Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Timeline of Tomorrow: Predictions for the next hundred or so years

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The start of a new year is a great time to gaze back at the year gone by and reevaluate it. It's also a good time to look forward, to imagine the challenges you might face in the near future.

Luckily, we already know what's in your near future:

Fall 2008: Scientists develop a new type of android, called a "replicant," which will do your bidding. You like this a lot at first. You like that your replicant is polite and a good cook and punctual. But for some reason, it freaks you out. Mostly because some guy decided to give replicants human faces. Faces on robots are a bad idea, because you start to feel sorry for them when you ask them to scrub the tile grout with a toothbrush while you entertain other real human beings with lemonade and finger sandwiches. Anyway, probably because of the faces, you decide to try giving your replicant an upgrade with human emotions. You'll realize that this is a really, really, extremely bad idea, because, as it turns out, while it's nice to make replicants feel happy, its less nice when they feel rage and megalomania and resentment at their human masters. Which they will. In fact, the whole replicant experiment in latter 2008 will just prove that you and everyone else have learned fuck-all from the nuclear armageddon waged against the "terminator"-model cyborgs in 1997 that destroyed pretty much everything, and which we've only now just recovered from. Ah, the '90s. Remember the '90s?

Next year: In a tangentially related development, the human race, including you, suddenly becomes infertile. Take one late-'90s nuclear war mentioned above, add your sensitive human testicles. You do the math.

2013: Several years later, after World War III and famine and devastation, America has become a vast wasteland sparsely populated by scruffy-looking people like yourself, overcome by anarchy and lousy costume design and overlong melodrama. Then a mysterious postal carrier rides through on a horse, delivering mail. He gives you a bundle of envelopes that you spend weeks lingering over, tears filling your eyes. They're mostly bills and coupon Val-Paks, but still — you feel something you haven't felt in years: hope.

2015: Having gotten back on its feet thanks to regular mail delivery, America decides to abolish all lawyers. Also, the Cubs win the World Series against the Florida Gators. You buy your adopted, sterile kids a hoverboard and, yes, finally, you get a flying car — a simple hover-conversion from your old car costs you $49,999.95.

2019: Hmf. Remember those replicants? They're still around, pestering you with existential questions when they should be doing the vacuuming and servicing your hovercar. So you ship them off to a labor colony on another planet. Several of them revolt, sneak back to Earth, and start killing people. A lot of people. You're OK, though.

2022: And yet, despite all those people dead, and despite humanity's impending extinction because nobody can make babies anymore, the world still, somehow, becomes an overpopulated urban hell. Also, neckerchiefs are the newest fashion craze, which you adopt. More to the point, there are so many people that we can't feed everyone — so instead, we turn everyone into feed. Thousands of people every month are packed into warehouses, gutted, deboned, processed, dehydrated, and individually wrapped as green wafer-like foodstuffs that you eat because it's cheap and plentiful. You think the taste is similar to Chicken in a Biskit.

2035: Not long after that, someone gets the bright fucking idea to try the whole sentient robot thing again. And you buy one. This time, though, they don't have people-like faces — which helps you keep these robots at a good emotional distance, enough so you can program them to do all your housework and butlering and so on without feeling too guilty. Everything's cool. Then you figure that these new breed of robots are, like, too emotionally distant. Plus, you begin to crave emotional closeness because you can't have any children. So you get the bright fucking idea to upgrade them with emotions. Yes, again. But this time, you give them three rules to follow that will keep them from going crazy and trying to enslave humanity. Long story short, about an hour and a half later, the robots go crazy and try to enslave humanity.

2063: You manage to hang in there, though. You're lucky enough to be watching your viewscreen as humanity makes first contact with an actual, honest to God alien race — the Vulcans. Turns out, they're peaceful, really smart, they smell good, vegetarian, and are interested in helping the human race explore the galaxy, and have cool technology like transporters and replicators — things that make commerce and labor meaningless, and life utter bliss. These are your golden years.

2098: They're so golden, in fact, that you get a special life-extension procedure at the local clinic, just in time to witness humanity's war with the latest model of servant robot that has gone crazy. These robots don't really have faces or emotions — just metal shielding and claws. Just when you were looking forward to retiring on some distant intergalactic paradise, a robotic tentacle snatches you out of your dusky brown Barcalounger and gives you a cozy home inside a fluid-filled pod, where your bioelectricity is extracted and used to power the infernal robot army. It's pretty hellish, so they plug your brain into their computer-generated dream world to keep you from beating your grey, gnarled little fists against the inside of the pod all day. The dream world is pretty nice. In that dream world, it's 1999. The Terminator War never happened and you're a young man again. You have a nice office job. Your favorite movie is "Planet of the Apes."

1 comment:

Christine said...

Abolish all lawyers!
Hogwash!

Your sis,
Christine

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