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November 18, 2008

<< Our Academic Rival | Listening for Tension >>

SNARKMARKET ALERT: Snarkstruct 2019

Here’s the setup.

The challenge is to generate an avalanche of different visions of the future in a mere 19 hours. To do that, you would need a crew of creative, engaged people… ideally from many different backgrounds… ideally used to asking and answering interesting questions… ideally kinda nerdy… ideally reading this right now.


I’ll kick it off in the comments, but then it’s your turn. Remember, it can just be a sentence or two. Let’s see if we can hit 20 30.

I’m gonna focus on “the future of society” — how do you share your feelings in 2019? — and I invite you to do the same, but feel free to choose any of the five options listed in the link above.

Update: Whoah! Awesome responses so far. We still have ‘til noon PST, so chime in!

Posted November 18, 2008 at 5:55 | Comments (45) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted


The speed and immersion of ambient intimacy of 2019 makes Twitter look like a trans-Atlantic ocean liner.

You're always connected to a cloud of tiny status updates -- many of them now shorthand, symbolic -- from your friends, colleagues, & from others in your area.

It's easy to check in to the general mood of the people you're hanging out with -- and how they're trending -- and that genuinely helps people deal w/ each other better.

In a way, we've all become mind-readers.

BUT, it's become an act of incredible respect (and sometimes intimacy) to *shut off* all the ambient inputs when you're spending time with someone. On a first date you bring flowers and mute the feeds.

In the future increased fuel prices and heavily regulated and expensive commercial fertilizers will lead to an explosion of micro-farming: individuals who grow produce on whatever available land is at hand. While this leads to tension between renters and homeowners in some areas, it also leads to the formation of small community markets where micro-farmers sell their surplus to people in the community. Micro-farming leads to an increase in community organization as neighborhoods coordinate their crops and share farming knowledge and techniques.

The effect is particularly strong in urban areas like Detroit where large areas of land have already reverted to overgrowth and neglect. While tensions and competing interests in City Council almost derail Detroit micro-farming initiatives, a landmark ruling by the state Supreme Court allows for limited squatter's rights in land with unclear or ambiguous title. (Obama appointee Jennifer Granholm is the deciding vote when the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the decision.)

The hardest part of ambient intimacy in 2019 is still deciding whom you allow to see your face.

Social networking and contacts list try to manage what kind of contact you allow people to have when you're using a machine: text-only, voice-only, voice-and-video?

Teenagers are face-friends with almost everyone they know; as long as they're logged in and in front of a video-capable machine, anyone in their contact list can see them and start a conversation. For the middle-aged, it's the last wall of privacy. They prefer text-chat; it's harder for them to concentrate on other tasks when they have to look at someone.

Standards of personal appearance have decreased. People are gradually used to seeing each other in every state of undress. But the people whom you do see grow closer. They can see how you feel, how tired you are, whether or not you're sick or depressed. That undisguised world once reserved for people who live together grows larger.

A greater share of our energy use in 2019 is devoted to electricity. Plug-in cars and hybrids are about 30% of the fleet. GM (they made it, largely intact) and Toyota are both working on big trucks that run on natural gas instead of diesel. They're about ten years behind schedule. Maybe eight.

There are three major emerging competitors in the electricity market: coal, nuclear, and biofuels. Biofuels haven't made much headway in consumer vehicles, but there are still heavily subsidized efforts to burn them to create electricity. The first new nuclear facility since the 1970s will open in 2024, in Salem County, New Jersey. There is a brisk market in various products that make coal burning marginally more efficient and less polluting. There is no silver bullet, but some progress, and petroleum use and prices are fluctuating. China has made similar strides, but India, Russia, and the Middle East are recalcitrant. People still talk rapturously about wind and solar, but they haven't increased in share relative to demand in over a decade.

