The technologies first developed in the decade before the Fall and refined in the decade after its end have transformed humanity. In all but the most backwards, impoverished, and repressive regions of the solar system, the vast majority of humanity is smarter, healthier, and richer than any humans have ever been. Additionally, individuals can improve their minds and their bodies in almost any fashion their imaginations can dream up. Those who can afford the right augmentations can think faster, never forget anything they have ever learned, become mathematical savants, and heal from injuries many times faster than an unmodified human. When resleeving is combined with implants, transhumans can gain even more amazing capabilities—but these benefits are far from free.
During the first decade after the Fall, most of the surviving population was relatively poor. Many were grateful to have any morph at all. While the economic situation has improved, significant inequalities remain and seem unlikely to change. Hundreds of millions of people must make do with very basic splicers, worker pods, cases, or synths), while a few million are wealthy enough to have custom-designed morphs created for them, complete with all the augmentations they desire. These same members of the elite live in luxurious villas and mansions, and in a few cases privately-owned asteroids, while most other people must make do with a few hundred cubic meters of dwelling space. However, while inequities of living space are ancient, the issue of economic inequality producing inequities of physical and mental capacities is both relatively new and considerably more problematic.
In regions using the old and transitional economies, differences between the rich and the poor are expressed in terms of money. In habitats using the new economy, wealth is meaningless and status and opportunity are denoted with reputation scores. In all three economies, some people have more than others, and because of this, technology allows the better off to be better than the people around them. Skillware lets people buy knowledge and expertise, while multi-tasking and mental speed implants allow individuals to get more done at once. Someone fortunate enough to acquire large numbers of such augmentations is capable of significantly more than someone who lacks them, and so can do even more to increase their money or rep, thus serving to further perpetuate inequality. This problem is less serious in the reputation-based economies of the outer system, however, as it significantly easier to build reputation through hard work and dedication, as opposed to the rigidly-controlled monetary economies of the inner system and the Jovian Republic, where class stratification is institutionalized and upward mobility is largely a myth.
As many supporters of the status quo are fond of pointing out, even the “havenots” are smarter and healthier than any previous generation of humans and carry as much potential immortality as the wealthiest member of the elite. It is equally true, however, that in many ways the divisions between rich and the poor are significantly greater than they have ever been, especially in the inner system. In the past, the members of the elite might be somewhat healthier and better fed than the have-nots, but both rich and poor still lived in relatively similar and fundamentally human bodies. Now, the very nature of humanity has been called into question. The least fortunate can be forced to inhabit bodies designed specifically for the pleasure of those wealthier than them or even denied any body and forced to live as infomorphs until they can find some way to acquire a new morph—typically by selling their services to the highest bidder. Meanwhile, the well-off can customize their bodies and their minds, enabling them to accomplish far more and to be considerably more impressive and charismatic than anyone lacking their advantages. These inequalities may seem insurmountable, but some anarchistic groups and even some entire habitats have dedicated themselves to reducing inequities by producing low cost (and occasionally highly unreliable) versions of many of the more impressive morphs and augmentations.