I’m running a Cyberpunk 2020 game for my regular group next year, the appeal of ‘2020 in 2020’ was too strong.
My game will be set in an alternative, cyberpunky version of the real world, more like an alternate timeline, with certain technology being 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years ahead of now.
I’ve justified this by removing a few setbacks for the space industry and having a second ‘leap’ in technology, similar to that enjoyed by piggybacking off the Nazis, with a piggybacking off the USSR’s unethical experimentation after their collapse. Add a little dystopian corporate statehood, and you’re away to the races.
Some of what I create for this game will likely end up forming a ‘retroclone’ Cyberpunk rules set, that I primarily want to use for a Steampunk setting.
- The Soviet Union begins its economic restructuring (Perestroika).
- Lee-Teng-Hui becomes president of China.
- The US government narrowly approves almost fifty million dollars in aid for Nicaraguan Contras, opening up a more ‘upfront’ involvement of the US in the South American front of the Cold War.
- The Soviet Union begins to collapse and withdraws from Afghanistan.
- Three members of the Provisional IRA are shot dead in Gibraltar. While the UK government and the SAS were implicated in the shooting, the culprits are never found or charged. Loyalist paramilitaries attack the funeral of the three men and the PIRA later attack and kill two UK soldiers in retribution. The Troubles continue, even into 2020 and Northern Ireland never gets devolved power.
- The Iraqi government launches a chemical attack on Halabja.
- Mass protests begin to take place in Soviet satellite states.
- The USS Samuel B Roberts hits an Iranian mine while monitoring the Iran/Iraq war. Retaliation from the USA takes the form of a week of airstrikes against Iranian oil platforms and naval vessels. The Iran/Iraq War ends by August.
- Wembley Stadium holds a concert in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday. The Apartheid regime has him at this time.
- James Hansen testifies that Global Warming has begun. It spirals out of control far faster than anyone anticipated. By 2020 sea levels have risen 1 metre and the global temperature has risen by 2.5 degrees centigrade.
- The Morris Worm – the first Internet computer worm virus – infects the internet, starting from MIT. The potential power of this technology is immediately understood.
- George W Bush succeeds Reagan and immediately begins bolstering US Intelligence service power and reach.
- The Stealth Bomber is unveiled, starting a rush in other militaries to match or defeat the technology.
- The USSR Shuttle ‘Buran’ undergoes a crewless test flight.
- A cyclone in Bangladesh leaves five million people homeless and thousands dead, foretelling climate effects to come. Bangladesh will become a case-in-point for climate devastation and genocide.
- Pan Am Flight 103 explodes over Lockerbie, Libyan state terrorists are considered responsible.
- The UN signs a convention against drug trafficking.
- TAT-8, the first transatlantic fibreoptic cable is laid. High-speed data traffic across the world is now possible.
- Tim Berners-Lee discusses the World Wide Web at CERN.
- As the Soviet Union begins to collapse, the Russian Mafia and the Oligarchs begin to rise. There is also a sudden and abrupt ‘brain drain’ of former soviet scientists, and their research, into the west. Much as with Project Paperclip, a lot of this research is unethical but powerful, and the USSR never had the funds or resources to exploit it fully. Wealthier countries gain a great deal of ground on the back of the USSR’s human experimentation.
- The Hubble Space Telescope launches.
- Tensions with Libya continue to rise, with the US Navy shooting down two Libyan M-23s.
- Emperor Hirohito dies, and Akihito takes his place. Japan enters the Heisei era.
- Thirty-Five European nations meet and agree on strengthening human rights and east-west trade.
- Left-Wing partisans take over an Argentinian base near Buenos Aires.
- Satellite Television proper, Sky, takes off in Europe.
- The publication of The Satanic Verses leads to a life-threatening fatwah against the author, Salman Rushdie.
- The Berne Convention on copyright globally impinges upon public domain rights.
- Twelve European nations come together to ban the use of CFCs. The ozone layer will, in later years, begin to repair itself until China’s boom leads to another increase in the use of CFCs.
- The announcement of Cold Fusion is made but turns out to be a hoax. The excitement generated, however, leads to increased interest in Fusion as a technology.
- The Exxon-Valdez oil spill takes place.
- The Conservative government introduces the Poll Tax in the UK, but mass protest, disobedience and rioting leads to its withdrawal and the removal from power of Margaret Thatcher.
- The Tiananmen Square protests are ruthlessly shut down.
- The Hillsborough Disaster takes place, killing around 100 football fans. The newspapers and government lay the blame firmly at the feet of the fans.
