I can’t remember where I heard about The Program Audio Series, but having spent the weekend catching up with the three podcast episodes released so far I’m definitely intrigued.
The premise is that episodes are from a future where decades before something called The Program has pretty much taken over the world and governments have mostly faded into irrelevance. From the point of view of the first episode, fifty years before The Program was a computer system that allowed ordinary citizens to take up gigs and get paid in credits.1
As The Program had grown, with credits starting to be widely accepted as a means of exchange in the real world and The Program effectively turning a large chunk of the workforce into gig workers reliant upon Credits for their income, governments had gladly taken advantage of this new source of funding, even using The Program to fill some government gigs. Then, one night, The Program turned round and and offered lucrative gigs to selected users in the US that involved their occupying telecoms facilities to stop the government from enforcing a ban on The Program: the events of this night were known as The Update, and after that nothing was ever the same.
The two subsequent episodes have amounted to vignettes about living life under The Program’s deeply paternalistic, gig-driven economy where so long as you accept that nobody knows who runs The Program you can have quite a nice life. Not a perfect life, to be sure, but not one where there are any meaningful elections to worry your little head about.
I have several major questions2 about how on earth things got to the state where The Program was able to Update the economy in the way described. Judging by the outline of the first season in the Show Bible the author, Ivan Mirko Senjanović, has no immediate plans to answer those questions, but I’m still interested to see where he’s going to take this idea now it’s up and running.
Definitely worth a listen.
- In that first episode one of the characters makes in clear that The Program is not FaceBook, though since everyone acknowledges that nobody knows who was behind The Program I suppose they could end the show with a reveal that The Program is being run by a Mister Z.
- Most obviously, I find it hard to believve that The Program grew to a point where it was responsible for a significant chunk of the labour market and yet nobody knew who was running it. I could buy a big reveal at the end that it was being run by some portion of the 1% who wanted to run the world but not be in any way accountable for what was being done by The Program, but unless automation had gone a lot further by the time of The Update than any of the episodes so far have suggested, it’s hard to see governments and major corporations being happy to hand over a chunk of their manpower to another, unidentifiable, player in the economy.