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The Future's So Bright ...
January 12, 2011 7:34 PM   Subscribe

A Day in the Future. "I don’t live in Philadelphia, but my friend has a machine that lets us see what’s happening there. I have one too. Almost everyone does. The sun won’t rise for another hour, but I don’t need to light a fire or candles. I have artificial ones, mounted on the ceiling. Hit a tiny switch and I can see everything, any time of day."
posted by WCityMike (78 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm just a simple unfrozen caveman lawyer. Your world cofuses and terrifies me.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:38 PM on January 12, 2011 [30 favorites]


The stuff in the book can be written by anyone in the world, even as I’m reading it. There’s more in that book than I could ever read. It provides me with unbelievable advantages. Anything I don’t know, I can find out in a few seconds.
I can get instructions on how to do pretty much anything that has ever been done. I can summon complete histories of almost any person or culture you could name, expert opinions on anything at all, unlimited advice, unlimited entertainment, unlimited information.


i watched a cat fall off a table on youtube
posted by Greg Nog at 7:39 PM on January 12, 2011 [63 favorites]


For some people, he's describing a Day in the Past, one of the Good Old Days of things lost. Let's hope we can minimize the number of people for whom that's so.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:39 PM on January 12, 2011


So much so that I cannot spell simple, common words.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:40 PM on January 12, 2011


what about the porn he forgot about the porn
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:45 PM on January 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


A BILLION FOR BORIS!
posted by not_on_display at 7:46 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is kind of why I stopped feeling sad that I don't have a robot maid, and started referring to my appliances as such. I got me an army of robot maids, and they don't sass me like that Rosie from The Jetsons.
posted by padraigin at 7:48 PM on January 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Hmm. This is a lot like the great comment by EatTheWeak "Apologies to Mr. Suelo, but modern western civilization is the shit..."
posted by Zack_Replica at 7:50 PM on January 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


The future is full of pretension.
posted by djduckie at 7:53 PM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I blew my four-year-old's mind this morning by simply informing him that when I was his age, we didn't have a computer.

"And now we have four," I said.
"Don't forget the iPad," my wife said.
"Yeah," I said. "And your iPod Touch. And my iPod shuffle."
"What about the DVRs?"
"OK, that's two more."
"The Xbox? The Wii?"
"Phones?
"Yeah."
"Don't cars have computers?"
"Several, actually."
"This is fucking cool."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:54 PM on January 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


Your four year old's got quite the mouth on him.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:59 PM on January 12, 2011 [46 favorites]


This is what cyberpunk was like. There was no term for the things, we had to describe them in known terms.
posted by boo_radley at 8:05 PM on January 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


And on my glowing blue window, I can compose snarky responses to articles intended to gin up a sensation that the present is an eerie DeLillotopia.
posted by Beardman at 8:09 PM on January 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Y'know how they have Frontier House and 1940s House and Manor House and all those other "let's take people from today and put them back in olden times" reality shows? It's really too bad that you can't take, say, the Ingalls Family and put them in 2011. They'd go insane.
posted by Lucinda at 8:11 PM on January 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


This is kind of why I stopped feeling sad that I don't have a robot maid --- Louis C.K. has a bit in his newest stand-up special that sort of eludes to this sentiment. He talks about how people complain about flying in an airplane, how they had to sit on the runway for 45 minutes, and how they complain about how cramped the seats were. He points out that it completely overlooks the miracle of human flight, and that in previous generations, it took years to cross the country, as opposed to 6 hours. Here's a clip.
posted by crunchland at 8:14 PM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


take, say, the Ingalls Family and put them in 2011. They'd go insane.

All I know is that someone's gonna end up burned for witchcraft.
posted by saturday_morning at 8:15 PM on January 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm glad I don't live in a future where I eat groats, whatever those are. (Gross goats, perhaps? Grody scroats? Gravy boats? Yeah, I bet it's gravy boats. The future is crazy like that.)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:16 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq: "I'm glad I don't live in a future where I eat groats, whatever those are."

Man are you in for surprises.
posted by boo_radley at 8:32 PM on January 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was saying something like this the other day, except I wasn't fake-lamenting the OH SO TERRIBLE LOSS OF OUR CONNECTION WITH NATURE. Because nature gives you dysentery and then you die. I learned that from playing Oregon Trail on my magic box.

