Tag Archives: future

Answer my video calls

From now on, if you want to get in touch with me, I’m only going to be available via video chat. So if you don’t use FaceTime, or Skype, or whatever Google’s version of Skype is called, then just plan on never talking to me again. Because from here on out, it’s going to be my only method of communication. I just deleted my email address. I waited on hold for like forty-five minutes with my cell phone provider, insisting that they disable text messages for my number. Going forward, it’s just video calls.


Why? Because this is the future that we were all promised. When I grew up watching futuristic cartoons like the Jetsons, nobody ever sent text messages or boring emails. No, they got on their fancy screens and talked face-to-face. That’s how the future was supposed to be. And now we have the technology. And yet nobody answers my video calls. Come on, you don’t want to look at me? You don’t want to stare at my face while you’re talking to me? What have you got to hide? You’ll send me a bunch of emojis that don’t make any sense, but you’re afraid to look me in the virtual eye and have an actual conversation?

It’s the same with Star Trek, they’re always facing each other and talking. Even when they’re on different ships, Captain Picard has his crew hail the other ship, and Worf is like, “Captain, would you like me to send the call to your ready room?” and Captain Picard is like, “Fuck that. Throw him up on the big screen.” And Worf is like, “The big screen? The one that everyone on the bridge stares at all day? It’s huge.” And Picard is like, “Do as I say!” and then the call goes through and we all get to look at an extreme closeup of whoever it is they’re talking to. And it’s universal. They might get flung halfway across the galaxy, they’ll run into a completely alien civilization, and the first thing both sides do is start a video call. “On screen!” Because it’s the future. Because it’s something that we were promised, and it’s something that we got. And so now I want to use it. So start answering my video calls. Because I’m just going to keep calling, over and over again until you answer me. Cool?

Job Assigner

“Listen Rob,” the Job Assigner broke the news to me, “these algorithms don’t lie. All right? So it says here that you’re qualified to go down on this two year deep sea study, I mean, what are you going to do?”


“Come on man,” I tried to beg. I never thought I’d have to beg. Robot Assistant, Human User Interface Relations, even Food Advertiser Specialist … seriously, even if I’d been assigned Food Advertiser Specialist, I wasn’t going to beg. Because I get, all right, not everybody gets assigned a cushy job. We can’t all be assigned Job Assigner. But this? Deep Sea Study Participant?

“You know how it goes. Everything’s optimized.”

“But I don’t even like the beach. I don’t want to live in the ocean.”

“Yeah, well, the computer says you’re a match, so you’re a match. You can’t argue with these things.”

“There’s nobody else that wants to go?” I mean, yeah, I’d heard about people being sent away on studies. But I never knew anybody that actually got shipped away. It was always like tall tales and stuff. I think one of my great uncles told a story about one of his old friends getting shipped out.

“It’s not a matter of want. Do you think I wanted to be Job Assigner?”

“You don’t want to be Job Assigner?”

“Well, I didn’t say that. But do you think that I really saw myself as Job Assigner? Everybody wants to be Job Assigner. But then once you get it … don’t get me wrong, I’m really grateful to be here. But I’d be lying if there weren’t that old feeling, like, what’s next? I know what’s next. More jobs. More assigning.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“No, I’m for real. Person comes in, computer spits out a job, I tell the person the job. Person comes in, person gets a job. Everybody’s getting jobs. Everybody except for me. Obviously I’m only dealing with my point of view here. But just think man, you’re going on an adventure. The deep sea!”

“But what are they going to be doing, testing me? Seeing how I’ll react to different states of pressure and environment and … and they’re probably going to give me one of those controlled diets, probably the same ones they give to the Deep Space Study Participants.”

“Yeah, I doubt it’ll be as bad as you think, but I’m sure it’s going to be a controlled diet.”

“Does it say? Does it mention anything about diet?”

“What are you talking about?”
“That … that screen, whatever it is you’re looking at, the one that told you my job placement. Does it have any sort of details?”

