It is the late 21st century and the IMaGE logo is ubiquitous. The IMaGE conglomerate is the international holding company, a corporate collective if you will, that serves the planet with their information, technology and foodservice platform. The name and the image are universally recognized, few now alive who can recall the origins of the amalgam which formed the title.
When the old and inadequate financial system collapsed a global panic ensued. Economic and geopolitical meltdown spiralled out of control leaving chaos to reign in place of the, albeit unstable, order that had preceded. Socio-Political theorists for decades leading up to the collapse had been constructing and expounding upon an evolved social order, a new age of enlightened rule installed upon a globalist platform. These minds had over time infiltrated and gained control over certain key segments of society. They succeeded through governments, multi-national corporations and other institutions in making theirs the dominant school of thought, laying the foundations for the new order to come. It took a very long time to place the bricks of their edifice, but over time the pace of their project accelerated. The great unwashed, those not part of the great plan, were lulled into a docile state of ignorance and apathy where they would ultimately be convinced of the beneficence of a world corporate state.
Their following grew, inhabiting education, entertainment, information, finance and governments alike. Those within each of these sectors had plotted their designs, partnering with one another where it benefited their ultimate aim. Each had their "angle" where the global construct would be to their own advantage. Whether in "free" societies or in more autocratic states, teaming up with governments were key to their success. Governments could either directly impose their will or provide law and lend legitimacy to the cause, depending upon the nature of each. In either case the results were essentially the same. These arrangements had always functioned on the principle of reciprocal benefit. What many did not count on, though, was the fact that after collapse hastened a full implementation of this system their services were no longer needed. They had become expendable.
To restore order to society bold and sweeping reforms of the institutions were needed. There was no time, and in large measure no longer sufficient capacity for reasoning, to question the long term consequences of this action. Crises call for bold action. This was accepted, the changes preferable to the alternative, the reality of the time. The first step was to restore financial stability.
The corporate world leading up to the crisis had for the most part consolidated into only a few "mega" corporations. Mergers forming entities that were larger in size and scope than most of the nation states of the time. These monoliths transcended the definition of "the state", providing the most logical platform for the establishment of unified, global rule. As the only remaining institutions solvent enough to exercise authority over anything larger than a municipal or county entity they could act on a macro scale and be embraced as saviors. A global medium of exchange, a new world currency, was established. All "money" was digitized, a process which had in fact already been well underway in many economies. There had previously been an international financial market, but fractured into inconstant and often unstable currency exchanges. Most of the planet were blissfully unaware that the coins and bills they held in their hands were of no intrinsic value even before the collapse. Like the sacraments rendered by the priesthood of ancient orders these were only articles of faith. Real wealth resides in control.
With this first critical step secured the former banking institution was vaporized. It simply didn't exist any more: it was no longer necessary. And the "people" celebrated their demise, believing that the former had not only failed, but had in effect dispossessed them. In the more remote reaches of the world peoples contented themselves to work within the constraints of their own physical resources, reverting to simple bartering. In the more ordered parts of societies, where peoples had become helplessly dependent on an urban social structure, the new order was the only alternative for most. It was seen as a salvation from anarchy.
The mega corporations had stemmed the chaos, provided the first glimmer of hope in restoring stability to society. People were made financially "whole" again, their accounts replenished with an accepted medium of exchange. Their "money" was back in the bank, though they did not truly comprehend where or what this new bank was. In control of the world's currency and their own transportation and distribution network in place they had positioned themselves to further be the provider of essential goods, keeping the shelves stocked. Where additional capacity was needed to serve a particular region they simply bought other external assets.
The giants of information, technology, energy, communications and food were all swimming in the same pool. Trying to map out how things would move forward it was determined that other institutions had outlived their usefulness. The true globalist agenda could now be realized with little or no opposition. And the true beauty of this was that the masses had been conditioned and were in circumstances that the corporations would enjoy their support. There were, as there always will be of course, those voices to "cry out in the wilderness". They could mostly be ignored, but wherever these might become problematic they were easily marginalized or, if need be, silenced.
The scheming opportunists who had inhabited governments were no longer vital. Their services held a value in a world where they were nominally in possession of control, but it became clear that this was no longer the case. They no longer had anything to sell. They had become expendable. The people no longer needed them. Like the bankers they had failed the people. The politicians owned a sizable share of blame for the mess they were all in. Borders fell, states dissolved.
With the fall of states many of their functions were left to be filled, prime among these being education. The education provided by these institutions had long been failing the needs of the corporations anyway. More and more they had moved to automation. State education had failed to deliver an adequately prepared or trained labor force to fill their needs. In the western democracies governments had further compounded this ill by mandating a wide array of environmental regulations, labor rules and the provision of health insurance benefits over and above the wages. To pour salt in the wound these demanded ever more taxes upon their productivity, ostensibly in part to pay for and improve education. The corporations determined that it would be much better for them to provide the education. It was an investment. The education system could be tailored to turn out a labor force with skills they needed. No more useless degrees in transgendered studies or sixth century Mongolian poetry. Let them pursue those interests on their own time. Though near useless to start with, the education system, like banking and government, had become expendable.
The communications,entertainment and information fields were already squarely within their camp. The timing was right, they were perfectly positioned. The world was their oyster. With all other obstacles removed things would now work the way they were meant to. All of the academics who had unwittingly been accessories to their ascent were not entirely mistaken in their Utopian ideals. They had only been mistaken in the proper means of achieving it. The corporations would now prove that creating a Utopia, as with anything else, was better left in the hands of the private sector. They would achieve what governments could not.
