My sister sent me a video clip, from London or Prague or wherever the hell she is. A woman with a BBC voice is describing a baby seal used to comfort Japanese dementia patients. The seal is synthetic fur covering hundreds of sensors, tiny chips and batteries and joints. It recognizes its name and responds to cuddling.The sheep really are electric.
I work for a company that makes games that incorporate hundreds of thousands of players, teaming, scheming, and falling out. They’re all over the world. Most will never hear each other’s voices, or see each other’s faces. Not because they can’t, but because they don’t care to. They don’t need to.
I have a coworker that says these games are “more meaningful than real life.”
With a dozen keystrokes I can find an apartment, a dog, or an underage Russian prostitute. And if I don’t read the words, if I just look at the backlit gray and the clumsy black type… all three look exactly the same.
One of the biggest information technology companies on the planet has the motto “Don’t Be Evil.” It’s the kind of clear statement of intent that you’d think I could take for granted. That I’d want to take for granted. Instead, though, it’s ironic, detached, even rebellious.
This corporation knows more about me than I can remember at any given time.
Any given day, I talk about the superpowers of the twentieth century in the past tense. They’re quaint, curious. They had the power to destroy the world, and now they’re gags on t-shirts.
The country I live in is fighting a war that could go on forever. There may never be another unidentified body on a battlefield. If I wanted to, if I cared enough, I could know the name of every dead soldier.
The war costs, the war goes on, the war won’t end. It’s fought not just by soldiers but by corporate security forces. Somehow, it doesn’t affect me at all.
The world has changed, it’s strange, it’s completely different. In the face of everything, though, I mostly worry about how I look and who I’m fucking and who they’re fucking and what I’m going to do to keep a roof over my head.
Everything is different, but I’m the same as I always was. Self-righteous. Self-absorbed. Tired.
This is the future I was promised. People older than me ask where their flying cars are. They’re saying science fiction let them down, that they didn’t get their future, that if today is better than yesterday it’s in some way they didn’t notice.
And there’s this project I’m on. The World of Darkness. Cyberpunk. Sure, yeah, razor girls, mirrorshades, coffin hotels. But also the future. The one I was promised. Which is here, and was really the present all along.
(Oh, and a reminder, if you missed the best cyberpunk flash fiction of the year, here it is again.)