- Genetic modification of adult human beings is trialled, officially, for the first time via gene-tagging. Progress in this area is suspiciously rapid, which may be down to the influx of Soviet scientists and research.
- The first McDonalds in the Soviet Union opens.
- The USA sends thousands of troops into Panama to protect US civilians and interests there.
- British police arrest hundreds of people celebrating the solstice at Stonehenge.
- Colombia’s cartels declare war on their government.
- The first commercial dial-up internet service launches in the USA.
- The Berlin Wall falls.
- The South African military dismantles its nuclear weapons, though some question remains on their final fate, with Israel being a potential recipient.
- A Gamma-Ray observation satellite is launched.
- Space Shuttle Endeavour launches for the first time.
- The US intervention in Panama becomes a full-scale invasion to depose Noriega.
- In its dying spasms, the USSR occupies Azerbaijan and killed over 100 protestors.
- The first McDonalds opens in China.
- The ANC is legalised, and Nelson Mandela is freed.
- German Reunification is announced.
- Voyager sends the Pale Blue Dot image.
- Steve Jackson Games is raided by the police because of their Cyberpunk game supplement, directly prompting the formation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
- The Nintendo World Championships are held, kickstarting E-Sports.
- Iraq invades Kuwait, and the First Gulf War begins. Coalition wounded lead to significant innovations in prosthetics.
- REL COM is formed in the USSR, and the USSR joins the Internet.
- The first commercial digital camera goes on sale.
- The first web-page is published.
- The first Spacelab launch takes place.
- Global Warming monitoring satellites are launched.
- Russia launches its second spaceplane, Samum, on a crewed flight.
- PIRA mortars No. 10 downing street.
- Iraq withdraws from Kuwait. The US leverages its liberation of Kuwait into extensive corporate entanglement with Kuwait’s oil production and mercenary protection via PMCs.
- The Rodney King video is released.
- Germany regains full independence.
- A software bug takes out the phone system in DC, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
- Apartheid Ends, sanctions are lifted against South Africa.
- The first website is created.
- The USSR officially, finally, dissolves.
- In a shock result, David Duke – former Grand Wizard of the KKK – is elected governor of Louisiana. Unrest and tensions in the US over the Rodney King revelations and attempted cover-up are blamed for creating a reaction. This election only worsens things.
- Galileo makes a close approach to an asteroid.
- Robert Maxwell – publisher and tycoon – is found dead. Long alleged to be a double or triple agent it is thought he was assassinated by the Russian intelligence services, British intelligence services, or even Mossad – whom he was alleged to be an agent of.
- Carbon nanotubes are officially discovered. By 2020 they are used in everything from composites to medical scaffolds, environmental monitoring, cancer treatment, high-tech monitoring, high-density processors and nanotechnology.
- Wars begin around the dissolution of Yugoslavia.
- The Maastricht Treaty brings the European Union into being.
- The LA Riots take place after the acquittal of the officers involved in the Rodney King beating. The riots lasted for two weeks and spread to other cities leading to a severe crackdown and worsened race relations for decades.
- Bill Clinton becomes President of the United States. The right blames Ross Perot for splitting the conservative vote by calving off the libertarian ‘modern’ right, leading to bitter recrimination and restructuring.
- The American alphabet agencies, strengthened under Bush, hide their activities beneath black budgets, becoming an unaccountable Deep State, with enormous influence.
- The US intervenes in Somalia and remains a presence to this day, despite constant terrorist attacks.
- Compact discs outsell tapes for the first time.
- The ESA Hermes Spaceplane takes flight, a smaller, more cost-effective version of the shuttle for limited applications.
- The European Single Market forms.
- IBM, failing to adapt to a rapidly changing IT market, announces losses of $5 billion.
- The Waco Siege takes place in the USA. Suspicions are relegated to conspiracy theories, and the US police and intelligence services manage to contain speculation or exposure.
- War Crimes trials begin, related to Yugoslavia.
- Jurassic Park is released, unveiling the true potential of CGI.
- Windows NT 3.1 is released.
- Mars Observer reaches Mars and sends back data.
- China performs a nuclear test, ending a global moratorium. North Korea is also now refusing inspections and has re-started its nuclear program.
- The UK privatises the railways.
- NAFTA comes into effect.
- Soyuz sets a record for days in orbit.
- Algae and bacteria-derived biofuels are developed, for the time being, this is limited to biodiesel for military vehicles. However, it has the advantage of not needing arable land, just water and green or brown waste.
- Organic/Silicon interface chips are made to work for the first time, though they are crude and inefficient and currently limited to animal experiments.
- UAVs are approved for police and security service deployment in the US, leading to early adoption of the tilt-rotor, quadcopter design for urban surveillance and pacification.
