores mål at give folk lige livsvilkår, at hjælpe de svage og syge. Nu frygter jeg, at vi simpelthen hjælper de, der har midlerne, med at komme endnu mere foran – så at sige. Vi ser for eksempel velhavende folk helt uden lidelser få indsat præstationsfremmende implantater. Det bekymrer mig. Det er vigtigt for mig at vores produkter har en positiv indvirkning på hele samfundet, og især for dem, der virkelig har brug for vores hjælp. Jeg er stolt af de velgørenhedsprogrammer, jeg har grundlagt på virksomhedens vegne.

Henry
Henry oplever hvad byen har at tilbyde.

Wow, I can’t remember being this excited about something. I almost feel a little bit guilty.

Tonight is the first night in a long, long time I’m going out. Ever since my partner and I split up, I… I’ve been trying to get by on the most basic of basic plans. I guess you understand why entertainment isn’t much of a priority when you’re worrying whether the corporate charities will hand out enough soy meal this week for you to make it through.

But, you know, not tonight! I’m going with a friend. We’re watching a show with the virtual band AISY at the INO Arena down by the waterfront. The arena is on the other end of town, and without a premium plan, my transportation options are limited to the free — but slow and utterly terrible — ad-supported services. If you haven’t tried it, you might ask “what’s the big deal?” Let me tell you: Those personalised ads are something else. They’re so incredibly invasive. The last time I took the bus, I had an ad for a plastic surgeon that scored my face and compared my features to the face of my ex’s new boyfriend — who apparently is 32% more attractive than me.

It would’ve been a nightmare getting there, is what I’m saying. But, my friend works for the INO corporation and set us up with a private ride! It has been years since I’ve been in one of those and I almost cannot wait to ride through the city without every surface trying to sell me supplements or dating services.

Anyway, AISY, the band, is one of the most successful AI-pop acts around. The first generation of virtual AI acts was simple, like a single AI creating music based on what’s already out there. AISY is different, it was the first band with multiple AIs working together. They weren’t just trained on music but also on a huge collection of old 20th-century cartoons owned by the same company.

Human musicians are getting more and more niche. They can impossibly draw on the same amount of inspiration and human work can seem a little banal in comparison to the originality of the most advanced AIs. Humans can’t release new stuff at the same pace or match the insane over-the-top visuals we’ve gotten used to. But… We’re still, as a society I mean, trying to figure out if art still holds the same meaning when it is made by a computer. Like, is it beautiful and profound or just an impressive, calculated fake of an inherently human process?

Karen
Karen dyrker fritidsaktiviteter.

Oh, sorry for the rush. I’m late for basketball practice. I’m supposed to be meeting up with my team down by the gym in 5 minutes. We have a big match on Saturday!

I only just joined the team last year when I changed neighbourhood. I got a new job and they offered to upgrade my plan. I was a little anxious about moving but it was super easy to get settled in. My virtual assistant, Issa, walked me through it all. I didn’t know anyone here so she suggested picking up basketball again. She found the right team for me. She knows me better than anyone: My personality, how well I played in high school, my fitness, biometrics, all sorts of things. Hah, she even teasingly asked me if I was looking for romantic relationships. I said why not. She has yet to deliver on that but you never know!

We’re coached by this awesome AI called Yuki, she’s a lot of fun and doesn’t take things too seriously. We have a lot of fun. Every other weekend or so we face off against another team that is approximately on our level. We’ve matched automatically. Basketball is growing so there are plenty of teams around to play physically but we’ve played a few international matches virtually. I remember our first game so vividly! Like, we stepped into this black room. It was completely dark for, I don’t know, several minutes maybe. I didn’t know what to expect so I was completely floored when all of a sudden the lights turned on and we were in a massive arena. There were cheering fans, loud music, it was crazy! It was all fake of course but still really fun. I don’t know how it works but wow. It felt real.

So, over time I’ve gotten very close with some of the people from my team. I feel like they’re quickly becoming some of my best friends. We often hang out, go out for drinks after practice, go to concerts, shows, and so on. I know some people kind of struggle with the idea that in today’s world, we’re often deliberately brought together by AIs based on our data. I don’t know. Is it really cheating or just a more efficient way of finding friends?

Tom
Tom drømmer om et andet samfund.

Just a second, let me just turn off my devices, probably best if they don’t hear this.

Staying hidden is harder than most people think. We have to leave all connected items and clothing behind when we meet up. We’ve even had to make a lot of new stuff ourselves. Sewing clothes and printing shoes without sensors. On top of all that, we have to maintain convincing data doubles to avoid being detected. Basically, making sure that we leave a data trail that makes us look boring to the AIs.

The big corporations want to make us believe that they’re the only reason we still have a liveable planet. That we can only survive as their users — but I don’t buy that! I want to be part of something. A life that makes sense. That’s really what the ReWorld Community is all about. We’re a global group dreaming of a fresh start on Mars. We’ve all signed up for the same colonization program and once we get there, we’ll— uh, peacefully overturn the local government and finally get a chance for a real fresh start.

It will still take a few years until it’s our turn. Until then, we can only plan and prepare. We try to cover everything we need to build a healthy and sustainable society. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been digging into the history of the open-source movement and the technology and infrastructure for distributed manufacturing. I think it might show a way forward when we get to rebuild on Mars.

