The 2040's were a prosperous time marked by high economic growth and continued peace insured by the Pacific Alliance. Taxes on the rich are as high as 90% in the United States and other Pacific nations, enabling more social welfare programs, and closing the income gap that was so prevelent in the early 21st Century. Populism had spread to every nation in POTA, and many others, enabling the largest sphere of economic and military cooperation in the history of the world. The world saw a radical shift towards a more open society, enabled primarily by the liberalization of Genetic Modification laws.
The 2040s were marked by the abolition of Augment segregation laws, and the mass use of genetic modification technologies will drive a more dynamic culture across the world. Most of this change took place in the Pacific, eventually spreading to the rest of the world over the next several decades. In America the cultural shift came the quickest, driven by a new youth culture, spreading to every aspect of society from music to clothing.
The 2040s saw a number of changes to how people dressed. The Greatest Generation (once known as Millennials or Generation Y) typically kept to fairly reserved styles of dress, with the majority dividing along the old male/female styles. The children of this generation (known as the Modders for their commitment to genetic modification for recreational and cosmetic purposes) took to eliminating all gender identification in their manner of dress.
Spray on fabrics, pioneered at the turn of the century and made widespread during the recession, had become the favorite form of cheap clothing for many people, enabling nano-studios to design clothes for people to make themselves. Men and women mutually used these technologies for skirts, pants, and form fitting shirts. It became not uncommon for men to wear lip gloss or eyeliner, and other typically effeminate items, however it was discouraged by most parents. The Bikini had fallen as the most revealing form of beach clothing as most women took to wearing nothing while sunbathing, however sports bras were still considered a necessity or physical activity.
While spray on fabrics were the standard for cheap apparel, more expensive clothes were made with integrated circuitry and computing components.
While people continued to listen to music from across the ages, something enabled by digital content and file sharing over the last several decades, a number of new genres emerged during this era. Garage bands and underground studios spurred the birth of Wave Music, and Stripe Rock. Wave Music was known for rarely having a live band, relying heavily on digital recording software to program soundtracks, usually to a semi-techno melody. Stripe Rock was quite the opposite; taking the styles pioneered by the White Stripes and grunge bands, and twisting it into a new style all its own. Typically anti-authoritarian, both of these styles reflected the new generation's distaste for Augment restrictions, and what many believed was unnecessary power to the government.
Movies and Web Series had become much more independent during the Flood War, and video games had made "static media," somewhat obsolete. Virtually all Web Series and Movies had games that let fans interact in the series, manipulating characters and plot lines as they saw fit. Fan Fiction had led to the comeback of a number of vintage series, many crossing borders. Disney had a brief revival during the 100th Anniversary.
OLED Acrylics had become the primary form of visual display technology at this point, providing Ultra High-Def displays with virtually limitless size configurations. Glasses-free 3D has become the norm, and most homes and apartments have a "media room" with at least one curved wall to provide for the best visual experience.
While Visual media in the form of real-world displays is still very prevalent and of the highest quality, gaming, the primary form of entertainment, existed entirely in the form of computer-brain interfaces. Video Game Consoles were no longer physical devices, but rather media managers and social networking tools. Games could be played on virtually any piece of hardware with all content being digital, and were divided into two categories, Pay-to-Play or Free-To-Play. Pay-to-Play games offered a free download of all content with a monthly charge for online play, typically in the range of Δ30 Pacific Credits. Free-to-Play games offered a download of the game itself, with no charge to play, however certain in game items could only be accessed through by purchase.
Using non-invasive neural interfaces (NI's) users would have their 5 senses overridden by electronic signals, simulating a new reality. Games range from classic genres like shooters to open worlds that allow users to interact in classic works of literature, film, and moments from history. The most popular games are listed as follows:
- The Pacific War: A complete history of the Flood War, playable through (as of the most recent batch of DLCs) ten different story arcs.
- Playhouse: A dating/sex simulator with limitless scenarios and fetishes.
- Civilizations Unlimited: Spanning the course of human history, this game allowed users to create a civilization from scrach, or intervene during key points in standard history. One of the few pay-to-play games that only demanded a one time, download charge.
The 2040s were an era of political tension in the world, and internal unrest as the next generation of Populist leaders began to take power. The most prevalent instance of international political turmoil was in the case of the Pacific Alliance and the Eastern European League's quasi-cold war with the Association of Independent States, one of the last bastions for Nationalist Social Democracy. Unlike the Amero-Soviet Cold War of the 20th Century; this era of political tension was a dispute between Supranational Superpowers, rather than singular nation states. While no arms buildup ever occurred between these three Supranational Powers and there various allies, there was a period of weapons refinement that occurred, where arms control treaties were adhered to, but the lethality and precision of weapons systems were improved. Conflict really only occurred in the form of state-sponsored NGO operations for economic development abroad. These NGOs at times were given security escorts from Supranational militaries, but save for the case of the Montana-Alberta Shale Oil dispute in 2043, military conflict never occurred. The positioning of long range nuclear laser-countermeasured is Madagascar and the Guyanas did almost prompt military action between POTA and the AIS, however thanks to the diplomatic actions of the Chinese President and the Secretary General of POTA, war was averted in 2048. This was the closest to another global conflict humanity had come to since the Flood War.
