Friday, September 5, 2008

Sidetracked by SuperStruct

Okay... so a couple days ago I told you all about my cousin-in-law's new massively multi-player game, SuperStruct. Well if you went to the website to check it out, you may have seen the request for participants' visions of what they might be doing in the summer of 2019. Many of these stories are posted on the site, but mine hasn't been posted yet, and just in case it doesn't show up, here, for your exclusive reading pleasure, is a snippit from my life in eleven years. Oh and if you haven't read the game scenario, you should do that first, as certain parts of the following might not make sense otherwise. Enjoy!

I tap off the heads-up display that's been scrolling text across my glasses and gaze down through the floor window between my feet as the dirigible's shadow creeps across the sands of the Sahara. Occasional nuclear power plants pock the rugged tan-gray surface, their shadows reaching far across desert floor in the late afternoon sun.

A summary of the results of the latest GEAS simulation has just been released, and though I'm not surprised by anything I've just read, that doesn't keep me from being disappointed. Somehow I'd hoped (like many people I knew) that maybe, just maybe, all of the poorly-coordinated and under-funded efforts of the far too few concerned governmental and non-governmental organizations might have had some impact on the prognosis of our species. But what effect can political governments (those puppet remnants of former power centers) or non-profits have in a world ruled by multinational corporations and independent defense contractors? Even my own nominally admirable career as a consulting clinical pathologist, assisting the hundreds of new hospitals that freckle Subsaharan Africa with implementation of modern laboratory technology is heavily subsidized by energy companies and end product fabricators interested in keeping the underpaid population healthy enough to tend their nuclear plants, solar farms, and megafactories. Once the HIV stasis formula was achieved it didn't take long for the Swiss pharmaceutical conglomerates who controlled it to trade their magic bullet for exclusive options on the underdeveloped world's last (and greatest) natural resource: its human labor. And they proceeded to sell this treasure (at a considerable profit) to energy producers who were more than happy to establish the bulk of their new plants in some of Earth's less habitable regions -- such as the Kalahari and the Sahara -- far from the complaints of the First-World's financially vocal pseudo-environmentists.

My thoughts are interrupted by the airship attendant delivering my dinner tray. Petrie-steak... at least that's what my wife calls it. The flavor is fine, but stacked sheets of cloned bovine myocytes grown as tissue culture monolayers will never achieve the texture of the real thing. Even the expensive cell-jet built versions that incorporate adipocytes, fibroblasts, collagen microfilaments, and marrow-filled osteoid structures don't provide the satisfaction I recall from tearing into a perfectly seared rib-eye. But since the disappearance of a couple of species of squirrels as well as a whole genus of waterfowl, humans finally developed widespread sympathy for animals... only enough sympathy to stop eating and torturing them though... not enough to stop destroying their habitat -- and ours.

Plenty of us figured that Humanity was on a terminal spiral... circling the drain, as it were, but nobody thought that we had so little time left. Sure we've gotten fairly good at sending small passenger vehicles into space, but with no habitable planets within even a thousandth of the range of these craft, that old scheme of escaping a dying planet remains nothing more than the pipe dream that it's been for almost a century. If the ship goes down, the rats go with it this time. But maybe the GEAS report will actually get the attention it deserves and humans (the only ostriches left since 2014) will pull their heads out of the sand, learn how to collaborate and innovate, and find a solution.

My earbud beeps twice (two beeps for home, three for the office, one for unknown callers) and I tap it on to be greeted by the voice of Hugo, our son, asking if I'll be home soon. Elinor is making a fuss in the background and I can hear Kate, my wife, trying to sooth her, reassuring her that there will be plenty of time to dress her doll after a nap. I doubt that Kate has heard about the GEAS report yet, but she will soon enough, and then I wonder who will sooth us. Who will tell us there's plenty of time after a nap. Isn't that what the corporations have been telling us for years? Nap time is over. We've got work to do.

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