For decades, the year 2000 had been the embodiment of «the future». As early as a hundred years before, people imagined what the world would look like in 2000. There is a wonderful set of illustrations by various artists who imagined futuristic France.
Later, once time had turned 1984 from dystopia to past, the year 2000 reclaimed its role as the embodiment of the future. All of our hopes and fears and crazy ideas about technology received the timestamp 2000.
Looking back, it never fails to amaze me how distant this past future appears. Let’s time-travel back to the year 2000 and have a look.
You wake up at 7am on a wonderful morning in early 2000. Dreamy as you are, you grab your phone to check the news and your email. Well, the news is that no one has texted you while you were sleeping and that your phone doesn’t connect to the internet. Because, well, you don’t have a smartphone. Just like everyone else doesn’t. Actually, a bestselling mobile phone launched in 2000 looked like this. You could still play a round of Snake, though.
After a refreshing shower — pretty much like you remember it from 2013 — you make yourself comfortable at the breakfast table. You’re an early adopter, so you have your laptop right there with you to check the news. While you wait for the computer to start up, you have time to brew some coffee.
Time to check Twitter for the latest…ah well, no Twitter yet. So let’s see what your friends are up to over on Face…doesn’t exist either. Not even MySpace. Heck, not even Friendster.
The upside is this: You’re in for distraction-free news reading. You head over to Newsunlimited.com, the online version of The Guardian, then to The New York Times On The Web. You glance at the newspaper across the table, knowing it provides the better news fix.
Before packing your bag for work, you decide to check some email (unlike most of your friends, you – the early-adopter you are – do that before going to the office). Also, you must not forget to email yourself that presentation you prepared at home (it’s titled: «Invent Dropbox before someone else does»).
On your way to the office, you make a quick stop at a café to meet a friend (the only digital certification of your friendship being the fact that you are in each other’s limited contacts on the mobile phone).
She tells you about this great band she discovered yesterday (no, not from Brooklyn — even hipsters yet had to discover them). She pulls out her phone to show you a video of the band. Actually, she doesn’t, video doesn’t look so great on a 84×48 pixel monochrome display. Also, YouTube was far from invented.
«No problem, I already have it on my iPod», she says. She lies, to be precise. The iPod doesn’t exist in 2000, either. If you had an Mp3-Player in 2000, it was probably a Rio and looked ridiculous.
Well then, you pull out your laptop to check for the band on Napster, because this, after all, exists (and soars) in 2000. Too bad the café doesn’t have WiFi (you own one of the first laptops that would support it). Turns out, in 2000 cafés either offer coffee or internet, but rarely both.
Your friend promises to burn you a CD with some of the band’s songs and bring it along next time you meet. To send them over email is not possible because the files are too large. And it’s not like there a simple service to transfer them online (your idea of inventing Dropbox before someone else does seems even brighter now).
Time to head for the office now. Actually, you’re supposed to meet a client in town, but you only have an address you’re not familiar with. Your phone doesn’t have maps and you can’t access the internet on your computer until you’re in the office.
In the office, you start up your desktop computer to check the address on Google Maps — which of course doesn’t exist yet. You google the client’s website hoping to find directions there (you probably wouldn’t use the verb «to google», since that search engine hasn’t been around for long). You should’ve known: The client doesn’t have a website. It’s 2000: In this version of the future, not every business has a website.
Just in time, you remember a technology that will allow you to get to the right place: You call your client and ask him.
You’re almost out of office when you remember that your client is from Ghana. Always good to impress a client with a bit of trivia, so you go back to your computer to check Wikipedia for some quick facts about his country. Unless, of course, Wikipedia doesn’t exist either. And you’re still waiting for the CD-ROM with your yearly update of Microsoft Encarta to arrive.
On your way to visit your client, you witness a white unicorn under a double rainbow, dancing Gangnam style (or whatever they called it back then). Sure enough, you don’t take a picture. Your phone — nomen est omen — doesn’t have a camera. And you don’t carry around a camera with you all the time — why would you? If only you had brought your brand–new $5500, 1.1kg digital camera. Within no time, this image would go viral!
You’d need to get back to the office first, of course, to transfer the image to your computer and upload it to your Geocities page. No one will like it or tweet it, maybe someone will post it on their Blogger blog. But you’ll cash in big time by calling a newspaper and a TV station. They’ll make sure this spreads virally — and pay you a decent fee for it. Not too bad, after all, this past future here. Unless, of course, you didn’t get to take the picture in the first place.
Frustrated, you decide to take the rest of the day off and book your next vacation. You make yourself comfortable on your balcony in the afternoon sun, a bottle of beer in your hand, your laptop ready to search and book a nice place to recover from this exhaustingly un-digital future. Then it dawns you…
You have no internet access out here (the Ethernet cable is too short). And even if you had, searching for nice places, good hotels and cheap flights would be almost impossible, not to mention booking online. That’s when you decide you need a different trip, one straight back to the present, to 2013.
Here you are, back in 2013, where self-driving cars, 3D-printing, and augmented reality glasses excite people. All those things you missed while travelling back to 2000? Boring, everyday stuff we don’t even think about any longer.
If you enjoyed this read, you might also enjoy a new project of mine: The Dystopia Tracker collects predictions of the future from the past and tracks which of them have become reality.