“Microsoft has bought Skype, and today, Google is launching a system for us to store songs in the cloud” is one of those sentences that tells you when exactly you are located in time.
If someone had said this a scant eight centuries ago, I would have been absolutely convinced that the wizards were battling it out again. “We must shelter in the West,” I would have hissed to my family, gathering our belongings and the goats and gazing off, steely-eyed, into the distance where the fires were rising.
But instead it’s something of a letdown.
Microsoft is going to embed Skype on the Kinect game console and Windows Live, creating a seamless web of connectivity and interactivity and other buzzwords that will allow us to watch each other, all the time, everywhere, just like Skynet! The trouble is, most of the time, no one is doing anything worth watching. I once tried to set up Skynet for my neighborhood, but except for a 30-second window when my neighbor gazed out his bathroom window and looked like he was either constipated or thinking about Sartre, it was so boring that I had to give it up. Besides, Skynet needs market penetration! Windows has been known to drop below 90 percent market share, and people with Windows Phones are currently rarer than the Yeti and less welcome in polite society. To think I got out my Terminator-Fighting Suit for this! That’s one more dystopic vision we can chuck into the Recycle Bin of history — at least for the next few years.
And Google Music is even more despondency-inducing! Because the record labels aren’t on board, you can use Google Music to do everything — but share or purchase music. This seems a bit limiting, but who am I to quibble with the delectable minds who gave us Google Answers and Google Plus One and Google Edsel and Google The Hindenberg, or if they haven’t, will soon? I don’t see how much they can achieve without help from the record labels, but given that the entire spread of music online has been without help from the record labels, I might be wrong. Maybe lacking options for buying or sharing music will be fine, because there are so many other things people like to do with music, such as skip Google Music altogether and stream it off YouTube for free.
But file these under Futuristic Disappointments.
Somewhere, between Science Fiction and those helpful Science Times trend charts of Advances That Will Occur in The Future At The Rate Things Are Going, I think we all got the idea that things would be different by now. 2005 was supposed to be the year that Robot Companions would achieve some kind of recognized legal status, by 2009 we’d need ordinances to keep Death Stars from parking over our back yards, and come 2014, all our movie stars would be computer programs with great teeth.
I’m still holding out hope for the last one, if only because it would mean I wouldn’t have to interact with Kristen Stewart anymore, but today’s tech news just makes me nostalgic for what might have been.
Where’s Skynet? Where’s my Legally Recognized Robot Companion? Sure, I know some people who have difficulty interacting in a natural manner, but I’m pretty sure they are not robots, or they would smell better and spend less time talking about Dominating The Pitiful Humans. Where’s the dystopia I was promised?
All the hubbub about these bits of information only made it worse. Yes, I know I have a magical screen that allows me to connect instantly with people all over the world, listen to music, and see the weather and news in real time. And now I can Skype and sort of get Cloud music on it!
But it’s not the same. The problem with real technology is you know how often it breaks and how little reception it gets and its tendency to mysteriously escape your pocket at critical moments.
And somehow, no matter how cool it might be, it ceases to be magical and futuristic when it shows up in the Present.
No, I’ve had it. Sorry, Microsoft. Sorry, Google. You wizards might have impressed the medieval types, but I don’t see the excitement. I’m getting cryogenically frozen. Wake me when the future gets here.
What do you mean, we don’t have that yet?