- Fred West’s house is excavated to find victims of the serial killer.
- The PRC joins the Internet.
- Apple releases the Power Macintosh.
- Linux 1.0 kernel is released.
- The Rwandan genocide begins.
- South Africa holds its first multiracial elections, and Nelson Mandela is elected president. It rejoins the Commonwealth.
- Aum Shinrikyo kills 200 with sarin gas in Japan. Further terrorist actions will follow.
- Amazon is founded.
- The US assault weapons ban comes into force though Republican control of both houses later in the year stymies any more reforms.
- The US intervenes in Haiti, eventually taking control of the island and placing it under US control – to significant public outcry. This is sold as a humanitarian mission, but US troops suffer constant attacks. They are still there in 2020.
- America Online makes the web accessible to millions.
- Mass adoption of the internet and the increasing role of economic and political blocs leads to a shift in mindset to ‘global citizens’ and ‘citizens of nowhere’ coming together regardless of geography to form ‘neotribes’ based on interest and politics.
- A cloned sheep is paraded as the first successfully cloned mammal, at least so far as the public is concerned.
- The Channel Tunnel opens.
- Polykanov stays in space for a full year on Mir.
- Barings Bank collapses.
- The Oklahoma City Bombing takes place, killing over 150 men, women and children.
- The US fully privatises the Internet.
- Sony releases the Playstation
- A Lunar probe discovers water and other resource-rich spots on the Moon.
- A new space race is on, primarily between the ESA and the USA to exploit space resources cost-effectively.
- The Dunblane Massacre takes place in the UK, leading to even more stringent firearms controls.
- The IMF loans $10 billion to Russia to empower further economic reforms.
- Ariane 5 launches successfully, helping the EU to overcome its launch operations crisis.
- A PIRA bomb in Manchester kills over 200 people.
- The first sections of the ISS go into orbit with Russian, American and European spaceplanes all contributing.
- The first Space Tourist pays to be lifted to the ailing Mir.
- As GPS satellites are replaced, they also begin carrying equipment to provide a world-wide, low-speed, ‘basic internet’, under the control of both the US government and its private industry.
- Bill Clinton and Al Gore win election for the second time and are sworn in. Ross Perot is again blamed for splitting the conservative vote, though his vote share decreased and would not have carried the popular vote this time.
- The North Hollywood Shoot-Out, where bank robbers armed with AK-47s and wearing body armour injured 17 police officers, reignites the gun debate, again.
- Clinton bans federal funds for research into human cloning, but the intelligence apparatus continues black projects by funnelling funding through state-by-state apparatus.
- President Chan uses mercenaries from the British PMC – Sandline International – to resolve the Bougainville conflict. They quashed the rebellion there using violence, but it could not save Chan’s government. It did, however, demonstrate that a well-funded, modern mercenary force could substitute for a national military.
- Heaven’s Gate mass suicide.
- The remains of 24 people are lifted into space by rocket, the first ‘space burial’.
- The Labour party takes power in the UK by a landslide.
- Deep Blue beats Gary Kasparov in a publicity stunt.
- Hong Kong returns to China from British rule.
- Princess Diana dies after being pursued by paparazzi.
- Scotland gains a devolved parliament.
- BSE is identified as CJB.
- The Prius hybrid car launches.
- Hong Kong kills 1.25 million chickens to contain bird-flu.
- The Church of Scientology creates the first, crude, true sea-stead in international waters. Dienea is, somehow, recognised by the United States and while crude and desperate to start with, progressed over time into an effective sea-bourne and independent city-state. Albeit an oppressive one. Other Seasteading projects by other groups would follow.
- Andrew Wakefield releases the irresponsible and dangerous paper that alleges a link between vaccines and autism. This significantly increases infection rates of various diseases in the coming years.
- Liquid water is discovered on Europa.
- Galaxy IV is retired from service and replaced by a successor satellite capable of handling more data.
- Pakistan is now a nuclear-armed power.
- The European Central Bank is established.
- Europol is established.
- A pipeline explosion in Nigeria kills over 1000.
- Clinton is impeached, though the process goes nowhere.
- The Eurozone fixes its currency rates.
- The first fully enclosed artificial heart is successfully implanted.
- The Euro is established.
- The Melissa Worm attacks the internet.
- Bill Gates becomes the wealthiest person in the world.
- Scottish and Welsh assemblies open. Northern Ireland is still under direct rule.
- Napster launches.
- Sega Dreamcast launches.
- China launches its Shenzhou rocket. It is derived from Soyuz technology.
