Home Cyberpunk In the Cyberpunk Future, You’re Gonna Be Unemployed

In the Cyberpunk Future, You’re Gonna Be Unemployed

by David Rutland
In the Cyberpunk Future, You're Gonna Be Unemployed

With Global Unemployment on the Rise, The Future is Not So Bright

For an awful lot of people, the past few years have sucked eggs. It’s not been the worst era in history. We’ve not had any world wars, major nuclear incidents or asteroid impacts. And the Coronavirus outbreak with which the world has been wrestling since January doesn’t compare to the 1918 flu pandemic or the black death.

But just because it hasn’t been the crappiest year ever doesn’t mean that a lot of people haven’t had it bad. The US is mourning a quarter of a million dead, political division is deeper than ever and it’s starting to look alarmingly like we’re heading into a worldwide recession.

You’d have been forgiven for wishing you could just have your consciousness put on ice until it all blows over and the world goes back to some sort of normal.

There are a handful of companies dotted around the world who are willing to replace your vital fluids with chemical substitutes and rack your meat into the bright shining future. But the future is an unknown and unknowable place. You’re going to be unemployed, unemployable and out of your depth.

Not Pictured: Opportunity
Not Pictured: Opportunity

Welcome to The Brave New World?

Good morning zir, this is your 2120 wake-up call as requested.  A century has passed while you’ve been in deep sleep, and coincidentally, the credit on your storage account has run down.

Why am I calling you zir, zir? I’m not sure I understand the question.

Ah, it’s because here in the future we don’t have sex. There is essentially no differentiation between genders.

No there’s none of that kind of sex either. Who wants to get messy and sweaty and have to deal with bodily fluids afterwards, when you can have a perfect approximation of the whole sticky business in virtual?

Well, I can certainly understand why zir  would want to climb back into the sarcophagus and sleep for another century. But I’m afraid that zir simply does not have the funds to do so.

If zir wishes to commit to long-term storage simply so ze can get zis oats, zir is going to need a job. Let’s have a look at the old resume, shall we? I have to warn you though, the world has moved on while you were napping, and jobs which used to be carried out by trained humans, or occasionally chimps, have fallen into obsolescence.

Now, what is it that you think you can do?

Middle Management Roles will be Eliminated Entirely

Ah, you were a manager. No surprise there, then. ‘Manager’ was the most common job title worldwide back in 2020, far outnumbering the people who were actually managed in any particular role. Funnily enough, historians have never quite managed to work out what the job actually entails. Ha ha. Any particular skills required for ‘managing’? Any particular field you manage in?

Working out what people should be doing and telling them to get on with it is not a job description, zir. Surely that’s something people can work out for themselves, and would consider any so-called “management” to be interference in their actual work.

Oh you were senior management, meaning that you were a manager who told other managers what and who they needed to manage. I really don’t think that improves efficiency in any conceivable way.  I think that even in your time, your role would have been better served by a good scheduling app and a half-decent communications platform. Providing motivation and encouraging teamwork is something probably best accomplished by eliminating multi-level management altogether. That’s something which was accomplished with great success in the great office uprisings and revolutions of the 2050s.

In the Cyberpunk Future, You're Gonna Be Unemployed

The perfect training for office politics of the future

Medicine will be Unrecognizable.

Calm down, zir. You were a senior manager in a hospital. Preserving health is and always will be in the public interest, so I suppose this means that you might have some useful skills after all. Or you would have, if you had kept up to date.

I mean that science has moved on and the diseases and conditions which affected humankind in the mid- 21st century are just not relevant today.

Look at it this way, zir. In your time, were you concerned about polio outbreaks, women dying in childbirth or chimney sweeps with scrotal tumors?  Of course not. You saw those problems as something the previous generations of primitives had suffered from, and that’s exactly how we see your problems and treatments.

You missed the deployment of the first genetic vaccine by mere months. From the first detection of the disease to full implementation took less than a year, and the field has only accelerated since then.

In the Cyberpunk Future, You're Gonna Be Unemployed

It’s impossible to overstate how potentially revolutionary this is

We’ve also eliminated deaths from most types of cancer. Again, we were already making progress there back in your day. Sorry you missed out.

No, the main medical issues we deal with now is genetic tailoring so that our rack-grown offspring have the best chance in life followed by a pre-ordained and painless death. There is a trend in phenotypic modification to remove secondary sexual characteristics of those unfortunate few whose parents wanted their children to be “retro” and “cool”.

Do you feel qualified to practice in that area, zir? Do you really? No zir, I am not offering to act as a volunteer. It’s done by auto-surgeon anyway.