Buckwheat groats my ass
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:33 PM on January 12, 2011 [15 favorites]


That whole site is a great read. Nice catch. Oftentimes, people my age bemoan the fact that nobody writes with their hands, or does math on paper, (don't get me started with Selectric typewriters!)....but why do it anymore? Is it necessary for the continuation of humankind? Starbucks has replaced caves for common areas to post information, and our devices become extensions of our being. Dear God, I had two semesters of Astronomy and all of our calculations had to be done *by hand*. I love the wonderful electronic revolution, the sheer madness that is the Internet, bendable monitors, artificial hearts. I wouldn't trade living in this extraordinary time for anything.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 8:37 PM on January 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


This future isn't evenly distributed yet.
posted by wam at 8:38 PM on January 12, 2011 [17 favorites]


I rather enjoyed that although I thought he was beating us over the head with the shtick after a little while, and the moralizing could have been done better—a little is fine, and point taken and deserved too perhaps, but it was heavy-handed. Whereas I think it started out pretty nice in a way that reminded me of some satisfying sci-fi short stories I've read (the names and authors of which I'm blanking on). He described a few things, like the shower, in a way that gave me a smile, for some reason.

So that is all to say: pretty good, could use editing.
posted by dubitable at 8:39 PM on January 12, 2011


Yeah, you should google the groats. When you see it, you'll shit bricks. Or whatever they say on 4chan as a metaphor for surprise.
posted by GuyZero at 8:40 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh am I am so writing a story right now about this, if you change the way you describe things they become much, much stranger.

The term in our house is "glowing rectangle" as in "So are you going to stare at that glowing rectangle or the other one?" "The other one, this one is too passive."
posted by The Whelk at 8:41 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is not an idle exercise to ruminate upon how different our lives are from 1) our hunter-gatherer days, 2) our agricultural days, 3) our industrialized days, and 4) our techno-interactive present.
(Yes, #2, 3 & 4 have things in common.)

I appreciate the reminder. I believe my mindbody does not forget all that came before.
posted by kozad at 8:41 PM on January 12, 2011


Or whatever they say on 4chan as a metaphor for surprise.

I think it is something involving pedo-bear and surprise butt-seks.

I don't think I did that right and now I expect the wrath of 4-chan will come down upon me
posted by dubitable at 8:42 PM on January 12, 2011



take, say, the Ingalls Family and put them in 2011. They'd go insane.

So one of my favorite thought experiments was/is "Take Personage From History On A Tour Of your House And Try To Explain It To Them.". As I read for history, I realized it wasn't that I couldn't explain things, it's that I lacked their common experiences to relate it to. So now when I play my game I can go "Well Mr. Twain, Youtube is a bit like the poorer type of variety shows were you're secretly hoping they fail hilariously and it runs all night."
posted by The Whelk at 8:44 PM on January 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


"Reality Shows? Okay you know rat stomping or bear baiting? Okay kind of like that."
posted by The Whelk at 8:46 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


this reminds me of Arthur's time as Sandwich Maker in /Mostly Harmless/.
posted by oonh at 8:49 PM on January 12, 2011


ALSO

If All stories were written like science fiction via zompist
posted by The Whelk at 8:51 PM on January 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


I eat groats for breakfast pretty often. They're good with molasses. Afterwards, I give the bowl to one of my robot kitchen servants to clean.
posted by hattifattener at 8:53 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


We're watching C-Span.

"We had one of those" sniffs the eldest female Ingalls, who I have brought to 2012 via technological magic even I don't understand. I choke a bit on my groats at this revelation.

"A television?" I ask incredulously. She just looks at me blankly. "The glowing box with the moving pictures." I point at the LCD.

"Oh, no. I meant John McCain. He was barely middle-aged then."
posted by maxwelton at 8:53 PM on January 12, 2011 [28 favorites]


The Whelk - man I do that too, usually when driving alone, picturing the imaginary historical personage in the passenger seat freaking out over the speed of travel - then I turn on some techno or White Zombie and watch their imaginary head asplode.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:54 PM on January 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also related
posted by The Whelk at 8:55 PM on January 12, 2011


A groat is the genetically modified meat of the future.

