In my world (modern day Earth, but at a higher technology level with national AI systems being commonplace across the world, cybernetics limbs being an option, and autonomous weapon systems being rolled out by various PMCs and armies), an economic crisis known as the Great Collapse occurs in 2018, where the global economy falls apart due to various factors.

The Great Collapse's causes are varied, but include, among others- a growing gap between the rich and the poor across the world, a deregulatory stance taken by the administration of US President McKnight in financial and banking policy (among others), various debt crises in the US that coincided with one another (among those being student debt, standard medical debt, and cybernetics medical debt), and a climate-induced crisis known as the Silent Spring, where throughout 2017-to-2019, various plagues that would not exist in standard temperatures ruined farms across the world- from corn and soy blights to more infectious, resistant forms of anthrax that hit cows and pigs, destroying a large portion of the harvests and killings between that time period.

All of this combined resulted in a very bad recession called the Great Collapse, where many companies went bankrupt and many people became unemployed and soon homeless.

Because of this, around the world the poor got poorer while the rich were mostly secure in their position. Crime skyrockets, food insecurity does so as well, and across the globe many citizens revolt against their governments for allowing things to get this bad.

I was wondering what I can do to make the Great Collapse worse, in terms of events and actions taken by financial institutions and political figures?

As a side note- the various recessions of the past IRL have happened here as well- the Great Depression, the Great Recession, up to 2018.

  • AI replacing white-collar workers at an awesome speed, until the only people with an income are investors, a few designers, civil service, and those manual workers whose wages are too low to replace them with robots. This could come faster than robots replacing assembly-line workers, because data centers can flick from streaming movies to doing tax returns in a heartbeat once the software is written.
  • Uncoordinated, ham-fisted attempts to roll back globalization, inducing friction in global supply chains without really resolving anything.
  • The widespread employment of one cryptographic implementation for financial applications which involve physical tokens (credit or ATM cards), which is then found insecure. Because of the physical component, one cannot simply roll out a software fix.

PS -- your question would be improved if you dump the note of the Underground, because that doesn't really affect the recession, right?

  • $\begingroup$ No it does not, just wanted to indicate that the recession leads into the Underground becoming a subculture and profession. $\endgroup$ – Helter Skeletor Jan 10 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ With your third statement, what do you mean by "The widespread employment of one cryptographic implementation for financial applications which involve physical tokens (credit or ATM cards), which is then found insecure." Do you mean a cyber-attack of some kind, or an alt-history reliance of a certain kind of security measure that is then found to be dangerous? $\endgroup$ – Helter Skeletor Jan 10 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ @HelterSkeletor, what I mean is that a vulnerable implementation is deployed and cannot be replaced quickly, once that is known there will be many different attacks. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Jan 11 at 5:09
  • $\begingroup$ I very much agree with the AI angle, but the cryptographic implementation not so much. Major vulnerabilities crop up in financial institutions all the time, but they tend to be the sorts of things you pretty much have to be a top tier cyber security expert to even understand how to attack. But once discovered, it only takes a few days, if not hours to develop and deploy a fix; so, by the time it becomes common knowledge to the point that economy level damage can be done, the problem is already fixed. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Jan 11 at 5:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki, that's why I wanted to tie it to the physical cards in people's wallets. Swapping those takes longer. Imagine being told "we deactivated your card for security reasons, the new one will be in the mail in a couple of weeks." They'd hesitate long before they do that. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Jan 11 at 5:36

Add conspiracy theories and an incompetent leader

(I dont mean this as a political statement. I promise, it's just real life is a good source of inspiration sometimes and the news is the best show on TV atm)

Add a leader who is corrupt and or incompetent. All those problems in your question have had analogies that occured in recent history to some extent and been handled successfully by some governments (silent spring I'm equating to Australias "black summer"). And some, really haven't been handled successfully. It seems the more populist a countries leader is, the higher its death toll in covid19. A leader that's preoccupied with self enrichment and doesnt care about the poor citizens will make any tragedy worse.

Add conspiracy theories to the mix too so that action against the problem is misdirected to make things worze. The silent spring isnt due to co2 from our patriotic coal power plants, it's due to our neighbouring country building wind turbines which heat up the air. Lets blow it up!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ add conspiracy theories, well ok then "I dont mean this as a political statement. I promise" Ash is a secret russian spy trying to undermine the government! its all a plan to cover up the earth being square! (/s obviously) $\endgroup$ – Topcode Jan 10 at 18:55

You got plenty of real. Add some fictional.

From OP:

The conditions of the Great Collapse lead many, in 2020, to partake in "Breaching" the alternate reality of the Underground, an alternate world parallel to Earth that is highly hostile to humans but full of valuable items and materials that are worth a lot on Earth.

I was wondering what I can do to make the Great Collapse worse, in terms of events and actions taken by financial institutions and political figures?

All the other stuff causing your Collapse seems standard liberal fretting and prophesizing. That does not mean it is not real but you can find that stuff lots of places. The Underground however is something else, and people read fiction for the something else. People were starting to breach the Underground before the Collapse, and those early breaches contributed to the collapse. Some of the "highly hostile to humans" got into our world and it was corrosive to society. You know what that stuff is, because you invented the Underground.

I have to think that in a fictional world leaning so heavily on current events in the real one, the Underground is a metaphor for something real. The QAnon conspiracy seems like a good candidate. Its bizarrités* seem to know no bounds. Maybe the stuff we are seeing now is just the appetizer for the Underground main course.

.* in English we get to borrow cool words


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