I was sitting at the local Family Mart, having a drink and watching the world go by. A few friends paused to say hi on their way home from work. A couple decided to join me for a beer, then a couple more. Half an hour later the Family Mart was hosting an impromptu afternoon street party. This kinda just happens.
Beer flowed, and various conversations on the deck lurched this way and that, intersecting and veering off randomly, as impromptu-convenience-store-afternoon-beer-party conversations tend to do. On this day, chatter centered around generation gaps and the seemingly exponential rate of technological advancement to have taken place during our lifetimes.
Somebody mentioned Thomas Watson, the chairman and CEO of IBM who (may or may not have) infamously predicted a global market, “for maybe five computers” (1943). Of course, back then a computer was the size of an aircraft carrier and only no single person could afford one (or know what to do with it).
I marvelled that even twenty-five years later as some Americans prepared to visit the moon, with the aid of their massive banks of room-sized computer systems, complete with blinking lights and other high-tech wizardry, the good people at NASA could never have imagined the 32 gigabytes of storage I habitually carry on my key-ring.
Talked turned to speculation of the future; tiny electronic implant devices that will replace our credit cards and passports, the myriad possibilities emerging from the fields of molecular nanotechnology and other contemporary scientific research that, of course, none of us knew anything about at all. This matters not after half a dozen afternoon beers. The upshot was clear. Ever more powerful, ever faster, ever smaller… always smaller (this pisses me off a bit because my fat fingers do not appear to be evolving quickly enough to deal with the keypad on my phone).
Then something happened.
One member of this half-sober assemblage of English teachers and random globe-drifters heard a muffled but familiar beeping sound coming from his bag. Reaching into the bag he carefully retrieved the device responsible for this beeping. Then, without the slightest hint of irony (in an unintentional masterclass of comedic genius the likes of which I may never witness again) he pressed a button and began speaking awkwardly into his new iPad.
At that precise moment I realised I was witnessing the beginning of the devolution of our species. Humankind has reached the zenith of its own imaginings, and is now in gradual and unavoidable decline.
Perhaps the Mayans were right after all! Of course, it’s just silly to think that the world will come to its abrupt and final conclusion tomorrow. Those clever Mayans however, who developed an ancient and (for its time) highly accurate calendar which, we’re told, does happen to conclude tomorrow, may have foreseen the moment when modern human civilization became just a bit too clever for its own good and decided for the common good to begin retracing its own steps (of course, it remains unknown as to why those clever Mayans were unable to foresee their own mysterious decline, or the arrival of the Spanish).
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Here are my own bold predictions however, based on the soundness of my scientific observations briefly outlined above.
My young daughter will grow to witness an exciting new age of fax machines and dot-matrix home printing devices. Strange new words will enter the English vocabulary, like ‘kilobyte’.
Her own children will be the envy of their community when they ride through the cobbled streets on the town’s first (last?) shiny new Penny-farthing.
Eventually our few remaining ancestors will collectively and dimly think, “fuck it…” and crawl back into the oceans.
There is no reason to fear however. If we calculate the rate of decline of human civilisation as proceeding and continuing from its current accelerating rate of progress (until just recently), this entire process will not be complete for at least 135 years.
See you tomorrow for a beer!!!