The world of Karbon is one of amazing technology and science. However, the enrichment this brings is all in stark contrast to the strain placed on human relationships. All of the setting backs this theme, as you will see when you read further. There is no attempt here to define all the little details of life in the world of 2212. Instead the focus in on the gross changes and from there you are meant to create your own details. It is up to the players to bring the world of 2212 to life with the small details, and you use these vague descriptions as your springboard. Each of the follow sections is excerpting from Blueprints, the setting and Agent creation rulebook for Karbon. If you find something problematic as you play, discuss it with the group at large and come to a consensus. Not all of these world facts will jive with all players, and reshaping them to fit your game is encouraged. That said, these are canon to the Karbon universe and are considered valid unless superseded by your game.
The World of Tomorrow is driven by data. Its not that it isn't like that today, its just that in the future things have moved far beyond what we experience. There are two things every citizen has in the future, their Sig and their Card. The Sig is their identity, its an encoded piece of data backed by their DNA data itself. You can think of it as /the/ ID card of tomorrow. However it has far more information on it, from medical history to social status. The Card on the other hand hold cred, which is short for credits. The Card holds cash money, it's just another encoded piece of data not unlike the Sig. While many stations and worlds use their own currency, all accept credits too. Credits are the universal currency of Karbon. The Card is a difficult to hack, secure track of currency, not unlike a prepaid credit card in our modern day and age. In the same way Cards are linked to Sigs, so no one can just take you Card and use it unless you remote authorize.
The world of tomorrow is dominated by rules, most of these entrenched into the digital realm. These rules are meant to protect the data, even when it means less freedom for the user. Every person that functions inside the society has an Omni, a powerful personal computer which acts as everything from their doctor to their vidfone. However the creators of this digital realm have placed serious limits on its use, embracing the idea of Trusted Computing. This means the hardware itself will only run trusted applications, and in order to do something outside of that, you need to either get trusted certifications for your application or hack the omni itself. The rooted omni is a hardware modified device with a new CPU that fakes proper certifications, allowing all software to run. While its illegal to have a rooted omni, its common as its hard to detect without a direct link to it and a scan.
The Wire connects everyone together, a wireless shared network of incredible design. Everything is on the Wire, and I mean everything. Omnis all have wire access, and the idea of an actual wire is a quaint note of ancient history. The wireless of all devices is adaptive, picking the best type of connection by signal strength and bandwidth. All devices has Very-High-Bandwidth (VHB) nearfield linking, allowing for fast data transfer by just being near each other. Two omnis will link to each other directly in nearfield or shortranges, and then choose instead to bounce off a wire tower if the range increases. All of this technology is seamless and transparent to the user in 2212.
While the Omni and the Wire are impressive tools and amazing technology, neither changed the way people living so starkly as Augmented Reality (AR). The conservative purists have projection glasses that overlay data onto their retinas, and earbuds to supply audio, all the while remaining pure human. However most of humanity has embraced the OmniLink, small transceivers placed under the skin of the scalp that allow a user's Omni to feed data to and from the brain itself. Others have gone even more extreme and replaced their whole braincase with a Cyberbrain to the same ends. The end result is the same: Almost everyone has a feed of data piped to their brain at all times, from their Omni.
The advantages of this are endless. You meet someone new, you tell your omni to do a records search and their name appears right above them in your view. Look closer at the name and data is shown. The world seems much more accessible with the AR features in the world of tomorrow. When its too dark to see, your Omni shows you the street around, building a view from surveillance that is found everywhere.
On the other hand, the idea is a scary one once you realize not everyone is playing by the rules. The Reality Filter is a PSI-9 device that exploits AR to shape your view of the world into one that is a lie for instance. Can you trust the data being fed to you from your Omni?
The banks have become the single most powerful entity in the world of tomorrow. Each has its own militia that crosses star systems and legal bounds. As such, dealing with your bank is a hassle commonly dealt with by citizens. Banks still allows accounts to be open, and if its a very large account a special deal can be made, however for most people this isn't so and they get a standard package. The package is rated by how much the person can withdraw and deposit into their account per day, since this limits a hackers ability to abuse the bank. The package one can get is directly related to their personal power and influence, a who-you-know deal. Since the banks hold all the cards, nothing is in favor of the account holder. While they do make money on funds placed into their account, its hard to access it, and that's similar with pay directly deposited into the account. Its not uncommon to actually have to deal with a bank rep to get a check to clear and otherwise it sits in limbo until that point. Since banks issues Cards, and Cards are required to do most business on the grid, they have the populace under a considerable sway. In the big scheme, global corps own banks making them the true powers in the universe.
