Gather around children and let me tell tales of a time long ago. Tales of a magical era when you were never more than 30 minutes away from having a pizza delivered to you regardless of state of mind or location. You could command birds of an unexplained exasperated disposition to hurtle themselves into livestock-inhabited construction sites. A time when the most trusted encyclopaedia ever, was written by people no more intelligent than you or I. It was a time of miracles, it was the dawn of the 21st century.
There are a lot of ways in which the present day is the hardest time to be alive in history. On the other hand – Siri. 20 years ago, if you heard the word “Siri”, you’d think there was a South African apologizing somewhere. Sure an increasing population and the demands of urbanisation are outweighing the natural resources we have to sustain them, plus we’ve been in this global recession for around 3000 years now but we also live in a world where the Nintendo Wii exists. It can’t be all bad.
So even though people enjoy complaining about the age we live in, “people are getting stupider”, “there are too many distractions in society”, “there’s not enough bacon in my baconator”, etc. here’s a list of awesome things that the (1st) world enjoy relentlessly, starting with…
HD is beautiful and you won’t go back
HD. Allowing a man to view naked women with such clarity, he’ll no longer need to make love to his wife. The pleasure of watching anything in high definition is akin to having your significant other enact your favourite fantasy. It’s unbelievable at first, and even after you melt into it you never want it to end (not to mention you can’t believe you’re doing it in the middle of the day). If you a fan of comfortable viewing experiences the 21st century is a pretty sweet time to be around; between television, online videos, movies and video games, the fidelity of detail is astounding. And computers mouses come without wires now. How amazing is that?
The level of video quality it is currently possible to render is so great, the average computer monitor can’t even truly display it all (pull your finger out Phillips). Technology is at a level so photographically advanced, reality looks dim by comparison. God rest her soul but every time you turn on Fashion Police you could tell if Joan Rivers was wearing underwear or not. If that doesn’t scream ‘I live in the 21st century’, I don’t know what does.
And HD quality doesn’t just make the present exciting but the future as well. Even though perhaps unthinkable, video quality will only continue to improve. With terms like “High Frame Rate”, “16:9 Aspect Ratio” and “Directed by James Cameron” flying around, you could easily think technology has improved tenfold every time you check out Digital Spy. Jargon understood only by Christopher Nolan and 5 & a half other people roughly translates to “really freakin’ good video”, and that’s all we need to know. Words like Blu-Ray, 60fps, IMAX, 1080p and 4K are more likely members of the world’s first all cyborg boyband anyway.
Pausing live TV
Here is a small list of things that we currently enjoy in our technologically more-advanced-than-its-ever-been society. We have created powerful vehicles that, despite weighing thousands of tonnes in machinery and irate business men, are capable of flight. We have learned patterns in atmospheric pressure to thereby be able to predict the weather to a large degree of accuracy. We have engineered electricity to be harnessed and distributed throughout large portions of the entire globe. And we can pause Downton Abbey and skip the commercials after we come back from the restroom. Truly we are living in a golden age.
For some years now, through accidental scientific breakthrough (if not witchcraft), several TV service providers have granted viewers the ability to pause, fast forward, rewind and even record live TV shows. For a set monthly fee you can experience near complete viewing control over your favourite TV shows. It’s like Netflix, but you don’t have to talk to your Xbox One first to get there. Now we can instantly freeze a candid moment in television history, revolutionising the way we’ll watch Basic Instinct forever. Much like three-ply toilet paper and baked beans tins with a pull tab, it’s a luxury you never knew you needed.
Long gone are the days of low quality VHS pausing, or ‘fuzzy 90s jigglerama’ as I like to call it. We are living in a time of perfect pausing, without the aliasing mess of a time long ago. Then again, what some may call the complete eradication of the fuzzy spots and blemishes over the screen a ‘technological achievement’, others may call it ‘leaving puberty’.
If pausing live TV is witchcraft, this is out-and-out shaman sorcery. I’m going to give you a couple more things that is probably happening RIGHT NOW thanks to wireless internet. A million and one computations are happening in online games around the world, sending data from computers in Germany, being processed on servers in Korea, and relayed to angry quick scope victims in America. A thousand different monetary transactions on a thousand different websites (Amazon, Ticketmaster, JustEat to name a few) on a thousand different computers are taking place right now; all sending information pretty much through the air. Your younger brother/teenage son is probably downloading porn on your home Wi-Fi, through you, right at this very moment!
