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Future Heroes 2035: My Friends and I

See also Future Heroes 2035: The Big Picture

© 2004-2008, John Smart. Art: Cris Dornaus. Short excerpts and art may be used with "© 2008, Acceleration Studies Foundation" attrib. [Pub. in teen futures series Tackling Tomorrow Today, Vol 1: Futuristics: Looking Ahead, Art Shostak (Ed.), Chelsea House, 2005]

I'm Dev. It's 2035, I'm 16, and I go to Fremont High in Rolling Hills, CA, US of A. I started squawking this diary recently as a CultureXchange for Joaquim Kayabi in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Now I'm doing it for anyone else who might read it as well. I hope you don't think it's too basic. If it is, just skip over the stuff you know, K? Joaquim is a Suya Indian who is my age. He lives in a pristine place called Xingu National Park (I'm gonna visit it next year, woo hoo!). Lately he's been getting way into the wearable web.

I want to write better, so I'm using wizard mode, which critiques everything just after I say it, to make it more snappy and grammaratical (heh heh) and stuff. I'm speaking right now into my Triant gauntlet, or wrist PC. The gauntlet talks to my lectraboots, which pack a lot of circuitry. My clothes are lifelog-compatible, meaning they send audio and video of most of the stuff that happens around me to my boots, then to the nexus when I get home.

Some people think lifelogs are just for geeks, but lots of kids at Fremont run them during school, so they can go over things from class at home later. Since I was a kid I've run mine 24/7, and its pretty cool having all your past experiences just a query away, all auto-indexed and voice searchable. Not only mine, but the logfiles my friends share with me, too.

If I do something stupid or funny in public you can be sure I'll get a bunch of e-files from my friends, showing their lifelog's view of it, with their snarky comments added in. Sometimes, when I watch an old file in virtual mode, I even forget if it was my experience or one of my friends. That's called a symbiont moment, when you start thinking of yourself as your friends, and merge with your network.  Freaky.

Lifelogs improve not just your memory, but even stuff like your self-awareness, skills, and ability to make friends. I think that's especially true when I talk to the simulation of myself, my avatar or DT (digital twin), and he shows me highlights of my log.

It's cool how my DT is always trying to figure out what my moods and thoughts are (the techies call it "personality capture"), trying to remind me to be a better person, even if a lot of his suggestions are lame. Sometimes I still talk to my computer without running DT mode, but I usually like to see the digital person gesture and look at me funny when I'm not making sense. It's way more efficient to use body language as well as verbal language to communicate with people, so why shouldn't I do the same with my computer?

Dad's latest job is at CuliTech, the automated kitchen makers. We've got a cool plex at home, where I collect and grow learning programs in the same way that my Grammy, Qing Shoun, collects and grows plants. Only the progs are a lot smarter and faster breeding than plants (no offense, G!). I can't let most of them out of our plex, and they're really my dad's, but I'm still the one doing the digital gardening.

You know all those machine intelligence upgrades that download to the rackbrain in your robokitchen every few months? We grow 'em at Culi, man. Every year they do your dishes better, clean the kitchen better, run the pantry better, make a cooler set of munchies, don't they? I tweaked a custom one for our house last year, it would automatically make you smiley-face cupcakes if you looked uptight when you got home. Then if you scolded it you would get devil's food cake, and it would tell you how hurt it was. Then you might get birthday cake for a week, cuz when it comes down to it, every day is your birthday. Mom was not amused.

I also hacked my boots this term. They open and close to Monty Python lines now, and get saucy when they need a recharge. "Hey d00d! Plug me in! I'm not dead yet!"

ED (short for education droid) is my latest bot. His body is retro but his brain and personality are spankin' new, always joking and riffing my friends' quips and phrases. His body tucks up nice into my bike frame so I can take him to school. He's not allowed free on grounds during maintime, but he's legal cargo on the bike, so I can gang his ports and processors in my bodyplex at school (stealth mode, of course).

