2049

This is a series of notes for a cyberpunk setting-in-progress. The timeline is still very fluid and is subject to change.

State of the World c. 2049

Environment

Due to the Oil Crash, the world is no longer completely reliant on fossil fuels, save in the aviation and rocketry industries. However, the legacy of the previous 150 years of industrialization has left lasting harm, in the form of strange and unpredictable weather and continuing rises in the global average temperature. The Arctic has failed to completely ice over for the last ten years running.

This has, on the upside, led to radical advances in biotechnology, particularly in the realm of terraforming. Brazil in particular is the epicenter of this burgeoning industry, focused in large part on restoring rainforest habitat and resurrecting extinct species.

Spaceflight

Most commercial spaceflight is limited to earth orbit and the moon, though several firms have made plans to begin capturing and mining near-Earth asteroids.

National space programs typically operate hand-in-hand with private spaceflight - nearly every country that can afford to host a space program does. As a result of the frequent rocket launches, orbit has become very, very cluttered. Runaway Kessler Syndrome, the proliferation of space debris preventing human access to space, has become a serious issue debated at many levels, but little has been done about it.

The Oil Crash

In late 2024, an oil tanker runs around in the strait of Hormuz and quickly sinks. Aside from the environmental catastrophe caused by the enormous oil spill, the presence of the hulk in the straits effectively closes a significant fraction of the world's oil reserve to easy access to the world market. Speculation in futures markets quickly sends the already extremely high price of oil skyward, quadrupling in less than an hour. The economic shockwaves from this event, and the resultant collapse of a significant fraction of the world financial system, result in an economic depression that lasts more than a decade across most of the world.

Cybernetics

Much of the technology to build cybernetic limbs and the like already existed before the development of the neural splice in 2019. What the neural splice did was, for the first time, allow direct brain-to-machine control of augmentations. The true revolutionary nature of the splice lay in the relatively cheap components used to manufacture it - the problem was one of methodology, not material. As a result, when the health care system collapsed during the Oil Crash, and hundreds of thousands of doctors worldwide were out of work, it was no mean task for the more skilled and less ethical to begin operating cybernetic chop shops, where black market augmentations and neural splices could be installed for bargain basement prices.

While heavily augmented soldiers have changed the face of warfare (in those countries where the practice is not banned, that is), the neural splice is not simply a means to control artificial limbs. It allows direct access to /any/ digital system that can be connected, and enables software-to-brain interface. While this promised cures for all manners of neurological disorders, it also sent red flags flying across the world. After a series of highly publicized debacles involving experiments with neural augmentation, much of the world has banned the practice entirely, save for carefully monitored therapeutic uses.

Americas

United States

The Oil Crash was in large part precipitated by runaway speculation in the American financial sector. However, the Crash happened after the major candidates for both political parties were selected, only a few days before the presidential election, so Phillip Sheldon, the Republican/Tea Party champion of deregulation, managed to take the White House anyway. As a result the federal government was largely unwilling to intervene economically during the Crash and subsequent depression. With state governments unable to balance their budgets, they were no help either. Throughout much of the country, People's Assemblies began to form in order to take care of community business, drawing on the spirit of the protest movements of the previous decade. This effectively replaced local government throughout much of the Midwest and West coast, as well as in portions of New England.

In time, of course, the state and federal governments began to reassert their authority. Some Assemblies acquiesced. Many did not, having grown thoroughly dissatisfied with what they perceived as the government's unwillingness to address the root problems of the Crash. The transition from social movement to police action to open warfare was gradual, but the flashpoint that ultimately started the warfare was the Minot Riot, where IRS officials, backed by Department of Homeland Security paramilitary officials, attempted to seize property from an anarcho-capitalist community and wound up killing more than 300 people in sparse fighting that lasted several days.

Most of the early fighting was distributed, and took place in rural or suburban communities, as this is where most of the Assemblies formed (though there were notable exceptions, such as the Portland Commune and the Greater Montpelier Economic District). However, as the conflict grew, entire geographic regions wound up throwing their weight to one side of the war or the other. The Department of Homeland Security, already highly militarized, became an official domestic paramilitary police force, armed with military-grade augmentations and hardware.

The role of augmented soldiers in the war cannot be overstated. Both sides made heavy used of augmented soldiers, though the Assembly forces tended to be hodgepodge and comprised mainly of overclocked prosthetic augmentations, rather than purpose-built combat augs. As a result, heavily augmented people are distrusted across most of the Midwest and West, based on the perception that they are likely former DHS soldiers.

