The Future Isn’t That Much Fun
Remember when you first did something that felt like genuinely being in the future and how excited you were? It might have been getting in a new car, or seeing a movie in 3D, or trying a new kind of computer for the first time.
For me, it was a trip on Concorde. I went from London to the West Indies in about four hours.
There was a secret trick to being able to afford to do this; a friend in travel told me that unlike normal commercial airlines, the Concorde fleet was seasonal. Engines are happier in perpetual use, but the Concorde had a first flight each season, going from cold to hot, which passengers were loathe to take because there was a highly unlikely but theoretical risk involved, so they sold these ‘warm-up’ flights at half price. Armed with this knowledge, I got to go twice.
It felt like the future. It was the closest ordinary people got to outer space, and will probably continue to be so in my lifetime, Elon Musk’s fantasies included. We happy few got to see the aurora borealis followed by the actual curvature of the blue earth and the blackness above the atmosphere, and when the plane hit mach speed it flashed on a monitor at the front of the cabin and you felt the thrust in your neck and back. The plane was as cramped as a racing car and completely uncommercial and just a bit terrifying, but the thrill of being onboard was the thrill of the future arriving.
Now the future is here and it’s…oh, another phone.
After having my phone stolen abroad I needed to replace it, and yesterday my iPhone 11 arrived. It is the least interesting item I have ever had to buy. The camera so very sightly different that I haven’t noticed any change. The only vaguely interesting thing about it is that it can be set up by an unusually dim six year-old. It feeds off any device you have that’s running OS11 and launches itself, so all that’s left is for you to get bored with it.
If this is the future, then the future is retro and so drably designed that it might as well be Russian. It’s time to ditch those revival tent the-future-is-here whoop-fests Apple stages every September. This time the audience looked as unenthused as members of a Jeremy Corbyn conference.
If the purchasable tech of the future lacks the thrill of Concorde at least the technology governing our wellbeing is optimistic, or would be except that for the first time our lifespans are shortening. The poisoned legacy of Donald Trump is affecting every vulnerable nation, and with the climate emergency being actively ignored there may not be that much of a future to enjoy.So let’s all get excited about phones instead.