The Second Great Depression was not so harsh as the first, at least not in the Americas. It was nicknamed the Rolling Depression inside the United States, as one sector of the economy collapsed, another reformed without so much of the baggage that plagued its predecessor. Pensions dried up as corporations dissolved, and many insurance companies, malpractice in particular, found themselves to be targets of a very angry populace. Other nations moved to trading on the euro instead of the dollar, triggering even further inflation within the United States, and sharper economic downfall. "Seemed like a good idea at the time."
Few regions did not feel the collapse of America's economy, and Asia was especially battered. India and China, already beset by massive water shortages, pollution, infrastructural problems and internal instability, began to split at their seams, undercurrents of internal unrest growing increasingly visible.
Peak oil was not as devastating as the worst of predictions, but it was certainly not kind. It crippled progress in many industrializing nations, with India hit particularly hard by the lack of fuel supplies. While shale, coal liquefaction, biodiesel, ethonol and other alternatives did stave off the worst disaster scenarios, these sources primarily benefited Russia and the Americas.
Water supply, rather than oil, became the key issue of the new decade, and increasingly a violent one. Termed hydroterrorism, the phrase comes to encompass many groups: ecoterrorists opposed to desalination, earthworks and other mass relief projects, counterterrorists opposed to the former, and terrorists and freedom fighters opposed to the control, abuse, and restriction of water supplies.
In the first world, the fabber revolution begins to gain public notice, with synthers and cyclers appearing close to the end of the decade, along with many other specialized tools. These developments begin to blur the lines between copyrights and patents, and are subject to significant legal debates. The development of the first synthetic life polarized religious movements across the globe. Many fundamentalist orders declared that science had set itself up in opposition to God, and acted accordingly, termed luddoterrorism.
China's interests in Taiwan and Japan grew increasingly hostile, especially as the energy crisis came to a head. To compromise, the United States sold Japan, the Phillipines, Taiwan, South Korea, and Vietnam a large portion of its naval and air power, with more of the most advanced forces on rent.
2020 - 2029
North Korea collapsed, beginning the slow process of integrating with the South. India likewise fractured into several large and many smaller states, most of which formed a loose confederation. Though conflicts over water supply continued around the globe as the problem escalated, so did resources meant to correct the problem.
Synthers began to pose a serious problem for the pharmaceutical industry, as more and more people were not only able to synthesize current drugs, but with the aid of massive distributed computing networks, also develop their own. In the United States, an alliance of these companies joined the DEA in attempting to wipe out unsolicited and development, a phenomenon which they attempted to spread across the globe.
China and much of the Islamic world were suffering under another burden, however. As various single-child and other pro-male policies were in place, the situation for nearly a billion women began to rapidly deteriorate, driving prostitution and the underground slave-trade to frightening heights. These results only increased the net emigration of women, causing more demand for said illicit activities in a murderous cycle.
Europe's economic output, and the European Union itself, began to collapse, no longer able to sustain its own populace. This drove many nations back to trading on the dollar, just as the United States began to rebuild its economy, quickly eclipsing Asia once again. This latter event is probably what held China back from declaring what would have been the Third World War, as there is little doubt it would have had allies in every continent with such an offensive, and the United Nations found itself rapidly dissolving.
The United States returned to the moon early in the decade, with many other nations and international alliances eventually following suit, though the polar bases, Armstrong and Aldrin Station fall largely under American control. Early anagathic treatments became publicly available, their initial price creating the first signs of the unrest that would later result in the Prometheus Accords. These developments were both opposed by 'luddite' factions as well. A terrorist group, known as the People of the Wheel, formed and began assassinating the oldest members of society.
Overall scientific progress seemed to slow, however, as interdisciplinary requirements increased to the point where "Few mortal minds can achieve the necessary skills." - from certain points of view, humanity was holding itself back. Perhaps more importantly, however, advancement was becoming materials-limited. While the progress of all fields accelerated during the 20th century, materials moved the slowest of all of them, and the term 'unobtainium' became common parlance, the most famous of these being carbon nanotubes and its more advanced descendants. There was some hope in the 'island of stability', as more neutron-rich transuranic elements were synthesized, but these were barely available in nanogram amounts.
