Zach Klein: “Then, just now, I remembered

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 06, 2005

Zach Klein: “Then, just now, I remembered that I live in the future.” (Related but unrelated, now that we’re living in the future, what do we expect to happen in the actual future? This is actually a serious question…society has a collective vision of the future and now that we’re there — ubiquitous huge flat panel tvs, real-time recording/documenting of everything, Segways, personally targetted advertising, etc. — what’s our new collective vision of the future like?)

Reader comments

Glen C.Dec 06, 2005 at 6:49PM

Well since we STILL DON’T HAVE JETPACKS OR FLYING CARS IN THE MAINSTREAM I’m still thinking this is going to be the future. I would also like instant transportation.

Stefan JonesDec 06, 2005 at 6:58PM

I’m not sure if there IS a collective vision of the future any more.

A lot of folks seem to desire a return to the 1950s, or 1920s, or the Gilded Age, or whenever it was that decent folks were in charge and men were men and women knew their place.

Others have given up on a human future altogether and are waiting for the Singularity to clear up their zits and otherwise make things right.

Perhaps things are best summed up by David Byrne’s song “In the Future”:

In the future everyone will have the same haircut and the same clothes
In the future everyone will be very fat from the starchy diet
In the future everyone will be very thin from not having enough to eat
In the future it will be next to impossible to tell girls from boys, even in bed
In the future men will be ‘super-masculine’ and women will be ‘ultra-feminine’
In the future atomic fusion will enable us to build a skyscraper with
the energy obtained from a grain of salt
In the future through genetic surgery there will be a race of menial
workers, studs, ‘whores’, TV personalities and politicians

… and so on, strange and contradictory.



John ZeratskyDec 06, 2005 at 7:53PM

I have this feeling (“I’m living in the future”) quite often. I love it.

eyemageDec 06, 2005 at 8:47PM

lots of visions of the future involve freedom or virtually free cost items…free transportation or free access to info…
my personal vision is one where places are built for people and not cars or other vehicles…
hopefully there will be a future where we finally live on more than one planet.

Philip AshlockDec 06, 2005 at 8:59PM

I think most agree that earth’s post-petroleum landscape is near and will vastly affect our daily lives. Sure, there are plenty of perfect alternatives, but I doubt the transition will be smooth. So i like to imagine the effect of price differences between products (such as food) that come from across the country or across the world with those that come from the local area. Mass production and inexpensive transport often make up for these differences now, but I foresee some issues during the post-petroleum transition. Local offerings will have the cost/energy efficiency advantage. Cities will become more populated, robust, diverse, and self-sufficient. I like to call this omnilocalism - the resultant necessity of close-proximity dependent distribution.

DaveDec 06, 2005 at 10:09PM

They’re saying that we’re really close to having cars that will drive themselves, thanks to advances in AI and gps. I’ll take a car that will drive me instead of one that flies.

TimDec 06, 2005 at 10:14PM

I have to agree with Philip. A nearing energy crisis could cause a drastic change in our lives. I see that future as probably bleak, but I don’t know if most share that view. Perhaps our views of the future are shaped by the political party we belong to, or perhaps our collective view alternates every few decades between optimistic and pessimistic, just because that’s the easiest to grasp concept of “different”. I think it’s fairly safe to say the future will be quite different from now.

Nels NelsonDec 07, 2005 at 12:17AM

@John Zeratsky: I agree. I don’t get it very often these days, but I relish it when I do. The first time I experienced the “Holy shit! We’re living in the future!” feeling, it was a cannabis-induced sensation triggered by settling into the backseat of my friend’s new Nissan Maxima, and listening to his radar detector boot up as his car turned on and rest of his console lights came on, and Nine Inch Nails’ “Into The Void” from The Fragile beginning to boom on his kilowatt sound system. I felt like I was in a scene from Akira or something. Since then, similar such experiences have been few and far between, since I got off the grass.

