We knew things had to change. Watching or reading the news began to feel more and more like a newsreel from some dystopian movie. The 2020s were the first time the future really started to feel like the future, but not the one we signed up for. There was news of another fire here, unprecedented temperatures there and the five headlines of ‘storm of a lifetime’ in as many years…but the problem felt too big to even think about, nevermind shift in any real-world kind of way. Human activity was now a force on the planet with effects commensurate to geological forces, but we don’t act in geological time scales. The multitude of consequences of our planetary fuckery, from the perspective of the planet, were happening in a nanosecond.
How do we stop doing something we never really knew we were doing and certainly didn’t intend to do in the first place? Meanwhile, the boring quotidian crap each of us, as individuals, needs to contend with to maintain our lives, still needed doing. Bills still needed to be paid and the daily demands of being in a body carried on. So how did we do it? Well, there definitely was no silver bullet solution available. Solutions happened across many platforms.
One solution came from the recognition that humans can be quite easily manipulated, often without their ever knowing it. Most of us were giving up huge amounts of personal data, either explicitly and transparently in the case of China or more surreptitiously in the US and Europe (though in Europe, GDPR complicated things a little). Globally, we had opened ourselves, our buying tendencies, our political tendencies to being influenced via the screens we stared at on a daily basis. The potential of this beyond selling us the next gadget became clear in 2016 as the US election went the way it did.
A few who were committed to shifting behaviour away from toxic individualism and consumption were able to tweak the algorithms enough to help swaths of green, left politicians into power, globally. Once that happened, we started to realize the solutions were not as impossible as they had been presented. We already had seen behaviour change radically due to the pandemics of 2020 and 2025 and though these were tragic in so many ways, we did come to understand how much we could change: that radical change wasn’t impossible. And within the newly socialized tech companies it became clear that rather than selling everyone crap they didn’t need, they could sell them new habits, habits that might start to reverse some of the climate crunching we seem to have been so deeply committed to over the last 50 to 100 years.