“This screen? Oh jeez, that’s good. No, I’m sorry, I’m not trying to laugh at you. It’s just … here, look at the screen, it’s Internet videos. I’m sorry, I just … the computer just says one thing, for you it said ‘Deep Sea Study Participant’ and that’s it. I just always have Internet videos on in the background. But hey! You’ll have Internet down there. So that’s something. You won’t be completely cut off. Not from the Internet, anyway.”

“And how many people are down there? Is it a big study?”

“Yeah, sorry man, but this is what I’m talking about here. Job Assigner, you’d think there’s more to it than just reading out loud. It’s not even a sentence. ‘Deep Sea Study Participant.’ Who am I kidding? This job’s a joke. I don’t know why everyone thinks it’s so cool. Yes, it’s easy. Yes, I only have to work like two hours a week. But it’s just so … I always thought I would have made a good Quality Control Historical Reenactor.”

“Listen, I would do anything to have your job. Anything. You don’t want to switch?”

“Switch? Ha. Come on man, you’re not dumb, you went through Basic Ed. I get it, I really do. I don’t assign too many Deep Sea Study Participant jobs, but it happens, and everyone’s upset. I get it. But everybody needs a job. You’ve got to have a job, you just have to. But it’s only a two-year gig. You’ll be back! Maybe they’ll give you Job Assigner two years from now!”

“You think?”

“I mean, I have no idea.”

“Well, what did you do before you were a Job Assigner?”

“Me? Nothing. I went through Basic Ed and some Job Assigner assigned me to be Job Assigner, and I was like, all right. And that’s it. I’m here for seventeen more years, and then I think they have me retiring on some moon somewhere.”

“A moon? That’s it?”

“I think it’s a nice moon.”

“Yeah, but still.”

“Yeah well, at least I’m not going to the deep sea.”

And yeah, that’s when it kind of sunk in. The door opened up and a Post-Assigner Assignment Placer came to shuttle me to whichever transport would take me to wherever I’d have to go to get ready for life underwater. I hope at least that it’s like an indoor study, that I’m not just floating around down there, testing out some new long-term oxygen deprivation drug or something. Right as they led me out, I heard the Job Assigner call out to me.

“Hey man, that wasn’t cool, I’m sorry. It won’t be too bad. You’ll be fine!”

I turned around and said, “Really? You think so?”

And he just kind of gave me a thumbs-up and shrugged.

I’m glad the future didn’t turn out like it did in Back to the Future II

I’ve been seeing it every once a month or so for the past several years, someone posts a picture on the Internet, it’s a screenshot of the clock inside the Doc’s DeLorean. “Today is the date that Marty McFly visited in Back to the Future II!” and, the first time I saw it, I thought it was really cool, but then it kept popping up, someone just photoshopping a new date to match the current one. Super lame.


But it does raise some interesting ideas. Back to the Future II is a movie made in the eighties that attempts to portray what life in America should look like right about now. Obviously there aren’t too many similarities between the real world and that fantasy land where every homeowner has access to his or her personal flying car. But it’s a movie. That’s one idea of what a future might look like.


It makes me wonder, which version of 2014 is better, ours, or the one imagined way back when? While there’s a lot to consider, I’d have to say that the real 2014 has shaped up to be far superior in almost all respects to the one from the movie. And yes, I’m taking into account the fact that mostly everything made in the eighties looks super cheesy in hindsight. But even after acknowledging and compensating for that handicap, the real future is still so much brighter.

That’s not to say that they got everything wrong. I’m obviously talking about Hoverboards here. And while this futuristic neon pink play toy only had a minor role in the movie, it’s lasting grip on our collective imagination only serves to underscore its very noticeable absence from the future that we inhabit today. Yes, the flying cars were also pretty cool, as were the sneakers that tied themselves up with a push of a button. But come on, why do we not have Hoverboards yet? It’s almost enough to make me want to rule in favor of the eighties future, if only to encourage us to realign our modern priorities, shift away from whatever it is we’re currently working on and reorient our goals to making Hoverboards a viable consumer technology.

