Funnily enough, the old Babylon Today (as Mother Meki) took place starting in 2118-2119 or so, which means I can probably reuse some of the ideas I had there for this.
The Technist Scenario: Humans as master over nature
Meet Margaret. She is a typical Homo sapiens sapiens of the early 22nd century, living in the United States of America. She is not augmented, nor is she necessarily a Luddite. She identifies as heterosexual, and isn't very deviant in her biology either (though she does sometimes sim as a cat for extended periods). She is a "katoikidia" (Greek for "housepet"), which means that her lifestyle is fully funded by a polity institution. This polity is a fully automated syndicate that is quasi-privately owned. Most members persist in their homes, completely physically separated from everyone else as they live in the metaverse. Some members, however, use these free funds to advance whatever personal desires they may have to feel actualized, as Margaret does. Despite not being augmented, Margaret uses artificial intelligence to tailor-make her own personalized reality where she is a superstar whose impact on culture is just as big as the Beatles. There are many non-existent people in this reality whom she has befriended, as well as non-existent musical groups, movies, television shows, and more. She hasn't experienced most of it, but she doesn't need to. Despite this vain universe for herself, she has never shared the personalized reality with anyone else. She spends most of her waking hours inside of it, and has come to see "real" reality as the alternative where she is just a normal woman.
Meet Konstantin. He is a heavily augmented human, but remains Homo sapiens sapiens. He lives in Lithuania, though it's difficult to say where he is at any one moment because he spends so much time in the metaverse. Within virtual reality, his experiences are extreme and varied. Sometimes he lives as a Byelorussian peasant from the 1800s. Others, he is a starship captain exploring the uncharted regions of the Andromeda galaxy. Every deviant and uncommon idea he had in life, he acts out in the metaverse. His body in real life is stored in a "warm storage home", and is fully maintained and stimulated without his conscious input. If he ever decided to leave the metaverse for an extended period of time, he would not need rehabilitation— it would be as simple as waking up and walking out of storage. He is utterly uninterested in rejoining the real world, however. If he wants to see current events, he will do so through artificial eyes controlled from a distance.
Meet Khudaidad. He is a Homo sapiens sapiens from Afghanistan, living largely as his ancestors have with a few very notable exceptions. While he is a farmer in the backwoods of what many consider a backwater nation, he is also an atheist who instead follows intently the news of artificial intelligence's expanding capabilities. He has dreams of visiting the moon, and watches with eagerness whenever there's a new or crescent moon because of such modern sights:
Khudaidad also does not work quite as much as his great-grandfather (who is still alive, but very advanced in his age), as the family farm has plenty of robots. Most of these robots are small, rolling machines, though there are a few more humanoid and suprahumanoid models. Khudaidad has never known a world without electricity, the internet, robotics, artificial intelligence, or a webbed moon. He also doesn't understand his great-grandfather's casual acceptance of death, let alone his belief of death as an end to life rather than as a disease that can be cured. To him, it's all ramblings of an old man being swept away by time.
Margaret lives in the suburbs, on a street that is kept permanently well-maintained by "helots"— publicly/communally-owned automatons that work for municipalities rather than any private individual. Her home is smarter than she is, but possesses no sapience or agency of its own. She rarely interacts with the neighbors. Most food she eats is downloaded from a nanofabricator, as is common. Nanofabricators, however, are only one way to get food and supplies. Elsewhere in the community, there is a "metafarm"— a structure that perfectly simulates foreign conditions in order to grow food. This is also fully automated, as automatons harvest crops on each floor. Some foods are exotic, only capable of being grown in extremely specific situations. Metafarms are owned by syndicates, corporations, and governments. As Margaret and her neighbors are katoikidias, they can order and receive food from certain metafarms for free. Some other metafarms also grow food for free, but they are publicly owned. If, for whatever reason, they wanted more than what they were basically allowed, they'd need to purchase it from privately-owned metafarms. Many don't do this since the basic allowance is already more than enough to keep them satisfied.
