The dystopia you should fear

It is popular to fear that climate change will turn the Earth into a water world or that genetically-modified food is going to kill all of us. These fears are probably unwarranted. Instead, I view the future as follows:

  • You will be hiking in a beautiful mountain with your latest exoskeleton. It is fantastic, you can walk for hours in rough terrain without getting tired… Then, just as you are about to arrive at the top of the mountain, your exoskeleton decides that it is time to update its firmware. Sadly, the update failed and your exoskeleton is locked up “for your safety”. An emergency call has been placed, you just have to wait for someone to pick you up, ETA 2 hours. It is going to rain soon.
  • You take a day off to go watch a ball game. Your boss calls to inquire as to your health, as you reported sick. Thankfully, your phone can silence the background noise automagically. As you make up a good story for your boss, you can hear him say: “I just Googled for your location and it says that according to Google’s drones, you have entered the stadium 15 minutes ago”.
  • Your son is 32 and he hasn’t left the house in 5 years. He is somewhere in your basement immersed in virtual reality. He prints his own food from cheap material he has delivered every month. Yet he promised to finish his fifth college degree months ago. You are pretty sure to never have grandchildren.
  • Using the latest technology, you can monitor your weight and muscle mass at a precision of plus our minus 1% in real time. But to get your drug prescription, you have to show up to a doctor that weights you using a balance first designed two centuries ago.
  • You have a smart home run by speech recognition and kept in order by smart robots. However, each time you try to sit down in your sofa, you find some cleaning robot stuck in there.
  • Thanks to medical technology you feel and look younger than ever. However, one side-effect of your rejuvenation treatments are that you have acne. Sadly, unlike cancer and Alzheimer’s, acne remains incurable.
  • You are able to type and send documents by using thought sensors, without ever touching a keyboard. However, the local government agency will require that you show up in person to fill out forms, on paper.

Daniel Lemire, "The dystopia you should fear," in Daniel Lemire's blog, August 14, 2015.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

6 thoughts on “The dystopia you should fear”

  1. Yes I was afraid of this when they started talking about us living longer. And I thought, if I become a teenager again at 113 will I have to suffer through zits again? Looks like I will.

  2. A couple the items on your list touch on an issue that I expect to cause a huge amount of pain in the near to medium term. The embedded systems subculture within software engineering has long been somewhat isolated from the mainstream. On one hand, embedded systems have to deal with very tricky timing and physical world interactions. On the other hand, until very recently they have mostly been “air gapped”, so the modicum of attack hardening that a lot of software has received is missing in a lot of embedded software.

    Jeff Atwood had a nice related post on the “internet of compromised things” recently. I plan to avoid internet-connected embedded widgets as much as I can for the foreseeable future.

  3. 1% of the people live in the future and do not need to work, the machines that they own do everything. 99% of the people live in the past, they have to compete with machines and 10 billion people for a salary that is just enough to stay alive, this includes all sectors (education is free, to have competition at all levels) except mass media (actors, singers, etc.)

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