Thursday, June 13, 2013

the Internet, on my face

So, I've been streaming the scifi show Continuum, about a cop chick from the future forced to do her thing in our own dark times. But she's not only equipped with a wearable computer, but also a chip in her head that lets her see people's heart rates when she speaks to them, etc. Basically, Google glass in her head. It's inevitable that someone, like me, watching a show, like that, would invariably muse: "gee, I wonder what she'd see if she looked at me."

My life has been fairly driven by the whole "what-people-think-I-am-at-first-glance". On the upside, it got me laid alot, people foolishly thinking I was more dark and dangerous than I actually ever was; on the downside, I probably lost a lot of good jobs because people can't separate their idiotic first impressions from my well-stacked resume. So, it's a slippery conundrum. In the coming age where people will look at me and get a whole lot more than just "a weird feeling", well, let's just say i will be effectively wearing my Linkedin profile. And so will we all.

I don't think they'll be much choice in the matter. It's not like we'll get ready to go out for a night of clubbing and stress over whether we'll wear our Google+ profile or our Add-Dating-Site-Here profile. It might be zen to say "we are who we are", but now it's literal. And to those people with different levels of access (or those who just hack well enough to pretend to be someone with a higher level of access), we'll be literally wearing our medical data, our criminal record, our tax record. When people squint at us or do a double take, it might be because they've discovered that awkward online photo before we have, superimposed over our faces.

Now, I don't want to get all dystopian like some old guy about the rise of the robots or anything. I'm Mister Cautious Tech Geek after all. I dream about the day when I only need Siri as a friend and confidante (but with Helen Mirren's voice). I have been well aware for quite a while that my shrouds of privacy would soon become a thing of the past. What I didn't realize was that I would also have to say goodbye to my air of mystery.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Middle-aged scifi geek, reflecting

When I imagine earlier generations of kids immersed in the fantasy worlds available to them, their dreams seem so damned honorable and American: exploration of far-flung planets, staving off the Martian problem and generally saving the Earth. Out of those honorable, fertile imaginations we got both the Apollo space program and Trek '66, so all those hours gazing at one of those hand-cranked solar system models eventually paid off for our civilization.

For those of my generation and beyond, however, we've seen so much, read so much, we should easily be making fantasy into reality at a pace much faster than the latest iPad app. But I think that's because we're not actually 100% certain what tech exists and what doesn't. We may have a suspicion that transporting technology isn't quite happening and that communicators easily became cellphones, but I'm fuzzy on whether we still make rockets that only run on massive amounts of fossil fuels or have we figured out that whole warp core thing yet.

While my father and his generation may have gazed out of their bedroom windows up to the Milky Way (well, my dad grew up in east Harlem, so probably not) and wonder what was out there, I never had to. I was neither curious nor overwhelmed by the possibilities. Disappointed perhaps that I would have to find a mountain in Patagonia in order to sneak a peek at our galaxy because of our overly-bright western civilization, but there was always the Pink Floyd laser show at the planetarium to give me an easy simulation.

Have I borne witness to so many versions of dystopia, with and without Pamela Anderson, to imagine I will ever actually experience one in my lifetime? (Or am I actually living in a slo-mo po-mo version right now?) Apparently whatever bleak rendition of the future we'll get, there will still be great rock n' roll - Tank Girl notwithstanding - and brothels will have to make a comeback. Evil computers? My iPod already thinks it knows what's best for me and I don't even have the one with Siri. Hell, my inkjet printer has a tainted, damned soul if you ask me.

Has all of my science fact or fiction repertoire a) been utterly useless to me as a human being or b) subtly formulated my outlook on life and its expectations? I mean, I already have a decent grasp on the theories of alt universes and time travel and understand why temporal mechanics gave Janeway a headache, so the idea that another version of myself is living the highlife on the other side of the world wouldn't surprise me in the least. Travel back to the year of my birth and vow not to do anything to upset the timeline? Yeah, I didn't need to go to university to figure out how that all will end badly.

My mother's generation may or may not have dreamed of landing on all those alien planets that look suspiciously like our California desert, but I suspect sadly that space travel will be less Voyager or Moya or even Serenity and more Nostromo, only with meals catered by Monsanto.