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What would you do with a near-future setting?

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While we love Shadowrun, the setting has become quite dated.  The Japanese are not going to take over the world.  If anyone is, it will be the Chinese.

Additionally, the cybertech of the setting seems goofier and goofier the more we learn about actual medical advancements.  If we even included it in a near-future setting, we would re-do it entirely in a much more realistic way.

If you were designing a near-future sci fi setting (or sci-fantasy setting, like Shadowrun), what would you include?  What would you not include?  Would you worry about whether the setting would soon be dated, or would you ignore that problem?  (We still have great fondness for the original Cold War version of Twilight 2000, for example, and we do not care how utterly dated it is.)

Post your ideas on whatever near future sounds interesting to you.  Despite our example of Shadowrun, we do not care if cyberpunk is anywhere to be seen in your setting.  We are fascinated by the possiblities of the future and wish to see other visions of it.  :)

We find it unlikely that any nation-state would manage to take over the world. their stories are all, at least for the moment, in decline, for they have failed to understand the more powerful story of the corporation.

We believe that the world groans under the massive number of individual stories, and that it will continue to do so for many years. Overpopulation is a sad story, but one which we must become intimately familiar with in order to create a near-future setting.

global warming. the planet's going to get hotter and wetter for a while, and the noon-day sun just about everywhere will make edena_of_neith's rantings seem like wishful thinking. skin cancers and other sun-related maladies are going to be common.

I don't think cybernetic implant tech is within reach for a near-future setting yet. the technology just isn't right - however, the continued miniaturization of technology when combined with body-modifications (piercings, specifficaly) is going to create something that resembles cybertech on a lot of levels.

barring a major war between nations, I forsee the rise of serious multi-national corporations, similar to those envisioned by Kim Stanley Robinson in his Mars Trilogy. the rich get richer and the poor get poorer - but it's a matter of location as well. The first world will always have a better technological base than africa or southeast asia, and it's going to stay that way. after enough time, once enough nations have been subsumed by the multi-national corporate model, then serious wars again become a posibility.

Data piracy will continue along current lines, making physical resouces (gasoline, steel, etc..) again more valuable than IP. countries like china and sweden will attempt to use this trend in economic warfare and knock the bottom out from under the corporations, but it won't work.


Hot, Wet, freely available information, miniaturized technology.

China and India will continue to grow in power, especially as the West divests itself of its manufacturing base.  If the West ever got in a war with either one, this would prove to be a crippling problem -- they would have not just more man power, but more production, allowing them to swarm us with superior numbers and almost as good (or as good) equipment.

The corporations could flex their muscles, but they are far weaker than they think they are.  It would take relatively little effort for any major power to wipe out any corporation at will.  I can't see this imbalance of true power changing at any point in the near future -- but I also can't see corporations being silly enough to directly challenge sovereign nations.

Cybertech seems out of reach to me, too, but computing power will continue to grow and grow.  I'm not fully sure what that will mean, however.

I could see one or more long term intractable wars occuring.  Suppose that China tried to invade Taiwan - they'd probably fail.  But, unless that caused a collapse of the Chinese gov., it could lead to a big stalemate, the Chinese refusing to give in, U.S./Taiwan not having the forces to invade China.  Nukes would give it a cold ware edge.  World economies would suffer from the lack of Chinese and Taiwanese production.  In the U.S. there would be a big economic drop.
You could see similar problems after India gets tired of Pakistan and takes them out but doesn't have the forces to deal with the inpouring of muslim guerillas and several restive provinces.  Throw in a brief nuclear exchange just for spice.  
In general, U.S., Japan, and Europe would have the tech edge over most other places but wouldn't have the manpower to occupy enemy countries beyond a few key sources of resources.  You would have a strengthening of the us vs. them and the rich vs. the poor, with the rich countries feeling much poorer than in the past and poor countries totally falling apart.
This might lead to the rich caring even less about the poor domestically as well.  Populations would acquire even more of an enclave structure, with gated communities having armed watchtowers.  There would be several instances of people finding out that they aren't as powerful as they thought - it doesn't matter how rich you are on paper when you're dealing with a mob who has fallen out of the system, living practically by barter.
Cool technical toys would increasingly become more important as sources of prestige than for any practical use.  The latest gadgets would be almost mandatory to fit in at the right places, with constant upgrades in place to create a slope that social climbers must work against.
There are two totally different ways I'd go with this.
1.  Gov agents trying to rebuild, characters doing missions that involve lots of moving between worlds, rich and poor, local and foreign.
2.  With high unemployment, many rich are living off of assets without much to do.  The poor scrape by as best they can on what they can find.  Everyone feels existential and depressed.  They all interact at the one shining beacon in the otherwise crumbling city - the huge super mall.  The world has gone to hell so everyone is reduced to hanging out at the mall.


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