Building the future

Posted by Psilocybin at 12:54am Feb 13 '14
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In writing Inner Bruise, our Net community has been showing glimpses of the future, with futuristic ideas like AALL cards, automated employees, grank music, and President LeGrand.

We've shown bits here and there, but how about having a consistent world in which Inner Bruise can be set? We can get many people's ideas of a cohesive culture for the year 2028. (That's only 14 years away now! Although it was 25 years away when we started writing Inner Bruise . . .)

I've divided the questions into 16 categories. This works not only for the 2028 of Inner Bruise, but also for other science-fiction writers setting stories in the future. While I wait for more answers in my thread under Community, we can discuss ideas of what 2028 might look up under Literature. Pick a field that interests you the most and join in!

Anthroponymy. What baby names are hot? Do new parents give their kids lots of unusual names with wide diversity, or are they more traditional or conformist in naming? Are there names used by parents of a particular counterculture/subculture (like the Mormon Clegg, the African-American Chiniqua, or the hippie Rainbow)? What are the most common names among girls and boys of grade school age? Girls and boys of high school and college age? Girls and boys in their twenties? Women and men in their thirties . . . forties . . . fifties . . . sixties? Senior women and senior men? If the human lifespan has been medically extended, what names are used by centenarians (women and men)? Are original last names created (e.g. a mother named Menendez and a father named Dreyfuss giving their child the surname Dreyfez or Menenfuss)? How many women switch to their husbands' surnames upon marriage? (Is this last practice more common in some generations than in others?) How popular is hyphenation? Is it common for people to legally change their names? Are ethnic first names popular in what is now the United States? What are the most common surnames in your country, and how common in general are the surnames of different ethnic groups? Do people of different generations usually shorten their names or go by their full first names – Thomas vs. Tom vs. Tommy vs. TJ? Are kreeaytiv rheighspellingz of names popular?

Demographics. Is the birth rate higher than the death rate? What is the birth rate? What is the death rate? What is the life expectancy? What birthyear range covers most people living in America at present? How many children, teens, collegians, young adults, middle-aged people and elderly are there? Where are the current wave of immigrants coming from? What is the ethnic makeup of America? Are the young more diverse than middle-aged or elderly people? What states have the highest populations? What are the different generations alive at the time, what are they like, and what are they called? How many people are there in the country in which the story takes place? How many on Earth? Has humanity spread to the Moon or to other planets?

Ecology. What species have gone extinct since 2014? What are the endangered species of the day? Which now-endangered animals and plants have made a recovery? Have the rain-forests all been cut down? Has pollution been cut? Which governments coöperate with environmental restrictions and which don't? What new species have been discovered? Has a new virus or other microörganism threatened people and animals? Have greenhouse gasses been reduced? What is the average global temperature for summers and winters? Has the hole in the ozone layer grown or shrunk since today? Do Westerners still eat a lot of red meat, or is there a new set of farmed animals, such as shrimp, that is more popular? Is in vitro meat popular? How many people are vegetarians? Is it possible to feed all of humanity? Are there legal restrictions on genetically modified food? Is the sky still grey and smoggy? Has humanity settled other planets? Are cars more eco-friendly? Do people still use plastic bags? Plastic silverware? Do countries still rely on fossil fuels and oil-drilling? Has Earth transformed into a Type I civilization, or even Type II or Type III?

Education. How many Americans are currently enrolled in grade school? In high school? In postsecondary education? How many kappatwelvers (K-12 students) are in public school, private school, parochial school, home-schooled, unschooled? How many high-schoolers drop out of high school? How long do children and youth stay in school? What subjects are taught? What subjects are college students most likely to pursue a degree in? What is the average test score on the SAT or whatever standardized test is being used at the time? How has pedagogy been changed since the present? (The teaching of math? The teaching of science? The teaching of literature? The teaching of social studies?) How is college paid for? Have they found a way to rein in stratospheric college tuition costs? Is it easy for middle-class, working-class or lower-class kids to attend college? Do kids use a series of self-teaching modules instead of going to school? If there are still schools as we know them, is the structure authoritarian or liberal and democratic? Are corruption, lying and cheating of students common among K-12 teachers and administrators?

Family structure. How many children do a pair of parents have on the average? How common are single mothers or single fathers? What is the divorce rate? Is getting married still the norm for couples seeking a family? Has marriage completely ceased to exist? How common are adoption and surrogate parenting? Is polygamy legal? How common is polyamory? How widespread (both across the U.S. and across the world) is gay marriage? Gay adoption? Is being neolocal (moving out of Mom and Dad's house) still the norm for married couples? If not, are newlyweds virilocal, uxorilocal, ambilocal? Do most dating couples who no longer live with their parents live together awhile before (or in place of) marriage? Are there orphanages in the country in which the story is set for people whose parents both died when they were minors? Does parenting still exist as we know it or is every kid a ward of the state? Can kids be taken away from their parents? If so, how common is this? Do two-parent families have a "Father knows best" structure the way they did in the fifties, or do mothers and fathers hold equal power and authority? Are families, kids included, democratic, or is there a more hierarchical structure? At what age do kids typically fly the nest?

