Oh Tuesday. Bad bad bad. I keep telling you, it’s the worst. But I don’t think it’s going to be, so it’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy - which, if you think about it, is the best kind. What a reputation you’d get! All his prophecies come true, it’s amazing.
I was walking down the skyway with my head in knots, thinking about something that has been giving me the Atomic Gripes for the last five days, and I hear my name; look up, big guy in a suit waving, and I don’t recognize him. Then he introduces himself and ha ha it’s the Mayor of St. Paul, so do I feel extra stupid.
Then again, I don’t get over there much.
So what did I do tonight to shake it all off? Got out the keyboard and started noodling around, and decided that there was no reason to stop doing those little sci-fi-sample tunes I used to do. What terrifying childhood movie could I exploit next?
There are different types of futurism. There’s the optimistic variety that extrapolates from our successes and virtues; there’s the pessimistic strain that says nothing good will come of this. Then there’s the smug variety that uses futurism as a criticism of the present, such as this piece:
I often wonder what people in the future will find barbaric about my life. We tend to look back on our ancestors with a mix of amusement and disgust: amusement that those poor fools managed to survive without things like toilets, electricity, and selfies; disgust that their lives were filled with things we find vile.
But are we any better?
Yes. Thank you! Next
Oh, all right, here’s what he says.
Humans have always done things that were considered normal at the time, that now seem horrific. People kept human beings as property. Doctors bled clients to release evil humors and treat medical conditions. Lobotomies were thought to cure mental illness. Urban dwellers flushed sewage and industrial pollution into their drinking water, then swam and fished in their own poop. Eventually it got so bad that our rivers were catching on fire. Violent and deadly wars were far more common.
So what will be barbaric? Giving birth, eating meat, using plastic, and so on.
If Future People do regard these things as barbaric, then they’re all, what, 17 years old? You judge a society on what they did with what they had, and how they sought to improve their lot. We don’t regard the lack of flush toilets as barbaric. We regard the people who refuse to use them correctly as barbaric.
Here’s the thing, though: as one commenter put it, the future will judge us poorly only if liberal ideas survive. He doesn’t mean classical liberalism; he means progressive ideas. If the future somehow combines increased technological sophistication with a non-progressive ethical structure - unlikely, but assume it - then it’s possible they will look back and find abortion, race-based identity politics, female genital mutilation, et cetera et cetera the signs of a benighted tribe. To them, we should have known better.
Here are some things that might go the way of the trepanning tool:
Politics? In the future, sentient or highly intelligent artificial intelligences may manage the efficient and fair allocation of resources, eliminating the need for most politics. Or, strong AI could lead us to a post-scarcity society, so there would be no scarce resources to struggle over. But will this mean the end of politics?
Or will humans just find something other than resources to argue over, like ideology?
I’m going to say the last point might be the case, but that's not what stuck out. It’s the idea of sentient AI managing the fair allocation of resources that’s amusing. The only way this works is to combine every resource and polity on the planet and hand it over to computers, the results of which would have to be enforced by coercion in innumerable daily instances. You can’t have that because Colossus says you can’t. But that would be awesome because the program would be written by the smartest people.
Starvation, hunger, and extreme poverty: Our descendants will probably not look favorably on the fact that today’s first world lives relatively comfortable—and in many cases extremely affluent—lives while hundreds of millions of people live in abject poverty. (Just think of how appalled we are that ancient civilizations built great palaces, pyramids, and cathedrals while the masses starved.)
I’m not that appalled. These divisions were, for the most part of human history, the state of things in societies that had not developed the ideas of classical liberalism, and hadn’t inhabited the idea that all men are created equal and endowed, etc.
The pyramids and cathedrals were not the same as palaces; the latter projected wealth and power of the elite, but the former involved a civic role that could sum up the beliefs and aspirations of the citizens. If you had to live in a society that built great palaces for kings, or great churches for deities, which would you prefer? I can see arguments for both - kings, being men, can be swayed; deities, being perfect, are only to be obeyed. And I can see the opposite: God is love, ergo the church is a place of respite; the State is a cruel usurper, and regards the individual as a pawn, a tool, an ant to be flicked off the table.
Lack of brain-computer interfaces Just as I marvel that my parents grew up without television, and millennials wonder how we ever survived without the internet, our great-grandchildren will be amazed that we could function without direct brain-computer interfaces. This technology is already here, albeit in its infancy.
I don’t marvel that my parents grew up without television. They had radio and movies. The first served the function of TV, although you could do something while listening, and the latter was big, communal TV. Millennials who wonder how we “survived” without the internet don’t sound very interested in learning how, do they? When you see them in coffee shops staring at their devices, one leg pistoning up and down, it’s as if they’re making up for all the years no one had internet! I am totally serious about being devoted to this now k thnx
As for great-grandchildren being AMAZED that we couldn’t control computers with our brains, that’s like being AMAZED that people in the 18th century couldn’t project their voice over wires.
