26 April 2011

Isaac Asimov on the Limits of Imagination

Today I started reading Isaac Asimov (shock!). I find it at once encouraging and dreadful that our imaginations at once can out predict technology by decades and also fall behind by decades. In Asimov's short story "The Dead Past," he posits a machine called a "MultiVac" which can store data and recreate it in hard copy in a few minutes. With even a smart phone and a printer several minutes would be a gross over-estimate of the requisite time to perform such a task.
Among the things which Asimov created in this short story the only thing which hasn't been invented yet is a Chronoscope - a device by which one may actually watch and listen to the past. Pretty cool, right? Wrong. As Isaac Asimov points out the past begins this instant and travels backwards. This device would allow anyone to be a Voyeur or a spy or any number of things from which we are at least moderately able to defend ourselves against. In a world with such a device privacy would be literally a thing of the past.
The only thing that Asimov didn't expect was a culture of exhibitionism and voyeurism. Such a culture has gripped the world of the internet. Anywhere you look, it's apparent. Even Facebook has "Get a Hot Date Tonight" ads in the side bars - or perhaps I should say especially Facebook? You see, the internet has developed a culture that has not realized that it exists outside of the box the says "Teh Interwebz." People frequently post on Facebook about their rampant sexual encounters or their binge drinking/drug use/vandalism. There is an entire generation that wants to be exposed - but only from the privacy of their own corner of the internet. For some reason there is a HUGE disconnect for people (us Millennials especially) between what we do on our computer and what happens in real life. We assume that because everything is password protected that no one else that can affect our lives will see it.
Perhaps the Chronoscope would be a relief for this subculture of the internet. All of a sudden, they wouldn't have to bother with facebook or twitter updates about how baller their lives are. They could just advertise that they were doing X to Y and then let people tune in on their home chronoscopes. Oh wait- they already can thanks to the magic of home webcams.

-Thomas Mercurial out.
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