The Scenario:
The year is 2050 and complete digitalization has taken hold of every facet of humanity — everyday life severely consists of facing, communicating and interacting with a screen, being guided by some sort of artificial intelligence.  The world is dominated by digital natives, while the digital immigrants are now the minority. Due to the rapid developments in digital technology — which has become more and more impersonal, faster, overwhelming and intangible — within the last 20 years, and humanity’s extreme dependence and reverence to it, a new socio-cultural epidemic has engulfed the world. Majority of the population have lost their ability to empathize with others. This epidemic, which is also known as the Apathetic Epidemic, has significantly affected the new generation of digital natives. This new generation is growing up in a digital world where apathy is the norm and emotional intelligence is non-existent. This new breed of digital natives has an impaired ability to feel empathy, and are extremely inept in dealing with their interpersonal relationships with others. The effects of this epidemic have also crept into the wider socio-political, cultural and environmental landscape. Persuasion tactics by governments for the “common good” are now slowly becoming a thing in the past and the precious notion of “sustainability” and “innovation” has been shaken to its core since a decent majority of the population lack the ability to deeply care.​​​​​​​
This has become a great concern to the remaining digital immigrants, especially the ones who are still in power. To combat this epidemic, they have come up with a mandatory neural enhancement program, where everyone is required to have a microchip implanted to their brains for them to enhance their ability to feel empathy and acquire emotional intelligence.
The neurochip AI-Condoleo is the heart of this program. When implanted to the brain, this neurochip stimulates the weak mirror neuron system of the digital natives, which prompts them to feel empathy. This neurochip also comes with an AI support, which you can access and interact through the Condoleo phone app. The AI serves as an emotional intelligence support, that can tell you what to say and feel in times of difficult events and conflict with other people. The app allows you to also control how much empathy you want to feel in specific situations. For extra convenience, the controls of the app can be accessed through a special earphone, where you can talk directly to the AI. 
When dismantled, the AI-Condoleo neurochip packaging is severely unpractical and unfriendly to the consumer, reinforcing the lack of empathic design during the Apathetic Epidemic.
This speculative design piece is a commentary on the world’s rapid digitalization and how its severley impersonal, fast, overwhelming and intangible nature impairs our ability to feel empathy. It is also a critique on how the human centered approach of “empathic design” is being used by companies, especially in the industry of digital technology, to create and sell products that are very considerate to the consumer’s surface needs but fail to get across the fundamental essence of empathy. At the end of the day, despite their employment of “empathic design” in the creation process of their products, these companies sell goods that contribute to the perpetuation of apathy inherent in late capitalist and corporate culture.
The Apathetic Epidemic Zine
Apathetic Epidemic was published in a zine format as a form of resistance against digitization.
Printed on Laser. Bound and stapled by hand. Edition of 30.
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