But on a more serious note, I believe that our current collective stress-out about petroleum and fossil based fuels and energy, as well as the constant threats from terrorism, global warming, cancer and pandemics, overpopulation, etc., are going to force the human population into some pretty awe-inspiring advances over the next couple of decades. We’re talking huge leaps forward. These significant improvements include:

1. Complete transition to solar power as the primary source of energy supply to all residential, commercial, and industrial energy demands. All the following improvements will be brought about based on this single momentous accomplishment.

2. Transition to family and community based habitats which are ecologically and culturally enriching. These constructions will spring up in place of reclaimed land from industrial and commercial sites, and will be interconnected by a brand new nationwide (and soon thereafter planetwide) transportation (electric trains, electric computer-navigated automobiles, transition of major airlines from bulk travel to on-demand commuter flights, etc.) network making it a seamless and painless process to commute from a major metropolis to your family back on the farm.

3. Regulation of global warming by means of a world-wide biosphere control scheme. This will include using phytoplankton (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/06/0609_040609_carbonsink.html) and iron-based fertilizers in the oceans, as well as a number of other measures. Also, since the world will no longer depend on petroleum and fossil fuels for energy, pollution and carbon emissions will be drastically reduced.

4. Furthermore, since the dependence on petroleum will be eliminated, the economic (and hence, political) interests of the US in Middle Eastern countries will diminish greatly, reducing the strain on that region’s already oppressed people, which in turn will have a calming effect on the activity of terrorists.

5. Elimination of buffering content and information distribution entities such as the recoring and motion picture industries. While this will simply exchange power from one entity to another (network service providers) it will serve to streamline the process of production and distribution making it easier than ever for individuals and organizations to create and communicate information.

6. Because energy will become a non-issue, governments around the world will be able to shift attention away from internal economic problems caused by diminishing resources and focus more on forward thinking policies and technological advancements brought about by open collaboration with multi-national coalitions and government sponsored partnered entities.

7. Space travel. Fast. Within the next thirty years.

8. World peace. Without strain on population for competition for scarce resources such as energy sources for the industries of developing nations, there will be little to no political rangling for power or military action required between nations.

9. An end to world hunger. With unlimited energy at our fingertips, the developed world will be able to manufacture and transport all the modern equipment necessary for industrialized agriculturalization of regions of the world where food is scarce and at famine levels of unavailability. Biosphere control mechanisms built in to energy-harvesting technology will begin to terraform whole swathes of uninhabitable and uncultivable land into useful regions which will nearly immediately (within a span of five to ten years) cause tremendous cultural and global change. Our planet’s appearance from space will be significantly altered. These global processes will be controlled with complete assurance and confidence by our civilization, and will not get out of control. (No over-cooling or wildly fluctuating temperatures.)

10. Instability of Earth’s electromagnetic sphere will cause problems for long distance communication using signals transmitted over radio spectrum. However, a global network of broadband short-access wireless networking will make the problem moot. Unfortunately, many thousands of people will die from cancer due to the increased ultraviolet radiation from the Sun that the weakened electromagnetic sphere will allow to penetrate to the Earth’s surface. Thankfully, cancer will be cured within five years of it’s worst outbreak among the global population.

11. Global population will go through some severe fluctuations on it’s course to stabilizing at around 11 billion people, and while this will cause severe heartache for individuals worldwide and leave a psychological and emotional imprint on our culture which will be remembered in our history books and stories past down throught he generations for centuries to follow, our (all peoples, in all nations) overall standard of living will improve, and human atrocities and suffering will be reduced and practically eliminted, even during the most traumatic periods of our civilization’s growing pains.

12. Nuclear war will never erupt between any nations, because political and miltiaristic posturing, manipulation, and confrontation will all cease to be tools of national entities, due to the fact that energy resources are ubiquitous, and complete land reclamation and restoration from desert regions and polluted areas is commonplace.

Why I am so optimistic about our future?

I believe that stress on a population causes characteristics to emerge which make the population at large more effective at survival. Continued future stress on the ever growing human civilization will force innovation and adaptation the like of which we have never seen or imagined before. People are capable of great things, and will do great things, if they are done right. All it takes is trust, determination, spirit and will. I believe that these things will win out over corruption, greed, and apathy. They have to. Corrupt, greedy and apathetic individuals will get naturally selected out of the gene pool, leaving the rest of us to become careful, caring, clever and conscionable stewards of our planet and solar system.

