It wasn’t until the rising ocean levels started displacing entire island nations and hundreds of millions of people living on the coastlines of every continent, that world leaders finally recognized the need to respond to the impending climate change catastrophe. New breakthroughs in Big Data technologies promised clear and simple solutions if the world would only act in unison.
Unfortunately, flaws in the underlying assumptions behind the algorithms and a reluctance to cooperate between corporations, governments and citizens, led to policies that exacerbated the effects of climate change and led to a higher frequency of extreme temperature shifts. Severe changes in weather patterns led to the proliferation of unfavorable bacteria along with rampant viral diseases carried by insect populations that prospered in the new conditions. Once again, the glorified promises of Big Data failed to predict these disasters and panic ensued.
As the situation worsened and a chain of cascading catastrophes affected populations across the globe, it came to light that large collections of data had been falsified, manipulated and corrupted. This led to a cycle of increased suspicion and ceaseless accusations. Any remaining “liquid data” was quickly “clotted” to prevent collaboration, particularly affecting universities whose continued research was so dependent on accessible data streams. As all actors vigorously pursued self-interested objectives, a negative spiral of resource abuse and environmental degradation worsened the situation.
By 2022, those most affected by the cascading blood clots are those who once relied on Big Data on a daily basis. The developed world is trying to learn from those in the areas worst hit by the initial climate change dilemmas who have experience dealing with instability and uncertainty. There are more jobs for clowns.
Hungry malarial mosquitoes are starting to swarm as a result of growing population density and massive land changes in land use (such as deforestation). It is nearly impossible to find non-counterfeit antimalarial pills. Lisa was bitten the other day while she was gardening and she spiked a fever last night! Fearing greatly for the health of her unborn child, she is frantically searching for natural cures, but it is so hard to know which sources to trust.
The Unfortunate are Fortunate
Those who were over reliant on automated systems and algorithmic thinking to monitor their health are now in great peril. Every now and then information is leaked about how many people are killed annually by FDA approved prescription drugs. Those who chose to monitor and medicate themselves and those who were unable to afford the hi-tech system, like Anya, already know how to survive in this world. Lisa really wishes she hadn't been so blind to the impending disaster.
Early 21st century American health care standards disintegrated in the face of climate catastrophe. As one of the most energy intensive and technology dependent sectors, hospitals were not able to weather the storm. St. Gustav's shut its doors in December 2020, leaving Lisa without employment, and hundreds of people without the health care support they rely on. Lisa is glad she didn’t offload all of her healthcare knowledge to a bot like many of her colleagues did. The offloaded data streams have been frozen and there is such a premium on real, learned knowledge that she is able to exchange health and nutrition advice for food, fuel, and water.
Before the collapse, there was a shift to total reliance on automated medical devices. Lisa and her colleagues felt confident that the new insulin pumps and wireless drug delivery microchips would increase patient compliance and reduce time burdens for providers. The software powering these devices had over 200,000 lines of code, and despite pushes from the tech community to make them open source, and therefore open to the scrutiny of the crowd, manufacturers refused. Nearly 1/2 of the devices are being recalled for software malfunction and death rates are rising as buggy platforms erratically released inappropriate doses. Her former patients keep showing up at her door looking for help.
Claimed by the Mosquitos
A few years ago, a study reported_that a mere half centigrade rise in temperature could translate to a 30-100% increase mosquito abundance. Because data was secretly hoarded, antimalarial manufacturers made sure this news didn’t get out.
Seeing an opportunity to get-rich-quick, they took advantage of pharmaceutical 3D printing to make batches of drugs. Turns out they were getting false data to! During the trial, the blood samples were spiked with animal antibodies to make the drug look more effective. Their medicine was a total dud. The city population now fears the growing mosquito population.
Henry and his wife must now move their family into the very urban centers that people are fleeing. His son, who very likely won’t be able to raise his own family on the farm, just learned of a new NGO that connects rural transplants with urban natives to teach each other resource-saving techniques and healthy living practices. Maybe with help from people like Anya, Henry’s family will be able to keep growing food in an urban environment, but one thing's for sure: Henry won’t be taking any advice from Big Data.
Seeing that beef prices were rising and learning from a data-based futures thinking research institute that GM-Mad Cow resistant beef would be profitable, Henry foolishly used the last of his savings to buy several herds of cattle. Henry doesn’t know if he was conned into buying GM-free cattle or if the discovery of the Mad Cow resistance gene was a hoax, but Henry was forced to slaughter all of his investments when they started exhibiting signs of Mad Cow. The only upside was that his family, living in the country-side, avoided the zoonotic diseases that were killing thousands in urban centers.
