The History of the Future
This is an ongoing series by HGP contributing editor and professional grant writer Mandrake Chapman. Mr. Chapman came to the realization that the institution of academia actually expected him to publish something, at least every now and then, in order to keep his lucrative gig of teaching creative writing to college students who hadn’t yet realized that they had no talent. Stated Mandrake, “How hard could that be?”
The Sanity Shift It was the 2030 Census that verified, indeed, that there were now more people in the Untied States who were clinically insane than those who were not. And it was in 2032 that the Supreme Court ruled that, by definition, “normal” was decided by the majority. Therefore, what once was considered to be crazy, was now the norm, and those who once were considered sane should now be considered extremely dangerous. Institutionalization was recommended. Speaking for the majority, Chief Justice Bidwell stated, “Shut up! I’ll kill you all! What are you looking at?” Few “insane” people were ever locked up, though, because they quickly went underground. After all, it is a lot easier to pretend you’re yelling at somebody who isn’t there than to pretend you’re not. They learned to identify each other with secret signals, and would often meet clandestinely, so, as one member recalled, “We could just sit around and be quiet without anybody yelling at us or trying to take away our socks.” One of the things that the new majority insisted on doing was driving, which had long been a privilege of the sane. By 2037, mostly because of all the people who had been run over, many of whom where indoors, it was determined that those people who had recently been in the majority no longer were. And once again, the definition of “sane” was revised to the pre-2030 status. See, as well, the Shift of 2088, 2129, 2173, and 2222.
The End of Higher Education The Acting Class Class Action Lawsuit originated in the Marshfield High School in Marshfield, Missouri, in the spring of 2032. Soon they were joined by over two million students across the United States, all of whom were incensed over having to take Drama in their Junior year of high school. Said one student, “Hell. What’s the point in this? I ain’t ever gonna be no actor!” It took over two years for the case to work its way through the court system, but in October of 2035, the Supreme Court, citing that it was not necessary to be educated in order to make an educated decision about education, agreed in favour of the students,. Justice Clinton, in writing for the majority, stated, “I never wanted to take those useless classes, either.” Citing precedent, the case was applied the following year to Narvel v. the University of Wisconsin, where it was ruled that not only did students not have to take any class that wasn’t directly related to their major, but they didn’t have to take any class that they already weren’t very good in, or just didn’t like. In essence, what the court ruled was that all that was necessary to earn a degree was to be able to do one’s job, and nothing else. The Birmingham Amalgamated Steel Corporation V. Alabama State University, further defined by Gorman V. Luxor Aircraft Manufactures, determined all that was necessary for a degree was for a person to be able to perform a small portion of a job. Knowledge of the whole was superfluous. For instance, why would somebody need to understand aeronautics if all they were going to be doing was putting rivets in a wing? As far as that goes, why would that worker even need to know how the rivet gun worked when all that person really needed to know was where to aim it and how to pull the trigger? By the fall of 2040, almost all major universities and junior colleges in the United States had disbanded, many of them being converted into condos. Most historians cite the landmark court case in Florida in 2038 for the near total demise of higher education. Stated one education official in Florida, “Hell, if all we’re doing is training these kids to work… I mean, how much do you really need to know to operate a drill press. Heck, as long as you can reach the pedals, then how hard is it to drive a truck?” It was shortly thereafter, that Florida changed its mandatory education age from 16 to 9. Commenting on that decision, one legislature stated, “Most of us was for 8, but them little guys really have a hard time running a forklift at that age.” Having children work at such a young age, as expected, was a hotly debated issue. That issue was resolved with The Child Labour Act of 2041, which stated that if a person has finished her or his education, then that person is technically no longer a child, and he or she not only should be expected to work, but not working was seen, as further defined by the courts in Widbey vs. The US Textile Industry, as putting an unnecessary burden on those taxpayers who do work. Therefore, it was agreed in a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court in 2043 that every US citizen who had completed the third grade was compelled to work. It was further ruled in the summer of 2044, in West Virginia Ore and Mining Company V. Grudensen, that setting limits, either maximum or minimum, on how much a company was forced to pay their employees, as well as how long those employees should be allowed to work, was an unnecessary intrusion into the work place by the government. The same session also saw the repeal of workplace safety laws. After all, where one worked was a choice made by that person, the employee, and any conditions that existed in that place of employment was therefore agreed to by the employee. Besides, it should not be the responsibility of the government to mandate how any business should be able to operate the most efficiently. There were limited attempts at revolution by the workers, but most failed simply because any given worker only knew how to do her or his specific job, and nothing else. Stated one government official, “Gees Louise, if the bus didn’t take most of them home they’d wander aimlessly on the streets. Most don’t even know how to boil water, and if they do, then they really don’t know what to do with it. And the guy that knows what to put in that water, really doesn’t have a clue on what to do with it when it’s done. You see, it takes everybody working together. On our own, it just won’t work. But isn’t that how a democracy should work?”