…of course I’m joking about that last one. He’s probably streaming it, no one downloads porn anymore.
With everyone owning or having access to a home Wi-Fi network of some sort, it can be easy to take for granted the futuristic feat that has become the norm. We’re all dripping in wirelessly accessible information and we’re totally complacent about it. We have so much Wi-Fi nowadays they’re literally giving it away for free at Starbucks. In most cities, at any one time you have anywhere up to and around 100 Wi-Fi hotspots surrounding you like a frat house initiation.
It’s that extra level of opulent privilege that proves we’re living in the future. And you still have the balls to complain when it’s a little bit slow. You prick.
Here’s a challenge for you, travel back in time by 20 or more years. Tell the people there that someday they’ll be able to run their lives from a device about the size of the palm of their hand. More than likely you’ll be prosecuted as a wizard for your scary foretelling’s and time travelling capabilities. But before you go, tell me what app you downloaded to travel back in time like that.
Smartphones (and all other connected devices e.g. tablets and games consoles), are a juggernaut in modern achievement. They have somehow successfully attained ‘I couldn’t imagine life without it’ status, ubiquitously integrating themselves into our normal lives a few short years. Thanks to Apple, Google, Samsung etc. life is quicker, more convenient and more entertaining. Plus without them, Watch Dogs really wouldn’t have made much sense at all.
Now everyone is like an interconnected, super-Neo with our own personal sonic screwdriver. The only real difference between us and Doctor Who is now we don’t need to travel to the far reaches of the universe to poke our noses into someone else’s business – facebook has an app.
How much less suicidal are train journeys now? How cool is it we can find out if that guy from The Incredible Hulk was also the guy from Fight Club while sitting on the toilet? How in the world does Kim Kardashian have the most addictive game in the market out? This is something to stop and think about once in a while. That thing in your pocket that won’t stop giving you constant snapchat notifications has enabled us to be entertained and educated. We can converse and collaborate. We can upload and update our lives. We have all the worlds knowledge, a cross section of the greatest ideas and creative content in existence available a few finger swipes away. But who cares, everyone is playing random adjective birds…and that’s cool too.
Google, keeper of knowledge, swallower of sites, warehouse of whispers you put up on Blogger ages ago but now you forgot the password and the site 404 errors on you whenever you try to get back on it so you guess no-one can see it anyway right? Google to the internet is very much like the brain spawn in Futurama – a being limitless in information and influence, which could probably make a decent go at world domination if they wanted. Except if you don’t want to see massive balls at least Google lets you turn the SafeSearch on.
Google started like any other humble search engine in the late 90s/early 00s; innocent, excitable and trying to find its way in a world where Yahoo and Ask Jeeves were already had TV advertising and Lycos pretty much owned the Yellow Pages. But, after a few short years, a couple advertising investments and more than a sprinkle of tax avoidance, Google rose to power as the search engine we all know and love (and may eventually worship) today.
Google effectively fired Ask Jeeves, turned Lycos into their lapdog and took Yahoo as a court jester. Even lesser known search engines were mere Simba’s to Google’s Mufasa. Altavista? MSN? Bing? They were let off with warnings. Google could (and would) end them if they didn’t know their place. Google’s appetite is insatiable. They’ve absorbed Picasa, Android, Blogger, Motorola & Youtube to name a few, growing in power and extent like a game of snake that’s lasted since 1998. Yet despite being the realest representation of the all-consuming nature of modern capitalism, Google is the greatest place to work ever. How is that even happening? Who knew The Internship was actually a documentary? That’s like being told the sweatshop that used orphan children to mass produce that top you just bought gave their entire workforce scholarships and chocolate ferraris.
It’s a miracle to be able to ask something any question in the world and be 99% sure you’ll get an answer. It’s almost like having a direct 1-to-1 with God himself. But it’s almost impossible to truly characterise Google. It’s not quite a library. Not an encyclopaedia. Not an oracle of a culture long deceased. You’re pretty much asking a screen any question conceivable and acting on what it tells you. The closest thing we have to that is this guy.