Tuesday, December 20, 2005

When will then be now?

Even though the question of whether art imitates life or life imitates art is a cliché, and a Black-or-White Fallacy, it can lead to interesting inquires. Consider the art of science fiction, which has a complex relationship with the life of technology. Sci-fi writers build the foundation for their work by observing existing and emerging technology. This foundation prevents their imagination from taking over completely and ending up in the fantasy genre. Individual writers may see technology progressing in different ways; yet common technological trajectory stands out among the art of writers of a single generation.

Scientists, engineers, and inventors are influenced by that trajectory. The little kid that lives inside each one of them thinks it’d be really neat to turn fiction into reality. Some dedicate their life to doing just that. Examples of fiction made into reality are numerous. The bigger ones are Čapek’s robots, Wellslasers, and Clarke’s geostationary satellites.

While cyberpunk and its corresponding science of computing is still in its teenage years, (complete with rebellion against The Man or The Machine), they enjoy the same relationship. So, what is the vision of the future of computing as described by today's cyberpunk art? What is that common trajectory? Stephenson’s Metaverse. Gibson’s Cyberspace. Even Wachowskis’ Matrix. Is there any doubt as to where The Net is going to end up?

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