Living in the Future


“The future“‘s glamor, its sexiness. It’s never just one day. We don’t imagine May 20, 2050. The present is almost always the one given day.
Unless something starkly Ubertrending happens, and usually something bad. And that’s when the present feels like “the future”.

William Gibson on twitter.

I feel like I live in the future ALL THE TIME.

My camera is a sleek flat rectangle just like in Transmetropolitan. Except that my camera is also a phone and a networked computer which contains a map of the world that knows where I am along with a growing portion all of the knowledge.

I have the Internet. Everyone has the Internet. We’re giving out laptops to children, except that this might not matter, because everyone wants a cellphone instead. What’s a cellphone? It’s the word we use to prevent our brains freaking from the fact that we all carry around personal radios, (with way more function than Star Trek communicators) that link us to a global satellite network. Like talking about wireless cable.

I just got back from 2 weeks in Thailand on business. I didn’t have working water every morning, but everyone had working miracle gizmos that we barely noticed. I got frustrated when network difficulties made it kind of choppy to talk to a teleconference of people all around the globe. For free!

The nation state is under pressure from without and within. Corruption is rampant and crushing. More and more corporations and individuals are becoming truly transnational.

Every day, people upload free video of new marvels and wonders. They’re commercializing Electric Cars!

Flying robots (ROBOTS!) are used to fight wars with shadowy terrorist organizations on the edge of law-bound civilization.

Need I mention that the world might be facing either an economic or environmental apocalypse (or both!).

We have a space station now, though it doesn’t really work very well. The Chinese have a space program. And possibly an army of hackers.

Did I mention, there were PIRATES? Not, like, fun swashbuckling pirates, but high tech, globally networked pirates.

This is not the bright gleaming future of certain kinds of science fiction, but it is the messy, complicated future of the science fiction I grew up with. It may be wrong on the details, but in tone, this is sometimes terrifyingly close to the 1980s worlds of Gibson and Sterling and that whole crowd. I think it’s telling that the crew I grew up reading are writing closer to the present these days (or even the past).

P.S. Nuclear Lighthouses.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Midnight-digital