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Hologram Edward Norton still Can't Get an Oscar
Hologram Edward Norton still Can't Get an Oscar

No Roles for Actors

You were part of the drama club in college? Yes. That is laudable. I’m sure that you made a fantastic Juliet, it was a great boon to your career as a doctor before you failed sideways into hospital middle management.

No, of course it didn’t, and it won’t help you much in 2120 either.

You’ve seen The Running Man I assume? That part where the large Australian is shown to be ordering a Massacre at Bakersfield. It’s kind of like that. We don’t use actual people for acting. We just tell the computer what we want the people on the holo to be doing and the computer makes it happen.

Well yes, zir. It may have taken Pixar years to animate Toy Story, but their computers were puny. Have you considered the implications of Moore’s law over the course of an entire century? And that’s not even taking into account the developments in quantum. I’m not sure I can explain it to you adequately, but no; unless you’re prepared to give live improv performances in the living rooms of the ultra-rich, there’s no future for you on the screen. Not that we future people even use screens. Even scripts are programmatically generated.

Well, I would agree that entertainment trends towards banal action and superhero flicks with specific beats intended to produce particular reactions in the audience,  but that has historically been the way for most entertainment.

Menial Jobs May or May not Exist

Perhaps zir’s best bet for meaningful employment is in a menial job. By which, I mean as a street sweeper, or a burger flipper, or a warehouse operative or I don’t know, a supermarket checkout assistant.

Well of course those roles still exist. The plebs need to have something to give their lives meaning or they’d sit around all day playing video games and watching the latest blockbusters through their input ports. Or else they’d be having virtual sex and flooding their idle bodies with whatever hormone and stimulant combo is popular this week. Nothing but pathetic wastes of existence and space, zir.

No, of course these jobs aren’t necessary. That they pay barely more than the Universal Basic Income reflects that. I hesitate to call them jobs at all.  They’re merely a way of people have of passing the time while thinking that they’re achieving something or striving towards a worthwhile goal.

In the Cyberpunk Future, You're Gonna Be Unemployed

Even in 2020, this worker is obsolete

Having “workers” looking forward to the weekend, scrabbling for overtime or saving for an extra week in Mexico keeps them from looking for anything deeper.

Again, you have hit  the nail square on the head, zir. The technology existed in your time as well, but still people with no other marketable skills worked in these jobs. Why? Because it’s marginally cheaper than reprogramming a roomba to do the work.

There May Still be Space for you Somewhere

Let me make this easy for you. Rather than going though your list of possible careers you think could retrain for, I’ll knock them down for you right now.

Teachers, and indeed the entire field of pedagogy, have been made irrelevant with the advent of direct memory and skill implantation. With omnipresent surveillance and an unimaginably powerful artificial intelligence, there is no need for police or human law enforcement of any kind.

Of course there are still people making money, obscene amounts of it. But none of them will be you. You need to have money to make money and you, zir, don’t have squat.

Fine then. Just tell me the general characteristics of the role you want. I will tell you, in excruciating detail, what that role is and the undoubtedly depressing reason why it no longer exists.

Good with computers? Yes, you can be brought up to speed with some direct knowledge implants, but there’s no legitimate work in that field any more. Programs make other programs no human intervention required. Besides, you’d need a head socket.

Something active that involves running? As I’ve mentioned zir, all of the menial jobs, which are really all that remain, are somewhat sedentary,. It doesn’t look like zir has the physique or the psychological traits necessary to be an athlete.

You want to commit violence. Hopefully nothing I’ve said, zir. Ha ha. No violence is permitted in the 22nd century and violent crime rates have dropped to virtually zero. We’re not quite sure whether that’s due to our predictive algorithms and total surveillance or because we dissolved the police some time ago.

You want to get back at the corporate interests and capitalist overlords who made our society possible? I don’t understand why you would want to do that. Surely we are living in a utopia and the best possible time to be alive.

And you want to keep your genitals? You absolute barbarian!

Hold on. I’ve heard of one group which you may be interested in. They’re outlaws and they’re on the fringes of society. Shunned by all, they exist only to cause trouble and often manage to get themselves killed during the seemingly endless streams of courier jobs and side quests which could have been easily handled by a drone.

Their fashion sense is appalling. It’s all black leather and katanas and pointless neon accessories. Surely you don’t want to be a… Cyberpunk? Ugh. You disgust me.

Step this way Za’am. I’ll arrange for the datajack fitting right away.

Hey, chum. These posts don't write themselves. If you wanna stay in the know, it's gotta be a two way street.*

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