The Inescapable Grid

A few weeks ago, we explored the predictions of a futurist; not someone who reads sea scrolls or talks to God, but an accredited person who, using a combination of research, statistics, imagination, and intuition, analyzes and makes educated projections and predictions about the future. Most people agree Sir Isaac Newton was the first known futurist way back in 1687.

The one we highlighted was named Ray Hammond, who, like the writers of “The Simpsons,” has had an uncanny knack for correctly predicting trends or occurrences around the world. A few years ago, Mr. Hammond outlined what he believed the world would look like, in a variety of areas, come the year 2040. Truth be told, it’s almost impossible to argue with almost all of his predictions, some of which are already here, if only in their infancy.

Back in 2017 Hammond said that by the year 2040, we will all wear a huge range of sensors that will constantly monitor things such as blood pressure, blood sugar and blood oxygen level. DUH…we already have Fitbits and Smart watches, this is a no-brainer long before 2040.

Hammond also said that people will fall in love with robot partners, which will impact relationships and that ultimately, weddings will become rarer and promiscuity will go off the scale as social attitudes get more relaxed. On average, women today have nine sexual partners in their lifetime and men have 11 – expect that to rise to 100 for women and 200 for men by 2040, said Hammond. All plausible.

Most cars will be driving themselves, says Hammond, which we already see the influx and onslaught of this; the only difference is that he says essentially no one will be driving themselves within 20 years.

As the world’s population booms from the present seven billion to more than nine billion, we will not be able to farm meat as we have done up to now. Meat will be created in labs and crops will be grown vertically along the sides of skyscrapers, two things already being experimented with in 2022. Oh, and we’ll all be eating insects. Yummy.

The “scariest,” predictions for most, were the ones involving communication and Artificial Intelligence, which produced the most hysterical and asinine reactions. By 2040, our smartphones will have disappeared, replaced by control centers which we will wear in a series of devices around our body. We will wear smart contact lenses, with texts floating in front of our eyes and earrings that send messages from a virtual assistant into our ears.  Our social networks will also become integral to the real world. We may see a stranger in the street and, using facial recognition software linked to our control centers, will instantly know their name and be able to access their profile.

Meanwhile, Computers will be as good at problem-solving as humans, with the prospect of soon surpassing us and then the question will be whether we let them take control or try to regulate and modify artificial intelligence. Or do we genetically modify humans so we can compete with machines?

This is the point at which the most hysterical, paranoid, nonsensical person in the room says something like “not me, I’ll just move to nowhere and stay off the grid.”

Good luck with that, Clem.

Let’s back up and establish a few things.

The premise of the plan is that everything that has been described as being normal in 2040 is too intrusive and invasive, whether it be from the government, companies, or both. Thus, brave non-conformists will escape to the middle of nowhere and disconnect from everything that might allow “them” (whoever “they are) to find them. To truly point out how absurd this is, we have to first agree that there is no such thing as privacy anymore…right now, in 2022. If you can’t accept that truth, then you have no business being part of this discussion.

Have a conversation with a friend about shoes you like and then wonder why your phone, laptop, tablet, and direct mail all suddenly direct you to places to buy those very shoes and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get a clue.

Last week, we had a chat on the air about Crocs. To do so, I accessed a story on my laptop, using the studio Wi-Fi, about Crocs. Twenty minutes after we talked about it, the studio desktop computer was blasting Croc ads at me. Different computer, no log-in information connected to my laptop, same Wi-Fi, and in the room where the words were being said out loud; how anyone can claim there is no direct correlation is beyond me. We all signed away our privacy two decades ago when we hit “I agree,” on our first cell phone contract.

AHHH! Says the bumpkin! That’s the difference! I won’t sign anything, buy anything, have any tech, etc etc etc.

Well, that’s cute and all but there are only two real ways this plays out and they both end badly for naïve souls that actually believe they can escape whoever “they” are.

If you want to maintain any interpersonal contact, it is conceivable that you could gather up your 10 or 20 closest friends and/or family members and buy up acres of property in one of the Dakotas or some such place and build homes that had no internet, cable, satellite, or any other sort of modern technology and hunker down for your remaining days. It doesn’t sound like much of a life to me in the mid 21st century, but hey, more power to you. Just remember, you literally have to pretend it’s the 1970’s.

No cell phones of any kind, including burner phones, all of which will be traceable via satellite. No cars built after 2009 because all modern vehicles have anything and everything from computer chips to full-on internet access. And don’t get cute and think you can drive into town and use the country’s remaining pay phone landline to call anyone outside of your circle because the minute you do, that person’s information traces your location…and uh-oh! “They,” know where you are. For example, let’s say Dawn and her brood move to Wyoming and dive into a life akin to that of “Little House on the Prairie,” (Google it). One day, she drives her 2003 Ford Pickup truck into town, while wearing glasses and a wig of course, and she decided to call me using the pay phone at the local diner/feed store. We talk for 10 minutes…well, I talk for 33 seconds, she talks for 9 minutes and 27 seconds, and most of the time is spent comparing notes on the latest episode of the Real Housewives of Mars. The conversation ends and Dawn heads back to her compound, while I change my number. A week later, a man on a horse rides up to Dawn’s house with a satchel full of digital pamphlets advertising travel to Mars, Gucci handbags, and tickets to Bravocon 2044! Why? Because I’m ON the grid and everything and everyone I talk to is known to “them.” I surrendered to the reality of the loss of privacy decades ago and am now just trying to make the most of the convenient side of being able to drop ship a case of skittles to my porch in less than 2 hours.

I know that it’s in our blood to resist progress and yearn for “the good old days.” The problem is the “good old days,” are also “bad old days,” and progress is good, and brings scary changes too. Many older Americans yearn for the post-World War II 1950’s when the economy was booming, people were dancing in the streets and the United States had saved the world. Great times, to be sure, but my modern-day marriage to my wife was illegal in every state of the nation…oh, and anyone that looked like her couldn’t vote. Progress was needed. (spoiler alert: she’s black)

We Gen X-ers wax poetically about the 1990’s when we literally had to make up problems because the world seemed so perfect. Relative world peace, a booming economy, and a seemingly positive vibe throughout the nation. Great times, to be sure, but my modern-day protégé and friend, Queenie, wasn’t allowed to exist as a transgender female. Progress was needed.

While all totally unelated to one another, we now live in an America where interracial marriage is not only legal but mainstream, people of all color vote, and the transgender movement, while still burgeoning, is at least allowed. Meanwhile, we also have self-driving cars, debates about cloning and using 3-D printers to create organs, and holograms. Recognizing that we can’t have some and not others, I will gladly take a world where we have to constantly argue over the intrusiveness of technological advancements rather than one where we literally don’t allow people to exist or love.

So get with it, America. Robots are going to be spouses, pork chops through a Star Trek style replicator are coming, and corn on the cob is going to grow on the Empire State Building. The future is inevitable…and we know from experience that it will apparently never include flying cars or male birth control.

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