Sunday, 4 November 2012

2050-A Virtual Short Story

I switched on the virtual link to talk to my daughter, Rebecca, on the other side of the Globe, and lo, the Hologram danced in space before me. “Hi,” she said, moving around in her apron, dusting the furniture, “Hi,” I answered, “what are the Kids doing?” I asked observing that my grandchildren, Sam, eleven and Ruth, 14 were nowhere to be seen. “ Tuition classes” Rebecca answered. Tuition classes took place via virtual link, and of course, schooling took place on the net via virtual link. I remembered my days in school, it was a place where we had fun, we had friends and games, and outings, at least in the real sense! “Where is Dan?” I asked Rebecca. “Working on that takeover that the company has been planning all along,” she answered with a smirk, “I wonder what they would gain by swallowing a company that is so small!” I thought back to the days when people still moved in cars, and Dan and Rebecca drove down from Phoenix City in their swanky Chase! Today they hardly traveled by car as most of the work was done from home via virtual links! “Well pass on my best wishes to Dan, Sam, and Rebecca” I said. “Sure, bye, take care Dad!” she replied. With a shrug I turned off the virtual link.  Having woken up early in the morning, I felt like taking  a stroll down the street although that would mean a virtual walk, not the real thing!  Virtual life was really not that bad these days. The teething problems had finally been overcome, and people no longer complained of headaches and, anyway, the benefits were far outweighed the disadvantages!  Streets and highways became free of traffic, and the only traffic you found on the roads was of the automated bots, pilot-less cars that ran errands, carrying odds and ends. Added to all this, the authorities had less to worry about issues related to maintaining  law and order because people rarely stepped out doors these days!

As I started walking briskly down the deserted street, I observed that there was a slight chill in the morning air, with the scent of some flower blossoming  at the end of the season. I was lost in my thoughts wondering about the scent,  when I was interrupted by a greeting by a virtual image of my neighbour, Archie. Archie  a trim and smart woman in her late thirties, was the C.E.O. of a well-known Retail Outlet. “Hello, what’s up?" she asked me. "Hi, long time no see, where have you been all this time” I answered her. “Oh well, I guess it’s been a long time, but then we had to get over the company audit and close our accounts for the financial year, anyway I am back!” she replied. I looked at her for a while wondering how she was able to keep so fit and trim, and rather fresh! These days people tended to put on weight especially because of the lack of physical exercise, and I myself was a little overweight. “Well, how about you, Ron, have you written any new books?” she asked me (She was a professed fan ). “Yes,” I replied, “I am writing a novel based on life in the early 2000s, the time that those planes were crashed into the twin towers.” She looked at me for a moment, “well I guess terrorism ended with the explosion of that dirty bomb in the Atlantis city in 2020 and is now no longer a threat is it?” I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “well no, that is true, everything is so well regulated these days that we hardly require any policing.  We don’t even require an army to protect our borders because everything is automated, the missiles, the bombers and the fighters." We strode forward towards the main road where the only traffic was of the colour- tagged bots scurrying around on virtually silent electric motors. The absence of the stink of Diesel and Petrol fumes made the walk a pleasant experience, especially as I was with my lovely and graceful neighbour, the star attraction of the neighbourhood. Suddenly a strident chime sounded. I had to bid Archie a "see you" and beat a hasty retreat back to my workstation. My House-keeping monitor was flashing terse messages, “you have run out of provisions for the week, you have run out of detergents, you have run out of fruits, vegetables….” and so on. The messages went on flashing on the virtual screen with an irritating regulartiy. I groaned loudly, my virtual morning walk having been so rudely interrupted, and switched on the down link to the Mart on the other side of the town. “Welcome to the Green Mart, Sir” said the smiling virtual image of George the Green Mart computer, “what can put you down for?” I turned to the list, “well, George, this is the list, and how soon can I get these provisions?” I asked. “Well, the bots are available, Sir, and you will get the things in an hour at the most, said George. “Thanks,” I replied as I uploaded the credit points into the Green Mart’s computer.

After off-loading the provisions from the bot, I had a late breakfast of cornflakes and a toast with that rather tasty low cholesterol version of butter, and relaxed on my couch lost in my thoughts, thinking about what my future novel would be about. Well I had told Archie that my next novel would be about the end of Terrorism, but then in fact I had yet to start work on it! I mused about how things had changed since the later 2000s. Moore’s law had proved ineffective because of the exponential growth and development in technology. The answer to all the problems of the world had been Virtualisation. Virtualisation, the experts claimed would reverse the harms of Green House Gases, Global Warming, congested roads, crime, terrorism…etc. At first we were sceptical as to how all this could be achieved. But then we gradually realised that with fewer and fewer people venturing out of their homes, there would be fewer vehicles on the road, fewer criminals on the road, and of course with fewer crowded areas, there would be no point in placing bombs to achieve maximum destruction. The only problem that we were facing was obesity and general depression caused by a lack of physical exercise and lack of real life social interactions. My thoughts were interrupted by a gentle chime which told me that my wife, Jenny was trying to contact me. She had gone to stay with my elder Son Gregory, who was the director of the telecommunications centre at Awash, about five thousand kilometres from my city. “ Hello, dear, what is going on?” she asked me, I knew she would start fussing about whether I had bought the provisions, whether I had changed the bed-sheets, or whether I had done the laundry, yada yada, yada! “well dear, I am good, and yes I have got the provisions, got the Maid bot to sweep the house. By the way, when are you coming back? I am getting bored, and need somebody to give me some inspiration!” She looked at me with a helpless look, “ The strato-cruisers have been grounded because of the solar flares, and the airlines have said that flights will return back to normal by next week, till then you will have to hang on!” I replied, “well, it is high time you returned, anyway, how is Greg, these days he seems not to have enough time to talk to me!” Jenny replied, “well he has been keeping very busy these days and he sends his regards, says he and Beenu (his wife) will be visiting us in two months’ time!” I smiled my best smile and said, “Well take care, regards to Beenu, and Amit (my grandson who was training to be an Astro-Physicist and was Greg’s son). See you soon!” “Bye, take care, don’t forget your breakfast and your morning exercise” “Yeah, sure,” I said looking at the treadmill and the exercise Cycle lying unused in the Hall. The bell chimed, and it was another Hologram floating in the air, it was my publisher agent calling about my new book. I guess, virtualisation had shrunk distances, but then perhaps it had made us too accessible … well I guess the days of easy escape and relaxation were finally over! Each adult was connected to the internet through an interface although children had relatively greater freedom. The children however couldn't get into any mischief out doors because they hardly stepped out these days. Exercise, and games took place via virtual links, and even the body was stimulated via virtual link through interfaces (Some adults had chips implanted under their skin, others wore a shank at the back of their necks).These days you didn't physically step outside, and if you went physically to a supermarket, then you had to pay an extra amount! People rarely went to Church but attended Virtual Mass from the convenience of their homes. 

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