Thursday, March 21, 2013

Milestone Entry: 300th Post, and How To Look To the Future

So, amazingly enough, I've made 300 posts here.  Though I think the main thing that demonstrates is dogged perseverance.  If you look at the earliest days of this blog, when I first started I hit the ground running, posting nearly daily.  Then that petered out, and for many months my posting style was... haphazard.  Which is pretty typical.  The internet is positively littered with blogs-- especially writer's blogs-- that start with a fury and burn out just as fast.  But getting past that phase, to push through despite the fact that doing so feels like screaming into a hurricane, that's the challenge.  That's what it takes to get a novel done.

I had been thinking about the future.  Not my future, specifically, but as any sci-fi worldbuilder would, what the future in general is going to look like.  Of course, actually predicting it is nigh-impossible.  But you can at least get a sense of where the technology will take us. 

Twenty years ago, there were a series of commercials from AT&T showing us where the technology was taking us, the things we will be doing in the future.



On one hand, the general accuracy of all this pretty good.  Most of the things presented here are part of our reality today: video conferencing, pervasive telecommunication anywhere in the world, wireless communication, voice controlled systems, automatic tollbooths, electronic books, distance learning.  Most of what's not part of our world today is technologically possible, but the infrastructure or wide-range implementation hasn't been done.

Take, for example, the "Keep and eye on your home, when you're thousands of miles away."  Utterly possible-- my parents have it set up in their house, for example-- but not common.  But how much longer will it really be before Apple releases iHouse? 

On the other hand, what is interesting is how the implementation misses the mark.  "Tuck your baby in from a phone booth."  The concept of long-distance video calls is spot on, but... a phone booth?  They saw where things were going, but didn't imagine the widespread of personal communication devices more or less eliminating public payphones.    Or "pay a toll without slowing down."  Common practice... but nobody swipes their credit card on their own dashboard as they drive by.  "Borrow a book from thousands of miles away."  That one is kind of amusing how clunky it is, but I can see how the this-is-clearly-wrong image we're presented with came about.  They wanted the visuals to signal "book" and "library", so we see her sitting in a cubicle in a library, looking at a screen, that shows the actual book, and pages being turned.  So the book isn't a digital object, so much as there's a camera pointed at a book sitting on a counter on the other side of the world.  "Answer a phone call.... on your wrist." Wrist phones?  I'm sure it's possible, but not something people have really demanded.    But it's spot on in terms of the concept of what we've achieved-- that you can get a call out in the middle of natural nowhere.  Just last year I got message from my agent that he needed a synopsis of one project, and I found the file, polished it and sent it to him... all while out by the Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park. 

The future is a pretty awesome place to live.

Time to keep driving into it.

1 comment:

Chris Andrews said...

Nice. Very interesting to look back and see how people were looking at technology back then, and comparing it to the actual implementation. Thanks.