Aside from the glamourous world of rock stars and trideo reporting, we see very little in the Shadowrun source material about the details of holding down a job. Sure, lots of cyberware comes out of military R&D and is popular with security forces, but it’s not all being used by black ops outfits, security workers, and shadowrunners.
My thanks to Jackie, Slide(2), and Indigo on Shadowland for help with these musings.
Datajacks and chipjacks (and the combined omnijack, which costs a little more but does both jobs) are the most popular cyberware out there. They cost only 1000¥ (1750¥ for the omnijack), require about ????¥ of surgery to install, and are incredibly useful for using computers and skillsofts. I believe these things are common with just about everyone living at Middle lifestyle or above.
The jacks are followed closely by display links, headware memory, and headware telephones; with the first two, it’s possible to work with information without need of an external computer, and the last lets you link up with online services. (Consider stockbrokers staying in touch with their offices and programs, getting up-to-the-second updates while doing repetitive, boring workouts, having lunch, or visiting the bathroom.) Again, these are all extremely cheap on the Essence cost as well as the nuyen for anyone at a Middle lifestyle or above.
The encephalon is one of the most terrifying pieces of cyberware; the power its Task Pool grants is amazing. I suspect that the Encephalon 4/Math SPU 4 is one of the most common packages found, and alpha-, beta-, and delta-grade versions of them are very popular for implanting in top-rank corporators. (A fun plot hook might be that a player character in a shadow clinic or delta clinic meets some of the other customers— mostly very wealthy businessmen with connections who want the top-notch cyberware to help them do their jobs. Some of the businessmen later contact the character through intermediaries...) The Cerebral Booster-2 makes a good adjunct to that, as does the Mnemonic Enhancer. Why should Lofwyr be the only being that can micromanage a megacorp? They aren’t cheap, but you can expect that you’ll find the maximum amount of these packed into top-notch researchers who aren’t worried about Magic loss; some corps may even implant them into brainy kids barely out of puberty as a way of speeding them through college and into a job.
There’s a fair amount of expensive cyberware that can enhance your productivity, if you work in the right professions. (Especially ones where the skills are affected by a Task Pool.) A popular option for folks who want to get ahead is the cyberware loan: the down payment covers the surgery for implanting (and possible later removal), and the increased productivity granted by the cyberware should increase the person’s worth to pay the loan off. Of course, some people might try skipping on the loans, which could put their names on “wanted” lists for professional bounty hunters.
Cyberware insurance would be a similar phenomenon: the stuff is expensive, so if it gets damaged, you wouldn’t want to pay ruinous amounts to have it repaired or replaced. Getting insurance would require backgrounds checks and risk evaluations, and the costs for high-danger occupations like “security worker”, “unemployed”, and “contract worker” would be quite high.
Another aspect of magic that FASA neglects is the effect it should have on the economy. Magically active people are 1% of the population. Full mages are 10% of that group; I estimate another 40% are Adepts of some sort. (I’m assuming that somehow 50% are unaware of their talent or just don’t use it— perhaps ludicrous, given how much money mages can make, but I’m trying to see what would be in FASA’s universe.)
From inspecting the AMA web site, it looks like there are 650,000 practicing physicians in the US right now. If magic were working right now, we’d have about 250,000 full magicians and a million Adepts. So it looks like magicians are a little less than half as common as doctors, just for comparison purposes.
There’ll be a strong pull of magical types toward the cities where they can find work, but you wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a small town where the sheriff is a Fire Adept who can sling stun bolts into criminals and pitch in with water-effect Combat spells when there’s a fire, or where the fire department is mostly one Earth Adept who has spells for putting out fires, holding up buildings that are about to collapse, and similar rescue work.
I would expect most healing mages to have a lot of spells with the exclusive and expendable fetish modifiers boosting their Force. (Healing fetishes are expensive, but healing mages are rare.) To a degree, this would go for most professional mages, since Drain reduces their effectiveness per unit time. I also think that there’s a large trade in the appropriate sort of spell foci to equip these mages. Since karma is so rare, I would also expect that it’s very common to have foci enchanted especially for a particular mage, with enough orichalcum that it reduces the bonding cost to something extremely minimal. (After all, orichalcum is expensive, but karma is even more expensive.) The high cost of karma means that as mages give up foci, there’s a brisk trade in the secondhand stuff where you can’t get the cheap first bonding cost.