Do You Feel Like We Do? October 8, 2057: The last time Peter Frampton's "Do You Feel Like We Do?" is played on the radio. Anywhere. Ever. "And not a moment too soon," commented Vaugn Knightly, longtime disc jockey for WIDK radio in Crossgrove, Illinois.
The Last Really Good View Following using the Grand Canyon as a landfill in 2060, and the collective nuking of Iguazu Falls in South America so the countries concerned would no longer have a reason to fight over it, the writers of Traveler magazine began to ponder just how many places were left on the earth that were truly worth going out of your way to see. After two years of intense scrutinization, they found only one. A hillside overlooking the James River just northeast of the small town of Hurley, Missouri, was determined to be the last picturesque place on the planet on August 11, 2063. Real estate prices there immediately increased by 200,000%. It immediately became a magnet for the super-rich, who had finally come to admit that the Moon was downright boring. And those who could afford to be there immediately began figuring out how to make money off those who could not. High rises soon appeared where people were willing to pay 1,000 U.S. adjusted dollars for a one minute (adjusted time) view. Whenever one high rise would block the view, the one behind it would just make theirs higher. Finally, in what has become known as the Great Collapse, on October 6, 2076, 100 square miles of high rise condos, hotels, and timeshares, spontaneously collapsed in on themselves and fell into the valley, obliterating everything that was once there to see. Since so much of the world’s wealth was tied up in what simply became known as “That Place,” the world’s markets suffered a simultaneous collapse. Many of the 2.8 million wrongful death lawsuits are still making their way through the courts as of this writing. And it is estimated that there isn’t a chance in hell that anyone will ever figure out who is really responsible for reimbursing those people who had placed deposits so their grandchildren might someday be able to eventually go there. The only person to profit off the whole affair was a man named Gweev Flood, who bought the whole place for a song (which he didn’t even have to sing). Gweev has since begun charging people a dollar apiece just so the could see what was once “That Place.” There are plans for condominiums.
STFU In the Spring of 2038, it became increasingly apparent that the average person was a moron willing to believe any nonsense anybody would tell them after 1000's of people made themselves critically ill by drinking motor oil (the real stuff, not the synthetic kind) thinking it would keep them safe from Covid 85. A group of concerned citizens, which included some of the smartest people in the country, all came to the same conclusion: The greatest threat to humanity was that darn near everybody was willing to believe anything anybody told them, and then tell everybody else as if it were true. They decided the only hope for humankind would be if everybody would just shut the fuck up. Everybody should keep their opinions to themselves. And so began the STFU Campaign. Hundreds of thousands of T-shirts were printed with STFU across the front. There were bumper stickers, coffee cups, ballcaps Frisbees, pencils and pens, all emblazoned with the acronym STFU. You name it, they put STFU on it. It was the day before the worldwide release, on July 3, 2038, that an intern at the STFU Campaign Headquarters, more of an aside than anything, happened to ask, "If we want everybody to keep their opinions to themselves, then why are we putting ours on bumper stickers and T-shirts?" And, of course, he did have a point. In less than a week, the only people working for the STFU Campaign were the few who were trying to figure out just what do do with all that stuff. The T-shirts, along with everything else, were all eventually sent to the obscure Middle Eastern country of Yunostan, where, in the local dialect, STFU was the acronym for "Tell More Lies."
