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We'll Need a Threatometer . . .

Sunday, January 2, 2005; Page B02

If you believe the sci-fi films of the 20th century, life in the year 2020 will indeed be much simpler -- either because we'll all be wearing spandex jumpsuits all the time, or because we'll all be living underground like cockroaches. But despite my natural tendency to think about the Worst-Case Scenarios (™ and © Quirk Productions), I consider myself a realistic optimist. As a result, I think the future in store for us 15 years from now is unlikely to be dramatically different from the present -- just dirtier, multifunctional and miniaturized. So here's my short list of the essential gear for surviving in 2020:

• EyePod Sunglasses. From AppleApparel, these special spectacles will not only screen out those increasingly nasty UV rays but will also filter out the visual and aural messages that will be assaulting us from all directions, via electronic billboards on everything from street signs to urinals. These glasses will be essential for maintaining sanity, focus and safe driving skills. They will also, however, allow the wearer to download music, videos and the latest episode of Dr. Phil.

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• Nasal filters. These will be standard issue due to air pollution, the ever-increasing threat of bioterrorism and the continued ubiquity of stick-on air fresheners.

• Swiss Army Gloves. Repackaging the basics for human survival in the ultimately handy format. The 2020 model will include a compass, scissors, pocketknife, sewing kit, flint, magnifying glass, gas mask, water purifier, GPS-enabled satellite phone, web browser and, of course, a toothpick.

• George Foreman Low-Fat Grill with Meat Thermometer/Terrorist Threatometer. The latest version will not only remove all the fat from a hamburger, but also monitor the color-coded alerts from the Homeland Security Advisory System, allowing you to decide in an instant if you need to eat and run.

• Groomba. Indispensable in a time-challenged society: A tiny, spiderlike robotic grooming device that will trim your hair, shave you and give you a facial while you are sleeping.

• MiVo. This microscopic camera implant will record your life onto a small hard drive in 30-minute segments. Via remote control, Homeland Security can use it to watch you packing your suitcase for a flight; or you can set it yourself to record a "season pass" of all family events, skipping the boring parts.

• Beau-toxe. A new Botox-infused cologne that will simultaneously eliminate your wrinkles and attract the opposite sex. Essential? You be the judge.

• Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. Still good for sooooo many things.

Author's e-mail: david@quirkbooks.com

By David Borgenicht, co-author of "The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook" (Chronicle Books).

© 2005 The Washington Post Company