Gender roles. How common is it for a woman to be employed? Are heterosexual couples more likely to be single-income or double-income? What is the disparity between men's incomes and women's incomes at the same job? In what careers are men dominant, and in what careers are women dominant? Do people hold onto the "old-fashioned gender courtesies", like a gentleman opening the door for a lady? (This last one may be divided by generation.) How common is transvestism? Do women and girls frequently wear dresses and skirts? Do boys and men aspire to be family protectors? What parenting roles do mothers vs. fathers take? Do men, and does society at large, treat women as objects? Is there a disparity between what happens if a woman hits a man and what happens if a man hits a woman?

Infrastructure. What new highway or travel systems have been invented? Is the government working on connecting the world? How are the roads owned? How are people housed (do they live in giant apartments, arcologies, modest houses some distance from the others)? Is Earth all interconnected? Are there still some places that don't get radio or Internet? How do people get electricity?

Knowledge. What new planets and moons have been discovered? Have we made official contact with extraterrestrial sapients, or at least found extraterrestrial life? If so, what species of aliens have we learned about? Has the multiverse theory been proven or refuted? Have we answered the question as to how many dimensions there are? Has our model of the universe become complete? What do we know about our past as Terrans that we don't know today? Have we found all the missing links and confirmed the lineages of humanity from beginning to Holocene? Have we verified any paranormal phenomena, such as levitation or ghosts, to the satisfaction of the most scrutinous scientists? Have we proven afterlife or reincarnation to exist? Has current scientific understanding made God unnecessary? Have we reconstructed Nostratic or even Proto-World? Do we know the exact age of the universe and how the Big Bang came to be? What new chemical elements have been discovered, which if any are in the zone of stability, and have we discovered the end of the periodic table?

Language. What languages are most commonly spoken in what is now the United States? What languages across the world have become extinct? What neologisms have been coined to refer to new inventions, new demographic trends, new social phenomena? What slang terms are currently being used (for cool, square, neat, shan, dorky, nasty, silly, suspicious, stupid, smart, crazy, idiot, suck/blow, rock/rule, guy/person, guy/boy, girl, alcohol, marijuana, stoned, car, money)? How do people informally recount bits of a conversation (the way we use "I was like" or "He's all" today)? What fillers/wordweed (like, y'know, dude, and stuff, or something, etc.) are popular among younger speakers? How have the rules of grammar changed since now? Have today's languages evolved into new languages unrecognizable to speakers of today? Has the Internet or some other medium changed the way people speak and write?

Politics and current events. Who os the president of what is now the United States? What's s/he like? Who's vice-president? Has the U.S. broken up? Appended any new territories or 51+ states? How popular is the president? What are currently the biggest issues in politics? What political scandals are in the news? Do people generally trust their government? Is the U.S. still a Democrat/Republican system, or have the major player parties changed, with perhaps a switch from first-past-the-post? Does the U.S. still go by the electoral college? Has the government we know now in the United States been overthrown or radically changed by a revolution? What parties hold majorities in the House, the Senate, or whatever new bodies replace them? Which countries are at war with which countries? Is there an active draft, or have most countries abolished conscription? Are there more megalo-nations such as the EU (a Canada-US-Mexico union, perhaps?) Is there one-world government? How are the poor taken care oe? What economic system (socialism, communism, capitalism, anarcho-syndicalism, etc.) is currently practiced in the country your story takes place in? Are Social Security and Medicare still around as we know them, still around albeit radically reformed, or completely scrapped? What generations are dominant in the government? What Supreme Court cases have been ruled in what is now the U.S. between now and then? What constitutional amendments have been added? How strong is the rule of corporations in the world? How do the economics of the music industry work? Has copyright/intellectual property law changed since 2014? What is the minimum wage? Does the government fund artists? How strong are environmental protections? Is the balance slanted more towards civil liberties, or more towards security? What drugs are legal and illegal? Is discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals still legal? How patriotic are people in the various countries active in the story? Is it illegal to burn the flag? What are the legal ages for voting, using legal drugs, working, driving a car, having sex, signing a contract, getting a credit card, giving or withholding medical consent, getting pierced or tattooed, being free of one's parents' rules? Is racial profiling still around? Do aliens have the same rights and responsibilities as humans? Do AI's have rights? What about cryogenically frozen zombies who have been brought back from the dead? Are the cops corrupt? Do people – young and older – trust the police? How high is voter turnout? Is voting mandatory for all voting-age citizens of the nation? Do people still own land? What do people think about nudity and female toplessness? What social norms are still active, and which have died? How tolerant are people of LGBT people, vegetarians, Scientologists, people who practice bodily mutilation, conlangers, nerds, epileptics, etc.? What are the predominant political and social beliefs of the different generations? How does healthcare work, and has medical treatment become unaffordable? What mass murders, environmental/natural disasters, family law cases, trials and executions, etc. are currently in the news?

