Welcome to the Future Nauseous


This article originally appeared on Ribbonfarm.

Both science fiction and futurism seem to miss an important piece of how the future actually turns into the present. They fail to capture the way we don't seem to notice when the future actually arrives.

Sure, we can all see the small clues all around us: cellphones, laptops, Facebook, Prius cars on the street. Yet, somehow, the future always seems like something that is going to happen rather than something that is happening; future perfect rather than present-continuous. Even the nearest of near-term science fiction seems to evolve at some fixed receding-horizon distance from the present.

There is an unexplained cognitive dissonance between changing-reality-as-experienced and change as imagined, and I don't mean specifics of failed and successful predictions.

My new explanation is this: we live in a continuous state of manufactured normalcy. There are mechanisms that operate – a mix of natural, emergent and designed – that work to prevent us from realizing that the future is actually happening as we speak.  To really understand the world and how it is evolving, you need to break through this manufactured normalcy field. Unfortunately, that leads, as we will see, to a kind of existential nausea.

 

The Manufactured Normalcy Field

Life as we live it has this familiar sense of being a static, continuous present. Our ongoing time travel (at a velocity of one second per second) never seems to take us to a foreign place. It is always 4 PM; it is always tea-time.

Of course, a quick look back to your own life ten or twenty years back will turn up all sorts of evidence that your life has, in fact, been radically transformed, both at a micro-level and the macro-level. At the micro-level, I now possess a cellphone that works better than Captain Kirk's communicator, but I don't feel like I am living in the future I imagined back then, even a tiny bit. For a macro example, back in the eighties, people used to paint scary pictures of the world with a few billion more people and water wars. I think I wrote essays in school about such things.  Yet we're here now, and I don't feel all that different, even though the scary predicted things are happening on schedule.  To other people (this is important).

Try and reflect on your life. I guarantee that you won't be able to feel any big change in your gut, even if you are able to appreciate it intellectually.

The psychology here is actually not that interesting.  A slight generalization of normalcy bias and denial of black-swan futures is sufficient.  What is interesting is how this psychological pre-disposition to believe in an unchanging, normal present doesn't kill us.

How, as a species, are we able to prepare for, create, and deal with the future, while managing to effectively deny that it is happening at all?

Futurists, artists and edge-culturists like to take credit for this. They like to pretend that they are the lonely, brave guardians of the species who deal with the "real" future and pre-digest it for the rest of us.

But this explanation falls apart with just a little poking. It turns out that the cultural edge is just as frozen in time as the mainstream. It is just frozen in a different part of the time theater, populated by people who seek more stimulation than the mainstream, and draw on imagined futures to feed their cravings rather than inform actual future-manufacturing.

The two beaten-to-death ways of understanding this phenomenon are due to McLuhan ("We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.") and William Gibson ("The future is already here; it is just unevenly distributed.")

Both framing perspectives have serious limitations that I will get to. What is missing in both needs a name, so I'll call the "familiar sense of a static, continuous present" a Manufactured Normalcy Field. For the rest of this post, I'll refer to this as the Field for short.

So we can divide the future into two useful pieces: things coming at us that have been integrated into the Field, and things that have not. The integration kicks in at some level of ubiquity. Gibson got that part right.

Let's call the crossing of the Field threshold by a piece of futuristic technology normalization (not to be confused with the postmodernist sense of the term, but related to the mathematical sense). Normalization involves incorporation of a piece of technological novelty into larger conceptual metaphors built out of familiar experiences.

A simple example is commercial air travel.

 

The Example of Air Travel

A great deal of effort goes into making sure passengers never realize just how unnatural their state of motion is on a commercial airplane. Climb rates, bank angles and acceleration profiles are maintained within strict limits. Back in the day, I used to do homework problems to calculate these limits.

Airline passengers don't fly. The travel in a manufactured normalcy field. Space travel is not yet common enough, so there is no manufactured normalcy field for it.

When you are sitting on a typical modern jetliner, you are traveling at 500 mph in an aluminum tube that is actually capable of some pretty scary acrobatics. Including generating brief periods of zero-g.

Yet a typical air traveler never experiences anything that one of our ancestors could not experience on a fast chariot or a boat.

Air travel is manufactured normalcy. If you ever truly experience what modern air travel can do, chances are, the experience will be framed as either a bit of entertainment ("fighter pilot for a day!" which you will understand as "expensive roller-coaster") or a visit to an alien-specialist land (American aerospace engineering students who participate in NASA summer camps often get to ride on the "vomit comet," modified Boeing 727s that fly the zero-g training missions).