By the start of the 2030's, humanity was redirecting so much water around the globe, through so many projects, that nations had to begin working out how to properly direct flows of moisture on a climactic scale. This need was among the first major pushes for arcologies, massive settlements through which energy and climate could be easily regulated. Some considered it ironic, if appropriate, that Earth would require terraforming before Mars did.
Increased funding over the past two decades allowed DEMO to come on-line early, to the great relief of many who hoped that fusion would put an end to fossil and fission fuels for baseline power generation. Only a few additional such reactors would come on-line in this decade, however, with most additional plants either being fission or coal powered.
The DEA and other governmental agencies - not just of the US but the world over, begin 'losing' the battle against synthers, fabbers, and other heralds of a new economy. Anagathic treatments become widely available halting many aspects of aging, and even slowly begin to reverse some of the symptoms. Attempts to restrict this development lead to riots in many countries.
In the United States, construction on the Pevatron begins. A colossal structure well over hundred kilometers in radius, the device marks the largest of the standard synchrotrons ever to be constructed on Earth. The first manned mission to Mars occurs during this decade, ultimately an international expedition. Only one mission is sent, not to be repeated for decades to come.
While many AIs pass the Turing test in the previous decades, the first computer that manages to fool all double-blind tests is recognized and granted citizenship late in the decade. Despite the efforts of the most concerted terrorist attacks in history, the swearing in ceremony proceeds without incident.
Russia exceeds the output of the European Union by the end of the decade, once again claiming superpower status. Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, and Xinjiang gain independence from China, causing the nation to lose more than half of its geographical size, although it retains much of its population, retaining its position as the dominant regional power and an economic superpower. Quebec succeeds from Canada, while the remaining provinces ponder joining a decreasingly federalist United States.
Second generation fusion designs are introduced, building on the success of DEMO and its sister generators. Combined with advanced solar cell technology, the 'limited scarcity' economy enters full swing in developed regions around the globe - which, at this point, is most of it. Most objects are worth more for their raw material value rather than their utility at this point.
Lunar and Martian terraforming operations begin, if slowly. Atmospheric development is of course the main priority in both cases. Martian missions are entirely robotic during this decade. Coordinating this massive robotic fleet are massive orbiting computers, called ordinators, sapient machines capable of handling complex tasks without human supervision.
As synther technology advances rapidly, attempts to halt or even slow research into immortality proves futile, meeting with extremely hostile opposition. This, coupled with fears that sufficiently advanced synthers may one day lead to household development of biological weapons, drives the Prometheus Accords. These not only set the precedent for supplying immortality to the populace as a whole, but also a means of population regulation. Another factor of the Accords is the Panacea Project - an attempt to create a new breed of humanity - homo panacea - for whom age and disease would not exist. It would be spread via the alpha strain, a series of viruses and drugs that would alter a human's physiology and DNA.
The Accords bring humanity into a war with itself like never before seen. Hundreds of millions reject the proposal, calling it heresy - blaspheming against God. A significant fraction of these begins to reject technology altogether, separating itself from the rest of humanity and attempting to live off of the slowly recovering wilderness. Most perish, but a few million do survive across the world. They are sometimes termed Exiles.
Violence is frequent around the world, with forces aligning themselves to various ideologies, some of which include national, religious, or ethnic identities, but many do not. These tend t
At the start of the 21st century, one could find comments about entire Chinese villages lacking women. As time progressed, this came to be true of entire regions, and, eventually, due to the slave trade, an entire province. China's collapse was not complete, but it did see the full reunification of Korea, the liberation of Tibet, and several other new nations as China lost half its geographical size, though it retained most of its population. Many Islamic nations were suffering similar instability, and several countries around the world began to sponsor rescue and special emigration programs, provoking several ineffectual declarations of war by minor nations.
India's own powderkeg finally exploded, and the nation was quickly thrown into civil war, though foreign aid and intervention ameliorated its cost on civilian lives. Where India once was, a score of nations replaced it.