*checks google*

Huh.
posted by amyms at 8:55 PM on January 12, 2011


caution live frogs

Reading stuff from the early 1900s is great for real-life examples of that. I think there was some essay by Edith Warton about riding in a car for the first time and how the landscape "concealed" when they stopped and how someone would point out a nice church but you'd be far past it when you turned your head.
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also Twain really really liked the telephone because you could talk to people without them being in your house, which was great, and popular opponents of the telephone hated it cause SOMEONE YOU DON'T KNOW IS NOW IN YOUR HOUSE AH!
posted by The Whelk at 8:58 PM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


So I hurtle myself to my workplace, which is well beyond the horizon, looking from my house.

Well, I had to walk to work and every year the snow got deeper and work got farther away.

Top that!


Also, on flat ground, the horizon is 15 miles away, chuckles
posted by mmrtnt at 9:03 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


> cause SOMEONE YOU DON'T KNOW IS NOW IN YOUR HOUSE AH!

I remember reading of the difficulty of getting people to understand the importance of the telephone. There was a conversation along the lines of:

A:"Why would I want a telephone? What would I do with it?"

B:"If you had a telephone, you could talk to a friend"

A:"If I want to talk to a friend, I'll just go over to his house and talk. Why do I need a machine to do that?"

...etc.
posted by mmrtnt at 9:08 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Proust on the Telephone:
“The telephone was not so commonly used then as it is today. And yet habit is so quick to demystify the sacred forces with which we are in contact that because I was not connected immediately, my only reaction was to see it as all very time-consuming and to be on the point of lodging a complaint: like everybody nowadays, I found it too slow for my liking…”
The more things change...

Is there a book or collection of reaction in essays and fiction to technological advances as they occurred throughout the ages, like the Edith Warton quote and the proust quote?
posted by codacorolla at 9:10 PM on January 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I remember reading something how the Telephone was first very popular in (richer) far flung rural areas and dense urban ones, but the middle didn't see the point.

Mark Twain and the telephone
is this it codacorolla?

I also remember a book that was basically that, peroid reactions to now common technology, but the name, again, escapes me.
posted by The Whelk at 9:14 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't know there was a FPP about it, but that's awesome. Thanks
posted by codacorolla at 9:18 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Groats? Why, they're the stuff you make groaty dick out of, of course. Glad to clear that up.

There were a couple of things that I took issue with, though:
Some adults don’t know how to cook anything worthy of serving to someone else.
I can't think of any time in the past when the first statement wouldn't have been true, at least of men. Lean Cuisines and Kraft Dinner may not be helping us produce a million young Escoffiers, but at least we don't have a vast segment of the population laboring under the belief that the first step in cooking anything is to find a woman and tell her to do it. That seems like an improvement, even if it's only up to cooking things that have instructions on the wrappers.

It seemed like the author was engaging in a little bit of the exact sort of false-historical glorification that he's arguing against. In other respects I thought the piece was fine (bit heavyhanded maybe, and in need of cutting down by a significant amount), but that part stuck out to me as counter to everything else that's being said.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:26 PM on January 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage is another fun read on the introduction and evolution of a significant communication technology.
posted by recklessbrother at 9:29 PM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage is another fun read on the introduction and evolution of a significant communication technology.

"Txts? IM? Okay it's kind of like second post but faster. Yeah they use telegram-speak it is annoying."
posted by The Whelk at 9:30 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thinking about how hard my cave-dwelling ancestors would have to work to achieve even a tiny corner of the comforts I have is a constant comfort to me. I can subtract that much work from my schedule each day.

Whenever the plane I'm on breaks though the clouds, I think of Beethoven sitting next to me, and being scared shitless. Ha ha, not such godly figure now, are you?
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:39 PM on January 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Beethoven wants more leg room and god this "Kevin James" is a vexing buffon.
posted by The Whelk at 9:45 PM on January 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Even twenty years ago this whole 2011 thing would have been pretty astonishing, but still, everything's amazing right now and nobody's happy.
posted by isnotchicago at 9:57 PM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


A groat is the genetically modified meat of the future.

So that's what chicken nubbies are made from.
posted by arcticseal at 10:19 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can we all agree that boneless chicken wings are just small chicken fingers and we done with it?

Also muffins are boring cupcakes.
posted by The Whelk at 10:25 PM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Buckwheat groats my ass

Yeah, mine too, until I started wearing underwear.
posted by tracicle at 10:25 PM on January 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


If All stories were written like science fiction via zompist

This was great. And it can easily be converted to a dystopian cautionary tale by inserting descriptions of the TSA checkpoint and subsequent baggage thefts.
posted by knave at 10:51 PM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I blew my four-year-old's mind this morning by simply informing him that when I was his age, we didn't have a computer.

