I wrote 325 pages of a rough draft to a science fiction novel during my last year or so of University. About a hundred pages in, I realized that I hadn’t decided if the world would still use cell phones 200 years into the future.
I’ve come across similar challenges while working on building my fantasy universes: I want magic to feel powerful, only to realize that most of the cool things I’ve imagined my characters doing are now enabled by technology.
Take telepathy: aside from the fact that we still need to use our fingers to communicate, and that these messages get relayed to pocket screens rather than directly to our brain, we’re all basically telepathic. In fact, I would argue that what we are capable of doing is better than telepathy, because of we invited actual telepathic technology, the first things we would want it to do would be to a) hold incoming mind-messages in storage until we were ready to listen to them, because anything else would raise mental privacy concerns, b) convert those mind messages to text because people talk slowly and incoherently and we’re liable to miss something they said and isn’t that why we all hate voice mail? and c) create some way of filtering the mental messages we want to send to other people, because we’re all already terrified of accidentally letting something slip when we speak or text, and wouldn’t we be more prone to accidentally think-communicating the wrong thing if there were no check between what we think and what we say?
Planes are like magic, too: we climb into these tiny boxes that blast us through the air and hundreds of miles an hour, and when we step out we are in an entirely different world, with new buildings, foods, smells, flavors, and languages.
Not that any of this is actually magic, of course: it’s all sprung somehow from the imagination, hard work, and coordination of hundreds of human being across centuries of thought and technological innovation. Which is absolutely more incredible.
The point is: sometimes people complain about living in the wrong time period. And in spite of starting a sewing business as a teenager where I sold cloaks to my homeschooled peers, I can’t say I’ve ever regretted the time period I was born in. In fact, I think I’m in the perfect age for my personality and preferences: witnessing the early days of technology that has and will continue to transform the world, more information at my fingertips than I can consume in a lifetime, and the freedom to travel without losing touch with home.
I woke up pretty down this morning, and I nearly went to bed feeling the same way. Somehow, writing about this stuff has made me pretty excited about the world again, folks. It’s an exciting time to be alive.