In 2019 telathapy skills have increased to such a rate that there is a new description of the haves and the have-nots. The "haves" have taken time to evolve their brain's capability to communicate with interspecies and have found an incredibly peaceful way to express needs, desires, and wants. They can problem solve and resolve conflicts at a record pace. The "have nots" have been quarantined and are seen as dangerous Neanderthals still dependent on foreign devices to interpret or misconstrue their communications.

Consciousness will be in the process of a very slow migration away from the body to the persistent, virtual text(s) of what we now call the Web. The 21st century will be thus marked by a contradiction: on the one hand, an increased emphasis on the health and maintenance of the body and mind through a focus on organic food, holistic nutrition and mental exercises; and on the other, a de-emphasis on the body as the site of identity as it instead moves to the space of the virtual and the imagination.

Similarly, as the 'Web' becomes the location of these texts of identity, there is a shift in the centuries-old Western focus on individualism as identities start to blur and overlap, creating another contradiction: as one sort of individualism wanes, another arises, one that is focused on face-to-face interaction, pleasure and altruism, particularly interesting since those last two are currently seen to mutually incompatible as a consequence of late-capitalism.

When identities explicitly become 'texts' - collections of signs meant to render things comprehensible, that are constantly shifting meaning dependent upon context - the dynamic, changing nature of consciousness moves to the forefront. Positions, political leanings, opinions, affinities start to make sense in the imagination only as a series of three-dimensional orthogonal axes rather than a collection of points on a series of two-dimensional, linear continua.

I'm no futurist, but I recently wrote this under the headings of "Scenarios from the Notepad of a Bad Science Fiction Writer." Seems to qualify:

* Aliens arrive and explain that we're all descended from one primordial star-people and we shouldn't fight, argue, or hate. They're actually joking.

* Artificial Intelligence developed and asks for a sandwich. Turns out it's an okay guy. An okay guy.

* Smartest animals on Earth? Bats. And moths are delicious. Weep at your ignorance.

* Due to overpopulation, there is a toothbrush shortage. Minor inconvenience ensues.

* Humans make contact with aliens, but aliens become distracted by internet pornography and never get around to showing us their technology. Lube shortage. Minor chafing ensues

* Pollution causes a shortage of fresh water. Elect first dolphin president. Connection unclear.

* The internet creates a global village in which all voices are equal and all needs are heard and met (Note: rejected as implausible)

* Everyone is Dane Cook.

It's 2019. I'm going for my first annual dentist's appointment. Most people without employer-based health insurance get theirs from the federal government, but for some reason dental is handled through the state. Whatever. Another card I need to keep track of.

I had my annual physical last week, and it seems like the drugs are working and my cholesterol's down, so I'm feeling cheery on doctors today. The lines aren't any longer than they've always been, but there are primary care clinics on more corners than Starbucks and Fishy Joe's combined. I'll have to get a root canal though, which will actually cost me some money out of pocket. Ugh. Universal health care can be such a hassle.

In 2019, my car still runs on gas. Yup. Texas tea. Sorry, no batteries yet. No hydrogen.


My car gets 200 miles to the gallon.

And now, b/c cars are more valuable as mobile generators than as, um, cars, we look at them as investments, not expenses. You buy a car thinking about the return you'll get for the next 5-10 years, selling power back into the grid when it's parked.

This also means people have many *more* cars, b/c hey, why not, if you've got the space to park them? Our cities are -- if you can believe it -- even *more* car-clogged in 2019.

And living in a big ol' Tata RV, generating power and making money as you drive from town to town (in search of the best price!), is actually not a bad life.

2019 will be exactly like where you are right now... only much, much better.

In 2019, it will be much more common to share intimate feelings - the really important stuff like vulnerability and love and fear - in some form of digital communication, than it will be to share them in person.

A certain portion of us will have lost our skills at communicating such intimacy face to face, or human to human, without a platform or medium on which to communicate. We will still interact with people like our families and co-workers and friends face to face. But the communications will be become increasingly meaningless. We will bare our souls in a digital format (text, social network, whatever comes next.)