- The US decides to retain control of the Panama Canal, breaking the Torrijos-Carter treaty of 1977. Protest spills over into violence, but this is suppressed by the Panamanian government, fearing US military intervention. Back-door deals are done to share some of the wealth the canal produces. The US maintains a heavy military presence, all but displacing the Panamanian government with its wealth and force, despite resistance.
- Vladimir Putin becomes president of Russia.
- The ESA sends missions to the Moon.
- NASA demonstrates a working scramjet.
- The Women on Waves project founds a seastead in international waters to provide abortion and gynaecological services to women across the globe. This supplements and supplants their small fleet of ships. The EU recognizes them.
- The USA and ESA both begin soft-landing materials and components for moon-based facilities, even though there is – as yet – no means to land people there.
- AOL purchases Time Warner
- Massive flooding hits Mozambique, killing over 1000 people.
- Playstation 2 is released.
- Microsoft is acquitted of antitrust violations, allowing it to use its might to hold down many competitors.
- The ILOVEYOU virus ravages the internet.
- The Human Genome project releases.
- The Nintendo Gamecube is released.
- 250 million gallons of coal sludge flood Martin Country Kentucky.
- The ISS is crewed for the first time.
- Al Gore narrowly wins the presidency over George Bush, with it going to a supreme court decision 5/4 in Gore’s favour. There is a massive outpouring of hatred and proliferation of conspiracy theories on the right, as well as acts of violence and terrorism, especially as Gore began to enact environmental, healthcare and gun legislation.
- Russia’s third spaceplane ‘Metel’, is launched and Russia sells off Soyuz infrastructure and parts to China as it shifts more fully to spaceplanes.
- The Russian space agency ignores the moon, instead choosing to accumulate material at the L-5 Lagrange point to construct a waystation or base there.
- Wikipedia is launched.
- A foot-and-mouth disease epidemic ravages UK livestock.
- Mir is boosted into a higher orbit and used as a test-bed for space construction and recovery techniques. The refurbished, piecemeal station is dubbed ‘Lyubov’ (love) by cosmonauts as a joke, but the name sticks. Reusable craft now, routinely, boost cast-off materials into orbit for use on these projects.
- Apple releases OSX.
- President Gore manages, narrowly, to push through tax increases to pay for ongoing greening of technology and to prepare for healthcare reform. US interventions are characterised as ‘for the good of the world’ and sold on environmental and humanitarian grounds.
- Bradford race riots in the UK.
- The FBI arrests Dmitry Skylarov for breach of the DMCA.
- After Chief Justice Roy Moore has the ten commandments installed at the judiciary building he is removed from office, the commandments are removed, and the Gore-led government enforces stricter church-state separation.
- The US government re-examines the Microsoft antitrust proceedings and pursues a weaker form of punishment.
- Terrorists strike the US on 9/11, hitting the World Trade Center, The Pentagon and the Capitol building, killing thousands. The White House remained unscathed. The effect on American psychology was enormous, with the President becoming even more symbolic and powerful. Anthrax attacks and other incidents follow this.
- President Gore addresses the nation, asking for patience and refusing to lash out. He stresses the importance of waiting to be sure of the culprits before taking any retaliatory action. This is reacted to with anger by large portions of the American populace and civil unrest, including the lynchings of many Muslims, takes place. The government, in responding to these incidents, is seen to be ‘taking the side of terrorists’.
- The PRC joins the WTO.
- The World-Sat network comes online providing basic internet availability globally.
- The Euro comes into full effect.
- Mars is globally mapped.
- The International Criminal Court is established.
- A close call on reentry of the Shuttle Columbia boosts investment in a replacement shuttle and a massive booster to take the role once taken by the Saturn V. The VentureStar was almost ready by this time, and its timeline was advanced, going into full production in a public-private partnership.
- WHO issues a warning about SARS.
- The EU begins to expand, with various nations voting to join it.
- 4Chan launches.
- The USA becomes involved in numerous shadow-wars across South America, propping up sympathetic regimes with access to resources they need.
- The ESA launches and tests next-generation cargo rockets and pods.
- Facebook launches.
- The EU brings in 10 new member states, including Poland and Hungary.
- The first European Constitution is established.
- Cloned organs are grown in-vitro, they are more expensive than cadaver harvesting, but it proves the technology. This will later be superseded by 3D printing and activating stem cells.
- Gore/Lieberman are returned to office for a second time, winning the electoral college, but not the popular vote. There is another spasm of right-wing violence and terrorism.
- Pope John Paul II dies.
- Youtube comes online.
- The Superjumbo A380 takes to the air for the first time.
