Friday, January 7, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: He Has To Wonder At 130

At 0: the first computer fills a large room with thousands of coiled wires, billowing steam and punch cards. It crunches numbers. It will help perfect the hydrogen bomb.

At 20: government workers rely on computers the size of desks for data entry and records.

At 25: 62% of respondents do not know what a computer is.

At 35: government computers are connected like axes in a web that spans the world.

At 40: mastery of the x-ray enables physicians to take static images of patients’ insides. Many patients fear side-effects.

At 50: fearing children who are not computer literate will be worthless in the real world, educators race to bring as many computers in the classroom as there are pupils. The computers are half the size of the average pupil.

At 55: multiple miniature cameras are deployed inside a surgery patient, minimizing size of incision and giving a radical vision of the living body.

Also at 55: a teacher receives a phone call in his pocket.

At 60: a student finds an answer using Google on her cell faster than the teacher can pull it up on Encarta.

At 65: a physician releases nanomachines into his own bloodstream. They collect images and information about his vitals.

At 70: a teacher purchases a laptop computer via his cell. Information about his address, bank account, purchasing history and browsing history are stored somewhere.

At 80: a semi-organic computer smaller than a pimple is unveiled in the brainstem of a leading mathematician. It can make numbers do amazing things in your head.

At 85: legislation to ban “internalcells” is overridden in the Supreme Court. 33% of respondents approve, with 49% undecided. Wall Street sees record highs.

At 95: fearing children who are not e-literate will be worthless in the real world, parents race to implant “intercells” cell chips into the heads of newborns.

At 111: the first class of children whose motor skills are entirely pre-programmed by their “cells” attend their first day of school.

At 120: less than 3% of respondents under thirty do not have “at least some” of their emotions digitally regulated.

At 130: the prodigy who bought too much, including a large room full of wires and tickertape, executes a command. Everything turns off. He goes outside without shoes or socks and feels the grass between his toes. Without intracell assistance, his natural hearing is so weak that he misses all the grinding and screaming around him. He wonders what this feeling is called. For the first time in his life, auto-fill does not answer his question. He has to wonder.


  1. Brilliant. A timely warning to all. Let's never lose that sense of wonder and imagination.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  2. Wow, I love where you've gone with this!
    Yet, I think it's at least a bit scary that this somehow seems plausible...

  3. Thought-provoking story, John. I sometimes think the sci fi guys had it right and technology will be the death of us.

  4. That gave me chills and a momentary sense of sadness. I sometimes wonder where all this is going. Great piece- I will be thinking about this all day I am sure. -Tiffany

  5. You know I love this! It's not that technology is all bad but when we start believing it can replace human relationships we are in trouble. The grass between his toes line was great.

  6. Very poignant. Let us never forget to teach our kids that nature has a place in the world and that bad feelings are just as valid as good ones. Moreso because they help us grow.

    Personal note: I have a small son who's addicted to machines like his digital computer and the games on Dad's cell. Dad asks why we didn't let him bring his camera on vacation. I said, "because he needs to see the world with his eyes, and not through a viewfinder."

    Thanks, John. : )

  7. I feel an urge to rail against our increasing dependency on technology but then, how would I have read this?
    At 50: "The computers are half the size of the average pupil." :)

  8. Reminds me a little of Philip K. Dick. Very unsettling. Good job!

  9. This is a brilliant piece. If you're not spot on in your speculation, you're at least close.

  10. Good one, John. You've tapped my fear that we'll all soon have chips in our heads again. :)

    Scary and brilliant.

  11. This reminds me of Y2K and the panic that didn't happen. There was this one man trying to stir up fear on this forum I was on and he was going on about how there'd be no food, etc. I asked him why there wouldn't be any food and he went into this lengthy explanation of how computers and machine did the processing and so on. I said, perhaps those things would go away, but we could still eat. If push came to shove, you could always plant a garden.

    We clearly are way too dependent on machines and sometimes it kind of scares me how much we've allowed them to take over. Great story John.

  12. Excellent work, John!

    Love the way you structured this.

    Laurel W.

  13. That was awesome, John. It's frightening how many electronic devices my child owns and can operate, which is why we're going to the mountains for a tech-free day on Sunday. worried face

  14. I completely dug this. By far the creepiest thing I've read today and filled with thoughts that are going to fester.

  15. Adam, did something in particular strike you as timely?

    Estrella, watching your kids?

    Cathy, technology has been the death of plenty of us. Prolongs the lives of others. It can be a gamble.

    Tiffany, it's all going wherever the makers and takers go with it, I guess.

    GP, didn't know this sort of scifi was up your alley. Certainly my goal isn't to deride technology. Any major advancement can provide wonderful and horrible consequences.

