I can already feel it beginning to happen. I'm only in my mid-30s but already I can detect on occasions (for example, when my iPod will just not bloody well behave itself and I have to ring my sister), a little 'duh' noise somewhere in the depths of my mind. That, I believe, is the precursor to a future where technology in its entirety is going to leave me dumbfounded. I think there will be a point, probably in the not too distant future, where I give up.
I have never been more sure of this than I was last week, when I read news about a report from Travelodge describing what hotels might be like in 2030. The budget hotel chain had commissioned engineer and futurologist Ian Pearson to consider the services available to hotel guests now, and how those services might evolve in line with technological advances and economic viability.
Pearson's conclusion is that your average hotel stay in 2030 will be rather different than it is now. He predicts we will be able to script our own dreams (and "replay our favourite dream from a menu just like choosing a movie"); we won't have to leave the room to see local landmarks and attractions, or to do shopping (because it will be possible to replicate everything from Big Ben to a store's interior inside those four walls); and our health and sleep patterns will be monitored and optimised by technology within the fibres of the bed linen.
AND – here's where I really start to glaze over – hotel guests will be offered virtual sex as standard. We'll be able to beam our partner or spouse into bed and make love to them remotely. Couples, Pearson says, will "benefit from the ability to link peripheral nervous systems, via active skin electronics... for enhanced love making. This will enable both individuals to experience each other's feelings and emotions."
Right. Well, I suppose in a way that could be considered quite a romantic (if weird) option for husbands and wives separated by distance – until you read on to discover the ultimate sex toy will also enable you to change how your partner looks without them knowing. Would it be cheating if, with the use of some magic (the word 'magic' covers everything when you're not tech savvy) contact lenses, you swapped your spouse's face for that of their best mate without letting on?! That question alone leaves the mind boggling. It's confusing.
At the risk of sounding like a complete dinosaur at the grand old age of 35-and-three-quarters, does any of it sound appealing to my fellow human beings out there? Pearson has based his predictions on what he believes will be possible in less than two decades' time (not just possible, but affordable in cheap hotels) – but is anyone really going to want any of it? Really?!
The speed at which technology has changed our world over the last hundred years or so is mind blowing to say the least and, of course, there have been huge benefits to the human race (for example my friend's amazingly snazzy multi-faceted music system, to which I reacted with both awe and furrowed brow).
But, at the rate it's going, at what point will technology actually start interfering with our ability or even desire to remain human? I think there will come a time when those hoards of inventors, like excitable school children in a science lab, will need a bit of supervision with regards to their concoctions. Just because you CAN create something no-one believed possible doesn't mean you should.
Dreams, life experiences, love-making – they're all pretty essential parts of a human existence. If we gain the ability to turn our dreams into just another form of entertainment, what might we lose for that psychologically? If we can transform our hotel room into the New Forest, using projections and sounds and scents, will we lack the incentive to go and sit on an actual mossy rock in the actual New Forest and gaze at actual sun beams cutting through the actual trees? If we can make love to our partner from anywhere in the world, will it remain quite so important to get home?
For now, most people probably think Pearson is a bit crazy, that it's all pie in the sky. But then, in 1900, no-one really believed cars would ever replace horses as a reliable and affordable means of transport. And as for technology interfering with what comes naturally to us humans, well, it's already happening isn't it?
Online networks are seeing people increasingly socialise in cyberspace; adults increasingly work in their own homes and hit a tennis ball not with a racket but a Wii stick (is that what it's called?); children increasingly play with video games rather than one another, and increasingly learn about nature not nose to nose with crickets and ladybirds but with noses pressed up against images of crickets and ladybirds on a plasma TV.
We're okay for the moment but if the likes of Pearson's predictions do come to fruition, we're going to end up a pretty sad species – fat, pale and devoid of social skills or imagination. I don't like the idea of my children inhabiting that sort of world very much. I guess I'll teach them everything I know about being a technosaurus. I might start by never learning the real name for a Wii stick thingy.
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