What’s happening in Madrid in 2028? This is a speculative near future scenario, made in 30 minutes on paper and then transcribed, that I am putting together for internal discussion purposes with our Global Design Futures team. We each make our own scenario and persona and then we create a preferred one for the Future of Government 2030+ exercise we’re working on. This is our bit of solo work towards the group design.
Method: I am going to work on the scenario by choosing a specific city (Madrid) on a specific year (2028) and looking at the scenario from a few prisms: i) socio-economic environment; ii) situation of citizens; iii) role of tech; iv) role of government; v) relations between citizens and government. For the persona I simply describe an individual living in the scenario with his life, values, actions, family and so forth. It’s not very deep and does not use Day in the Life or other more structured persona formats.
So, Madrid 2028. On the socio-economic side, the recovery of 2017-18 was followed by the Global Collapse of 2020, fuelled by the US-China trade war that started in 2018 and a war started by the US on Iran which dragged Russia and Israel in and went on for five years (2021-2026). These enmeshed the western blocks in an indirect conflict with Russia causing further integration of the EU as a result. By 2022, while the EU had remained a block of 27 states, it had enacted the seminal A.I.ntelligent European Government (AIEG) of 2024, whereby most governance processes are organised by AI systems deployed across the union. Fiscal unity had been achieved in the EU in 2022 and the AIEG has competences over tax, distribution of citizen benefits and financial markets. There is no longer physical currency and all transactions are either electronic or done via barters.
In Spain, government was weakened by the Catalan Rebellion of 2023 and the country is in a political impasse or transitioning by necessity–it’s not really clear which. While the monarchy still has a representative role, most MPs have abandoned their posts and the Prime Minister and his team work closely with citizen groups (aka Citizen Expert Clusters) and the reduced amount of leaders in the EU. This situation was also affected by changes in rights, duties and remuneration of Members of Parliament, which came into effect after the crisis of 2020, and was accelerated by a lot of public processes being centralised and automated by the AIEG.
Citizen groups have associated to manage policy-shaping. They do this alongside the remaining political leaders, since this is the best way to influence the AIEG, which will draw upon this information to make legislative and executive decisions across the union. Citizen Expert Clusters collaborate digitally or in physical meeting points (e.g. Churches, schools or other infrastructure that’s not fully utilised). Relations between citizens and government are mainly driven by human-centric approaches, since citizens have become de facto government members by means of their integrated role in policy shaping. Strategic issues are based on citizen clusters, always including at least 30% of subject matter experts, where all social, economic, cultural, health and governability needs are explored and shaped. This, coupled with the introduction of Universal Basic Income (UBI) in 2022, has galvanised the majority into participation.
The situation of citizens is cooperative and proactive, given that local and national government has almost disappeared. Due to the global macro-economic situation, economic prospects are stable but without growth, and most employment is temporary or done by bartering services. Public transport is managed by AI systems and partly self-driving and funded based on AIEG directives. UBI allows people to spend time during their working day on policy and governance issues, supporting the AIEG in policy making and funding decisions.
Housing, Food Safety, Health and Education
Key issues on the policy table at this time are housing (there are shortages and many have opted for co-living; ownership is on the decline); food safety (legislation is being proposed for near-food enforcement and many decentralised urban farming experiments are being explored); prevention though exercise, diet and mindfulness and home-based care are the key means of health provision. This has been possible thanks to the miniaturization of many medical services, remote surgical interventions and 5G, as well as bio and nanotech innovations. Most large hospitals have disappeared.
Education has also been largely decentralised, many home-schooling and Neighbourhood Learning Clusters are officially authorised to replace traditional schools. These are managed and provided by a combination of teachers, parents and volunteers. School buildings are often used for this, but the curriculum is not centrally managed by government. There is, however, an OS repository of themes and best practice that organically evolves based on learning and knowledge needs of the society and workforce.
The role of technology in this scenario is critical. AI systems underpin all public policy making across the European Union. US and EU tech mega-players support this reality in collaboration with many smaller players in the IoT, AI and Data Science space. There is a robust ecosystem of hardware and software manufacturers that work closely with Citizen Expert Clusters and political leaders across the EU. Sensors, face-recognition and identity systems and data processing are all key to the operability of the current model not only across the EU but also within local and city clusters.
An advanced distributed ledger system (based largely on the Blockchain model) allows complete transparency as well as real time visualisation of decisions, processes and transactions. Contributions to EU wide software and hardware for public use are OS. The lack of physical currency has reduced the services black market and tax avoidance in Spain.
One could say that government acts more as an enabler and platform that sustains citizen-driven policy and decision-making and acts on key policy issues raise by them. It administers the AIEG as well as strategic systems, such as communication networks, defence, finances and infrastructure. It also governs the ecosystem of technology suppliers to avoid cyber-crime and the collaboration model of the Union to avoid risk of Russian intrusions, both digital and physical.
Félix in Madrid 2028
Félix is a 35 year old Data Scientist. He has been active in his Citizen Expert Cluster since he was 29 and is one of the representatives of Madrid Norte in the European Expert Lab. His area of knowledge is data systems integrity and analytical visualisation. He is married and has a baby that attends a Neighbourhood Early Years Collective in Fuente del Berro. His wife is a Mobile Nurse, who makes house calls on seniors. She is specialised in Geriatric cases and follows ongoing learning courses in a Seniors’ Health Learning Cluster.
Félix is mainly concerned about growing old and not being able to be so active in the CEC, as he is very engaged in influencing the integrity of data systems that underpin most processes in the EU. So, he leads a very healthy life, eating well, self-testing for disease with home-prevention kits and exercising regularly. He is worried about cyber-security and has a passion for making data accessible and understandable to all fellow citizens, so they can have a good knowledge and get activated to influence society. He grows his own vegetables and is part of one city farming experiment in his nearby park, where 12 neighbours are running a micro-farm with some poultry that serves 120 households nearby.