Any corp not part of a global corp is subject to local laws. The local laws and such being forced into being by a representative assembly under extreme pressure from global corps. In essence, a small corp has heavy taxation and a hard time surviving because of this arrangement. The local governments are in the pocket of the big boys and all the rules are in their favor.
What keeps this society glued together is that all global corps treat the citizens of their own domains in accordance with the Global Rights Act. This gives citizens a measure of rights and privileges as long as they don't cross paths with the global corp they are unknowingly part of, keeping on the straight and narrow. Since this has been established for some time, the populace overall has grown accustomed to the structure and a most of the people never realize how terrible it can really be once the global corp decides to wield its power.
The world of tomorrow is driven by very advanced automation. A Biorep center is a perfect example of such an innovation. In our time you'd got to the hospital and get treated by a doctor. In the world of tomorrow you go to a Biorep center with your omni. You'd connect that device to the programming and automation of the center, and it would diagnose you and offer treatment options for a cost in credits. This is the same for mental health and social standing.
This extends to factories and so on, manual labor is still a thing, but not in the way you may first think. The Karbon scare of the Ten Years War has left people afraid of self-repairing machines. This means a repair workforce is needed without an knowledge but the ability to do the work on automated systems. This is the manual labor of tomorrow, you take your omni to work and load it up with the needed programming when you start. Then you take your omni with you to the site and plug it in, and the device instructs you on the repairs needed on the automated system. The clockwork of tomorrow isn't any different than our own, just cast in a new form.
The Earth is ruined, and only a small amount of humanity remain on a planet all but abandoned by humanity. Space is the new frontier and the global corps push farther and farther out with their starships each year. IsoJump technology allows fast travel between stars, taking only a week or two for each parsec. The longest IsoJump commited so far has been 9 parsecs in four weeks. During an IsoJump, the ship is out of normal time and space. The people carried are unaware any time (more than a moment) has passed. The Athena is the forerunner of starship design, capable of doing 100 parsecs of IsoJumps before it needs engine refit, though that would take 2.5 years of travel time, with travel by the crew seeming like 6 months in the end.
Regardless of IsoJump and amazing starship technology, humanity has yet to find another Earth. Some planets have colonies started, but mostly people live on stations in orbit of worlds in known star systems. The stations are constructed from the resources found in those systems, and life is maintained by a complex engineered ecosystem. Humanity truly is adrift in the stars, supported by their own technology only.
The Ten Years War, not to be confused with the War of '68, began with a small skirmish in the Sol System on Dec. 13th, 2125. It is important as it is the first war in this timeline that was the direct result of data manipulation. For years the global corps had claimed that the technology to reclaim ruined Earth was not economically feasible. The brave and impressive attack of a renowned hacker White Phoenix led to the discovery of a storehouse of designs that did just that. Using this hidden recovery tech, the Earth could have been restored in less than a century. However, the company with the tech was absorbed by a larger corp and they suppressed the data to aid the sales of starship manufacturers, the big money of the future.
Once this information was out and among the populace, small rebels began to rise to power. Eventually these groups combined and with some of the most well-known scientists formed the Sol Alliance. This organization demanded that the global corps begin construction on the tech to recover ruined Earth. However, the expense of moving a large amount of people and raw materials to Sol system wasn't in their best interests. That system was depleted of the resources they needed to power their ships, and they needed to keep moving forward and explore the frontier for harvests of heavy metals and isotopes instead.
Ultimately the Sol Alliance was able to commandeer the starships of a global corp to force the issue by subterfuge and hacking. They had also released the Karbons onto the world as part of their terror methods, thinking the people of society are complicit and therefore accomplices to the global corps plans. This began a war lasting almost exactly ten years, with most of the battle taking place in star systems on a naval scale. However the war of terror waged by the Sol Alliance spread across the known systems. Eventually the global corps destroyed the last of the Sol Alliance's starships in a large battle in open space. That drove the rest of their leaders into hiding and ended the war.
Regardless of the exact history and details, the important matter of the ten years war is that hacking became a valued weapon of war. It changed the entire world and the way people lived their everyday lives. Banks changed overnight, each with their own personal army and strict rules. People in fear of such hacking embraced the change and let the companies place protection software that restricted use on all their omnis. The ten years war directly shaped the world of tomorrow in which Karbon takes place.