A couple of ideas I've been throwing around.
Konstantin and Pandora's relationship: The original inspiration, this is predominantly the story of "Stan and Dora". Pandora is an artificial human who inadvertently became an internet celebrity, and Konstantin is trying to see how humanlike she can become. All the while they persist in their home in the boondocks of Falstead, Louisiana. Naturally, a good chunk of the stories will be about them. It is through their eyes and ears we hear about all the pessimism, technoskepticism, and future shock whenever it comes up. For the most part, it's scattered mentions, with most of the angst being indirect and over smaller things that have changed. There's plenty of characters that don't seem to have any strong reactions either way to modern technology, simply going with the flow and reacting whenever prompted. Konstantin is the futurist, but he doesn't often bring up various aspects of modern technology unless it's the focus of a conversation. As I mentioned in the Babylon Today thread, there's someone named Bill who sometimes harasses the two online because Bill is a "Mas-Prim" or masculinist-primitivist. If all goes well, there'll probably be a chapter/short story about Bill and his beliefs. Konstantin is basically a self-insert to an extent, so he's a shlubby reclusive writer, but he's surrounded by plenty of blue-collar and scrubs-wearing types.
Bernadette and Yoko's relationship: Their story was the one called Another Perfect Day? before I combined it into this one when I realized that the overarching themes and setting was already coinciding with Konstantin and Pandora's and made the choice to combine them (I think I even mentioned Another Perfect Day? once before in the music thread; it's Bernie & Yoko's story I was referring to). Bernadette died way back in 2002, and Yoko is nostalgic for the decade while reflecting on how she became the strange person she currently is in a time of 2000s nostalgia. Yoko is also one of Konstantin's friends and is one of the few humans actually close to the man in real life. Both have 2000s nostalgia themselves, of two different parts of the decade (early 2000s for Yoko; mid-to-late 2000s for Konstantin), but unlike some Antemillennialists, said nostalgia doesn't dominate their every waking lives and drive their emotional states, even in Yoko's more fragile case.
"Dead Gods Society": The reactions to a blooming subculture in the American southwest, a "sign of the times". Cyberoccultists, drone riders, drug-loving disaffected youths living in a commune, basically everything the 1980s wanted to be actually come true. Part of the larger moddie scene as well as something of a part of the Antemillennialist reaction I mentioned in Babylon Today (though certainly not to the extent of neo-agrarians).
Autocratic Eurasia: A reference to the events of Babylon Today, there's loads of news stories about the insanity of living in France and the various other European dictatorships. While various types in America are excited by this "European rejuvenation" (you can imagine who they are), there are others (like Konstantin) who feel it was too little, too late considering the dominating position China is in. There is a sense among many, even the supporters of "autocratic Eurasia", that Europe is destined to break down altogether unless certain reforms are taken, reforms many nations in Europe are willing to take when things deteriorate but France refuses to even consider.
Third curve era: Also known as the "Fourth Industrial Revolution", this is the era that began some time between 2015 and 2025 and is "the contemporary era of human sociotechnological conditions". It is the backdrop to both stories, and both are only possible because of its occurrence.
Extreme climate change: Starting in the 2030s, climate change starts going out of control (and is a major factor as to why Autocratic Eurasia becomes Red Eurasia in the 2040s). Two of the big events in Another Perfect Day? involve tropical weather, considering it's set predominantly in the deep South (my favorite is the "Tropicane"). There's also an instance during the dead of winter where there's heavy snowfall along the Gulf Coast while it's 90°F in New England, just utterly nonsensical weather patterns. Yet there are still skeptics to the idea anything is unusual.
Acute future shock: Starspawn0 above said something that I've actually contemplated for quite a few years now, the idea that intense nostalgia and a desire to remain in the past can actually keep you sane. Consider the third curve then, especially in a place as conservative as the deep South. Acute future shock may genuinely become a legitimate medical condition, the treatment for which is a temporary disconnect from modern society. This will be one cause for a bit of conflict between Konstantin and his parents, as they are the type who mentally refuse to move past the 2000s and refuse to attempt to understand things such as his infatuation with his "doll" and his solitary online career. My own mother doesn't fully understand that I write for a living (even if it's a bare living), but she is better at understanding it than Konstantin's parents. In their case, "career" and "working" conjures much more Romantic images of someone clocking in at an office or helping people or doing something more than staying in their own home all day "playing on a computer". And they absolutely don't trust BCI tech (partially because pop media keeps using the term 'mind-control' to describe how it works, which gives them the impression that computers are controlling your mind rather than the other way around)
Deep volumetric learning: Sometimes known as "3D deep learning" (and in the media, the cheesier "3Deep learning"). One of the terms that keeps reoccurring in the story, used to describe state of the art AI systems. In short, "volumetric learning" is based on the idea of biological intelligence as a web of interconnected specialized networks where one network's knowledge can impact and enhance the learning of another. It's different from deep learning in that DL is based on a single narrow area of focus, hence why networks have to spend millions of cycles learning to master something like text generation— humans learn how to generate text from a massive web of experiences, many of which are not directly related to language or textual understanding but we still draw from in order to create words, sentences, paragraphs, and stories. Most machine learning networks have no life experiences because they were created just for the purpose of natural language processing/understanding/generation. This is one reason why GPT-2 Large works so well— it's devoured so many words that it has essentially created a rough facsimile of life experiences upon which it can draw, giving it a deeper understanding of words and concepts. Volumetric learning is a more refined and advanced version of this, allowing for AI to learn many historically time-intensive tasks in one or two shots much like a human by taking in inputs and comparing it to previously learned inputs and differently-learned abilities to generate a novel output (example: learning that fruit grows on trees from GANs and that fruits are sweet from gustatory sensors to "understand" that apple trees are sources of food and guide a robot to an apple tree to gather apples with virtually no training and only vague written directions to gather food). Neural data + deep volumetric learning (which is emergent from neural data for the most part) is how the Pandora Project works. It's only in recent times that volumetric learning has become widespread because of the high quality data we've gotten from the brain, the internet, and advanced robotic sensors. Brain data + direct sensory data can be uploaded to the internet for easy access by other networks and can lead to much more accurate outputs when combined with text, images, videos, and audios. This is one of the root causes of the third curve and Cybrian Explosion.