Internally nations were dealing with the arrival of the next generation of Populist leaders, and the next era of political debate. Once united on almost every spectrum against Capitalism and Socialism, Populist politicians now found themselves on opposite sides of a new era of debates. The old Edwardsian Coalition of parties that rang true throughout POTA had finally collapsed, more officially by the end of the decade. Lines were beginning to be drawn between the Libertarian-Democratic coalition, and the Republican-Green coalition of parties.
Around the world, efforts to rebuild after the Flood War had finally come to fruition. The McNabb Plan to rebuild the Middle East and China had left the regions in a state of stability, while America and Japan's efforts to restore what they had lost internally during the war had led to both country's reconstruction of their capitols. In America the new White House, rebuilt and reoccupied to some extent since the end of the Flood War, was finally completed in 2040. Unlike the previous building, the new White House was far more than an Executive Mansion, with above ground offices and a limited bunker beneath; the executive Mansion, nearly identical to the previous one, was much like an iceberg. The most visible portion of the building sat above ground in plane view, while the heart of the building, the various offices and secure facilities were stationed underground in a large bomb proof office building.
The 2040s saw two forms of body modification take root in the counterculture; Advanced Body Art and Bio-Augmentation. Body Art, which was already a mainstay of most societies by this point, experienced a new renaissance with the advent of bio-tatoos, and bone piercings. Bio-tatoos emerged in the late 2030s, but were used primarilly for marking food for quality; until a few enterprising tatoo artists in Idaho, began using the techniques to give customers bio-luminescent tattoos. These works of body art could be very simple like a glowing heart or very complicated like the dotted points of light of a Na'vi from the film Avatar. By the end of the decade bio-animated tattoos began to take shape, however the process to install them was very expensive and would not become accessible to most people for another decade. Other forms of body art included a new era of piercings that directly grafted titanium "gauges," to the bones. These were used for any number of decorative attachments, from metal spikes to decorative rings.
Recreational Augmentation began to enter into the counterculture of the 2040s, first starting in America and spreading throughout the Pacific Rim. While Augmentation for purely medical purposes had been allowed since the end of the Flood War, recreational augmentation, or cosmetic augmentation, was a very illegal cultural taboo for much of the decade, only being officially legalized in 2045 after a number of protests. Genetic Modification legislation by states allowed citizens to get around certain legal precedent, and officially no one could actually be arrested for augmenting themselves thanks to President Edwards and the New Liberty Augments efforts to prevent further discrimination. As such Augmentation, while illegal, was perpetually stuck in a grey area of the justice system. Many people used stem cells for simple, and usually legal cosmetic augmentations, but Genetic Modification continued as an underground practice until it was officially legalized at the end of the decade.
For cosmetic stem cell treatments, most people chose to increase the size, or number, of their sexual organs; and a number of transgender people used the treatments to make an easier transition from male to female or visa versa. Aside from simple augmentations to existing organs, most stem cell augmentations were fairly unstable becuase they needed to relly on existing DNA status. Genetic Augmentation, got around these problems by directly changing a person's genetic code. These Augmentations were usually subtle or easy to conceal. Tails, claws, eye and hair color were the most common, however some people took the treatments a step further using multiple therapies to disguise the changes as natural. This was in the case of height or musculature augmentations, where teenagers after having their genome sequenced and knowing how they would look without any immediate changes, could fool their parents into thinking their changes were natural.
How humans traveled from place to place fundamentally changed in the 2040s, primarily in terms of automobiles, mass transit and air travel/spaceflight.
The 2040s were a time where the global auto industry began to experience a new renaissance of design as energy efficiency which had dominated the last half century had more or less peaked. Electric drive-trains had become the exclusive propulsion system for automobiles, and carbon nanotubes were being used for some high end models. While Asia's automobile industry was still recovering from the Flood War, the United States, for the second time in its history, found itself the dominant manufacturer of cars. Design came to represent the consumer, as Mass Customization became the norm of the marketplace. Titans like GM, Tesla, and Ford had been broken up during the Second Depression, and a myriad of smaller companies had taken over the marketplace, producing more variety and customer tailored designs than ever before.
