Skip to main content

The Influence of the Future

Looks like another company is taking a stab at inventing something from the future. 

Scanadu's Scout is simple enough and although it doesn't look much like the Tricorder its hyped to be, it seems usefult. Simply hold the device between thumb and forefinger and the sensor takes readings on the owner's pulse rate, temperature, etc. Slick, useable but distinctly not what a Tricorder looks like or functions like.

The Tricorder, depending on whether or not we're talking about the original television series or the various sequels or 2009's re-boot, is a somewhat bulky, handheld sensor package. From a distance, the device takes various readings and provides characters the opportunity to talk about multi-phasic anti-boson fluctuations. 

That's not to say that Scanadu is committing fraud in sending out Trek-bait press releases. It's just interesting how a fairly disposable prop in a television series from the sixties has become a kind of touch-stone for marketing. Engadget's article contains an long list of similar articles promoting devices with varying degrees of similarity to the Tricorder, some even look like the satchel-like original. 

A tricorder would be useful in the real-world. The point of the device, as far as I understand it, is getting quality information from a distance in the field. Having a tricorder would be another step towards democratizing information and leaving aside how useful such a thing would be to scientists and soldiers and business people, I could imagine the combination of a tricorder with the hyper-aware, constantly uploading digital sphere as being a significant advance. Again this would be somewhat different from the world portrayed by Star Trek. Tricorders are simply a tool used by officers in a heirarchical paramilitary force on missions. What would the future be like if we were all, in a sense, capable of informing ourselves about the condition of the world around us? Would that make us more objective, more biased towards reality or would certain types buy plug-ins that adjusted tricorder readings to fit some prescribed ideological model? I think my question probably contains its own dismal answer.

Star Trek cast a long shadow on the popular imagination of America (probably the world) when it comes to the expectations of what the future looks like. Scanadu's Scout makes me wonder if a TV show can drive technological advancement towards certain ends or if these expectations mean certain types of inventions are always going to be met with a certain degree of interest.

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Review of I Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski

Even 23 years later, I remember 1994 and Kurt Cobain's death. I experienced that moment as a kind of inside out personal crisis. I felt ashamed by his death. As though his exit in someway indicted my own teenage miseries. "I wish I was like you," goes the verse in 'All Apologies,' "Easily amused." I felt as though a check I hadn't remembered writing had just been cashed. 

SP Miskowski's book, named after the first half of that line, is in the words of another reviewer, a novel that shouldn't work. The narrator is unlikeable, unreliable, and dead. The plot is almost entirely told as a flashback and long sections of the novel concern the inner processes of the writer. The daily grind to summon up enough self-esteem to carry a sentence to its logical conclusion is a real struggle, people, but it ain't exactly riveting.

But the thing is, this novel works. It is one of the best things I've read all year and a real achievement in weird ficti…

What I Read in 2017

The third in my series of year-end lists is literature. As in past years, I've divided this post into two categories: Novels and short stories. Each of these stories made 2017 just a bit brighter for me and I hope this list includes at least a writer or two new to you.

I Wish I was You by SP Miskowski: This was the subject of a review earlier this year. The way I feel about this novel, the tragedy of a talented person crippled by anger and regret, transformed into a monstrous avatar of wrath, has not really left me. Beyond the perfection of its prose and its preternatural subject matter, I feel like this is one of the best evocations of the mid-nineties I've seen published. There's something about this book that lingers with me long past the concerns of its plot and characters. I guess what I'm trying to say is this work moved me. 2017 would have been a lot dimmer if I hadn't read this work.New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson: Robinson writes next-level sp…

Review of "Pretty Marys All in a Row" by Gwendolyn Kiste

Part of the reason American Gods works is that it offers a kind of reward to folk lore mavens and religious study majors. Do you have a working familiarity with obscure Northern European mythologies? Are you able to describe what Neil Gaiman got right and what he fudged a bit in terms of the Egyptian religion? Then the guessing games of that novel - just which Middle Eastern Goddess is this? - magnify its other charms. 
"Pretty Marys All in a Row" by Gwendolyn Kiste (released by Broken Eye Books), is a novella for people, like me, who are waiting impatiently for the next season of Bryan Fuller's show. It's not set in that universe, certainly, but approaches the question of folklore from a similar perspective. Namely, that myths have a definite, physical explanation and your knowledge of such things will expand your enjoyment of the work. In the case of Pretty Marys, the stories are urban legends and nursery rhymes about young women. The main character, Rhee, is named…