Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Prediction by Prescription


As much as I have always loved writing and technology, the world doesn't need anymore tech blogs, the same way that tech doesn't need anymore lame social commentary. Yeah, we get it! The world will one day be filled with socially inept narcissistic wankers whose Camrys will literally fly themselves into drive thrus to pick up their Big Mac pills from evil and possibly homicidal cyborgs. Oh! And the second Back to the Future is a good film; can't forget that. But still, every fifth show or film they give ugly man-birth to either feels like a sleazy Bladerunner update or reads like a Black Mirror episode: dystopian clit-lit for luddites. But what if this is just a chicken and the egg situation? What if while we think we're predicting the future, we're actually just prescribing it?

A few days ago, people started receiving their Nike HyperAdapts: a better looking version of the self-lacing sneakers from Back to the Future Part II. This release follows a PR opportunity last year to try on working prototypes identical to the ugly ones Marty McFly wore in "2015" in 1989. But arguably, these things only exist because Nike wanted a quick money shot and only really had to jerk a 27 year erection for ten seconds to get it. Which begs the question, were these things really ever the future? And are they, even?

The very biased Adidas CEO, Kasper Rorsted, criticised the shoes on the Wall Street Journal, saying that he doesn't think they are a "save-the-world product". Meanwhile, the absolutely biased Nike CEO, Park Marker Mark Parker, on CNBC compared the self-lacing technology to self-driving cars with regards to their mainstream appeal. Funnily enough, both glorified slave-drivers are correct despite being at odds: this is a virtually pointless product which has achieved nothing but make cult fanatics and nerds cum inside Nike store change rooms all over the United States, and that's not the future, nor was it ever.

Any appeal these shoes have is almost the exclusive responsibility of the writers and bean counters behind Back to the Future II, and that's a stark example of fiction creating the future while we naively thought it was prognosticating. Of course, I can't confidently say that they would never have been made. I've known a couple of nice ladies who have nightmares about internet banking and shoe laces: I call them "Nan", and anybody else who has arthritis would know what it means to bend over and tie knots. I'm sure someone would have tapped that market eventually, but it wouldn't have been Nike, and it wouldn't have been marketed this way toward...well, me: an able-bodied 26 year old. It's happening now and it's Nike making it happen because that's what someone wrote in the 80s, not the other way around.

In fact, most of the excitement we feel for the decades to come is a by-product of pop culture, and we need to appreciate how this influences the market. If something we see in the cinema appeals to us and it shows up in market-research, then whomever has the means to make it, will. It's easy money. So, to say that flying cars, pill-form meals, and artificially-intelligent sex robots are our future would be pretty accurate, but only because we've spent the last 100 plus years saying it is. By the same token, to say that space travel, robotics, portable computing, and driverless cars were always ahead of us was just a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, the next time you're watching some piece of shit fiction which is showing you how Mark Zuckerberg will be the new way to spell "big brother" or whatever other manipulative dross it's pedalling, just remember that the warning might just be the genesis.

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