The long-awaited video game Cyberpunk 2077 was released as an unfinished product with a number of technical flaws, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most important cultural phenomena in recent years. And while some players are demanding refunds and the developers are rushing to patch it, I suggest we take a look at the hugely rich video game environment.
The picture is not very beautiful – this world is a really centralized hell. In the fictional world of Cyberpunk 2077, blockchain technology either never existed or was never massively implemented. Full decentralization has never been achieved in this world and the results are terrifying.
The world of cyberpunk 2077
The world of Cyberpunk 2077 is one that is run by corporations. This is the kingdom of aggressive capitalism at its worst – the kind that North Korea and the Soviet Union could terrify their citizens.
Here, companies are not just large companies that offer services and products to society. Rather, companies in this world are powerful, dark beings who strive for infinite power. These companies control all manufacturing, agricultural, media, computer and medical services in the world and act not just as corporations but literally as sovereign nation-states.
Small and medium-sized companies in the world act above the law and try to cover up the traces. They do not hesitate to engage in practices such as extortion, extortion, bribery, espionage, or the physical elimination of those who stand in their way.
Big companies in the world are the law. They set up the world governments and issue orders to their own trained puppet politicians.
Night City, the city where the game takes place, is an independent city-state on United States territory that is wholly controlled by the giant Arasaka Corporation. The mayor and city council are elected by company officials, and the city police are mostly made up of what are known as the “company police” – highly paid special units that keep their company leaders loyal to death. Companies, not the government, have a monopoly of force here.
Night City’s corporate business hub is a state-of-the-art metropolis, a sparkling city of the future with lavish skyscrapers that house corporate offices. In such areas, security is closely monitored by corporate police, and only a few – corporate employees – can work and live there. In addition, company employees and their families have access to a safe, prosperous suburb that is also under company protection.
In contrast, poor areas of the city are full of violence and crime. These districts are home to the poor and homeless, filled with blocks of ugly skyscrapers and abandoned factories painted with graffiti.
Different clans rule here: the Triads, the Yakuza and others. The corporate police don’t even investigate these parts of town. These districts are monitored by the normal state police, which are incomparably worse equipped and motivated than the corporate police. These cops are always ready to look the other way when the case calls for it. In addition, the mafia itself often works for the companies and protects the company’s interests in these areas.
This dark depiction of the city of the future is as far removed as possible from the utopian smart city.
Environmentally friendly companies?
To say that Cyberpunk 2077 companies care little about the environment is saying nothing. Not only are they irresponsible for the environment, dumping waste into rivers and polluting the atmosphere – as large companies regularly do in our time – no, they have gone much further.
When at some point the two companies were unable to resolve business problems in typical legal or semi-legal ways, they began to openly use military warfare against one another. This is how the corporate wars began. In the world of Cyberpunk 2077, corporate armed conflict has become a common business practice.
The companies waged destructive wars with the use of nuclear weapons directly on the territory of habitable areas. This resulted in enormous casualties among the civilian population as well as radioactive contamination of the territory. Thanks to the Corporate Wars, huge areas of the United States have been turned into lifeless radioactive deserts. Outside of Night City, the US territory is generally similar to the Mad Max movie. This is a radioactive wasteland filled with dead settlements, ravaged by motorcycle gangs of criminals and nomads.
Inequality and the horrors of over-centralization
The cyberpunk genre emerged in the United States in the 1980s in response to the development of computer technology and the society of late capitalism, in which large transnational corporations played a major role.
The closed hierarchical structure of companies, their excessive centralization, the lack of transparency of their activities and the emergence of huge monopolies led to an unequal distribution of wealth and benefits. Large conglomerates that focus primarily on making profits could often afford to act solely in their own interests, not in society.
At worst, they created accumulated wealth, but not wealth. Its beneficiaries were a narrow circle of top managers and major shareholders, while the majority of the population only lost to high prices for inferior products made by monopolies and environmental damage from collateral.
