Level of Technology
Some of you might notice that while there is advanced technology aplenty in this novel, things might seem like they didn’t advance quite enough for being nearly 2,000 years from now. After all, given how much has changed and how far science, medicine and computing alone have gotten in just a couple decades…
Well, here’s the deal. First, let’s remember that I keep mentioning a cataclysmic event called the Conflagration. Humanity nearly got wiped out, frankly. While civilization wasn’t wiped out and humans didn’t go back to the Stone Age, the near destruction of the planet did have a bit of a dampening effect on progress. Humanity got set back, and it lost a lot of great minds and frankly had too much on its collective mind in terms of rebuilding and survival to be looking for the next cool gadget.
Second, I’m strongly of the opinion that no matter how good we get, there is a certain point at which it’s hard for things to get much smaller or to advance beyond a certain point. I mean, we could very likely get to a point at which a computer could be the size of your thumbnail, but it’s kind of hard to type on a keyboard that small, know what I mean?
Also, you may have noticed that humans haven’t physically left the solar system yet. Well, aside from being dubious that we’re going to develop effective faster-than-light travel that will allow us to flit all the hell over the galaxy and beyond it, I figure that there is plenty for humans to explore and exploit here in this solar system and just outside it before we feel any pressing need to visit other systems and planets that might be in them.
Human Behavior and Health
If people in 4001 don’t seem that much different than people in 2008, that’s for a reason. People don’t change much. Frankly, I’m sure that if you sat down with an ancient Egyptian, you’d find that basic human motivations, concerns and desires were pretty similar then to what we have today.
Humans in 4001 don’t have super-advanced lifespans. Most people in developed nations will live to somewhere between 80 and 100. A lot of people will look pretty damn decent at those ages, probably looking about 20 years younger than they would today, thanks to nanotechnology and dermatological/cosmetic surgery options that are relatively accessible to many people. There are nanotech-based and biochemical-based therapies that can retard the aging process and allow people to live as long as 300 or 400 years, but those technologies are far more expensive. It’s not uncommon for people to be able to access technologies to live to 120 or even 150, but beyond that, unless you’re rich (or highly connected/valuable to a government or corporation), forget it.
And no, the common cold has not been eradicated either, nor influenza. As silly as that might seem, let’s admit that both of these viruses are incredibly adaptible and hardy. They have made a living changing just enough so that they don’t kill us off very often and so that they can continue to have us as hosts. The difference in 4001 is that antiviral medicines are common, and most of them over the counter, so cold medicine in 4001 really does get rid of a cold, at least in a couple days. Nasty things like cancer still exist, but are largely manageable. Problem is that you have some new nasty diseases, some of them techno-organic in nature, so dying of disease still happens. It just happens a lot less often in highly developed nations.
Physical money still exists but is rarely used and is much more common in black market economies. Electronic funding and transactions are the norm. Yeah, taxes still exist too. Sorry to break the news.
Flying cars exist, but most people don’t get to drive them. I mean, face it: You see how bad many drivers are out there. Do you trust many people, no matter how far in the future, to be flying around where they can crash into a building and then plummet down to crush someone on the ground, too?
Pop music still mostly sucks in the future. But some of the stuff we listen to today is classical music for folks in 4001. And seriously collectible.
Yes, virtual sex exists in the future, allowing you to do all sorts of wild things safely. But it costs you money, it requires putting on full-body suits to get that all-over-feeling, and frankly, from a psychological and social basis, it still can’t beat good sex with a real person.
People still get bent out of shape about their sports teams. People still gamble. And drink. And smoke. And do drugs. And dance. And the media still goes more for headlines and ratings than it does for substance. There are a lot more channels to watch (or listen to) but most of it is still schlock.