Future Nostalgia

American Airlines in-flight magazine describes frequent travelers as ‘Road Warriors’. It always seemed strange to me that an airline would embrace a term seemingly unrelated to flying. Perhaps it’s to help them forget the hideous hours in the air. Personally, in a choice between driving and letting the train take the strain, I’m a rail warrior every time.

Yet again I recently found myself following the other lemmings to London.

Good morning lemmings

Except, as noted, I was on a train. I saw a (different) photo of the above graffiti in a dead tree newspaper a long time ago though, and was so delighted to find a photo of it on Flickr I thought I’d share it.

So, I’m on a train, and not just a rail warrior and a lemming, but a hand-waving presentation monkey too. I often spend the first 15 minutes of most train journeys tweaking whatever presentation I’m going to give that day. I have a couple of basic presentation structures, which have forked into hundreds of unique versions, personalised for the audience, accreting and shedding slides along the way.

The guy opposite me is catching a quick nap, and snoring gently. The gent next to him is looking nonplussed.

As often happens when I’m on board trains from the south coast to the city, I can’t help but wonder what this same journey would have been like 100 years ago. It would no doubt have been slower and smellier; go back far enough and the trains would be steam-powered. Whistles. Top-hatted gentleman with fob watches tucked into waistcoats. More hats. Less colour.

100 years ago, following the principle of doing what your father did, I’d either be a milkman or a mechanic at this point. Or a youthworker I suppose, but 100 years ago he probably wouldn’t have had the same varied career and life. I’d just as likely be cleaning out stables as having made a rags-to-riches journey from the sleepy Dorset countryside into the big city, and certainly not as a Metaverse Evangelist.

And thus, as the non-steam-powered train approach Waterloo I’m glad I was born in 1978 rather than 1878. Sometimes I wish it had been 2078. I want to live on a starship and not just see the stars but travel between them. I want to not notice the computers which make my life easier, shade my eyes automatically with sensors and circuitry rather than tinted lenses. My wife says I was born too soon, but maybe I’m driven by a desire to help the future arrive sooner.

4 replies on “Future Nostalgia”

  1. I must say that (as you know) I have a hankering for an 1878 (or in my case 1871) birthday rather than a 1970s or 2070s one. This is purely based on an idealistic and probably largely romantic notion of mine that science, engineering and technology were more exciting and worthy of awe in those days. If I take off my rose tinted glasses for a moment though I can also appreciate that perhaps things weren’t that different then, and won’t be that different in the future either.

    I’m sure there have always been “lemmings” (and I count myself among them with my 50 mile round trip car commute every day), it’s just that the lemming-like activity changes with the technological age. I’m certain that my grandfather as a child could not have forseen what possible value a pure “information worker” such as myself might have in the numbers that we have them today. Sure, information was important in those days too, but the proportion of people who were solely involved in that domain was very small. I’m equally certain that my grandchildren will have jobs that seem unlikely by today’s values – perhaps once we crack some form of technology assisted telepathy we’ll need armies of ‘thought police’ to make sure that people don’t go about abusing other people’s cerebral rights, or maybe we’ll all be playing some massive multiplayer game by then and trading whatever virtual resources are on offer (not that different to the current money markets, right?).

    I still think it’s about time someone invented a steam powered time (or teleportation) machine though – with mandatory brass cogs and lots of levers and pulleys.

  2. No no, no younger man for me! I think we balance each other well, as I am fairly old fashioned when it comes to technology…we don\’t even have a dishwasher and a horse and carriage would be my way of traveling!

    My Granchin (grandad) used to cycle from Wool in Dorset to London to visit my Nana when they were courting. Very sweet!

  3. A “Road Warrior” to me conjures up images of Mad Max and the thunderdome, a far cry from the dire monotony suffered by thousands on our motorways everyday. Sometimes I’d much rather be the guy scrawling witty messages on motorway bridges :)

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