Friday fluff: The Future Soon

I’ll probably be some kind of scientist
Building inventions in my space lab in space
I’ll end world hunger, I’ll make dolphins speak
Work through the daytime, spend my nights and weekends
Perfecting my warrior robot race
Building them one laser gun at a time
I will do my best to teach them
About life and what it’s worth
I just hope that I can keep them from destroying the Earth

Jonathan Coulton, “The Future Soon

H.G. Wells and Oliver Curry imagined Morlocks and Eloi. Ray Bradbury gave us dystopian book-burners. Orson Scott Card dreamed up aliens and child warriors. People have been picturing the future — for better or worse — since way back in the past. We know Dr. Curry is a fucking loon, but futurism is at best an inexact science, with plenty of room for flights of fancy. All we’ve got to go on is our best guesses, but (and I’m sure Dr. Curry, with his hydraulic-bosomed goddesses, would be the first to say so), the guesswork is awfully fun.

So lay it on me, Shapelers: what’s the future going to look like? Cyborg companions? Food in pill form? Big-breasted Barbarellas with glossy hair and cold wet noses? Do you have a vision all your own, or do you subscribe to someone else’s sci-fi scenario? Did the Jetsons get it right, or did Asimov? Or Orwell? What technological advances are going to turn our way of life on its head? Who would win a battle between the Predator and the Hypnotoad? And — the iconic lament of dissatisfied Gen-Xers — where’s my flying car?

37 thoughts on “Friday fluff: The Future Soon

  1. I am so damned bad at this game, perhaps because I’ve never been a sci fi fan. I am all about The Jetsons.

    Which reminds me, I would like a robot maid, please.

  2. I totally want a robot maid. Hold the Genuine People Personalities, though. I basically just want a multi-purpose Roomba that follows me around and cleans things or puts them away.

  3. Or eats your hat, has sex with your cat, bleeds oil on your floor, or tears off your door.

    God I’m a nerd.

  4. Ooh, a holodeck would be wild. That’s way, way in the future, though.

    My boyfriend is convinced that we’re only about a decade off from being able to grow replacement organs. I have to admit that the technology is pretty much there. I’d be psyched about that one, since my kidneys are practically guaranteed to fail.

  5. “Here I am, brain the size of a planet…” Hee. Geektastic!

    I’m looking forward to wearable computers that basically turn reality into virtual reality (a la Vernor Vinge). I’m not quite ready for implanted crap, but cyberclothes seem kinda cool.

  6. Oh, there’s actually been some real strides in that direction, I think! I feel like I keep seeing awesome proto-cyberclothing on Boing Boing, or at least movement in that direction.

    I’m so interested in the fashion of the future. I want to see smart clothing, but hell, I also want to see woven-in LEDs and materials that allow patterns and texture we can’t currently achieve. I want to see better versions of the invisibility jacket.

    You know what’s great for creative ideas about futuristic fashion (and technology, and attitudes, and…)? Transmetropolitan. I mean, it’s great period, but Ellis has an amazing eye for figuring out how our current neuroses and obsessions might realistically develop and evolve.

  7. There was an episode of the Jetsons where Jane put a perfect Jane-face mask on over her disheveled morning face before answering the ‘phone’ (with screens.) And then the girlfriend she was speaking to sneezed and blew off herperfect face mask to expose her disheveled morning face.

    I need to get me one of them computer i-cam gizmos because my best friend lives in Colorado. I want to get one of those masks for my messy apartment in the background!

  8. Screw flying cars, where’s my virtual reality? I was promised glorious, live and in color, can’t tell it from the real thing virtual reality…jack in the back of the head virtual reality, brought to you by Nintendo…or maybe Sony, I’m not sure. Where is it?? Huh???

    I can haz rawkstar fantasee?

  9. All I know is that if the future turns out to be Demolition Man, like it looks poised to do? I quit. :)

    In a more serious vein, I think William Gibson nailed a lot of what our near-future is going to look like, sad to say.

  10. All I want is a teleportation machine…

    Me too, although I guess really good virtual reality could substitute. Like, if you could meet up with all your friends in a very realistic cyberspace, couldn’t it stand in for teleportation (which I gather is much more difficult)?

    Although… considering what people do in Second Life, maybe we should scotch that idea.

