Living in the future

There’s a good interview with the writer Warren Ellis in the Paris Review. In it he talks about many things, not least the future of cities:

When I have my pessimistic head on, I think that everyone can see the future of cities coming down the road, and the people who will be able to afford to live in the secured arcology-like communities are just as afraid of it as the people who’ll be outside, wandering around in failing infrastructure and wondering exactly when the social contract dissolved.

I’m a huge admirer of Ellis for the way he thinks; like Russell Davies, who I esteem equally, he has a way of considering things that don’t seem at all obvious until he says them.  One of the most inspiring passages I’ve read in many years came from Ellis’ keynote address to the Improving Reality conference:

Understand that our present time is the furthest thing from banality. Reality as we know it is exploding with novelty every day. Not all of it’s good. It’s a strange and not entirely comfortable time to be alive. But I want you to feel the future as present in the room. I want you to understand, before you start the day here, that the invisible thing in the room is the felt presence of living in future time, not in the years behind us.

Those sentences came to mind today as I remembered this: we live in a world where I can speak out loud to a computer and tell it I want to go to a specified destination, and my house can detect when I’m leaving and send a driverless car around to pick me up and take me there, and lock itself up securely after I’ve left.

All of this technology exists; it’s just not joined up yet. It’s the stuff of science fiction, yet because it came piecemeal we tend to treat it as fairly unexceptional. But sometimes I remember that we’re living in an amazing future, and it renders me momentarily awestruck.