About a year ago, I had an interesting dream about using a time machine to travel into the year 2040. I expected it to be cool and futuristic. What I have seen was rather weird:
In 2040 all cars are electric and about three times as energy efficient as they are today. The only problem is that energy is also about three times as expensive as it is today, perhaps representing the cost of moving towards a fully regenerative energy economy. Interestingly, energy is the only thing that money is still used for – everything else is rationed!
Now comes the interesting part: There are (at least) 5 classes, with subclasses each, ranging from the lowest class 1.0 to the highest class (not sure whether that’s 5.0 or 5.9). The future is obsessed about class. It permeates everything and there seems to be some kind of transparent class segregation. All products are class specific. You have to belong to the right class to purchase any good, and you have to have a voucher for the product you want to purchase (money is useless for that purpose). The class you are in determines which and how many vouchers you get each month. The lowest class can only buy bare necessities, food and clothing. Interestingly, the higher classes can buy better clothes and some minor luxury, but effectively even the highest class cannot afford much and cannot every qualify as middle-class by today’s standards.
But it gets more interesting: You not only need to belong to the class that a product you want to purchase belongs to, and not only do you need a voucher, but you also need to answer trivia questions before you are allowed to take that product. Questions range from science to politics to popular media, to geography. It seems that the future was quite dominated by China, because almost half the questions I got were questions about Chinese devices or geography – which was totally devastating for my class rating. The class rating is initially created by a computer algorithm that evaluates your intelligence and skills according to a picture of your face (yeah, the future must have some crazy good, and prejudiced AI). After that, your rating depends on how you do on the product purchase trivia questions (products for higher classes ask you harder questions, of course). If you are doing well, your rating improves. If you fail, your rating suffers and you will drop to a lower class.
What’s nasty about this system is that it’s a transparent class segregation: There are all products of all classes in any shop. But you can only purchase the products for your own class. So you see the comparatively great products that the higher classes can buy, but you cannot possibly get them – unless you improve your class rating, that it. This seemed to produce a society that obsesses about gaining knowledge, but also a society that is very judgemental and prejudiced – Asians seem to be considered as something like the new master race, because they generally have the best class ratings. Even though there is some class mobility, the different classes are very intolerant about each other. If you want to join a group of people belonging to a different class, you are typically rejected, even though people might be polite to you on the surface.