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My girlfriend crashed again

02/03/2014

The difference between futurists and science fiction writers is that SF authors know they’re just making it all up. And they get it right sometimes. Futurists aren’t entirely useless however. They can get particularly naive geeks really excited by letting them believe that wild fantasies about never-to-be innovations put them ahead of the technology curve. If you doubt me, just listen to any TEDx presentation. They also provide lulz to old cynics like me who bother to check back on their earlier predictions. Matt Novak at Paleofuture has compiled an entire website of anachronistic futures that never happened for connoisseurs of half-baked forecasting.This 'housewife of tomorrow' was actually a model in a tin suit who sold kitchen appliances

Ray Kurzweil is Google’s futurist in residence who usually occupies himself by predicting the imminent Googletopia that will be upon us as soon as we surrender all our personal data to the mammoth multinational money-spinner. But sometimes he moonlights by promoting some other tasteless business venture as the pathway to the stars. This time he’s focused his cyber crystal ball on the misogynistic nerd fantasy movie, Her. According to Ray, programmable girlfriends such as the one played by Scarlett Johansson are just around the corner. They’ll be with us by 2039 to be precise. Very precise. Not 2040. Not 2035. 2039. I bet you didn’t know futurology was such an exact science.

It gets better.

Not only will you be able to date your virtual girl online. Ray reckons it will be possible to dispense with one-handed computer interface devices like mice as it would be ‘technically trivial’ to give her a visual presence by projecting her image directly onto your retina. Even virtual tactile feedback will be ‘entirely convincing’ by then he says, so we can expect to see a considerable reduction in the number of lonely geeks with chronic RSI.

But has Mr Kurzweil really thought this through?

If there’s one thing science fiction authors agree Sci-fi author Gregory Benford compiled this collection of clangers from the pages of Popular Mechanicson it’s that by the mid 21st century the grip of hi-tech corporate monopolies upon our civilisation will be complete. Microsoft will control the source code for everything from your car to your can-opener and you won’t even be able to find your toothbrush without Googling it.

Now what might a girlfriend programmed by Microsoft be like?

Well, she’d be kind of bloated and slow with a tendency to gobble up all your resources. She’d be full of bugs and would bleep at you if she thought you’d done something wrong. Then, at the worst possible moment, she would suddenly turn blue and die.

Maybe Ray should take off his future goggles and get out into the real world occasionally. You never know he might meet a girl. He’d probably have to hover his pointer over her before he knew what she was for though.

                                                                                                                                                                           

Thanks to Maggie McNeill for pointing this one out to me.

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