As a kid I never expected to see the year 2000. Especially just before the end of the Cold War, when it seemed like the stalemate with the U.S.S.R. would continue for millennia, and knowing that the missile base just miles from our house was a prime target for a nuclear strike.*
My lack of expectations for the new century were so low, particularly when you add in the vague but ominous threat posed by Y2K, that I remember saying goodbye before going to bed early on December 31, 1999. I fully expected that whatever came next would be in a new, different world. I woke up in the dark of the early morning on January 1, 2000, surprised that death didn’t look much different than life had, and then further surprised that the world hadn’t ended, that Chinese and old Soviet missiles had not struck Japan, where I was living at the time, when their controller computers failed (an event that appears to never have happened – maybe the old communist programmers were smart enough to avoid the kinds of programming shortcuts that resulted in the whole Y2K disaster).
I think that the morning of Y2K may have been the start of a new world for me – one that I hadn’t expected would exist. Because the world was supposed to end before the year 2000 (at least that was how I thought it in my head), I hadn’t expected that I would really have to plan for my future, that I would never have a chance to finish college or have a career, because I would only be 20 at the end of the world.
Apparently, these were all the same feelings that were shared by the captains of our global science-industrial complex, the ones responsible for making the things that make the future. Today is Marty McFly day. But it is a very special Marty McFly day. As you have doubtless seen all across the Internet today, October 21, 2015 was the date that Marty and company went forward, riding in a flying Delorean, into the future in the movie Back to the Future II. In that movie, we are introduced to all of the great things that the future has to offer – flying cars, self-lacing shoes, sweet futuristic 80s clothes, instant biofuel, and most importantly: hoverboards.
So my question on this High Holy Day of geekdom is this:** Where is my hoverboard? What have the captains of industry been doing the last 25+ years? Did they believe, like me, that there never would be a year 2000, let alone a year 2015? Did they think that there would be no reckoning and that no one would think to ask them what they had been up to instead of creating our future, all the while that our future was slowly creeping up on us?
It seems to me that perhaps this recent fascination with all things vintage and retro (think the hipster styles that are the very image of rockabilly) is just a cover by science and industry, a distraction, to keep us looking backwards so that nobody ever realizes that nobody was looking forward. If you can’t have the future in your future, just fill it with the past?
Whatever the answer, I guess I will have to make do for now with my trusty longboard and hope for a future of our future where hoverboards really are a thing.***
*It really is true that I never expected the world to continue past the year 2000
**It is not really true that I blame industry alone for the lack of future in our future – there are so many awesome things in 2015 that go beyond even what was imagined in back to the Future II. Internet, smart phones, stuffed-crust pizza, no long distance on calls in North America (depending on your service plan). Life isn’t too bad. It just isn’t very futury.
*** And by I thing, I don’t mean those fake hoverboards that have to run on a super special track with super magnets underneath. I’m talking about hoverboards. That hover.