We live in the future

My science-fiction-loving friends have often heard me claim that, if Robert Heinlein was alive today, he would be very upset with us for not having colonized the moon or other planets. I’m still pretty upset about it myself. Only a few hundred living humans have ever been in space, and the American media still looks disdainfully upon anyone willing to spend the time and money to go up with another country’s space shuttle.

Even the term itself is un-futuristic. “Space shuttle.” It sounds like a fancy name for the tram that takes you to the different parking lots at Disney.

But this week, I realized that we really do live in the future.

I personally live in the greater Atlanta, Ga., area, and we recently were held in the icy grip of a winter storm that cancelled school for a full week, left thousands stuck on their couches and not at work, and generally made people ecstatic for one day and morose for the next four.

Welcome to HothLanta

I happen to work for a company that provided me with a brand-new Macbook (as of November) and a way to access all the programs I need to do my job from literally anywhere with an internet connection. So, while thousands of my co-workers were stuck at home doing nothing, I got work done all week. I worked in my kitchen, I worked in my basement, I worked in my living room with my feet up. I stayed in contact with co-workers via instant messages, I took conference calls at my house, and I fulfilled dozens of work orders.

I couldn’t have done this ten years ago. But now, I live in the future.

For days, meteorologists used computer models to warn me the storm was coming. I got information from television, radio, and the internet. I was able to entertain my child using video games, movies, recorded television, and her very own computer (my four-year-old daughter has a laptop with a Linux install; that amazes me from time to time). I kept up on what other people were doing using Twitter and Facebook, and even got on board with the hashtag #hothlanta, creating a community amid a paralyzing storm system.

A century ago, if a storm had hit, I might not have known about it until it was too late, and I certainly wouldn’t have kept as busy as I did. But now, I live in the future.

Despite being trapped in my house, a prisoner to unsafe driving conditions, I still managed to cook and eat meals, stay in contact with my extended family, keep up with the latest news, complete my assigned work tasks, and even watch three full seasons of “The IT Crowd”.

When Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida (I lived there at the time), the only information we got was from the radio. After it passed, we had no idea when the power would be back on or if it was safe to leave our neighborhood. But this week I found out all those things before even putting on my jacket. Because I live in the future.

What really sealed it for me was this: on Thursday, I was working in my kitchen and wanted to listen to some music. Normally I’d put on last.fm or iTunes radio, but I only have a limited amount of bandwidth in the house. So I took out my iPad, activated the Remote app, and started playing music from my personal library. Without getting up off my ass, I controlled my personal laptop in the next room, told it what music to play and how loud, and within moments was enjoying, among other things, the London Symphony Orchestra performing the soundtrack to “Superman: the Movie”.

I live in the future. And as much as I complain, I kind of like it here.

I wonder what I’m going to do tomorrow.

Comments (2)

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  1. Mark Covington says:

    I’m glad you were able to be productive during your blizzard induced house arrest. Blizzards however don’t destroy much in the way of infrastructure, they just block transportation. Perhaps you might lose some water piping if you’re not prepared. While living through Hurricane Rita in Houston was quite minor compared to our neighbors in New Orleans with Katrina, we still had to deal with 6 days of no power, no internet, no hot water, and crowded cell networks. Weather forecasters gave us plenty of advance notice just like your blizzard. We had no idea when power would be restored and this was just a few years ago. I imagine not much has improved if a hurricane were to hit Florida again either. Radio would once again be your best source as power would again be knocked out and cell networks would likely be overwhelmed too.
    I wonder what your story above would look like if you’d lost power due to a snow covered tree snapping some power lines.
    I am glad you were able to stay busy and productive over there though, but I just don’t think we’ve come as far as you think.

    • Josh Roseman says:

      I agree that, had the storm caused hurricane-level damage, things would probably have been different for me and mine. Fortunately it seems like most of Georgia escaped serious injury and power loss. Interestingly, because there was no major damage, just a lot of inconvenience, I think more people navel-gazed and complained about boredom than is usual for an event like this. I think it has something to do with a cultural shift. Imagine how crazy things would’ve been if people hadn’t been able to post on each other’s Facebook walls about how horrible and boring it was to just sit inside with satellite television, furnaces, microwaves, and parents who had the foresight to buy enough food to make sure no one went hungry!