“The Bible describes a Fall caused by humans taking a bite out of a forbidden apple. Is it irony or destiny that an image of a bitten apple is emblazoned on so many of the devices that have become our invisible masters?”
— Postcard From the Future
As a sci-fi author, I’ve time-traveled in my imagination to explore what life might be like 100 years from now. I’ve returned from that 22nd century world with some vivid impressions. (And a warning or two.) Think of them as “postcards from the future.”
Ironically, “postcards” not to mention cameras, calendars, maps, even anonymity have already been lost to the relentless march of technology.
I recently witnessed a disturbing “sign of the times.” In a neighborhood nail salon, a young woman was receiving a 10-minute back massage. While bent over the massage bench, she kept texting on her phone during the entire massage.
What other parts of our humanity will be destroyed in the future by our devices?
Since Apple is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its revolutionary smartphone with the release of new and improved iPhones, this “postcard from the future” seems particularly relevant.
Warning: Beware the Narcissus Syndrome!
Silicon Valley predicts that the economy of the future will be driven by automation and robotics. If you stare into the looking-glass of your smartphone long enough, you’ll see it transform into an intelligent robot. In the near future there will be a robot in every home. By 2117, America will become the land of life, liberty and your own mechanical slave. Some will proclaim this brave new robotopia a paradise. Others will call it a prison.
In my sci-fi novel, ULTRA BOWL, I use football, robots and time-travel to explore the dangers of our current Digital Age and the dystopian future toward which we may be heading. In that imagined future, an anti-robot leader known as the Blind Awakener warns about the grave threat facing 22nd century humanity — the Narcissus Syndrome.
“Beware the fate of Narcissus, the Ancients warned. For when he looked into a pool of water and beheld his reflection, he grew so enchanted, he fell hopelessly in love. Trapped by his fascination with himself, Narcissus neither ate nor drank, and eventually he died. We are so enchanted by the technological wonders of our brave new digital world, so hypnotized by our reflections that, like Narcissus, we are slowly and surely dying!
“The Ancients were wiser than we give them credit. They talked about a Fall caused by humans taking a bite out of a forbidden apple. We laugh at the notion. Ask yourself — Is it irony or destiny that an image of a bitten apple is emblazoned on so many of the devices that have become our invisible masters?
“The seeds were sown when our work world became 24/7. Back then, you could see lovers walking along beautiful beaches and, rather than savoring the moment and each other, they were glued instead to their devices. It was common for a family to be sitting around the dinner table, each fixated on his own device, oblivious of those around him.
“All those screens mirrored back to us a kaleidoscope of enchanting and fascinating reflections. We were being hypnotized. We became addicted. Where religion had once been called ‘the opiate of the masses,’ now our digital reflections became our drug of choice.
“While we were seduced with the illusion and convenience of having a world in our hands, we didn’t realize that we were being shackled by a new and invisible slavery. While we constantly monitored it, it monitored us. Soon we began to actually wear our shackles on our wrists and called them smart watches.
“People began to spend more time with their digital devices than with the flesh and blood people in their lives. We sensed something unhealthy, even dangerous about this new world. Some of the most popular stories of the time were about vampires and zombies, warning us that our lifeblood was being sucked out of us, that we were becoming the disembodied zombies, the walking dead, that haunted our collective dreams. This is the greatest danger humanity has ever faced because, rather than resist, we love our oppression.
“Having been blind since birth, I was inoculated from the worst de-humanizing effects of the Narcissus Syndrome. Blindness was a blessing. Close your eyes and let blindness help you see the truth. The first step toward freedom is to close your eyes against all the reflections which enchant, fascinate and hypnotize you. Close your eyes and wake up from this soulless robotic matrix! Close your eyes and awaken to your humanity.”
As screen addiction becomes epidemic and we become increasingly dependent on our devices, the Blind Awakener’s warning seems increasingly relevant. Why take the fevered speculations of a sci-fi author seriously? Because a sci-fi writer’s job is to imagine the future. Trips to the Moon and Mars, credit cards, solar power, flat-screen TVs, virtual reality, even atomic bombs were first imagined by science fiction writers. I may be (but I hope I’m not) one of them.
I. J. Weinstock is an author of fiction and non-fiction. His novel, ULTRA BOWL, is a sci-fi saga about an NFL team that’s “time-napped” 100 years into the future when robots instead of humans play football.