Life outside sounded like hell to digital humans—all that back-breaking work to provide just the basics and all that uncertainty. Digital humans had no clue where anything came from, not the food they ate, the clothes they wore nor the ideas they held as their own. Meanwhile, over the decades, life on the outside improved. Slowly. Sustainably. Free from the delusion of perpetual growth-based economics.
Although few of them realised it, the digital humans were still totally reliant on nature: the corn and bean basis of their false-food diet, the reusable bio-plastic trays of their heat-and-eat 'food', the vibrant fabrics of their clothes. An engineer might occasionally fix a self-driving tractor but he had no idea what it was doing driving up and down in the dirt, putting things into or taking things out of the ground. All production was automated now—even reproduction.
As resource limits were inevitably reached, the digital cities faltered and chaos ensued within, while to the outside world they remained what they had always been: impenetrable fortresses—monolith on the outside and monoculture within. The digital humans had to remain inside, despite services failing, because they could never go outside again. Their immune systems, along with everything else, had been provided for them.
The neo-indigenous populations—the germ-laden 'outsiders'—had not tried to dominate nature, they had worked with it. They understood the concept of 'enough', the difference between wants and needs. The hubris of civilisation had run its course. Death was just the other end of life once more. Death was not bad, it just was.
It was bound to happen one day, the only question was who would be around to see it. When the sun emitted the most massive coronal mass ejection in its history—one which would have decimated all electrical devices and destroyed the digital cities anyway—humanity carried on unchanged. If the distant lights of the cities had not gone out long ago, they would have gone out on this night. This night of the most spectacular auroras, seen from pole to equator, as a tsunami of charged particles washed over a small blue planet.