Here's a nice pic of my homeroom teacher, Ms. Gail Greene ("Thundering Gail") She's an eternal optimist. She's also super smart. She calls us all her "Future Heroes", which is cool. I kinda crush on her most days. I love the live plants she likes to wear in her hats. I hear she's got an epic garden at home, tended by robos when she isn't digging in there herself. Her DynaBook35 is also clutch, I want one when I can afford it. I'd use it with either a papoose pack or vest, cuz I like all my systems wearable. She uses hers to throw a lot of context images and memeshows on the flat surfaces around her when she talks. That really helps me cuz I'm as visual as I am verbal.

Ms. Greene says we tweens (in-betweens, her lingo for teens) are all sick-hungry for quality love and acceptance. She also says we haven't experienced enough to truly know who we are yet, so we're stuck in a tough spot we just have to ride through. She says we should embrace and respect the process, and that we are supposed to experiment. She says it's OK for us to change our convictions like we change our clothes, and that this time of life includes copying each other and differentiating from our parents. I know my bros and I try extremes just to look at things in a different way. We're always cracking on each others' styles. Maybe she's got a point.

She also says nothing's ever going to change human nature, not laws, technology, culture, religion, or even the singularity. [Check out Future Heroes 2035: The Big Picture, for a brief story on the singularity].  She says our past is a bedrock of wisdom and a heritage that we can count on, and we'll always use it to relate to the future.  I'm still trying to figure out what that means.

Girl trouble, now that's something I know the meaning of, d00d.  Here's a pic of my would-be girlfriend, Sirina.  She's cutting me off bigtime since last Friday because I don't give her the attention she says she deserves.  I first got really into her when she got Vulcan ears last year. 'Rents had a fit but there was nothing they could do. You only need to be fifteen now to get cosmetic mods without parental consent.

Her purple hair is sweet, and she switches it black when she gets Gothy. That's usually a sign things aren't going so well between us. Her butterfly Animatronix wings rock, much cooler than her angel gig. I love the way they writhe and turn iridescent (word!) colors when she talks, and fold up quick just before she sits back in her chair. Yummy. I wonder what she did with the biorhythmic blouse I got her for her B-day? She hasn't worn it for weeks.

Like I said, she's not too into me right now. Her latest putdown is "alien," so I get to hear that a lot. At least she's talking to me, which is good, right?  Of course she's right, I am an alien. No longer a kid, not legal solo. Don't really know where I fit in. Or what I can become.

Here's a pic of my older half-sister, Kate. She's another future freak like me. Only she's much more social and pretty, which is good, 'cuz I don't try to be pretty. Usually. She's an accomplished journalist, and an assistant editor for Fremont's dataflash. Like most connected kidz she streams everything to a lifelog so she can voice query all her past conversations and experiences.

The viewball she's holding is one of about fifty she uses for remote feeds on things she's interested in. Her friend Kalpana helped her modify a bunch so she can pilot them for remote walk, which is hard on the batts, so she's got auto-access to charger grids everywhere around town. It's still kind of creepy to see those things sprout legs and strut across the street or up a tree, with sis taking to people with them remotely, filming everything as she goes. That's a lot of edit footage, too, even in speed mode.

I've learned a lot from my big sis. She knows even more than Paps about some of the stuff she studies, cuz the education system is so much better now, unlike those primitive oldskool shacks that Granddad had to go to back in 20C, way before the intelligent internet. Her latest doc was about automation, and I learned a maxload just from watching and talking with it over the last few days.

At the start of 21C peeps in the U.S. were bummed about losing jobs to countries like China and India, but the truth is, for every job we lost, these countries were losing ten jobs to the factories, to their increasingly intelligent machines. Automation always messes up the job market, but it's the real creator of economic wealth, least the way they tell it these days. Even in 20C people got paychex more for the productivity and intelligence of the machines they tended than for their individual creativity, whether they realized it or not. Kind of humbles you just thinking about it.

At the end of 20C there were five Americans working in service jobs for every one making goods (physical stuff). Now its closer to eight to one in the wealthiest countries, and more than three to one in the emerging nations. So service is the name of the game everywhere.