- 7/7 bombings hit London.
- The Muhammed Cartoon riots hit.
- Transgenic organs, which have been in use since the late 1980s, reach a new peak as transgenic nervous tissue is used in transplants for the first time.
- SpaceX launches the Falcon 1 successfully, carrying a payload for the US government.
- The first human clones are made in South Korea. International outcry leads to restrictions and the scientists involved are poached by China.
- Direct mind-machine interface becomes proven technology but requires surgery, cybernetic implantation and anti-rejection medication. Only the hardest of the hardcore get these early implants, but the ability to intuit code and experience virtual sensorium is too much to resist for many. It requires none of the cumbersome equipment of existing VR.
- The UN creates its human rights council.
- Iran enriches uranium.
- North Korea conducts its first nuclear test.
- An oil pipeline explodes in Lagos.
- Bulgaria and Romania join the EU.
- Habitable extrasolar planets are discovered.
- European heatwave kills over a hundred people in Greece, causes over 300 wildfires and crashes their power-grid.
- The iPhone is launched.
- The Lisbon Treaty is signed in Europe.
- China establishes its own space station.
- The Pirate Bay purchases Sealand and continues its claims as being independent of the UK. While the UK resists this to start with, no violent action is taken. An accommodation has been reached following the UK’s crash out of the EU in 2019. Sealand has been bolstered, expanded and modernised with modular construction and houses an enormous solar/tidal powered server farm.
- Virtual intranets or ‘braindances’ are created to test new mind-machine interface technologies and as entertainment.
- Stock markets plunge around the world as The Great Recession begins. This is somewhat blunted by the Gore/Lieberman US government retaining more regulation. However, that same government’s spending on environmental and infrastructure projects means there is less elasticity in government for countering the impact or bailing out firms. The global economy takes a massive hit, and the US takes much of the blame.
- Iran launches a rocket. This is a crude ‘kill-sat’ which deliberately crashes into the Israeli Ofeq-1 reconnaissance satellite. The collision debris damages many orbital installations leading to their rapid replacement and upgrade and the deployment of ‘space cleaning’ technology.
- Rising food and fuel prices spark riots across the third world.
- The Large Hadron Collider fires up.
- Bitcoin is proposed.
- Barack Obama is elected, making the third Democratic presidency in a row. There is yet more protest and violence from the right, despite Obama’s win margin being significant. Even so, Obama’s presidency is a slight shift to the right, and many of his promises for further reform prove hollow.
- An entirely synthetic genome is created for the first time.
- Obama makes an address to the nation about special forces units had killed Osama Bin Ladin, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. He says there have been simultaneously precision missile attacks, drone strikes and operations against others involved in those attacks and that they have been killed. There is outrage in many of the nations that these ‘assassinations’ have taken place in, but it somewhat assuages America’s right.
- The Seasteading Institute is formed, sharing and combining seasteading technologies as well as selling and hiring out to perform engineering tasks. Their first project is to establish a ‘Clubstead’ for billionaire Peter Thiel, more follow with corporations using these micronations to conduct research and to escape regulation and taxation, declaring themselves sovereign powers. There is resistance by existing governments, but by 2020 the Trump and Johnson administrations are recognising and respecting their status.
- Bitcoin is established, and Cryptocurrency rapidly takes off.
- North Korea launches a rocket, claiming that it is carrying a satellite, it also announces a new nuclear test.
- H1N1 is gauged to be a global pandemic.
- Royal Dutch Shell engages a PMC to attack insurgents that threaten several of their holdings in Africa. A few years later they try to claim their facilities as sovereign territory, destabilizing several African governments until the UN, UK and Netherlands step in.
- Chechen rebels sabotage a supply rocket to L-5 setting back the construction efforts and killing many at the launch site. Russia smashes what remains of the rebellion and withdraws from Chechnya.
- Deepwater Horizon explodes and contaminates the Gulf of Mexico.
- The EU bails out Greece.
- A second economic crash, caused by automated systems, takes place.
- Wikileaks releases damning information about the actions of the US government around the world.
- The EU bails out Ireland.
- Citizens United rules in favour of ‘Corporate Personhood’ in the US.
- 3D printed human organs begin to be produced in small numbers. This coincides with success in cloning human stem cells.
- SpaceX rapidly churns through iterations of the Falcon rocket, succeeding in a reusable launch and return.
- The Syrian Civil War begins, driven in part by climate stress.
- Military intervention in Libya takes place to depose Ghaddafi.
- The EU bails out Portugal.
- Iceland’s most active volcano erupts, disrupting northern European air traffic.
