February 21, 2001 by David Dalrymple
The future, in the minds of many, is a very far-off place. However, you are in the future now, as perceived by the you that read the last sentence. You are constantly time-traveling at a constant speed. This however is irrelevant. It will take 10 years (back to superficial human time) until 2010. It will take 20 years until 2020. But now let us explore what is in those years and what their product might be. This article is done in a pseudo-fictional manner; it has a story to it, as do the Molly conversations in Editor-in-Chief Ray Kurzweil’s book The Age of Spiritual Machines. However, it also has a serious side to it… read on.
Originally published February 22, 2001 on KurzweilAI.net.
The future, in the minds of many, is a very far-off place. However, you are in the future now, as perceived by the “you” that read the last sentence. You are constantly time-traveling at a constant speed. This however is irrelevant. It will take 10 years (back to superficial “human time”) until 2010. It will take 20 years until 2020. But now let us explore what is in those years and what their product might be.
This article is done in a pseudo-fictional manner; it has a story to it, as do the “Molly” conversations in Editor-in-Chief Ray Kurzweil’s book The Age of Spiritual Machines. However, it also has a serious side to it… read on.
You are a young 19-year-old (note: this kid represents me, as I will be 19 in 2010) walking down the street as you spy the latest news flash coming in on the E-paper newspaper. You watch as it says: First human beings on Mars!!! You run as fast as your legs will take you to the nearest TV, where you watch the live camera feed from Mars. (Later you find out the newspaper was soon to headline “Martians Detected!!!”)
You hop in your car. That’s all you do, except for placing your finger on a series of 5 fingerprint readers to enter a code and accurate fingerprint. After this, you say: “I want to go to WAL·MART.”
A small screen pops up from the otherwise entirely featureless dashboard. At its top is a small projector which displays and says in a female voice: Which Wal-Mart location is your destination? Touch your answer. You begin to touch the glowing WM closest to the red spot representing your current location, when you realize you forgot to check the GPS (as that red spot could have easily been wrong).
If I had forgotten to do this calibration, you think, there could have easily been an accident. But no, that can’t be right, because cars these days don’t have accidents unless two systems break plus the GPS isn’t calibrated. That’s good news, but before the backup/double-backup system, accidents were happening with the highest frequency in the history of automobiles.
You have by now calibrated your GPS system. You are cruising along the informay, halfheartedly attempting to make some sense out of the constant sequence of neatly uniform hex numbers. Sliding a slider down the screen results in English readouts and coherent speech instead of awful noise representing somehow the data being used to keep you from accidents.
Soon you hear: “To WAL·MART take exit 77 on informay 95.” Your car gently veers toward the right, making a turn off the 3-level, 8-lane-wide informay onto a 1-level, 2-lane-wide exit ramp with little antennas to the side to help guide the car along. The informay has given very accurate directions to the car, and now you are on the 2-level, 6-lane-wide cruiseway, a local road in the form of a beltway.
The way the roads are arranged, the US is divided into a series of square “plots,” not dissimilar to city blocks. Within them is a cruiseway, which is a circle tangent to the square as in the diagram.
It shows the basic plan. The sides of the squares are the informays, the corners their intersections. The circles represent the cruiseways, and the outer circle is the major cruiseway, which you are on now. The lines cutting through are highways, the familiar types, 1-level, 4-lane-wide roads. They have antennas along the sides to help guide the car, but only informays and cruiseways say meaningful things to the car. Within the arc-shaped blocks formed by highways and cruiseways are the local roads, 1-level, 2-lane-wide, and these go to individual buildings, although some of these buildings are on highways (with exit ramps).
You now turn from the cruiseway, onto a highway headed toward the center. It is not two minutes before you are on a local road, at this point with three lanes, and you, from the third, turn into WAL·MART. Your car is now taking info from the WAL·MART itself, and while it finds the closest parking space, by information from pressure sensors on the parking spaces, the screen asks what you would like to buy. You tell the car you are lazy and then the car parks, and tells you to get the cart marked “PRZQ”.
Just before you get out of the car, the dashboard pops up a credit card slider. You swipe the card, then close the car door, as a cart comes rolling toward your car. This all happened because you have a special edition model. Most people would have to actually go in the store, buy his/her stuff, and “cart” it back to his/her car. The cart, marked PRZQ, contains a LA-Z-BOY chair. You grab it, and it displays its 5 fingerprint readers for you to prove you are who bought the merchandise by punching in a 5 digit code that corresponds to your car while it checks your fingerprints with each touch and after you have been authorized, the cart releases the straps around the chair for you to get it. You enter your car’s code, and then the cart appears to turn off as you load the chair into your trunk.
You are very excited, after you just came back from the doctor’s office with your wife! She doesn’t have uterine cancer, she’s pregnant! The doctor’s response was “That’s not a cyst, baby!” When asked to explain, the doctor said the “cyst” was a baby in early stages. The pill was soon given (Note: this pill is scheduled to be available to doctors in 2002). This pill released a camera, which took motion pictures of the baby. A receptor around the waist received pictures and displayed them on a video-screen strapped to the belt. The only problem occurred when one of the baby’s legs swung back, and his body tilted forward. The leg got closer and closer, then the screen went white, and finally static was displayed. It appears the baby has kicked and destroyed the camera. Oh well. Another pill, please?
Baby has been born. Unfortunately, that is its name: baby. You are pressed to think of two names for, this male child of yours. Ralph Albert Dalrymple would be RAD. Then again, maybe you’ll name him David Allen Dalrymple II. That would make him DAD 2, or granddad. Not such a bad idea. Yes it is. You decide to consult your eyeglasses’ (you aren’t vision impaired, but you want Internet access a little closer than your fingertips–at your eyeballs) database of names. “Steer clear of Cameron!,” you say, as you note the name means “crooked nose.”
After finally naming the child Thomas Edison, you need a blood test for Tommy. So the little palette used for blood tests is placed gently on Tommy’s skin, and the palette immediately spits out a PCMCIA III card, which contains the information that Tommy seems to be abnormal.
The news is broken to you, before you are told Tommy has too many neuron connections. This news comes in after a painless brain-mapping test. When Tommy is turned over, both you and your wife nearly faint.
Oh, how far technology has come, you try to think as you gaze at the built in CD player, floppy disk drive, two USB ports, an I-Link port, a modem, and two PCMCIA slots that accommodate 2 I’s or 2 IIs, or 1 III and 1 I all on the back of Tommy’s head. You and your wife can’t take it. Falling down and fainting, the child is soon provided with the dictionary, encyclopedia, and almost every other book or fact available on CD or the Internet.
Within the week, this baby Borg is the smartest human being on Earth, because he has access to the whole Net and a 20 ZB memory. You decide this kid is too weird, and ship him off on his own antigravity rocket to Mars, although you suspect he will use Mars as a 2-month stop to then go off to Alpha Centuari or farther.