  11. I hope we have…

    1. Access to home food service-I am SO lazy and sick of Ramen noodles!
    2. Non-Human-ish Robot Maids!
    3. A cure for cancer
    4. I really hope I never eat a cloned chicken or anything. That just creeps me out.
    5. Lots of Matrixy clothes so I can pretty much wear what I wear now…except with my hair slicked back and more unisex patent leather. And boots.
    6. Meditation time at work…You can meditate, take a walk, sleep, or play with puppies (um, in the puppy break room) for 20 minutes-3 times a day. You will not be allowed to add this time to your lunch. You MUST do one of these things during that time! I suggest puppies.
    7. Dippin’ Dots-It’s the Ice Cream, of the future, you know!

  12. Access to home food service-I am SO lazy and sick of Ramen noodles!

    Oh, you know what we need? This is from Transmet too — we need machines that convert garbage into usable food and other items and whatever you want, through nanotech. Man, nanotech will make so many great things possible if it doesn’t convert us into gray goo! As much as I love the after-effects of gymgoing, for instance, it’s a pretty dull way to spend my lunch break; it would be so great if I could get nano-exercise during the day (like, little nanobots exercising my muscles), so I can still get the energy and endorphins to make it through work, leave an hour earlier, and then have time to do FUN exercise and other fun stuff. But especially if, instead of having to take out the trash and then go to the grocery store, you can just shove all your junk in the Maker and then go “ice cream please.”

    Possibly I would become immensely lazy. But I think I would actually just have more time to do stimulating things.

    Also, the puppy break room TOTALLY gets my vote. I don’t see any reason why we can’t have that in the present, either!

  13. This is from Transmet too — we need machines that convert garbage into usable food and other items and whatever you want, through nanotech.

    Like the replicator from Star Trek.

    “Earl Grey. Hot” Hee!

    Although I suppose that those of us who like to cook would continue – just for fun.

  14. Although I suppose that those of us who like to cook would continue – just for fun.

    Yeah, but you could be like “here’s some coffee grounds and ripped underwear; please provide me with dry noodles, heavy cream, Italian sausage, bell peppers, and spinach.”

    Now that I put it that way, it sounds kind of like Kingdom of Loathing.

  15. Oh god. You just know the garbage-to-food machine would malfunction just slightly, so you would bite into your peppermint stick ice cream (which is what I would order all the time) and there would be a tiny piece of banana peel or coffee filter in there. I cannot accept any possibility that this technology would fail. If it is not foolproof and we have no other means of food production “in the year 2000,” I will have to starve.’

    Emily, LOL about Dippin’ Dots. An acquaintance of my friend once said (or at least her imitation of him cracks me up because it is like this) in a sad tone, almost as if reluctant to upset Dippin’ Dots with the harsh truth: “At some point, doesn’t it become the ice cream of the present? Or even the past?”

    I would like if we could become Futurama heads-in-jars whenever we needed to, but with perfectly functioning robot bodies so we could get around. That way nobody would have to lose mobility or suffer arthritis or whatnot, though you could keep your body as long as it was working OK.

  16. You just know the garbage-to-food machine would malfunction just slightly, so you would bite into your peppermint stick ice cream (which is what I would order all the time) and there would be a tiny piece of banana peel or coffee filter in there.

    God, you’re right. But here’s the bright side: I don’t know about you, but I’ll never have the earning power to buy one of these right at launch. I’ll have to wait until the price drops enough, which will be with like version 5.0 — plenty of time for them to work out the kinks. Let the rich gearheads eat coffee filter ice cream!

  17. When I was little, I thought we’d all be eating space ice cream by now! That stuff is good!

    I swear, I don’t even really like ice cream. What is with me today?! I guess I need ice cream. :)

  18. Let the rich gearheads eat coffee filter ice cream!

    Shhh! I happen to live with a gearhead who, while not rich, has enough money and the inclination to buy version 1.0 of such gadgets. I don’t even want him to HEAR about this one until version 3.0, at least.

  19. I’m pretty sure that civilization will collapse in the next fifty years. So, those who survive will go on to live tribally, which I’m totally looking forward to. :)

  20. This entire discussion reminds me of the Harvey Birdman episode in which the Jetsons come back from the future to sue mankind. Except they come back from the “distant future” of 2002! Harvey looks at his desk calendar, which of course says 2004.

