The future is bright, unfortunately

Reading books is a wonderful thing, and something no one seems to do as much as they want, myself included.

Imagine if we read things the way we eat.

“Oh gosh, you know, I think I will have just one more chapter. I’ll read a little less tomorrow to make up for it.”

(I suppose in this world, McDonalds would peddle flash fiction instead of hamburgers. And “chicken.”)

I read more when I was younger, not classics but you know, the juvenile sword and sorcery fantasy books, and science fiction. You can only read the latest reinterpretation of “The Lord of the Rings” so many times, so I dumped fantasy, but to this day, sci-fi is still entertaining.

It’s very fun to see how people imagined the future would be like. Sci-fi almost never really cares what the future will be like; it’s just talking about the present through allegory. But there often is some legitimate guesswork going on, and it’s helpful to remember nothing turns out the way we think that logically it’s going to.

Those old sci-fis from the ‘60s and ‘70s of course usually include the Soviet Union lasting at least the next 100 years (some of the more forward-looking ones include China, too). But, we didn’t get space travel. Arthur C. Clarke’s and Stanley Kubrick’s vision of 2001 seemed quite plausible for years after the book and film were made, but it didn’t happen. (Blame Nixon.)

Instead electronics soared off, and that’s probably for the best for us, if not our grandchildren still stuck here. Most of us would never be able to afford a trip to the moon or Mars, but we can all afford cell phones, which have changed our lives to the point we may as well start referring to ourselves “born again.”

Don’t get the wrong idea. Having an iPhone isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship. Sometimes a very abusive relationship, usually quite unhealthy, but always a give and take.

I used not to think I’d need a cell phone. But here I am now, spending hours staring at the light in my palm that lets me gaze out the small window into the wider world and communicate nearly instantly with people in every part of the world (except, of course, most of Jeff Davis or Pecos counties).

And this may be another reason we don’t read as much as we’d like. Ray Bradbury told us this would happen in “Fahrenheit 451.”

Now, Bradbury is a jerk and can’t still decide whether he was writing about censorship (he was) or the distraction of new media (he was). The book-burning firemen plot is so silly the book nearly doesn’t work, but everything else about it is deliciously portending, isn’t it?

His “seashells” will actually be here in about five years when they get rid of the cords for iPods and let you fit the earbuds in directly. Televisions continue to grow nearly to the size of walls, and when our new Google or Apple overlords integrate the Internet into them, it’ll be exactly what Bradbury described, and surpassed with smartphones and tablets. The musty smell of bookshelves will go away, replaced with bright screens, everywhere all the time.

And that’s the good news: digital information is too prolific to be effectively censored. If I can’t vacation on the moon, no one can stop me from reading at any time pretty much any book ever written.

And I will, just as soon as I’m not so busy, and beat this level of Angry Birds.

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