The combination of high-end technologies with great social inequality is a classic trademark of the entire cyberpunk genre. This has been classically described by authors such as William Gibson and Philip K. Dick. It has also been embodied in classic cyberpunk films like Blade Runner, Johnny Mnemonic, and Robocop.
In the fictional world of the future, there are many technological possibilities for improving and extending human life – for example cybernetic implants or the possibility of uploading one’s own consciousness into the network. However, these benefits are unevenly distributed. The rich can afford to live forever. On the other hand, the poor are forced to lead miserable lives in impoverished, polluted areas and die at a young age, either from diseases associated with adverse environmental conditions or from street crime. The universal health system that could thrive in the real world using blockchain technology is in a terribly deplorable state.
Are we really going this way?
The current situation
Many experts predicted that with the development of the Internet and information technology in the early 1990s, huge, centralized, monopolistic corporations would be a thing of the past.
First, young tech startups emerged that competed with traditional companies.
Second, thanks to the Internet, customers have free access to information about all available companies and products. Now any small business with its own website could compete with a huge conglomerate that spends hundreds of millions of dollars on traditional advertising.
After all, every person in every country in the world with access to the Internet could now make the services of their intellectual work available to the global market on an equal footing. This could lead to a more even distribution of wealth around the world, as well as the emergence of a large number of local businesses in developing countries.
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However, not everything went so smoothly. We have watched small tech startups turn into giant monopoly companies themselves. These new companies were founded on the same rigid, centralized hierarchical principles as the megacorporations of the past.
Today, these “new technological startups” have become the so-called Big Tech that controls most of the world’s data and media. And these companies are not just market monopoly – as we can see, Big Tech now considers it possible and advisable to interfere in the democratic processes of the economically developed countries.
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Big Tech is known for censoring information that it does not deem appropriate or politically correct. You can even see a specific political agenda in Google search results that lowers the visibility of certain materials but promotes it to others. YouTube and other companies behave similarly.
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Of course, it takes a lot of imagination to get to the heart of the current situation and imagine that Twitter and Facebook could start a nuclear war in the near future, for example to take control of the online advertising market, as is the case in the US could be world of cyberpunk 2077. And yet the trend is obvious.
Blockchain as a solution
In their 2016 book Blockchain Revolution, Alex and Don Tapscott describe how blockchain can be used to decentralize large companies. In her opinion, blockchain technology should help rethink the essence of how businesses work and make them much more transparent. A single, independent and reliable information booklet could help create a new form of administration as opposed to the current system of rigid hierarchies.
When every action by managers is displayed in a ledger that is independent and not controlled by a close group of people, the temptation to conduct dubious transactions and cheat with accounting data is much less. Access to the register can be granted to all interested groups – above all the company and the supervisory authorities, but also company employees.
It will no longer be possible to dump litter into the river or avoid a high tax by bribing an officer with impunity. All of these actions will be instantly displayed in the blockchain’s ledger and made available to the general public, including bloggers, journalists, and prosecutors.
The use of blockchain enables the creation of a new, transparent, open corporate structure in contrast to the currently rigid hierarchies of companies. With the help of blockchain, you can create a system that appropriately rewards employees for actions that both benefit society and generate profit for the company. In this way, social responsibility will be spread across a large number of people and be transparent to society – which should reduce the level of corruption, which is usually based on illegal acts by individuals.
The use of blockchain technically enables the creation of more responsible, transparent business structures – which in turn can save us from the centralized hell shown in Cyberpunk 2077 and similar works.
But will business leaders agree to move to these new, transparent business practices? And who could initiate the evolutionary process?
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed here are the sole rights of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Bert Kozma is author and associate editor at Cryptogeek.info. Previously, he was a sales and marketing professional and has been a cryptocurrency and financial markets writer for a decade. He holds a bachelor’s degree in International Business from Saimaa University of Applied Sciences.