Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Future Is Now

Intergalactic empires torn down by a single traitor. Biohackers growing ears on their arms. Millions of dollars won and lost using the knowledge of scant seconds. Giant robotic spiders.

This stuff sounds like it's science fiction, but it's really just a few things that popped up in my news feeds today. Because we are living in the future, ladies and gentlemen, and everyone got it wrong.

First let's discuss that intergalactic empire thing. Eve Online is a video game, a MMORPG. You are thinking of World of Warcraft right now, but you should be thinking of a living, breathing simulation of an intergalactic economy based on exploration, warfare, trading, and insane amounts of time spent building wealth-building alliances. And it results in some fascinating shit happening.

Consider an incident earlier this year where a bad mouse-click caused a space battle involving 3,000 starships and multiple alliances. Or one where a corporate thief rose to power and disbanded a corporation worth billions. Or the most recent SNAFU, when a ship worth 309 billion ISK, one of only three in existence, was destroyed through sheer treachery.

These are not scripted gaming events, these are conflicts coming about through the natural interaction of thousands of people in a strict simulated universe. This is stuff Advanced Dungeons & Dragons designers and economic theorists have erotic dreams about.

Prefer real life? How about news that Thomson Reuters, a company that sells consumer confidence data, got censured for selling their data to some companies a full two seconds ahead of its general release? Two seconds. But we live in a world where that's enough time for Wall Street traders to get into a market, catch a rise based on the report, make millions of dollars, and get out before most of the world even knows something is happening. If you tried to explain this to Franklin Delano Roosevelt or John D. Rockefeller, they'd have you thrown into a lunatic asylum. Today this isn't even news.

You know what is news? Reports of zombies rising from the grave and eating the flesh of the living. Biohackers using magnets to give themselves literal sixth senses, and bioartists attaching live human ears to their arms. And don't forget about the giant robotic spiders.

We carry phones hundreds of times more powerful than the best computers of a decade ago, we send libraries worth of information back and forth across the planet in seconds every day, we fight wars with killer robots and get directions from artificial intelligences, and this is just the shit we take for granted. The cutting edge of technology, the truly innovative stuff, is so weird that most of us aren't capable of coming to grips with it.

I'm blaming Warren Ellis for everything.

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