The End of Sagging It was in the summer of 2032 that the dress fashion known as "sagging" came to an abrupt end. As one fashion critic stated, sagging, which featured wearing one’s trousers no higher than somewhere well below the crotch, “was just taken too far.” A group of young men in Detroit began the short-lived fad of “dragging,” which was simply putting only one foot through one’s trousers and then dragging them as one walked. The fad lasted a little over two weeks before others, seemingly all at once, came to the sudden realization of just how fantastically stupid that was. What followed was the equally sudden realization of just how stupid sagging was, as well. And that was followed by what became known as “neo retro anti-sagging,” where the trousers were increasingly worn higher and higher in an effort to prove that the wearers definitely were not sagging, and that anybody whose trousers were worn lower than theirs was considered sagging, and that person was therefore what one fashion pundit described as “dweebified.” Wearing a belt around one’s neck was briefly popular, and surprisingly very few people were asphyxiated. The fad peaked with the adherents wearing their trousers so high that they had to unzip their flies to see. A few purists, who became known as “those assholes who keep running into everything,” refused to peek out of the fly, stating that it was demeaning. The height of one’s trousers suddenly became irrelevant by the spring of 2034, when the craze of church hats – a miniaturized, sanctified steeple that one could wear on one’s head, and thus be in church always – captured the public whim.
When Pigs Fly April 14, 2068: Through a combination of genetic mutations, xeno-morphic-splicing, and something “really weird that he was doing with a blender and a blow torch,” Clyde Weysenhausen created a pig that could actually fly, albeit not very well. When asked why he did such a thing, Weysenhausen replied, “What? You hear them too! Dull people thinking they sound clever by using clichés! Well there’s one they can’t use anymore!” Weysenhausen died the following year when his crocobear ate him, and the pig flew into a bus. All they could save were its ribs. As a side note, people actually stopped using the phrase “When pigs fly,” replacing it with “When ducks sing.”
The Collected Literary Works of Larry Jerkensen June 24th, 2442: After having been lost for over 400 years, the collected works of poet and essayist Larry Jerkensen were discovered on the Internet by a very bored 14 year old in Akron. Larry intentionally lost his collected literary works on the Internet before his death in 2019, because he believed his work was not appreciated by his contemporaries, and could only truly be appreciated with the perspective of time. Those few acamedians that managed to read through enough to fake the rest, believed that Jerkensen’s lack of appreciation had less to do with perspective, and was mostly due to the fact that he just sucked. However, giving Jerkensen the benefit of doubt, they intentionally lost his life’s work once again on the Internet. June 24th, 2842: Nope. It still sucks.
The End of Inventions It was in June of 2336 that Professor Noland Marvin published his thoroughly comprehensive History of Everything Ever Invented. The book immediately became a standard reference for the International Patent and Copyright Office. Whenever somebody thought she had a novel idea, the IPCO would simply cross-reference it with Dr. Marvin’s History and confirm that it wasn’t novel in the least. In fact, it was quickly discovered that nothing new was left to invent. On March 18, 2337, the IPCO received its last query ever. That invention, too, had been thought of before. Perhaps coincidentally, it was also in March of 2337 that MindFlix, the largest supplier of media on the planet, stopped suggesting what viewers might like to watch. They just told them what they were going to watch. And nobody seemed to mind, because, after all, it was really what they wanted to watch anyway.
