Picofarad #13

June 2008

Title font credit: PostCrypt (author unknown)

On the Way to Zanzibar

John Brunner is well-remembered in certain circles for The Shockwave Rider, the novel that invented cyberpunk and showed us all a carefully constructed view of the future based on real science and technology and the best predictions of the day's futurists. Naturally, it was mostly wrong.

But if I had to pick one book that this century is looking more and more like, it has to be Stand on Zanzibar. Remember Scanalyzer, the channel with top stories every few minutes? If you're in the US, you know that it's actually called Headline News. Mr. and Mrs. Everywhere? The Wii has introduced the notion of an avatar you can build to resemble yourself which can then be used in all sorts of games. I'm sure it'll find its way into advertising land shortly, if it hasn't already.

On the geopolitical front, the US security apparatus freaks out about a scientific expert and lurches into all-out action, with deadly and ironic results. Although the paranoia is a little more justified in Brunner's world, where the terrorists really are lurking everywhere.

Explosive population growth was a big theme, with it leading to people opening fire into crowds, and social pressure against having too many children, or any at the extreme. Another couple points for Brunner-though I suppose it may be a while before the Catholic Church switches over to supporting population control.

Which leads us to that essential party supply in Stand on Zanzibar, the "stiffener". Viagra, anyone?

Throw in a resource crunch, software as a service (Google hasn't built Shalmaneser yet, but they're sure trying), and the US stuck in a low-intensity war, and it starts to sound awfully familiar.

On the bright side, this means there must be some equivalent of The Hipcrime Vocab out there somewhere...

Next: Scintillations

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