- The Space Shuttle is now entirely replaced with VentureStar craft. Usable shuttles are sold on to burgeoning space programs in India and Africa.
- Occupy Wall Street protests start in the USA but fail to gain any real traction in a populace increasingly ‘tired’ of left-wing politics. It is not long before infighting destroys the movement.
- Muhammed Ghaddafi is killed.
- The EU meets and aggressively tackles the financial crisis.
- The Russian L-5 station ‘Laika’ is now complete.
- A joint ESA/Russian mission to Mars, modelled on the Mars Direct plan reaches the red planet, stays a short period and returns. It is ruinously expensive and cripples several of the astronauts due to radiation exposure, but it shows it can be done.
- The world fails to end.
- Megaupload is shut down by the FBI.
- Britannica discontinues its print edition after 246 years.
- Higgs-Boson discovered.
- Attacks against US Embassies take place worldwide.
- Barack Obama is narrowly re-elected. The violence and right-wing hysteria reach terrifying new levels.
- The Sandy Hook school shooting takes place, and further gun reforms take place. Moves begin to take place to try and amend the constitution to clarify the right to bear arms.
- North Korea conducts an underground nuclear test.
- The EU bails out Cyprus.
- Edward Snowden leaks information about the US government spying on its citizens, and globally.
- The Arab Spring leads to reform in many Middle Eastern nations, but also a great deal of unrest, civil war and migration.
- The Playstation 4 is released.
- Massive investment allows the commercial Falcon Heavy rocket to take flight.
- The first computer virus to pass the mind-machine barrier is developed and kills dozens of high-level programmers before it is contained.
- The Mindkiller virus demonstrates a means to translate more than pure information between mind and machine; the transfer of consciousness is hypothetically possible. The first ‘upload’ experiments are conducted in independent corporate territories, and the first ‘general intelligence’ AI is announced based on this research. Google’s ‘Assistant’ makes quite a splash and an effective corporate spokes-machine. Alexa, Siri and Cortana soon follow becoming pop-culture icons and taking their names from earlier ‘dumb AI’ assistants. The hardware required to host an AI is, at this point, prohibitively expensive. A moratorium on AI creation is declared while the ethics are worked out.
- Augmented reality technology hits the mainstream via Google Glass and Hololens. While take-up is small and concerns about privacy are raised, the technology eventually migrates to contact lenses, and many different companies produce them.
- An Ebola epidemic hits West Africa.
- Russia annexes Crimea.
- Nigerian Schoolgirl Crisis.
- Flint, Michigan’s water sources are contaminated.
- WHO recognizes the resurgence of Polio as a crisis.
- The Black Lives Matter movement takes off in the US and is met with violent counter protests.
- US/Cuba relations normalise.
- The first true sensorium interface is developed, providing a ‘GUI’ for the mind-machine internet, providing a universal translation of high tech concepts and intuitive interface for anyone. ‘Squids’ (rubber interface hats) and ‘trodes are rapidly developed meaning that mind-machine interface no longer relies on implants, though this is still considered to give you an ‘edge’.
- Scotland narrowly votes to leave the United Kingdom and officially becomes a separate nation by 2019, just in time to complete its own negotiations to join the EU. Scotland joins just as the UK leaves and gains significantly from a ‘brain drain’ of talent and industry from England to Scotland.
- Eurasian Economic Union forms.
- Ukrainian ceasefire announced.
- In the UK a Conservative majority government is returned.
- Chemical fires in Tianjin kill over 150 people. A similar explosion later takes place in Dongying.
- Gravity Waves are detected.
- Volkswagen alleged to have been involved in rigging diesel emissions tests.
- Liquid water discovered on Mars.
- A Zika virus outbreak is announced.
- North Korea launches a recon Satellite; this is more likely a long-range missile test.
- The Panama Papers are released, implicating many politicians and business leaders in grey financial practices.
- The UK holds a referendum and votes to leave the European Union. This causes immediate financial and political turmoil.
- Pokemon Go is released.
- Both sides in the US Presidential Elections are implicated in multiple scandals involving electoral interference and corruption.
- Hilary Clinton is elected President of the United States by the narrowest of margins. Donald Trump launches a legal challenge which results in the overturning of the election and his installation as President. Investigations are launched into vote fixing and other issues that corrupted the election.
- A consortium of corporations purchases a lagoon from French Polynesia – under severe strain from climate change – to build an anchored seastead there and claim independence. There is a small ‘gold rush’ of libertarians, corporations and billionaires buying out ‘worthless’ Micronesian and Polynesian islands as foundations for seasteads.
