Disposable Income, Disposable Gadgets
Bacon and Eggs
At some point in the future your oven (or equivalent) will start cooking your bacon a few minutes before you get out of bed. The eggs -- over-easy, scrambled, or sunny-side up will start a bit later. If you wake up and find that you'd prefer scrambled to over-easy, you can just press #6 on your all-purpose hand-held device. (Both the bacon and the eggs will be processed from giant algae farms.) Your gadget recalls that you like an uplift in the morning, so it automatically sends a wireless signal to the speakers embedded in your wall to play something by Vivaldi. Using the device, you enter a code then tap it on your arm. Although still entirely naked, the device dresses you in a fine, Italian-tailored hologram suit. You won't need to brush your teeth, as you remembered to take your monthly anti-bacterial chewable tablet. You may still get killed crossing the street, but death by microbes has been expunged.
Within the next hundred years, things will be either similar to this, or much better, or much, much worse.
Resistance Is Futile
Using a little science fiction, I can imagine that most of our needs will be met by either an-all purpose hand-held device or something attached directly to our brains. The trend toward automation and the constant industrial standard toward piling more and more utility into a single device can only continue into the future. As the "Borg" from "Star Trek" were fond of saying, resistance to these innovations will be "futile." Twenty years ago the idea of everyone possessing a wireless phone that can also take digital pictures and connect you to something called the Internet would have sounded pretty far fetched. Just as Microsoft has led everyone into their concept of software "improvement," other industries are not exempt from scrutiny. If the USPS were to collapse completely, then everyone would be forced to pay their bills online. E-mail has already caused the agency to make drastic cut-backs in staff and facilities. How long has it been since you received a hand-written letter? With phone texting, the basis of the English language has a rope around its throat. Individuals who never learned how to write or spell once they graduated from high school have nothing to worry about -- because text message mistakes are considered standard.
In James Cameron's movie "The Abyss," one of its main characters can only communicate via text messages as he plunges literally into the ocean's abyss. Under these extreme circumstances, his messages temporarily become garbled but later are perfectly clear. His spelling and grammar are not the best, but the people awaiting him topside are able to unscramble his errors. And that is exactly what many people are dealing with today. Forget about the niceties of punctuation. If a person can come up with a sound-alike equivalent for a word, this is acceptable at management levels and higher. Maybe this is loosely related to George Orwell's concept of "Newspeak."
Only the imagination holds us back from foreseeing how a single device may serve us in ways we never imagined. Perhaps fresh water is in short supply, so everyone relies on rolling their device under their arm pits as a deodorant. Or maybe we will return to the 17th Century and rely on the heavy use of perfumes -- with the atomizer being our precious gadget.
What amazes me are the bucks that an economy-strapped populace is willing to dish out for the latest gadget. I call it a gadget because -- even as I write this -- engineers are designing ways of merging phones, cameras, tablets and PCs. Once they figure out how to roll out a computer screen as if it were just so many sheets of toilet tissue, I think we'll see the end of PCs as we now know them. If the public resists touch-screens, there is always the possibility of making a keyboard and mouse "virtual." Need to hear that clicking sound as you type, yeah, we have an app for that.
I have nothing against innovation or true technological improvements as provided by mechanized apparatus. However, I do find it strange how readily the buying public (especially the young) are willing to sacrifice hard-earned-bucks for the latest gee-wiz gadget. If it were possible to re-route one's dry cleaning, cancel a dinner date, close escrow on a house, and have your nails manicured by pressing *8 on your do-everything pad, there would probably be software available to accommodate these unrelated requests -- and concurrently a piece of small hardware to authenticate the actual transaction... or, if we are talking about human-to-machine interfaces, these transactions would only be stored digitally in some sub-atomic universe.
When we read articles about cars that drive by themselves, we are glimpsing into something that may be our future -- or, if not our future, then surely the future of our children.
Do you find most people disagreeable. Wait awhile and Ray Bradbury's invention of the interactive TV is probably just around the corner. It's hard to imagine what sort of jobs will still be around in a hundred years. I suppose the major industries will be entertainment, medicine and pharmaceuticals. So, you come home from work after a day of contributing minutely toward some new mind-altering drug, and you want to "relax." The TV could provide you with a comforting family (if that's your thing) or maybe you'd prefer to visit an alien-inhabited planet where you would have to use laser guns to ensure your survival. It's all up to you.
Most of us will dislike/hate Windows 8, but many of us (if not most) will be forced to use it. The transition from Windows XP to Windows 7 provided a lot of tell-tale signs about the way businesses buffer each other. As with cars, software and hardware manufacturers engineer for planned obsolescence. As a small example, my perfectly fine HP laser printer became "incompatible" with Windows 7 because HP did not provide a "driver" for it. So, this meant forking over additional cash for a new printer -- even though my old one had miles and miles to go.
Perhaps Windows 8 will turn out to be another Vista experience for Microsoft. I'm picking on Microsoft because they are NOT improving their products. They are making their software less and less intuitive and at the same time more obscure. I'm all for change if it makes something better, but changing things just for the sake of staying relevant in the market is a different matter entirely. Since Microsoft could not figure out a way of making it's older operating system and Office Suite software actually more user friendly, they decided to ditch a few decades of innovation and fine-tuning for no better reason than a bad cosmetic uplift. I can target Microsoft because their objectives are not honest. For them, making Windows and accompanying software unrecognizable from its previous form, puts more millions (if not billions) into their war chest. Each new iteration of the Windows OS does not offer the consumer a bullet proof computing environment. In my own case (using Windows 7), I have to endure an HP blue screen that transitions into a black screen that finally BEGINS the process of loading the Win OS. The equipment is about three months old. Within days after buying my PC, I was confronted with this start-up problem. Yes, I can take it back to the vendor -- and maybe (just maybe) they can get Windows to start "normally." Since I use my PC extensively, going one or two days without it would cost me.
Thus, instead of making something that exists more fail safe, Microsoft has opted to ignore the consumer and move forward with a vision that no one has been able to explain.
Greed Is Good
In the movie "Wall Street," the character Gordon Gekko, portrayed vividly by Michael Douglas, is well know for his comment that "Greed is good." Gekko may have been right for a certain segment of our society, but for most of us, greed is detrimental. Certainly Microsoft has taken Gecko's class, but many other businesses have also taken up the mantle. In a capitalist society, money must come first. Unfortunately, the capitalists have become so powerful that they are able to move us to buy this instead of that. And we always swallow each marketing campaign, hook, line and sinker. In this way we will buy cell phones that toast our English muffins while buying stock in a company that purports to entirely erase Kleenex tissues from every shelf in America. Already people rely on software to negotiate the chaotic world of stocks, bonds and other commodities. If a butterfly flaps its wings in Singapore, a hurricane starts to form off the Gulf Coast. Investors don't need to connect the dots. They just inhale the breeze from Singapore and inherently know what to do.
Its arguable whether gadgets improve the condition of our existence, but they seem to make us happy -- at least for a couple of days. Like children with toys, we grow bored rather easily. This listlessness, this difficulty to remain entertained/distracted/happy will keep the engineers turning out new and "improved" products, which will continue to be devoured by the populace. Like Sheryl Crow sang:
If it makes you happy
It can't be that bad
If it makes you happy
Then why the hell are you so sad