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Old 06-15-2009, 03:34 PM   #1
ed_209a
 
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Default 40 years to Cyberpunk?

I am working up a history for a Cyberpunk game I am running, and I'd love a little advice.

I want to start in 2009 with today's news and plot a believable course of events ending up in 2050 with weak governments and strong multinational corporations, at least in North America.

I am leaning towards a slippery slope to cyberpunk rather than a dramatic collapse. Not to say there won't be tragic bumps along the road. You can't call it a Cyberpunk RPG setting without a plague and a economic collapse. It's in the by-laws somewhere... ;)

For example, perhaps a corporation subcontracts a certain service with the government. Later, the corp renegotiates the contract so that, as part of a federal tax cut bill, the public will pay the corp directly, instead of being paid from tax dollars.

In this way, much of the services and tax base that state and federal government used to control is nibbled away by corporations.

Well-compensated politicians look the other way, until government is a shell of it's previous self.

What suggestions do you wise sages & mad geniuses have along these lines?
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Old 06-15-2009, 04:29 PM   #2
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Default Re: 40 years to Cyberpunk?

The problem of course with projecting right for'ard from the present is whatever you do will become almost immediately obsolete. Twilight 2000 looks quaint. Y2K looks silly. But if you're going to do it, you have an economic collapse already. Assume it really does become another Great Depression. Assume a massive flu pandemic in the next couple of years. Followed by genetically engineered Marburg or something so something like 40 million Americans die. An imaginary Republican takes power and launches another major "War on Terror" offensive to get whoever he picks as a scapegoat for the Marburg. The war spurs development of superior prosthetic limbs, and as it becomes increasingly unpopular again with the casualties mounting up, combat operations are turned over to private "contractors" because nobody counts their casualties. With increasing difficulty meeting the bills, conventional military shrinks in size. After the real work on the ground is being done by expendable but expensive mercenaries.

Meanwhile the population shortage only feeds the social pressures pushing the United States in the direction of foreign labour. A constitutional amendment is passed in 2024 saying that only children of citizens are eligible for citizenship. Executive policy leads to the restriction of social benefits to only citizens. The resurgence of the Republicans repopularizes privatisation in every way, and due to the insolvency of the American currency after hyper-inflation, corporations start paying their employees in scrip, and the employees actually consider that an improvement.
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Old 06-15-2009, 07:26 PM   #3
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Default Re: 40 years to Cyberpunk?

As for the other half of the Cyberpunk meme, the prototype for netrunning has already finished its initial trials... so don't be conservative with your tech.
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Old 06-15-2009, 10:00 PM   #4
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Default Re: 40 years to Cyberpunk?

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
The problem of course with projecting right for'ard from the present is whatever you do will become almost immediately obsolete. Twilight 2000 looks quaint. Y2K looks silly. But if you're going to do it, you have an economic collapse already. Assume it really does become another Great Depression. Assume a massive flu pandemic in the next couple of years. Followed by genetically engineered Marburg or something so something like 40 million Americans die. An imaginary Republican takes power and launches another major "War on Terror" offensive to get whoever he picks as a scapegoat for the Marburg. The war spurs development of superior prosthetic limbs, and as it becomes increasingly unpopular again with the casualties mounting up, combat operations are turned over to private "contractors" because nobody counts their casualties. With increasing difficulty meeting the bills, conventional military shrinks in size. After the real work on the ground is being done by expendable but expensive mercenaries.

Meanwhile the population shortage only feeds the social pressures pushing the United States in the direction of foreign labour. A constitutional amendment is passed in 2024 saying that only children of citizens are eligible for citizenship. Executive policy leads to the restriction of social benefits to only citizens. The resurgence of the Republicans repopularizes privatisation in every way, and due to the insolvency of the American currency after hyper-inflation, corporations start paying their employees in scrip, and the employees actually consider that an improvement.
I prefer the idea that the Dems go full on socialist /authoritarian. After years of pinko misrule, the rest of the country rises up in protest. When the feds and their hired guns begin to shoot at nonviolent demonstrators, things get ugly. A Second Civil War breaks out, and this ultimately shatters the Union. The former US is now five seperate countries.

A fragmented US allows for corporate dominated states, libertarian enclaves [think Somalia with cybertech], socialist hellholes, etc. Lots of variety. If no other country quite has the power to step in...[after the collapse of the American economy screws up things globally] then we get a very multipolar, chaotic world. It's perfect for grasping megacorps and ruthless mercenaries.
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Old 06-15-2009, 10:07 PM   #5
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Default Re: 40 years to Cyberpunk?

I think a massive disease outbreak helps a lot. Massive casualties across the world provide enough of a rationale for sweeping societal change as everyone gets more extreme.

I also agree that another full US war in about 20 years would really help bring cyberlimbs to their full potential.

Having either political party go off the deep end in the US without some sort of massive impetus (like that disease) would ruin my suspension of disbelief. And I think the best outcome (especially for cyberpunk) is for BOTH of them to go off the deep end.
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Old 06-15-2009, 10:14 PM   #6
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I think a massive disease outbreak helps a lot. Massive casualties across the world provide enough of a rationale for sweeping societal change as everyone gets more extreme.

