The Future

I think you remember as well as I do the vision of the future that was presented to us from a very early age. After all, I think it was the same vision, more or less, since the World’s Fair of 1939 when it was all considered a matter of comfort and convenience. It was the same vision described thirty years later in more sinister terms in Zane and Evans’ song “In the Year 2525.” It’s roughly the same in any science fiction flick, with the exception of those with an apocalyptic vision and in that case, you may be washing your own underwear in creek with a rock in a few years.

However, the image of the future we are most presented with is one in which high technology will take over and run our lives. Everything will operate as fast as that technology can make it run. Artificial intelligence will become our babysitters. We will all get to sit around on our asses, hooked up to wires, and stair blankly into monitors. We will have very little interpersonal contact as we talk to each other on transmitter/receiver devices. Our food will come to us ready-made in little boxes and we will listen to news reports of genetic engineering and a war with no clear exit strategy. The government will lie to us repeatedly through video machines and we will fiercely defend our great leader, no matter how corrupt or incompetent with smiles on our faces–a result of medication readily distributed to keep us happy when we’re down.

By all indications, that world, a cross between The Jetson’s and George Orwell’s 1984, has already arrived. Sure, we’re not flying through the air in shiny hovercrafts, but if we only look at how most people handle an ordinary car, we should be thankful they aren’t in the sky or we’d all be dodging shrapnel. Now if only we could think of some clever uses for our aging population a la Soylent Green, we’d save so much on health care. The way things have been going we should just cut everyone off at thirty a la Logan’s Run. In our current culture, if you are over thirty, you might as well be dead anyway.

Scientists claim we are far away from ever creating a computer like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, a computer that’s dangerously smarter than we are. Yet, about half of all college students in any class can’t finish writing a paper without a spelling or grammar checker, even though the grammar checker is wrong more often than not and the spell checker doesn’t understand homophones. I can’t think of anything more dangerous.

There has been no Andromeda Strain as yet, but for the last few years we have been kept in a continual panic over one possible pandemic or another, be it mad cow disease or bird flu and, of course, they’ve kept AIDS dangling over our heads for thirty years now. We have also seen a recent spate of deaths at theme parks. Disneyworld becomes Westworld for the kiddies. And with everything we’ve been finding trapped in amber, can a Jurassic Park be far behind?

I, myself, am almost entirely technologically illiterate and I feel very comfortable with that. I like actually buying CDs. I like the feel and smell of music. I like having liner notes to read. All I want to know about my computer is how to run the programs I need everyday and how to defrag it after I delete a lot of useless crap. That’s enough for me. I don’t care for cell phones. I get somewhat skittish when a lone stranger walks up behind me, starts up with, “Hi, how have you been? Finally caught you!” and its not directed at anyone in the room. Kind of unsettling, you know. Nevertheless, as time goes on, I increasingly feel that I need to catch up, at least a little bit. I’ve already been accused of being an inconvenient for others. Jeez. Come on…. “Jane, stop this crazy thing!”

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