A notion that came up recently (when helping a friend move, of course) was Mystic Movers. A mage specializing in telekinesis can do things that would require heavy lifting equipment or would be flat-out impossible in getting objects from one place to another. It should be possible to create TK spells that lift an object by applying force to the whole object, rather than to it surfaces; similarly, it should be possible to create one that anchors an object to a surface so that when the surface moves, the object accelerates uniformly. This means you could move thoroughly laden bookshelves and dressers without ever needing to actually pack things, and then transport them on a flatbed truck without worrying about anything falling out. This would definitely be a luxury service, but certainly effective. (Imagine spending, say, 500¥ to have your entire apartment’s contents of stuff moved without having to go through the trouble of packing it up and unpacking it later; one mage should be able to take care of a whole apartment in a single day, unless it needs to be shipped a long way, in which case there may be some investment in a flatbed truck with a quickened spell for uniform acceleration on its contents. Doing that five days a week pays for a High lifestyle in a month.)
Another interesting health spell would be one that convinces your body that it’s time to start burning fat for energy now. I suspect this would not require sustaining for very long (though the biochemical effect it would create wouldn’t last for more than a few hours), but it could drastically increase the efficacy of exercise for losing weight in a very healthy way. Would all the hordes of folks ready to pay to go to a gym to work out pay, perhaps, 20¥ extra per visit to have each visit count for triple? Casting this spell (on average) on one customer every ten minutes at a gym could still pull in 960¥ a day.
If you’ve got the kind of computer skills a drek-hot decker possesses, you’re going to tend to be a drek-hot programmer to boot. So why risk that head containing a Math SPU-4, Encephalon-4, Cerebral Booster-2, and the wetware containing your Computer Software: 8 skill getting blown off or fried by black IC when you could be making money? What kind of nuyen is a competent decker going to expect if they’re legit, and what kind of working conditions? (There should be something to tempt the PC deckers to look away from shadowrunning, for consistency’s sake.)
Programming is still going to be an important job market in 2057. I have no doubt that there will be endless legions of wageslave programmers with little creativity who went into the business in order to simply make a living, and similar legions of QA personnel to make sure the programmers wrote code that worked. But with these uncreative sorts simply trying to get by, there will be greater opportunities for people that code for the joy of it to shine, and corps will certainly know how to show their appreciation for such talents (even if the programmer can’t be let out in public and simply must be thrown double soykafs and the occasional inflatable toy).
For a start, since you can do your work just by jacking in, offices are going to be very comfortable. I can imagine programming facilities where the building contains a big central dome with a private park underneath, with trees and grass and fountains and lots of comfortable furniture and conversation pits, and the whole place riddled with jackpoints. Programmers are lounging under trees doing all their work via a display link superposed on their view of the grounds, flaked out on low sculpted hillsides while jacked into the Matrix, and having discussions about planning large-scale projects in groups. The programmers also probably have High lifestyles, and the ones that are willing to take corporate housing can even telecommute into the chunk of the Matrix behind the corporate firewall. Sound idyllic? You bet. All this is tucked nicely inside truly impressive security measures? You bet.
(This is, of course, in contrast to something resembling a modern office with cubes that are about six feet across containing a basic slab of desk, a telephone, a comfortable recliner, and a jackpoint, which is what your run-of-the-mill “doing this just for a living” uncreative programmers would end up with.)
What are some booming programming industries? Off the top of my head:
(Mind you, I don’t think that the whole economy of decking utilities and IC is a big industry. The people working on those things are elite, and their work tends to be far from the public eye.)
I expect that the garden-party style is what you’d expect at a company that had invested a fair amount into the care and feeding of its top-rate programmer/designers. (I don’t think you can be a top-rate designer without also being a good programmer as well...) Grunt programmers (and well designed modular code libraries) can take care of a lot of the low-level work.
There’ll probably also be a lot of work in software development for people who can’t code at all. As the matrix, and probably most other user interfaces, are very graphic, there’ll be work for all kinds of visual artists. Designing a user friendly interface, whether it’s graphic or voice, is also a skill quite separate from programing, and will have its own experts.
The Vehicle Control Rig is a heavily underrated piece of cyberware. It isn’t merely a replacement for the steering wheel and pedals: it allows a human being to basically possess a machine, whether it’s a car or a building— or an assembly line. A master machinist with a Vehicle Control Rig 1 can carefully run an assembly line through the creation of a particular product, then use that as a control program for a specialised sort of “autopilot”. Some people might even have a day job of “riding” an assembly line, bringing their attention to different parts to examine tolerances and make fine-tuned adjustments that a program would miss.