First off, fuck the apocalypse and everybody who predicts it. There's always an apocalypse somewhere, and our pop culture's obsession with an America ruined by war/disease/starvation basically boils down to, "Can you imagine if the shit that's constantly happening in the Third World happened to us?" There's somebody out there living the social breakdown of The Walking Dead right now. Only instead of zombies, it's some warlord's death squads, and a crossbow won't do shit.
No, this article is about the future, but isn't about the apocalypse or a dystopia -- this isn't about killer robots (which we already have!) or a looming American police state. You've seen all that shit in movies. This is about the super weird changes that are coming in your lifetime that Hollywood doesn't seem to care about.
Semi-related note: My new novel about cybernetic super-criminals and shit is out right now!
#5. You'll Eat Bugs (And You'll Like It)
If you found a cockroach in your cereal, your whole year would be ruined. We have such a physical revulsion to bugs that the above headline probably sounds like a threat: "In the future, food will be so scarce that you'll scarf down a grasshopper! You know, right after cooking and eating your own diiiiick!"
Chad Zuber/iStock/Getty Images
"I wish my kids were here to witness this, but I ate them out of desperation first."
But I've already told you this isn't about making you afraid of a nightmare future. I'm saying that bugs will slip seamlessly into our diets the same way high fructose corn syrup did, only this time the world will be much better for it. I'm going to prove it to you in five steps. Ready?
A) You already eat bugs; you just don't know it. The strawberry flavoring in your milkshake/yogurt/smoothie contains crushed insects -- specifically this guy, the Dactylopius coccus:
It's a type of beetle that creates a nice red dye when ground up, and food companies have been using it as a natural food coloring for as long as anybody can remember (note: If you see "cochineal" on the label, that's ground-up beetle). You didn't mind, because you didn't know it was there. And in the future they'll come up with some other name for the ground-up cricket meat in your burger. See, that's the thing -- when I said "eating bugs" earlier, you imagined shoving a writhing praying mantis into your mouth. But you wouldn't eat a chicken that way -- there's a bunch of shit they do to it at the factory first. It'll be fine. "But," you say, "anyone would puke the moment they saw the cockroach farm where their 'food' is being grown!" To which I respond: Ever been inside a slaughterhouse?
B) It's the only way to feed the world meat without permanently ruining the environment. I don't know if you've noticed this, but bugs seriously don't give a shit -- they can pretty much live anywhere and eat anything. They breed like crazy even when we're desperately trying to kill them. So, with the same amount of resources, insects will produce about 800 percent more meat than beef and generate a fraction of the greenhouse gases. It doesn't seem like there's much "meat" on an insect, but for instance 80 percent of a grasshopper is edible as opposed to only 40 percent of a cow. They're boneless!
And they go great in pie.
C) They're healthier to eat. Per calorie, a cricket has 40 percent more protein than beef and 40 percent less fat. Your rebuttal is probably, "But what does that matter if it tastes like shit? Or rather, tastes like a bug, since most people would rather eat shit than a cricket?" But consider that ...
D) About 2 billion people already happily eat insects. In Mexico, the only reason they don't eat more grasshoppers (chapulines) is because they can't afford them -- demand is so high that grasshoppers cost more than beef or pork. They're trying to scale up production as we speak (right now they don't farm the insects so much as try to go out and catch them -- you can imagine what a pain in the ass that is, people running round with nets and shit).
E) Visceral disgust is something humans get over pretty easily. Remember that these huge, disgusting insect-like monsters ...
... used to be so revolting to people that they were fed to the poor and prisoners. Lobsters used to wash up on the beaches in big, gross, smelly heaps, the giant, red, mutant cockroaches of the ocean. Now you'll pay $40 for that ugly bastard. This:
Is meat stuffed into a tube that used to be filled with a pig's actual shit. And it's fine; we rinse it out and stuff it full of ground-up entrails and spices and eat it in the parking lot of a football stadium. Someday, you'll just as happily eat a sausage made of mealworms. I think 80 percent of you don't believe me (I actually left the bug-eating bit out of my book because I thought readers would immediately treat it as a horror novel) and that's fine -- if you can't get over it, your kids and grandkids will. That's because humans adapt. That's what we're good at.
