In my dystopian scenario, I chose to focus once more on the theme of disability activism - a concept that I touched upon briefly in my co-designing futuring workshops before a more thorough exploration during the “thesis as a campaign” design sprint from the first semester. Additionally, the documentary “Fixed: The Science Fiction of Human Enhancement”, which I had the pleasure of watching in the name of thesis research, delves into the ethics of the practice of biomodification - whether the practice will eventually create a class of disenfranchised individuals, and whether it is a not-so-subtle indication to people with disabilities that they need to be “fixed”.
I believed that in 2075, the state and technology of biomodification will have advanced to a point where natural human beings are considered disabled, and disability becomes an economic state, and not a physical, mental or communicative one. With this backdrop , this scenario follows a young man who is a member of the disenfranchised urban poor, but is on the verge of turning his back on his fellow revolutionaries who conspire to take their equality back by force.
This scenario is more fleshed out than the utopian one, if only because of two facts - first, dystopias provide more friction for the mind to latch onto - more details that need explaining, more conflict that needs resolving; second, this particular dystopian future has more in common with the present than the utopian one. Saying this may verge on hyperbole, but I believe that as a society, we’re much closer to this dystopia than we are to the utopia. Because of this, the products and services and apps that I design for my thesis will have much more in common with this story than the other one, and will in many ways be logical predecessors to the products, service and apps described in the scenario. Without further ado:
It was dark as Stefan walked through the innercity. The reflection of the innercity lights bounced off of the pools of water that filled the countless potholes that littered the road. A moist, heavy, damp smell lingered in the air, as Stefan nervously made his way through an intricate series of alleyways. He checked his personal, a device that was barely more conspicuous than a crumpled up piece of plastic in his pocket. The tattered edges and faded glow of the flexible screen signaled that he was in dire need of a replacement, but Stefan simply could not afford it. Not if he wanted to be able to finally afford the body mod that would change everything.
It was hard living with a biopure body. Needing light to navigate, steps to change elevation. It was hard knowing that even if you had lived your entire life in a place, there would be broad sections of it that were literally out of reach, because you couldn’t afford the mods that would make the buildings accessible. It was odd to live in a world where money and wealth translated so directly into access, where one needed to shell out cash for the operations that would help them surpass their biology. Through the Light, Stefan had learned about the disability movement of the late 20th century; how people banded together to ensure that disabled people had rights and were not excluded from their environment and therefore their society because of the fact that they had a disability. What they would think if they could see the world now, where physical and mental disability had become synonymous with physical and mental normalcy. By virtue of being born, you were cut off, and it was only money that could save you - money for the operations, for the exoskeletons, for the software, for the implants and for the prostheses.
Here in the innercity, there weren’t many options at all for people like Stefan. The United States’ feeble attempts at universal healthcare under the Obama administration were derailed when the demagogue Trump assumed power just under 60 years prior. Once he got in, he dismantled any attempt that liberals had made to make society better. What was even worse was his refusal to leave. Having squandered the States’ military on feeble, ill-informed attempts to topple the many headed hydra that was ISIS, Trump made the bold move to declare emergency powers after the 5th of what would be many terrorist attacks made on US soil. Desperately looking for money, he sold off parts of the government to corporations, creating a government that was more commercial than it was civic.
Stefan shook his head in frustration - he knew that the account of history that he learned with the Light was probably biased and incomplete, but for the life of him, he could not imagine any other explanation of the circumstances that he found himself in. It was so seductive, the history that they told, and the plans that the Light had to take back society, to take back the government. The leadership had planned a series of demonstrations - attacks was probably a better word for it - in the dark neighborhoods, the places that were out of reach for mere mortals in this day and age. The target was an abandoned high-rise building, high enough that there would be enough light for biopures to be able to see without artificial lighting. It was hard to find a place like this, these days, with the environmental damage of the 21st century sending the world into gloom. The people who mattered didn’t care about the gloom because they could afford eyes that could cut through and filter the smog.
Of course, the fact that biopures like Stefan could see in this place meant that it was a lot harder to access - such were the compromises that biopures were forced to make on a daily basis. The plan called for the physical modification of the building that the biopures would occupy, enabling their access and eventual habitation of the building. From here, they would strike out to other abandoned buildings, eventually building up a substantial base from which they would physically remold and remodel society to be a more equitable, accessible place. They would arm themselves with what seemed to be ancient military tech - so old that it snuck under the radar in terms of current day security measures. The flash bangs would only used as a contingency, hopefully blinding the hyper-sensitive eyes of any security forces that came in pursuit. Once stunned, the Light forces could harvest the mods from any unfortunate souls who fell into their grasp. Grisly work.
But that fight wasn’t for him. After years of searching, Stefan had found a way to get a mod through an unlicensed supplier. It was risky and extremely illegal, but he’d be able to actually afford one, a major one. He’d start with a cerebral implant, increasing his memory and processing power. He wouldn’t be as smart as was technologically possible, but he’d have an edge to his peers down in the innercity. And with that, he’d be able to get a better job, and he’d be able to save up and eventually afford his next mod, and the one after that, until finally he’d be up to date, with the latest hardware and OS. He’d eventually be able to buy a new life and leave this hellhole behind him. The darkness would greet him warmly. In a world like this, he reasoned, it was every man for himself.