If machine learning is a line and deep learning is a square, volumetric learning is a cube. Whatever AGI is will likely be a tesseract.
Cybrian Explosion: Massive wave of advancements in robotics that started in the 2020s as a result of the early physical successes of deep, reinforcement, imitation, and volumetric learning. One of the big discussions of the story is how capable robots have become compared to how they used to be. Due to the norms of the past, we (of the 2010s on back) have been trained to overestimate the capabilities of robots because of science fiction, and thanks to the failures of robots this decade and very early next decade (primarily in the domestic sphere), we (of the 2030s) will have been trained to underestimate the capabilities of modern robotics. We are used to the days where robots failed beyond certain parameters, so it's easy to forget that many machines are "self-sufficient" or can self-correct major errors. Robots are now in so many different areas of life that it's bedazzling. But it took much longer for the bleeding edge of AI to blend with capable robots because you needed to train AI on hundreds of thousands of cycles in simulations to understand how to navigate the world only for it all to fail once in an actual body because reality has infinitely more parameters than even our most detailed simulations. This is why media synthesis is happening first, why white collar work is being automated before blue collar labor.
What do either of these above mentioned things have to do with life in mid-'30s Falstead? On the surface, nothing. Life goes on. There may be more robots rolling on the sidewalk, AVs carrying passengers on the road, machines in the fields, the occasional passenger drone up above, and domestic service & utility robots occasionally seen if you're stalking houses, but if you took all that away, it's indistinguishable from the 2010s.
Except you can't take all that away. And it's all caused so many smaller, unseen changes in life.
Let's take a ride around this old town. The buildings are made out of brick, wood, sheet metal, and whatever ceramics they use to construct a town. No nanotech starscrapers. No giant futuristic windmills (though there are plenty of solar panels). There's only a tiny handfuls of hologram displays in the town, and they're fairly mundane and used by the trendy restaurants on main street (save for the even smaller ones used at the big department stores). If you didn't pay attention to them any longer than a glance, you probably wouldn't even realize there were any volumetric displays except at night when they glow like eyesores. You'll see plenty of helot robots here and there, noting potholes or cleaning up broken bottles & rubbish or cleaning the sidewalks with disinfectants and water. Most helots are flying and rolling drones, though, and the ones that aren't are autonomous vehicles with special utility functions. There's probably one or two helot androids in the entire town, and you only see them when some serious shit has gone down. Probably the most futuristic sight in Falstead is going to be the drone highway. Some like to imagine that, in the future, all these drones will be carrying people, but right now they're only carrying goods— food, primarily, and often groceries. The drone swarm here isn't as dense as it is in some of the world's cities, where there are thousands of drones traveling at different altitudes daily, but it's noticeable. It's also high enough to not be a big noise problem but not so high as to interfere with airplanes and helicopters.
There are still a lot of people walking the streets too, though most are middle aged or youths. I won't discuss just yet their or their elders' mindsets— that's for another time. Right now, we're just taking in the sights.
There are plenty of closed stores, but plenty more are still open. Restaurants— sit-down and fast food alike— are heavily automated, and many are often never closed because of this. Humans are still seen often just because the old-timers want humans. Some need humans. There are some "Not Automated" and "No Robot Delivery" signs to communicate this, and it's easy to make call-backs to a darker chapter down here a century prior. Especially considering Konstantin's relationship to Pandora.
Maybe you can see some people with MR glasses or subtle BCIs (for texting/communicating emotions by thinking), but you'll see just as many people not actively using this tech.
You'll still see school buses ferrying kids to schools and on field trips. You still see families and couples going to sit-down restaurants. You still see traffic. You still see people sitting on the porch. You still hear and feel mosquitoes. And it's still muggy.
So on the surface— on the surface— it looks so familiar.
Yet it's being seen by a gynoid straight from science fiction.