Some years ago, there was what became known as a ‘horse-meat scandal’ in the U.K.
Uncannily, a year before … almost to the day in fact … I had written the following on Facebook …
You know how everything tastes almost-but-not-entirely like chicken¹ well …
We haven’t had a major food-scandal for a while, even though we’re in the grip of a major, world-wide economic depression³.
The French market for frogs legs is pretty niche and, in the current economic climate, probably in need of a fiscal shot in the leg, so to speak, and frogs are smaller and can be farmed intensively in less space than chickens and, well … you never know, do you? Frogs legs taste almost-but-not-entirely like chicken.
¹ Amazingly, even chicken nuggets taste almost-but-not-entirely like chicken².
² Which is surprising really, because they start out as pork scratchings, donkey itchings, sheep scabs and bits of broken-down race-horses past their prime.
³ Europe is doing particularly badly and the EU, if not the whole ED, appears to in danger of splintering.
It was that second footnote that was the really uncanny aspect of it. That and how close the event followed my musings — musings that were really only me messing with people’s heads and seeing if I could put them off their food that day or, more long term, leave them feeling generally queasy/uneasy about things (especially chicken nuggets 😉) … and not actually a premonition that I was aware of.
Now, it would be easy to write it off as coincidence.
But it wasn’t an extraordinary phenomenon for me that it should turn out to be predicitive of something — over the years, I’ve had these premonitions about the Future. What was, as I said, uncanny about it was how close the form of the premonition was to the eventual reality and the timescale — that was what disturbed me.
Decades ago, in the first throes of what was being called the Information Age, I turned to people and said “the Information Age is long since dead. We’re in the Acceleration Age now — in which faster is getting faster.”
I couldn’t describe it any better than that … couldn’t nail it down any more clearly than I could fog … couldn’t predict the detail, just the trend — I’m more subject to subconscious processing providing me with insight into factors of significance than visions of precisely how or what it will be and my premonitions tend to be about the state of things, not events … long term, not short term.
Part of it though was a result of something that led to my Just Think and Signal:Noise pieces — the sheer volume of information available.
I can’t even remember the precise details any more but people were all excited about the need to handle all the information that would be coming their way as a result of something that had yet to even arrive … namely the Internet as we now know it — this was in the days of dial-up bulletin-boards and the closest thing to the Web … Usenet … was available to academics and government employees only, not the public.
Back then, I turned around and said “No, we won’t need that … there’s too much information for that. What we will need will be ways to eliminate all the information we don’t need before we are even aware it exists and then first look at what’s left for what is of interest to us.”
Okay … so … I see through a glass darkly: whilst others are distracted by the photorealistic images of rural idyll plastered over the ghetto walls at the front, I’m concerned about what I can’t make out through the external grime on the nailed shut window at the back of the tenement — I can see the forms … the shapes … but can’t see the details clearly ¹.
But, I was right … because that’s exactly what email spam filters are — they remove the stuff we don’t need to see from our data pool before we are even aware it exists. They just didn’t exist back then because no-one had yet anticipated a need for them and I had no idea what form the mechanism would take or in what field it might first appear.
And, of course, these days we are all living in filter-bubbles that are algorithmically determined in advance — what we are going to be interested in determined before we even see it.
So, I was wrong but right — right about the general direction of travel, not so much about the specific detail.
Over the course of my life, I’ve had a number of similar experiences — some remarkably specific but mostly about general trends and forms rather than detailed … the nature of things to come rather than their exact shape or time of arrival.
But, invariably, after the event, I’ve looked at it and thought “Oh, so that’s what that ‘vision’ was about then.”
They’re a bit like Ray Bradbury’s short story The Murderer — the precise detail of the technology concerned were wrong … he didn’t predict the mobile phone as such … but he was absolutely right about the shape of things to come (not bad for a story written, nearly fifty years ahead of its time, in 1953, eh?)
The most recent one was the most alarming yet.
For once I got an actual, precise timescale — namely “five years from now, it will be clear that it was already too late two years previously.”
I had no idea what it was that would occur but I knew it would be momentous for those affected and that it would require me to leave the country before it were too late.
That premonition occurred to me in 2013.
In 2016 the UK voted to leave the EU … precisely three years after the premonition and two years before any British citizen not already living in another EU country for at least five years before 2019 will be unable to claim right of residence, claim any tax/welfare/health/pension benefits or change their nationality.
It’s not that none of my premonitions has been specific before — one or two of them have been. But they weren’t clearly premonitions in the manner to which I have since become accustomed … more feelings that I should/shouldn’t do something ². And I’d never had a specific timescale in any of my premonitions before, let alone one so precise.
