Predicting the present



So, I hear Charles Stross was writing a novel about the zombie apocalypse earlier this year. Then, well, you know what happened. Poor Charlie. It's been happening to him a lot for the past decade or so. Not as much to me, perhaps because I haven't been trying to predict the near future, but rather to hold a distorted mirror in front of my own contemporaries.

It all changed this spring. Within weeks, the world went from "business as usual" to "my cyberpunk stories":

  • everyone normally wears a mask in public at all times;
  • the city is informally broken up into neighborhoods that can be dangerous to leave (or enter, if you're a stranger);
  • an exception is made for those who feed everyone: they can travel freely and are beloved by all;
  • being a doctor is a rare, prized skill, and also tweaks the rules;
  • as for the authorities, the least said the better.

That things I called out as plausible half a century from now are already here would be terrifying if scarier stuff like climate change wasn't coming even faster. I made actual predictions about that, and got them exactly right too... except in reverse! Talk about mirrors.

Is there a silver lining to all this? Why, yes! Once again, human beings are pulling together in the face of adversity (albeit not that close these days), and we may well emerge from this mess armed with new social models that can make our communities more resilient. We're going to need it, you know.

For a start, we're now more aware than ever that we're all mortal, and just how important the Internet has become. Not a bad start, given the circumstances.


Tags: disaster, literature