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Jay Lake
Date: 2012-06-01 05:47
Subject: [culture|tech] Living in the bounded future
Security: Public
Tags:cool, culture, personal, tech
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?

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User: jimvanpelt
Date: 2012-06-01 14:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I like that as a parent I can check my students' progress at school from my computer. I not only can see their grades, but I can also check their attendance, look at their standardized test scores, see how much money they have left on their cafeteria account, and, if I need to, contact their teachers with the click of an e-mail button.

My kids can go to their classes' websites to see when work is due, download handouts they've lost, watch videos the teacher uploaded, communicate with classmates, and ask questions any time they want.

The future has changed education.

I'm also quite fond of word processing, another gift from the future. I love the story that Ray Bradbury typed FARENHEIT 451 a dime at a time on a typewriter he rented at the library. It's a great anecdote, and I'm so glad the future took us past it. I remember when I had to edit typewritten pages by hand and then retype the whole thing. I don't miss that time.
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russ: lyles constant
User: goulo
Date: 2012-06-01 15:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:lyles constant
The Internet, hands down. I can easily live without a smart phone (heck I still do live without a smart phone). (And MTV and Coke Zero have no value for me!)

But the Internet itself has been an incredible life-changer on many levels, personal/social and professional.

Too bad it looks like the net will be increasingly restricted and spied upon ...
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User: dsgood
Date: 2012-06-02 00:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I love being able to download reference books from Project Gutenberg. Being able to look stuff up at the Library of Congress without having to travel to DC. Using many fewer checks.

And muchly improved medication for ADHD and for allergies.
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Gary Emenitove
User: garyomaha
Date: 2012-06-02 13:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And yet...

I love music. It may not always be the same type of music that others love, but it's still music.

When I used to think of an old song, I would go on a quest to find that song, often taking me to old record stores, to contact friends, etc. It could take years, as it did in the case of one piece of music I eventually found.

Today, more often than not, type the name into YouTube and one gets instant gratification, often without a single scratch or pop. There it is, that song.

Is that necessarily an improvement?

Remember, I'm the guy who says a vacation begins when you leave your front door, not when you arrive at your destination. A vacation includes the transportation, the getting lost, the map reading, the mistakes, the learning.

And so for me, among the highest experiences in life are finally finding that song I've been looking for, for years.

Finding it instantly on the Internet takes away that whole experience. It's quick and easy. But it's not as gratifying.
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User: bondo_ba
Date: 2012-06-04 14:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'll give you my favorite. My dad suffered a massive cerebral infarction on Tuesday morning and had an emergency angioplasty done about an hour after my mom realized something was wrong (he was paralyzed on one side and unable to speak). On Sunday, doctors released him from the hospital with full use of all his muscles, and 100% recovered in every measurable way (they actually held him for three days under observation despite being completely recovered 48 hours after the procedure).

He was wheeled to the door of the hospital, and then walked away.

I LIKE living in 2012.
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User: blue_23
Date: 2012-06-11 12:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
A bit of a late reply here, but I was just speaking about this the other day. I was at a hotel/indoor water park in a mini-vacation with the family, and split my bathing suit. I'm larger than your average bear, so the in-house shop couldn't help me, and none of the young & fit people there knew of even the category of "Big and Tall Men" for shopping. But they did know their zip code.

So I'm reclining on a bed, using a thin device with no keyboard that I just touch, with no cables, to call up maps of any big and tall men shops in the area.

Thinking back to growing up, that's all science fiction. Except most speculative authors haven't gone in that direction. I remember reading Larry Niven's Oath of Fealty and the local engineer/wizard basically had a smart-phone ... except that he needed to plus it into the wall.

So I may not have my jetpack and ray gun, but the future is here and moving fast. Because what I just described as SF is already a step behind the curve, where if I had the right, already pervasive technology, all I would have had to do was ask my phone where and it would figure out what I was sayign, want I wanted, where I was, and given it back.

I don't quite need mirrorshades, but we're here.
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User: mmegaera
Date: 2012-06-14 01:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Realtime interactive mapping can also send you up a very steep hill, the wrong way on a one way street in Seattle. It was not fun [g].

Having just made a 3000+ mile car trip in the last two and a half weeks, I have to say that my favorite part of living in the bounded future is how much easier it is to find a cheap motel out in the middle of nowhere on the Hi Line in Montana than it used to be. And how much easier it is to maintain contact with the people I wanted to maintain contact with on the trip while skillfully avoiding those I didn't.
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