Categories: Words

My Cyberpunk Future

The Seattle Metroplex, Circa 2018

I’m finally living in the cyberpunk future I’ve dreamed of living in since I was a kid.

In my younger mind, the cyberpunk future was a cultural mélange raising a new age Tower of Babel over an aging infrastructure. Looming above the honeycomb of wearable computers, iconoclast retro-tech, autonomous taxicabs, bespoke electric bicycles, shining arcologies, and crumbling super-tenements. I would write software using deluxe object-oriented languages on my portable computer for my biometric wristwatch, weaving in and out of traffic through the over-crowded megacity on my electric bike.

The entire library of humanity would be available to me at my whim, with a gesture or a word. The stirrings of artificial intelligences would glimmer through the fiber optics deep beneath the city; gathering data, sorting, analyzing, learning. My interactions with them providing the training they need to interact with me: I would be their tutor and their student.

Then there were the robots. Their cybernetic forms simultaneously familiar and unexpected. Their cold eyes — if they had eyes at all —wouldn’t have the light of personhood behind them. They’d range from the cuddly to the terrifying. Some would be huggable dolls to comfort the infirm and the lonely, fashioned after children’s toys; or they would be modeled on children themselves, underfoot and skittering about, seen but not heard; or giants playing with toy blocks the size of skyscrapers, lumbering behemoths blotting out the sky. They would be servants and partners and they would be building the next world, and they would be fearsome weapons on land and in the sky, raining down hellfire.

We would hack our own biology with chemicals known and unknown, jack up our nervous systems with electronics and stimulants, chimerically rewriting our DNA and replacing our limbs and senses with cybernetic upgrades.

It would all be part and parcel of life on the rain-slicked, cyberpunk streets of the Seattle metroplex. And then I grew up and the future arrived.

Tent cities reach out in every direction along congested arteries leading in and out of the cities, ancient transports belching pollutants we struggle to cast off in our nostalgia for a time when life seemed simpler and there was freedom on the open road.

They frighten and confuse. Yet, when we feel something missing in ourselves, we yearn to integrate with it. Starting with a missing limb, we build a prosthesis; never satisfied, we upgrade and there is always an upgrade. First we tune it to walk, then we tweak it to run, then we hack it to fly.

We live in uneasy acceptance of it all, that it will rise up and take our place. Ancient fears those, every parent has had them from the dawn of time. The progeny casting the progenitor out, the student becoming the master.

Mega-corporations hold more power than governments. Government has fallen out of favor, replaced with a yearning for the anarchy of a fantasized frontier where we had freedom from the press of humanity and the burdens we impose on each other to keep the fragile peace. Yet, irresolute in our commit to the precariousness of liberty, we abdicate our natural desires and abilities to grocery delivery services, military-styled private police forces and constabularies, and an ever-growing list of entertainment options provided by a shrinking list of of suppliers.

The list of illnesses, diseases, ailments, disorders, maladies, and afflictions that plague us grows longer every day, yet we live longer than our ancestors ever hoped. The effort we’ve exerted to extended our precious lives belies the negligence in how we spend them. We’re not driven to live, we’re simply afraid to die.

We live in the future and yet there is always another future ahead of us.

We write the story of our tomorrow today.

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