In 1992, we got our second Mac computer, an LC, and it was the beginning of an alternate reality, at least it was in 1992. We had the old Apple 2E in the mid-80s, but that old green screen relic was ‘cool’ and cutting edge, but more like dumpster food than life-altering technology, even in the 80s. You could play some basic hangman games and Jungle Run, but that was it. This Mac was different because that’s when dial up hit us. Listening to the screechy noises of dial up logging up, and the images which took a few minutes to load (just one picture, mind you), it was difficult to understand how it would upend everything, but, as we learned later, it was step one. Step two was the rise of email. I got an email address upon my arrival at college in 1998, and that, along with AOL IM, quickly revolutionized communication as I had known it. Then upon graduation, I got my first cell phone and starting texting in T9. For you young people, that was where you had to push the “one” on a phone three times to get the letter “C.” It took a literal minute just to send out simple statements like, “Hello, how are you?” But still, it was another step towards a future we didn’t know we were taking, but were. Internet speed had taken a big step forward, too, in the late 90s/early aughts, and was now beyond just dial up, but could easily load videos, music and images now. Websites became a thing. The march was steady but unrelenting. Then phones got picture capability and almost simultaneously, Social Media was born: MySpace and Friendster and then Facebook in the early aughts. Again, life was altered, subtly but unmistakably, the earth moving under our feet by both inches and miles simultaneously. Wireless and internet capability steadily improved: memory on phones allowed for increasingly more photos and videos to the point it was almost infinite, as it is today. While all this progression was steady, the life of dial up and even of T9 is unrecognizable.
And yet the ground is still moving underneath our feet, just as it was then, imperceptibly, but deliberately. So the question that I return to in my head is this: what technology will we look back on in this era as scornfully as we look at the earliest apple computers or early websites now? Because we undoubtedly… undoubtedly will. That’s the one constant in this march, if nothing else. And I am convinced our scorn will be directed at the internet as it exists now and for laptops and other hardware. We will see them as clunky and antiquated relics of a meaty, tangible past. We are moving immutably towards more hands off and easier use tech, that is the horizon, our fait accompli.
Virtual Reality is the future. It must be. Every capacity will be available to you and you won’t even need to push any buttons or enter any keystrokes. Writing will be as effortless as speaking, only the old-fashioned will insist on keyboards, like those today who insist on writing with pens and pencils. Keyboards, like typewriters and the quill pen, will fossilize and eventually vanish. You will enter virtual space and have the capacity of infinity without the hassle of any material obstruction. There will be a virtual world to enter: the next generation of the internet, but three-dimensional, more real: an infinite universe to explore. The old internet space will be mocked for it’s artificiality, simplicity, and two-dimensionality. These truths seem inescapable to me, and yet invisible to the world as we know it.
As the earth hurtles through space at 67,000 miles per hour we don’t feel it, as we are moving with it. But if we were to look back later to the place we had come from in space, it would be so foreign as to be invisible. So too is it with technological progress, a silent hurtling through space and time, an immutable and unceasing, ever increasing at exponential rate. 2030 will make 2020 look more like 1920 than itself.
We would be wise to be flexible and creative in our thinking and planning, given this unceasing march. Our wil. live in universes we can barely grasp. If we don’t relax our grip on tradition, we’re liable to be left 67,000 miles behind.