Landing In Love
by Jani Pontus Toivanen
5 OCTOBER · PUBLIC
(a short vision of our world in the year -37. Originally written for the “seat 14C” essay competition. It’s basically a story about some dude in seat 14C on a flight from Tokyo to San Francisco, that ends up 20 years in the future.)
We had been spotted and identified pretty much instantly. Shortly after we all got individualised messages on our cellphones informing us about the situation. Suggestions were given about who we could meet to guide us through these skipped decades and into the now.
There was a short, tense and baffled silence. People started looking up and around and recognized the reality of the situation on each other’s faces. Everyone was in disbelief and some mumbling first attempts to start conversations could be heard. Soon the plane was filled with sounds from cries to laughter, whispers to shouting. Some just stared out their windows.
I was on my way to San Fransisco for a first date with an online romantic friend. She was one of my suggestions. The other suggestions were friends and family. They would be able to meet and greet me in virtual reality, but my date would be able to meet me in the flesh. I pondered it for a while and thought “It’s gonna be the most bizarre first date ever, but I was set on meeting her, so what the heck”. I chose her.
There she was, clearly more mature than when I video called her a few hours ago, but looking just as fresh and fit. We said hello. She gave me a big hug and took me by the hand and led me to an automated cart that took us to the airport. There were different kinds of passenger planes on the runway and a couple of huge airships. Drones, small aircraft, hoverboards and airships could be seen flying over the city skyline and the water had it’s share of vehicles and activity.
As we walked through the airport I noticed some people were acting very animated and strange.
“Why are some people acting so strange?”, I asked. “Aah, they’re inhabiting virtual bodies in augmented reality. Participating in games and what not. I guess for you it’s like thinking people are talking to themselves when one isn’t used to hands free cell phones. You’ll get used to it.”, she replied and handed me a pair of glasses with ear buds. I put them on. There were fairies, monsters, robots, fantasy animals, ghosts and superheroes of all shapes, sizes and colors moving through the airport. “Wow! How about you bring me up to speed? The time and place I left was chaotic and on the brink of disaster. People were really divided and on edge. Now people seem relaxed, open and happy. How has this happened? What has happened? Have we been to Mars?”
“Let’s find a comfy place to sit and I’ll show you the basics.”, she replied.
We sat down on a couch.
“Ok, this is new to you so try not to freak out too much. That headset can do stuff like real time translation of conversations, but what you’re gonna experience next is the creation of a virtual body in your mind. It’s kinda like your (day)dream body. The sense of it isn’t too strong. You’ll mostly feel your meat body at first, but as sight and hearing completely support the mind body you’ll be able to immerse yourself fairly well. Moving around and flying might be challenging at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. I’ll help you through this tour. When you learn how to do it yourself it’s like riding a bike. People still use traditional bikes by the way, but most have some sort of engine support and the battery problem is a thing of the past.”
“So when is it gonna happen? I felt a slight pressure, but nothing has changed. We’re still sitting on the couch and my body seems normal.”
“Oh, it’s on. The virtual is just a perfect representation of the physical reality right now. That’s why you can’t tell the difference.”
She took me by the hand and we lifted toward the roof. I looked down on us sitting on the couch.
“Whoa, whoa! I’m not good with heights!”
“Relax. Whatever happens be assured we’re sitting on that couch down there. This is the light version of virtual reality. There are also full immersion technologies and machines that let you use your meat body to navigate. Besides fictional worlds one can move around the real world in real time, teleport or fly anywhere and walk around as if you were there and people there can interact with you through augmented reality as if you were present.”
We flew through the roof and towards the sky, past all kinds of flying machines, as she took me on a quick sightseeing tour of the planetary neighborhood.
“We have tourist space flights, space hotels, moon bases, colonies on Mars and there’s even talk of floating ships on Venus… but I’m not sure how much that’s contributed to your earlier ponderings. You know, how much more relaxed and positive it is.”
With accompanying visual presentations she continued explaining.