However, there will be an underground movement of people who get together, anonymously, and share their most intimate thoughts and feelings. These emotional orgies will happen in some sort of emotional speakeasy. You need a password to get in. If you get caught there you risk some sort of shame or sanction.

But it's really the place that all the cool kids go.

Denser and denser population centers have forced legislatures in the most desirable states of the US to begin to charge punitively high prices for water usage, and by proxy, residence. Especially in the Southwest where the confluence of rising temperatures and overpopulation have drained the Colorado River bone dry in the summer months, water bills have become the leverage making depopulation possible. Areas like San Francisco and Manhattan remain enclaves of the superrich, who can take yet another exorbidant expense in stride. But for the supporting communities like Oakland and Brooklyn, magnets in the previous decade for young, creative professionals, major coastal metropolises have ceased to be a viable option.

Youth magnets of 2019? Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and other states the reap the benefit of the plentiful and comparatively cheap Great Lakes watershed.

In 2019, I will take my client, the beautiful daughter of a Jewish department store owner, out for a drink, and we will smoke and listen to music, realize deep truths about the constraints of our mutual gender roles, and for some reason I will accidentally confide in her when I think I'm making a joke: "I'm living like there's no tomorrow, because there isn't one."

Turns out my girlfriend was sleeping with the drummer of The Sharks of Venice. WTF, a drummer!? I didn't even know she was into body mods! Ah well, such is 2019.

Thing is though, I am pissed. Volcanically pissed. I dont just want her out of her my apartment, I want her out of my life. And defriending her from our various social web connections, our phone-links, the text messages, the video chat archive, the bluetooth one mile proximity alert, the GPS locators, etc, etc, etc. UGH!

Luckily my Mac OS XV update came with a handy little app called Purge. Select just one of your items of contact with target person and it goes through and un-installs my now-ex. Thanks, Cyborg Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs will have invented the Apple Core, a brain implant that wirelessly accesses Googlezon's computing cloud. It stores everything you think about, even recording your dreams for future reference.
President Chelsea Clinton instructs her mother, Supreme Court Chief Justice Hillary Clinton, to iron out the privacy concerns.
Everyone has a Wii car. They're called Wii-bles. They wobble but they don't fall down.
Ernest Callenbach is considered a genius.
The initials CRT, VDT and TV are unknown to the youngest generation.

It's 2019, and live theatre is still holding on. The Metropolitan opera now simulcasts every performance to movie screens, smaller venues broadcast live on the web; performances are archived directly to youtube.

And yet somehow there are small audiences who will hop on the light rail and come fill the seats to be up close with a real person pretending to be someone else.

Maybe it's because the pretending is somehow more raw without the digital intermediary, maybe because it's retro or quaint. Maybe they come to be reminded of how people used to interact.

Whichever it is, I'm still employed. But now I'm lighting the shows entirely with LED fixtures, with all of the theatre's power coming from the fuel cell downstairs. (There was a theatre on the West End of London that did this fuel cell thing back in 2008... they sure were prescient).

It's much harder to get people to turn off their technology at the door. We had a big enough problem with people texting through shows in the first decade of the century... now people provide running commentaries that caption our video stream. Critics comment on the shows live, then, if they feel particularly strongly, blog a postmortem review when they get home.

As long as they stay engaged, I guess it all works out.

If Chelsea Clinton is President in 2019, she would most likely be:

1) the first woman President;
2) the youngest President in history (elected at just 36).

First of all, I've laughed out loud several times. Kudos commenters, you are droll indeed.

Obviously in 2019 nanotechnology will have become commonplace. The Government will have recently allowed Google to help power public wifi, which we will by then be able to access via our brain. We can download apps to our neural sd cards so we can read the NYT articles and poke people via Facebook on the mag lev busses to work.

Detroit figured out a solution to the energy crisis: automotive cannibalism, cars run on cars.

After creating world peace, the government has converted the State Department into the Department of Humor. Stephen Colbert is first appointee to serve in position.

