Social Media In Fiction and The Rebirth of Cyberpunk

Elysium-robotPlease bear with me, this post was originally supposed to be about the movie Elysium, but in the course of writing, it became something else entirely. Here’s the story:

I went to my local RedBox and for a little over a dollar, I’d gotten my ticket ‘up there’. After watching the movie, I trolled around on the internet for a little while, collecting the thoughts and opinions of other people who’d seen it and felt the need to say something about it. Mostly I was trying to form my own thoughts, but I didn’t want to just rehash the same ideas that others had written. Yes, like the others, I believed that the acting left something to be desired. That the technology could have been explained more. Or perhaps the entirety of the production needed to answer more and question less. But on the whole, I still enjoyed the movie. I was captivated by the extremity of the premise, and the special effects/action sequences were quite dazzling.

However, as I sat down to write, I realized that I felt the movie had gotten something wrong. It misrepresented the future. Oh, I had no trouble believing that someday the gap between the rich and poor would be so drastic. I had no doubt that the poor would toil endlessly while the rich would only acquire more luxury. However, my conception of the future seemed to use a different currency entirely. Mostly, I just couldn’t believe that any society which had invented technology as seemingly miraculous as the Med-Bays, would still have people working in factories.

So, I began world building.

Can We Still Have Capitalism In a World Where Everyone Eats?

Hunger was the first thing to go. Somehow, in this new world I’ve just made up, we’d managed to get everybody fed. I suppose if we’re building a utopia, then sickness must also go the way of the Dodo. I gave everyone space to live, and comfortable amenities. What then would we strive for?Well more comfort, obviously. Then I began thinking (perhaps a bit selfishly) about the types of professions we’d have if everyone’s basic needs were taken care of. I figure most of us would go into entertainment in some form. Writing, music, design, and so on. Of course there would still be plenty of people working in the sciences, forever pushing us towards new and untapped futures.

snoopieThe Content Economy

I might be over generalizing here, but I think we can group all of these different professions into one over-arching profession: Content Creation. While we might say that some of the scientific content would effect our physical space, I feel it is safe to say that a great portion of content would have to be experienced within a virtual space.

We might call it, cyberspace?

Enter social media. We trade physical currency for virtual. Your net-worth is no longer how many dollars you have stuffed under your mattress, but how many times you’ve been re-tweeted, Liked, or heaven forbid, down voted. But we’ll need a caveat, something to keep the system fair. You’re limited in how many times you can perform the actions above. Your given an allowance each month (or year, quarter, whatever) based on the amount of content you create, and the quality of that content as judged by other members in the virtual space. Perhaps, certain types of approval are rated higher than others. Re-tweets and Likes resembling denominations of some higher social currency much in the same way that pennies and dimes build dollars. Somebody thinks your content is valuable and spends their precious allowance ‘Liking’ your posts, you have more ‘Likes’ at your disposal in two weeks or whenever your ‘paycheck’ comes in.

Is Anyone Writing This Story?

I keep reading that Cyberpunk is a dead genre. That we’ve used up all of the tropes and logical progressions the genre can support. However, I can’t help but feel that is false. In about 5 minutes, I’ve just come up with a setting for what I feel is essentially a cyberpunk novel, or movie, or game (please comment below if I’m completely off base). Also, it seems like (with development) it could stand to be a pretty good critique of modern society as well. What would someone do to further their content? Might they lie? Would they cheat? Could they Steal? Would they kill? What might any of that look like?

Finally, (again please comment below) is anyone writing this kind of story? The only thing I’ve come across so far is a book called MetaGame, which unfortunately I haven’t had the time to read yet.

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