Thursday, 8 September 2011

As I May Think

So about this guy, Vannevar Bush. After reading his As We May Think I still think that his ideas of the Internet (or what eventually became what we call the Internet today) are remarkably accurate for his time (1945).

On the other hand what wasn't such an accurate prediction was the form in which his "Internet" would take. The multiple gears, levers and other mechanical components of his "Memex" were less MacBook Air and more Steampunk. An accurate description? Maybe. But more importantly it gives rise to the question of physical form. Ideas can be as batshit crazy as you want (and even then those ideas might become tangible sometime later), but what will the future look like?

Here's where you roll your eyes and go, " major.." Done? Cool.

So, about that future thing. What will it look like? Well think about all those movies and other media that you're bound to have seen somewhere or other (maybe at home, maybe at the theater, maybe off a download site; I won't tell..). So maybe you go off into Star Wars and think space ninjas (see: Jedi), or maybe you go dystopian and recall Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Or maybe you're crazy and you have something else in mind I dunno, but the idea that I get from the difference between Bush's "steampunk" and our modern Internet is that whatever the future will look like, it will probably be less cumbersome, less mechanical and more...shiny than whatever we can and do conceive of now.

Maybe, it'll even be something like this..

...which just so happens to be the first piece of concept art I'm working on for a semester-long art project. Shameless self-promotion? Too sci-fi? Maybe, but hey I've actually got a point here.

Here's the point: Go crazy; your crazy might actually be true. A few years ago who would've thought that carrying a PC without a keyboard around would take off (the iPad)? Go wild.

So actually yea that's it, I'm done. Go play outside or something because what I intend to write about next is "nothing" but a brief rundown of this make-believe world that sets the backdrop for my afore-mentioned art project. ... Still with me? Ready? Here we go.

Imagine a world that is filled with ambient energy all around you. Now imagine what would happen if such energy could be "programmed" to act in different ways, from image projection to audio, even physical barriers. Out without a brolly on a rainy day? punch a few buttons and you have a "force field" above your head that does the same thing. You never need to charge your phones, laptops or other devices again, as long as you have the permissions, or licences to translate the ambient energy for such purposes. What does this mean on a political level? Everything's fine as long as you pay your bills, which doesn't sound too different from the daily grind today save for the fact that in such a society the energy company would also serve as the de facto government. You don't want to skimp on the bills.

Maybe such a world will never exist, or maybe it will eventually, or maybe it will in parts. Maybe you think that such a world only has its place in science fiction, or maybe you realise that the concept of "ambient energy" is not all too dissimilar from the concept of free and uninhibited wi-fi signals that some cities have right now. Programming? The access codes to such wi-fi networks. Charging your devices without chargers? We already have ones which charge without the need for wires. So think again.

Admittedly a lot less time, effort and insider information is going into this vision of the possible future than Bush's work. This project is, after all, intended specifically for fiction rather than an informed guess at future fact. Still, one thing that dawned on me when realising what went right (and what didn't) with Bush's predictions was that you can never really tell. So think again, and maybe this time instead of pondering what's not possible, perhaps it would be more apt to consider, "What if?"


  1. First of all, I think your way of writing for the blog assignment is worth reading as a good model/sample!
    I think I wanna see your blog as a good reference...

    Also, about the content itself;
    I really agree with your idea of thinking about "what if?"
    Because it is obvious that there could be no technological progresses without human-beings imagining those "what if?"s ...
    like, "what if we had a tool like ---?" and "what if we could do --- with that?" kinda things.
    Coz, I believe that is the very trigger of human-beings wanting and making/inventing their usefuls.

  2. Glad you like it. I'm trying to keep it interesting as well. :)

  3. Thanks for your comment on my blog. Your blog is awesome! I hope I could write like you...

    It was interesting to read the blog on the same topic but from a different point of view (Maybe mine is a bit too solid, not so creative as yours). I'm also sometimes wondering what the post-cyberpunk world would look like, wondering if there is anything futuristic things still left in Japan as once William Gibson wrote about in 80s and 90s... As you wrote on the later blog, Hatsune Miku and the related movement such as MikuMikuDance may have the potential for that.

  4. Thanks for the compliments :P I'll try to keep it interesting.

    As for Japan it's really interesting and I dunno if it's because it's an island nation but there are lots of technological advances and uses of technology that are pretty unique to this country. (For example, Kinoshita's post mentions mobile phones:

    I'm certainly interested in seeing how this continues, and it's kinda surreal to consider the very likely possibility that by the time we're properly working and living our adult lives, things would have progressed so much that we'll be the ones out of touch :O