Bilal Akil

How’d You Get Here?


The chain of record breaking natural disasters between 2022-2026 finally had international bodies come together and act. The severity of the damage both to society and the planet as a whole had said bodies outlaw non-renewable and pollutant energy sources, and those dealing with them entirely.

And so the proliferation of renewable energy had truly begun. International investment into wind, solar and hydro energy sources resulted in excellent manufacturing efficiency and so renewable energy supplies quickly grew by some orders of magnitude.

Also at that time, still in the late 2020s, development in artificial intelligence was reaching critical mass. Improvements in technology and teaching made it highly accessible to organisations small and large - as the computational power it depended on was becoming exceptionally cheap with thanks to the aforementioned developments in renewable energy. Startups were solving many societal problem, small and large, with their help, and so the age of AI had began.

That continued for a long time - a rare moment of apparent bliss for humanity: the planet was being respected, the people were as united as ever, and technology was truly being used for the benefit of all. Life was being digitised. The largest companies in the world were all cloud computing providers, and then the energy companies that supplied them.

By 2074, poverty, hunger and cancer were practically eliminated, and the world population was healthier than ever. Advancements in medical AI effectively reversed all of the damage from the events of 2022-2026, in terms of the lost biodiversity and its impacts to pharmaceuticals. This situation effectively dismantled environmental conservation efforts, as the apparent benefits of biodiversity were disappearing. Priority fell to ensuring a balanced weather system, such to avoid the events of the past (which humanity had a much better understanding of at this point), and otherwise to support further development of technology and their requisite energy sources - a decision which those in power agreed was in the best interest of humanity, considering all the benefits that technology was yielding.

By 2125, society’s largest problem was organised crime. Digital crime was the only form of crime that really remained, but with the state of AI as it was (and considering that the criminal organisations also had access to such power), it was practically impossible to fight, and was damaging systems that affected the lives of billions. The planet’s ruling body therefore decided a form of mass surveillance was necessary, and that form would be a rollout of embedded chips into all newborn children’s brains. Indeed an intrusive and long-term strategy, but it presented the following benefits:

  1. As a surveillance tool under centralised control, and in a physical place so difficult to interact with (which becomes increasingly dangerous as the age of the individual grows - effectively fatal to try and tamper with even before their teens), it became practically impossible to disconnect from.
  2. It had been found possible to detect many remaining medical problems early enough to deliver effective treatment with such technology in place.
  3. There was still much to learn about the human brain, and a direct feed of billions of brain’s activity (paired with surveillance data) would serve as perfect training data.

The plan went ahead, pushing the technical limits of AI much further, as was required to attempt to work with the new masses of data that were being fed into the system.

By 2175, aside from the world’s many mega-cities, very little land was inhabited - the space was needed for energy generators and data centres. At that point: half of the world’s population were equipped with brain chips; about 40% of all of the world’s coastlines were being utilised to store kinetic energy from waves; and the expanses of data centres and solar and wind farms were significantly more visible than bare or inhabited land from space.

In 2200, however, it was observed that kinetic energy from global winds were down 5% compared to 2100 - a concerning metric for a society so dependent on wind for energy. This led to a renewed, well-funded series of investigations on the long-term impact that the trio of renewable energy sources had, and may have on the planet. Global temperatures had fallen, however this was assumed to be due to the recovery of ozone and other environmental systems following the many pollution-free years that had passed since the last wave of disasters. New research showed, however, that that could’ve been due to the world’s solar panels preventing a significant enough amount of sunlight from reaching the ground and warming it. Waves were also 3% weaker as a whole thanks to the hydro stations along the coastlines. The research suggested the situation would continue to decline in a linear fashion (i.e. at a similar rate per 100 years if energy usage didn’t change), and so global energy usage would need to begin declining to prevent serious environmental issues.

Although the ruling bodies had become more attentive to the situation, they were not prepared for how quickly it would deteriorate. By 2205, kinetic energy from global winds was down 7% compared to 2100. The prediction that degradation would be linear was clearly false - the situation was becoming exponentially worse. All three energy sources were exhibiting this behaviour, but most worrying was the cooling of the planet.

By 2210, the situation was becoming dire. The past few years’ attempts at reducing energy consumption were not showing signs of preventing the systems’ degradation. It was concluded that unless extremely drastic action was taken, the world’s temperatures would begin dropping to life-threatening lows within a matter of a decades. And so drastic action was taken: the AI components of the brain chips (those used to detect medical problems and study the human brain - the world’s largest consumer of energy) were disabled. Furthermore, all solar panels were being immediately decommissioned. The rush was such that the world’s solar panels were simply being dumped into the ocean in an attempt to free up as much of the planet’s surface area as possible.

Although that had helped deal with the cooling problem, it seemed that a butterfly effect, possibly spanning two centuries in build-up, was well in motion. By 2212, energy from global winds were down 14% compared to 2100. Commercial use of AI was banned, unless approved for specifically providing life-saving services. Large portions of the world were becoming derelict, as data centres were being abandoned and wind farms flattened. Research into energy-free food generation had begun.

It was no use however. By 2214, energy from global winds were down 26% compared to 2100, and waves down 21%. Some mega-cities had begun descending into chaos as their energy sources dwindled and quality of life had started suffering, which brought rise to traditional forms of crime. Political tensions regarding the re-routing of energy to more “critical” systems and cities were reigniting the tensions of old. Brain chips were finally decommissioned in those cities, although digital crime continued to flourish in the new found chaos - ignoring the energy problems they were contributing to.

There was no time for war and crime though. By 2215, research was no longer being conducted into the kinetic energy state of the winds and waves, as it was deemed an inappropriate use of energy. Continental blackouts had begun to occur, as in some regions there was not enough energy available to continue maintaining the energy supplies themselves. And so the technological fallout had begun. Hunger had immediately struck many mega-cities, as their industrial farms ran out of power. The land was so damaged that traditional farming was near impossible close to any inhabited area, and that was reflected in the death toll. The energy-free food generation research yielded little results in such a short time, when considering the needs of the world’s mega-cities.

One mega-city, however, managed to shelter itself from most of this strife: Horan, where the ruling body was headquartered. Justifying its own importance over the other cities, it effectively re-routed and kept in service enough energy, and put enough restrictions in place, that its population could continue to survive. Travel was restricted, refuge was refused and crime was met with exile. Horan has become an exclusive, effectively-dictatorship haven.

By 2220, all of the world’s mega-cities, presumably except Horan, were abandoned. We’d estimate that 97% of the world’s population had passed from starvation or disease. The remaining 3% lived far from their cities, and struggled to survive in a mostly infertile land. There’s no longer a need for Horan to deny entry to refugees, as it’s unreachable except by its own exiles.

In 2235, brain chipped scavengers started dying in their sleep. It had never been experienced, but apparently having the brain chip lie dormant and without power for 20 years, leads it to degrade to a state that it would become loose inside the skull and cause life-preventing damage. By 2237, all brain chipped scavengers were dead.

And so here you are, in 2238: a child of a dead brain chipped scavenger, 14 years young. The oldest of us is 22 years, meaning you are in fact far from being a child.