One of my problems when I was a child — and some would argue that persists to this day — is that I had a propensity to over-think or complicate things.
Walking to the store when I was 10 years old wasn’t simply a matter of following a direct path: point A to point B and back again. It could have very well included a stroll down an alley, a meandering chase after a leaf floating down a gutter, an impromptu play date with a friend three blocks away and a stop at the comic book store in the opposite direction.
A similar route would be followed on the return trip home an hour later.
Likewise when it came to imagining the future, I over- thought and made it more complicated than it actually would be.
I wrote and drew pictures of the world I pictured I’d be living in when I was really old, like in my 20s.
Cars would fly us through the air on the way to the market, we would be beamed from point A to point B via Star Trek transporters, and we would be watched in our homes and public life from giant monitors and microphones on giant poles. Turns out I was a little off on all accounts. But only a little.
Today, in my super-duper really old age, we are just a few years away from automated vehicles that will do the driving for us, albeit on city streets; virtual reality and webcams transport us to places we can’t visit in person, while the monitors and microphones are housed on street lamps and traffic lights and tucked away in our pockets and our homes.
A lot of us giddily rushed toward the age of “the future” enamored of the coolness of it all, not giving much thought to consequences, if any.
Cars that drive on their own? Well, as group after group of mischievous hackers demonstrate, some of those vehicles can be commandeered from afar rendering control of the transport in the hands of people who may want to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting victim.
Virtual reality has, for many, supplanted the need for engaging in real reality and we find that the social skills, niceties and compassion associated with human interaction, as well as the enlightenment and understanding that corresponds with travelling somewhere new diminishes day after day after day.
And the monitoring systems in place are not limited to Big Brother and the all-knowing government.
Our phones have computers and GPS monitors — tracking devices the paranoid or cynical would call them — and the information they gather is stored on machines that are housed in buildings with access limited to a few who then share information with advertisers, political groups, insurers and anyone with a warrant or a penchant for hacking. The things we consider private, really, aren’t as private as we hoped they would be.
It is an interesting future.