Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.
The West used to believe in something: wacky technology
We were promised flying cars, but we settled for a golden age of potato chips.
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This is the future we’ve been waiting for, and man, is it disappointing.
We spent decades watching feature packages on the nightly news that breathlessly fawned over robots from Japan and cars with abstract design concepts like see-through tires and free will. Yet I still have to take out my own garbage.
(The dog robots were, I think, a mistake. Who wants something with none of the physical ability of a dog, a third as much charm, and one battery too many? If the death of a family dog is traumatic, imagine the emotional havoc of one that powers down mid-walk.)
There are plenty of marvellous things about this present world. Nothing but good things can be said of the explosion of potato chip flavours. Entire families have been saved from misadventure and divorce by never having to open a paper map thanks to GPS. Hosannas should be sung to the twin saviours of Google and Apple for sparing countless dinner parties or meetings from devolving into terminal awkwardness through the misapplication of facts.
So, yes, there is a great deal of good by our present technological standards. I am bad enough at texting to know that I would have been a terrible letter writer.
But what happened to all the cool gadgets and experiences we were supposed to have? Why did the end of the space race mean that hover boots are no longer necessary? The Russians may no longer be the enemy (well, maybe; stay tuned), but why does that mean my house cannot casually greet me when I return home via the Tube — that is, a tube that digitally transports humans?
I understand the Cold War was a scary time. Nuclear destruction lurked, spies were everywhere, and the hopes of nations rested on their children’s ability to learn math. But we in the West were working towards something at least. America was perfecting the school bully routine that would make it both the beloved high school quarterback of the last half-century and the current hustling salesman for a declining corporation (“Slide joyfully into crushing death. Go. With Visa.”)
Canada was right alongside, auditioning for the role of high school sweetheart by softening squabbles, making peace where possible, and being a laid back, less athletic Australia. Australia reached peak whiteness by getting very good at cricket, rugby, surfing and marginalizing aboriginal people. And the Europeans pulled slowly out of post-war penury and straight into state-sponsored vacationing. As a group, we flourished.
And then we didn’t. Neofascism in Europe, Brexit, Trump, whatever is probably going wrong in Australia: Something seems to have gone terribly wrong in the West and I, for one, blame the fact that my crossword app drains my phone battery.