One morning in the future
I had a video call this morning with someone who was in India. The call went great, except for a few moments when the video stalled.
“Sorry about that”, said the person I was talking to. “It’s the monkeys. They like messing with the cable.”
There’s something charming about an intercontinental internet-enabled meeting being slightly disrupted by some fellow primates being unruly.
It also made me stop and think about how amazing it was that we were having the call in the first place. I remembered Arthur C. Clarke’s predictions from 1964:
I’m thinking of the incredible breakthrough which has been possible by developments in communications, particularly the transistor and, above all, the communications satellite.
These things will make possible a world in which we can be in instant contact with each other wherever we may be, where we can contact our friends anywhere on Earth even if we don’t know their actual physical location.
It will be possible in that age—perhaps only 50 years from now—for a man to conduct his business from Tahiti or Bali just as well as he could from London.
The casual sexism of assuming that it would be a “man” conducting business hasn’t aged well. And it’s not the communications satellite that enabled my video call, but old-fashioned undersea cables, many in the same locations as their telegraphic antecedents. But still; not bad, Arthur.
After my call, I caught up on some email. There was a new newsletter from Ariel who’s currently in Antarctica.
Just thinking about the fact that I know someone who’s in Antarctica—who sent me a postcard from Antarctica—gave me another rush of feeling like I was living in the future. As I started to read the contents of the latest newsletter, that feeling became even more specific. Doesn’t this sound exactly like something straight out of a late ’80s/early ’90s cyberpunk novel?
Four of my teammates head off hiking towards the mountains to dig holes in the soil in hopes of finding microscopic animals contained within them. I hang back near the survival bags with the remaining teammate and begin unfolding my drone to get a closer look at the glaciers. After filming the textures of the land and ice from multiple angles for 90 minutes, my batteries are spent, my hands are cold and my stomach is growling. I land the drone, fold it up into my bright yellow Pelican case, and pull out an expired granola bar to keep my hunger pangs at bay.