I just finished reading Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge and was blown away by how he extrapolated our current world to create a science fiction future that can’t be anything but the way things will actually turn out.

While the plot about a conspiracy involving some of the world’s security forces and a type of doomsday weapon failed to really pull me in, I was amazed at the way Vinge described the future technologies.

For example, the main character is in his 70s but is recovering from Alzheimer’s thanks to some new biotech that sounds remarkable similar to what this company is doing.

Inhabitants of this future aren’t really that different from us in that they are constantly connected. However, rather than glancing down at little screens to find out who is calling or what is being “Silent Messenged” to them (think Microsoft messenger mixed with this sort of tech), the information is displayed in their contact lenses, a technology that is not really that far away. Apparently, one group of researchers have already developed an LCD screen that you can wear in your eye.

Combine that with these image recognition glasses and you’re almost at the level that the characters in Rainbows End are. However, they can take it one step further by using the display to “skin” their reality and make it look the way they want in much the same way that we change the look and feel of our software programs and desktop. Imagine something like this Flickr-Google Earth mashup (via BoingBoing and NY Times, but in real time rather than photos and the option to use user-generated images/skins for your reality.

The way Vinge describes this new tech is perfect in that it is simply accepted by the characters in much the same way that we accept things like email and cell phones into our everyday lives.

For anyone even vaguely interested in knowing what our world will be like in the very near future, I strongly recommend Rainbows End. If you’re in Toronto and want to borrow my copy, let me know.

-Parker

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