Being the narrow minded slaves to habit that they are, journalists never tire of treating us in their December narratives to a barrage of speculation about the year ahead. Superstition, numerology and the software industry having progressively eroded the intellectual base of our civilization, this obsessive fascination with the future seems to be reaching unprecedented levels of prognosticatory frenzy as we inexorably slouch toward that magic year Aught-Aught.
Of course, we here at EGR are no less curious than the next gaggle of hacks as to what the future may bring, but we know our audience is far more demanding than most. We therefore look not simply to the subsequent 12 months, but ask ourselves what the future might look like on the eve of the next millennium.
One thing we discovered in our deep introspection on this theme is that time apparently is cyclical -- though not exactly as the Ancients thought. If you recall your study of Ptolemaic epicycles, the concept should prove fairly easy to grasp. Instead of events repeating themselves verbatim -- as they do year after year in the Fortune 500, say -- there are instead certain "bands" or "tracks" (think of a phonograph record or, if you don't remember those, a CD-ROM) of temporally related circumstances that reoccur in various endlessly changing combinations. Thus, while the future is not simply a lengthy unfolding of the same old random shit we experience on a daily basis, neither is it as boring.
Rather than struggle with the model theoretic implications of such a cosmology, we decided to drop in on some ordinary folks in the year 2996 to observe how their mores, customs and concerns differed from our own. While some of these differences were a bit surprising, we were astounded by the similarities.
Join us now, won't you, as we prepare to eavesdrop on a small group apparently just meeting in the town square for some sort of discussion...
Young RepublicansFido: Look thee, Socrates, thine garment hath become enmeshed with thither thistle bush.(Entertainmyass)
Socrates: If it's all the same to you, Fido, I prefer the common form of address, so maybe you could knock off the archaic jargon. All that lisping makes you sound like Alcibiades.
Fido: Why sure, of course, no sweat. It's just that you ripped the seat out of your toga, boss.
Socrates: What need have I of such things when I have the fruits of my mind?
Fido: Well, your ass might get a little cold... but I sense that you are, as usual, looking for a deeper answer. Here's Crikey, maybe he will be better able to expound with you. I'm still feeling a little fucked up from that VR session over at the Athenaeum last night...
Crikey: Good morrow, Socrates! And dost thy web browsing proceed apace? Hast thou copped a clue?
Fido (aside): Just talk normal, Crikey, looks like he's flipped his wig again.
Socrates: Ah, Crikey! Just the man I was hoping would join with us in dialogue.
Crikey: And on what theme shall we discourse this time, Socrates? I hope not a continuation of your last disquisition on Open Systems. Critias hanged himself after that one, or did you not know?
Socrates: Critias was a weak fellow, as I always thought. But I think it less than fair that you lay his untimely death at my door, Crikey. Was he not attempting to answer his email using Microsoft Exchange?
Fido: In truth he was, Socrates, or so I heard in the chat rooms of the Agora... but wait, is that not Gorgeous coming towards us now?
Socrates: I think you are right, Fido. Good. Perhaps she'll assist in our deliberations then...
Gorgeous (striding into the little group with a surly look): So what are you bozos doing up this early on a Saturday? I thought you'd so besotted yourselves with cheap weed and wine coolers at the Parthenon last night that we'd at least be spared your endless cackling til the afternoon.
Socrates: I see you are in fine fettle today, Gorgeous. Why so displeased?
Gorgeous: Every time I go to the VR fliks with Meano I wake up wanting to puke. What's your excuse, you windy bag of shit?
Socrates: I see Meano is hovering some distance behind you -- to be spared the vitriol of your poison tongue, no doubt... But come up here Meano. Tell us, what did you see at the fliks last night?
Meano: It was a full-immersion remake of one of those retro 20th century things. I forget what it was called...
Gorgeous: Dog Doo Afternoon. Zeus, it really sucked!
Socrates: So then it gave you no pleasure?
Gorgeous: What have I been saying? Are you fucking deaf?