#4. At Some Point, Lying Will Become Impossible
Chris Jackson/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
I have a question for any children who might be reading this: Do you still have that "Liar Kid" at your school? I and everyone I know had at least one in our class, the kid who'd just make up grandiose bullshit for no purpose. He'd claim he found a shark swimming in the creek near his house, or that his uncle was a stunt man who played the yellow Power Ranger -- just a font of name-drops and fascinating anecdotes, all of which were pulled straight out of his asshole.
I ask because, well, how can that kid exist today? A trip to Google on your iPhone would disprove all of those things in five seconds.
"OK, you say your dad beat up Steven Seagal at a club in Bangkok? What was the exact date?
I'm just going to check to see if he was in the country at the time."
It's a whole personality type that would presumably be put out of business by modern technology. You know, the same as how the sleazy used car salesman is facing extinction for the same reason -- anyone with an Internet connection can find out what a car is actually worth. So who else is about to see their dishonest house of cards come tumbling down?
How about sex offenders? Or just the dude who goes on vacation and hits the clubs pretending he doesn't have a wife and three kids back home? Sure, right now it might be considered rude to do a background check on a dude while he's sitting on the next bar stool offering you a ride on his yacht, but soon all of that will be done automatically, on the fly. Google Glass failed because it looked stupid and didn't work, but the general concept -- the ability to instantly make key information pop up right in front of your eyeball -- is inevitable. Facial recognition will scan everyone you encounter, a little pop-up box letting you know that dude not only isn't an Internet millionaire but is a fugitive known to the police as "The Key West Disemboweler." If a search doesn't raise any red flags but he still seems generally dishonest, that's OK -- they'll have software that will watch his facial movements and tone of voice to see if he's telling the truth.
Now let's pause for a moment to appreciate how that little advancement will utterly change interpersonal relations in a way that's almost too profound to comprehend.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"Now, when you say the porn on your computer must have been 'put there by a hacker' ..."
I mean, I don't know if you've really stopped to think about it, but lies are kind of what make civilization possible. Try to get through just one day without A) lying or B) intentionally withholding information and/or spinning the truth -- see how long it takes you to ruin every relationship in your life. "Honey, you said you liked your Christmas present, but TruthApp says your eye movements indicate a 99.96 percent chance of falsehood. Now tell me you love me; I want to watch your face this time ..." Oh, and just wait until your kids are old enough to use it, and ask you which child is your favorite.
Some of you have already lived long enough to see how, for instance, it's gotten way harder to lie at work. If you're a professional driver, you don't stop at a bar on the way and claim you got stuck in traffic -- they're using GPS to track your vehicle and (if you have a company-issued phone in your pocket) your body at all times. Work at a warehouse and miss your quota for the day, don't bother claiming you got sidetracked by another project or had "equipment problems" -- they're literally tracking your every footstep; they know you're dragging your ass. Some companies have developed sensors for employees that "identify a person's tone of voice, movement, and even their posture when communicating with others." Awesome! You've never gotten angry at a co-worker, right? Or gossiped behind someone's back?
Siri Stafford/DigitalVision/Getty Images
"Hi, Janet! When you get a chance would you kindly take a moment
to eat my shit? Thanks!"
Of course, that's not even mentioning the obvious: cameras, cameras everywhere. It's legal for companies to record you everywhere but in the bathroom, and the law isn't even completely settled on that. And don't bother lying about what you did away from work, either; Facebook has developed software that can search every photo on the Internet for your face. "Steve, it's come to corporate's attention that you were at a party this weekend in which drugs were being consumed. As you can see, you're plainly visible in the background of this Instagram photo here, between the man with the bong and the chimpanzee wearing a bra. Now, as you know, the company has strict policies about employee conduct when in public ..."
Yeah, those last two words are going to come up a lot -- your concept of what counts as "in public" is going to change radically over the next couple decades. But that just brings us to the fact that ...
