Message From The Author
Human.4 And Other Enhancements
When I was ten years old ‘Sat Nav’ had another name.
It was called ‘a map’.
And it came printed on sheets of paper.
Music came on flat vinyl discs that you needed to turn over halfway through. Computers took up a whole room and did less than an iPhone. If you missed a show on the 3 UK TV channels, then you really did miss it, unless it was repeated. Ebay was called the small ads. A state-of-the-art gaming experience was "Buckaroo" or "KerPlunk".
Back then I used to think that the future would be all about outer space travel and flying cars; the exploration of the deep, and maybe some encounters with alien creatures. It’s not hard to see why I believed those things would come to pass. I’d seen them happen; on Star Trek, Supercar, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and UFO respectively.
Sitting here now, writing this on a MacBook Pro, and listening to music from my iPod through a home cinema system, I realize that today is a future I could never have dreamed of then. Wireless connectivity, the Internet, Blu-Ray and mp3, Playstation and iPad, storing an entire library on a hand held device; it all would have seemed like science fiction to the child that I was. My Android Smartphone is one heck of a lot more effective than Captain Kirk’s communicator – flip phones are so last year - and I can even watch episodes of Star Trek on its 4-inch touch screen.
If I had fallen asleep when I was 10 and awoken today, the world would barely be recognizable to me. Technology has run a path of rapid evolutionary change, and it’s only the fact that we were there to see the intermediate stages – from record to tape to CD to mp3 — that we don’t treat these things with the jaw-dropping wonderment they actually deserve.
My point is this: in a few decades we have fundamentally changed the way that we interact with the world around us.
We have Facebook and Twitter, iTunes and Amazon. Rolling 24 hour news and hundreds of other TV channels. Kids do their homework by Google, rather than in the library. Video games offer every kind of virtual experience, and they do it in stunning HD, and allow you to interact with other gamers around the globe while you play.
The world is the same size as it was when I was 10, but it’s got smaller, somehow. A duck yawns in Oklahoma and someone in Tokyo finds out two minutes later on YouTube. A friend on holiday goes out to dinner and there’s a geo-tagged image of it on Facebook before the dessert course. I find out he’s split up with his partner twenty minutes later when he updates his status to ‘single’.
I guess there was an argument about the bill.
Information flows fast in this new world of ours, and it’s all we can do to keep up with the current. We learn how to use technology, but there are no lessons on how to live with it. It changes our world, and it changes us in the process. Memes and urban legends, lies and conspiracy theories flow through the fibre optic veins of our brave new world. Fact becomes eroded by deliberate misinformation and poor research; gossip becomes currency, status updates a new way of defining ourselves.
Technology is a wonderful thing, I’m not saying it isn’t.
But the science fiction writer inside me is scared that we have gone too far, too fast. That we have the digital tools to make the world a much better place, but we haven’t yet shaken free of our analog natures. Maybe it’s not our computers that need constant upgrading, but ourselves.
Human.4 was born from that very idea.
- Mike A. Lancaster
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