By the middle of the decade the top five car companies by units sold and serviced are:
- 1: Tesla Motors of Palo Alto, California, USA
- 2: Retrospective Motors of Boston, Massachusetts, USA
- 3: Jaguar Cars Ldt. of Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
- 4: Ford Motor Company of Dearborn, Michigan, USA
- 5: Chevrolet of Detroit, Michigan, USA
The 2040s were also a time for the creation of transcontinental mass transit networks, the largest of which being the Pacific MagLev Line, a network of MagLev rail-lines that connected every major city from Ushuaia to Mumbai in POTA. With local maglev light-rail lines and subways, mass transit by train became the primary way for people to commute; driving cars, that while experiencing a renaissance, had become simply another form of transit instead of the primary position they had held for nearly a century. With rail and auto working in concert, and a streamlined traffic awareness system, congestion completely vanished by the end of the decade, and the Pacific Alliance's economy exploded from increased productivity and cheap transit for trade.
By 2042 Space Debris had finally been cleared enough to allow for manned spaceflight to restart. The primary driving force behind this was the International Space Agency (ISA), a largely Pacific centric, but not exclusive, organization that, given an annual collaberative budget from the various contributing nations, distributed funds to various private firms and public research programs. Funding for these programs spurred aerospace companies to finally implement technologies that had been collecting dust since the Kessler Syndrome to aircraft that had long since been capable of single-stage to orbit flight. With these investments and technological re-deployments, the ISA sponsored the Space Rush, the hoards of contracted prospectors making there way to the countless Near-Earth-Objects as well as the Moon, to supply the resource starved Earth with a new influx of raw materials. This radically drove down the price of goods globally and spurred a new era of cheap currency and spending, stimulating the economy more than any other economic boom in history.
Propulsion technologies for spaceflight experienced more of a gradual evolution than any kind of significant breakthrough. Exotic propulsion systems, particularly the VASIMR drive that was developed just prior to the Kessler syndrome, was made far more efficient by the introduction of room temperature superconductors. Superconductors proved to be the silver bullet in space, as they were on Earth, for a number of engineering hurdles; such as the case for the first Plasma Drive engine that was used for the long overdue JIMO mission. Advances in materials technologies also made spaceflight cheaper and safer for humans; while advances in solar cells and radiation shielding made long range space missions more practical then ever.
The 2040s were a time when the education system of much of the world began to be held in high regard. In the Association countries and the Pacific Alliance, a competition between the two most prominent education theories dominated the decade. In the Association, a refined form of traditional education styles reigned supreme, and typically produced a larger number of social science and liberal arts majors. In the Pacific, computer brain interfaces were used to directly download information to students minds. This was pioneered during the Flood War, when these interfaces were essential for rapid retraining of new soldiers. Bolstered by genetic augmentation to increase intelligence, students were able to graduate from college by age 16. By the middle of the decade, a series of reforms made in India and the United States pioneered an education system that encouraged these early graduates, eventually making the age 16 graduate the norm.
By the beginning of the decade the robotics technologies pioneered during the Flood War finally began to enter the consumer market. The US and Japan were the leaders in this field, having developed the technology over the course of the last century. The primary competitors of the Pacific robot manufacturers were the Federation of Europe and Canada, which had been developing robotics technologies for just as long, but not nearly as extensive for military applications.
Commercial Robots in the 2040s were used primarily for manufacturing and medical applications. The Pacific Manufacturing sector was entirely conducted by robots by start of the decade, and save for portions of South East Asia, all surgeries were performed via robotic surgeons operated by specialists that could be anywhere in the world, allowing for the best care, regardless of borders. In the US and Japan, even small services like vehicle maintenance and fast food had become largely automated.
For individuals, Private Robots hadn't really come in the humanoid form most people had expected. Humanoid robots were used almost exclusively for nursing care, allowing the very old or sick to continue to live independently of nursing homes or permanent hospital residence. For the private citizen the 2040's robot was really just an evolution of an existing appliance. Vacuum cleaners, brooms and mops had all converged into single cleaning bots, usually constructed as a somewhat cylindrical or cone-shaped device never much taller than a small trashcan, and equip with several robotic muscular manipulators to reach windows and the like. Dish Washers and Laundry Machines had also come to be largely Robotic. One Machine could now wash and dry clothes of any fabric, and then fold and organize according to the owner. All these advancements were largely enabled by the invention of robotic muscle manipulators, and superconductor enabled servo motors.
Crime and Punishment
The 2040s were a time of exceptionally low crime rates for violent offenses, however prior to the repeal of anti-recreational augmentation laws, non-violent crimes were higher than any time before the legalization of cannabis. After the legalization of recreational augmentation, crime fell to record low levels. In the Pacific, most countries had legalized, but heavily regulated, most recreational drugs, leading to historically low prison populations. Most small time criminals, hackers and car thieves, usually were punished by either a fine to the amount stolen or sentenced to community service. For violent criminals, armed robbery, assault, rape, murder (which were exceedingly rare due to all financial data being encrypted and most violent fantasies being played out in video game simulations) punishment was given through actual prison sentences. Depending on the severity of the crime, a "Prison," could be as small as a limited travel zone enforced by local cops and ankle bracelets, or as harsh as life under neural lock down.