October 21st, 2004


Robots coming home


I was watching Dave Chappelle last night on 60 Minutes, and at the commercial break they flashed some news headlines, one being something like "Price of domestic robots plummets, more homes to have robots."

If you're my age (47), and you grew up reading science fiction, this felt like a weird watershed. I figure we're now in the world as extravagent as any we read about 30 or 40 year ago. I remember thinking that the hand held calculator in Asimov's 'Foundation' books was whizzy, and a book that had someone making music on a portable computer seeming really far out.

Of course, in Foundation, calculators had come along with faster-than-light space travel, and the person making tracks on their data tablet was flying to a space station. And a lot of books I spoiled my mind with when I was a kid imagined racial prejudice and war banished from the world too.

Unfortunately, the closest predictor of the future were the pessimists. We're a lot closer to Brunner's Stand On Zanzibar or any of Philip K Dick's sad dystopias.

It's sad fact of life that prophets of things getting worse are generally more accurate than prophets of comfort and joy. Oh well.

But it brings up a unique form of nostalgia -- the nostalgia for the future that never happened. That's the primary emotion I hear in Detroit Techno.