I’ve taken a few liberties with a trip to work last week. I wasn’t wearing the P2-rated mask (I have one) and I don’t have Apple Ear Pods. Otherwise here is my best attempt to re-write part of my day as if it was a 1980s cyberpunk novel opening.
Cyberpunk Apocalypse 2019
It was 2019 and the sky was the colour of a nicotine addict’s fingers.
My mask made it hard to breath but it was worth it if I was going to work today. Rated P2 and forming an air-tight seal around the edge, anything else wouldn’t stop the PM2.5 particles in the air getting into my lungs. The streets were full of people who had bought cheaper masks — the surgical fabric kind that had become popular in the big Asian megacities after the big viral outbreaks. Those masks might stop the viruses but not the toxic enemy we were facing today.
My watch alerted me to an incoming call. I declined it, the air was too thick for me to take the mask off for a voice call. My watch showed my heart rate was elevated. No surprise. I was breathing soup through a filter. I pulled out my phone. Normally I could operate it with voice commands but with my mask on, the microphone in my ear piece wouldn’t pick up my commands correctly.
The phone was an older model. Octa core processor, 64 gigabytes of internal storage and 294 pixel density on its rugged touchscreen. It read my fingerprint and then instantly connected to a global network of computers. News alerts appeared: the US President was becoming increasingly unstable, the UK was on the brink of political collapse. Just a normal day. The data I needed was more local.
I fired up a geo-mapping program. It pulled data from multiple sources and displayed it on a satellite based map zeored on my location. All the major fires in my zone were displayed, coloured icons hovering over the streets and bushland. I zoomed into an area at the edge of the map. The fires weren’t encroaching on my home— at least not yet.
There was an old guy coughing ahead of me. Probably old enough that his lungs were already shot from the great nicotine addiction of the twentieth century. Cigarettes were still technically legal but smoking was banned in so many places that the remaining addicts had to congregate outside in doorways and alleyways. Jokes on us, I thought wryly, we all smokers now as the light filtered orange though the brown air.
A message alert appeared. Work letting me know that I was late for the cyber-securtiy briefing. They’d have to carry on without me but I knew what the data teams were going to tell me: multiple intrusion attempts identified from China, the myriad nations that had arisen after the collapse of the Soviet Union and central Africa. Such cyber-attacks had become common place even for a tiny operation like ours. State intelligence services or organised crime? These days was there even a meaningful distinction. The latest strongman ruling in Moscow allegedly owned the President of the United States, so anybody could be in the pocket of somebody else.
It was 2019. Global warming was out of control and Australia was on fire.