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1990 tech changed us, 2050 tech might kill us

Stuck in the middle with you.

the jetsons in a tech house
Image: Hanna Barbera

Since the turn of the new year into 2020, the meme of the week is the reminder that 1990 is just as far in the past as the year 2050 is in the future. The intent of this mathematical reminder is to enrage and drive Gen X’ers into a mental tailspin. While some of us don’t believe we’ll live to see 2050, the rest are more nostalgic for 1990 than they are optimistic for 2050.

Because we perceive time as linear, this kind of makes sense. But time is not linear. Everything that has happened, is happening and will happen. Our dumb brains just can’t perceive it that way and that’s probably for the best. We can barely keep track of our damn AirPods much less chew gum and walk through space and time.

1990 was a great year for technology. The entire decade was, but let’s just focus on the singular year in question. In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, revolutionizing astronomy. The Human Genome Project began. And most relevant to your interests — Tim Berners-Lee (yet to reflect on his creation) started testing software that would eventually become the World Wide Web.

The first digital camera shipped in 1990. The President started beef in the Middle East (which could be confused with today, but we’ve been fucking around there since the first tainted Bush) and some lady named Joanna Rowling began writing what would become Harry Potter. 1990 was a busy year for Cold War kids, who were ignoring their stressed parents, choosing to lose themselves instead in the world of NES and PC gaming.

1990 saw the release of King’s Quest V and The Secret of Monkey Island. If you weren’t playing these games on PC back then, were you even alive? The Super Famicom was released in Japan, the Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment system was released as well as the TurboExpress handheld. Codemasters’ Game Genie and Sega’s Game Gear also appeared on the handheld landscape. And fuck Dr. Mario but Super Mario Bros. 3 and Mega Man 3 were the bomb-dot-com.

In 1990 would you have predicted that in 2020 you’d be reading this on your phone? That most of your gaming would be done on a smartphone? That you’d have a home with every piece of tech connected to every other piece of tech, all being monitored by one of a few tech giants? After seeing 1991’s Terminator 2, you’d grow to both love and low-key distrust this use of technology.

So let’s skip ahead 60 years to 2050 and look at the tech of the future

arthur meme with robot fist

Image: KnowTechie

What can we expect in another 30 years from now? We know where we’re at right now, in the armpit of Google, on the teet of Amazon Web Services, indentured servants to Apple, Facebook’s little mindless drones tweeting our little fingers off while trying to build our personal brand on Instagram. Attempting to predict the future of technology is a fool’s game, but let’s pretend to do it anyway.

Technology companies (ahem, Tesla) like to operate under the public perception that they are working to save the world, but technology could destroy us while it tries to save us. After all, we are beholden to the whims of fossil fuel corporations and tobacco companies (at a political level) so sustainability will be key.

Will our brains be connected to the cloud via nanobots in 2050? Helping us to ignore the failing Earth? Will our bodies be augmented with rented organs and limbs, giving us cyborg-like abilities until our debts come due? Will we communicate via hologram, if not through our personal robot companions (that Josiah has sex with)? Will drones cover the air like clouds, monitoring everything we do? I’m going to say yes to all this.

How about the future of AI in 2050? Is it possible we could live forever by integrating our brains with AI? Could it completely take over general functions in the workplace, in our homes and otherwise? Will there be a place for humans in 2050 or will we out-mode ourselves? It’s hard to say for certain what will happen when it comes to future tech, but trends suggest that we will fuck ourselves right in the face.

Look, we might not have the flying cars we were promised back in the 1990s, but if we live long enough we might see them fall from the sky due to a software error that some developer missed because they didn’t bother to consider a real-world user scenario. You think self-driving cars running over pedestrians is a bad thing? Wait until a sky-semi crashes into your sex robot.

1990 was a year of freedom for us. We were kids, so that checks out. We had great advances in gaming and science and it was the beginning of this grand experiment called the internet. 2020 is a shitstorm and we’re only three days in, so it’s not hard to look forward 30 years and imagine a world where The Postman exists alongside Mad Max thanks to technology advances and the global tensions of sustainability and war that come along with it.

Optimists will say that 2050 will be a time of world peace. They’ll look to technology to bring us all together, not tear us apart. But as we sit here waiting for Iran to hack the shit out of our country in any way possible while Russia works digitally to undermine our elections, it’s hard to imagine a utopia that isn’t just a dystopia filled with disillusioned technophiles gasping for a time when their phones weren’t trying to kill them.

What do you think the future will be like in 2050? Are you optimistic about a better world? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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A tech writer on the internet for over 15 years for outlets such as Forbes, Wired, TNW, and others, Curtis is exhausted, burnt out and happy to just write buying guides and the occasional review for KnowTechie, the best tech blog your mom never told you about. Ephemeral existence for ephemeral times. Please send pitches and grainy pictures of the inside of your elbow to kevin@knowtechie.com

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