If we're in the future now, where's my jetpack?

Since staying up for the first round of election results I haven’t really caught up on my sleep until today. I woke at one point last night feeling like I had been drugged, so deep had I been sleeping. Even the flimsiness of our new curtains—and that’s another, surprisingly batshit story—couldn’t keep me awake, until someone nearby dropped what might have been either a paving slab or a stack of pallets, and made me panic and check the locks.

I spent much of Tuesday evening on the Liberal Conspiracy’s live, interactive blog: belated thanks to the chaps over there for setting it up. Fawning aside, an E-list blogger such as myself would consider it quite a treat to spend an important political night in the company of some of the most incisive, hard-hitting UK political commentators, and I’m still a bit surprised I got away with being there.

The company was great, regardless really of their political persuasion. They were a bit silly and giggly, and occasionally sarcastic and disgusting. There was election porn, in the shape of Obama’s sixpack emerging from the surf, and YouTube videos ranging from satire, through commentary, to the scatological. It was like the political equivalent of b3ta, with Sarah Palin as Tubgirl. Meanwhile, celebrity blogger and popularity massager Iain Dale was hosting a weird, stilted, downbeat equivalent over at his own “blog”. As Stephen Fry once said, exactly why are all the clever people on the left?

Kicking the news around with such as Justin, Tim, Rachel, Unity and others was the perfect accompaniment to America’s weird, seat-of-pants, trickle-out election results. While Alaska had yet to finish voting, precincts in east-coast states were already declaring their counts, and as those small and therefore statistically variant numbers came in the predicted overall result would swing wildly and frighteningly: after only three states had been called (terminology I think for an almost-definite result but with counting still in progress) McCain was winning by 16-3 in the electoral college; disheartened, I got up to make some tea and listen to MSNBC, and returned to find that the entire east coast had been called and Obama was winning by something like 100-34. But, more tellingly than those random swings, by the time I went to bed Florida was already Obama’s on 25% of the count, and although that one hadn’t been called I was almost certain it was all over. Next morning’s news was nonetheless a relief.

Recently I’ve started talking to my parents—who now live in Spain—over Skype videoconferencing. It worked rather well until Arrakis, one of the most rubbish ADSL providers in the world, decided to entirely screw up their connection. Presumably they were making too much use of their unlimited downloads in chatting occasionally to their son and daughter-in-law. Customers, eh?

Anyway, my point is that, between being able to talk in real time and with video, to relatives I miss like blazes; and people having their music collection, photo albums and the entire internet in their pockets; and now America electing a progressive, well-read and—there’s no avoiding it—black president: we’re in the future now. This is everything that 20th-century speculative authors wrote about, only our robots are white-goods-shaped rather than humanoid, and everything else we do that’s even vaguely futurelicious is mediated by a jack-of-all-trades computer rather than specialist machines. Regardless of how disillusioned we might get with Obama (and I’m sure that’s on its way) everything has changed, and his election marks the tipping point.

(Speaking of tipping points, science fiction’s all very well, of course, but being in the plot of an environmental armageddon flick still makes me uncomfortable. We might be in the future, but it’s not altogether clear how much more future we’ve got left.)

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This entry was posted in amerika, blogs, cliques, communication, computers, election, future, instant_messaging, media, nu-media, politics, society, speculative_tech, technology, telephony, time. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to If we're in the future now, where's my jetpack?

  1. Tim Ireland says:

    Kind of you to say. Thank you.

    That’s not to say that Iain Dale’s chat didn’t have its highlights (most of which involved Donal Blaney’s blind faith in the rightness of the right).

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