Fido: But Socrates has been telling us that even in the worst productions there is some merit, is that not right Socrates?
Socrates: I do not say it is right or wrong, but merely wish to inquire into the nature of Entertainment. What parts and qualities must it encompass? Must it always bring pleasure or does it have some more fundamental character?
Crikey: Remember you Timaeus, Socrates? It was his contention, before he died, that repeatedly striking himself in the head with a sharp rock was more entertaining than viewing animated gifs. Would you include such aberrations in your definition?
Socrates: Advertising banners or the manner of Timaeus' death? We must be clear in our distinctions, Crikey, if we are to grasp the truth.
Crikey: You are right, of course. I meant the perception he had of pleasure in an act that surely must have caused him pain.
Socrates: But do we not surf the World Wide Web knowing full well the kind of thing we shall encounter there? Do not some even use Internet Explorer? How does this differ from what Timaeus did?
Gorgeous: Quit your logic chopping, asshole! Entertainment is something that entertains you. Why do you always try to make everything so complicated?
Socrates: So would you say that a flik about 101 dogs was entertaining?
Meano: But that is an unfair question, Socrates. No one would ever make a VR that stupid.
Socrates: There you are mistaken, Meano. The ancients made many such entertainments. They called them "movies" before The Great Convergence.
Fido: Was it in Atlantis, Socrates, or in some other place you have not yet elucidated to us?
Socrates: The histories say Hollywood, but this cannot be correct, for the archaeologists have found no forests there.
Crikey: But why dogs, Socrates? Did the ancients not understand the foul smell of the beasts, especially when they have become wet?
Socrates: We shall never know for a certainty, of course, but they seemed to have a fondness for these animals, often calling their entertainments "dogs" even when they were displeased with the production values they reflected.
Fido: Perhaps entertainment appeals to the beast in us, Socrates. Could it be so?
Socrates: It is interesting that you say that, Fido. Tell us why you think it to be the case.
Fido: Well, I often want to scratch myself when I am online.
Gorgeous: Maybe you have fleas, Fido. That ever occur to you?
Meano: Honey, they're trying to have a meaningful discussion here...
Gorgeous (brutally belting Meano across the mouth): Yeah, well I find violence entertaining buttwipe! How 'bout you?
Meano (bleeding profusely): Mmmmmph mmmmmph oh shit that hurt!
Socrates: That is an interesting point you make, Gorgeous. Is it possible that we take pleasure in the pain of others? Should we include this in our definition of entertainment?
Crikey (having a rare brainstorm): Hey, I know! Let's kill Socrates!
The Death of SocratesGorgeous: Good idea. I been saying that for years.
Crikey: After all, Al and Tipper say he's been corrupting the youth. I think he owes us an Apology!
Fido: Yeah but Al and Tipper are all fucked up, you know that!
Meano: Sure, but what the hell, it's Saturday.
Fido: Looking at it from that perspective, I see your point, Meano. So how shall we rid the republic of this scurvy reprobate?
Crikey: How about we hook him up to a Pointcast server and make him reason out the logic in all the BusinessWire releases? That'd do it, no?
Gorgeous: No that's too cruel, even for me. Let's make him figure out Killer Models for Internet Commerce. That'd be quicker and more painless.
Meano: Too painless. Let's make him review all IBM's trademarks and figure out the acronym for each one -- that'd kill him for sure.
Fido: No, no, listen. First we make him install Shockwave and figure out all the little MIME thingies so the plugin will work...
Socrates (clutching toga, falling): MMmmmmmmmrrrrgggg....
Fido: Would you look at that? He kicked off just thinking about it.
Gorgeous: Well, that was entertaining.
Crikey: And how exactly do you mean that, Gorgeous? Would you say that it was diverting from your normal routine, or is your sense more of giving surcease from the unrelieved boredom of your mere existence?
Gorgeous (advancing threateningly): Come over here, Crikey. I think I see a piece of lint in your hair...
Meano (as group slowly disbands): So does anybody know what's on at the VR fliks tonight?
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