The Fictional Future We Plan For

On July 31, 2004 by christy

The Information Society Technologies (IST) Working Group on Grand Challenges in the Evolution of the Information Society have released their report. The report, commissioned by the European Commission, intended to ‘identify grand challenges in information and communication technology (ICT), the pursuit of which will stimulate research and development in key areas and help the European Union to achieve its social and economic goals’. Many ‘grand challenges’ have been identified: The 100% Safe Car, The Multilingual Companion, The Service Robot Companion, The Self-Monitoring and Self-Repairing Computer, The Internet Police Agent, The Disease and Treatment Simulator, The Augmented Personal Memory, The Pervasive Communication Jacket, The Personal Everywhere Visualiser, The Ultra-light Aerial Transport Agent and The Intelligent Retail Store. They all make sense and are clearly influenced, as we all are, by sci-fi lit visions.

Image of robot with old man from report
‘The Service Robot Companion’, page 18 of the report.

I’m excited by The Personal Everywhere Visualizer, or (PEV) as it is known by those in the know, will:

comprise hardware for display, capture, and communication, as well as software for realistic graphics, visualization, animation, image understanding, and multimodal interaction. Having the size of a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), the device will be readily available to generate instant display, augmented reality, and immersive communication scenarios for a wide range of applications including tele-presence, tele-learning, product management, mobile office environments, medical applications, retail scenarios, homecare of elders and entertainment.

‘…and entertainment.’ Oh, it just got in there. My lordy! Won’t the projection of fictional characters, scenes, lovers be THE use of the device? I think the report overlooks the strong desire humans have for manifesting or immersing themselves in fictional, constructed or different worlds. I am writing and researching with such future devices in mind. I’m looking forward to digital paper too. So that when people read a book, in that ol’ comfortable shape and size, they can follow hyperlinked words or see scenes played out. Check out the current technology on electronic|digital paper:
digital paper
digital pens & paper
E-Ink
MIT’s Electronic Paper Project
video speed electronic paper
flexible electronic paper.
So, right now, I write sci-fi futuristic works with my eye on future delivery technologies. Will I ever actually be in the present? Or is aiming for the future a normal present state to be in? I do know that I am conscious of the effect sci-fi has on culture and technology creation. So, to prevent stuff happening or uses of technology happening that I forsee I write about the horrible consequences. I hope to offer a choice to people in the present — you don’t have to have that future. But like all sci-fi and other apocalyptic visions of the future we actually end up creating the need for the choice. I’m gonna get my tail, round, round, round…