Are you worried about The Future?
Specifically: Are you worried that, in The Future, humans will mind-meld with our devices, that that our gadgets will mutate into cranial attachments, and that you and your loved ones will be transformed into the blobby exercise ball-people from Wall-E, cruising around on motorized chairs, eyes on Top Chef reruns, ignorant of any signs of humanity, or beauty, or nature surrounding you?
If so, I have some bad news. Like most evidence that humanity is doomed, this bad news arrived via a Facebook post. Behold:
What are we looking at? In a literal sense, we are looking at a photo taken at the Mobile World Congress, an annual mega-convention in Barcelona where technology corporations and startups highlight their new products and ideas. The photo features Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (left, without a computer on his face) walking to the stage at Samsung's press conference to discuss virtual reality. No one really noticed he was there, because everyone in the crowd was given a Samsung virtual reality headset.
In another sense, however, we are looking at Art. This is a beautiful photo that captures many of our anxieties about Virtual Reality and Screen Time and Wealth Inequality and Interpersonal Interaction. That Mark Zuckerberg saw this photo and enjoyed what it said about The Future so much that he posted it to his Facebook page adds another, even richer layer of Art.
On the left side of the image, there is Zuckerberg—well-lit, with a big smile, wearing sensible, almost Seinfeldian dark jeans—striding forward as he gazes, hopeful, into a glimmering future just beyond the horizon. What freedom and promise await this young mogul!
And then, on the right half of the image, we see our own Future. We slouch in folding chairs, glum, captivated by our Screens, unaware of the men surrounding us, or to the godly celebrity presence just to our right.
If you were to choose an attendee in the crowd who most represents You, it would be probably be this man:
Here you are, six years from today: Unsatisfied, dour, a VR headset crammed onto your face. Your belongings are at your feet, your computer balances on your lap, your identifying lanyard hangs from your neck. You are watching…something? It doesn't matter. You hate it.
Another fact about The Future is that, much like at the major technology conferences of 2016, there are no women there.
Oh well. I'm sure women exist inside the VR headsets!