Sheldon's handling of the crisis made him very unpopular, and his loss in 2028 seemed certain until he suspended elections in "insurgent-sympathizer territory," much of which correlated directly with Democratic strongholds. Still, he won a very narrow victory. He treated this as a mandate, though his popularity continued to slip; only a highly partisan hold on Congress kept him safe from impeachment, and his cavalier rejection of basic democratic principles eventually fragmented the Republican Party, leading to a populist Democrat, Jordan Hamilton being elected in 2032.

Hamilton immediately scaled back the conflict, and put an emphatic end to the public treason trials that had marked much of Sheldon's tenure. He began a program of outreach to the moderate Assemblies, primarily those alienated by Sheldon's heavy-handed response, and slowly began to re-establish state and federal authority across the US. By dividing the movement, Hamilton made federal success in the conflict possible.

Even more than 15 years later, though, the legacy of the conflict remains. Many Assembly figureheads were tried and convicted in what many consider to be sham trials, and state and local government has no policing authority across much of the country. Any area that saw "insurgent activity" remains under the federal law enforcement mandate of the Department of Homeland Security (still widely abused across the country as the Department of Heil Sheldon).

Brazil

Upcoming biotech titan and emerging center of trade, Brazil has been under the control of radical Greens ever since the Oil Crash. Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have grown into immense macrotower-dotted arcologies as part of the government's plan to terraform the devastated rainforest and fix global carbon levels. Individual environmental footprints are carefully scrutinized and punishments for exceeding them are harsh, but the Greens remain popular for their social programs.

Europe

The European Union

The European Union is bucking hard to become both the economic and diplomatic center of the world. By far the most stable region, the EU's only real problem has been the Greek/Turkish crisis. Both nations, already stressed financially, essentially disintegrated during the Crash. The resulting highly-disorganized border war devastated both countries even further, and the EU was forced to hire a large private military corporation, Ursa Major, to step in and provide security in the no-man's land that is the Thracian Demilitarized Zone. In a baffling slip that embarrasses the EU to this day, Ursa Major's contract has no unilateral termination clause; the PMC runs the DMZ as their own personal playground, allowing black market trade to flourish (as long as they get their cut).

Russia

Russia, a major oil exporter and essentially a kleptocracy, did not fare well in the Oil Crash. The Caucaus states revolted en masse and declared independence, and Russia has been unable to drag them back into the fold despite two incredibly disorganized wars in the last 15 years.

The Middle East

The Middle East suffered the worst in the Oil Crash, by far, as so much of their economy was tied into the international oil trade. Many mid-eastern nations collapsed, and to this day are little more than city-states clinging diplomatically to borders that are no longer relevant. The one exception to this is the glittering jewel that is Bahrain.

Bahrain

Studded with a dozen macrotowers, Bahrain is without-a-doubt the economic center of the Mideast, and a hotbed of research that is completely illegal anywhere else in the world. Bahrain survived the Oil Crash by turning to the wealthy of the world, selling themselves as a destination for the rich and powerful to essentially do as they please. Though the international community has condemned this laissez-faire attitude towards potentially dangerous research, Bahrain nonetheless does a booming trade with corporations the world over.

Israel

Israel is one of the few nations that expanded during the Oil Crash, annexing wide swaths of the surrounding states as they destabilized and collapsed. It now encompasses much of what was Lebanon, southern Syria (including Damascus), Jordan, and the Sinai peninsula (including the Suez canal). Israel maintains military cyborgs and is not shy in the slightest about using them, to deadly effect.

Asia

China

China remains fragmented in the wake of the Crash, with the People's Republic claiming Beijing and a few hundred miles around it. The Shanghai Republic has been on the ascent lately, and independent Hong Kong has only Singapore for competition in trade for the region. Much of western China has broken away into a few ethnic states, and Tibet has also claimed independence (though the Shanghai Republic maintains claims on the region, which it has never been able to properly enforce).

Singapore

Trending ever more towards the state capitalism popular under the late 20th century PRC, Singapore is a city on the rise. Placed close to the equator, it's already Asia's space hub, and the ambition to possess the world's first space elevator is one they are not shy about (though the project is years from even beginning).

Japan

The demographic crisis combined with the Oil Crash hit Japan hard. The economy has only recovered thanks to an almost obsessive pursuit of robotics and weak AI technology, led by the zaibatsu Tenjin. The ardently nationalist (almost isolationist) government has repeatedly denied calls from the international community to allow inspectors to examine their AI testbeds.

India

In the early years of the Crash, Pakistan and India engaged in the first nuclear exchange since World War 2, which India came away from by far better than Pakistan, which was annexed and remains a high security zone. The fallout, combined with the worldwide economic dislocation, resulted in mass starvation across the region for several years.

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