May. 11th, 2011

I had a nightmare the other night that grew out of Future Shock-esque experiences I have been having. We have been changing versions of AutoCAD platforms at work, and the 2011 version of the program is similar to the older version I'd been using (2004) in much the same way that an old car and a new car are both cars, even if the old car is a Dodge 330 where you can open the hood and see the ground through the engine-parts, and the new car is a Bugatti Veyron that has been possessed by the spirit of your dead jealous girlfriend. Both things do essentially the same thing, but one of them does it faster/smarter/better and yet also crazier. It's really messed with my head.

So I came home yesterday and had a relaxing evening and eventually went to bed, and then I had this dream. In this dream, the accelerating curve of the development of new technology reached the point where things changed so absurdly fast that I was utterly incapable of keeping up. And yet, somehow, these changes did not fluster my younger co-workers and flunkies who seemed magically able to stay in touch with the shifting landscape of technological achievement.

"These days," explained one of my engineers over lunch, "we take our brains out of our skulls." He showed me the seams under his hairline. Everybody else at the table seemed to have them.

"Ah," I said. "Why are you doing that?"

"We put them in jars with the brains of friends," he said, as if this were perfectly obvious. "Then they absorb information from each other overnight via osmosis."

"Then what keeps your body functioning while you sleep?" I asked. All the young people at my table chuckled as if I had asked a really simplistic question.

"Nothing keeps them functioning overnight," said another guy. "They effectively die. In the morning, when we put the brains back in, we come back to life again."

"You see," said the first guy condescendingly, "it's a waste of energy to remain alive when you're sleeping. It's all about green technologies." The others nodded knowingly.

"Okay, wait a second," I said skeptically. "In the morning, when it's time to put your brains back in, if you're dead, then who does the revivification?"

Everybody at the table laughed nastily. "Dude," said one young guy, "we don’t take our brains out of our skulls anymore. NOBODY does that in this day and age."

"You just said you did!" I protested.

"That was at the beginning of this conversation," explained the boy patiently. "We're over that. Nowadays we just upload our brains via satellite, optically." He leaned over and showed me the crystal-faced aperture on the top of his skull, where presumably the contents of his brains linked themselves to the mass-mind any time his crown could see sky.

As I left the lunch (I noticed that I was still the one paying even though everybody else was so much more technologically advanced), I reflected that this must be what it is like to be my parents, and ask for me to perform incredibly demeaning technological tasks when I visit them, like programming the clock on their coffee machine. People naturally receive automatic updates on technology, by dint of paying attention to what pop culture is messing around with, but at some point peoples' brains get overwhelmed and can't keep up. Like my parents, they become infantilized by technology and refuse to attempt to comprehend even the simplest of things.

I walked down the street, and as I watched the universe changed all around me. People were driving around in comfortable armchairs supported on a pile of self-directing bowling ball sized ball bearings. This lasted for about fifteen seconds. Then, as if on some hidden signal that everybody could hear but me, the rolling chairs were phased out and people were levitating around on swift-moving puddles of super-organized organic colloids the same consistency and translucence of a pad of Vaseline. Then those went away as well, and people were simply flying down the street, the mechanism that allowed them to do this being nowhere in sight.

As I watched, wars bloomed around me. They lasted about ten seconds, where people spontaneously chose sides and caused each other to disappear, or turn inside out, or have their heads replaced with chrome spheres. Blossoms of fire popped up in the sky, just like kernels of corn popping, and then they were gone and things were peaceful again.

The days started to come and go quickly – no doubt another technological advance that accelerated the pace of the day to match the pace of innovation, both of which had left me in the dust. The sun swooped overhead, dived down below the horizon and popped up from the other side like a jack-in-the-box. Each foreshortened day brought something new. One day there were people walking down the street who appeared basically normal. The next day they had replaced most of their limbs with crystalline appliances. The following day they were gone; the city was a ghost town. But it didn't last; the next day there were beings, columns of energy lattices, mostly standing still but sometimes arcing from place to place. Still later the city disappeared, replaced with a void, or spheres joined by tendrils, or great shifting planes of dun-colored stones, or a desert where the dunes jumped and shifted and clumped in regular patterns, like a scattering of sand on the head of a snare drum.

And through it all I was basically me, unchanging, uncomprehending, unable to process what I was seeing, incapable of recognizing what sorts of technologies I was witnessing, let alone how these things might work or be applied to me. And then at some point the alarm woke me up and I had to go back in to work to learn to use a program that made me feel stupid.

Technology advances. It does not stop. Be advised.

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September 2012

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