Years ago, Avery Brooks (who will forever be Cmdr. Sisko to me) did a truly awesome commercial for IBM, one that still prompts me to occasionally exclaim, “I was promised flying cars!” The point was that, when people look into the future, they see today’s technology modified for the future, not the invention of whole new ways of thinking, communicating, and acting. I was promised vidphones, soylent green, and transporters. Instead, I have email/IM/vidChat/cellphones/Skype, LäraBars/gojiberries/tofu, and …well…I used to have Concords…we’ll give transporters a pass for now. Years ago, I thought it was ludicrous that someone would consider not having an email that wasn’t their name, that my brother-in-law (junior high) should be on Facebook, that I could watch Netflix through my 360. But technology happens in unexpected ways. Which is to say, completely anticipated ways.
Instant messaging grew out of email. Video messaging out of instant messaging. We currently have IM on some cellphones, I don’t think it’ll be long before we can vidchat on them, too. Combining television and phones is a bit like genetic splicing; a forced mutation. But IM grew naturally out of email. In fact, in places where IMing is prohibited, email is used as IM—it’s often just as instant. Then came photo sharing and finally streaming video. Of course, this is hindsight and so it sounds perfectly natural; I can’t tell you where technology is going, but I do know it happens just like evolution: bit by bit.
We have an infrastructure that supports fuel-based transportation. So it is easier to change the fuel (biodiesel/ethanol) than to completely change the infrastructure (electric-only). But we have hybrids: strange, mutant creatures that are both fuel-based and electric. And if we get to electric only (as the norm, I know it already exists), it will be incremental, not overnight.
Of course, imagination fuels innovation (more often than accident does, at least). And so phasers and transporters are being attempted, but meanwhile, we have tasers and overnight delivery. We don’t have a replicator, but we have microwaves and instant hot water.
I was thinking of this recently, when I visited Abney Park’s Captain’s blog. “Captain’s blog!” I thought, “How droll!” But it got me thinking: we already blog so easily that if Starfleet were to institute a requirement that the Captain create a log, it might well be a blog. I was reminded of this when I read John’s recent post about where MoF is going. The answer is easy: it’s going where ever he is (and where ever I am). A blog is both a natural evolution of one’s thoughts, written down as in a diary, and a chart or map of where one has been. It may be organized around a central theme, but at the end of the day, it’s a place where we put our thoughts, no matter their topic.
I’ve been thinking of this of late with relation to the people I follow on Twitter (specifically @wilw and @stephenfry, two actors whose works I quite enjoy and who turn out to be awesome people, too. This was driven home rather severely when one of them had an unpleasant experience caused by the ease of access to him that Twitter supplies. I first realized I was ‘net-stalking a few years ago when a good friend and I were discussing recent activities of Heather Armstrong and her family as though we were all good friends. It was a profoundly strange moment for me: I know when this woman’s daughter’s birthday is, but since I rarely comment at her blog, she has no clue who I am. Meanwhile, when I @ reply to something entertaining that @wilw (which is how I think of him now, as opposed to “Wil Wheaton”—I have actually said, “at will double you”) or Lord Melchett (I’m getting away from that, but that’s often how I think of him) has tweeted, I wonder what they think of it. Among people I know and who know me, @ replies are a way of continuing a conversation, if briefly, of thoughts sparked by a tweet. I certainly expect no replies from either actor and sometimes wonder if I even expect them to read it (certainly they have thousands and mine is just one), which makes me wonder why I @ replied in the first place. To tell my friends that I thought it was witty? Only those friends who also follow these people. It’s a strange and tangled intarweb we weave.
And then, there are my fans. My readers, my followers (which I mean in a Twitter, not a creepy messiah, kind of way), my commenters. One blog I read each morning emails a personal reply to each comment on her site. I once emailed her back to say how special this made me feel. “That’s why I do it,” she replied. Clearly she has more time on her hands (or fewer readers) than I do. I vastly respect her for it but in no way think that it is something that I could do. Perhaps she simply has better time-management skills or priorities than I. I do try to read the blogs of those who read mine on a regular basis—as a reciprocity kind of thing, and if I’m not following you back, email me because I just don’t know who you are. Meanwhile, Lord Melchett follows me but @wilw notes that it’s impossible for him to follow everyone who follows him (which I agree with—and completely respect Lord Melchett for his decision to follow all of his).
Here endeth my recent musings about technological evolution, stalking, and this blog. I now return you to your regular and slightly less stream-of-consciousness blogging.