This means that even though air travel is now a hundred years old, it hasn't actually "arrived" psychologically. A full appreciation of what air travel is has been kept from the general population through manufactured normalcy.

All we're left with is out-of-context data that we are not equipped to really understand in any deep way ("Oh, it used to take months to sail from India to the US in the seventeenth century, and now it takes a 17 hour flight, how interesting.")

Think about the small fraction of humanity who have actually experienced air travel qua air travel, as a mode of transport distinct from older ones. These include fighter pilots, astronauts and the few air travelers who have been part of a serious emergency that forced (for instance) an airliner to lose 10,000 feet of altitude in a few seconds.

Of course, manufactured normalcy is never quite perfect (passengers on the Concorde could see the earth's curvature for instance), but the point is, it is good enough that behaviorally, we do not experience the censored future. We don't have to learn the future in any significant way (what exactly have you "learned" about air travel that is not a fairly trivial port of train-travel behavior?)

So the way the "future" of air travel in 1900 actually arrived was the following:

  • A specialized future arrived for a subset who were trained and equipped with new mental models to comprehend it in the fullest sense, but in a narrowly instrumental rather than appreciative way. A fighter pilot does not necessarily experience flight the way a bird does.
  • The vast majority started experiencing a manufactured normalcy, via McLuhan-esque extension of existing media.
  • Occasionally, the manufactured normalcy broke down for a few people by accident, who were then exposed to the "future" without being equipped to handle it.

Air travel is also a convenient metaphor for the idea of existential nausea I'll get to. If you experience air travel in its true form and are not prepared for it by nature and nurture, you will throw up.

 

The Future Arrives via Specialization and Metaphor Expansion

So this is a very different way to understand the future: it doesn't arrive in a temporal sense. It arrives mainly via social fragmentation. Specialization is how the future arrives.
And in many cases, arrival-via-specialization means psychological non-arrival. Not every element of the future brings with it a visceral human experience that at least a subset can encounter. There are no "pilots" in the arrival of cheap gene sequencing, for instance. At least not yet. When you can pay to grow a tail, that might change.

There is a subset of humanity that routinely does DNA sequencing and similar things everyday, but if the genomic future has arrived for them, it has arrived as a clean, purely cerebral-instrumental experience, transformed into a new kind of symbol-manipulation and equipment-operation expertise.

Arrival-via-specialization requires potential specialists. Presumably, humans with extra high tolerance for g-forces have always existed, and technology began selecting for that trait once airplanes were invented. This suggests that only those futures arrive for which there is human capacity to cope. This conclusion is not true, because a future can arrive before humans figure out whether they have the ability to cope. For instance, the widespread problem of obesity suggests that food-abundance arrived before we figured out that most of us cannot cope. And this is one piece of the future that cannot be relegated to specialists. Others cannot eat for you, even though others can fly planes for you.

So what about elements of the future that arrive relatively successfully for everybody, like cellphones? Here, the idea I called the Milo Criterion kicks in: successful products are precisely those that do not attempt to move user experiences significantly, even if the underlying technology has shifted radically.  In fact the whole point of user experience design is to manufacture the necessary normalcy for a product to succeed and get integrated into the Field. In this sense user experience design is reductive with respect to technological potential.

So for this bucket of experiencing the future, what we get is a Darwinian weeding out of those manifestations of the future that break the continuity of technological experience. So things like Google Wave fail.  Just because something is technically feasible does not mean it can psychologically normalized into the Field.

The Web arrived via the document metaphor. Despite the rise of the stream metaphor for conceptualizing the Web architecturally, the user-experience metaphor is still descended from the document.

The smartphone, which I understand conceptually these days via a pacifier metaphor, is nothing like a phone. Voice is just one clunky feature grandfathered into a handheld computer that is engineered to loosely resemble its nominal ancestor.

The phone in turn was a gradual morphing of things like speaking tubes. This line of descent has an element of conscious design, so technological genealogy is not as deterministic as biological genealogy.

The smartphone could have developed via metaphoric descent from the hand-held calculator; "Oh, I can now talk to people on my calculator" would have been a fairly natural way to understand it. That it was the phone rather than the calculator is probably partly due to path-dependency effects and partly due to the greater ubiquity of phones in mainstream life.