Michael HeilemannDec 07, 2005 at 4:08AM

In terms of the common perception of ‘the future’, I think we have moved away from viewing the future as ‘the place where new technology will make life easier’ to more humane issues, namely fighting poverty, war, disease, injustice and so forth.

I want rocketcars as much as the next person though.

BoogaDec 07, 2005 at 9:22AM

My very special view for the future is driven by the fact that I’m a father of an unborn child. So everything which is not suppose to fuck the world up to a lasting effect is pretty welcome.

Scott BerkunDec 07, 2005 at 9:24AM

I really just want the assholes to go away, and for everyone else to laugh more often. That’s my idea of an ideal future. Has anyone invented an asshole detector (and labotomy) API set yet? (If anyone says get a flashlight and a rifle, I’m running for the hills right now).

Seriously: I think the technology depedent future stuff misses the point. It’s not what gadgets do that matter, it’s what we do with them. For example: I don’t care about RSS and IM, I care about what’s being said and how it makes me think or feel.

If I had a zillion dollars to invest in a better future, focusing on the web/blogs/etc. I’d pay to teach every blogger something about self expression and how to write well - things no technology will ever do. I’d pay Joan Didion to hit them on the head every few hours with copies of Orwell’s collected essays, bury them in copies of Lamott’s Bird by bird and sing to them passages from Zinsser’s On writting well.

I’ll stand up and applaud when a single blogging tool does anyting to expose it’s users to what it means to be a good communicator of anything.

I’m all for world peace, solar power and Nels’ list - but like world hunger, they’re mostly *not* technological problems. They’re political and human. If you want a future where the world is saved, it’s got more to do with communication and self-awareness than what version of what software our jet-packs are running.

Perhaps the invention most needed is a technology that tells us when a problem is best solved through non-technological means.

MonkeymanDec 07, 2005 at 10:56AM

That is really interesting. Someday we’ll be able to log into a website and watch different moments from our lives, archived in video, indexed by our SSN. (gulp) hahaha Big Brother (or Google) whee! ;>

TyDec 07, 2005 at 2:03PM

You want a really pessimistic view? The class divide around the world will expand. The uneducated masses will grow as they are literally less informed about contraception, but on the other side, anyone who possibly can will go to college. But as those people are more aware of contraception and the negative ills of society, they will continue to have 2.5 children or less. This will create a larger and larger number of poor, and uneducated people and a smaller and smaller number of educated self-sustained people.

In this country specifically, the ultra-religious right will all but eliminate other religions from the mainstream, through well-organized political powers (possibly violating the separation of church and state, but most likely amending the constitution to allow for the overlap) creating an ultra-conservative Christian government that if it doesn’t outright outlaw other religions, will have others practicing in secrecy.

And as we will destroy our atmosphere and global warming will warm the oceanic waters, hurricanes will become more common. The entire atlantic and gulf coasts will be destroyed. Eventually, as the ice caps melt, they will also be underwater.

Oh and California will fall into the Pacific.

Technologically though, the upper class that is left will have some great toys. They will live to an average age of 100, solar panels will be more attractive and part of every home’s roof to, if not eliminate then to compensate for, other energy sources like oil. They will be able to travel to Europe in 1/4 the time it now takes, and a cool summer vacation will be to a space station.

How’s that?

Ben SpicerDec 07, 2005 at 2:32PM

isnt technology great?

did i hear someone say intel powerbook?! :)

Mark M. SmithDec 08, 2005 at 12:31AM

Well, hate to be so typical, but pretty much I want the standard awesomely futuristic looking (hover) cars, instantaneous matter transportation, nanite-based matter creation from base elements, personal robots, cybernetics, space travel, etc. Also tailfins should come back. Why the hell did we ever get rid of something as cool as tailfins? Why oh why do they keep making boring, ugly cars when people clearly love classic designs — and not half-assed rip-offs of them, but real classic design.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.