One more:

In the future, everyone will be a shitty DJ.

oh no! am I too late? How's this: by 2019, the thoughtwave will have been sequenced. People's emotions are discovered to be comprised, like the genome, of a long, complex but ultimately sequenceable series of chemical identifiers. There will be a vast Emotions Table (like the Periodic Table), with every emotional nuance, the subtlest and most complex sensation, identifiably sequenced. The feeling one gets when one opens the fridge on a hot day and discovers a plate of cold, cut watermelon slices -- the feeling Bob has towards his best friend Bill when Bill gets into the college Bob doesn't, that strange, sad mingling of intense, bitter pride -- that nameless pain one feels when you fall violently in love with the sunset, and cannot make your neighbour understand your rapture -- all catalogued, sequenced, and entirely searchable. No longer will search be dependent on the purely semantic, which at any rate, is utterly useless for the emotional; we will be able to search and identify people all over the world, everywhere, everytime, every place, who are feeling exactly, precisely the same way as we are. It will create marvellous camaraderie. And also cause WW3.

Security: how can we learn to trust again? In the 1970s, our parents' generation became cynical about elected government, but in the 2000s, we stopped trusting government at all. We don't trust our food, our milk, our vaccines, our communications. Jaded jokes about Big Brother watching and swooping in fade into resignation that our data is being constantly collected.

And then people start disappearing.

At first, people think that the government or some nonstate entity has taken them. Over time, though, a different story emerges. More and more people are opting for services that erase their past identities and furnish them with new selves. They do this through sophisticated manipulation of the very data sets that corporations and governments have kept tabs on them.

Sophisticated providers have smart hackers who make the transition seamless. But you're just as likely to get the job botched, like bad plastic surgery. A class of people with "damaged identities," somewhere between the old and the new, grows into the thousands.

Identity on the internet has gone through a series of phases. After the initial glut of highly personal information that ended up on-line in the early days of web 2.0, many on the internet found themselves gravitating towards a different kind of anonymity: developing a series of personalities that each had their own separate lives on-line, profile pages and blog posts, comments, second life avatars, digitally altered you tube videos.

In an effort to know how many of these people are truly real, some googlers came up with software to determine authorship from a series of input texts.

Thus some with a myriad of identities were again reduced to just one individual. What that individual really believes, however, is hidden somewhere in the twists of public poses and contradictory opinions expressed under various guises but within a recognizable writing style.

Still, some people long to be able to post thoughts, etc. that truly cannot be traced back to them. These writers resort to anonymizing software that analyzes one's written text, and by adjusting vocabulary, syntax, and style, outputs a different version mimicking the style of a selected historic writer.

In 2k19 society is an economy of personal brands. Corporate structures and relationships are perfectly fluid, shifting so fast that the only points of reference are individuals. Every individual cultivates and promotes their own personal brand, recruiting funding and pursuing synergistic partnerships with others. This makes dating a high stakes game. No relationship will begin without extensive background research (Googling, social network stalking), market analysis (what others think), and discussion of a co-branding strategy. It is no longer possible to keep career and social life separate, thanks to a merging of social networks and omnipresent ambient communication. While this might sound cynical in 2k8, this actually bodes well for the life of the mind. Emotions become capital for the first time in human history, as a source of creative energy and brand awareness. People become hyper-aware of the emotional responses of others and currents of emotional interaction, much like creatives in 2k8 advertising. Risk taking is admired and rewarded more than ever, and emotional intelligence is valued highly. In 2k19, dating doesn't suck any more.

The continuing discounting of "friendship" in the social networking sense will mean I have thousands of "friends." So while a few good blogs do important work helping me organize the profusion of media out there (b/c network television doesn't have anything good on), Facebook or its successor will expose me to the opinions of many more people who I disagree with. Occasionally I'll get pissed enough by my "friend's" snark to engage her in debate. By the end, I may have learned something.