- Cyberterrorists perform a grotesque act of virtual terrorism, using new software to raid billions from corporations and to kill many ‘casual’ users of the net. A global net-police is formed under the UN in response, and while trodes and implants will never go away, there is a shift, for the average user, back to VR and AR goggles and haptics.
- North Korea launches a missile across the sea of Japan.
- Yemen enters a crisis, with up to 20 million people facing starvation and famine, along with war.
- The US indicates a new, more hawkish foreign policy by launching hundreds of missiles into Syria following an alleged chemical attack.
- Wannacry Ransomware attack hits computers worldwide.
- Trump purges intelligence heads and judges installed by Democrats and surrounds himself with sycophants.
- The US withdraws from its climate commitments, loosens gun restrictions to their 1980s levels, undoes medical reforms, and so on. This benefits the US economy, but the efforts to tackle climate going back to the Gor presidency are undone and US pollution and carbon skyrockets. The US undergoes a sort of ‘political whiplash’.
- The US population enters a period of ‘cold civil war’.
- Leaked documents reveal that the Chinese have succeeded in full-term human cloning since late 2005. The earliest clone experiments are now entering their teens and, to minimise scandal, the Chinese parade the clones on television.
- Russian interference and assassinations across the western world abound.
- The USA withdraws from the human rights council.
- Data Leak scandals rock social media companies.
- France erupts into protests over fuel levies.
- A terrorist drone brings down an airliner on approach to Gatwick.
- Fuel theft in Mexico leads to a pipeline explosion that kills some 200 people.
- Venezuelan elections prompt a constitutional crisis and a civil war. America enters South America to aid and install Juan Guaido, and to take control of the oil. Guaido’s government is rapidly understood to be an American puppet.
- There are more explosions in Chinese chemical plants.
- Google is fined in Europe under antitrust legislation.
- The first images of a black hole are taken.
- Julian Assange is arrested.
- The UK crashes out of the EU, tanking its economy and touching off another worldwide recession. Mass protests and counterprotests take place. An election is called, and with nationalism rising and the EU being blamed for the crisis, a far-right Conservative government seems all but inevitable.
- Huawei spyware is uncovered.
- Hong Kong erupts into protest. To begin with, this is due to extradition law, but it rapidly morphs into a pro-democracy movement and begins to spread. The PRC cracks down with extreme force on the less visible mainland. Hong Kong itself is turned into a virtual warzone.
- Disney now owns over a third of all global media.
- Naruhito takes the Japanese throne, ushering in the Reiwa era.
2020 Global Warming
The Oceans have risen by around 1m, leading to catastrophic flooding in much of the Netherlands and Northern Belgium, threatening Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp. The Netherlands has lost as much as a quarter of its total land. In Africa, Libreville is inundated, along with much of coastal Gabon and Gambia. Swathes of Southern Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam become salt-marshes. In South America, Paramaribo in Suriname is wholly consumed by water. Venice, finally, sinks beneath the waves.
In the United Kingdom, London’s flood defences are no longer fit for purpose, strained to the limit on an almost yearly basis since 2012. Ipswitch is almost always flooded in Autumn and Winter, Rendlesham forest is dying due to saltwater in the water table. Lowestoft has become a peninsula, Norwich huddles behind makeshift flood defences and Peterborough sits on the edge of a stinking marsh, full of lost towns. In the North, Hull is fighting a rearguard action against the inundation, as is Exeter, Southampton and Portsmouth.
In North America, Seattle is struggling to cope, and the San Francisco bay now extends as far east as Stockton, Tracy and Sacramento. Coastal Texas has been inundated to a catastrophic degree, as has Louisiana and Florida, with the Keys almost entirely being swallowed up. Vast amounts of money and engineering have been thrown at New Orleans, at the expense of other towns and cities such as Jacksonville, Floria, which is under a slow, creeping evacuation which is happening all along the Eastern Seaboard, as far North as New York. Washington threatens to go under, and Atlantic City is now permanently flooded.
Combined with increasing extremes of weather, habitability is dropping globally and annually, nearly a hundred million people are, at least temporarily, displaced by flooding.
The Polynesian islands no longer, really, exist. The first ‘climate genocide’, though America has absorbed the population of Samoa and Australia and New Zealand have accepted climate refugees from many of the other islands.
In Western Europe, the Gulf Stream has been faltering, meaning that in some years the British climate is, ironically, three degrees colder than it would otherwise be, leading to ever more bitter winters – because of Warming.
The Oceans are some 30% more acidic, bleaching coral reefs and drastically affecting even more resilient forms of sea life, ‘dead zones’ are expanding rapidly, and catches are down.