For some years upheaval would remain the order of the day in many parts of the globe. Too many factions and too much surplus arms to prevent all of it. The corporations did not make the mistake of governments in trying to insert themselves as either backing one faction over another, or to act as peacemaker. It was better to let them fight it out and kill each other off. History had shown that this would be the ultimate result anyway. And beside that these were in most instances still paying customers contributing to their coffers. This way they could not lose.
With time they further firmed the ground beneath their feet. Life in much of the "civilized" world had returned to normal. It was a new normal, for good or ill, but was accepted not for it's merits one way or the other. It was stability. It permitted a population that had grown accustomed to gratification and ease to continue residing within their comfort zone. In the previous order governments had learned that a reasonably contented populace were also an apathetic and incurious populace. Where these conditions exist a government can begin to do things under cover of darkness, escaping the scrutiny of their constituency. The problem with governments had been that the people in them were short sighted and self serving. A mentality of "take the money and run" had ruled their thinking. They had no concept of "the long game", as any wise capitalist will, wise being the key word. Corporations which had grown to such large proportions were not populated by fools.
A time arrived that consensus formed among the corporate giants. More mergers and buyouts proceeded, further consolidating their power and reach. The one world government had in effect been achieved. If sound business acumen had brought them to the current state of things then it was logical that the organization should be further streamlined, that this new world order be run as a well ordered and disciplined business. It was out of this that IMaGE was born. IMaGE was, prior to the corporate and planetary singularity:
Intel, MacDonalds, Google, GE , thus IMaGE.
These were the giants, the survivors, who absorbed other giants in petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, transportation, anything and everything needed to sate the demands of the world market. There would be no more mergers, no more startups, nothing left to buy up. IMaGE was the corporate godhead, the one-world government/provider. As mankind neared the dawn of the 22nd century they were just IMaGE, as they had been for as long as most could remember. Any who had lived in the times of the forerunners were either too young at the time to remember, or they were under end-time care. Others had already been euthanized or expired on their own. As the decades passed this was simply accepted as the state of things.
Those with the skills required for the operation of IMaGE and its various component parts were employed and well compensated in digital credits to chart their course in life. Others, those who were only capable of duplicating those tasks which were now performed by machines, were assigned to housing and subsisted on UBA, or the "Universal Basic Allocation". IMaGE was structured upon a balance sheet, a cost benefit analysis model. The UBA was in part public relations, the presentation of a benign face to the world, but was in fact a calculation. Enough of those credits issued for the purpose recirculated into their economy to maintain a dynamic growth above the "investment". With the need for defense funds and other former government functions eliminated from the economic equation the model was set at a rate that would remain sustainable. IMaGE would have no ongoing obligation for entitlements. Those who did not contribute were sustained until their medical condition deteriorated to a point that the credits would be halted and their care entrusted to End Care Services. When a resident of End Care reached an expenditure that placed their account into the negative they were simply euthanized.
End Care Services also had a means of extraneous funding by providing voluntary euthanization for a fee to those that desired. Any citizen could walk in to any End Care clinic at any time and be provided the service with no questions asked. If, of course, they possessed enough credits in their account to pay the fee.
In more remote reaches there were still people living outside of the IMaGE network. They operated under barter and trade, in some cases devised their own local currency. As long as those choosing this lifestyle remained within their own distant reaches from civilization these practices were tolerated. As a practical matter most of these existed in places where the expenses associated with extending the full IMaGE platform could not be cost justified. Where individuals might attempt to subvert IMaGE within their zones of service this was a different matter. If caught these parties were seized and executed on sight. Those found to be receiving goods or services from unauthorized providers would find their employment terminated, or if on UBA have their benefits either suspended or revoked entirely.
The new order was not perfect, as nothing ever is, but for the most part it operated fairly smoothly. Some held at least the intuition that it was impersonal, inhuman, but by this time was generally accepted as a fair system. Though some policies were grumbled about from time to time it was generally agreed that it was at least impartial. If anyone wanted for anything it was of their own doing.
Following is an account of this benign impartiality at work, as featured on information streams everywhere, to anyone paying attention:
.... Mr. Smith, aged 47, resident of the Cambridge Arms community in suburban Springfield, was charged in April with an attempt to defraud IMaGE food delivery services. The regional IMaGE review board issued their ruling on the case this morning. Mr. Smith maintains that he placed an order for delivery of two large Big Mac meals with Coke and a six pack of beer from his home video screen. He claims that he had been painting and while cleaning up was unaware that his personal credit bar code had been smudged, causing the on screen scanner to read the code incorrectly. After accepting delivery for the meal and the beer at his residence the account read from the scanner was billed and discovered to be assigned to someone other than Mr. Smith. The actual account holder was contacted by IMaGE fraud protection services and acknowledged the notice, affirming that it was a fraudulent charge to his account. Mr. Smith was then charged with fraud and notified of the charge and a summons to appear before the regional review board. Mr. Smith says that he responded to his receipt of the charge and attempted to enter the correct account information to reconcile the bill, but was unable to submit without first selecting the guilty/not guilty option on the screen. Mr. Smith reasoned that to do so was to stipulate to the commission of the offense and confused as to what he should do simply submitted the acknowledgement blank.
The review board has ruled Mr. Smith guilty as charged and referred their finding to the employment board and the property titling agency. Mr. Smith was terminated from his job as a machinist and the title agency has placed a lien on his property. Asked for comment Mr. Smith only stated his intent to appeal.....
Can you imagine what happens to Mr. Smith? Can you IMaGE-ine a future like this? No? Don't be so sure....