Henry’s farm’s crop failed for the 3rd year in a row. Following the trends across the country, he changed all of his fields into wheat three years ago when the algorithms predicted a terrible corn blight. The corn blight never came, but locust swarms of biblical proportions ravaged the country because the warmer winters meant many more were able to survive and reproduce.
Goodbye, State University
When Heritage University Online published its study on brick and mortar universities, nobody expected such a cataclysmic response. The study, known as the Bubble Study illustrated with mathematical certainty that high-tuition colleges were not worth the investment. Online learning, at a fraction of the cost, provided just as likely a chance of getting a job upon graduation.
Within a few weeks, the dorms at State U began to empty as a generation of disillusioned students wandered into the educational diaspora. In cities across the country, hundreds of thousands of students refused to pay their student loans, leaving the federal government scrambling to stave off an impending financial crisis.
Geoff chooses to stay in school until the semester ends. The professors' contracts mandate that they show up for classes, although the incredible silence makes it hard to focus on the lectures. Geoff can't stop telling himself “I'm paying for something I can get for free online.” He feels so old-fashioned.
Point Park Preparatory Academy
In the wake of the Bubble Study, the Field family pulled Scarlett out of Point Park Preparatory Academy.
Paying $15,000 for a prep school education seems unnecessary when online universities don't require an application.
With a dismal quality of education offered at Riverside High, the city's only public high school, the Fields decided it would be best for Greg and Scarlett to be home-schooled. Mrs. Fields used to teach French and she knew that two other neighborhood parents had some teaching experience as well.
Together they founded the Riverside Academy and enrolled 20 who all lived in the neighborhood. The parent-teachers hastily created a curriculum and opened the first underground school in the city.
Operating an unlicensed school is illegal, so the families involved have decided to limit the total enrollment to 20 students. Still, Mrs. Fields is aware of other underground academies that are forming in the city and she keeps up a loose series of connections with the movement's local leaders to develop pedagogical approaches. The Fields' house cleaner, Anya, informed Mrs. Fields that no academies exist in low-income neighborhoods where most parents work multiple jobs. As an act of good faith, Mrs. Fields has agreed to provide schooling for Anya's son, Nicholas, who will greatly benefit from the small class sizes.
With the budget spiraling downward, Riverside High had to replace half of its teachers with EdBots, digital, algorithm-driven teachers. Even though none of their kids attend the public high school, the Fields argued against the budget cuts and the use of EdBots, which have limited capacity for answering questions. Students sit in rows and watch the EdBots lecture while the blackboard remains chalkless. Mrs. Fields is glad that her children have the option for an alternative education, but she is worried for the children who must learn from EdBots.
Resilience through Poverty
Looking back, Anya realizes that losing her job was the best thing to happen to her. If she had been able to afford health insurance, she would have gotten herself vaccinated and then she would be just as sick as all of those people who relied on Big Data to save them. Because she couldn’t afford meat, she wasn’t panicked by the E. coli epidemic. People in her neighborhood have always had a high risk for diabetes and cancer, but those diseases take years to kill and nowadays people are getting much more sick much more quickly. Anya’s naturally fortified immune system is stronger than any pill on the market and her ability to understand her own body without any sensors and gadgets means her likelihood of survival is better than any of her former employers.
With the collapse of Big Data, most of the world has to learn how to live without mathematical models and complicated technologies; Anya has lived simply her whole life. For the first time, people are coming to her for help. Anya was inspired to start a blog after a local journalist interviewed her for an article on how to feed a family on a small budget. She collects tips from neighbors and family on how to survive in the worst of conditions. If she’s lucky, she could get a regular segment on the DIY-internet-channel.
Longer Battery Life
A serious shortage of water around the globe is a disaster for countries that rely on hydroelectric energy. However, the invention of super batteries for mobile phones keeps people connected. Researchers are improving the energy capacity and charging rate of cell phone batteries. The super batteries sandwich clusters of silicon between graphene sheets and use a chemical oxidation process to create minuscule holes in graphene sheets. This enables the lithium ions to travel faster.
Batteries for Developing Nations
Ae heads a team of 10 electronic and battery design engineers who are designing new Super Charge Ion Batteries. Adapting the batteries used in advanced cell phone technology, Ae's batteries can be used in forklifts, power systems and in solar power generators.