2025: It was 3 years after the Badgocalypse, when the whole of human experience had been carved up by the corporations. As it was a Saturday, I awoke to find out I’d already earned two badges- one for above average REM from a healthcare agency, and the other for punctuality from my employer, as I’d woken up slightly early.
As I brushed my teeth I swatted away three badge offers in my VR visor for competing oral hygiene products.
Rushing to get the earlier bus I knew I was in line for a platinum transport badge top-up (from silver of course; no-one got gold because otherwise what was there to strive for?)
The Badgocalypse started when gamification, consumer entertainment and social media conspired to incite mass consumerism whilst playing on the public’s thirst for credentials and frictionless qualifications in order to attain social capital and mobility. FOMO and vanity fuelled the flames of the Badgocalypse.
But today there was no bus. I later found out the government hadn’t renewed the bus company’s badge to operate- it had fallen out of the top 5 transportation charts, and lost its badge. However, my VR visor offered me a Worker Initiative Badge if I’d walk the 4 miles, and a Grade 2 Resilience Badge was thrown in as Nike had a deal on sports shoes at the moment. There was the usual multiple choice quiz in my visor and I knew the only way to remove it was to complete it.
Peak Badge was a strange time. The much vaunted knowledge economy had collapsed under the weight and diminishing return of badge issuer upon badge issuer undercutting each other to own cognitive territory until you could get the dopamine hit from earning a badge practically just for blinking. Hyperinflation meant even the comatose and insane were earning hundreds of badges a day. It was technically possible to earn badges after death with some well documented cases of badge millionaires still earning from beyond the pearly gates of cyberspace.
Even the dissenters found it impossible not to earn badges. People would be as unproductive as possible just to avoid earning badges- it was the only political act of free choice left. They’d quit work, stay indoors, go off the grid. Some people had dozens of open menus in their visors- questionnaires, edutainment junk, faux surveys, clickbait blocking out the daylight, because they refused to sign up or sign in and be defined by the overbearing metric of badges.
Today I made up my mind I would join them.
Afterword: I wrote this as a humourous aside about where Digital Badges could take us if advertising and commercial entities started to exploit them. It’s not my personal point of view, I just thought I’d give it a wider readership. If you want to know more about Open Badges (which are wonderful) check out openbadges.org/about/