Almost. But the rest of the eighties future is depressing enough that I can forget for a few moments that I live in a world where Hoverboards remain a distant fiction. Which is weird, because from a cursory glance, the future in Back to the Future II looks bright. Everything is clean and hi-tech, people seem to be happy, in essence, it’s not Mad Max or Robocop or any of the dystopian visions of the future commonly portrayed in the eighties.

But it still kind of sucks. Marty McFly had dreams of becoming a rock star, but in 2014, he instead finds himself living in some highly automated cage where his foreign boss can appear anytime he wants on giant wall mounted TVs. When they decide to fire McFly, it’s not enough to just tell him that he lost his job, they start streaming in commands to all of the printers around the house, “You’re fired!” printed in giant type for his whole family to read. Talk about lack of privacy, I’d rather have the NSA reading my emails than my boss having the ability to weasel his way into my off-the-clock hours.

And speaking of work, why does everybody in the eighties future have to wear two ties? In my version of the future, we’re all wearing less ties, zero ties, not an additional tie. A tie is the stupidest must unnecessary piece of clothing currently in every man’s closet, and yet it’s somehow required for any sort of formal event. What’s the point of looping a piece of fabric around our neck? It’s just dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb. And yet someone who made this movie thought it would look a little more advanced if we all got to wear an extra.

It’s just a subtle way of showing how maybe their future wasn’t meant to be as appealing as its glossy coated exterior made it appear. Everybody in the house is working. Work, work, work. Everybody’s so busy that they barely have enough time to feed themselves. They can’t cook dinner, they don’t even have time to go out for a bite to eat. No, instead, Marty’s mom comes over and rehydrates a Pizza Hut pizza in some futuristic kitchen appliance. So not only are the people of the twenty-first century forced to eat dehydrated junk food, they have to fit their houses with expensive appliances that deny them even the ability to enjoy their fast food outside of the house.

And why do Marty and his future son appear to be identical twins? It’s too easy of an answer to say that they just wanted Michael J. Fox to play both roles. No, I think that in this vision of the future, gene therapy has advanced to a point where parents could customize the DNA of their offspring, mapping their appearance to the most minute detail. Of course, Marty being a total self-absorbed rock-n-roll wannabe narcissist, he basically molds his son into his clone, ensuring and predicting a perpetual stagnation of the human race, of eighties American decay, endless suburban sprawl, and lame retro-themed diners.

Yeah, the real future is so much better. Seriously, they didn’t even predict the Internet. How do you not predict the Internet? And the further we march ahead, the sillier Back to the Future II looks in the rearview mirror. I say we leave it all behind, stop airing Part II on TV, and try to forget all of those unexplained temporal paradoxes (Like, when Biff steals the time machine, he comes back to the future after having dropped off the sports almanac, but nothing’s changed yet. Why? Shouldn’t he have come back to a future continued by the timeline in which he’s a ruthless billionaire? It doesn’t make sense.) Except, let’s not forget about the Hoverboards. I’d really, really like a Hoverboard. But I said that already.

A long time ago, on a vacation far, far away

I wish I could have a vacation home like five hundred years ago somewhere. Whenever I need to get away, I’d be able to hop back in time and take a temporary break in the not-so-distant past. And I wouldn’t even try to blend in. I mean, what would be the fun in any of that? No, I’d just zap myself right in the middle of town, a big public entrance, just to show everybody how powerful I am.

I’d wear my regular clothes, and I’d have small-talk with whoever happened to be around, but then I’d head off just outside of the community. I’d have a totally modern house, with everything, Internet, TV, all of my modern appliances. The house itself, it would just be in the past.

Also, I’d be totally untouchable. I’m talking about defense. Like, if anybody tried to overpower my futuristic abode, or try to kidnap me on my way back to the present, it just wouldn’t work. I’d have like a portable cloaking device or a random force-field generator. I don’t know.