When I was born virtual persons were pretty stupid, speaking to us through the conversational interface (CI) in pidgin English, sort of pathetic cartoons of human beings. But they get smarter and smoother every year, and now they can do a lot of service stuff, like education, entertainment, hospitality, and simple management of people in all kinds of situations. So some peeps are getting scared all over again, just like they did in the 1930s and 1960's and 1980's and 2000's. Some things never change.

But like the node said, lots of new "symbiont jobs" are emerging, where people are forming service networks with semi-smart virtual persons to solve lots of human problems, big and little. You can be a specialist in just about anything you want, and find people willing to pay for your skills if you're good.

Mom's job got automated a few years ago, but she isn't stressing. She used to teach English to emerging nations kids, but today there are lots of VP systems that do it way cheaper. So now she's retraining for career counseling EN kids on one of the slick new human resources systems.

Some of mom's friends are naturals, so-called "modern primitives," peeps like the Amish who live mostly offline, outside of cyberspace. Naturals try not to use any tech unless their community agrees it's really simple to use, dependable, and nearly invisible. You know, stuff like a rubber band or a wearphone. Dad says naturals aren't going to want to use a digital twin (DT) until hyperreality can simulate their social life even better than ordinary reality. Even the way a good wine and pasta dinner affects their DT's view of the world. That's gonna take some time.

So good for them! Because of folks like naturals tech has to conform to peoples' desires. It has to be greener, safer, smarter, easier, and cheaper every year, or there will be peeps who boycott it to make a point. The node says that every time society raises the performance bar, computers deliver in ways no other technology can. Apparently infotech (computers and stuff) is called a "bottom up" technology because it increasingly designs itself, with less and less human help each year. All the other techs, like biotech, cognotech, sociotech and most nanotech ('cept nanocomputation) are "top down," meaning they are mostly designed by humans. That makes them slower and clunkier by comparison.

Because of the infotech economy, service jobs get more enjoyable every year. In mom's ideal world, the final service job we are going to see is humans holding babies, singing to them. That's her image of Earth after computers get real smart: humans kicking back, helping each other have fun, and playing with babies, while getting paid to do it by the machines. I think that's a super cool image. Mom says Kate and I are living in the Age of Accelerating Compassion, what with all the improvements going on around the world now. She says the Age of Spirit is next in line.

I don't know if that's true, but when I talk to my digital twin (the virtual person that represents me on the net), I know that our machines are becoming more a part of us every day, so pretty soon we won't see them as separate from us. As the futurist Ray Kurzweil said even back in 20C (The Age of Spiritual Machines), humans and machines are merging in a seamless union. As seamless as my slickskin bike racing suit, I think.

Here's a pic of my friend Rome (Romi Bernard). He spends a lot of time on wheels. Mostly he's on retractable rollertreads like the ones he's wearing here. He also cruises a lot on his moto-skate with electromag bindings. I've seen him get some sick aerials on that. He's got a pretty jammin' quiver of bikes, a licensed paraglider, always some contraption or another.

When he rides hard, he wears one of those uni-suits that turns into an airbag whenever he's about to eat it. He once jumped off a two-story building just for fun. What's even more insane is that he let the accelerometers blow it up on the way down, he didn't even pull the cord. Way more aggro than I will ever be.

Rome wants to get a double degree in Evo-Devo and Human Performance in college. Both are very different fields than they were back in 20C.  Evo-Devo says that human biology (wetware) is already kind of maxed out by comparison to human-computer interfaces (hardware). Rome is very interested in helping people be their best. That's why he's already taking precerts for Human Performance, and spends a lot of time playing with MI progs for training, diet, attitude, and skill development in his favorite sports. Kick it out!

Ok, last pic is a snap of my friend Frank. He's kind of a brooder, a denizen of the dark side. He's always a bit angry at the world, but I try to cheer him up as much as I can. I've seen him try to manipulate people too, which isn't cool, but fortunately he can't get away with too much of that in this fishbowl we call the modern world. Kate says a famous futurist, David Brin, wrote about our kind of society back in 20C (Transparent Society, 1998). He said we were rapidly making Earth into a place where cams and sensors and networks would be in every public space and many private ones, so people would have to learn to be a lot more civil than they ever were in the past.

