Stephen Baker

The Numerati
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How futuristic will the future be?

January 2, 2015Marketing the book


I got an email from a friend who just read my manuscript of the prequel to The Boost. The working title is Dark Site. For a story that takes place about 30 years from now, in 2044, he said, it had a few anachronisms.

Bandages, for example. When people get a brain chip, or "boost," implanted above their right temple, they have that patch of scalp shaved and the incision covered with a small bandage. The bandage signals that a person has passed to this new order--from wild to enhanced--and is probably still struggling to master the brain-machine interface (or even to find the computer in his or her head).

But who will wear bandages in 2044? Won’t there be membranes that cover the skin, breathe like skin, and decompose over time, either blending into the skin or flaking off like dandruff? Could be, I thought. So I switched bandages to “patches.” I’ll leave it up to readers to figure out for themselves how advanced those patches are. (an example)

I also had my characters pick up groceries at a supermarket on Columbia Road in Washington (the same Safeway I used to shop at in the ‘80s). I knew this sounded outmoded as I wrote it. My friend agrees. So I’ll have them order more food. (It’s too bad, because excursions onto the street are good chances for the characters--and readers--to get some fresh air, and run into people.)

Try as I might to fish out anachronisms from the future, part of me is in rebellion. The future, as I see it, invariably carries a lot of the past. Look around you today. How much of what you see could have been there 30 years ago, in early 1985? From where I’m sitting, lots of elements could be from '85--the moccasins, the coffee cup, the lamp, the fan. Much is the same. And some things, like the flat-screened TV, are mere upgrades. But there are a few differences, like the Nexus tablet playing Lee Morgan on a Sonos Wi-Fi speaker.

The point is, some things change, but lots don’t. So I’ll yank the supermarkets from the prequel, just to be on the safe side. But if I make it to 2044, I won’t be surprised if I’m still wandering through frigid produce sections.


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