And all I’d do is just kind of rub it in how awesome the future is. Maybe I’d let some of the townsfolk take a tour, I’d show them a cool movie on my giant projection screen. What kind of movie would it be? I could play them a period piece, something like Apocalypto or Braveheart. Or maybe I’d just pop in a copy of something totally crazy, like Star Wars, and I wouldn’t explain anything. In fact, I wouldn’t even be watching the movie. My entertainment would be totally derived from watching everyone else try to make sense of what’s going on in the movie.

Maybe I could teach them how to play basketball or baseball. Maybe I could really insert myself into the history of the sport. Although, I guess for continuity’s sake, my visits shouldn’t really disrupt the space-time continuum. Like, I visit, I leave, but nothing changes in the present.

So would any of it even be real? What would be the point of doing anything if there weren’t at least the potential for mild consequences?

Maybe it wouldn’t be as cool as I’m imagining it to be. Maybe I should just take a vacation upstate, get some fresh mountain air. Or something beachy, like, I don’t know, some beach somewhere. I’ll just order like ten piña coladas and fall asleep in the hot tub.

I’m ready for the future

Some people get so freaked out about the pace of technological advancements. But not me. I’m all for futuristic technology. Like the new Robocop movie. I didn’t see it, mostly because the old Robocop was so awesome. But throughout the whole Robocop franchise, it’s like this warning, about technology, about robots and cyborgs. It’s the same with Terminator. “Watch out!” is the message. The machines are taking over.


But me, I’m embracing that futuristic vision. I want to be more machine than man. If they ever need people to sign up as volunteers to have cybernetic implants or whatever, I’d be first in line. Because seriously, I already spend so much time interacting with my computer, my cell phone. Having all of that stuff seamlessly integrated into my body is the next logical step.

Put a cell phone screen in my eyes. It can’t be that hard. Just take out one of my biological eyes and replace it with a smart device. Like, I’d still be able to see regular when I want to, but instead of having to reach into my pocket every time I think I feel my phone buzzing, I could just react and respond without even having to look away from what I’m currently doing.

Just keep adding stuff. I wish I could get a flashlight implanted right above my ears. That way I’d never have to look for anything in the dark. I’m talking bright flashlights, like car headlights. Different colors too. And I want laser pointers somewhere inside of my fingers. So I could just point at something and have it illuminated with a crisp red laser dot.

And I’m so sick of wearing headphones. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could have two-way speakers where your ears are? Have them plug in directly to my brain, make them stronger and more sensitive than my human eardrums. No longer will I have to worry about listening to my music too loud. Make it even louder, crank it up, as loud as my brain can take it. And then if I’m sitting there on the subway and someone’s like, “What are you listening to man?” I could play the music outward also.

I wouldn’t even need a voice anymore, not a human one. Just give me one of those two-way speakers and install it where my throat is. So I’d be able to speak in any type of voice that I want. And hook that shit up to WiFi man, that would be great, I could hook up my voice to Google Voice, or to Google Translate, and I’d be able to talk to anybody I want to, in any language, at whatever volume.

No, you know what? We don’t even need speakers. Just make everything Bluetooth, OK, a Bluetooth brain. I want the music streamed right into my head. And if you want to say something to me, just send it over the airwaves, all right, that’s how we’re all going to communicate, it’s all going to be over WiFi.

And I was just going to say something like, replace my arms with really strong robot arms, but then I was thinking, why not just add robot arms to complement my human arms? Give me like four extra arms. I mean, I have all of this space on the side of my torso. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t have six arms. Legs, I think I’m kind of out of space, unless some engineer could figure out where to fit more legs. But yeah, I’d rather have really fast robot legs than human legs.

Just, give me the works, all right, I don’t want to wait around for the future. I want to be the future. I want to be a cyborg, just much better than I’d ever be able to get naturally, by myself. Sign me up, I’m ready for the future.