#3. Your Genitals Will Be For Public Consumption
Jason Merritt/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
And I don't mean this in a good way. Regular readers know that I had a nude video leak to celebrity site TMZ, who has yet to publish it even though I've continued to "leak" it to them over email every few days since June. I've just decided that this is where the world is going, so I need to get ahead of it.
After all, these days when an Internet privacy issue surfaces, it's met mostly with a few alarmist blog posts and then a collective yawn -- like when it came out that Windows 10 literally logs your every keystroke and sends the data back to headquarters. "Eh, I'm sure it'll be fine." The only way these breaches make headlines is if they include A) photos/video of a famous naked person or B) a famous person saying something racist.
And when nude photos of a bunch of celebrities leaked recently, it was interesting to see the sharp divide in the reactions. Anyone older than, say, 25 seemed to be in disbelief that these people would have ever taken a naked photo of themselves, on any device, ever. Among those younger than 25, well, somewhere between 70 percent and 90 percent have themselves sent a lewd photo or message of some kind. In just a few years that practice went from "Clearly the work of a depraved exhibitionist who needs some kind of therapy" to "Standard rule of dating for everyone but prudish weirdos." That means that at some point we will hit what experts don't call the Dick Pic Singularity: the point at which everyone will have nude photos or video of themselves on the Internet, and it just won't be seen as a big deal. We will all be nudists.
Are you repulsed by that? As repulsed as you were by the concept of eating bugs earlier? Because it's the same deal -- either you'll get over it or your kids will.
"Huh, back in his day Grandpa was quite the fuckboi."
I can tell you firsthand that I've seen just as big a change in my lifetime. I grew up way back in the day when your teenage poetry, gossip, and horrible thoughts went in a locked diary that you kept hidden under your mattress. These days, it goes on Tumblr or YouTube for 3 billion Internet users to view if they so desire. Growing up, I was trained to be self-conscious on camera; today, my computer, phone, and television all have cameras that watch me back while I use them. We're all "in public," all the time, and that's just the way it is.
And you know how they're pushing to put body cameras on police, to make sure they're not shooting dudes just for the hell of it? Don't be surprised when they put body cameras on servers at restaurants, to make sure they're being polite to customers, and soon after that, body cameras on everyone. In that book that I keep linking to, I speculate that these will become standard, everyday gear, not because some oppressive government is making us but because we want to. Just, stream it all -- stream everything. Whatever need for privacy we once had, we've decided the need for the approval of an audience is greater.
"I'm leaving you. It's not you or me; my viewers just think you're boring."
So, these days when somebody gets fired because they were secretly recorded saying something awful in the privacy of their own home (as Hulk Hogan was), we don't worry about the "secret recording" aspect at all. "Hey, if they didn't want their employer hearing them say it, then they shouldn't have said it! Even in private, at home!" But are you sure you want that to be the rule, that everything you do is for public consumption? If you're reading this as a defense of telling racist jokes, let me ask you:
Do you like your job?
If not, do you ever vent about it?
Because you can say goodbye to that -- no employer is going to keep you on the payroll if you complain about what a shitty company it is in public (where "in public" now means "in your own home, near a microphone you didn't know was recording"). Now think about the secretly atheist kid in a religious family who now has to self-censor every conversation for fear of it getting out. Or the closeted gay/trans teenager, or the secret revolutionary in an iron-fisted dictatorship. Even if you rid your own life of cameras and microphones (which itself will tag you as a reclusive weirdo), you'll be surrounded by strangers who have their own.
altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images
And if you complain about how back in your day kids weren't obsessed with documenting
their lives, everyone will know.
At my first job out of college, the guideline was, "Never put anything into an email you wouldn't want to see on the front page of the New York Times." You are, they said, creating an electronic record of your words, and the mere existence of that record gives anyone an automatic right to publish it. Well, in an era when every conversation creates an electronic record, you can amend the rule: Instead of, "Never put anything too controversial into an email," it'll be, "Never say anything too controversial out loud." Unless, of course, we stand up and demand the right to not automatically lose our livelihood just because we got upset and said some stupid shit one time.
In other words, this doesn't have to be part of our future unless we let it. Which just leads me to the fact that ...