The world population has been relatively stable for a couple hundred years, if you only count homo sapiens sapiens. It’s quintupled if you also count the uplifts and sentient infolife. The world economy has never been doing better, if you only count the wealthy. By any other metric, it’s a Category V shitstorm. The poor are poorer than ever before, and the rich are comically rich. Those who have found employment are likely part of a megacorp or have weaseled their way into the seedy underbelly of society. Never before has “high tech, low life” been so horrifically realized.
The year: who gives a damn. The place: Johannesburg, South Africa. The slums are as massive as the skyline, and the gap between rich and poor couldn’t be more perfectly symbolized. The major players above ground are the Dangote Group, Ecobank, and the South African government (at a distant third). The major players below ground are the Mungiki, Anini, and Harardhere Group (a criminal org originating from Somalian pirates).
Humans are born screaming and naked, just like god intended. Where we change that comes shortly thereafter – or, for the right price, before. Genetic engineering is commonplace and encouraged. Usually you just get some tweaks, not too far beyond baseline, but South Africa is also one of the largest testing grounds for cybernetic implants, so the typical tweaks for Johannesburg citizens often include biocompatibility for Dangote group cybernetics.
Uplifts are starting to pop up, totalling about 1 million persons. The laws regarding uplifts are very clear everywhere: anywhere that has a good human rights record tends to plug uplifts into that system, and places like South Africa use neo-elephants as hyperintelligent slave labor. Infolife is at a very similar place: AGIs have started to pop up, but unlike uplifts, they are seen as software, and the same laws apply to them as to non-sentient infolife. Most rich people have personal muses, small AIs that help them with IT tasks, and most poor people have no access to computers outside of their ectos, which are terminals much like the smartphones of yesteryear.
Nanofabrication and Robotics has made most labor unnecessary. Some people are freed by this, most are oppressed. The underclass is global, except for some 1st-world countries that employ a basic income scheme. It has destroyed the Chinese middle class, and the American middle class. Goods are cheaper than ever before, and profit margins have never been wider.
Programmable Matter has been mainstream for about 50 years, now, but the field is still seeing huge breakthroughs. It’s present in almost every product, from children’s toys to high-tech hotels that use it to alter the entire room to suit their guests.
Terrorism never really ended. The Muslim population has continued to expand, and the radical segments came with it. After the Middle East was unified under the new caliphate, they calmed down somewhat, but the changing times changed faster than their doctrines could keep up with, so now Muslims find themselves surrounded with threats to their beliefs. It’s not just Muslims acting as terrorists, now, and a lot of the Muslim groups identify with the larger movement of anarcho-primitivism. These people believe that human progress has gone too far, and they have already attacked large cities. They will likely strike again in the near future.
Space travel has been commercially available for a long time. Megacorps are starting to build their own habitats. Autonomists have started to build a few habs, now. The Space Elevators make this task far easier than it would have been at the beginning of the century, let alone in the 2000s. Anarcho-primitivists have been rumoured to be setting up in the Jovian system, with their own land, so maybe their reign of terror is coming to a close.