Letter to 1980

What is the Periscope Series?

Welcome to the Periscope Time Machine! Humanity is currently on a sigmoid curve. This means that we are making technological progress at an exponential rate. We can only imagine what the world would look like just 5 years from now. There is a lot of sci-fi literature out there that inspires inventors and innovators to keep creating and reach breakthroughs. Therefore, in contrast to sci-fi, we are venturing out to explain the current world to past generations.

The Letter

Dear 1980,

Hope this letter finds you well. I already know it will, but I must follow the letter-writing format. First of all, congratulations for innovating the Artificial Heart, Compact Disks, Disposable Camera and DNA fingerprinting; these are breakthroughs that will revolutionise your world.

The next four decades will see you grow into the Age of the Internet. This post-truth world has hand-held devices that look like thin slabs of technology. These are called smartphones. You recently invented the computer which takes up the whole desk. It’s a great deal better than those room sized computers, but imagine an even more powerful computer that fits in your hands; that is a smartphone.

Imagine a world where you can know about anyone with a few clicks, talk with anyone without leaving your bed, take selfies and enter a virtual reality just by wearing a headset. Almost all meetings, parties and relations are now ‘online’, detached from the real world. This has enabled humans to stay glued to their screens and avoid any more real life social contact than is necessary. And when and ever people meet – the communication still happens through a glass slab – looking at something makes you a weirdo. We have services that let anyone find all kinds of information, stimulate all senses and socialise seamlessly with the whole globe.

Globalisation is at an all time high – with interdependence among countries never even imagined. All the post-British era countries have been declared independent with some having conflicts; although most are stable. Powers have shifted to different countries and the United Nations kind of does its function.

Global wars, driven by terror and bloodshed, have mostly gone extinct, except for the few conflicts created artificially in smaller nations by the superpowers. The Cold War really was fought – just a bit differently than we were imagining. We have achieved great feats in space exploration and research – it’s mostly via advanced computer systems. Anecdotally, humans are less prone to take risks now, doing everything in a simulation first.

Animal and plant species have been on a decline due to human expansion – many endangered and few extinct. Synthetic development of life itself is in progress with results yet to come. The future of genetically modified organisms looks formidable.

Recent surveys show a decreasing trend in religious belief and faith in God in any form. Benevolence has also seen a downwards trend with people fighting and arguing over the smallest of things. To an extent, people’s opinions and actions are influenced majorly by Parties and individuals through highly controlled and regulated media. 

Although the rights of women, children and all human beings have improved, we are still trying to reach equitable standards, if not complete equality, in the next few years.

I can assure you that 1984 will not be how Orwell imagined it to be. Although in his latest letter, 2050 did hint at progress towards an Orwellian future. I say this as a few countries still abide by communism and worship constant surveillance. Capitalism has managed to keep Communism quarantined.

Diseases persist even though healthcare has improved. I can give you an idea of the weakness of the system: the previously invisible mask that everyone wore is now visible in front of their faces. Life expectancy has increased drastically, especially for infants, thanks to improvements in medical technology.

The 21st Century has seen a rise in the love of robots and mechatronics: both human-mimicking and task-specialised. Although robot invasion or a carnage by AI is not a possibility yet. The legislature on Robots and AI is still a grey area.

There is a new hype for decentralisation of finance, commerce and information. This means that currency and privacy are no longer controlled by any single authority like the banks or the government. Money does not officially make sense – although it still remains the primary goal for most people.

Arguably the most controversial invention is the auto-correct. In some cases it can save people from terrible misunderstandings and embarrassments, on other occasions it also annoys many and has destroyed careers in the past. 

Life in this post-truth society has a peculiar humour as flat-earthers, depression epidemics, fake news and screen addictions are trending. Nothing like the Apollo mission was ever launched: the Moon was not explored any further by manned missions. We are still shooting stuff at Mars and beyond.

Now, I was specifically asked not to take any names or reveal too much; so, this description of the future might look vague. Though on a note of hope, vacuum tubes are long gone and the floppy disk does stay around – as the ‘save button’ in a few applications.

Your Only Future,

Thanks to Vimarsh for helping in brainstorming and editing.

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