Police Decontamination team in Bozhou, China
Living in a Present-day Dystopia with Cyberpunk Tones
What a time to be alive. No literally, people around the world are dying from COVID-19, so if we are alive right now, we are lucky. Although honestly, life is a gift, so any day we are alive should be counted as lucky.
But something truly remarkable is happening right now. All around the world, we are experiencing a collective feeling and thought process.
2.6 billion (now 3.9 billion) humans are in isolation right now, representing 1/3 of humanity (it is now half of humanity). Think about that. Almost one third of humanity, provided they have the resources, are coming together through the internet, online virtual classrooms and meetings while practicing isolation.
A New Era of Confinement from COVID-19
Welcome to the new era. Of Confinement, social distancing, online communities, and virtual classrooms and meetings. In this new, dare I say, dystopian Cyberpunk world, we have drones decontaminating empty streets.
Drone in UAE decontaminating the streets (Reddit)
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
As people stay at home, and simply going outside presents a health risk, humanity is finding new and ingenious ways to get work done in safe ways. Like using this cyberpunk-looking UV machine to speed-decontaminate hospital rooms .
Returning to a New Normal
In China, where the Coronavirus is getting more under control as the number of cases levels off and drops, workers are returning to work under a new “normal”–with distancing measures in place, like this picture a local Chinese plant shows.
Drones have already been, I would say, cyberpunk enough–it’s a relatively new trend, but something that has been growing a lot already in 2019. They can do cool things like debris removal on power lines with flamethrowers, or shoot fireworks at annoyingly loud neighbors.
Probably one of the coolest jobs ever.
What can’t they do?
But now with the Coronavirus, drones are a cool, futuristic, yet practical way to get work done remotely. Like walking your dog! Because dogs are immune to Coronavirus, so why not walk them with your drone?
This pup in Cyprus seems to enjoy the idea.
It’s so surreal
The entire world is going into lockdown, and many might think this new, different, crazy world of confinement feels more like a dream than reality. In fact, it’s even been shown as a dream before, like in that scene at the beginning of Vanilla Sky where Tom Cruise finds himself in downtown Times Square, except all the streets everywhere is completely deserted, before he wakes up and realizes he was just dreaming. But now that wouldn’t seem like such a far-fetched dream, now, would it? Who else has ever in their lifetime experienced anything like this before?
It’s a world where seeing images like this isn’t so odd or uncommon anymore. Which, for cyberpunk fans, is kinda cool, no?
Eerie Emptiness thanks to COVID-19
All of a sudden, big usually-busy public squares are completely empty of humans. Mother nature is reclaiming its rightful claim on the world. Just look at the beautiful, eerily desolate pictures around the world from this Atlantic article:
The Brooklyn Bridge
A Mall in Richmond, California
Rue de Rivoli in Paris
London’s Eye from Westminster Bridge
The entirety of humanity has had to adapt due to the Coronavirus, as everything moves online. One of the starkest examples of this are the schools and universities around the world who have had to suddenly switch to online and virtual classes. Above is a science teacher live-streaming to her students using her phone and a tripod.
One online platform that has seen a huge growth in users has been the online meeting software zoom. Millions of people around the world are now using this platform for school or work, and are adjusting to their new virtual reality. I personally have started using this for work as well myself.
One cool thing I learned about Zoom is that for video, you can add a virtual background including a video of a beach by the sea with palm trees.
Zoom virtual background
Just the Beginning of Virtual
This led me to think about Deepfakes, and what would happen if people started working online constantly using deepfakes. If that were the case, someone could actively mask their identity or pretend they were continuously someone else. Pretty Cyberpunk, no?
What if we deepfakes were used with Zoom? Source: dreadcentral.com
A New Normal with Masks Protecting from Coronavirus
As different regulations are passed, everyday people wearing masks is quickly becoming the norm. For some cultures like in Japan or China, masks might have been already somewhat ubiquitous, but to see them in places like New York City or Paris is incredibly new and surreal.
King Cross Station
The Effect of COVID-19 on the Cyberpunk Genre
COVID-19 has affected virtually every single industry there is because of how incredibly global its effect is. The Cyberpunk genre is no different, and has had both its pros and cons as a result of the virus.
Recognizing the Negative of Coronavirus on Cyberpunk
Let’s start with the negative first, before going with the positive. As the saying goes, you gotta take the bad with the good.
Juan Gimenez dies from COVID-19 complications
One sad result was the death of Juan Gimenez, an acclaimed comic book artist who happened to draw one of my favorite, and maybe the most iconic, illustration of Case and Molly Millions from the Cyberpunk classic Neuromancer. Juan, you will be sorely missed. May you rest in peace.
Matrix 4 delayed
Another unfortunate result of COVID-19 is the delays of major Hollywood productions, including in particular Matrix 4. Variety has reported that production of Matrix 4 may have to be delayed until at least mid-may. This may affect the release date of May 21st, 2021, but since it’s far out enough, it may be possible that it won’t be pushed back too much. John Wick 4 will also probably be delayed, so we’ll see if Keanu Reeves day will still be a thing, but as I mentioned before, I doubt both will end up releasing on the same day.
Seeing the Positive from Cyberpunk during COVID-19
One positive bit of news, however, is how communities are giving back and providing help. Two major companies giving back are CD Projekt Red and Tesla.
CD Projekt Red gives back
CD Projekt Red, which is of course the major Video Game Production company behind the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, agreed to donate $950,000 to help fight the disease. “In these hard times, every help counts…We would also like to thank the entire medical service and everyone involved in the fight against the virus. Risking your own health, you fight for ours every day – your hard work is our inspiration.”
Tesla promises ventilators
Tesla is doing its part by doing its best to start cranking out desperately-needed ventilators. Elon Musk announced last week that Tesla’s New York Gigafactory would be re-opening to start producing these ventilators as soon as possible.
It looks like for the next couple months, COVID-19 is here to stay. How will the world look post-coronavirus? Will it spur the entire world to becoming more virtual, more online, and using more drones? Is this a jump forward towards a Cyberpunk future? I certainly think so, or at least, it will move things along more quickly. Finally, what do you think about coronavirus and COVID-19? Are there any more connections between Cyberpunk and the Coronavirus that I didn’t mention? Make sure to let me know in the comments below.