Gluten-Free Gluten On March 20, 2028, Franz Josef Von Spekelburgenstein was awarded a patent for Gluten-Free Gluten, a substance that he marketed under the trade name “Taste Again.” Said Von Spekelburgenstein, “It’s a gluten-free gluten that allows you to eat everything with gluten in it, but still be smug about it.” Less than a year later, on February 7, 2029, Gluten-Free Gluten-Free was introduced for those “who wanted to be sure.” Sold primarily in health food stores under various trade names, it was said to neutralize any of the reported side-effects from Gluten-Free Gluten that might’ve inadvertently been introduced into your food. This was soon followed by Freer Gluten-Free Gluten, Freer Than Free Gluten-Free Gluten, and Free the Gluten Five. However, by the end of the fourth quarter in 2032, it was reported that every company that had been marketing gluten and gluten-free additives had gone out of business. As well, demand for all gluten-free substances had all but disappeared. Said one consumer, “It’s not that we still don’t care. We just got confused.”
Sabermetrics and the Demonstrative Display of Faith Sabermetrics, the use of statistical analysis in baseball to evaluate the performance of players, had been around since the end of the 20th Century. It was in the summer of 2027 that Billy Crudesky, a sports writer for Weasel Sports, applied Sabermetrics to demonstrative displays of faith in professional baseball. He sought to find out how players who crossed themselves before batting, pointed to the sky after getting a hit, said prayers before taking the mound, or other obvious displays of their religious beliefs actually performed relative to those players who did not. What he found was startling. Those players who publicly demonstrated their faith did far worse than other players. Batters were found to hit, on an average, a full forty points lower than those players who did nothing more than warm up. Base runners were thrown out more often, and less likely to score. Pitchers had a higher ERA, walked more batters, and lost, on an average, five more games per season. And fielders averaged more errors and made fewer marginal plays than those who simply did nothing. By the end of the 2027 baseball season, Crudesky reported that demonstrative displays of faith had completely disappeared from professional baseball.
The Last Novel The last novel ever published, a 600 page tome entitled Autofill that those critics who actually finished reading it unanimously called "a rather tedious story," was published on October 1, 2058. Written by Neville Whinewright, the book was about a writer coming to terms with the fact that he had nothing to say that anybody wanted to hear. Whinewright reports that, in writing his novel, he was using a word processor that included the latest algorithm, one that was able to adapt to his writing style. Not only was it able to predict what form of any given word Whinewright was likely to choose, but it was also able to predict what words Whinewright would use next. Says Whinewright, "After the first word, it autofilled the entire novel. If that wasn't bad enough, I couldn't think of how I would've written it any differently. I thought about writing more, but in the end, what's the point?"
The Readjustment of Time As early as the late Twentieth Century, there was a move underway to coordinate the world’s major governments and corporations with the International Atomic Clock (IAC). In short, there was a move underway to establish a standard world time that everybody everywhere would be coordinated with. There were several agreeable reasons, though none that was exceeding compelling, why doing so would be a good idea. Most dealt with commerce, and communications, and communications about commerce. However, even then there were those who were alarmed that doing such a thing would cause something potentially bad, but they really weren’t quite sure what that might be. Understandably, their cries were ignored. Though many individuals and companies had been using the IAC for their time standards since its inception in the mid-20th Century, it was in late 2031 that Tell-All, the world’s largest telecommunication provider, adopted the IAC as the standard for all of its communication devices. Soon, all hand held communication devices everywhere, as well as all computers, were linked to the IAC. Therefore, whatever time you had on your phone was the exact time that everybody else in the world saw, down to the nanosecond. Except, of course, for the differences in time zones. Because everybody knew that the time on their cell phone was absolutely right, that became the world standard for the increasingly few clocks that had still not been linked to the IAC. Even clocks on such mundane appliances as coffeemakers and microwave ovens had been linked to the IAC. And whenever there was a discrepancy between the IAC and an unlinked clock, it was always assumed that the IAC was the one that was correct, regardless of how much the unlinked clock