[artlessly], sans edits; in the thematic style of Tim Maughan’s Zero Hours [cited below]
It’s 2028-10-10, A Tuesday, the day after Monday.
My house is seventy five years old at this point. We’ve got some new additions, some internal rebuilding, but the main part of the house is still as it ever was from the remodel back in the oughties. That means that some things “work” and some parts are warped and odd-shaped. The robots haven’t really materialized to deal with this sort of thing. New-built townhomes have that sort of thing. But they have no space, no land and outrageous HOA fees. Suburbia is as it ever was. Gardening is still gardening; the water still comes in pipes. Cooking is still cooking; the fuel still comes in pipes. Garbage has to be trucked way far south to a landfill beyond Gilroy, so lots of care happens to reduce that. The good food still comes in stores. But if you’re looking for bulk food, canned food, processed food, you can just order that. You still can’t try that with the fruits & vegetables: they ship you the seconds still in a 4-hr window (nothing ever changes does it?). Shopping pretty much works as: if you know what you want, you order it and they deliver it. If it can’t be specified or it has subtle acceptance criteria, then you have to go get it.
It’s Tuesday. I watched MNF last night. They still have Monday Night Football, but it isn’t tied to a network, it’s produced and broadcast directly from the NFL studios, delivered OTT to the 90″ display in the living room. The NFL found a way to make the concussion problem reduce to a dull roar, somewhat similar to how hockey dealt with goalies getting their faces cut up by the puck before they were required to wear face masks. The games are in an a la carte format which is great, but there are no more DVRs. “They” finally cracked down hard on commercial skipping (no more TiVo, no more +15 second skip-forward easter egg). It’s difficult to watch in real time. The screens are bigger, lighter and better nowadays, but the content is crypto-sealed on every wire and at rest. You can’t build your own either, not really. Folks who do that don’t for long. They wind up on a list. HDCP finally locked down everything. You can “video on demand” but it’s really more of a “video upon supplication” not so much watching something you manage from your library. Governments are glacially slow to respond to this sort of thing, but this is one thing they do care deeply about: media copy protection.
Voice commanding is feasible for most interfaces, everything has microphones in it. The cars had it since 2014; always on OnStar they called it. The city streets got FTTH and also ubiquitous microphones in the fiber during the same trenching operation. Depending upon the part of the city, from in the early 2020s onward. Stanford campus had theirs city-scale microphones installed 2017-04; it worked well enough they installed it everywhere. It was like the Eruv debate, but less contentious. Every conversation, everywhere is recorded, indexed and available to someone.
Cameras in everything, except in the cameras. Positioning and naming things isn’t a problem any more. Things got better once the large displays became contactable from the local area. One gets so tired of squinting at a 4″ screen.
And recorded in the national-scale DVR; always and forever. Every stream, every image, indexed and available to someone.
The kids are long gone and into their graduate school times. We see them a few times a year. The older generation of the family has been gone for a while now, we’re the oldsters. It’s been clear the generations are turning for a decade now. Been having the same conversation with friends & colleagues with regularity: what happened to mom, what happened to dad; the kids launched, or didn’t, or (ahem) still haven’t.
I’m still working, and it’s been to be fun for the past decade. More of a “because I can” than “because I must.” We had this joke back in the day which ran:
Q: “what do you do”?
A: “nobody knows”
It was at once flippant, elitist and totally accurate. They tell the kids in B-school “if it can be measured, it can be managed,” and they can pretty much measure anything these days. Sensors and recordation in everything. The kid and the new hires have a harder time with it, until they figure out how to compartementalize.
We would be presumptively retired at this age, but the SSI folk keep moving the standard retirement age up so now “seventy five is the new sixty five.” They never reduced stated benefits or raised taxes. Just that one knob. Fun stuff.
Taxes are about the same except the governments got around to “going digital” on that part of the executive branch. Every transaction is transparent with AML and KYC laws being enforced unto minutia. They don’t compute your tax and send you the bill, they take it at the appointed time or withhold it prior to you receiving it. It’s convenient, but doesn’t leave a lot of room for creativity. Those who owned real estate and were creatively depreciating their assets against their tax liabilities to pay no tax were really unhappy; and still are. Big corporations still use transfer pricing for this sort of thing.
People still drive too many cars for the size of the roads, the government still doesn’t maintain the roads enough. I have an electric car now. I will have replaced it. Still have the Avalanche for long trips and camping though. The Suburban base model still exists but it has various power train options: diesel, gas, voltec, pure electric.
What’s happened in the decade is not a Great Stagnation, but a focus on smoothening out the little things. There are so many things that no longer need to happen: paying bills, paying taxes (sure, you still pay, death & taxes, right? but the reconciliation is enforced automatically). There is less standing in line waiting for someone at minimum-wage to validate that you aren’t stealing. There are no more teenage jobs, or Gen-Z starter jobs, but also no more waiting. Except in New Jersey. You still have to have someone pump your gas for you. It’s a graft thing. Come to think of it there’s lots of other little ways that the graft occurs. But it’s spread out and done on a time scale and across spaces where the Taylorists can’t comprehend or measure it.
I once asked someone, an éminence grise in his field, what he thought of the news of the day in-trade and in general. His response was that he no longer considers the news. He’s just as likely to hear that someone he knew has died or fallen somehow, so he no longer considers broadly across the events of the day. He focuses his time and effort on fewer things.
- The Annoying Everyday Drags on the Economy; Joe Queenan; In The Wall Street Journal (WSJ); 2017-07-22.
Teaser: Americans collectively waste billions of dollars a year overpaying for parking. That’s only the beginning
- Eric Rodenbeck (Stamen Design); Big Glass Microphone is a data visualization of a 5km long fiber optic cable buried underneath Stanford University; In Their Blog, hosted on Medium; 2017-05-15; separately filled.
- Tim Maughan; Zero Hours; In His Blog, syndicated on Medium; 2013-09-19.
Tim Maughan, scrivener; opera; separately filled (embargoed through 2017-07-25).
- The Eruv Question: An Unorthodox Debate; Palo Alto History (.org); through 2007.
Please free-write (no editing or polishing required) a short journal entry for yourself, that begins: “It’s October 10, 2026….” Think about the age of yourself (remember, you’re 10 years older!), and your loved ones, in 2026 as you write this, and what may have changed by then. If you have no idea what to write about, think about something you’re excited to do or looking forward to in the next month — and then write about what it might be like to try to do that thing in the year 2026.
- What are you excited about today?
- What is your biggest worry?
- Who are you seeing?
- What are you doing for work?
- What are you doing for pleasure?
- What’s happening at home?
- Will you be able to?
- What would be different about it?
- What would make it impossible to do that thing?
- What would you do instead that will fulfill the same drive or desire?