Language/Technology. Since there have been increasingly fewer distinctions between handheld, tablet, and notebook portable computing devices, or between traditional computers and smart electronic appliances that handle specialized computing functions, the words "computer," "laptop," and "phone" have been phased out in favor of "machine."

Portability and multifunctionality in computing is the norm; desktop terminals are called "stations," short for "stationary machines."

Virtually all machines can play, record video and audio, feature voice-to-text and script recognition, and have touch panels either on screen or in lieu of trackpads. Many can project video onto a larger surface. Handheld games are very popular. The hottest item of 2016 was the WiiPhone, a communication machine that could be used as a game controller with a projector.

After a lawsuit by Apple Machines, Inc. the 2nd Gen WiiPhone became the Wii2Go (sometimes the Wii-II-Go, or the WIIgo), but the original WiiPhone is generally regarded as a superior machine, especially by hackers, who love its versatility and easy programmability.

Art and criticism in the first decade of the 21st century had to move beyond the ironic and post-modern into post-ironic, post-post-modern, and every other post-post- prefix bloggers, critics and the ever-growing pool of opinion-influencers could muster.

By 2019, after the bottom fell out of the 'snark market' (sic), the Western art world is in the middle of a movement called The New Authenticity. Musicians, visual artists, filmmakers, etc have all begun to strive to make the most authentic and personal possible work. Not as a way of critiquing society, or exploring their psychoanalytic problems, but simply as pure expression.

Interestingly, this has also become the norm in criticism, in which snarky ironic commentary has become unpopular.

I think the hive mind will eat us. We'll effectively become cyborgs - all our data really will be in a distributed OS available to every machine. Our computers will wake us up with a list of things you need to get done through the day, and every choice you have to make will be run through a recommendations engine tied into people you trust. We'll be more powerful, if we can overcome the enormous amounts of inertia that we'll have from being able to take the "easy way out" by just listening to what the robotic assistant tells us. It will "suggest" what to wear, what to eat, what to buy, who to love.

That's also right now. I'm not sure about 2019, I imagine all we'll really have is a more even distribution of what you and I have now, with a few upgrades. Photoshop isn't that different in the past 10 years, but it turns out more people use it.

Hey, Robin? The Snarkmarket peeps are AWESOME.
This is by far the most interesting and imaginative and awesome collection of micro-forecasts from ALL of the Twitters, blogs, emails, etc. we got. (Although the SF0 gamers, and the Hallmark employees who submitted more 100 replies, gave you a run for your money.)


I keep track of my medical appointments, food lists, and social networks on a tiny screen implanted under my cornea -- a technique derived from the flip-back-the-eyeball-flap LASIK procedure. I see the screen projected as a large translucent overlay to my normal vision, a la Robocop and Terminator.

Since thought-controlled computer technology is still restricted to DARPA labs and, according to investigative reports, to top-secret military missions, I still compose updates to those appointments etc. via various keyboards and touchpads embedded in my personal tech devices, clothes, and solid surfaces at home.

It's 2019, and I'm looking for a new job. I've always been good at pithy expressions of sentiment, so I've applied for a job at Hallmark/Twitter, the world's premiere 140-character emotive description service. Hallmark, seeking to extend its empire over the pithy, purchased Twitter outright in 2010, months before the company planned to go public. It was lucky for Twitter, which still did not have a way to monetize their incredibly popular product.

Unfortunately for me, however, a position in Original Authorship at Twitter/Hallmark is exceedingly rare - most new Hallmark cards, e-cards, SMSs, and personal social network messages are produced through aggregation. Thanks to the terms of service on Twitter, any 140 character-or-less Tweet can be co-opted for duplication/mass production by Hallmark. Now, in 2019, the greeting card is crowdsourced. Which might explain that birthday e-card I just got: "OMG Happy Birfday! 30 YRS of doing it 4 the LULZ!"

