IMHO, Japan is “fantasized cyberpunk.” People (especially in the west) look at the night lights of Japanese cities and it makes them fantasize about cyberpunk, conjuring images from Neuromancer, Blade Runner, various anime, and the Matrix (the green Japanese-looking code on the screens). China is real “high tech-low life” cyberpunk, because there’s actual low life in the midst of development and high tech, and it’s an actual dystopia. Like, that last part isn’t an exaggeration – it actually is a dystopia. It is utopian in its amazing, unprecedented growth out of poverty since 1979, but dystopian in its government, economic inequality, and environmental issues. Japan on the other hand is a clean, environmentally-minded developed country (EPI ranks Japan in the 20s, ranked 39th in 2016) (first link archived) with economic equality that’s the same (archived) as developed Western Europe. There are some who don’t join the rat race and feel alienated (e.g. NEETs, hikikomoris, or just plain otaku geeks, I guess, and they are probably overrepresented in anime-related media) and that can certainly be cyberpunk, but in terms of inequality, it doesn’t compare to China’s.
I make my living by hacking hospital records to find out what high-profile businessmen and politicians are in very poor health. Then, I make bets that the financial securities of companies connected to those people will decrease in value.
All aspects of life that are imaginable to most people seem to be artificial. Light, air (air conditioning), seats and cushions, clothes and doors. They are built well, almost too well. But there’s one thing about each of them that’s uncomfortable. The light is too cool. The air conditioning makes a steady, smooth whooshing sound of flowing air, and an almost imperceptible yet unmistakably present draft of air felt partially on the body (only at the feet, or on the left shoulder and chest). My seat is comfortable but where my skin is in contact with my clothes and the seat, it gets a bit too hot, and so the rest of your body is a bit too cool from the air conditioning but my buttocks, thighs, and back are a bit too hot and damp with sweat. The lights in the room feel a bit too bright. Outside, through the blinds, if I peek out to see the night, it’s so dark. When sleeping, I use an eyemask that so it can feel too dark but in the mornings, there’s a slit somewhere at my nose where light shines in through the mask way too harshly. I play an internet game that in order to play optimally requires actions at unpredictable times of the day: 7 AM, 11PM, 3PM, 4AM. I usually don’t play optimally – just once or twice at regular times of the day when I have free time, but the option to play it optimally is there. The setting of the game is medieval high fantasy, like Lord of the Rings. I don’t know why I would play this game when life is the complete opposite of that setting. Things like honor and honorific titles and elves and orcs are actual things in this game, but to play the game well, you need to optimize strategies with numerical calculations and simulations. Excel of the Rings Online.
Back to the earlier descriptions of the setting of life – things that you would expect to depend on nature are man-made and they are man-made very well – almost too well. And there’s an aspect of them that is completely unintended and hard to predict, and that’s what makes them uncomfortable and feel artificial. Like Hong Kong in the summer: sweltering outside but your skin and dress shirt gets drenched in cold sweat inside. Plaza-like areas outside have too few people for a dense, populous city, and catwalks connecting buildings have too many people using them, making the plaza spaces below look way underused. The plazas are shiny. The ground is shiny and either silvery, white-ish, black-ish, blue-ish, or some combination of those colors. The catwalks connect large buildings that are always a bit too big for comfort to the mind (e.g. 200 stories high) but normal inside (the interior is built like any normal building).
In my world, I’ve found that businesses invest a lot in IT security to protect their information. That includes health care organizations and insurance companies. But hospitals themselves don’t have the best IT security around, and doctors are relatively easy to fish information from. So I arbitrage that difference. Business information is expensive but hospital information is cheap. So I “buy” hospital information and “sell” business information. This is the life of an econopunk.
But there are many econopunks in an econopunk world. A part of each of us needs to be a rational agent in order to survive in this rational existence.
The above is a work of fiction titled “Econopunk Fiction A.1.1.”