The Future Was Never What It Was

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“The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be” has been a saying for a while. In a time of resource-sucking hallucinating AIs, climate change, and ad-saturated social media, the saying seems more relevant. We’re not getting the future we expected, want, or needed.

As I muse over this, I think the problem is that we had expectations as opposed to asking what we really needed. We wanted a future that was past and present.

Let’s take the Cybertruck, which is one man’s vision of a futuristic vehicle. The Cybertruck – for whatever valid critiques may be made of it – a deliberate creation, from its tech to the low-poly appearance. It’s something out of past science fiction, shoehorned poorly into current technology The thing is it turns out what we want isn’t, well, that vision or its janky implementation.

Or Microsoft’s Recall feature, which records what you’re doing for some kind of recovery purpose, all while basically being a security nightmare. A cybersecurity writer noted that maybe this is just what you get when an aging group of leaders keeps forgetting things. Is it evil opportunism, or just people thinking of a future that solves only something they might think of?

I could of course go on, from wasteful AI today to cuecat in the past and so on. A whole lot of people are inventing, selling, and sometimes just lying about how they’re making the future we want or expect. Which really means what too many people wan tis a future based on old videogames and movies and current ill-thought-out-needs.

We’re not humanity wants or needs because it really seems we’re not trained to think about that.

We look at what we want, and assume it’s for everyone. We look at our childhood media fixation and figure it’s how it should be. Even when people are lying their butts off trying to make “number go up” they’re justifying it with such explanations. I’m pretty sure enough supposed “leaders” of the tech world have been justifying things so long they actually believe it.

I’d feel kind of better knowing I’ve been lied to more, but am really starting to feel a little too much kool-aid has been drunk. A lot of that kool-aid came from 80’s direct-to-video.

And right now people’s egos and money are on the line in these various bad tech decisions, so they’re not going to reverse without some pretty hard bumps. Delusion, short-sightedness, and personal income and reputation are pretty compelling. Besides The Market doesn’t reward you for insight and the news doesn’t fawn over you for saying what a dumbass you were.

I’m starting to think being able to make the future (and make it better) is sort of its own skillset. Clearly a business degree doesn’t help you. But neither does a writing degree as you might just create a new mental straightjacket. Designing a future that works doesn’t necessarily come from pushing around numbers and making pretty words.

But it’s a skill we desperately need right now, and maybe recognizing it is a start.

Steven Savage