Green Zone, Red Zone

This post will be stream of consciousness style.

I’m worried that existing trends around income inequality are only going to accelerate, and that this time around it’s going to become quite acute, with tangible consequences.

The author of Capital in the 21st Century made the fascinating observation that income inequality has mostly always been high, and that the only time this is corrected is through catastrophes, such as war. But basically inequality is ever-present and rarely gets rest. That might not be the exact point, but that’s what I remember.

The last big equalizer was World War II, which brought the classes together in a major way. I think AI, automation, and robots are going to add a force multiplier to the pace of separation we are are about to experience.

As I’ve written about in many other posts, people are largely becoming unemployable, and the numbers and percentages of this group are growing rapidly. So what we’re heading towards is a massive and stark separation between those in perpetual struggle and those who live like techno-gods, enjoying the best food, the best entertainment, travel, leisure, etc.

I’m concerned about the role of media on this harsh separation. I’m worried that we could be heading into French Revolution territory due to the media being able to expose, magnify, and add narrative to the difference between those at the top and everyone else.

Before it was possible for a tiny percentage of people to rule over the rest. Tens of thousands of elites ruling millions of suffering.

But I’m not sure our new media types will allow this.

Physical separation

The reason I think it’ll become so dire is due to the physical lines that will start appearing in society. It’s starting already, actually.

Certain inner cities will become home for Alphas alone—the top 5% of the population who can afford to live, work, and play there. And inside that city will be the newest condos, high-end malls, farmers markets, custom/one-off shops of all kinds, and lots of liberalish language and messaging—all about inclusion, you see.

But the people making it all possible, i.e., cleaning the floors, serving the food, washing the cars, etc.,—they’ll all live 30-60 minutes outside of town. They’ll spend inhuman amounts of time commuting to jobs that barely pay any money and that are under constant danger of being replaced by automation and robots.

Roving through the inner city circle will be tons of automated security. Cameras of course. But autonomous security vehicles. Drones. Microphones. Satellites. The whole cocktail. The place will be extraordinarily safe. A veritable playground for the top 5-10%.

And if a Beta wonders in after hours, or lingers too long after their shift, the security forces will tag them as suspicious. People will wonder why they’re still here. Why are they sitting in the chairs like patrons instead of serving someone?

Vehicles, people, groups—they’ll all be tagged as native or external, in order to determine the necessary level of scrutiny.

It’ll lower crime of course, because the Alphas will not only be unlikely to commit crime anyway, but they’ll also know it’s pointless to try to get away with anything. Same with visiting Betas; they’ll know it’s very hard to do something and get away with it. And if they’re working there they won’t want to risk losing their “amazing” job.

The media will highlight this

So we’ll have green zones and red zones.

Green zones are where the rich live and play. They’re heavily surveilled areas. Extremely clean. Brand new everything. Sterile perhaps, but there will also be some genuine relaxation as people roll around in their well-earned success. Congrats on those genetics and family and education choices—you picked them well.

Anyway.

The green zone will be highly secure. Safe. Happy. Vibrant.

And there will be plenty of social media streaming from these places. There will be “media” channels showing just how much fun they’re having on a regular basis. The party scene. The beautiful people. The good times.

Meanwhile, in the other 90% of the world, they sit in shit housing. With little insurance. Maybe not working, or maybe working three jobs with no benefits and unlivable wages.

And they watch.

They see all these happy ten percenters enjoying their autonomous vehicles, EDM clubs, perfect safety, healthy families, etc. And they start to get angry.

The Alphas have to leave the green zones of course. They venture out. They go shopping. They go into the more “real” areas, and tell their friends about it.

Red Zone food is so great! So authentic!

And the Red Zone people see them come in, they see them eat the food, served by other Red Zone people, and then speed off in their new model autonomous cars back to the safety and beauty of the green zone.

400 million people in America. 40 million of them are Alphas, the other 360 million are Betas.

And some of the channels watched most by the Betas start to talk about how it’s not fair. It’s not equal. Their kids aren’t more important than ours. Why are we serving them food and building their houses?

And then it gets said.

Why do we settle for this? How about this? Any Alpha that comes into this part of our town is getting rolled. We see you without enough security and we’re going to take you out.

And it’ll happen.

Alphas won’t be able to move around outside the green zones without significant security, because there will be a number of media-powered regular folk ready to take out their frustrations.

And sometimes they’ll just roll into the green zones and tear some stuff up.

The red zones will be run like third-world countries. The police will be bought off by criminal elements. They won’t protect areas that aren’t paying. They’ll be taking part of whatever they confiscate. It’ll be a sham job, like it is in so many developing countries.

The races will separate. Hatred will rise. They’ll fight amongst each other, even though the pressure is coming from above and outside, not from within. They’ll blame each other for their position, just like the midwest is now.

Hospitals, police, utilities, etc.,—they’ll all be sub-par compared to green zones.

Diversion or destruction

So that’s one thread and option. Basically the classes massively separate and the ability for the Betas to see the Alphas like never before will exacerbate and accelerate French Revolution-style revolt.

Violent conflicts will enhance the separation even more starkly, and this trend will continue as long as the Betas are not occupied.

So it’s possible that the Alphas will devise a system for making the Betas happy in their places.

If you keep them safe, fed, warm and dry, and give them something fun (and fulfilling) to do with their lives, they actually won’t have any reason to care what the Alphas are doing as much.

This will come in the form of gaming. VR and AR gaming.

Game companies will provide massive infrastructures to occupy the entire country’s and world’s masses. And as long as they are able to get into the games, watch the shows, participate in them, they will be ok. Many of the advantages inside the games will be better than what the Alphas have in real life anyway, so there won’t be that much incentive to be angry.

This all hinges on the bottom 90% being provided with sufficient living conditions and the ability to entertain themselves with these games in a safe and sustainable way.

That’s Basic Income, basically. That’s the Alpha class paying for the Beta class to not revolt, essentially.

But gaming will be a bit of a misnomer. It’ll be more like living, but in a game framework, which is more like an alternative life framework.

I think there will be job roles in-game. Security. Police. Military. Some people will be bad guys, some people good guys. Some people will clean and serve and support, just like in real life.

The key is that this will provide them essential meaning, which everyone needs. Alphas will need it too, and maybe even more. Things that come easy don’t make for the underpinnings of a fulfilled life.

Meaning requires struggle. Purpose. Service. And contribution to a greater good.

Some Alphas and Betas will get this through real-world work, but most will get it through alternative reality.

Sustaining this model

So people will be encouraged not to reproduce too much. To be good citizens. To play and find value in the alternative reality, and to avoid questioning the structure that has been set up.

Many Alphas will go on living regular, analog lives and getting value that way. Most Betas will do whatever they have to do to pay for their alternative reality subscription, or whatever perks and mods they want to enhance their experience with.

And many Alphas will do the same.

As time goes on, actually, the Alphas won’t have jobs either. More and more will be taken over by automation, and as this happens a higher and higher percentage of people will live inside the alternative life framework. The government/corporation will pay people to not have kids, and to be good consumer citizens who provide value in-game.

Summary

In short, we kind of have two main options going forward in this soon-to-be hyper-separated class structure.

  1. Give the unemployed and/or restless masses a diversion through virtual/augmented reality, or
  2. Deal with the inevitable revolt from the 90% against the 10%.

There are many variables in play here, and some of them might add options to this list. But I don’t see them.

It’s going to be one or the other (or some combination).

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I do a weekly show called Unsupervised Learning, where I collect the most interesting stories in infosec, technology, and humans, and talk about why they matter. You can subscribe here.

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