Sunday, 7 December 2014

I’m going to die around 2070. If everything goes to plan I’ll end up dribbling porridge in a care home

Stoke-on-Trent, the 22nd century

The future. It used to be so bright and shiny. Think back to old fashioned sci-fi. Metropolis. Barbarella. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Balletic spacecraft, stewardesses serving cappuccinos in zero gravity. Back then the future was something to look forward to. It came with free energy and zero-gravity sex. People assumed that by 1999 they’d be boiling an egg with nuclear power and popping down the chemist’s in a hovership. 

Then come the dirty seventies and cyberpunk and steampunk, and the future got grunged up. Ridley Scott’s Alien brought us a space-age that looked less like a utopia and more like an industrial dispute in space; the L.A. of Blade Runner combined noodle stalls with eternal night and the microclimate of Manchester. 

But the truth about the future is that it’s is neither an unblemished paradise nor an apocalyptic hell. It’s just boring. 

How do I know? Well, I don't - but I have thought about it quite a bit. In fact I’ve done some rough calculations and worked out that if everything goes to plan, I’m due to die sometime around 2070. Think about it: 2070. Close your eyes and what do you see? Boutique cloning perhaps. Wi-Fi brains. Ears rewired by Talk Talk. Mark Zuckerberg projected onto the back of your eyeballs. The future sounds all shiny and exciting until you remember that you’ll be in it; that you'll watching all these things from the fat-arsed impotence of advancing age, with time carving crevices into your skin and each new generation of embryo-faced squealing twenty-somethings smugly redefining the world that you’re struggling so hard to feel relevant in. This is the terrible truth - the future won’t feel like glitzy sci-fi; it’ll feel like an incredibly boring, 24 hour video feed from a geriatric reality show. Albeit with better phones. 

The future just ain’t what it used to be

Part of the problem, of course, is that we take our inspiration about the future from famous books and films, which tend to centre around shooting robot prostitutes or coming back to 1984 to save John Connor. Do not be fooled. The future won't look like that. It'll be far, far more boring. Yes, sure, the Times Square of the late twenty first century will probably feature dancing hologram advertisements and other orgasms of cyber-puff if we haven't all been swallowed by rising oceans. But most of us won't be there.We'll be in Wigan. Or Ramsgate. Or in Basingstoke, in an old persons' home. Even in 2070 Basingstoke will still look like Basingstoke; Basingstoke is one of those places that will always look like Basingstoke. The motorway services off a slip-road on the A24 will still be boring in the future - as will rain, or Scrabble, or taking a pee, or Tuesday morning. Even Mark Zuckerberg on the back of your eyeballs won't change that.

This, you see, is the strangest thing about the future: everything you're going through now is just a very slow dress rehearsal for it. The people who will be changing your bedpan in your care home in 2070 aren’t even born yet. The woman who'll replan your town centre is at this very moment watching Peppa Pig over a cup of squirty chocolate milk. If you want to contemplate the real future, your future, remember that a toddler currently spooling mucus into its pram will one day be handing you a melanoma test result with a sympathetic smile and asking if you’re covered for life insurance. 

Life, you see, is just a terminal disease in slow-motion - and one of the symptoms is gradually losing your ability to be suprised by it. I'm already a fair chunk of the way through, and I can report with some confidence that taking a pee is considerably less thrilling the 59,000th time than it was the first. As are Tuesday mornings - or Scrabble. Or Basingstoke. If I'm really lucky, if everything goes to plan and I survive the deaths of most of my loved ones, I’ll end up dribbling porridge in a care home while a nurse who hasn't been born yet empties my bed pan. Maybe those rising oceans aren't such a bad idea after all.