might be off. In the Spring of 2033… maybe… the most influential businessmen in the West were all approached by a man who was known simply as Kevin. Kevin announced to these businessmen that he had control of the IAC. In fact, he had been manipulating the world’s time for the past several years, slowing it down and speeding it up as he saw fit. What Kevin offered to the highest bidder was the ability to control time. It was the ability to stretch the work day out into twelve hours while the workers are thinking they’re only working eight, and then to make up the difference by shortening the nights. There really would be a reason why the nights go by so fast, but these afternoons, man, do they drag on and on. Kevin further threatened that if they didn’t take him up on his generous offer he would shut down the IAC, and, consequently, every clock in the world. Undoubtedly, everyone believed Kevin to be barking mad and refused to pay, but in a cordial manner, of course. What followed was a relatively brief discourse in which Kevin insisted that he wasn’t bluffing, and the businessmen assured Kevin that neither were they, all the while both sides becoming increasingly less cordial, until finally, they called Kevin’s bluff. If he bloody well wanted to shut off all the clocks in the world, then he best get to it. So, much to their collective surprise, Kevin did. Virtually every clock in the world either went blank or to flashing twelves, letting on that it no longer knew what time it was, and quite frankly, neither did you. In fact, you truly could no longer say with any certainty what day of the week it actually was. To be certain, there was quite a bit of chaos. There were panicking and riots. There was a bit of widespread mayhem where thousands of people lost their lives, and several major financial markets in the world lost all they had, too. It was hard to tell, though, if all that happened were a direct result of Kevin, or just the sort of thing that happened on a regular basis in the world anyway. Really, on the whole, not much changed at all, except everybody suddenly had a vivid lesson in relativity, the kind Einstein only dreamed of. It didn’t take the officials long before somebody figured out what was probably fairly close to a second, and from there the rest was easy. By then, however, everybody had lost all real respect for time, and the suffix “ish” became standard for any measurement of time that was required to be anywhere close to precise, and those that didn’t need to be at that level of precision were generally ignored altogether. Birthdays were worried about a lot less. People got less excited about anniversaries of any kind. For the most part appointments became a question of eventually, showing up to work was more a matter of whenever, and going to lunch and actually coming back was pretty much “around then.” Leaving work at the end of the day, however, remained spot on. And Kevin? He wasn’t hard to catch. People who come up with schemes like that aren’t usually at University on athletic scholarships, so there wasn’t a whole lot of chasing that needed to be done. And when he was caught, he was more than willing to make a deal. He claimed he had wiped all the clocks clear but one – the one he still had. And that’s probably why they let him go. After all, they figured, it was probably punishment enough to be the only person in the whole world who truly knows what time it is, but nobody else cares.
Souls for Sale On April 14, 2035, Clarence Tu Tzu Williams, as a joke, offered to sell his soul on the new hypernet site, buyit.com. Said Tzu, “What’s a soul anyway? It’s somebody else’s idea of nothing. If someone wants to pay me for nothing, I’ll take their cash, but I’d prefer euros.” Though buyit.com never disclosed any of their financial records, it is widely believed that the soul sold for just under 20,000 adjusted new dollars. What followed can only be described as a craze. Soon souls were the most offered commodity on the hypernet. A standardized title, complete with notarization, was even developed for souls. It is estimated that by early August, 2035, between 1.5 and 2.2 million souls were sold and bought on buyit.com. However, in August, a young computational discovered that all of the souls had been purchased by only one individual. That person’s name was never discovered, but it is estimated that he or she paid close to one billion adjusted new dollars, a record for any individual or corporation. The souls were never offered for resale. Soon after, the craze ended.
The End of the Internet In what authorities could only call “really weird,” on March 3, 2056, the entire world suddenly realized that cats weren’t cute at all. On March 4, 2056, the Internet ceased to exist.
René Putre, Perfumer In 2037, René Putre broke away from the famed Channel Company where he had been a perfumer for 17 years in order to market what some said was the “most remarkable scent ever,” a perfume René simply called “Putre Scent.” It was a dismal failure.