Konstantin lives in a new city, particularly inside of a "starscraper." Starscrapers are any construct more than a kilometer in height, with the oldest being nearly a century old. Most starscrapers are residential in nature, with some capable of comfortably housing tens of thousands of people in compact environments. The starscraper in which Konstantin lives is its own mini-municipality, but he lives in a special part meant for those who live their entire lives inside the metaverse with little to no intention of leaving. The starscraper is managed by a central AI, what one might consider a non-sapient or "utilitarian" AGI. What's more, starscrapers have popped up across the world in increasing numbers such as here in Lithuania because of automated labor and new materials bringing the costs down— for $1 billion (in 2019 USD), you could create a 5-mile-high starscraper even in an environment not conducive to supporting ultra-tall structures. A century prior, $1 billion wasn't enough to get you to a kilometer in the best environments.
Khudaidad lives in the boondocks of Afghanistan, in a village that has never had more than 500 people since the days of Xerxes and Alexander. His village is surrounded by mountains, far away from the cities that popped up in the southeast over the past century. Despite this, he knows a few katoikidia in his town who are members of a Chinese syndicate. The only reason why he hasn't joined this syndicate is because the family patriarch doesn't trust the Chinese (or Americans) and would rather start a home-grown communal syndicate. However, the family in general are all for the increasing automation of their local economy because it represents a better life. Khudaidad doesn't quite get the mindset of some spoiled Westerners and Easterners who choose to abandon civilization altogether to try to live an anarcho-primitivist lifestyle not entirely dissimilar to his own. His village is what we might consider "lower-middle class" in the USA, so they're not desperately poor by any measure. And even here, there is a central AI to assist with local governance, complete with many helots. The scars of the Soviet and USA invasions and Taliban rule over a century prior are only evident in the elderly and in the most backwater of villages. Most are only aware of modern times, when Afghanistan has become something of a regional power for its lithium reserves. And they are also aware of how their lives differ from those in the most advanced of nations. They see it many nights as they plow fields alongside the machines as they stare at the webbed moon: things are different, even if they are the same.
Earth is no longer just a moist rock floating in space but instead a hub for a cybernetic civilization whose exploits are spreading throughout the solar system. Humans are not the most intelligent entities on Earth. Humans aren't even the only sapient lifeforms anymore, especially thanks to our own efforts at uplifting other lifeforms.
At the dawn of the 22nd century, China controlled the world. However, the United States of America remained in second place due to existing at such a perfect location conducive to fostering geopolitical and economic power. India, still damaged from its war with Pakistan last century, sharply lags behind both, which some argue is the reason why China was able to so totally expand its reach into Asia. After the USA, the rest of the top ten wealthiest nations are all found in Asia. Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Iran, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines grew uninterrupted and, altogether, have a higher standard of living than can be found even in Europe.
China and the USA also dominate the sphere of space, with most lunar and Martian development being done by Asian companies.
China managed to leapfrog the USA through a combination of state-funded IP theft and state-funded innovation, which saved their ailing economy by supercharging the field of artificial intelligence. This led to a splash effect that caused Japan to also follow with a renewed economic boom despite their falling population.
Chinese technology caught up to and surpassed American and Japanese technology, and as a result, the world has shifted to a Sinocentric order.
Where Europe managed to strike back is in the rise of decentralized syndicates and cooperatives, popularized in Germany, France, and Scandinavia. Citizens could become members of these organizations, essentially becoming common shareholders in automated cooperatives.
But as the 21st century ended and the 22nd began, there was a new zeitgeist in geopolitics: that of the hypereconomy and hyperpolitics...
The hypereconomy refers to the modern, fully-automated economic model. Machines that don't get tired or require breaks means you can have peak productivity at all hours of the day. This coupled with katoikidia lifestyles, basic income, social ownership, and falling capital costs means that the global economy has been supercharged. Perhaps there are some risks of this economy overheating the planet in its own way. Our human economic systems were not meant for 24/7 peak performance. They developed around human limitations. Because of this, it's much more difficult for humans (even augmented humans) to re-enter the economy to be productive citizens— not only do you need extreme skills, but you must also be willing to work literally every second of your life in order to be competitive. Naturally, extremely few people will ever say yes to this.
Likewise, artificial intelligence has invaded the political system. It started as a novelty last century, with said "AI" used as data organization for actual government officials. Eventually, however, governments cannot function without being dominated by AI. Even tiny countries such as East Timor or the Maldives (a place nearly washed away before being saved by the Chinese) have automated governments. Essentially, the predominant political system of Earth is a "sapiocracy".
