*Update from May 2020: sorry for the clickbaity headline. I was trying to make it accessible. I still want to be accessible, but I’m past the clickbaity phase.
2017 was a year of stories. Every week, it seemed, carried a new political scandal, and 2018 doesn’t seem on track to do much better. The 24 hour news cycle can be overbearing at times, to say the least, and 2017 brought that overflow of information to new heights.
If you’re faith in humanity was lowered in 2017, don’t worry. This will take it even lower:
#1: Amazon Stuff
We’re not going to be unfair and give Amazon two spots on this list–they’ll be getting plenty of coverage here anyway. We do have two main things we’ll talk about here. The first:
The title says it all. The crazy thing is, in the last few months Amazon’s stock has surged even more–and now Bezos is valued at closer to $120 billion as of February 2018.
For those who don’t know, basically Amazon announced a little while ago that they are searching for a city to host a second headquarters (the first being in Seattle).
You can dig around for more articles, because a lot of people are talking about it. This opinion piece from Current Affairs explains it pretty well. Here are some excerpts from the Seattle Times list we linked to in heading:
“Chicago has offered to let Amazon pocket $1.32 billion in income taxes paid by its own workers. This is truly perverse. Called a personal income-tax diversion, the workers must still pay the full taxes, but instead of the state getting the money to use for schools, roads or whatever, Amazon would get to keep it all instead.”
“But the most far-reaching offer is from Fresno, California. That city of half a million isn’t offering any tax breaks. Instead it has a novel plan to give Amazon special authority over how the company’s taxes are spent.”
Some updates have happened since 2017 of course–now they’ve narrowed it down to a list of 20 cities (a list that includes our nation’s capitol…woohoo!).
#2: Erik Prince and his proposals to the white house
Many don’t know that Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater (which is the largest private army and is now named Academi) is also the brother of our current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Think of it this way: she wants to privatize education, and he wants to privatize the military.
His most outlandish proposal though, has been to give Trump a private spy ring to “counter deep state enemies.” This is absolutely horrifying. Now let me be clear–this deep state stuff isn’t a right wing conspiracy. Of course there’s a deep state. And yes, elements of them almost certainly do not like Trump, who they see as an outsider to their establishment. That doesn’t make the Trump administration good though, and giving this white house a bunch of mercenary spies that operate around the world doesn’t sound too great. In fact, this proposal is absolutely terrifying–the American intelligence apparatus already has so little oversight, and having a mercenary spy network that answers only to the president and Mike Pompeo is practically fascist. This is a step toward cyberpunk’s corporate fascist future for sure.
#3: Saudi Arabia becoming the first nation to grant a robot citizenship
The actual granting of citizenship to a robot isn’t too bad in my opinion. Cyberpunk, futuristic, but not inherently wrong (though I can certainly see the fear some may have).
What makes this dystopic is the fact that Saudi Arabia granted a female robot citizenship. At the same time that half its population are practically sub-citizens, and at the same time that it starves the entire nation of Yemen.
#4: São Paulo’s Mayor’s Allimento Program
In October 2017, São Paulo’s mayor was pushing for a program called Allimento…basically, the idea was to feed the poor recycled food pellets. If it doesn’t sound so bad…look at it.
C’mon. The dystopian aesthetic is unreal…this is as cyberpunk as it gets. You can watch an official promotional video on YouTube here. It doesn’t look much better in motion.
#5: Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘Tour’ of Puerto Rico
I’m sure you’ve heard of this. Rest assured, there have been plenty of other horrifying cyberpunk stories from 2017, but the stark image of one of our Big Tech overlords touring around a destroyed San Juan…virtually…was beyond words.
I know I’m over-emphasizing that it’s awful. It’s also very funny, in a twisted way.
Honorary Mention: Scott Walker agreeing to let Foxconn build a factory in Wisconsin
Once upon a time, we were sad about the de-industrialization of the United States. Fear not, faithful workers! Scott Walker approved a $3 billion deal in September of 2017 to let Foxconn, the manufacturing giant that has anti-suicide nets around its factories in China, open a factory in Wisconsin.
If you don’t remember, a few years back some folks were angry about their iPhones being made by sweatshop workers. More specifically, people were alarmed by a series of suicides among the workers. Foxconn has had some bad press lately because some of their ungrateful workers committed suicide–hence Foxconn’s use of nets outside some of their factories in Shenzhen, so if a worker tries to commit suicide, they’ll be saved by the company! And you know, once upon a time the Economist said the suicide rate of Foxconn workers was lower than the suicide rates of China or the United States–so really, it’s not that bad!