The 4th dimension, the new digital frontier by

Jean-Luc Besset
Aug 1, 2015 · 5 min read

30 years ago, on the third of July, Back to the Future was released, thus presenting a new perspective of time travel to the cinematographic world, that the two writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale reinvented, with the Spielberg touch.
In the first opus of the trilogy, the hero Marty Mcfly, travelled back in time 30 years (in 1955), in the second opus he jumps forward 30 years (last October 21 2015 !) where he manages to successfully escape his bully Biff and his gang thanks to a futuristic hoverboard.

But the future’s not what it used to be. The flying Delorean doesn’t exist, and where we’re going, we still need roads!
It is true, the futuristic Tesla is confined to this good old ground, restricted by gravity. However, it now brings the whole world to the modern car’s bodywork via a touch screen. We thought we were all going to be flying super heroes, instead we are simply connected. Everything happening in the World became an integrated part of our minds and bodies — we’re never without our phones — incessantly occupying our train of thought and our attention. Instead of projecting us towards the outside world, technology has made us focus more on ourselves and consequently has brought the outside world to us. The most ironic thing is that we call this advanced technology mobile!

20 years ago, the promise of ‘information superhighways’ invited us to discover knowledge in its core. Today everything gravitates towards consumption of poor content, and surface-based information that’s main goal is to be shared with the aim of virality: the sponsored gratuity (I don’t pay therefore I am the product), the app model (vs the search model), the tracking and the algorithms (disappearance of the discovery) and the suggestions of our ‘friends’. Technology is no longer used to realize our dreams of travel, change of scenery, or new knowledge, but to occupy our brain, to distract us, not letting us have a single moment that isn’t interactive. So here we are, addicts to a prolific stream of unceasing information, thanks to user generated content, and circulating thanks to virality. Hence the content retains ephemeral significance.
Who cares about my facebook status from three days ago? Not even me. By the way, where is it? It’s stuck, confined to its temporal prison of that instance 3 days ago, which everyone has forgotten because of it’s lack of importance. This perpetual present that will not become a past for anyone.
Our digital experience became the exclusive territory of the present. To use a metaphor, our human experience went in a few years with digital technology from being a crumpled ball of paper to being an infinite and thin sheet. We lost in depth and in relation to time what we gained in infinite surface.

Primary target of this new World: the youth.Our parents and grandparents kept a precious link with the past, through family stories, a school that would still convey, the reading of book
s, unique real vector of the lost worlds. Exotism was elsewere, in the spatial dimension, in what we called ‘distant countries’. Today, it has found shelter in the temporal dimension: yesterday. In 2015 the grandchildren never leave their friends and stay stuck in this infinite space, endless yet so thin: present. A space constantly filled with images that tremendously shook our relation to time. What will mark the memory of a football game, from which the scores will have been watched and re-watched dozens of times on YouTube?

In the same way, because they are never alone, future generations will no-longer know boredom. Those fleeting moments where time is the only character; the one that gives substance to memories, is no longer based on reality.
For today’s Marty, Titanic is an old movie.

But time is a wonderful character. It’s time that creates memories and gives value to things. It’s an enchanter, a wizard, a producer of myths.
Let’s take Apple for example. In the success — and the price — of an Apple product, how much of a part does the History of the iconic Steve Jobs’ and its adventure since 1976 make ? Its value can be expressed as following: Design + Use Value + Prestige. The latter being integrally indexed to the myth associated with the brand. Offering faithful consumers an Iphone, or an Ipad. I don’t consider myself a customer anymore; I became a part of History myself. To equal quality I choose the brand, in essence the History, the time. And this is priceless (so to speak for Apple). There is no storytelling without a storyline, no storyline without length, and therefore no length without time factor. People are like enterprises. Their stories determines them. What is the first sentence pronounced when meeting a person? ‘Tell me about you”, ‘Tell me your story’. And all of this belongs to the past, not the present. Only time provides this supplement of soul to shared instances, to objects, to people, but also to enterprises and brands.

Sure, the present moment is crucial. It’s the land we live in, but we go through it way too fast! Unique and evanescent, it slips through our fingers. And when it comes to the future, it’s the great unknown. We don’t predict it without risk, the only certainty being that it will surely be different than what we’ve hoped for or feared.
On the scale of time, the past is the only place where we can gather, whether we’re famous, rich or neither; filled with events from all types of backgrounds. These events are the ones that transform lives, politics, economies, wars, but also our stories, personal or collective, not forgetting these powerful instances while evoking a certain memory through a person, odor, image, or even music. We recall popular tunes that since decades have been the soundtrack of entire generations. As well as movies, advertisements, radio, and television , but also sports and those unforgettable victories and magnificent defeats. In a nutshell, the whole scenery of our lives.
Ultimately, the past is composed of two worlds nourishing each other. On one side, the history that existed, and on the other the memories we keep from it. This is the baggage that we will always carry with us.

But unlike geography, History cannot really be touched or experienced in a tangible way. Even the most advanced website or application devoted to experiencing Brazil will never replace the sensations of a walk in Copacabana; the real travel being still possible.
But how can we go back (without the DeLorean) to 1955, 1968, 1981, or 2002? It’s impossible. The Fourth Dimension has no tangible reality.

Only the digital world will allow us to reconstruct it in a new virtual continent above reality, the everyday world, so each person telling their own stories, can contribute and merge it to the big History in an unique experience.

This is the mission of to reconstruct the past, bring it back to life through a realistic temporal immersion and to finally offer Marty Mcfly companionship on his travels.

Jean-Luc Besset

Written by

Time traveler -

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