The Morrow Project: 4 Short Stories Crafting a Vision of Our Future Selves

If you have a little extra time to relax over the Thanksgiving weekend (or just a usual weekend for the rest of us!) then make sure you check out Intel’s Morrow Project – it’s a literary project which brings to life the impact that research currently being conducted by the company could have on our lives, with four short stories illuminating a vision of our future society. What a great idea.

Touching the areas of photonics, robotics, telematics, dynamic physical rendering and intelligent sensors, the four stories from best selling authors Douglas Rushkoff, Ray Hammond Scarlett Thomas and Markus Heitzbruing to life the technology of tomorrow. Here are the synopses:

Last Day of Work – by Douglas Rushkoff

Today is Dr. Leon Spiegel’s last day of work. But he’s not just another retiring technology worker: he is the last man ever to work.

Having delayed the inevitable for longer than he should, Spiegel recounts the events that have led to a world where no companies, no money, and no need for employment exist. In doing so, he reveals how humanity nearly allowed technology to bring life to a close, before stumbling upon the truth of man’s own culpability for his dire condition. And now that humankind has avoided its dark fate and transcended the previously limited definition of what it means to be human, Spiegel is having a hard time letting go and joining the rest of the world.

The Mercy Dash – by Ray Hammond

In the year 2125, two young Mannheim residents are forced to undertake a high speed drive to save a life.

Billy Becker – a successful furniture designer ¬– and his girlfriend Sophie, a medical student, learn that Sophie’s mother Hélène has suffered a serious back injury whilst waterskiing.  Hélène has a rare blood antibody which means it is unsafe for her to receive ordinary blood transfusions.  Sophie also carries the rare blood antibody and she alone can provide blood.

But, in 2125, all major autoroutes through Europe are under networked traffic management and Billy and Sophie are forced to override the automated controls and speed limits in order to get to from Mannheim to Nice before surgery on Hélène is completed.

Billy and Sophie are not alone on their journey.  Billy has recently acquired a new virtual assistant, also called “Sophie”, who is able to communicate in a very lifelike way; so lifelike that real Sophie starts to get jealous about her rival for Billy’s attention....

The Drop – by Scarlett Thomas

Agnes is 32. She lives in a seaside town in Britain about six years (or so) in the future. When she is out running one evening on the seafront she ends up racing a boat and winning. When one of the rowers sends her a message on her GSRcx (a sports watch that includes galvanic skin response data and information on air pollution and wind-speed) she is quite surprised: you can’t get messages on this kind sports watch. Everyone uses their ‘Box’ for communication. It’s not clear how she can send him a reply. She doesn’t even know which one of the four people on the boat he was, but hopes he’s the one with the dark curly hair and the green top. When she discovers that he sent her the message using a mind-control patch, she must learn mind-control in order to send one back.

Agnes’s family make money by generating electricity on exercise machines. They get briefly excited when they get some ‘hits’ from people watching them in their everyday lives (like reality TV, but live and accessible direct from home-to-home via speed-of-light data transfer), but the hits soon evaporate. It doesn’t really matter – everyone, watches the Takahashi family in Tokyo anyway. Agnes’s father spends all his time in the (virtual) mountains. Danny, Agnes’s younger brother, is obsessed with watching cars on the ‘network’: a system many people think is very beautiful and even mysterious. Cars drive themselves, using the most efficient route. And all cars have their colour chosen by the network. The cars make patterns that can be seen from space (and that anyone can tune in to).

The Drop imagines a future in which telematics, photonics and intelligent devices have changed the ways in which people interact with their world. The world, and the people in it, remain (lovably) flawed, mysterious and sometimes funny – but the technology makes many things so much easier and more interesting.

The Blink of an Eye – by Markus Heitz

translated by Howard Fine

A brave new world, thanks to sensor technology and AI! Every movement is monitored. Alexin can walk around inside his house without ever having to flip a switch. The house detects, interprets and makes life easier: doors, lights, electrical and electronic devices, even the toilet seat lifts and lowers automatically. But Alexin knows this is making him dependent – and it’s becoming painfully clear to him that AI also has a dangerous disadvantage….

Intrigued? Head over to the Morrow Project where you can download the stories in e-book form or podcast. Nice work, guys.

 

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