It’s thirty years from now. Cell phones are a dead technology, and it’s getting damn hard to find computers with screens that can navigate what used to be known as the Internet. In fact, external, two-dimensional screens have almost disappeared entirely. Physical televisions are extinct.
All human communications technologies have gone internal to the human body.
You are a twenty-year old natural human. What does that mean for you, filthy natural? It means you chose not to get the internal biotech implants necessary work and communicate the way humans do now. No neural links, no artificial eyes or even lens implants. You are flesh and blood and bone and nothing else.
But why have you chosen to remain natural, you ask? I have no idea. This was your decision.
Maybe you’re just sentimental?
(A few caveats: you are not independently wealthy, and you do not have a family or friends willing to support you. You live in a medium to large-sized city, not in a rural farming community.)
So what is your life like?
Let’s make this easier. We’re gonna step back into the present for now and change the question. What would your life be like TODAY if you could not use personal phones (of any kind), computers, media devices, or the internet at all?
(Again, we assume you do not have monetary savings or family/friends willing to support you, and you live in the city.)
Legal, official employment is probably out of the question. No one can contact you or communicate with you unless you’re standing right in front of them. There is a slim chance you could work in a restaurant kitchen or something similar if you lived immediately adjacent to the building—and I mean literally right next to it—so the manager could walk next door and knock if you were needed.
But even that’s a stretch. What application process continues without a phone number by the applicant?
What about payphones? They still exist, believe it or not. I’m in Atlanta, so I did the research to find out how many are left:
There are sixteen working payphones in the Atlanta city limits. Twelve of those are inside Hartsfield International Airport. Could you live right next to one of the other four, making a dash to the box every time it rings? Unlikely.
So you are likely limited to cash-paid day labor. Not fun, but doable. If that work remains consistent, you could probably pay for a small apartment with roommates.
But again, this is a maybe. You can only pay cash for anything, and you still can’t get applications approved. Is it possible to have a bank account with no means of immediate communication other than showing up in person? It’s hard to imagine (but I concede that I haven’t tried).
So I’m guessing no bank account. Maybe there are landlords out there who would rent to you without a phone number or bank account, but they must be few and far between.
You would also be incapable of communication with friends or loved ones unless you lived within walking/biking/public transit distance of them. Not only that, but socialization would require showing up unannounced, and that’s just rude.
So your life shrinks. It gets small socially and geographically. And it gets precarious. Crew/yard work through the day on short-term jobs that might not last.
What about news and entertainment? You could watch publicly visible TVs or pay cash to go to the movies, but not much else. You could buy newspapers. I guess you could buy a TV (but this would be a real luxury) and watch channels broadcast over air….
All this is probably quite a change from your current life, right?
Ok, back to the future: thirty years from now. All communications tech is inside people now.
All that day laborer work is gone. Pretty much all manual/physical labor for humans is. The bots take care of that. It doesn’t even matter if you live in a rural or farming community because again, the bots.
For any income, you would be totally reliant on the charity of strangers who are willing forgo the vastly more efficient, cheaper bot labor to hire you specifically because they want to support natural human beings.
But even this is unlikely because anyone in a position to hire others will certainly not be a natural human. So why would they care? Just get the neural implant already, you filthy ape.
Two-dimensional screens are gone, so you are cut off. Physical print newspapers don’t exist either, so the only way you can learn about anything current is to ask a modified human, and they aren’t terribly fond of naturals.
No work means no money, which means no place to live. You’re homeless, squatting in parts of the city other naturals have congregated. If you’re still quick enough, you might be able to steal food on a daily basis to keep yourself going, but most food shipment or storage is guarded by bots, and they are faster.
It’s not a fun life.
There’s another option. You could try to find a place in the world where natural humans are still the majority. Does such a place exist? There are rumors—oh, a farming community in Ontario, some kind of “human religion” compound in Iceland.
But you can’t be sure because you have to ask modified humans to search whatever they are calling the “Internet” for you. Most aren’t willing, and you don’t really trust the ones that are.
And how to travel there anyway? Steal enough cash for public transport? No, because no public transport system allows passengers without being able to identify them through a neural link. So that’s out. And it’s impossible to summon the future version of taxis/Uber because automated cars and transports can only respond to summons through the same neural links.
You could try to pay an individual to drive you, but no one will go for it because you’re too much of a security risk. You scare people. Why? Because they can’t see your thoughts. They can’t ping you with their technological telepathy to see your history, your personality, your intentions. Your mind is a big animalistic black hole, and that’s terrifying.
You could walk. Good luck with that.
So you hunker down in your old abandoned library, sharing it with a few other naturals who keep to themselves. You beg for food, sometimes steal it, and so far that’s kept you going.
You have a pet rat named Winifred. She likes you because you give her bits of food, and you like her because she’s a good listener and doesn’t judge you.
That’s your life as a natural human.
Not so bad, right? You get to be friends with rats, and you don’t have to stress out over current events anymore.
No? Not appealing?
Don’t worry, you will probably get the implants. Most everyone with the means will.
Is there a line you won’t cross? Will you get the contact lenses but not the permanent eye implants? Or you’ll get the permanent eye implants but not the neural link?
My line is donuts. Threaten to take away my capacity to purchase those, and I’ll become a full-on cyborg tomorrow.