August 21, 2012

400-Word Scenario #5: Revenge of the Real?

Patrick Marren

[In EXACTLY 400 words, your professional scenario consultants give you the following vision of a world in which the "virtual" is consigned to its rightful place as subsidiary to the "actual":]

"Your customized news for August 22, 2032:

"Stocks posted gains yesterday, with the core food, energy, manufacturing, and construction materials businesses leading the way. Tech stocks remained mired in their two-decade slump, with shares of social networking companies particularly stagnant." [SKIP]

"The presidential candidates sparred over job creation, with the Democrat laying out a four-point plan to guarantee livelihood to millions of un- and under-employed Americans, and the Republican countering with a more ambitious six-point program, including tax breaks and incentives for businesses that employ the unemployed." [SKIP]

"People Magazine has a 'Where Are They Now?' article about the founder of Facebook - remember them? - and former billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg. He's retreated to a small farm in Vermont where he remains with his wife and several dozen cats. The complete collapse of the social network bubble in the mid-2010s left Zuckerberg and many other e-entrepreneurs suddenly merely very affluent, as opposed to monstrously wealthy. [HIT LINK]

"The collapse of the social network bubble had some unexpected impacts. For example, the New York debutante scene, which had been gradually dying out, had seen a brief, spectacular renaissance, as the daughters and sons of the suddenly super-wealthy class created by the confluence of technology wealth and Wall Street super-affluence, took over the place formerly reserved for old money. 'It was bad enough when those jumped-up Irish Kennedys barged into our lives,' said one 90-ish matron, smoldering with still-fresh resentment. 'Then we had these...CALIFORNIANS...invading. Who were they, anyway? I was very happy to see them go.'" [MORE]

"As we know now, the vision of a world economy dominated by relatively tiny (Facebook's workforce 20 years ago was 3,539) but hugely valuable (its market capitalization was $42 billion) firms was utterly unsustainable, both in terms of the firms' business models and on the broader societal level. Entry barriers to "new Facebooks" proved less daunting than most had thought; personal privacy blew up as an issue; and most of all, an economy that provided 3500 jobs for every $42 billion in capitalization was one that could not feed and house and clothe its population. When it came, comeuppance was swift, and nowadays it is utterly unthinkable that a presidential administration or Congress should have any other priority than the maximization of the number and security of middle class jobs in the United States.

"This, of course, leaves far less money for Manhattan debutante balls..."