I blew a twenty-something friend's mind by telling her that when I were a lad I loaded and saved programs to and from audiocassettes. I just about had to unpack my old Spectrum to prove it.

but at least we don't have a vast segment of the population laboring under the belief that the first step in cooking anything is to find a woman and tell her to do it.

For the majority of history, most men have been involved in millitary campaigning, hunter-gathering, sailing, fishing, and similar activities where women aren't around to cook for them. Even where women do the bulk of the day-to-day cooking there are often contexts (prestige dishes, braai, barbeque, etc, etc) where men cook.

I would suggest to you that men not knowing how to cook is actually a bit of an anomaly.
posted by rodgerd at 10:54 PM on January 12, 2011


Also muffins are boring cupcakes.

Cupcakes are conceited muffins.
posted by amyms at 10:58 PM on January 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


…and then when I'm done with that magic window, or want to buy a new one, I put it in a box, where it's hauled off to another country, where children burn it and inhale poisonous fumes, but I usually just pretend they don't exist.

The magic juice that runs my moving chair comes from dangerous places, both geologically and politically, but while my magic box often shows me those things, I rarely think they're connected, because it's inconvenient for my blithe futurism.

Less than fifty years ago, people where I live now were so blighted by pollution that they shut down the city fearing that the gas that comes out of their chairs that go places was actually poison from foreigners, but now we know what causes it and it only gets that bad in other places.
posted by klangklangston at 11:15 PM on January 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Ha. I remember my first few friends getting cell phones around 2000, and the rest of us were all like, Hey there Mr. Big Shot, who's so important they need to be available ALL THE TIME?

How young and dumb we were.

And yeah, every time I'm subjected to another indignity at airport security, I try to remind myself what a sheer fucking miracle powered flight is, not to mention a huuuuuuge time saver. It seldom works, though.

See The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:27 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, on a hunch from WCityMike's teaser quote at the top and the first few paragraphs I was really, really hoping that this was a bizarreo promo for It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:43 AM on January 13, 2011


I remember my first few friends getting cell phones around 2000, and the rest of us were all like, Hey there Mr. Big Shot, who's so important they need to be available ALL THE TIME?

The thing is, a lot of those early owners, judging by the flourish with which they produced and wielded their phones, appeared themselves to think they were big shots for owning them. Back then, before everyone owned a phone, you weren't so used to seeing someone strike a manikin pose in the middle of where everyone else needs to walk and carry on an annoyingly loud conversation about half of nothing.
posted by pracowity at 1:52 AM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm saving up for a fourth wall. Praise Mercer!
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:32 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stay tuned for his book deal.
posted by fixedgear at 3:41 AM on January 13, 2011


And yet there are people out there, right now, harvesting edible bits or recyclable metals out of the enormous trash heaps generated by the luxuries this article covers.

Usually people complain about the kind of wealth disparity shown in sci fi stories, like the enormous power imbalances in Firefly. We have it right here on our tiny ball of dirt. If anything, sci fi doesn't go far enough in its portrayals.
posted by odinsdream at 5:20 AM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's really too bad that you can't take, say, the Ingalls Family and put them in 2011. They'd go insane.

I'm sure that there are reality TV producers who have been trying to get an Amish family to do this for years. Failing that, maybe an indigenous tribe from the Amazon basin.
posted by usonian at 6:08 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


This seems like an apt place to repeat my favourite bathroom graffiti ever:

WAYNE GROATSKY
THE GROAT ONE

Ha ha ha
posted by Beardman at 6:10 AM on January 13, 2011


crunchland: "This is kind of why I stopped feeling sad that I don't have a robot maid --- Louis C.K. has a bit in his newest stand-up special that sort of eludes to this sentiment."

Ha! I was gonna link to an interview where he talks about that... Just saw that the other day for the first time, in fact.
posted by symbioid at 6:42 AM on January 13, 2011


obiwanwasabi: "I'm saving up for a fourth wall. Praise Mercer"

Ouch. That rock, it hurt.
posted by symbioid at 6:46 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Overstated in places.

Anything I don’t know, I can find out in a few seconds.

Really? Please tell me who was at the energy policy meeting Cheney had in 2001, and what was said.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:34 AM on January 13, 2011


Can we all agree that boneless chicken wings are just small chicken fingers and we done with it?

