Friday, April 16, 2010

The World in 2200: Part Three

In the two previous posts in this series, I examined some social trends that I believe will be significant drivers of our future, and then hypothesized about the type of events that would happen in a world where those forces were shaping history. In this post, we'll take a look at how this world might appear to a typical citizen of New York City, a physician named Zeke.

At 8:30, Zeke bought a soy bagel and walked to his customary bench in Battery Park, where he would scarf down breakfast. It was Wednesday, so he'd get to see the weekly Mars Cruiser launch from the Jamaica Bay spaceport. Not for the first time, he wished he was on it: the biggest city on Mars, Anconia, was a model libertarian community, and he was increasingly feeling that life in old Manhattan was a little oppressive. He looked at the solid old scrapers of the Wall Street historic district: nothing new had been built there in about 150 years. The streets were closed to vehicle traffic both to preserve its tourist appeal and so no terrorist could bomb the old buildings into rubble. In Brooklyn and Queens, where more new development took place, the buildings were engineered to take a lot more. Just last month, a Bolivarian freedom fighter had driven an old electric van into the base of the Twitter Tower in Long Island City, and the blast had done little more than crack a few lower windows.

Zeke pulled out his thin-screen reader and unfolded it. Its smart cells snapped it rigid after it was fully expanded, and he quickly downloaded the print and video feeds from the Huffington Times. He glanced up as the Mars Cruiser fired its big fusion-powered jet, then went back to reading about a plan for Indian Buddhists to set up "New Tibet" in the asteroid belt. The Chiinese were objecting, as they claimed there was no country named Tibet that it could be named after. Zeke chuckled: he remembered the settlement between India and China after their last scuffle, 20 years earlier, and how China had to keep Tibet because neither side wanted to attract the wrath of the Warriors of the Lama, nor did India want the challenge of an independent base for its dissident Buddhists to rally around. Now, like it had for so many nations with unhappy minorities, it seemed that space would solve the problem.

He then watched yet another debate about the legality of genetic enhancements in children. It seemed besides the point to him. Like most physicians, he saw many patients who had obviously been 'upgraded' in some way or another, and despite the laws he never reported his suspicions or gave evidence to investigators, even when the mods were obvious. (One of his patients, an avid diver, always wore turtlenecks to hide his gills.)

Before he shuffled off to work, he noted that the Southern Autonomous Region was threatening to declare total independence again. The new wrinkle was that now Washigon (he still hated that name) was claiming that if the South went, they would form a new state with British Columbia, which was already independent of Canada. Zeke wondered how long the US was going to hold together: with all the independent space colonies, it seemed like every region with a few million people thought it could and should run itself. "I might be old-fashioned," he thought, "but I still rather like the idea of one big country, even if I don't much care for some of the decisions the government makes."

He folded up his paper-thin screen, threw his trash into a disintigrator (The motto of Waste Repurposing: 'The building blocks of tomorrow's...Whatever!' was cheerfully printed across its side) and headed to his office. His local patients would start arriving at 11:00, for the first two hours, he was required by law to practice vid-medicine for patients in Africa, as part of the Emerging World Grievance Resolution Treaty of 2182. The compromise was that American doctors didn't have to move there. He consulted with a few patients in Great Congo, who all had easily resolved complaints, then finally saw his first live human promptly at 11:00. The poor woman had been suffering from Grant's Syndrome for weeks, and had not been able to get an appointment before now. It doesn't make sense, thought Zeke, that the 'disadvantaged' countries could get better care than the 'modern' ones. He imagined things were better on Mars.

He walked home after work, happy he wasn't one of the people screaming all over the northeast on one of the new MagLev Commuter Trains. Part of the recent "Renewing America" program, they could get a person from Ohio to New York in 70 minutes. But the damned things were still unreliable, and they were packed for almost every run. He supposed they were good for the economy, but they had made New York more crowded than it had been in quite a long time.

In his apartment, his wife had left a holo-message to say she'd be out late with friends, and his son had left for his weekend trip to Moscow. So, with a free evening for the first time he could recall, he played his favorite Virtual Reality war game (relive the epic battles of the great South American wars of the 2080's!) and downed a bit of his illicit scotch. He would be damned if he gave up the occassional drink because he was over 50, and the bureaucrats thought it would increase his medical costs. He was a doctor, and could take care of himself. Eventually, his wife still not home, he drifted off, thinking about how nice Mars sounded.

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