The most Cyberpunk moments of 2015

David Stark / Zarkonnen
2016-01-02 14:08

To only slightly paraphrase William Gibson - cyberpunk is already here, it's just not very evenly distributed. Cyberpunk predicted a future where people subordinated themselves to Japanese-style megacorps and freedom could only be found at the margins, by intrepid demi-monde hackers with zany hairstyles. What we have is actually worse: you are disposable even if you play by the rules.

And most of the intrepid hackers have been pacified by promises of fat IPOs and mainstream acceptance. They spend their time finding new ways to shove ads down our throats and creating solutions for "problems" no one outside of the Bay Area actually cares about.

Isn't it a bit weird that Edward Snowden, our one bona fide cyberpunk hero, throwing back the curtain on a massive government panopticon, was a government contractor? The kind of working-for-the-man corporate drone that was meant to contrast negatively with cyberpunk's zany heroes?

As for all those other trappings of robots and whatnot, we're getting there. Without further ado, I present you the most cyberpunk moments of 2015.

Early in the year, Intel gave us some gesture-controlled spider-bots.

China gave each citizen a score based on their conduct and, er, obedience. Brings to mind this Bertolt Brecht poem from 1953:

The Solution

After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers' Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

Of course, we must not at this point mention the decades-old practice of credit scores, where a low score means difficulty obtaining a place to live, a car, and consequently a job. Because credit scores aren't government-issued, they're calculated by for-profit companies. Which means they're good!

On the topic of Snowden: one group of guerilla artists put up a bust of him in a park in Brooklyn. After it was removed, a different group created a holographic memorial instead:

2015 was also the year where in the US, total money taken by civil asset forfeiture - where cops take your stuff because you might be guilty, and then don't give it back if you're not - apparently surpassed money taken by burglary. If you have nothing to hide - and by nothing, we mean no nice cars the local police department's got their eyes on - you have nothing to fear!

Going back to private-sector shenanigans, turns out that Exxon knew about climate change almost 40 years ago, but chose to loudly and publicly insist there was no such thing. Amongst other things, their lobbying sabotaged the Kyoto Protocol, back in '97, which would have been early enough to make a dent in climate change. As of 2015, we are now past the point of no return. But perhaps they just didn't believe their own science? Well, they believed it enough to account for it in construction projects.

Here is your traditional Sad Polar Bear image to go with that:

And last but not least, there was Boston Dynamics' idea of a jolly Christmas message:

Now remember to be jolly, because if you are not jolly, your score might get downgraded by some corporate or government algorithm. Happy 2016!