This fictional scenario was intended to be entered into the 2013 Future Problem Solving Programme Scenario Writing competition. It’s inspired by Corning’s A Day Made of Glass and I had great fun imagining how technology might change our everyday existence in the future.
New Eyeon City, 2047
As dawn breaks over Old Eyeon City, things begin to stir in the streets below. The emerging mega-class of homeless people slowly wakes from its slumbers on park benches and street corners across these derelict suburbs of the old city. As they slowly converge upon the municipal help centres and soup kitchens, they talk among themselves. The sheer volume of people queueing for food is astonishing. Not only have these people had their jobs taken away by hyper-intelligent robots, but many of them are also educated people, ousted by robots that can do everything a human can do but faster, more reliably, more efficiently and without the need for breaks or holidays. Discontentment is high among these social outcasts – they have no livelihood and no income. All they can do is rely on assistance from the local government – which is rapidly diminishing.
Meanwhile, in Apartment 346 of Block F, Sector 7 of New Eyeon City, Alex opens his eyes. The time is 7:47 AM as the chemically-plated glass of his bedroom windows slowly fades from dark grey to clear. The dawn sunlight begins to stream in. On the intelligent, multi-touch glass doors of his wall to wall wardrobe appears his schedule for the day. He has a meeting at 9am with the senior directors of the robotics technology company he works for. The time now is no coincidence. The artificial intelligence engine of his personal cloud has analysed public transport options for him, considering predicted delays and work on infrastructure as well as accounting for how long it will take him to shower, get dressed, have breakfast, travel and based on previous data, it has woken him up within a 1% margin of error of the perfect time to catch his train. The temperature of his shower has already been decided. Considering sleep quality data from sensors embedded in his bed, a refreshing 13º C temperature has been selected to wake him up. A countdown timer begins. He has exactly 43 minutes to get ready. His seat is already reserved on the 8:30 maglev to his office in Sector 9.
In the shower, Alex can enjoy a rare few minutes of down-time – in his modern bathroom, ambient lighting soothes senses and eyes, whilst the noise of the traffic outside is blocked out. As he brushes his teeth, visual feedback appears on his mirror. A live video feed from his toothbrush as well as proximity and pressure sensors are combined to generate a 3D model of his teeth, highlighting plaque areas in orange. As he brushes, the orange areas leftover from last night slowly diminish. The model responds to his every gesture. A twist with two fingers in mid-air spins the model with momentum so he can see the insides of his teeth. A floating message appears over the model, pinned to the inside faces of his lower right molars: Try Harder! – you repeatedly do not brush enough in this area. The data from his toothbrush has already been analysed by the supercomputers in Sector 23 that form the backbone of his entire world. His dentist already has access to the data, as well as his doctor.
Back in his room, clothes for the day are laid out on his bed that has already been made – strips of super flexible nano-material sewn into his duvet that stiffen into straight rods when electrically stimulated have stretched the duvet back into its original shape. The clothes laid out for him are one thing that Alex has more control over – whilst the intelligence engine suggests clothing based on weather conditions and Alex’s schedule for the day, he has the option to choose what he wants from his wardrobe.
The wardrobe is fully automated in every sense. Motorised rails and arms automatically organise all of Alex’s clothes by type or colour – tiny lights embedded in the frame illuminate specific garments. Taking out a shirt, he reads on the small display on the hanger that he has worn this shirt forty five times already. He shrugs and puts it on.
In the kitchen, the coffee machine is just finishing preparing his favourite brew – a double espresso. Placing the mug of steaming coffee onto his kitchen worktop, the surface springs to life. Bubbles of information spring out around his mug. A message tells him that the coffee beans for his coffee today came from Ethiopia. A map and pictures of green coffee fields appear. Another message is from the health management section of the Cloud – it reads: ‘Warning: coffee may stain your teeth. Excessive caffeine consumption is bad for you’. Alex resents this intrusion on his habits – his doctor will probably discuss this at his next examination, knowing all of Alex’s health-affecting habits through the Cloud Intelligence system. Tapping on the interactive map, he sees the route his coffee has taken, right down to the field it was grown and the place it was ground.
As the electric induction hob next to him begins to warm up, he awakes with a start from a dream about living a simple life growing coffee. Seeing the time, he jumps up and goes over to the fridge. On the door his diet planner suggests a mushroom omelette. He clicks ‘confirm’ and the fridge door swings open automatically. Tiny lights indicate the location of the mushrooms, the butter and the milk inside the cavernous fridge. As he removes each item, it is ticked on an ingredients list by the hob. Reaching for an egg, the use-by date of each one suddenly appears on each. Eye-tracking cameras detect his gaze falling on an egg that expires tomorrow. Onto this egg is projected further information: Produced in England, free range & organic. Satisfied with his selection he takes two eggs and goes over to the hob. A frying pan has already been placed on the hob for him by the robot that organises and cleans his kitchen, controlled by his Virtual Cooking Assistant. As Alex prepares the omelette, holographic instructions appear before him, showing him the correct method to crack an egg on the side of the pan and at what speed to stir.
Back in the outer suburbs of the city, the disgruntled ousted citizens await news from the help centres. As they receive their ever-diminishing food ration, many wonder what it would be like to have succeeded in and to live in the robotic city they have been rejected from. They discuss employment – there are now over 3000 applications for every refuse collection post and even those jobs are diminishing. Some even talk of becoming farmers in far away lands and living from what they produce.
The local government is launching a review of the city, supported mainly by the company Alex works for – they ask you, the FPSers of the world to assist them in their conclusions by using your six step problem solving process to generate problems and solutions and ultimately, an action plan for the city in the years to come.