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Thursday, September 22, 2005 

Possibly better than a jetpack

I have, sitting in front of me, a device the size of roughly two sticks of gum. It holds around 500 megs of data, or enough to hold significant chunks of the "great works" of, say, English literature or classical music or what have you. This would amaze your "average" person from the 1800s (not to mention what else you can do with the information you could have on it).

To even begin to interpret the data, though, you need to use several more things that would baffle/amaze/seem magical to that same person. They might not react that much just to the little metal stick. And that's what interests me - the idea that imagining the future is especially futile, because the amazing things will be predicated on a series of other, equally amazing things, and humans are notoriously bad at going beyond the first order when trying to be futurist.

Of course (says the devoted fan of Dick, Brunner and Whedon), that doesn't mean the failed attempts can't be interesting...

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Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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