I also agree that another full US war in about 20 years would really help bring cyberlimbs to their full potential.

Having either political party go off the deep end in the US without some sort of massive impetus (like that disease) would ruin my suspension of disbelief. And I think the best outcome (especially for cyberpunk) is for BOTH of them to go off the deep end.
BOTH...yeah, actually, I'd say both major parties have the seeds of true whackjobbery deeply implanted at this time. There really are some ca-raaaay-zeee folks in politics. That's a matter for tangent, though.:)
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Old 06-15-2009, 10:29 PM   #7
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Default Re: 40 years to Cyberpunk?

Part and parcel of any discussion about the future, is that of the political environment in which all of this happens. If you surf the web for political web logs (aka blogs), you will find a plethora of different situations that can and likely will peak in the near future. Baby Boomers are just now starting to hit retirement age, which will require that certain pension plans begin to pay out in greater and greater numbers. These pension plans also include social security, which - with a nation already heading into a projected Multi-billion dollar deficeit - may be the straw that breaks the already straining camel's back. Some state governors are already talking about states rights versus federal rights, and with the current atmosphere of distrust and highly partisan skirmishing (read up on the IG recently fired by Presiden Obama to get some possible inspiration for your future history). If the Bankruptcy of GM goes according to expectations (in light of recent events that is), then a lot of pension plans that were investing their 401K's in GM stock, will suddenly become worthless or relatively worthless.

This can spark the "Geriatric Wars" so named because it was the Baby Boomers who continued to spark the most friction with the government as they demanded their pensions and 401K's be honored. When they weren't, various individuals found themselves in dire economic straights, or at least in a status where their standard of living dropped in a major way.

Now, others have suggested a massive swine flu like epidemic. My suggestion is - resist the temptation.

Here is why:

For every person left alive, who is of an age where they are marginally productive (ie retired or part time workers), the governmental system is that much more overburdened relative to its resources.

For every nation that is experiencing negative growth rates (ie current population is shrinking), you will have a situation where the government itself is caught between a nasty vise. On one hand, it has an aging population to deal with, on the other hand, it has a smaller tax base in which to handle its problems. THIS can be one very powerful political/economic stress.

If the US is plagued with an aging population, but is still able to vote, the politicians will continue to attempt to buy votes rather than seek long term solutions. The era of "Blood and circuses" (oops, meant bread and circuses right? <g>) will become more pronounced.

It isn't like the original poster has to have a full fledged melt down. In fact, it is better that the melt-down doesn't occur (as yet). The reason being, is that if the economic landscape is as bad as projected, fewer businesses (ie Corporations) will be able to justify spending money on research for a dead economy. They will instead, be in a full fledged "Survival" mode attempting just to insure they don't go bankrupt in an economic depression. Yes, some corporations will actually THRIVE during a depression, but the trick will be in determining which ones and why.
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Old 06-15-2009, 11:18 PM   #8
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Default Re: 40 years to Cyberpunk?

Almost forgot...

When you get a chance, do a search on the internet for "Ug99" and read up on not only what the virus does to the cereal plants, but the fact that it has changed and mutated into a more virulent strain capable of causing 100% crop yield loss in areas it hits. There are genetically engineered strains of wheat that are resistant to Ug99, but in nations that have outlawed genetic engineering seedstock, such an event as a major Ug99 spread affecting up to 80% of world wide stocks will definitely be a massively historical event.

In fact? If you wanted to be cute about it, you could even pick up a used copy of the Millenial Project from Amazon.com and read up on some of the floating production centers in the first portion of the book. The author describes how seaweed can be used as a secondary source of protein. That plus aquaculture might be a new "wave" of food production for your cyberpunk campaign. Some megacorporations my be heavily into food production, and since they could possibly amass political power based on their production, could give you some inspiration for your cyberpunk campaign.

One of the cyberpunk campaigns I ran involved research into transplanting brains and spinal cords between one ape into another. The idea was to spur research that could be used for the process on humans. While not the path to immortality, it did permit people with enough wealth, to insure a longer life - at the expense of some poor (literally) schmuck. Imagine the kind of horror you could implement in with your campaign where life truly is cheap - to those with the money and depravity.
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Old 06-15-2009, 11:52 PM   #9
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Default Re: 40 years to Cyberpunk?

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Originally Posted by hal View Post
Now, others have suggested a massive swine flu like epidemic. My suggestion is - resist the temptation.

Here is why:

For every person left alive, who is of an age where they are marginally productive (ie retired or part time workers), the governmental system is that much more overburdened relative to its resources..
But the fear concerning the epidemic is that one day it will recreate the unique nature of the Spanish Influenza epidemic, which for some perverse reason hit young adults even harder than any other demographic group.
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Old 06-15-2009, 11:55 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
But the fear concerning the epidemic is that one day it will recreate the unique nature of the Spanish Influenza epidemic, which for some perverse reason hit young adults even harder than any other demographic group.
My reason for the epidemic is I don't see a cyberpunk dystopia in forty years without a massive shake-up of the status-quo. You need panic and uncertainty to get splintered governments or authoritarian corporations. And IMO nothing spreads panic and uncertainty than disease.
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