Wojciech
Wojciech interagerer med sundhedssystemet.

I had a lot of questions for my consultation earlier this morning. “What are you going to do to me? Where do I have to go? How long will I be gone for?” The so-called Health Companion on the screen just smiled and said “Oh Wojciech, you don’t need to go anywhere. You have access to remote surgery. You just have to sit back and wait, and it’ll all be over before you know it.”

I’m not sure I trust it. I’ve had a few meetings with actual humans and they all say I’m not sick. That it’s all preventative care. But, I don’t know… They’re nice and all but the smiling and nodding is a little nauseating. I grew up with doctors and nurses being constantly busy, and now they just sit around like they don’t have anything more important to do than hear about my uneventful breakfast. I’ve told my kids that they’re throwing their already limited money away on this but they insist. I can only imagine what kind of insane premiums they’re paying. I know a few folks who aren’t so lucky to have relatives that can help out. It’s rough. They can get emergency care but that’s pretty much it.

Anyway, the doctor told me that a small robot will come knocking at my door later in the afternoon. It will have all the required tools to perform the surgery. I almost snorted out my tea. Apparently, human doctors are no longer used for this procedure. Instead, the robot will inject thousands of small nano-thingies with tiny little lasers into my body. They’ll be buzzing around in my liver for a few days until they exit the old-fashioned way.

I miss the times where you had to actually fight the system. Back when it was people making the decisions and not just a complicated math equation…

Jamal
Jamal hjælper folk med at finde arbejde. Han er enlig far til et barn med angst.

I’m a career consultant on one of the big networks. The company is huge and offers everything from housing and transportation to personal AI solutions, insurance, and everything in between. My job is to help our users find new opportunities — the service is included in most semi-premium plans. We do this by looking at their ProGenome™. A complete profile put together of everything they’ve done so far, their cognitive profile, their behavioural data, their biometrics, as well a range of other proprietary subconscious indicators including dream data. The AI uses the ProGenome to match the candidate with potential career opportunities. If we identify potential opportunities for improving their ProGenome we can suggest training, therapy, implants, or even new hobbies.

Work is a critical part of your identity. Your success is a measure of how good you really are — so getting fired can be devastating. I feel sorry for the people who cannot afford more than a basic plan and have to do without the help we’re providing.

As a single parent to a kid suffering from high levels of anxiety, I know how hard it can be to stick out in this day and age. If we hadn’t already been on a network with great coverage for that sort of thing we would’ve been out of luck. We have access to excellent therapy and various other services but I’m still worried about what happens in a few years when he not only outgrows my plan but has to start applying for schools and jobs. The thing is, everything is decided by data. It was supposed to be impartial and unbiased but it is just so opaque what happens behind the screens. Back in the days, you had to look someone in the eyes when you rejected them, knowing it was your decision. Today, everything is handled by an abstract system. You can just point your finger at the screen, shrug, and say you’re sorry.

Rita
Rita er en del af et lille øsamfund og arbejder på distancen som landmåler.

Jeg er faktisk vokset op her på øen. Jeg boede for en stund inde i byen, men jeg flyttede tilbage hertil kort efter jeg færdiggjorde min uddannelse. Nu arbejder jeg som specialiseret landinspektør for en af de store tech-virksomheder. Det betyder, jeg tager ud og undersøger nye områder, virksomheden overvejer at investere i – for eksempel i form af byggeri eller ressourceudvinding. Den kunstige intelligens kortlægger egentlig selv de fleste områder ved hjælp af droner og satellitbilleder, men ind imellem flager den bestemte områder, hvilket vil sige der er brug for en menneskelig pilot. Det sker typisk hvis den falder over noget mærkeligt, eller hvis området er særligt komplekst.

Alt mit arbejde foregår i princippet hjemmefra. Det er faktisk en af grundene til jeg valgte den her karriere. Da jeg startede på min uddannelse ville jeg gerne prøve at bo i byen. Det var, for at sige det mildt, ikke en succes. Jeg endte med at bruge det meste af min tid på at vandre virtuelt rundt på øen her, og så kunne jeg jo lige så godt flytte tilbage. Så det gjorde jeg.

Jeg tjekker stadig ind med mine kollegaer i vores virtuelle kontor, så det er ikke fordi jeg går glip af noget. Jeg savner bestemt ikke at troppe op på et fysisk kontor. Med den teknologi vi har nu føles det virtuelle kontor mindst lige så ægte.

Min karriere skal ikke diktere hvor jeg bor, og det behøver den heldigvis heller ikke, sådan som tingene er i dag. For mig giver det bare mere mening at bo her hvor jeg voksede op, tættere på naturen. Også selvom det betyder, at min eneste mulighed er at betale overpris for en yderst skrabet basispakke med de mest basale ydelser — og elendig dækning. Vi har heller ikke den samme teknologi til at beskytte os mod vejret herude. Når de grusomme vinterstorme raser og vi bliver nødt til at søge dækning, kan jeg godt for et øjeblik drømme mig tilbage til byen. Men så alligevel ikke. Jeg voksede op her, og her har jeg tænkt mig at blive – også selvom vores netværksudbyder konstant giver os dårligere vilkår for at forsøge at trække os ind til byen.

Portrætter af MetaHuman Creator