So, I found the specificity disturbing — not least because … along with the precise timescale … there were elements of detail that … whilst they were, as ever, way off the mark in the end … were, nevertheless, eerily close to what actually happened ³.
And they’ve been getting not only more specific over the years but closer together — their rate of arrival has been, perhaps appropriately given my observation about what era we find ourselves living in, accelerating.
So, I can’t tell you why but in light of this …
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha … Brutal!
Now I stop to think about it, I’m not altogether infrequently heard to utter that specific phrase.
… it struck me as significant that I should so soon afterwards see this …
Why All Designers Should Read Cyberpunk
As Silicon Valley bigwigs develop cyberpunk-inspired tech, our reality looks a lot more like science fiction.
Seriously, I’m completely with Womack on that one …. “Cyberpunk? Oh, yeah! … I remember that. Whatever happened to it, now you come to mention it?”
Yes, I know that the labels used in my posts (like ‘Cyberpunk’ for instance) will make the algorithm search for others like it, but what struck me about it is the fact that the Design article was posted only two days before I read it yesterday.
Trust me, there’s something going on — I recognise the signs. And, moreover, as I said, the premonitions have been getting closer together … from twenty years ahead of real events to two months … to two weeks … to two days — reality is catching up with me … and ever faster.
Furthermore, that observation in itself … that reality is catching up … is kinda what the article is about …
The fantastical themes of cyberpunk […] have never been more real […] Tech has caught up.
Yes … and we still haven’t …
In 2017, people aspire to live in coffin-size apartments because our cities are overcrowded, not so different, really, from the containers that the heroes of Ready Player One or Snow Crash inhabit.
Through A Glass Darkly
One day, you won’t log in to this site or that email account at all, let alone with different credentials.
In the back of my mind as I write this are the details of a conversation with someone in country ‘A’ in 2014, in which they outlined some very alarming ideas indeed … ideas I not only can’t dismiss as entirely too far fetched … no matter how much I might like to for various reasons (not least their provenance) … but, furthermore, had a disconcerting quality about them that I recognise from my own experience — they had … have … that ‘through a glass darkly’ / ‘reflections in a distorting mirror’ about them that my own premonitions have … something about them resonates and says to me “Yep … not this but like this — not a pyramid made up of triangles but a cube made of pyramids kinda thing.”
I can’t say precisely where I’m going with all this … as usual, I don’t know, I just have an uneasy, ill-formed premonition of things just out of sight … just over the horizon … but heading inexorably our way.
And my premonitions are always precisely that … premonitions — therefore, they do not bode well.
Moreover, they invariably turn out to have been hopelessly romantic when compared to what actually happens. The romantically noir world of cyberpunk hasn’t happened, nor will it— Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is more likely.
And that’s given that … even allowing for the fact that, back in the day, I was already of the opinion that cyberpunk was too romantic … too clean … and that biotech was a more likely future … even I didn’t imagine the horror of Monsanto.
So, look for something more twisted … nastier … unwholesome … not dirty but unclean — think leprosy and Necrotising Fasciitis, not foot fetishism … think bacterial contamination in the water supply from the unmaintained sewers and storm drains, not simply water shortages, or too much but still clean water.
In the ’60s people imagined a world of computer-designed, robot built-toys in a global village.
They were right … but hopelessly optimistic and romantic.
So am I.
All, I know is I can sense I change in the air pressure, the wind is getting up, there’s moisture in the air. I can’t tell you when or where it will strike, but a storm is brewing — I recognise the signs.
¹ It could have been a man or a woman and I’ve no idea about their age, the colour of their skin, hair or clothing … but they were definitely between 1.5m and 1.8m tall, wearing a long coat of some kind … and they definitely just hit someone else over the head and (though I couldn’t say whether they were taking or planting something) bent down and seemed to rifle through their victim’s clothing momentarily … kinda thing.
² Like I shouldn’t eat eggs only for there to be a national Salmonella scare two weeks later. Or that the sausages I was cooking didn’t smell right and I didn’t want to eat them any more … something that had been creeping up on me for a number of months but had finally hit the level of “No, really, these don’t just smell a bit odd, their odour is making me retch” … only for the BSE scandal to hit the UK headlines two months later.
³ There were extra details to the premonition I won’t bore people with now that events have already transpired but they were uncannily resonant with real events and, furthermore, I found myself returning to country ‘A’ for the same reason I had left ‘A’ for ‘B’ all those years previously … and then leaving ‘A’ for ‘B’ again for the opposite reason I had moved to ‘B’ in the first place … so there was a real sense of my own history repeating itself in a mirror— which was precisely what a those elements were about … History repeating itself in a fairground hall of distorting mirrors.