Scott Z. Burns created a series on Apple TV called “Extrapolations” that looks at the dystopic world a few decades from now. However, in this version of the dystopia, the earth isn’t being taken over by machines like in “Judgement Day,” nor is it questioning if artificial beings can be considered organisms like in “I, Robot” or “Blade Runner.” Burns’ vision is far more realistic, which makes it a lot more impactful than machines or apes taking up arms against humanity. It shows what happens to the world when people don’t realize how their actions are leading to the destruction of the planet. Global warming is not a myth; it is happening, and it’s people like Nick Bilton, the founder, and CEO of Alpha Industries, in Extrapolations,” who are the main reasons for that. Bilton is a megalomaniac, and the central focus today is we take a look at how one man’s greed led to the destruction of a planet that had survived for billions of years.
Nick Bilton is a fictional character in a drama series “Extrapolations,” with a lot of props and futuristic gadgets, but he’s not an alien. Right now, there are hundreds of such Nick Biltons who want to make more money than they can store on this planet, so they need access to Mars and are willing to go to any length to make it happen—even sacrificing the planet they were born on. Remember that Russian billionaire Yuri Karpov in “2012” and his billion-dollar plane tickets for himself and his boys as the world was ending? Bilton probably had similar plans if the earth was about to be wiped out while still considering every possible way to add to his already gigantic pile of wealth, and the worst part is most of his ideas weren’t even original. This makes him a hack—an avaricious, selfish, and money-grabbing hack who ruthlessly terminated anyone who stood in his way of becoming the richest person on the planet while he destroyed the earth over the course of 50 years.
The first time we met the founder and CEO of Alpha Industries, Nick Bilton, in “Extrapolations” Episode 1, he was submerged in a swimming pool inside his home while hundreds of thousands of hectares worth of forests burned due to the extreme heat. The businessman in his early 20s made careful plans about how to make the best of the situation ahead of the 2037 Climate Change Convocation in Israel. The world is burning, there’s an exodus in the millions, species are slowly being wiped out, the temperature is unbearable, and the ice caps are all but finished, and yet, Nick Bilton is asking his secretary which materials have the highest share prices now.
There are countries that are struggling with a lack of freshwater and ask Alpha for prototypes for producing drinkable water from seawater, but nothing is gratis for the gluttonous Bilton and his company. Algeria and other countries are granted the prototypes to make freshwater, but in exchange, they’ve got to sign the death warrant for their future generations as the temperature cap is pushed up to 2 degrees in a world where anything beyond 1.5 degrees is considered terminal for the planet. The Convocation agrees to let Alpha increase the temperature because of their industrial activities because they don’t have a choice, lest people die from thirst. However, Bilton’s ride to the convocation center isn’t exactly smooth, as he’s made to watch as a man lights himself on fire in a protest against Bilton’s company, which is ruining the earth day by day. Bilton watches a man burn to death and gives a speech about his plans to further torment this planet by raising the temperature with a smug smile as he can see his net worth skyrocketing.
We keep seeing the growing influence of Alpha across the globe over the years, with the company taking over everything from news channels to service drones and even a technology where a person can upload their consciousness to a digitized version. But the next time we see Nick Bilton in person is in 2070, and he’s old. His skin is forcibly kept taut with plastic surgery; he sweats constantly, and his spine is permanently crooked. However, it’s impossible to pity such a shark that devours anything in its path but ensures no harm befalls him. He has a protective covering over his mansion in Surrey while people in San Francisco need oxygen masks to step outside, and he takes pride in enjoying only naturally produced goods while the rest of the world starves. He has always been a megalomaniac, and his insurmountable ego pokes its head out every time someone calls him out on his actions. Bilton enjoys venison in his home, while everyone on the planet must eat artificially grown tasteless ‘food,’ and he sips on wine made from real grapes, whereas fruits are more expensive than plane tickets in 2070.
Bilton erupts at his associate Martha Russell, comparing his actions that have destroyed the planet with people burning coal to stay warm and then getting lung cancer. It’d be a mistake to think he’s disillusioned; he’s just too much of an egomaniac to think whatever he’s done has led to the destruction of mankind, not to mention the fauna. Speaking of fauna, Alpha’s acquisition of a company called Menagerie2100, where nearly extinct animals are studied to be recreated for exclusive zoos, was nothing but a business model where Bilton hoped to make billions by showcasing extinct animals in zoos. There’s hardly any aspect of life that he didn’t make into a business, but he never failed to remind everyone that cancer had been cured and the literacy rate was high. In a world where people are digitizing themselves and infertile couples can have robotic children of their own, this seems too little to be proud of.
Bilton’s actions did catch up to him, though, and he was called to the International Criminal Court, where he was charged on the grounds of ecocide. His company then proceeded to undertake every means possible to threaten and shoo off anyone who dared to stand against him, and when that failed, he had his people spike the medicines of one of the major witnesses, Dr. Rebecca Shearer, which led to her falling from her building to her death. These actions showed that Bilton was no better than the corrupt politicians and businessmen who had the witnesses murdered before they could reach the court. The next witness, Jonathan Chopin, was humiliated and lambasted on the stand as Bilton attacked him personally, reminding him of the faults and failures in his family. A wealthy businessman who strongarms and silences the ones who dare raise their voices against the decades of injustice peddled by them is not an uncommon sight, but the only difference is that by 2070, there won’t be too many people like Bilton. He’s it; he’s public enemy number one, and he’s the reason why humanity is on its last legs. But he still has a plan when the going gets tougher.
The earth in 2070 will have a carbon concentration of 564 ppm, which is why the skies are permanently covered in smog and it’s impossible to breathe. Bilton had Alpha create a device called Newcomen that could extract carbon from the air and reduce the number of particles to a safer number. However, this invention wasn’t Bilton’s own; he probably had the scientist who came up with the idea murdered, took over her plans, and brought her daughter Decima back, probably to pose as a humanitarian. The machine could save the world, or at least try to, but even here, Bilton and his friends wanted to make money. They planned to reduce the number to 470, which would barely make a difference, but that’s the option that’d help Alpha save face while not disturbing the inflow in the trillions. On the final day of Bilton’s trial, Alpha released Newcomen, and the founder made an emphatic speech, blaming everyone but himself for the condition of the earth and presenting himself as a businessman who found himself in the right place to make a dollar. He was cleared of all charges and released, but the girl he’d brought back testified against him. This is how we know “Extrapolations” is a drama, because were it real life, men like Bilton would go free and keep making billions until the planet imploded, but not before he and his friends got on a shuttle and headed to a different planet—think the ending from “Don’t Look Up.”
Decima’s testimony reopened the case, and Bilton was found guilty of his crimes of ecocide and sentenced to 25 years in a space shuttle out of the earth—the future of incarceration. Bilton would have to watch the planet he wanted to destroy from above and not be able to do anything about it, while the planet itself was saved by using Newcomen and reducing the carbon ppm to 350. We don’t know what becomes of Bilton, but the people who dread their planet heading towards the fictional dystopia of 2070 as depicted in “Extrapolations” can’t be blamed for hoping Bilton’s punishment should’ve been a bit more severe. What should be your punishment when you not only lead to the deaths of millions, not at once but over decades but also exterminate every other life form and call it collateral damage to becoming the ruler of a planet? Spending 25 years in space and being released to a better world at 90, no thanks to Bilton, sounds like not much of a punishment. In any case, the earth is saved at the end of “Extrapolations” Season 1 because this was a piece of fiction.