The first data storm in July 2030, the one that ended the Old Era and signalled the beginning of the Third Culture, was frightening and unexpected. It started with an enormous shattering sound, like an explosion in a glass factory. Then there was a brief silence: people looked around in a daze, searching for the source of the explosion and its casualties. But before any evidence could be found there was a second, even larger, truly deafening sound, like the sky itself was falling all around us, falling on our heads. It felt crushing, but when it stopped after a few moments we were still there, standing still, shaken but unhurt, alive but irreversibly altered, like soldiers returned from the mind-altering shock of the trenches.
We had trusted too much to the cloud. Everything went into the cloud, just as all our plastic went into the sea. We had overloaded it with our ceaseless selfies, our petty anxieties, and our endless busywork. We forgot our bodies and the world around us: we lived in the dense fog of cloud life. After the first great claps of thunder the rain began: a data rain that lasted forty days and forty nights. People panicked, built makeshift arks (who can blame them?), drifted alone or in groups on seas of data, drifted until the rain finally stopped. But then something miraculous happened: the sun came out. Somehow we were all spared. Despite our sins we were given a second chance to think about what we wanted from life, how we wanted to maintain and explore our own existence. The data rain fed the earth, the earth and seas gave up new data to the heavens, and the whole cycle resumed anew.
The change was unsettling to say the least. But when we saw that we would survive this new reality, we took control of our common future – took control as we had never done before. Rather than wait to see what the next storm would bring, we fed the cycle with new, better data. We stopped working on our selfish, blinkered projects in our lonely silos. The scientists and philosophers, the artists and makers and geeks, all got together, united under the banner of the Third Culture, and set up a new republic. By the next summer we saw the first results: a lush, verdant landscape, data-rich with hope and knowledge, a glimpse of the utopia that only four years later is actually starting to look like an everyday reality. That September the harvest was unlike anything ever seen in human history: vast data-fields sewn with the best we had to give of science and literature – only not labelled as such anymore, everything being built together for the common good – produced a rich bounty of shared dreams.
For the first time in our history we are shaping our future together, as a planetary species. There are still the inevitable traces of jealousy, animosity, envy and hate, but since the first Data Storm and the birth of the Third Culture we have put aside the majority of our past crimes and come together to work for the common good. We are encouraged when we see our best selves reflected back: each harvest is richer and more surprising than the last.
One of three Third Culture storyworlds developed at the xcoax_workshop