Hello again! We are so very pleased with the initial response to the unveiling of Neurocracy, with the premise of browsing a futuristic Wikipedia immediately resonating with people and our nascent Discord community taking its first deep dives into the world of 2049. If you're interested in joining that community and getting early access to Neurocracy, you can do so right here!
In our introductory blog post, we painted the broad strokes of what Neurocracy is and what we hope to achieve with it. In this follow-up post, we'll be taking a closer look at the story world of Neurocracy as it's presented through the various articles available on 2049's version of Wikipedia, which we have dubbed Omnipedia. To do that, let's highlight one of Neurocracy's principal characters: business magnate Xu Shaoyong (with his surname written first in accordance with Chinese naming conventions).
Xu is a principal character for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he is considered to be the most powerful person in the year 2049. Secondly, he and his company are emblematic of three current and developing trends that will intersect in the world of Neurocracy: biosecurity, neurotechnology, and surveillance capitalism. Thirdly and finally, his assassination is the inciting incident of Neurocracy's story and the main mystery you must solve.
Who is Xu Shaoyong?
Establishing a fictional society, especially a sci-fi one, means establishing its vocabulary. There are different ways of embedding this exposition in a story, some clunkier than others, but with Omnipedia as a medium, the story of Neurocracy is essentially told entirely through exposition. Each novel concept specific to the world of 2049, be that a character, organisation, technology, or event, gets its own article on Omnipedia. Xu's article will be one of the very first to be made available, since his life is inextricably linked to many of these concepts and the trends that underlie them.
Initially, most of Omnipedia's internal hyperlinks are limited to hover-only previews that are only a few sentences long, so reading all the way through Xu's article will introduce both the man himself and the vocabulary of Neurocracy. Given its episodic release format, each of these previews has the potential to be expanded into a full article somewhere along the way. The idea is that each article can tell a story of its own while also contributing to an overarching narrative of what has happened, and what is happening, in Neurocracy.
What does Xu Shaoyong represent?
The world of Neurocracy is governed by a techno-totalitarian regime originating in China. This is made possible by Zhupao, a Chinese technology conglomerate (founded by Xu) that has effectively privatised and standardised most all data mining operations under the guise of biosecurity. This high-concept setting is then filtered down to the micro level, with different Omnipedia articles showing the interconnected political, social, cultural, technological, and economic implications of a world where governments suddenly have cheap and streamlined access to all their citizens' data (including their neural states).
Rather than imagining a scenario where artificial intelligence becomes sentient or malevolent in a "man vs. machine" fashion, Neurocracy will extrapolate the impact that technology has on society today. With a running throughline of "data is power," Neurocracy deals with themes of machine learning, data mining, biased algorithms, climate change, the corrosive influence of big tech, China's treatment of minorities and dissent, and the dangers of the proliferation of technology outstripping the development of political and moral expertise.
While near future sci-fi runs a greater risk of being cancelled out as soon as it is written, Neurocracy avoids this pitfall by introducing a fictional pandemic caused by an infection known as Cariappa-Muren disease. The global fallout of this pandemic acts as a "reset button," with references to events between the present day and the spread of the pandemic kept largely vague and non-committal, and the time between the pandemic and the year 2049 used to redress the global balance.
However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will be included in the worldbuilding of Neurocracy because it's frighteningly difficult to ignore (though many will try). Since Cariappa-Muren disease was written as a pandemic that elevates the overlap between the surveillance state and biosecurity to a global level, some of the initial steps of this progression will be attributed to COVID-19 instead. Neurocracy then goes ahead and mixes in consumer-grade neurotechnology for the hell of it.
Why does Xu Shaoyong get murdered?
Neurocracy conveys a linear story across its successive episodes, but that story only exists between the lines of the various Omnipedia articles. That's why Neurocracy is a murder mystery, with you having to figure out who killed Xu Shaoyong and why. It's up to you to dive into the rabbit hole of Omnipedia, explore the intricacies of the world of 2049, find clues, draw connections, and in so doing tell yourself the story of Neurocracy.
Xu's article offers plenty of reasons why someone might want him dead, and each one is an avenue of exploration into the world of 2049. This leads to subplots and lesser mysteries that then play out in their own articles, which appear on Omnipedia and receive updates as additional episodes are released. While you don't play a specific role or character in Neurocracy, you are conducting an investigation. If we inspire you to reach for pen and paper to make notes or fashion a conspiracy board with red string, we'll know we've done our jobs.
Welcome to Playthroughline, a design team composed of writer Joannes Truyens and web developer Matei Stanca. We are working on Neurocracy, an interactive narrative experience that allows you to solve a murder in a near future world by diving into the Wikipedia of that world. Check out our Kickstarter!