The Last Nobel Prize The last Nobel Prize of any kind was issued in 2053, when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Mbutu Mugombi, who was the current leader of the Glorious People’s Republic of South Central Africa. Mugombi was awarded the prize for what the committee called “humanitarian restraint.” After all, they reasoned, he only killed 200,000 of his own people, when “he clearly could’ve killed a lot more.” Said one committee member, “You know, if the only thing good you can say about somebody is that he could’ve been worse, and he’s the best you can find, then it’s probably best to just quit trying.” And it was probably just as well, since the committee had run out of money in 2048, having invested heavily in shady land deals on Neptune. In that year, when the last Nobel Prize in Physics was finally awarded to the toaster (which the committee considered, in retrospect, to be the last invention that truly improved anybody’s life), the prize consisted of a check for a dollar ninety seven, a coupon for a free breakfast at Shoney’s, and an unframed certificate that had been printed off by a printer that was clearly out of ink. Though several attempts were made to revive Nobel Prizes in the following years, it was deemed to be “a lot of work.” “And,” said one promoter, “for what? Hell, we don’t even get free beer.”
Tagging It was on December 4th, 2022, that Seattle shop owner Felix MacGoogan, tired of the nightly “tagging” of his business’s outer walls by rival street gangs, just left cans of spray paint outside for them to use. Said MacGoogan, “What’s the point of even trying? I paint over their graffiti in the morning so they can put graffiti over my paint at night. Besides, what do I care what colour it’s painted? Paint is paint. And this way, I don’t have to do it anymore.” Soon neighboring businesses joined MacGoogan and left paint out as well. Shortly thereafter, the entire city stopped trying. Seeing shop owners set out paint cans at closing became a common sight during the winter of 2023. It wasn’t long, though, before the gangs couldn’t tell their graffiti from even their own. Said one gang member, “It never really made much sense, anyway, but this is ridiculous.” The only way they found to stake out their territory was to completely paint the businesses in solid colours with tastefully coordinating trim. The practice quickly spread, and before long every gang in the city spent their evenings painting local businesses. Said a former shop owner, “You never knew what colour the shop was going to be each morning. Sometimes it would be red, sometimes blue. You never knew. But they always cleaned up after themselves.” Indeed, it became a sign of power to have the best looking blocks. Soon roving bands of youth were brazenly planting shrubberies along the sidewalks. The sound of a weed eater was common at night. In the spring of 2024 officials from other cities began arriving, trying to recruit Seattle’s gangs to come to their towns and wreck all the havoc they wished. Chicago and Indianapolis had limited success, but it never quite caught on. Then, just as suddenly as it began, it stopped. Said one gang member, “Hell, that’s work.” It wasn’t long afterwards that the city fell into disrepair. Having gotten used to not having to do any maintenance on their property, nobody did. Pleas were made to the city gangs, who had all moved to the suburbs and bought homes of their own. Perhaps DJ Weeder, the head of the Toro gang summed it up best, “Man, nobody wants to hang out in the city. That place is a dump. Besides, who’s got time? I’ve got a yard to mow.”
The World Becomes Void of Void June 18, 2078: Void, the genius behind the one-man band Many More, died at the age of 86. Void, who changed his name from Claude Everlast, had already amassed a small fortune before entering the music business by claiming that all checks that had "void" written on them were actually written to him. Many More was considered the "King of the One-Hit Wonders" for the only song they ever produced, "Thank You for the Royalties." Even though critics unanimously agreed "Thank You for the Royalties" was one of the worst songs ever written, it still appeared on more anthology albums than any other song in history. The band's lawyer, Chester A. Softpickle, successfully argued that whenever any anthology advertisement included the statement "and many more," they meant the band "Many More," and therefore had to include the band's only song, as well as pay Void royalties... forever. Not coincidently, compilation albums ceased to be marketed during Void's lifetime.