Friday, May 10, 2013

TO THE PEOPLE OF 2113

In Oklahoma City, Okla., a time capsule from 1913 was just opened, and from its waterproof confines poured forth great and quaint treasures — a telephone, its cord still wrapped in bright green cloth; graphophone recordings (and a machine on which to play the voices of the dead); fashions of the day, still fresh as when they were packed away; and letters addressed to the future. To us.

We are wiser than they were, of course. Just ask us. We know everything worth knowing. Our technology dazzles; our light shines into every unknown corner of the world. The things they packed away in 1913 are touching for their charming simplicity. They had no idea that the people opening their time capsule would have already mastered space travel, nuclear power, and the deprotonation of cocaine. What more could a boy ask for?

Hence my suspicion that it's all downhill from here — that the people of 2113, poor bastards, will be living a life more suited for the Stone Age. We have come too far in the past hundred years for there to be any other outcome than blowback for creating miracles that now are indistinguishable from magic. We can order clothes and food and porn and never leave our beds. We are endlessly, effortlessly entertained, and someone will have to pay for our ridiculous excesses. Thankfully, it will not be us.

Up ahead, between now and 2113, there will be a reckoning — perhaps an electromagnetic pulse that wipes out the grid and plunges us all back to the Good Old Days before electricity and the internet. Or maybe the caldera will bust a gut. Bicycles and typewriters will come back in vogue. The last steampunkers will rejoice.

We will devolve into hunters and gatherers. Those that can, will. Those that can't will beg and wither. People who can make things with their hands will be the kings and queens of the New Stone Age, while the rest of us huddle 'round fires and talk about the slabs of glass and steel that we once used to communicate. Our thumbs will twitch with the memories.

The people of 2113 will open time capsules from our Gilded Age and wonder what the hell was wrong with us that we couldn't see the warnings. Maybe they'll laugh at things like Twitter and Facebook, if those words still hold any meaning. One of them will hold up an iPhone and think about the power we invested in a tiny piece of machinery. And then they will use the metal bands to fasten sharpened stone tips to wooden sticks. Time to hunt for meat and treasure.

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