Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake
jaylake

[culture|tech] Living in the bounded future

I'm just a little too young to be of that generation that took the Jetsons' future seriously. Yet despite having for the most part grown up in the 1970s, I existed on a steady diet of 1950s and 1960s science fiction. I didn't discover the New Wave until about ten years after the fact. So as much as I love the identity paranoia and dystopian pessimism and ingrown self-referentialism which came to be such a part of our field in those years, those trends didn't really take hold of me during my formative phases.

No, I still remember optimism. I remember watching the moon landings with my Granddaddy Lake. I remember the unbounded future.

As so many of us have asked over the years: Where the hell are my jetpacks and flying cars, anyway? Instead we got MTV and Coke Zero. Was that really worth it?

Hell, yes.

Living in the bounded future has brought us mobile phones and GPS and fresh fruit in January and automated teller machines and email and the ability to form close friendship networks that extend beyond barriers of geography and class and race and ethnicity and nationality and even language. The bounded future has brought us so many wonderful things from Facebook to neonatal cardiac surgery. The bounded future has made life easier and more interesting.

A First World perspective? Surely this is. On the other hand, I'm a First World person. And one of the neat things about the bounded future is most of its benefits eventually transcend even those barriers. Microlending in Bangaladesh, mobile phone networks in the Amazon, cheap and effective medical tests for pervasive Third World diseases. These are part of the bounded future as well.

For my money, the single coolest thing about living in the future is realtime, interactive mapping on my smartphone. That's my nomination for most disruptive and beneficial day-to-day technology. Think about what you did once upon a time if you were lost. You could be a block away from your destination, and have no idea. Even with a good map, you could be right where you belonged on a country road somewhere, and have no idea. An analog map can't tell you where the nearest Mexican restaurant is or the price of gas in the town you're passing through or how heavy the traffic is on the highway up ahead. Realtime, interactive mapping has made huge and subtle changes in how I think about moving through the world.

What's your favorite part about living in the bounded future? What do you miss about the unbounded future?

Tags: cool, culture, personal, tech
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