 

What Century Do We Actually Live In?

I haven't done a careful analysis, but my rough, back-of-the-napkin working out of the implications of these ideas suggests that we are all living, in user-experience terms, in some thoroughly mangled, overloaded, stretched and precarious version of the 15th century that is just good enough to withstand casual scrutiny. I'll qualify this a bit in a minute, but stay with me here.

What about edge-culturists who think they are more alive to the real oncoming future?

I am convinced that they frozen in time too. The edge today looks strangely similar to the edge in any previous century. It is defined by reactionary musical and sartorial tastes and being a little more outrageous than everybody else in challenging the prevailing culture of manners. Edge-dwelling is a social rather than technological phenomenon. If it reveals anything about technology or the future, it is mostly by accident.

Art occasionally rises to the challenge of cracking open a window onto the actual present, but mostly restricts itself to creating dissonance in the mainstream's view of the imagined present, a relative rather than absolute dialectic.

Edge culturists end up living lives that are continuously repeated rehearsal loops for a future that never actually arrives.  They do experience a version of the future a little earlier than others, but the mechanisms they need to resort to are so cumbersome, that what they actually experience is the mechanisms rather than the future as it will eventually be lived.

For instance, the Behemoth, a futuristic bicycle built by Steven Roberts in 1991, had many features that have today eventually arrived for all via the iPhone. So in a sense, Roberts didn't really experience the future ahead of us, because what shapes our experience of universal mobile communication definitely has nothing to do with a bicycle and a lot to do with pacifiers (I don't think Roberts had a pacifier in the Behemoth).

At a more human level, I find that I am unable to relate to people who are deeply into any sort of cyberculture or other future-obsessed edge zone. There is a certain extreme banality to my thoughts when I think about the future. Futurists as a subculture seem to organize their lives as future-experience theaters. These theaters are perhaps entertaining and interesting in their own right, as a sort of performance art, but are not of much interest or value to people who are interested in the future in the form it might arrive in, for all.

It is easy to make the distinction explicit. Most futurists are interested in the future beyond the Field. I am primarily interested in the future once it enters the Field, and the process by which it gets integrated into it. This is also where the future turns into money, so perhaps my motivations are less intellectual than they are narrowly mercenary.  This is also a more complicated way of making a point made by several marketers: technology only becomes interesting once it becomes technically boring. Technological futurists are pre-Fieldists. Marketing futurists are post-Fieldists.

This also explains why so few futurists make any money. They are attracted to exactly those parts of the future that are worth very little. They find visions of changed human behavior stimulating. Technological change serves as a basis for constructing aspirational visions of changed humanity. Unfortunately, technological change actually arrives in ways that leave human behavior minimally altered.

Engineering is about finding excitement by figuring out how human behavior could change. Marketing is about finding money by making sure it doesn't. The future arrives along a least-cognitive-effort path.

This suggests a different, subtler reading of Gibson's unevenly-distributed line.

It isn't that what is patchily distributed today will become widespread tomorrow. The mainstream never ends up looking like the edge of today. Not even close. The mainstream seeks placidity while the edge seeks stimulation.

Instead, what is unevenly distributed are isolated windows into the un-normalized future that exist as weak spots in the Field. When the windows start to become larger and more common, economics kicks in and the Field maintenance industry quickly moves to create specialists, codified knowledge and normalcy-preserving design patterns.

Time is  a meaningless organizing variable here. Is gene-hacking more or less futuristic than pod-cities or bionic chips?

The future is simply a landscape defined by two natural (and non-temporal) boundaries. One separates the currently infeasible from the feasible (hyperspatial travel is unfortunately infeasible), and the other separates the normalized from the un-normalized. The Field is manufactured out of the feasible-and-normalized. We call it the present, but it is not the same as the temporal concept. In fact, the labeling of the Field as the ‘present' is itself part of the manufactured normalcy. The labeling serves to hide a complex construction process underneath an apparently familiar label that most of us think we experience but don't really (as generations of meditation teachers exhorting us to ‘live in the present' try to get across; they mostly fail because their sense of time has been largely hijacked by a cultural process).

What gets normalized first has very little to do with what is easier, and a lot to do with what is more attractive economically and politically. Humans have achieved some fantastic things like space travel. They have even done things initially thought to be infeasible (like heavier-than-air flight) but other parts of a very accessible future lie beyond the Manufactured Normalcy Field, seemingly beyond the reach of economic feasibility forever.  As the grumpy old man in an old Reader's Digest joke grumbled, "We can put a man on the moon, but we cannot get the jelly into the exact center of a jelly doughnut."

