I heard a true story about a guy who was born in the late 1800s, lived for 80 or 90 years, and died in the 1970s.
We’ll call him Bob. I don’t remember the exact story. But Bob wasn’t exactly interesting in his own right. What was interesting was the particular time span of Bob’s life, and the events and changes that he witnessed.
Bob lived through the great depression, both World Wars and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s.
Only 100 years before that, in the 1860s, it’s very possible that Bob’s grandfather could have fought in the Civil War!
Anyway, the point of the story about Bob has to do with technology.
When Bob was born in the late 1800’s, mankind did not have the power of flight. When Bob was a teenager in 1903, the Wilbur brothers finally flew their crappy, homemade airplane for the very first time, making history and changing the world as we know it.
Fast forward 66 years later. Bob’s getting old, but he can easily remember the days before airports and airplanes. Not only are people flying to and from work these days. Now they’ve left earth and they’re flying around the galaxy. In 1969 Neil Armstrong is walking on the moon!
I wonder what Bob had to say about the matter – when he saw the moon landing broadcasted on to his color TV.
What does this have to do with writing? Nothing I guess. Except for, I’m a big SciFi and Fantasy fan, and I love how books and stories enable those authors to explore all these crazy concepts of the future.
The best that anyone can do about the future is guess. If “Bob’s” story has any sort of moral, for me, it’s this:
“You kind of have to be an asshole to be certain about anything in life.”
I was born in 1986. Let’s say by some miracle I live to be 100. So that puts me in 2086. But let’s say technology has advanced to the point where, once my heart gives out, I can simply buy a replacement. It’s not a perfect fix, but my mechanical hearts adds another 14 years to my life. Now it’s the year 2100.
Holy hell. Can you even imagine?
I don’t know. It hurts my head. But I will make one prediction:
I’m fascinated by the trend of civil rights. And I think that if I live to be 100, I’ll live to see the civil rights movement for artificially intelligent beings. In the past 100 years, civilization has decided that women should have the same rights as men. We’ve decided that black people should have the same rights as white people, and that homosexual people should have the same rights as heterosexual people.
Now in hindsight we say, “Duh,” it should’ve been that way all along.
It’s a fun experiment to imagine how far this trend (or any trend for that matter – technology, globalization, connectivity) will continue.
I think in 10 or 15 years we’ll decide that ALL life is as valuable as human life, and it’ll be a crime to use mice as lab subjects, or to crush an ant with the heel of your boot.
And pretty soon we’ll have robots walking around the streets looking like people. And one of those creepy robot dudes will want to marry a pretty little human girl. And everyone will get all riled up about the case, but eventually the supreme court will rule in the favor of robots being treated as equals, and we’ll be off to the races.
I don’t know, your guess is as good as mine. When 2100 rolls around, you can point to this post and laught about how wrong I was.