The Disappearing Future

Cliff Burns, in that same post that I cited just below, also provoked something with these words:

Civility is in short supply, I notice it in on-line forums … but I also see it in supermarket lines. Unsmiling faces, not even a nod of thanks if you surrender your place in line or hold the door open for someone, the cashier looking haggard, refusing to make eye contact. Are the “trolls” popping up all over the internet a manifestation of the deep sense of anger and unhappiness people are feeling? There’s a disconnect out there, the global villagers locked in private houses, browsing for internet porn or arguing over the latest film remake of a bad TV show instead of meeting in the market square for shopping and socialization. Or maybe that browbeaten cashier is just counting the minutes until she can go home and get on-line and switch to her other identify, an avatar known only as “Coquette”, courtesan and spy in a digital community with the virtual population of a medium-sized country. Tens of millions of people assuming the personalities and lives of nonexistent alter egos…and pining for those invisible realms when they’re away from them for any period of time.

We just signed up so we can read our own utility meters and pay our bills on-line. No longer any need for the friendly, neighbourhood lady from SaskEnergy to pop by in the afternoons to check my meter or any necessity to wait in line at the bank, chat with the cashier, pay my bills, crack a few jokes.

All of this bringing to mind my tale “New World Man”, a family isolated within individual rooms of a house, locked in their own private worlds, largely oblivious to each other. Is that where we’re headed? Is that how you want to live?

This is what I read just last night by Emily White in You Will Make Money in Your Sleep: The Story of Dana Giacchetto, Financial Adviser to the Stars:

In Seattle our multimillionaire friend Thomas Reardon spent more and more time in his basement, playing games on his wide-screen TV, games where he fought his way into the interior and came out victorious, a winner. If it took three days to win, he would play for three days straight. He ordered all food delivered and he said soon there would be no more books. People would just read books on a screen.

These end-of-the-millennium technological dreams were part of some unsettling sci-fi kid alienation and reductiveness, the idea of things disappearing instantly, like being beamed out of the starship Enterprise. Books would disappear. Trips to the grocery store would disappear: You could log on to and check off your list. Trips to the video store would disappear: You could log on to, and they brought videos and food within thirty minutes. Piles of bills would disappear because you could pay them online. Trips to the record store would disappear because music could be downloaded straight off the Internet.

The boys were designing a world that would disappear but they didn’t know what would appear in its place.

Down my street, I’d hear the rumble of the Home Grocer trucks, I’d wonder if this was the sound of the future: trucks rattling the windows, and no one going on errands anymore. I thought about my mother putting on lipstick to go to the grocery store, and I wondered if such social gestures were part of the past.

— pgs 138-139

Does anyone other than me notice that the alienation started with the ascension of the automobile? People still did a lot of walking when I was a kid in the 1960s. Today, I see nearby people get in a car to drive to a store I get to by walking.

The creatures I have to endure in my proximity when using mass transit didn’t exist when most people used mass transit. The deviants knew they were outnumbered. But those everyday people have left. I get to places surrounded by social mutants out of some mad scientist movie. In a city where they will throw you in jail for simply owning an unlicensed gun (with rules that prevent you from legally owning a gun!), I feel like prey.

I hope I never get to the day when I have to order everything delivered. By that time, even the delivery people might be mad scientist freaks.

Explore posts in the same categories: Books - Nonfiction, C.O.A.T. - Other, Other, Writers - Living

3 Comments on “The Disappearing Future”

  1. Cliff Burns Says:

    It does provoke a whole lotta speculation, ruminations on what future human societies will resemble once we remove the necessity of socializing with others. How do virtual manners compare to real ones…and does anonymity, cutesy avatars not inspire behaviors that, in past times, would be considered anti-social, destructive, violating the very tenets that have held human civilizations together for thousands of years? Will I be my brother’s keeper if I never leave my self-contained, self-sufficient box? These are the things that keep me awake at night and drive me back to my keyboard over and over again, to preserve something of my humanity, to share my doubts, hopes and fears with all who still care…

  2. mikecane Says:

    The thing futurists forget is that not everyone is living in the same era. Dubai, for example, is probably more “futuristic” than Japan in terms of technology. But once you step out of your high-tech building onto the street, you are under Muslim law. I guess being so close to Ground Zero acutely woke me up to that fact. I can no longer see the “future” as I once did — myopically or through an American lens.

  3. Thomas Bailey Says:

    We are well on our way there. There may come a time when our blood pressure monitors would have an internet connection to e-mail the doctor. As for driving to places easily reached on foot, this would explain why we are in poorer physical condition than in years past. With rising gas prices, anything not physical could be sent online.

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