6.6m km^2 of permafrost has thawed, accelerating Warming by releasing large quantities of methane and carbon dioxide and making a great deal of arctic terrain swampy, unstable and prone to sink-holes.
Heatwaves kill tens and even hundreds of thousands globally each summer, with droughts lasting – on average – 6 months and water-scarcity hitting over half a million people globally each year, with severe drought affecting 250 million people annually.
Crop yields are down around 8% globally, and it is harder to raise livestock and to fish, putting immense pressure on food supplies, as well as water, around the globe. Increased carbon levels have, further, decreased the nutritional value of crops while – at the same time – increasing their carbohydrate content.
Animal life is in freefall. Invertebrates have lost 43% of their habitat, vertebrates have lost 26%, Plants 41%, Insects 42%, Mammals 24%, Birds 23%, Butterflies and Moths, 34%, Dragonflies and Damselflies 12%. While species from other ecological areas have moved into areas to recover from the die-back, species diversity is down, and many of these species are invasive, contributing to even greater die-back.
Climate has caused a precipitous drop in GDP by 15%, with climate damage mitigation and prevention costing a colossal $13 trillion per year. Around 0.25% of the total global energy expenditure now goes on air conditioning and heating.
Diseases run rampant, with prehistoric bacteria and virii continually emerging from the thawed permafrost, though – thus far – they lack the immunity many modern diseases have to treatment. Malaria and other insect-transmitted diseases have expanded their area of risk by over a third.
Much like in our world, the world of this alternate timeline is being torn in two directions. On the one end, there is an increased level of insular nationalism; on the other, there is the inevitable gravity of globalised trade, culture and communication. Europe has embraced a part globalist and part internationalist approach. America has become more combative, while China and India seek to undercut the developed nations in the global financial climate.
Only the very poor and the very rich eat meat. The very poor because they still raise small amounts of goats, pigs and chickens for food, the very rich because they can afford it. In the developed world, meat is an expensive, high-class commodity, fish is a middle-class commodity, and the poor can only eat fresh on occasion. Climate shifts and attempts to preserve stocks and the environment, combined with social pressure, prevent mass meat consumption.
Vat-grown meat is available but still costs about twice as much as regular meat (which costs about five times as much as its real-world 2020 prices). Even vegetables are no longer as nutritious, thanks to the higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere, which causes them to be harder to digest and to have increased levels of carbohydrates and lower levels of nutrition. Even a salad will make you fat.
Highly-processed insect protein mostly derived from crickets, mealworms and buffalo worms, pads out the diets of the poor. In this form, it is more acceptable, and affordability really convinces people to try it.
Matters are not helped by well-meaning ecological activists, who advocate against genetically modified organisms and for organic farming, which drastically lowers yields.
Eating meat is seen as, at best naughty, and at worst the equivalent of lighting a cigarette in a crowded room.
Environmentalism is still prominent in Europe. However, the USA, Russia, China, India and the UK have a policy of pursuing wealth rather than preserving the environment, hoping to spend their way out of trouble and to mitigate environmental harm with raw capital and growth. Only Europe and the Pacific Rim nations remain genuinely committed to environmentalism, greening their cities, electrifying their infrastructure and sinking a great deal of money into alternative energy research, nuclear power and fusion research.
Life expectancy is around eight years higher, thanks to advances in medical technology, but only if one is middle-class and live in a developed nation. The truly wealthy can expect to live to at least 100 while remaining physically and mentally ‘spry’, most living to at least 120 – and technology is always improving. President Trump, for example, looks more like a man in his fifties than his seventies and looks younger and fitter than he did in the year 2000.
Key Differences from Cyberpunk 2020
- There are no AVs. Ducted fans are inefficient. What there are instead are quadcopter, enclosed-blade, electrically powered VTOL craft, taxis and craft.
- Augmented Reality leapfrogged virtual reality. Just about anyone can interact with AR overlays using their contact lenses. This and flat screens are enough for most people.
- Only tech-heads and ‘netizens’ make full use of virtual sensoria, and only the truly ‘leet’ still get brain implants, though it does give them a distinct advantage it is also risky.
- Hacking is done more like it is in the real world, with preparation, dumpster diving, conning the human element and using pre-prepared programs. Netrunners can also live-hack local systems using field-effect systems in portable cyberdecks.
- Cybernetics are available, but controlled to various degrees in various countries (leading to a thriving black-market and ‘cyber tourism’. Getting a cybernetic enhancement that isn’t discrete is still seen as a weird thing to do, though replacing lost limbs or overcoming disabilities is seen as fine. Public acceptance is growing as thought leaders and influencers adopt elective cyberware.