'Nuther words, the human doesn't get any nicer, but the house (cage?!) around him gets rapidly more intelligent with each passing year. Frank knows that bigtime, for all his prancing. Just think, back then people could walk around brutalizing each other, even kidnapping each other, and no cams, no repercussions. No one had to wear cells that continuously identified them to the net, so serial killers, robbers, molesters and other predators were common. What a friggin' Wild West! I just can't imagine it.

Cameras spread slowly because everyone was freaked about losing civil liberties. The biggest problem was they had no sense of history. Dad says the masses always have the ultimate power in democracy, but back then people didn't know their power. They forgot that within ten years they had gone from the fascism of the McCarthy Era in 1955 to the freedom of the Civil Rights Era in 1965. When We The People speak, everyone has to listen, and fast.

Today, of course, civil rights are stronger than ever now that we've got digital democracy, and everyone is educated mostly through the internet. And like Brin predicted, 95% of the cameras are in private hands, not government's, so everything's cool. There are ten times as many private watchdog groups with cams running on our officials as there are government groups snooping for criminals, just the way he forecast.

Frank likes to play with radio-controlled microbots. He has a bunch of roboflys and stuff that are always buzzing around his head. Problem is, juvees like us can't get full licenses for them so he's technically illegal, which bugs me to no end (pun intended). Fines are light as long they stay out of private zones, but I think he's gonna see some heat real soon. Nasty habit, man.

Like I said, Frank's got a skewed way of looking at things, and sometimes he just surprises you. Like today when we were chillin in fifth period Music Xplor and his query dog was alienation. I think he was kind of laughing at me and looking for bait for Sirina. Anyway, the offsite nexus served up Ænima by a 20C band called Tool, and suddenly he was center stage, jamming with the band on mirror guitar.

Of course the whole class had to check it out. It was like this frozen moment with everyone stopped, watching Frankie do his little dance, listening to that brilliant noise. 20C metal and grunge bands like Tool and NIN were hardcore. The developmentalists say everything complex, even musical forms, goes from birth to peak years to decline to death, and then to rebirth. That's why the 1800's were the peak for classical music, the 1970's the peak for rock, and the 1980s the peak for pop, the 1990's and 2000's the peak for genres like rap and dark metal. Apparently once you've found most of the classic musical forms in genre space, the new songs are never quite as good as the old ones, and everything goes downhill from there. Until you invent a new genre, of course.

Anyway, this was from the 1990's, the heyday of dark and speed and power metal, and those dudes really understood angry, rat-in-a-cage alienation and teen angst (word!).

Some say the end is near. Some say we'll see Armageddon soon. I certainly hope we will. I sure could use a vacation from this bull___. . . three ring. . .  circus. . . sideshow. . . of freaks. Fret for your figure and fret for your latte and fret for your hairpiece and fret for your lawsuit and fret for your Prozac and fret for your Pilot and fret for your contract and fret for your car it's a bull___. . . three ring. . .  circus. . . sideshow. . . of freaks.

Tool was ranting about the mindless, resource-wasting consumerist treadmill of 20C Wild West life.Can't find much of this in today's pampered, well-oiled world, tho' maybe Skinspline comes close.

One great big festering neon distraction, I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied. Learn to swim.

Ænima's basic meme is that most everything in consumer society, aside from a few authentic pursuits like family or helping others, is just a shiny bauble and total shallow waste of heartbeats, sucking the marrow out of our lives but not getting us any closer to a world of happy, loved, safe peeps. They wanted kids to wake up from their hypnotic trance, get pissed at materialist culture, and take control of their lives. So they were preaching personal empowerment using dark metal. Subversive! It took some time coming, but today lots of people call themselves PMs (post-materialists), sustainable citizens, and socially responsible types. The big deal for these folks is learning to see the truth behind Big Government, Big Company, and Big Media hype, getting more local democracy and small businesses in their towns, and living 'intentionally' instead of on automatic like a frickin' bot.