During this period, Latin America's economy - especially Brazil's, began to stengthen, soon rivaling the ever-dwindling European Union. Europe's fade was remarkably pronounced, unable to support the weight of its elderly and social programs, with only England holding on to its status as a major economic power.
Even as the Earth's environment began to recover, temperatures were still increasing, and along with them, rising sea levels, increased storm frequency, and flooding. Bangladesh was perhaps the most public death of a nation, as millions of people perished beneath the waves of great typhoons and tsunami, the surrounding Indian nations unwilling to accept many refugees.
The possible discovery of the soul, and the theories about the true origin of the Universe sparked a revival of religion, though many thought it an offense to God that humanity would unravel His mysteries. The idea of an artificial sapience was unsettling enough to some, but that it actually seemed to have a soul disturbed many. Claims of dishonesty and heresy were rampant.
Complete treatments for six of the aging problems were now available, and genetic procedures for correcting the remaining ones were already in testing, as well as an overall genetic fix that could cure anyone, young or old, of 'age'. Humanity was now in reach of immortality.
These developments sparked a raucous of debate, and, strangely, began to see a unification of the jewish, christian and islamic peoples in general, and a division between them all along 'gnostic' lines. Many religious leaders threw themselves into the debate, as if their words could guide the progress of science, while others looked to the ancient texts recovered at Nag Hammadi a century prior, wondering if, perhaps, a poor decision had been made nearly two millennia ago.
Self-sustaining fusion was finally achieved during this period, though it was initially quite difficult and highly expensive, and would not replace coal fuel for some decades.
Hawkinium, or element 126, was finally refined, and element 310 shown to be fully stable. Less than a gram is synthesized by the end of the century, though its properties make it a target of great scientific investment.
As flooding and related weather catastrophes came to a head, nations began tearing down their cities and replacing them with massive arcologies, powered with fusion and solar satellites, leaving the rest of the world to wilderness. This 'cleanup' would take well over a century, with Earth becoming, in many ways, two separate worlds.
The first manned missions to Mars occured during this era, and the polar colonies on Luna, Earth's moon, became official international stations. Their mining efforts slowly began to give the Moon an oxygen atmosphere, and eventually a pair of fully-functioning Lunar Biodomes were constructed. Many considered this to be the start of the 'true' Space Age.
Nanotechnology began to have a large impact in various fields at this time, primarily in synthetic oils and other rare operations where they were more efficient than a biological solution. Even still, as technology progresses, the difference between technology and biology becomes increasingly blurred.
With these developments, Gnosticism and Buddhism became the world's primary religions, with minimalist religions taking hold as well. Minimalist Christianity being among the most popular, of course, though Taoism and many others had a large following.
Breaking from these, however, were people who rejected that science had the answers, or that humanity was worthy of them, or that it was right to find them. Thus began the Great Exile, rejecting technology and living in the wilderness, many of them discarding even agriculture. They died by the millions, of disease, of thirst, of starvation, of internal and external conflicts. The rest of society called them the exiles, though they call modern society the lost.
Many historians, at the end of the 20th century, called it 'America's century', and some predicted that the 21st century would belong to China.
It was not to be. Civilization moves west, but China had already held that torch. China had recovered from its fall, as the routinely growing missions to Mars became semipermanent colonies and terraforming there began, many knew where the next center of human civilization would be, and those that knew began to draw their plans. At the end of the century, the United States and Brazil were considered to be the world's formost powers.
Earth's environment began to stabilize as the last of humanity sealed itself inside of its arcologies, though temperatures and flooding were still increasing. This latter effect rewrote a not-insignificant portion of Earth's landscape, and drove many of the self-exiled people from agriculture. The real effect was limited, however - sea levels barely rose a single meter, but the storms that occurred during the process would devastate many agricultural regions.
Sabotage attempts were numerous, and views about the exiles took a turn for the worse. Dubbed luddites, the 'civilized' nations began to regulate the exiles, forcing them to remain as hunter-gatherers from then on.
Most of the gerens trace the roots of their political and economic power to the end of the 21st century. These loosely allied groups would eventually become the driving force behind humanity's future.
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