Space 1999 lied to me
When I was at school a careers guidance teacher asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. ‘I want to be an astronaut’, I replied. ‘Oh great’ he must have thought, ‘another accountant’.
Each time I sit in a traffic jam, crawling along, head slumped on my elbow, rain lashing against the window, I imagine how nice it will be in the future when we’re all racing around in our floating cars or being beamed around like e-mail. The only thing that cheers me up is imagining someone a few hundred years from now, slumped on his elbows, rain lashing against a spaceship window waiting for some queue in hyperspace to clear. Then I think of someone a few hundred years in the past, sitting in a cramped, uncomfortable carriage, waiting for a change of horses, and I remember: nothing ever really changes.
The frustrations of travel aside, what else never really changes through the ages?
Never being happy with what we’ve got; compared with our ancestors we should be ecstatic, living longer and with so much entertainment it’s almost impossible to be bored. But we don’t seem to be. The more comfortable we become, the less contented we seem to get. There’s something in us that always wants more and wonders what’s next.
Other people; wherever my bored future-traveller might be going, whatever exotic planet or adventure, I can guarantee you it won’t be as interesting to him as the people he’ll be with when he gets there, and the things they get up to together.
Talking is important, but quite tricky; for a species that used language to get as far as it has, we are surprisingly bad at communicating with each other. I sometimes wonder if in the future there will be some mechanism for sharing precisely what’s going on in our minds with other people, without having to form it into words, use body language or rely on some other medium, such as writing. Then I imagine how terrible it would be if everyone I met knew exactly what I thought about them. Such a device would need some sort of filtering, and so we’d be back with the age-old problem of how to communicate with each other.
Someone will always be top dog; if something is sufficiently important to you, you will lead. The thing to understand about alpha types is that their desire is stronger than yours. They are prepared to sacrifice more, work harder, and take more risks in order to achieve what they want. It doesn’t matter if it’s deciding what to watch on telly, or running a global business. Thank God too. It’s probably right that the people who care most are given the first shot at getting things done.
If you want to know what life will be like in the future, I can tell you. It will be exactly like life today.