The future is a stream of bug reports in the normalcy-maintenance software that keeps getting patched, maintaining a hackstable present Field.

 

Field Elasticity and Attenuation

A basic objection to my account of what you could call the "futurism dialectic" is that 2012 looks nothing like the fifteenth century, as we understand it today, through our best reconstructions.

My answer to that objection is simple: as everyday experiences get mangled by layer after layer of metaphoric back-referencing, these metaphors get reified into a sort of atemporal, non-physical realm of abstract experience-primitives.

These are sort of like Platonic primitives, except that they are reified patterns of behavior, understood with reference to a manufactured perception of reality. The Field does evolve in time, but this evolution is not a delayed version of "real" change or even related to it. In fact movement is a bad way to understand how the Field transforms. Its dynamic nature is best understood as a kind of stretching. The Field stretches to accommodate the future, rather than moving to cover it.

It stretches in its own design space: that of ever-expanding, reifying, conceptual metaphor. Expansion as a basic framing suggests an entirely different set of risks and concerns. We needn't worry about acceleration. We need to worry about attenuation. We need not worry about not being able to "keep up" with a present that moves faster. We need to worry about the Field expanding to a breaking point and popping, like an over-inflated balloon. We need not worry about computers getting ever faster. We need to worry about the document metaphor breaking suddenly, leaving us unable to comprehend the Internet.

Dating the "planetary UX" to the fifteenth century is something like chronological anchoring of the genealogy of extant metaphors to the nearest historical point where some recognizable physical basis exists.  The 15th century is sort of the Garden of Eden of the modern experience of technology. It represents the point where our current balloon started to get inflated.

When we  think of differences between historical periods, we tend to focus on the most superficial of human differences that have very little coupling to technological progress.
Quick, imagine the fifteenth century. You're thinking of people in funny pants and hats, right (if you're of European descent. Mutatis mutandis if you are not)? Perhaps you are thinking of dimensions of social experience like racial diversity and gender roles.

Think about how trivial and inconsequential changes on those fronts are, compared to the changes on the technological front. We've landed on the moon, we screw around with our genes, we routinely fly at 30,000 feet at 500 mph. You can repeat those words a thousand times and you still won't be able to appreciate the magnitude of the transformation the way you can appreciate the magnitude of a radical social change (a Black man is president of the United States!).

If I am still not getting through to you, imagine having a conversation over time-phone with someone living in 3000 BC. Assume there's a Babel fish in the link. Which of these concepts do you think would be easiest to get across?
1.    In our time, women are considered the equal of men in many parts of the world.
2.    In our time, a Black man is the most powerful man in the world.
3.    In our time, we can sequence our genes.
4.    In our time, we can send pictures of what we see to our friends around the world instantly.

Even if the 3000 BC guy gets some vague, magic-based sense of what item 4 means, he or she will have no comprehension of the things in our mental models behind that statement (Facebook, Instagram, the Internet, wireless radio technology). Item 3 will not be translatable at all.

But this does not mean that he does not understand your present. It means you do not understand your own present in any meaningful way. You are merely able to function within it.

 

Appreciative versus Instrumental Comprehension

If your understanding of the present were a coherent understanding and appreciation of your reality, you would be able to communicate it. I am going to borrow terms from John Friedman and distinguish between two sorts of conceptual metaphors we use to comprehend present reality: appreciative and instrumental.

Instrumental (what Friedman misleadingly called manipulative) conceptual metaphors are basic UX metaphors like "scrolling" web pages, or the metaphor of the "keypad" on a phone. Appreciative conceptual metaphors help us understand present realities in terms of their fundamental dynamics. So my use of the metaphor "smartphones are pacifiers" (it looks like a figurative metaphor, but once you get used to it, you find that it has the natural depth of a classic Lakoff conceptual metaphor) is an appreciative conceptual metaphor.

Instrumental conceptual metaphors allow us to function. Appreciative ones allow us to make sense of our lives and communicate such understanding.

So our failure to communicate the idea of Instagram to somebody in 3000 BC is due to an atemporal and asymmetric incomprehension: we possess good instrumental metaphors but poor appreciative ones.

