Did "UPGRADE" predict the future?
Written in 2008, the sci-fi graphic novel UPGRADE seems to have predicted our future with spooky accuracy. The book portrays a society where everyone is forced to live in a virtual world (i.e. metaverse) controlled by a single massive corporation. The eerie coincidences begin with the book's central premise that during the 2020's, a global pandemic drives society indoors, forcing everyone to embrace a fully virtual lifestyle. Adoption of this fictional metaverse is accelerated by misinformation spread by the very corporation that launched the VR world.
To appreciate how closely the real world has been following the fictional world of UPGRADE a decade after it was written, here are some side-by-side comparisons:
The book also predicted that corporations would be ready for this transition with a fleet of robotic drones that deliver supplies to our homes through ventilated air-locks, ensuring nobody ever has to go outside and get infected. The concept of delivery drones did not exist in 2008 and yet by the 2020's they were deployed:
Even the user interface in UPGRADE (a high-tech band users wear on the back of their hands) is eerily similar to the interface that Facebook announced in 2021 that goes around your arm:
The book was titled UPGRADE because the virtual world abruptly changes each time a new version is deployed. And with each upgrade, society gets more and more dependent on the corporation that controls the system. And yet the society accepts these changes because the corporation promises it will allow everyone to work, play, and socialize with greater and greater convenience. This is eerily similar to the marketing language Facebook unveiled in 2021, describing the metaverse as a virtual society where people can "work, play, or socialize.”
But not everything in the book UPGRADE has yet to come true in the real world. The biggest difference is how people enter the metaverse. In today's world, corporations are pushing VR headsets as the interface to the metaverse. Upgrade takes a different approach, presenting an alternate technology called the Access Module, an enclosed space with cushions below and a holographic projector above that enables you to submerge into the metaverse without wearing facial hardware.
Overall, UPGRADE paints a dark and dangerous vision of our future. The book stands as a warning against allowing mega-corporations to control the metaverse, empowering their platforms to track everything you do and see and say. The fictional metaverse of UPGRADE even tracks your emotions based on your facial expressions and vocal inflections, adapting its marketing tactics for maximal persuasive impact.
UPGRADE was originally written as a screenplay by Louis Rosenberg in 2008. It gained recognition as the Grand Prize winner of the 2009 Cinestory Screenwriting Awards. It was then adapted into a three-part series of short graphic novels (Part I, Part II, Part III) by artist Stan Timmons and editor Steve Stern. The three books were later combined into a single paperback volume called UPGRADE as available today.
(c) Outland Pictures Publishing 2021