AI moves at such lightning quick speeds and with such efficiency that it is entirely disorienting to attempt to follow geopolitics if you are not mentally augmented. Machine rule can best be described as precise and very quick, but not fundamentally different from human politics. It's like human politics on crack, if that crack were also on crack.
Take the Pyrenees War. It broke out in 2116 and lasted for 2 seconds. The combatants: 2,000+ bots on both sides. It was fought between multiple AI between France and Spain who couldn't agree on how to divide up land, so they agreed to settle upon something we might recognize as a cyberwar.
The war started and ended within the span of a sneeze and led to France gaining several acres of land from Spain. These sorts of things happen a lot, and unaugmented humans just don't have powerful enough brains to comprehend it. Essentially, singular days can have as much history as entire centuries in the past.
Other Social Trends
Across the planet, there have been countless people who are augmented to the point of being post-biological. However, not everyone has taken the opportunity to do so (for various reasons).
Thanks to a myriad advances in biotechnology, Earth no longer has just one sapient technological lifeform. We've resurrected other human species and have created a few of our own. We're also able to completely control the human form down to a molecular level, which has made old movements such as that of transgenderism fundamentally different from they were they were. If you were born a man and wish to be a woman, you are no longer limited by hormones and genital mutilation. Rather, you can turn every cell in your body into that of a woman's. And this is the least vulgar of all changes. Some humans have eschewed the anthropomorphic form entirely.
There has been no "robot rights" movement, despite the predictions of science fiction writers. Rather, computers had been given civil rights before they were capable of understanding what such things were. Said civil rights tend to only come into play with "true AI" (see below). Plus, the automation of government and business meant that the machines never needed to fight for emancipation.
Ultimately, there is no dominant social zeitgeist of the times. Most people persist in their own worlds. Some explore the world and live as they desire. A few reject the modern world to keep traditions alive. But humans have, ultimately, taken a backseat to our own existence.
I mentioned the katoikidia up above. They are the natural end-state of hikikomori and NEETs, those who need not participate in the economy. You can think of this phenomenon as being like the extension of the nobility to encompass all of humanity.
Other Raw Technological Innovations
Artificial intelligence has been the "new fire" of the past century. There are several types of AI at that, ranging from weak narrow AI all the way to sapient general AI.
The most common implementation of AI remains "strong narrow AI", or AI that specializes in one narrow area but does so with parhuman or superhuman levels of capability.
Artificial general intelligence is responsible for most of this timeline's magical development. Among AGI, there are three types:
- Utilitarian AGI. This is AI that is flexible and generalized, but is not sapient. Sometimes called "Pseudo-AI" for whatever reason. It's used for homes, businesses, governments, basic utility and service robots, and more. It's essentially a omnitool rather than a "person".
- True AI. This is the AI sci-fi predicted over the ages, a computer that is as intelligent as a human, possesses sapience and agency, and can be considered a legal person.
- Super AI. This is artificial intelligence that is so far above the human experience as to occupy a new strata of being. Only China and the USA have them.
Nanotechnology has seen many great strides forward. It's been discovered that you can turn a single atom into a transistor and even a memristor, which has allowed for sci-fi nanobots to come into being. Subatomically-precise manufacturing can be done in one's home.
The average lifespan of a human varies. We achieved longevity escape velocity long ago, but not all people have taken life extension or youth restoration treatments. And all biological means of life enhancement are still less long-lasting compared to cybernetic enhancements.
The old era of hyperloops has evolved into proper vactrains, with the current ones capable of traveling at hypersonic speeds. This means one could wake up in Paris, eat breakfast in Madrid, eat lunch in Moscow, have dinner in New York, and go to sleep in Rio de Janeiro. What's more, this represents a resurgence in on-land transportation after powered flight seemed to dominate the 20th century.
And then there's the stars. Space exploration is predominantly done by the machines. Colonization of extraterrestrial worlds always begins with a vanguard of droids landing and then constructing bases of operations. If it's possible to send humans to these bases, we typically will go, and we don't have to worry about survival. Almost all human astronauts beyond Mars are augmented; the few who aren't plan to die in space.
Without augmentation or automation, space exploration would still be a dismal affair with sloth-like progress. But in 2119, mankind has finally touched Neptune and even Pluto.
The world is still damaged from our ascent, and we cannot claim to have begun an apotheosis just yet. But it seems we are on the right track.