So this failure has less to do with Arthur C. Clarke's famous assertion that a sufficiently advanced technology will seem like magic to those from more primitive eras, and more to do with the fact that the Field actively prevents us from ever understanding our own present on its own terms.  We manage to function and comprehend reality in instrumental ways while falling behind in comprehending it in appreciative ways.

So my update to Clarke would be this: any sufficiently advanced technology will seem like magic to all humans at all times. Some will merely live within a Field that allow them to function within specific advanced technology environments.

Take item 4 for instance. After all, it is Instagram, a reference to a telegram. We understand Facebook in terms of school year-books. It is exactly this sort of pattern of purely instrumental comprehension that leads to the plausibility of certain types of Internet hoaxes, like the one that did the rounds recently about Abraham Lincoln having patented a version of the Facebook idea.

The fact that the core idea of Facebook can be translated to the language of Abe's world of newspapers suggests that we are papering over (I had to, sorry) complicated realities with surfaces we can understand. The alternative conclusion is silly (that the technology underlying Facebook is not really more expressive than the one underlying newspapers).

Facebook is not a Yearbook. It is a few warehouse-sized buildings containing racks and racks of electronic hardware sheets, each containing etched little slivers of silicon at their core. Each of those little slivers contains more intricacy than all the jewelry designers in history together managed to put into all the earrings they ever made. These warehouses are connected via radio and optic-fiber links to….

Oh well, forget it. It's a frikkin' Yearbook that contains everybody. That's enough for us to deal with it, even if we cannot explain what we're doing or why to Mr. 3000 BC.

 

The Always-Unreal

Have you ever wondered why Alvin Toffler's writings seem so strange today? Intellectually you can recognize that he saw a lot of things coming. But somehow, he imagined the future in future-unfamiliar terms. So it appears strange to us. Because we are experiencing a lot of what he saw coming, translated into terms that would actually have been completely familiar to him.

His writings seem unreal partly because they are impoverished imaginings of things that did not exist back then, but also partly because his writing seems to be informed by the idea that the future would define itself. He speaks of future-concepts like (say) modular housing in terms that make sense with respect to those concepts.

When the future actually arrived, in the form of couchsurfing and Airbnb, it arrived translated into a crazed-familiarity. Toffler sort of got the basic idea that mobility would change our sense of home. His failure was not in failing to predict how housing might evolve. His failure was in failing to predict that we would comprehend it in terms of "Bed and Breakfast" metaphors.

This is not an indictment of Toffler's skill as a futurist, but of the very methods of futurism. We build conceptual models of the world as it exists today, posit laws of transformation and change,  simulate possible futures, and cherry-pick interesting and likely-sounding elements that appear robustly across many simulations and appear feasible.

And then we stop. We do not transform the end-state conceptual models into the behavioral terms we use to actually engage and understand reality-in-use, as opposed to reality-in-contemplation. We forget to do the most important part of a futurist prediction: predicting how user experience might evolve to normalize the future-unfamiliar.

Something similar happens with even the best of science fiction.  There is a strangeness to the imagining that seems missing when the imagined futures finally arrive, pre-processed into the familiar.

But here, something slightly different plays out, because the future is presented in the context of imaginary human characters facing up to timeless Campbellian human challenges. So we have characters living out lives involving very strange behaviors in strange landscapes, wearing strange clothes, and so forth. This is what makes science fiction science fiction after all. George Lucas' space opera is interesting precisely because it is not set in the Wild West or Mt. Olympus.

We turn imagined behavioral differences that the future might bring into entertainment, but when it actually arrives, we make sure the behavioral differences are minimized. The Field creates a suspension of potential disbelief.

So both futurism and science fiction are trapped in an always-unreal strange land that must always exist at a certain remove from the manufactured-to-be-familiar present. Much of present-moment science fiction and fantasy is in fact forced into parallel universe territory not because there are deep philosophical counterfactuals involved (a lot of Harry Potter magic is very functionally replicable by us Muggles) but because it would lose its capacity to stimulate. Do you really want to read about a newspaper made of flexible e-ink that plays black-and-white movies over WiFi? That sounds like a bad startup pitch rather than a good fantasy novel.

The Matrix was something of an interesting triumph in this sense, and in a way smarter than one of its inspirations, The Neuromancer, because it made Gibson's cyberspace co-incident with a temporally frozen reality-simulacrum.

But it  did not go far enough. The world of 1997 (or wherever the Matrix decided to hit ‘Pause') was itself never an experienced reality.

