“2020” is a story about the near future based on an ICSPA report entitled Project 2020. This video project takes the form of a fictional web series presenting the evolution of society and technology in the world described by the report. We will show how the advancement of mobile and cloud based technology has influenced the way we interact with other and with the world, how we work and how we perceive reality.
The series consists of 9 episodes approximately 4 minutes each. The episodes begin with a short documentary/archive news style introduction about events that have already taken place, from the perspective of about 6 months in the future. The bulk of each episode will consist of a contemporary narrative film of events as they unfolded.
The story takes place in a fictitious country in Central Europe; The Republic of South Sylvania. It is technologically, the most advanced country in the region, home to the best Digital Design University in the world, premier nano-technology research and is the crossroads of the main fibre optic lines flowing through the continent.
Every citizen uses multiple profiles in their everyday life. Their official profile, replacing the ID card, allows them to pay taxes, claim benefits,and pay parking fines or any other activities requiring official identification. Other profiles are used depending on the individual’s activity or mood. One may be used for social interactions, one for shopping, one for gaming, one for family and friends and one or more for various financial transactions.
As the South Sylvanian consumer has fully embraced the digital world, nearly all advertising and marketing is now delivered through digital channels and perfectly tailored to individual interests, thanks to the Content Service Provider industry. Fixed advertising such as billboards is a thing of the past. South Sylvanians experience life through the filter of the Content Service Provider; everything is created for each potential customer individually in the augmented reality world. A centralised and highly secure hub, commonly known as The Switch, ensures that, when a citizen switches profile, every individual provides the right level of biometric authentication to assert their entitlement to assume one of their digital identities.
Everyone wears either digital contact lenses or glasses, which provide a HUD overlaying the digital onto the real world around them, the concept of being “offline” has become anathema in South Sylvania. Digital content is modified and crafted for every individual based on consumer preferences and mood data that is being constantly collected by thousands of sensors, embedded in wearable tech, through Internet Service Providers and in the physical world.
We meet our heroes on an auspicious day, the day before the first all-digital national parliamentary elections are due to be held, facilitated of course by Switch technology, a Public/Private Initiative. To vote, a person must be using their official profile. Without warning and for no apparent cause the entire Switch system suffers a significant malfunction resulting in national chaos. People cannot switch from their currently engaged profile to any other: surgeons are not allowed into the operating theatre because they cannot present their official credentials, citizens are unable to access pharmacy facilities, employees can no longer remotely access their corporate facilities and the financial system grinds to a halt. At the same time the country undergoes a wave of massive Denial of Service attacks aimed at crippling critical national infrastructure. Casualties are mounting; the authorities are trying desperately to discover what is happening and crucially, who is behind it.
The Republic of South Sylvania is a middle income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources, including rare earths. Before the crash of 2007-8 it enjoyed consistent economic growth due to a global commodities boom. Afterwards GDP recovered relatively quickly, and the country now appears to be enjoying a period of steady and sustained growth. This has prompted an improvement in living standards. Twenty years ago 50 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line: that figure has now halved. Foreign direct investment in the country has undoubtedly boosted growth, but has also altered the domestic balance of power. The rare earths so necessary for the last decade’s technological advances such as electric cars are rapidly depleting. This has engendered a scramble by multi-national corporations, inflating the price of the minerals, but also making South Sylvania somewhat beholden to their interests.
Fortunately, the previous Finance and Enterprise Minister ensured that the country began to diversify its portfolio of goods and services some years ago. He insisted that the government invest in technological innovation and education, and now South Sylvania is both a world leader in mobile payment systems, and a regional hub for innovation. It has also benefited from its location at the crossroads of several large cable networks, and the eventual rollout of global high-speed wireless networks.
Like a number of previously under-connected countries, South Sylvania has leapfrogged many other more developed nations in terms of Research and Technology (R&T). The world’s leading online design university is hosted in its capital, and the South Sylvania Technological Institute is at the forefront of nano-tissue development, which is expected to be in mainstream medical use within the next couple of years.
The government is currently under substantial popular pressure to restrict corporate data harvesting, and to impose standards for the retention and safe storage of personal data after a number of high profile hacks. Meanwhile, a number of politicians who once espoused hacktivist ethics are now members of national governments as Ministers for Freedom of Information. But for those members of society who are content to be convenience-led consumers, power and data outage is the biggest concern: such is the dependence of citizens on network-mediated content that data blackouts threaten to erupt in instances of public disorder.