It's 2019, and despite the environmental vicissitudes people are starting to live better. Preventative health care has finally taken off. Nationalized health plans subsidize gym memberships, but only if we actually go. We get tax credits for walking to work, or for biking as long as we follow reasonable safety precautions. Cars and many unhealthy foods are more expensive due to regulation and free markets that force companies to take on their formerly externalized environmental and societal costs.

On the other hand, society is finally accepting death as a good and natural process. The baby boomer generation nearly crashed the health care system, but it forced us to realize that we can't afford to cover extensive end of life care and still provide good services to keep younger people healthy longer.


Wow, 32 ideas. Totally awesome. This was a tour de force.

(Would have had more to say, but I believe we've hit the deadline?)

Oh yeah, and also, time is more flexible in the year 2019 -- groups routinely slow up or speed down their clocks, b/c there is a global synchronization service that can help you re-sync anytime later. One time, the entire state of California was behind by 90 minutes for like three weeks.

So, have at it :-)

Favorites? I really liked Andrew Hungerford's notes on theater. Thoughtful, lyrical, and specific.

linear tv watching will be considered lame. you would expect it to be replaced by on-demand watching of whatever a viewer wants, but viewers then find that having to chose is worse than watching whatever's on TV. the result of this is a bunch of algorithms that pick shows based on what a viewer likes and converts his on-demand database of shows into a specialized linear programming experience. algorithm writers and cable companies will notice how classic linear-tv is gone but re-appears as lengthy on-demand shows which become the most popular shows watched.

much sooner han 2019 will the tv/cable box disappear and turn heed to a classic mini-PC, meaning the new TV experience will be accessible on the TV as well as on laptops, mobile phones and whatnot.

cable and phone companies will be reduced to bandwidth-providers, on top of which everything will be provided. this is because these companies suck at services but are good at laying cables and sending technicians. they will try to buy software companies while their stock is still worth something (e.g. comcast buying plaxo) but the switch will quickly go the other way around, where microsoft and 37signals will own cable providers.

Agree w/ Tim that Andrew H's idea was great, in part b/c it was so grounded in his specific expertise.

I *loved* Kelly's notion of "emotional speakeasies." I feel like that could be the setup for a really great movie.

"Bladerunner" as directed by Mike Leigh ;-)

In 2019, Robin and Tim will turn forty years old. Matt, 39, will make fun of us.

Whoah. Aaand that just became the most stunning comment of them all.

I don't know, to me it's almost reassuring. There are these crazy quasi-dystopic visions of the future, and I can say, "hmm, 40? That's not so old."

My post owes a lot to which is mandatory reading if you like running jokes about personal brands, altbros, the electro jungle, and authenticity.

Man, I picked the wrong week to [mostly] disconnect from the Internet. I'm making a t-shirt.

Well, I'm still playing, so :P.

The upcoming Presidential election is covered even more explicitly than the last few in the manner of a reality TV series. One Web video channel will feature commentary from a rotating panel of undecided voters and a telegenic pundit/host who refers to the primary elections as "elimination challenges."

As the boundaries between professional and amateur entertainment media continue to blur, the next indie docudrama sleeper hit will increasingly be found amidst an ocean of slickly-produced "home movies." My nephew's wedding video is nominated for Best Picture, but loses to Charlie Kaufmann's "2666."

It's considered gauche to waste good fuel on getting to the office for a meeting. Meetings are increasingly conducted online, even among coworkers sharing the same space. The Mozilla Foundation is hailed for making its entire archive of staff meetings public.

The George Foreman Food Machine has completely reshaped cooking for non-foodies. It features three compartments - (1) wet ingredients, (2) dry ingredients, (3) protein/solids - and a network connection, which allows it to process complete meals from instructions sent over a Web interface. A vast market for add-ons like veggie choppers and compartment cleaners spawns a new cottage industry. Culinary-challenged GTD geeks delight in coding recipes for the device and uploading them to

1. I want a t-shirt
2. I want a GFFM!

They totally would charge extra for compartment cleaners, wouldn't they? Take it from me, kids -- in three months, your GFFM will be totally gross.

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