“A big part of it is economics. You just came from the end stages of a global usury system – desperate austerity, centralising, effectivising, privatising and overall hyperfocus on economic issues over social and environmental concerns. That kind of system is good at getting people to work their asses off, but at the end of the day hopeless when it comes to distributing wealth and other important concerns. It got things to the place where automation and AI could largely start taking over most production, both material and intellectual, and people were left with time to pursue passions, creativity, inspiration and just enjoy life. That money system has been replaced with a positive money creation system with an adequate universal basic income. All without big government bureaucracy. Then there are precious metal coins, crypto-currencies, local currencies, time currencies, bartering and just good old sharing.”
The presentation continued…
“A lot of the positive vibe can also be explained with technology. A couple of decades ago there were threats of impending doom from every direction, but now resources used for energy, paper, plastics, food and everything else are sustainable. Fish farms are used to replenish the oceans, coral reefs are being replanted, there’s no plastic waste in the oceans. We’re on course to improving ecosystems to a level beyond what it’s been during all of human history. Also a lot of resources previously invested in war technology have been reallocated to systems for monitoring and preventing all plausible and less plausible threats – asteroids, meteorites, solar flares, forest fires, volcanos, you name it. So now it’s realistic to have a comfortably optimistic, eternal sense of humanity’s and life’s future.”
“What about politics, government, bureaucracy, borders?”, I asked. “It’s pretty much “live and let live” with a huge slice of “help live” these days. It doesn’t matter that much who holds political office in a free society. It’s more of a service job. The little government that exists is more like personal assistants to the people, in deed and not word only. Not demanding with threats of punishment, but actively helping out where needed and welcome. Just a central common organizing body that deals with some basic functions. Borders are pretty much just lines on maps now that universal human values and a higher standard of living have really taken root and manifested. AI bureaucracy has revolutionised how smooth and effortless all the necessary documentation is. For instance with just simple pictures one can document a building’s construction details and get recommendations on necessary improvements. If a building is made by robots and/or printed, as many are, all of that’s automatic.”
“Go on… I mean houses. How do people live these days?”, I asked. “Self sufficiency is very valued for a variety of different reasons. Not only is it very achievable when it comes to basics, like energy, food, water and all kinds of small scale production with 3D-printing, but that kind of independence goes hand in hand with personal empowerment and freedom. People like to be mobile as well. That comes in giant size, with floating islands slowly traveling the planet, to the tiny mobile homes on wheels, boats or attached to airships or with other flight capabilities. Then there are different kinds of self chosen communities for people with similar tastes and sensibilities – Alcohol and drug free communities, nudist communities, very covered up communities, communities without electricity, you name it. Most people choose to live in the common cultural environment, which can be very extensively personalised with augmented reality.”, she explained while showing me.
“What about identification and privacy?” “People largely rejected implantable ID for wearable technologies and what is private can also be kept truly private. One’s experience is highly customisable when it comes to privacy – how much of one’s whereabouts and activities one wants to share and with whom at any given time. Most people choose to save personal digital information to make life easier. It’s perfect memory after all.”
“How do people produce energy?” “Most energy is clean, renewable, small scale and local – wind, solar, water, wave, tide for instance. Those come in large scale installations as well. Other large scale energy production methods are fusion, thorium etc. Fission is used for both large and small scale production and what used to be waste can be utilised for making batteries for instance. Wood burning is actually very popular as well, but there are more efficient ways of doing that than the stoves you had back in the day.”, she explained while showing me a rocket stove mass heater.
“What about water? There was talk of water shortages back in the day.” “Well, there never was a water shortage, really. There was more of a salt in water challenge, which has been solved on both big and small scale. Not to mention collecting water from so called thin air. Then there are more traditional technologies like rainwater collection, wells etc. By the way, no one drinks what you call pure water anymore. That’s extremely unhealthy. Water purification systems tend to have remineralisation systems and even add healthy bacteria and other beneficial stuff.”
“This might be a ridiculous question, but what about toilets? Will I find toilet paper or has even that changed?” “Toilet paper isn’t used as much anymore and it isn’t made from chopped down forests. Mostly people use some kind of bidet systems. Flushing with clean, refreshing water and a nice warm breeze as a finishing touch. Much more hygienic.”, she said while presenting a bidet like a sales person “Makes sense.”, I replied like a convinced customer
“What about food? What do people eat? How is it produced?” “Most food is produced locally. Food forests are common and people are really into permaculture in general. Small scale home growing systems combining plants, fish, insects etc. are common. Even automated ones are within most people’s reach. One can also grow meat without a central nervous system at home. It’s fairly affordable. Animals are still kept, but inhumane factory farming is a thing of the past. A huge part of meat production is actually wild, or semi wild, guided grazing and otherwise monitored wildlife harvested with drone technology. A lot of land that used to be desert back in the day is now green. That was done with guided grazing, using solar power to desalinate ocean water and by seed bombing.”
