On Living in the Future


As I type these words, I’m listening to my friend Mary Robinette Kowal read from an updated version of her first novel, in real-time. I’ve set my phone (in its convenient wallet holder) up on one of my three monitors. On my wrist sits a watch connected via bluetooth to more or less everything, and will inform me of any comments on this post with a helpful vibration. My fingers rest gently on a solar-powered, wireless keyboard, and on occasion (just now, for example) the hand attached to that wrist finds its way to a highly responsive wireless mouse.

That’s a bewildering array of products, but it’s nowhere near the end of what’s within reach. Both keyboard and mouse are connected through a programmable gaming keyboard to my PC, which itself is connected to my cable modem in another room via the copper wires carrying power through my walls. To my right are two wireless printers, each connected via both radio and bluetooth to the 4 fully functional dedicated computing devices in our home. Downstairs a wireless repeater ensures that I can, if I so desire, complete this message to you while sitting on a chair outside.

A story created in this temple of technology is being read right now around the world, by people I’ve never met. The server where these words will reside is somewhere in Canada, redirecting a domain name I bought from Australians almost a decade ago.

If you’re looking for the Singularity, you may well have missed it.

Despite the appalling lack of flying cars, I’m feeling fantastic about life in the 21st century. Sure, there is still poverty, hunger, war, disease, intolerance, violence, and environmental disasters, but in the plastic and chrome devices surrounding me, I see what our world could be.

That world is a place in which I want to live.

Before the outrage button is fully depressed on your side of the internet, understand that I deplore all of the preceding failures of our society (Seriously. No flying cars?). Our species went to another planet, and then left because the ratings were low. We have machines in orbit that can see light years in any direction or read the numbers on the front of your house. A man floating in one such tin can made us smile and weep, but only 10% of our planet have access to his words. On my face rest two magnificently machined lenses that save me from a life of blurred shadows, but an even smaller amount of people have similar eye enhancements.

It wouldn’t take much at all to move our race up to a position of equality. In my own country, I rank among the marginally middle class, and still I can share my largess with others. My old eyeglasses get donated to those with little access to healthcare. In my own city I can recycle all of the electronics listed above with little effort, especially since all of them are perfectly functional even if I don’t have any continuing use for them. With the push of a button I can commission the construction of tablet PCs and laptops for children in other countries, for little more than the cost of a nice meal with friends.

And if I can do it…

There is a mantra of sorts that goes, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” I applaud this sentiment, but I don’t think it goes far enough. People should act in ways that generate happiness, rather than profits. “Make Great Art,” a very wise man has said. You need to be happy, in and of yourself. If you can make the world a better place at the same time, so much the better. You need not dedicate your life to other people, but you should live your life with them in mind.

If you for some reason don’t have 20 minutes to listen to one of the best writers in the world and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met give advice to the people who’ll rule the world we leave them, click here instead for some inspiration from the most powerful human being I’ve ever met.

And if that hasn’t spurred you to action yet, try this.

I’m hardly a model of altruism, but I believe that when you act, you should do so selflessly. It need not be a “big” thing, but it needs to affect the world outside yourself.

A conversation with a stranger on the street may mean the world to someone who never is seen as “human.”


Buy it used, if you can.

Treat women with respect. Especially if you are one.

And if you’ll permit, there’s one last link that has always been a part of my life. I think it brings it all home.

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