    Tony, Laura and Laurel, thank you both. I tried to keep the shock short.

    Monica, the gradient of integration, reliance and addiction to machines is a strange one. I sometimes turn off all my stuff just to see what twitches. Fortunately I'm not at the addicted stage, but when five-year-olds are given iPads? We'll see.

    Harry, I guess depending on the grade that pupil might be smaller than the computer.

    Bev and Raven, did something in particular make you think of Philip K. Dick? Flattered to be compared to a giant of a genre, but I'm curious since I've largely read his longer work which was more thriller-oriented.

    Eric, well I admit to hoping I'm wrong.

    Gracie, maybe that earpiece will lay techno-eggs. Never know.

    Rachel, I'm certainly not saying this is what will happen. For me future-setting fiction isn't prediction, anymore than modern fiction is statement of fact. I'm grateful to many of these machines - they let me talk to you.

    Danni, how many do your kids own?

    Aaron, I hope the festering isn't too unpleasant. Thanks for stopping by!

  16. John, I like this, and find it more than just a bit scary, it puts me in mind of the story of the human race building a super-computer, and asking it "Is there a god?" to hear the answer, "There is now,"

  17. That was brilliant, once it started rolling it was genius. John, you really have a creative and amazing imaginative feel and I loved it. Last paragraph was powerful. Too much technology? My fave:

    "At 95: fearing children who are not e-literate will be worthless in the real world, parents race to implant “intercells” cell chips into the heads of newborns."

  18. John, you always leave me scared to death with these realistic bits of what could easily be. The form you used worked very well for this. Great work!

  19. I really like these timeline pieces you do. The things my daughter could do with a computer at 2 terrified me. Hopefully I'll be long dead before the digitization of imagination.

  20. I enjoyed the light whimsy of some of the descriptions; particularly at 80 numbers doing amazing things in your head & auto-fill.

  21. Steve, technology has often developed into things greater than individuals at one function or another. I'd rather not get that reply from my laptop, though.

    Julio, I wouldn't say we have too much technology or are even going towards to much. Heck, we're discussing right now via a myriad of technical marvels. It could go to disturbing ends, though not everyone even finds this future disturbing.

    Deanna, so some time I'll owe you a cheery utopian comedy. I'll get to thinking on it.

    Seleste, there are one or two more timeline-y pieces in the cooker. I try to space them out as I'd prefer my #fridayflash not be too associated with one gimmick. I love to experiment, though, even if it takes us to digital feelings.

    Aidan, you found the mental auto-fill whimsical? That's interesting!

  22. You have a brilliant imagination to conjure up this piece. I was intrigued. Very provocative.


  23. Never lose sight of the real world. With kids so wired and juiced up on digital technology, I've seen how hard it is for them to play like we used to as kids. Eventually, there'll come a day where we can even download an AP for driving through the countryside and visiting the relatives. Just think: we will no longer have to hear "Are we there yet?" or "I have to go pee!" or "Your parents don't really like me, do they?" No, all traces of humanity will go the way of the dinosaurs as we jack into our USB ports and become SIM LIFE. Good stuff, John. A necessary reminder to step outside and smell the air once in a while.

  24. I'm a science geek but even I recognise some stuff has to remain the domain of the human mind, and not technology. Love this.

  25. A beautiful snapshot of what is ... and very well what could be ... Masterful.

  26. I have always told my students that inventions/technology are rarely all good or all bad. We simply make good and bad choices about what to do with them.

    I like the bits of humor that you wove into this.

  27. Wow. Just wow. This is so brilliantly sci-fi, you really should turn it into a novel. Call 2084. Peace...

  28. L'Aussie, I certainly have an imagination. Brilliant? I appreciate being called that, but I have to wonder. ... At 130! Ah-ha, I'm awful.

    Stephen, going outside is recommended. You can bring your iPhone with you if you want. Thank you for the philosophical reply; it's something a lot of parents worry about.

    Icy, I'm also a pretty big fan of science. Any great feature of humanity can have catastrophic results - science, government, religion, all essential to our history, all have woeful darksides. I think the above is downright rosy compared to what could happen (and what many bright scientists feared would happen by now).

    Laurita, thank you kindly!

    Anthony, high praise. Was there something in particular that seemed masterful to you?

    Tim, humor is unavoidable in most of my work. It's not my nature, but certainly my fundamental nurture.

    Linda, 2084? You don't think people would expect an apocalypse movie?

  29. Loved this format - got really revolted around 95 when parents implemented the chips in the babies ..really liked the ending where he turns it all off and feels the spiky grass...


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