“No overpopulation?” “No, that was always relative, depending on use of resources, obviously. The global population is actually almost 12 billion now. Far more than most would’ve guessed a couple of decades ago.”
“What’s education like with all this technology?” “Before I go into the technology I want to point out that the biggest difference is probably that kids actually learn the basics of life – philosophy, mental and emotional skills, health skills, relationship skills, growing food etc. Then you’ve got a massive change as well as anyone can study, learn, practice pretty much anything anywhere at any time. So it’s very much individualised inspired education. VR environments are utilised extensively. Imagine learning history while spending time in any time period recreated perfectly to the best of our knowledge and understanding or visiting old monuments and ruins brought to life with augmented reality. Imagine practicing playing guitar or piano by following, mimicking a virtual mind body that does it perfectly. Very effective way to get any skill into the deepest instinctive memory. One can also take classes or follow/give lectures on any subject from anywhere.”
“What’s healthcare like?” “Well, nanorobots stem cell technologies are used for various purposes. Limbs and body parts can be grown in labs. Gene therapies are so advanced that complete sex changes are possible. AI assisted remote surgery is common practice. Anything can be cured, fixed or modified. That’s some of the heavy duty stuff, but basic health monitoring, testing and care can be done by people for themselves. Contraceptives are safe and foolproof. Like the vasectomy on/off valve. People are very healthy and it’s not all about healthy or sick either. It’s more about optimal health. The big difference is society itself, the environment. Instead of being toxic it’s actually therapeutic on every level – physical, intellectual, social, cultural, sexual… We have AI and robotics to thank for much of that. This place is easy to be happy and healthy in. Like for instance, people used to make toxic plastics from ground oil. Today much of it is made from hemp. So instead of small amounts of hormone disruptors and cancer causing chemicals from our everyday surroundings people actually get the opposite – small amounts of cannabinoids that support good health. Besides plastics “the great green equalizer” is widely used for food, paper, rope, textile, fuel and of course medicine. All of which can be produced, if not at home, then at least locally.”
“What about criminals?” “Well, we actually treat people. We don’t put them in an even worse environment and expect them to get better. Generally criminal correctional treatment facilities don’t differ that much from other kinds of treatment facilities people spend a lot of time in. They’re mostly self sufficient communities, with animals, farming and all of that. Places where people can live full and happy lives. Psychedelic/entheogenic and virtual reality therapies are used for effective treatment.”
“What about vehicles? Are they all automated or can you drive manually?” “Yeah, you can drive fully manually if you have proper training, but even pets can use automated vehicles. You also have a variety of engine choices – electric, plant oil, ethanol, natural gas, even the gasoline you’re used to, but that’s more of a nostalgic hobby thing. Those have the sound built into the mechanics while the silent vehicles often have what you could call ring tones. The cities are more quiet and peaceful and the petrol smell is a thing of the past.”
“What else? What kind of crazy stuff do people do for kicks?” “Back in the day you had benjy jumping. Today you can skydive with merely a guiding suit and land safely in a net. There’s even equipment for riding tornados and waterfalls. There are suits for diving freely with sharks. Exoskeletons aren’t only used for heavy labor. There are various models for all kinds of fun and games. You name it, it’s possible.”, she told me while showing all kinds of insane activities
“Are people still religious?” “Science merged with spirituality when it became sophisticated enough. Not to mention NDE’s being common and psychedelics widely used has made people very spiritual these days. We have a much vaster understanding of reality than the purely mechanical, biological view, that was prevalent 20 years ago. You know, love, light, consciousness, all of that took over. There are still religions, though. Whatever view of reality one holds it worked out pretty great, didn’t it? And didn’t all religions prophecy it’d turn out something like this after all?”, she concluded with a smile before taking me back to the couch at the airport.
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