November 12, 2009

Living in the future

I’ve been thinking recently that I should make more blog posts about the things I talk about to my friends. I’ve not really got a purpose to this blog beyond telling people about me so one of the things you might be interested to know about me is that I like to live in the future.

Growing up with every kind of fiction and non-fiction easily accessible through my parents or my local library, science fiction was the genre I gravitated to. I fell in love aged about 13 and, although I’ve had good genre friendships and the odd fling, SF remains my one true love. Because I was born in 1977, my childhood happened last century. Isn’t that a weird concept? This can make me feel indescribably ancient but luckily anyone older than 9 was born last century too, and can share my experience. That’s one way in which I’m living in the future. Everything since 2000 is traditionally the territory of science fiction. We passed 1984 decades ago but now we’re about to pass 2010.

It can’t just me me who expected flying cars by now. And what about transporters, space ships, nutimats dispensing perfectly cooked food at the touch of a button… where are they? My science fiction beliefs were formed at the end of the 20th century and so more quantum wonders don’t play a part in my idealised SF future. It’s not about nanotech (although adult me is hoping elderly me might get to see it). My future is a Star Trek future of space ships, colonisation, Brave New Worlds and new civilisations. SETI is one of the first acronyms I learned. (More recently Adam Roberts has taught me not to dream of rockets but of spaceplanes; but again, I digress.)

Some things about living in the future have come true for me. I love laptops. I remember my mother’s first laptop: a chunky grey oblong which had enough processing power to run an early generation of word. That particular laptop continued to be handed on and around among family and friends for years, an old friend grown feeble. I had my first mobile phone as a student in 1996 and that was also a brick of a thing. Nowadays my laptop is a sleek silver ‘aluminum’ MacBook, although I still weep for my destroyed BlackBook. My phone is a shockingly out of date four years old because it’s one of the very last flippy phones: the Motorola KRZR, the ultra thin silver flip phone which I love for its Star Trek communicator vibe.

And Star Trek was created in the 60s: according to their paradigm, by 1995 Khan Noonian Singh (Ricardo Montalban) had taken over one quarter of the world. That date, like other crucial dates in SF, I’ve watched passing with half-genuine surprise that the fiction events I know happened, failed to occur. We’re obviously down the wrong trousers of time.

My illusions haven’t been wholly shattered by the failure of neonazis, fascists, communists or greens to take over the earth. The Eden Project supplied me with huge biodomes; the Millennium Dome also jumped on the futuristic dome bandwagon (although it then branded itself as a dome of the Past). Architects are making promising strides towards houses with grass roofs, curved curners, wicker walls and reusing vernacular and historic building techniques (very Ursula Le Guin).

Netbooks are cool too – despite my tragic failure to buy one that will continue working for more than 3 weeks. (Hey, Apple, hurry up and build a product I can trust!) But I always wanted Penny’s book from Inspector Gadget and eBooks are no where near achieving the functionality of that shiny electronic computer book. I never understood the source of the contention between eTech and traditional booktech. I think book-shape is an ideal format for technology to take – in both form and function.

I like connectivity too. YouTube, Skype, Flickr, Facebook, LinkedIn… they suck me in with their cool ways of interacting with people. Social networking isn’t a black art – or if it is, everyone I know is practising it. My mother joined twitter and tripled the number of followers I had in three days. (That’s what you get for teaching your mother how to be a TechnoMom.) I meet fellow writers, academics, friends and fans on the internet and its endlessly cool to get messages from all of them.

And even when there’s no one else to interact online with I like my computer to be my friend. Yes , I am a Mac lover. All my personal computers have been macs. But I have a PC at work which I’ve befriended and we get along okay as long as we accept each other’s different lifestyle preferences. Should I even mention the Vista-running Acer laptop I got free from mymobile phone company which is offered tovisitors as the “guest” laptop? Already that’s taking me into console territory where I can tell you tales of pwning of a group of male classmates at MarioKart to their mutual astonishment, or gaining the interest of the non-reading kids at school visits with tales of my prowess at Grand Theft Auto (San Andreas).

I sync my mobile phone to my laptop, I use my laptop through my external monitor, I have two monitors at work where I also network to five digital signage screens, I have three different webcams (and yet I’m still a bit uncertain how to make video podcasts). I manage my calendar through Google and I use an iGoogle app for my Tweets.

I admit I’m almost never an early adopter (excepting ideas that never seem to come to anything) but I feel the pressure of the future endlessly pushing me forward into new technology. My nightmare is to become a person who can’t understand a video recorder – or whatever the current equivalent is. I want to live in the future. I have to live in the future – and so I try to push myself into the SF future wherever I find it.


  1. I am absolutely with you on this! So glad that, though no longer young, I was young enough to “get” the new technology and absolutely work it and love it.

    Do you remember my first Mac desktop? It was only twenty years ago. And it had a tiny little screen at the top of a beige box – like an old-fashioned TV.

    And now all I have is my Macbook Air and it’s all I need.

    Comment by Mary Hoffman — November 12, 2009 @ 10:02 pm

  2. I’m sure by now that cleaning and cooking (except for enjoyment) should be a thing of the past! I appreciate the labour-saving things like dishwashers and washing machines, but frankly the Roomba seems to be the only ‘future’ household technology for about 20 years.

    Comment by Gemma — November 13, 2009 @ 9:37 am

  3. I do remember the first Mac desktop. It was one of these, wasn’t it? It served us well.

    The MacAir is about a 100 light years away from it.

    Comment by Rhiannon Lassiter — November 13, 2009 @ 11:41 am

  4. Very true. And what about sonic showers, eh? Ones that vibrate the dirt off. Another Star Trek item that has just to appear in our lives.

    Comment by Rhiannon Lassiter — November 13, 2009 @ 11:42 am

  5. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks flip phones have a Star Trek communicator thing about them and holds on to them for that reason only!

    Comment by Fern — November 14, 2009 @ 10:04 am

  6. As far as Star Trek communicators go, I much preferred Jean Luc Picard’s gear. The desktop video conferencing I have, from my MacBook and Skype. I have the communicator badge too, but I’m not paying £20000 for the software to make it work!

    And penny’s book was uuuuuugly! Ironically, the best eBooks (ergonomically) are the early ones. After the original kindle (love that design!) was named the “iPod of Books” all the companies decided to make eBook readers look and feel like iPod classics. Which doesn’t entirely work for a device that’s as large as your face, which you’ll be clicking the same button on twice a minute for two hours. In this respect, the original wedge shaped Kindle, small old Palm Pilots (The Sony Clie PEG-T415 was a great eBook reader) were much more comfortable for reading in Bed on a saturday morning, which is where I do 60% of my reading. They’re commonly more comfortable to hold while reading lying down (holding the book above you for example) or in other strange manners. Certainly helps not to have the pages fighting back!

    Oh, Blackberry released a new flip phone last year, so they’re still around! I’ve been and done the whole wrist-mounted phone as well, and that works as a concept – but by and large, the theme at the moment is user-friendliness. The easier a device is to use, the more successful it will be!

    Comment by Graham Simpson — December 23, 2009 @ 10:02 pm

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