Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Three Hundred and Nine

It is odd to be living in a future you read about, or saw in movies. People often complain about the fact that the wondrous future – flying cars, robots, etc. – predicted in the Jetsons and other golden age science fiction has not come to pass. And it is true that future has not arrived. Progress capitalized has fallen. After this terrible year we know now that there are no guarantees of progress and better lives awaiting us sometime in the future.

But that was never the future of my childhood. I read Gibson, Sterling, Effinger and others, watched Blade Runner. Those are the futures we have received, whether we wanted them or not. Corporations with the power of states, doing what they please for unclear purposes. Cabals of criminals, politicians and businessman barely operating in the shadows, with tentacles seemingly everywhere. Endemic corruption making a mockery of the rule of law.

From the Forever Wars of the United States, fuelled by mercenaries at every level, to Russian and Saudi Arabian assassination squads, to drug cartels and Hollywood executives looking to stifle their secrets, we find ourselves in the time of the covert agent for hire. Our movies and fictions are filled with them, just as spies and government agents populated so much of Cold War art.

Every month seems to bring a new story of some facial recognition tech being piloted by police forces somewhere to further public surveillance of individual citizens. Through the Forever Wars it has become evident that all our communication is swallowed up by some entity, sitting on some server stack somewhere, likely never to be looked at. Hacking has become commonplace, an integral part of warfare, spying and politics. As are drones, which it seems will become ubiquitous soon in our everyday lives.  Artificial intelligence runs finance now and, if one believes the claims of its makers, it will soon be colonize other fields of business.

Information technology and the internet are such fundamental pieces of our lives that we don’t even notice them anymore. Whether it is social media, virtual reality, online meetings, smart phones, etc., etc. the online is just a part of ecosystem, the habitat we live in. We are all cyborgs now, forever connected to computers and machines that we rely on for our existence. Perhaps they aren’t integrated directly into our flesh at the moment, but it seems only a matter of time.

It is not just a cyberpunk now, though. I think of the inoculations that are slowly trickling out into the world to combat the dread lord. His presence in the world, and his obscure origins, are the future too, one constantly imagined. The inoculations, developed using technology that would have seemed fantastical thirty, even twenty years ago, is also the future. In Star Trek it takes an episode to develop a cure for a disease, for us it was not much longer really. A few days in one case. The time has been testing the efficacy of the cures.

Science fiction is never about prediction, it is a way to look at the here and now through a different lens. If those futures have been realized in some way it is only because those writers noticed what was present and possible in the world. The future has always been here. It is up to us whether we choose to see it that way.

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