FUCKING FINALLY. I've been saying this for years and everyone always looks at me like I'm screaming at them in german or something.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:37 AM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm glad I don't live in a future where I eat groats, whatever those are.

In glorious future you will live in, GROATS eat YOU!

From the inside out! But pump you full of endorphins so you kinda like it! Until the endstage where they burst from your sinuses and your head asplode!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:53 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really? Please tell me who was at the energy policy meeting Cheney had in 2001, and what was said.

It was Cheney, CloneReagan3, MechaBeck, and the then-current High Priest of Mammon, who had legally changed his name to "Dollar Sign" (he thought just going as "$" would be Prince-level tacky).

They said "Let's do this bitch up right!" and then group-high-fived while jumping in the air in slow motion.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:26 AM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


The term in our house is "glowing rectangle" as in "So are you going to stare at that glowing rectangle or the other one?"

That reminds me of something my 5-yr-old says. She calls coins "money" and bills "rectangle money." She gets very excited at the prospect of earning "rectangle money," and wonders if that is how I get paid at work. It is really instructive to listen to the way kids describe things, because they often hit on the essence of the thing, especially when they don't know its "proper" name.
posted by Mister_A at 9:50 AM on January 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Y'know how they have Frontier House and 1940s House and Manor House and all those other "let's take people from today and put them back in olden times" reality shows? It's really too bad that you can't take, say, the Ingalls Family and put them in 2011. They'd go insane.

We are already doing something very similar, with refugees from third-world countries/cultures who have often never seen or even heard of a light switch.
posted by serena15221 at 10:08 AM on January 13, 2011


I'm sure that there are reality TV producers who have been trying to get an Amish family to do this for years. Failing that, maybe an indigenous tribe from the Amazon basin.

If you'll accept "from Vanuatu" instead, it's been done. (Twice, apparently, if you count that this is a US remake of a UK original.)
posted by sineala at 10:55 AM on January 13, 2011


So one of my favorite thought experiments was/is "Take Personage From History On A Tour Of your House And Try To Explain It To Them."

Oh absolutely. Sometimes less like "Thought Experiment" and more like "involuntary compulsive thought activity." I can remember going through my school and home routine for days on end in 3rd grade, explaining it all to the Laura Ingalls in my head. 20 years later: I was doing it again earlier this week, with some ancient Greek folks. It's very thorough and usually involves some amount of ensuring that the visitor doesn't flip their shit, and knows how to use the toilet facilities properly.

I JUST WANT THEM TO NOT BE TOO SCARED

and not pee on the floor
posted by little cow make small moo at 11:49 AM on January 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Probably the best reaction is when William Gull in From Hell hallucinates/time travels to the modern day for a bit and ends up a screaming wreck. "MONSTROUS CHILDREN PLAYING WITH UNFATHOMABLE TOYS!" indeed.
posted by The Whelk at 11:54 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


So one of my favorite thought experiments was/is "Take Personage From History On A Tour Of your House And Try To Explain It To Them."
...
Oh absolutely. Sometimes less like "Thought Experiment" and more like "involuntary compulsive thought activity."


Me too! I usually do it with Shakespeare! I also fantasize that I get on his nerves by talking about much I loved Tamburlaine The Great, Part 1.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:09 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually the more I think about it the more I realize that the Visitor from Yore Thought Experiment is a pretty good barometer for my general state of mind, i.e., if I am in a good way, the visitor is baffled but interested, and wonders happily at the future, and I try to explain technology and other amazements while still impressing upon him/her our basic human similarities. Or it devolves into "oh god you won't even listen to me because I'm a woman wearing scandalously leg-partitioned pants and you think you're in some circle of hell filled with metal death-carriages and you are frightened and angry and smell bad AUGH the barriers of shared humanity can never be overcome"
posted by little cow make small moo at 12:19 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Truly your fairy-box theater is a wonder but your kitties are but joyfulness pure!
posted by The Whelk at 12:19 PM on January 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Being randomly born into the first world in this generation is an absurd, magical improbability, and one of the small things I can do to try to live up to the chance is to be appropriately amazed by the absolute wonder of living in the future.

So one of my favorite thought experiments was/is "Take Personage From History On A Tour Of your House And Try To Explain It To Them."
Well, there goes my weekend.
posted by you're a kitty! at 5:23 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


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