I haven’t talked about the future in a while. Sometimes I get on these kicks where all I can think about is time travel and space portals to distant dimensions, or even not-so-distant dimensions, like dimensions that might occupy the same space that we’re occupying right now, but just on another plane, (whatever that means) so everything’s happening right around us, but at the same time totally removed. Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve thought about stuff like that. Ever since I saw Batman really. I already wrote pretty extensively about how I thought Batman was so amazing, but it’s gotten past the point of ridiculousness. Like I never think about any of that other cool future stuff anymore because my mind’s still chewing on The Dark Knight Rises. I was on vacation a couple of weeks ago – I know, I’ve written about that a lot too lately – and while I was there I saw Batman again, but this time in Spanish. I thought that maybe seeing it all dubbed up would maybe loosen its grip from my mind, but if anything, it just made it even stronger, because I feel its appeal is universal, not just limited to American audiences.
But the Batman is wearing off of for a second and I’m starting to think about the future again. Or the past. I was thinking about imagining up a time machine and going back in time, like way back, no, even further back than that, to visit some of the very first human beings. Genetically, we’d have to be almost identical, right? I mean, we’d be the same species and everything. But how would we communicate? Language isn’t something that comes preloaded into our brains, which is kind of stupid if you think about it. You don’t have to teach a puppy how to bark, it just does it. One time I took this medieval history class in college and the professor was talking about one of those crazy medieval kings and how, at the time, there existed this rumor or legend that if you left babies to grow up without any parents or other humans around, they’d naturally start speaking Hebrew. So this crazy king locked up a bunch of babies in isolation, but they just cried and cried and eventually died. I always wondered if that professor wasn’t just full of shit, but to be perfectly honest, I actually haven’t thought about that class probably since I took it. I have no idea why that little anecdote just popped in my head.
But back to my little thought experiment. What would it be like to be a member of the very first generation of human beings? All of the sudden these people are just aware of the universe in a way that only humans are. But they can’t talk to each other. What do they do, just grunt, point, throw rocks? And they have to hunt everything to eat. And they don’t have any parents telling them not to eat all those poisonous but tasty looking berries, and so a bunch of them probably died right off the bat. And they can’t write. How does that first generation teach itself to be potty trained? How do they know not to drink their own pee? I’d like to go back and talk to them, or communicate with them somehow. I’m sure I could teach at least one of them enough English for a conversation.
And I’d be like, “Hello! I’m your great-great-great-great-great-great-(you get the idea, right?)-grandson! Being a human in the future is so cool. We have everything. Clothes, TV, Internet. It’s all so awesome. We have so much time to just sit around and chill out and drink. Oh yeah, you guys haven’t even invented alcohol yet. Well, it’s awesome. And so is McDonald’s. Trust me, whatever you guys are doing to get us all to that point, keep up the good work. OK, bye!”
But then I’m thinking a few things. I’m thinking first that, would it even be possible for those really early humans to understand exactly what I’m trying to say? Could they imagine all of the wonders I’d be telling them about? Or would they think I’m full of shit? I always picture my grandparents, growing up during the Great Depression, sharing a baked potato for dinner with their entire extended family. Even if I could tell them then about all of the technological breakthroughs we’ve made since then, all of the abundance our society has come not only to love, but to expect, to demand, would they even be capable of believing me?
In the 1960s, Star Trek gave us all the idea for cell phones. But did the people watching it back then really imagine we’d actually all have them just fifty years later? And not even that, but our cell phones are even better, much cooler than what they had in Star Trek. Sure, we’re not in space, like visiting aliens or anything, and yeah, we can’t transport stuff. That is, not yet. What’s the world going to be like when I’m eighty? Maybe there will be transporters. I’m guessing there will have to be a few Holodecks. That’s going to change everything. But right now it’s all pure imagination and I can’t really get myself to picture it happening.
And then I’m thinking that there’s no way this caveman would get it, and I’d try to explain it for a while, but then what if he did get it, and was just pretending not to get it? He’d think to himself, why the hell did this clown come back from the future, to rub it in my face how much better he has it than I do? And when I least expect it, he’ll knock me out, take my time machine, and take my place in the future, watching TV, going to see Batman again, downloading stuff from the Internet. And I’ll be stuck there, trying to outrun a herd of elk or whatever animal it is that they hunted back then, but I’ll be so out of my element. I’ll never catch one of them. And even if I do, what am I going to do with it, eat it raw? I’ve never made a fire out of sticks before. I’d have no idea how to even start. I’d probably just get a huge blister on my hand and it would get infected, but antibiotics wouldn’t exist yet, so I’d try eating some mold or something, because I heard that’s where the inventor of penicillin got it from, but this wouldn’t work, because you have to do something to the mold first before it turns into medicine, and I’d probably get even sicker.
And I’d lay there dying, hungry, alone, and centuries later some archeologists would find my bones and the leftovers of my iPhone, because right before I died, and right before my phone died in the past, I’d record a video, I’d say, if you’re seeing this video in the future, it’s because I got stuck in the past, please, please send a crew back in time to help me, to find that caveman who switched places with me. But that caveman was a lot smarter than I gave him credit for, because one of the first things he’d do upon arriving in the future is to pose as an archeologist, find my remains, and destroy the phone before any real scientists could get their hands on it.
All this stuff sounds crazy, but not as crazy as all the stuff today must have sounded in the past. That’s my whole point. That today, more than at any other point in history, we can really look around and look back and forward and think to ourselves that there’s truly no limit to what’s coming, holodecks, time machines, World War VIII, everything. It all has to happen. And I’m calling it. Call me a futurologist. Seriously, call me that.