Pop culture. What fashions (in clothes, hairstyles, facial hair and jewelry) are currently popular among babies? Older children? Girls/young women? Boys/young men? Middle-aged women? Middle-aged men? What colors are in? Are piercings and tattoos popular? What are the new designer brand names? What underwear and sleepwear do people of different genders and ages wear? Are clothes androgynous or more gender-divided? What are the common subcultures/cliques among the youth at the time? Are there any new subcultures, and if so, what do they wear, what kind of sports do they play, and what kind of music do they listen to? Who are the hot artists in pop/rock? In hip-hop? In R&B? In reggae? In dance/trance/house/techno? In country music? In Latin and world music? In new-age music? In jazz and blues? What musicals are big? What music is most popular with the different generations? What new musical genres have evolved, what do they sound like, where did they originate, and who are the biggest artists in each of them? What movies are playing at the theaters? Are particular genres (fantasy, horror, gross-out, superhero, etc.) particularly salient in the movies of the time? What TV shows are big? What franchises appeal to children (the equivalent of today's Barney, Power Rangers and Dora the Explorer)? What are the biggest video game franchises? Do Nintendo, Sega, PlayStation, etc. still dominate the video game industry? Who controls the production of pop culture? Are there giant franchises and bands that are huge, or are these things produced at a more grass-roots level (e.g. through YouTube) and spread virally? What are the hot cellphone games? What novels and novelists are popular? What are kids reading? Is virtual reality popular? What hobbies (skateboarding, poker, marbles, etc.) are popular? Are there any new hobbies (such as hoverboarding)? What Internet memes are popular? What are the faddish foods that have become newly popular? Is being healthy and physically fit in, or are people couch potatoes?

Religion and spirituality. Do most people believe in life after death? In angels? In miracles? What percentage of the world population, and of the nation in which the story is set, identify as Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Orthoeox Christian, Mormon, Utilitarian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Baha'i, Babist, Zoroastrian, Shinto, Confucian? How many Pagans (both tribal and Neo-pagan) are there? Do people find alternative religions like Rastafarianism, ECKANKAR, Hare [private], Scientology and LaVeyan Satanism absorbing? What percentage of the population believes in God or gods/goddesses? How common are deists, agnostics, ignostics and atheists? Have people decided that with ethics and kindness, they don't need religion? What cults are there? Any massive cult suicides like Jonestown, Waco or Heaven's Gate? How about cargo cults? How powerful is the influence of religion over politics and norms across the world? What new religious movements have come about – are there any religions we don't have around today? Is it more commonn to be spiritual without being religious? Has a complete secularism taken over the West? How many Westerners believe in astrology? What age groups are burning for God the most and which are more science-oriented? Are Protestants most likely to be evangelical (Baptist, Pentecostal, Church of Christ Disciples), mainline (Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran) or traditional (Quaker, Amish, Hutterite)? Do most countries have separation of chorch and state? Is it common for a person to identify with a religion without ever going to church/temple (except perhaps on such holidays as Easter)? Who is the pope?

Sociological trends. What are the crime rates (in general, and for murders, rapes, child molestation, abductions, arsons, vandalism, burglary, auto theft, store robbery, identity fraud)? Is drinking and use of other drugs higher or lower than in 2014? What recreational drugs have become newly popular? What is the teen pregnancy rate? What age groups have the highest crime rate? Are hate crimes still eminent? What percentage of new children are born out of wedlock?

Sports. Are the Olympics still being run every fourth winter and every fourth summer? Who are the most iconic athletes? What ethnic groups are currently entering baseball? How many women are in the wide world of sports? Have any new spectator sports been invented? What new extreme sports have been created? What are the most popular spectator sports? Do the NBA, NFL, etc. still exist, and if not, what has replaced them (a global league, perhaps)? Have any records held today been broken (e.g. home runs by one athlete in one season)? Is drug use among athletes still a hot issue?

Technology. What new innovations have been invented in communications? In transportation? In war? In medicine? In entertainment? In space exploration? In genetics? In forensics and CSI? In the market and purchases? How long does it take people to get from one place to another? Can new species be engineered? Uplifted? Has an apocalypse destroyed the civilization we know and reduced technology to a primitive state? Has time travel to the past been perfected? How advanced are robots? Have we reached the Singularity yet? How many bytes can a computer hold? Is the job market taken over by AI's? Does technology allow us to speed growing up in children? Have we unlocked the secret to expand the human lifespan (to, say, 150 years)? Have we discovered how to reverse death? What are the big Internet sites (like Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, etc.)?

World powers. Is America still on top of the world? What countries are major players? Is there an axis of one ideology versus an axis of an opposing ideology? Have any second-world countries become first-world countries? Have any third-world countries become second-world or first-world? What are the most populous countries? What wars are going on between two (or among more than two) countries? Does the UN still exist? How globalized is the world? Has one-world government been achieved? Are any extraterrestrial planets or colonies now players? Has there been an apocalypse that set civilization back to the Stone Age (or at least Bronze Age)?

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