1997 never happened. Neither did 1500 in a way. What we did have was different stretched states of the Manufactured Normalcy Field in 1500 and 1997. If the Matrix were to happen, it would have to actually keep that stretching going.

 

Breathless

There is one element of the future that does arrive on schedule, uncensored. This is its emotional quality. The pace of change is accelerating and we experience this as Field-stretching anxiety.

But emotions being what they are, we cannot separate future anxiety from other forms of anxiety. Are you upset today because your boss yelled at you or because subtle cues made the accelerating pace of change leak into your life as a tear in the Field?

Increased anxiety is only one dimension of how we experience change. Another dimension is a constant sense of crisis (which has, incidentally, always prevailed in history).

A third dimension is a constant feeling of chaos held at bay (another constant in history), just beyond the firewall of everyday routine (the Field is everyday routine).

Sometimes we experience the future via a basic individual-level "it won't happen to me" normalcy bias. Things like SARS or dying in a plane crash are uncomprehended future-things (remember, you live in a manufactured reality that has been stretching since the fifteenth century)  that are nominally in our present, but haven't penetrated the Field for most of us. Most of us substitute probability for time in such cases. As time progresses, the long tail of the unexperienced future grows fatter. A lot more can happen to us in 2012 than in 1500, but we try to ensure that very little does happen.

The uncertainty of the future is about this long tail of waiting events that the Field hasn't yet digested, but we know exists out there, as a space where Bad Things Happen to People Like Me but Never to Me.

In a way, when we ask, is there a sustainable future, we are not really asking about fossil fuels or feeding 9 billion people. We are asking can the Manufactured Normalcy Field absorb such and such changes?

We aren't really tied to specific elements of today's lifestyles. We are definitely open to change. But only change that comes to us via the Field. We've adapted to the idea of people cutting open our bodies, stopping our hearts and pumping our blood through machines while they cut us up. The Field has digested those realities. Various sorts of existential anesthetics are an important part of how the Field is manufactured and maintained.

Our sense of impending doom or extraordinary potential have to do with the perceived fragility or robustness of the Field.

It is possible to slide into a sort of technological solipsism here and declare that there is no reality; that only the Field exists. Many postmodernists do exactly that.

Except that history repeatedly proves them wrong. The Field is distinct from reality. It can and does break down a couple of times in every human lifetime. We're coming off a very long period – since World War II – of Field stability. Except for a few poor schmucks in places like Vietnam, the Field has been precariously preserved for most of us.

When larger global Fields break, we experience "dark" ages. We literally cannot process change at all. We grope, waiting for an age when it will all make sense again.

So we could be entering a Dark Age right now, because most of us don't experience a global Field anymore. We live in tiny personal fields. We can only connect socially with people whose little-f fields are similar to ours.  When individual fields also start popping, psychic chaos will start to loom.

The scary possibility in the near future is not that we will see another radical break in the Field, but a permanent collapse of all fields, big and small.

The result will be a state of constant psychological warfare between the present and the future, where reality changes far too fast for either a global Field or a personal one to keep up. Where adaptation-by-specialization turns into a crazed, continuous reinvention of oneself for survival. Where the reinvention is sufficient to sustain existence financially, but not sufficient to maintain continuity of present-experience.  Instrumental metaphors will persist while appreciative ones will collapse entirely.

The result will be a world population with a large majority of people on the edge of madness, somehow functioning in a haze where past, present and future form a chaotic soup (have you checked out your Facebook feed lately?) of drunken perspective shifts.

This is already starting to happen. Instead of a newspaper feeding us daily doses of a shared Field, we get a nauseating mix of news from forgotten classmates, slogan-placards about issues trivial and grave, revisionist histories coming at us via a million political voices, the future as a patchwork quilt of incoherent glimpses, all mixed in with pictures of cats doing improbable things.

The waning Field, still coming at us through weakening media like television, seems increasingly like a surreal zone of Wonderland madness.

We aren't being hit by Future Shock. We are going to be hit by Future Nausea.  You're not going to be knocked out cold. You're just going to throw up in some existential sense of the word. I'd like to prepare. I wish some science fiction writers would write a few nauseating stories.

Welcome to the Future Nauseous.



For the record, I haven't read Sartre's novel ‘Nausea.' From Wikipedia, it seems vaguely related to my use of the term. I might read it. If somebody has read it, please help connect some dots here.

 

Image by jacilluch, courtesy of Creative Commons license.