Smart wig on and lightsaber packed, I visit the future

In the second part of a two-part piece of speculative fiction, Crave's Eric Mack time-travels to a day when everything is a little more awesome.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects. CNET's "Living off the Grid" series. https://www.cnet.com/feature/home/energy-and-utilities/living-off-the-grid/ Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Eric Mack
4 min read
Still one of the best ways to get to Phoenix 20 years into the future, especially when it does the driving for you. Tesla Motors

Editor's note: Crave's Eric Mack wraps up this two-part fictional look at life in the near future. We pick up where part one left off, with our hero on his way to cover a big event in Phoenix after the local Hyperloop has broken down, forcing him to take his slower, but still awesome self-driving electric car instead.

I'm supposed to be covering today's big announcement in Phoenix, but since my local Hyperloop line is out and the luxury drone service I've relied on in the past is under restriction, I've had to dust off my autonomous Tesla for a last-minute road trip.

Fortunately, only drones are restricted in this airspace, and Amazon has already begun delivering an Asimo terminal-model servant to the site in Phoenix via an old-timey piloted plane.

This change of plans means I won't be needing my urine-powered home robot today and the day's worth of fuel that I had to drink 2 gallons of water to capture yesterday will go to waste. Before heading to the garage I press the flush button on my repository to donate it to the community fuel reserve instead.

Past or future vision? Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

I leave my Glass on the table, and instead grab my smart wig -- I prefer this Sony scalp-based competitor to Glass, particularly the vintage "Brooklyn" model with ironic meta-vintage sideburns as both a fashion statement, and for the extra memory that can be stored in the "facial hair" nanotubes, even if they are in an irritating proprietary format that's only compatible with other Sony products (I actually saw someone trying to shove an ancient thing called a "minidisc" under their wig yesterday).

Anyhow, I'll be needing the wig to coordinate the data transfer and control the Asimo from my Auto-T.

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice that little Eric's goldfish in the living room is dead again. I shout out a command to the home network: "OK, GoogleBook (unbelievably, Dave Eggers was right. Google finally swallowed Facebook around 2017 to become nearly as all-knowing as the NSA). Please print a new fish before I return tomorrow. No, make it two fish: one gold and one plaid."

I should have saved the money and just gone with a standard printer to create robot fish instead of spending a fortune on a live tissue model -- now everyday it seems I play god, and fail.

Maybe next time I should ask it to print out a new teenager that will actually feed his 3D-printed pets, I think to myself while grabbing my pocket lightsaber -- hard to say how things will go down after the announcement; better to be prepared for anything.

I sync myself up with my wig and it automatically connects to the Auto T while confirming my DNA in order to access my master intellectual profile, complete with data culled from psych-medical records, GoogleBook, and the court-ordered NSA dump. Before I hit the Arizona line, most of my profile should be fully loaded onto the Asimo in Phoenix in time to do the pre-interviews with the scientists involved in the big announcements.

By the time my Auto T is passing through old Flagstaff, I've conducted two interviews via my wig, while also monitoring the input from my Asimo, which is standing in for me and capturing notes and other 3D data at a simultaneous closed press event before the big public announcement. It can also carry on basic conversations in my stead using my intellectual profile.

As I get to Sedona, the wig's batteries are getting low. Since they're not compatible with the Auto T's power source, I can't charge them up until I get within range of Phoenix's wireless electricity array. I disconnect from everything and shut my eyes for the last part of the drive to get some rest.

In the end, I make it to Phoenix just in time for the big announcement, but it turns out to be not nearly as big news as it could have been, which is good news for most in the pro-human camp. That's because researchers have finally proven to their satisfaction that we are not, in fact, living in a computer simulation.

The strange electromagnetic fields detected in the Arizona desert months ago that some speculated were a kind of back-door to other, parallel simulations running on the same master operating system, turned out to be an anomaly created by the prankster hackers from the collective known as Eponymous.

So the secretive exclusive interview I was promised turned out to be with one of the hackers the authorities had in custody, not with the folks from a parallel simulation.

Just another day in this world that it turns out we've created all on our own, with no help from the Matrix or a great Linux kernel at the heart of all existence. It's all ours, even the broken-down Hyperloop.

"OK, GoogleBook," I say to my smart wig. "If he hasn't done it yet, please have the home robot feed the new fish for my son."

Then I ask my Auto Tesla to take me home as I set to work on a big bottle of water to make sure there's enough fuel for the robot for tomorrow.