Journal Of Applied Misanthropology

When I'm 65 70

If you don't see the '65' struck-out, you're using some antique thing, or AOL, which is even worse. Get with the program.

Odd things set your mind wandering. (Mine never stops, to the eternal dismay of employers and girlfriends). Walking to work a few days ago, I spotted the headline "Government To Raise Mandatory Retirement Age to 70 by 2029". I did a bit of math, and, guess what? I'll be 69 in 2029, so the government has once again screwed me. Not that I expect Social Security to exist in 2029, or that I'd demean myself by accepting it if it does. It's the principle of the thing.

But 2029 isn't all that far off. Indeed, it's frighteningly close. Were I a normal man, this sudden awareness of impending geezerhood would send me rushing off to buy a fast car and a faster blonde. But I don't drive, so I'd need to ask Stacy to drive the blonde and I, and my survival instincts are better than that.

So, instead, I decided to ponder what the world will be like when I'm wheezing my way towards senility, assuming, of course, I don't get hit by the metaphorical truck or shot by the government as a seditioner or just keel over from one bacon cheesburger too many. In the tradition of many, I'm going to make some predictions as to the future. Someone archive this, so that you can look me up at the Shady Glen Home For Retired Programmers and embarass me with my youthful folly. (Boy, won't it be nice to someday look back at this point in time and think I was *young* now!)

So what does the future hold? If the past is any clue...but it isn't, really, so let's skip that. The problem with prediction is that you can only extend current trends -- you can't imagine the breakthroughs or what effect they will have. I can predict "computers will get faster and faster until they reach the point where they can crash seventeen times a nanosecond", but I can't predict that, in 2003, a young scientist will invent the Refurbigating Floobitzer, which will make computers as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Nor can I predict the ways in which minds born without the knowledge of what cannot be done will use the technology which already exists. I can only predict that such things will occur, and will thus screw all my other predictions.

My generation was the last to remember a world without personal computers. The Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I appeared when I was in eighth grade. It had 4K of RAM and a cassette drive and cost about 2 grand in 1978 dollars. The men and women graduating college today, at the age of 22 or so, opened their eyes to a world in which the Apple II already existed. By the time they could talk, the IBM PC was on the market and Bill Gates was making his first billion. But the Internet came late for them, in their mid to late teens. Their children however...their children...

The children born today will be old enough to start using computers in about six to eight years. They will know a world of virtually infinite bandwidth. They'll grow up with television, but they won't mature with it -- television as we know it will be dead by the time they're in their early teens. They will have grown up knowing they could talk to the planet, and that the planet could talk back. (Well, OK, they could talk to those parts of the planet which owned computers and spoke something close to the same language, but, hell, since when does anyone else count?)

A world of people used to being able to speak globally, so used to it that they accept it as a fact of nature, is a world that will breed a culture so different from our own as to be incomprehensible. The strain that the 'communication generation' is going to place on the power structures of the old new world order will be a breaking one. We colonists of cyberspace are just lighting the fuse -- they'll be the ones caught in the blast. Will they ride the shockwave or be consumed by it? Got me. Probably be cool to watch and find out, though.

Well, enough with the philosophizing. You came here to hear the Great Lizardo tell you the future, and that's what I'm gonna do. By the time the odious lump of flesh I call my body has consumed this planets resources for seventy years...

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