These future people sound like idiots.
Growing babies in our bodies Most future folk will find pregnancy—and especially the delivery of an infant through a birth canal—messy and risky. In the future, most infants will be gestated in artificial wombs from which they won’t be born so much as removed.
Creating a baby inside another human being is hazardous.
Okay, now we're just riffing off Zager and Evans lyrics. I guarantee you there will be people who prefer to do things the natural way.
Futurism always posits a monoculture. How will we get there? A moment where an idea was imposed from the top down, or everyone came around to a single way of thinking somehow, despite all evidence that such a thing is impossible? The ideological-monocultures are fun for novels but not too realistic. The gradual realignment due to a massive technological or sociological shift - say, Star Trek replicators - seem more likely, but it won't be total. Granted, the author says most future folk won't want the old way of giving birth, but you know how that turns out: people who want natural birth will be like weird organic people who don't drink from plastic bottles and think flouride causes fibromyalgia.
My nightmare is a future where they sneer at the good things we built, invented, composed, wrote, painted, believed - because they are so much smarter now, and need not be instructed t by the dead claw of history. Thinking they’ll regard us as barbarians is a projection, a way of tut-tutting about civilization while presenting your application for consideration by the great minds of the future. Look at me! I’m practically Cicero!
Really. Did you eat pizza?
Uh - yeah sure it’s delicious, why?
Did you not know that circular foods are to be reserved for the ceremonies of the goddess Infinitus, as a manifestation of her eternal perfection?
No! We had no idea -
That says much about you, does it not.
It was organic! The spinach was locally sourced! The stoves were fired by sustainable woods!
These words . . . they mean nothing to us.
Sorry, Louise, but . . .
Bugs is the real story for me.
Arthur "Bugs" Baer (January 9, 1886 – May 17, 1969) was an American journalist and humorist. Baer was prominent in the New York City journalism and entertainment scene for many years and worked as a sports journalist and cartoonist. Called by the New York Times "one of the country's best known humorists", he wrote the humor column "One Word Led to Another" for the King Features Syndicate.
One of the best known - and completely forgotten today. Here's a sample:
It wasn’t that funny, as a column. At least to modern eyes, it’s not. Nothing is as perishable as humor, with the exception of ten or 15 authors.
But he had some good lines.
Okay. Louise: no wikipedia page, but this on Bugs' page.
Louise Andrews, mother of his son, was a Ziegfeld Follies girl who become one of the first fund-raisers for heart disease research. She was president-elect of the American Heart Association on her death from heart illness in 1950.
We are at present studying the criminal strategies of the man known only as . . .
We're getting near the end - but of course that doesn't mean the action or the plot accellerates. It's always 65 MPH from start to finish.
I saw that episode just last week, and I don't remember that.
In the meantime, we have to deal with the cliffhanger, when our hero learned an important lesson about visual navigation and paying attention to your instruments:
Since Dr. Williams had his face burned when he tried to disable the remote control, Dr. Satan has an idea. Dr. Satan always has an idea. Mind you, he’s so far from his original plot a lesser man would have said to hell with it and gone back into ordinary criminality instead of the Mastermind variety, but not our Doc. He sends an ambulance to pretend to be real doctors; they will take the burned Dr. Williams to Dr. Satan’s hospital.
Guess who shows up?
Speed. Of course. Because there are only 11 people in the world of any serial. And so:
But once they stop to meet Dr. Satan, Speed takes the opportunity to snap a picture of Dr. Satan’s license plate, so he can . . . check the expiration date? I don’t know. Seems unlikely that the DMV would have the Lair’s address.
So there’s a car chase between the ambulance and the DA’s men but no gunfire or fist fights nine and a half minutes in. They stop the ambulance, and release “Dr. Williams.” Get a load of this:
New definition of "superficial" there, Doc. Of course, it’s Dr. Satan, who wants to be taken to Lohman Park, which is Dr. Scott’s home / lab. The Robert is here, brought by the DA’s men. (The District Attorney is a take-charge, hands-on kinda guy.)
That's not suspicious in the least. Then there’s this:
Okay, he sounds just like Dr. Satan, but that’s probably because she just mentioned Dr. Satan, and he was leaning over one of Dr. Satan’s robots, and got in the spirit of things.
Turns out the license plate pictures - which were found by the DA’s men, of course - showed the car registered at an abandoned hotel. Shoot! An abandoned hotel? Can’t be a lair, then.
Or COULD IT. Might that be where Speed and Real Dr. Williams are? So Bob Wayne, who is in reality to the Copperhead or vice versa, goes to break up the bondage party:
This leads to the most basic cliffhanger I’ve ever seen. No planes, trains, automobiles, electrocution machines, crushing walls, or other such embellishments. Just good ol’ fashioned gats.
It’s the smile that makes the scene.
That'll do! See you around.
New site below for the next three weeks: Alka-Nervine!