5 Uncomfortable Truths About Our High-Tech Future No One Wants To Talk About
We all love technology, as much as we might like to pretend that we’re all on the cusp of retiring to a cabin in the woods. You can bemoan the incessant pressure of notifications and constant connectivity and what it’s doing to our brains, but when push comes to shove, you’re probably doing it on Twitter. If people really wanted to leave the Matrix, the Apple Watch, literally a notification funnel people pay to strap to their wrist, wouldn’t be a massive success. We like to think we’re Neo, but we’re basically a whole population of Cyphers, enjoying our electronic steak. Plus, if you really went all Thoreau and dropped off the grid completely, well, you’re not reading this. (Unless you have some weird setup where a bird brings you new Cracked articles in a small capsule — in which case, thank you for your support.)
But as much as tech has already taken over our lives, each exciting new development carries with it a pretty terrifying specter of the future that we all secretly know we’ll eventually accept as the price of doing business. Along those lines, here are five horrifying things that could be on the horizon…
This one’s barely in the future at all, with New York recently becoming the 6th state to approve it. Look, there’s a whole lot of people on Earth, there will only be more and just because they keep dying doesn’t mean their meat bits disappear. There’s only so much space up top for the living, and only so much space down below for the dead. It almost makes sense that New York would be early to approve this, with regards to New York City. In a city where a couple hundred square feet can cost a couple thousand dollars, a graveyard is basically a lot full of forever ghost squatters.
So why not make some use of the discarded shells of consciousness to enrich the land they grew up on? Sure, we’d like to think we’re too special to decompose like a raccoon corpse under leaf litter, but we’re made of the same stuff. How horrifying this is really depends on your own spiritual beliefs. If you take emotion out of it, swapping dead people’s blood with formaldehyde just to cry in front of them doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Is a future as wonderful, nutrient rich soil really such a bad fate? It works just about how you’d think: A body is buried in compost and, once you can’t tell nana from the wood chips, you’re left with a cubic yard of soil brimming with potential.
Drinking Recycled Urine
That the world is running out of water seems like the sort of thing you’d hear a very dehydrated Chicken Little scream. Unfortunately, water scarcity is very real and is only going to get worse. People living in California, hardly an undeveloped country, are well aware of the value of limited water, and even if they’re not “rationing” it, they are tightly monitoring its usage.
The solution might already exist, featured in two very different places — space, and the movie Dodgeball. Now, Patches O’Houlihan’s stated preference seems to be, as he freely admits, more of an enjoyment thing, and untreated piss is not a good substitute for water. NASA and its astronauts, though, have literally turned piss drinking into a science. Space is dry. Famously so. As such, when humans, known for their deep need for water, are sent up there, they need to make the most of it. Scott Kelly demonstrated this by drinking 730 liters of recycled urine (and boring old sweat) during a year in space.
Right up there with flying cars in the sci-fi handbook is the idea of a computer linked into our brains, allowing us to access the entirety of the information accessible to humankind at a moment’s notice. Or as technology inevitably ends up leading to, letting us jerk off in a new, weird way. So how far off are we from looking like a character from Cyberpunk 2047? (At least, one of the characters that actually load in.) Based on Elon Musk’s Neuralink experiments on monkeys, unless your vision of the future is you biting off your own fingers, we’ve got a ways to go.
But even if they manage to get the alleged self-mutilation issue under control, there’s plenty more to be afraid of, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see why. Connect your body to the internet? THIS internet? That makes keeping a scanned JPEG of your Social Security card on your desktop seem shrewd. Cybersecurity expert Jason Lau doesn’t have a particularly sunny outlook either. Sure, you can play Doom on the back of your eyelids, but you can also be hacked like your Facebook account, left walking up to your friends glassy-eyed and awkwardly starting conversations about discount Ray-Bans.
If you aren’t already paranoid about your entire apartment being able to hear you at all times, this should help. Technology that’s able to take recorded samples of a human’s voice and replicate it in eerie fashion is progressing quickly. In this video from Bloomberg, you can almost see the moment on the host’s face, hearing his A.I.-generated vocal doppelganger, where this goes from a fun segment to a moment of existential horror. Sure, it sounds a little grainy and weird, but I bet it’s more than enough to convince someone, like a bank, that they’re talking to you over a spotty cell connection.
Couple this with how quickly deep-fake technology is moving, and a whole lot of “oh no” starts to percolate in your brainpan. You haven’t truly been gaslit until you’ve been gaslit by your own voice.
Cryonics Upkeep Questions
Cryonics. The source of cool tubes hissing open in sci-fi movies by the hundreds. The idea that a body can be frozen, consciousness intact, for years or centuries, only to be thawed out in the future when new medical advancements have been made. Now, we don’t have any humans successfully off ice, but there are over 250 people at this very moment, frozen in tanks, rock-solid eyeballs looking toward the future. Obviously, we don’t know how this story ends, but we can do a not-totally-fun little thought experiment.
What I wonder is, who’s paying those frozen folks’ tube rent? Who’s covering the electric bills on their personal icebox? I have to imagine a cryopreservation facility isn’t exactly EnergyStar certified, and if you’re getting frozen, it’s probably not for a college gap year, but at least a couple decades. So what happens if you’re not worth keeping cold? After all, if there’s any value to their word, you are still in there somewhere. Do you wake up floating on a personal iceberg made of your bottom half in the ocean somewhere? Or do they do the humane thing and take a sledgehammer to your frosty remains like a big brother working out some issues on his sibling’s snowman?
If something’s pitched as a long-term solution, I’m gonna need some long-term assurances.