    I hope we have Mr Fusion engines for our cars, a la Back to the Future II.

  21. Actually, I don’t know if we should look forward to the future at all. According to my vast collection of cheesy sci-fi movies, the technology will be great, but the social mores will revert right back to the 1950s.

  22. I don’t miss the flying car as much since I moved away from Los Angeles (to a place with little traffic, but no Trader Joe’s).
    In my preferred future, I’ll have a little gun-like devise that allows me to stop assholic talk as it’s escaping from the mouth of the offender and it turns into something pleasant, like rose petals, bubbles, or icicles.
    Of course, I wouldn’t want this Colt Civilize aimed at me.
    I want a transporter because I really am terrible at maintaining long distance friendships/relationships.
    Better antidepressants.
    Clothing that you can press a button and make it transparent when there is someone you want to be naked for, just like, one second. Of course this would malfunction on me, at PTA meetings or elsewhere. And there would be hackers who would go around transparenting womens clothing, so that would end up being totally useless.
    I think this is going to require more thought.
    I would also like a much better health care system than the one we have.
    And when civilization collapses, I know the tribe I’ll want to belong to won’t have me.

  23. I was the first person to sneer at the “pert breasts” comment in the original article, but I have to say I could stand a pair of permanently pert breasts. No more $30 bras poking me in the side and squishing my fat and such until the wire comes out and I have to shell out another $30. I know I could theoretically go braless, but my boobs have resembled tube socks with tennis balls in the toes since like 4th grade, so not wearing a bra is not so much liberating as sweaty and uncomfortable. If they would just defy gravity forever I would be much more comfy and have lots more money. So in the future I think we should either have no boobs or comfortable, convenient boobs of some kind. If that means “pert” (what irritating wording) then so be it.

    I don’t know about you, but I’ll never have the earning power to buy one of these right at launch. I’ll have to wait until the price drops enough, which will be with like version 5.0 — plenty of time for them to work out the kinks.

    Aha! Excellent! My friend’s college roommate will be like the first person in the world to line up for one of these, so he can deal with the start-up issues.

    And there would be hackers who would go around transparenting womens clothing, so that would end up being totally useless.
    I think this is going to require more thought.

    Hahahahahahahahaha!!

  24. Well it’s either Handmaid’s Tale or Children of Men, one way or the other I reckon all the stuff women are doing/putting into their bodies to be attractive to men is going to backfire horribly at some point. Nature loves irony.

    I’m suprised noone’s mentioned Soylent Green yet. I wonder what Al Gore thinks of that level of recycling???

  25. A Mad Max III scenario, probably. Figting to the death in Bartertown, and tribes of feral kids in the woods with their cargo cult waiting for Captain Walker to take them to the Tomorramorraland.

    I can cope with this as long as I get to be Auntie Entity. I want Tina Turner’s costume. ;)

  26. Figting to the death in Bartertown, and tribes of feral kids in the woods with their cargo cult waiting for Captain Walker to take them to the Tomorramorraland.

    Hmph. Sounds suspiciously like my place of work. It’s a middle school – such behavior is normal.

  27. oh maaaaan, i am a sucker for a good apocalyptic movie/book/concept. I love the stuff!

    I too think that the handmaid’s tale is scarily close to what could happen, and having just watched Children of Men last night im sure the treatment of illegal immigrants in the film is not far off in the future either. (and the ‘avoiding fertility tests is a crime’ billboards. and the Quietus, government hand-out suicide kits. (you decide when) it was creepy as hell)

    Society is set to crumble, sometime soon. It happened to all the great nations in history, something corrupted from the inside, and no matter how great and how dominant they were, things went sideways. The whole health as a moral obligation thing feels like the beginning of something nasty.

  28. The future? I don’t know if it’s in a book anywhere, but I think the future holds this possibility: archaeoligists digging up mummies with two silicone bags lying on their ribs and saying, “What are these things for?”

    Someone mentioned Orson Scott Card. I took a workshop from him this summer. He’s hilarious and–I don’t need to tell you–incredibly brilliant. He talks like an encyclopedia.

    I wrote some of his gem-like wonders down and put them here, if anyone is interested: http://golibro.com

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