Growing up my imagination was captured by the technological future that was prophesied to come. Books like Neuromancer, movies such as Tron and WarGames, and the games Shadowrun and Cyberpunk all spoke to a dystopian future where computer networks would pervade our world, our culture, and even our very bodies and minds.
In this dark future information was the new currency, communication was instantaneous and boundless. Your online persona was more important than who you actually were and corporations battled with shadowy anarchists over the electronic landscape.
It was a dark world, oppressive, frightening, and cool as hell.
Now nearly two decades later I wonder what happened to it. The Internet is the fulfillment of those visions of the sprawling network. Communication is instantaneous and boundless. Mobile devices and wireless connectivity extend the network everywhere. Corporations do hold as much power as the government, if not more and there is a seedy criminal underbelly out there that makes a stir once in a while.
But somewhere things took a turn. There isn't much in the way of a man machine interface yet. No virtual reality that makes the cyber world as real as that of the flesh. The serious bad guys that unleash trojans and botnets usually do it to make money and market to us, not to bring down the “man”. The dark brooding world of Bladerunner is dotted with upscale coffee shops, yuppie temples of commerce, and adds for Viagra.
Realistically, we're better off. The common theme of those other futures is grim despair and hopelessness. Poverty, crime, corruption. Sure, we have plenty of those, but not to the same level. We have a happier more comfortable world and that is a good thing.
But damn it would be nice if it had some style.