Maybe I should stop here, now that you've seen a pizza slice of my little world. I told Sirina I was writing this diary, and she asked me who, besides Joaquim, is this story really for? Myself? My kids? Should I even have kids with so much gnarly intellitech maybe just twenty years away? Sometimes I think no, then I remember Mom's image of the future, and I think maybe I'll have one kid, which would please the 'rents.

Yeah, one kid is plenty for my life.  There are just too many choices for personal development now, and too many things I'd want to give my kid to help his or her future for me to have more than one, I think. Mrs. Greene says that all the developed countries don't have that many kids once they get a lot of tech, and now that the intelligent internet is everywhere, every country is part of the developed world.

That's why the world population maxed out at 8.4 billion in 2030, and has been dropping every year since. Just the opposite of what peeps were worried about in 20C. There are two parents are having one child, all over the planet right now. It looks like the coming greater-than-human computer intelligence – what peeps call the "singularity" – is acting as a kind of global techno-contraceptive. Dad says it's just another sign that our minds are soon going to be leaving our slow and squishy biology behind.

Yeah it's kind of freaky, but thinking every moment a million times faster (techspeed, not cellspeed) and living and loving as long as I want would be pretty cool. Think about how our intelligent machines put more and more of us inside our digital twins every year, so one day we may realize we are more "in there" than out here. I wonder what it would feel like to slowly merge with and then "turn into" my cybertwin? Prolly just like growth. Then if my biobody died, it would be no big shakes, would it?

Course, none of this topsight stuff changes my day-to-day gig too much. I still need to figure out where I want to make my contribution to the world. What will be my own barbaric yawp? I'm sure if I keep writing and talking and listening, especially to my heart, I'll be able to figure it out. At least that's my plan right now.

So here's my motto for the day:

Universe, help me appreciate the lush jungle of the present,
but keep me on a good path toward the amazing mountains of the future!

Enjoy this? Check out more of Dev's journal at: Future Heroes 2035: The Big Picture

Some Big Picture Feeds for Teens:

Accelerating Times

Acceleration Watch

Business Week
America's leading business news magazine. Comprehensive, good writing.
Award-winning general interest science and technology reporting.
Excellent international business and technology coverage. A bit complex, but usually worth it.
Good introductory surveys of world trends and possibilities.
National Geographic
Premiere geocultural survey magazine. Strong, understandable historical insight and analysis.
New Scientist
Science and technology coverage with a speculative edge. Sometimes silly, often intriguing.

Seed: Science as Culture
Very hip, exploring the ideas, personalities, and cultural effects of science.

Technology Review
The leader in technology innovation reporting. The most future aware magazine at present.
Insightful but basic analysis of important events. 30 million subscribers.
The digerati's culture, opinion, and technology magazine. Trendy, good future focus.

The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, Ray Kurzweil, 2000
Getting Real: Helping Teens Find their Future, Kenneth Gray, 1999

A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson, 2003
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens, Sean Covey, 2001

Ten Videos to Watch More Than Once and Think About:
Cosmos, DVD Box Set (13 Episodes), Carl Sagan, 1980/2000
Connections 1 (not Connections 2 or 3) DVD Box Set (10 Episodes), James Burke, 1978/2001
Evolution, DVD Box Set (7 Episodes), Liam Neeson (narrator) 2001
From Here to Infinity, Patrick Stewart (narrator), 1994
Hyperspace, Sam Neill (narrator), 2002
Life Beyond Earth, Timothy Ferris, 1999
Living Planet, DVD Box Set (12 Episodes), David Attenborough, 1983/2001
The Ascent of Man, DVD Box Set (13 Ep
isodes), Jacob Bronowski, 1972/2001
The Secret Life of the Brain, PBS Video, 1999
The Creation of the Universe, Timothy Ferris, 1984

Thanks to Art Shostak, Art's high school focus group, Wendy Schultz, Jeff Thompson, and Gordon Worley for helpful critiques.

Comments? Feedback? Movie Options? Email johnsmart{at}