Woke Up In The Future Today…

…Didn’t Much Like It.

When I was a boy I grew up with the space program. I was five when Sputnik was launched. I collected, not baseball cards, but cards with the pictures of the Mercury and Gemini astronauts on them.

I grew up reading the great science fiction writers of my time: Clarke and Asimov, Heinlein and Blish…and of course Ray Bradbury. The future of manned space flight seemed so sure that by the time I was sixteen, Pan Am was actually taking reservations for the first commercial moon shuttle. They didn’t have it built yet of course, but it was coming so soon that saving your place in line was advised. Hundreds of thousands of people did just that, as it cost nothing and my, but wouldn’t it be fine!

Now Pan Am is long lost to bankruptcy. The last space shuttle has landed and been consigned to a museum. The Ares 1/ Orion program that is supposed to replace it won’t be ready to launch for at least another three years, and those estimates were made before Congress developed an austerity fetish. In the meanwhile, any Americans still on the International Space Station will have to hitch a ride home from the Russians…You know, the guys that Ronald Reagan used to brag about beating in the space race and the Cold War?

They’re running the show for the next few years.

How the hell did we ever let it come to this? This was the thing we were most proud of. It was what we did better than anyone else. We were on the cutting edge of science and technology…and now we are not. Asimov and Clark and Blish and Heinlein are all gone. Ray Bradbury still lives though and the other writers that followed them are with us still, but the stars have become farther away than they once were.

I woke up in a science fiction story this morning, but it was in the dystopian world of William Gibson and cyberpunk. The main story of the day is about a major media conglomerate hacking into  voice mail systems and bribing police detectives.  The greatest check on government and corporate misconduct is no longer the media, who have largely been absorbed by corporate behemoths, but free range hackers such as Anonymous and the Man Without a Country, Julian Assange and his great gadfly engine, Wikileaks.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts: “Civil libertarians are raising the alarm over the state’s plans to create a Big Brother database that could map drivers’ whereabouts with police cruiser-mounted scanners that capture thousands of license plates per hour — storing that information indefinitely where local cops, states, feds and prosecutors could access it as they choose.” –(The Boston Herald)

Excuse me. I seem to have something in my eye.

Be seeing you.

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