Because the future leaves no one untouched.
(How’s that for drama?)
Drug abuse has evolved tremendously over the past millennia. So much so, that it’s even argued to be an integral part of human evolution. And you can’t deny it’s part of us someway, since we’ve loved smoking, sniffing and eating funny stuff ever since we gathered mushrooms and burned plants in our caves. Maybe that explains the abstract cave paintings.
The drugs themselves also have an evolution of their own. They started out as plants and fungi, then evolved to powders and liquids, then to crystals and synthetic concoctions, and even electronic devices. Gaming consoles and smartphones are increasingly addictive, especially to the younger generations. And they’re only the latest gadgets (from an evolutionary perspective). In the future, gadgets will only become more interactive and immersive, and thus more addictive. It’s an undeniable pattern.
But even without gadgets, internet addiction is to be taken seriously on its own. We might move away from physical objects and create human-machine interfaces that work on an invisible, molecular level (embedded brainware, and stuff), but the internet is definitely here to stay.
We’re communicative animals. We’re addicted to our own chatter. We’ll always need to feel connected.
So what will future junkies get high on? Is the ultimate connectivity also the ultimate drug?
I believe so.
Social media will become even more addictive when it will be based on limitless connections between people. A web of interconnected brains.
To add an extra kick, how about being connected to powerful, super-smart, super-entertaining AIs? Will we ever want to be disconnected again? To be thrown back into the limitations of our own, single minds? To be… alone?
Has anyone watched the movie HER? If not, go rent it. It’s not brilliant, but it poses some very interesting questions about human addiction to intelligent machines.
All sorts of weird possibilities to get high on machines arise if you think hard enough. And we’re an inventive species, especially when it comes to finding ways to have fun. In futuristic science-fiction, people might be hooked up to machines that pepper their brains with virtual realities or stimulated highs, for a flat rate. Or they might be “inhabited” by AIs who use their brain for processing space, displacing their consciousness and diminishing them, for as long as the AIs needs the human shell, and for a good price of course. At least they might do that in my novel. 😉
Dan Simmons came up with an awesome drug called Flashback (already mentioned in Hyperion, and later it got its own novel called—surprisingly—Flashback), where a series of neural implants helps you relive selected moments from your past whenever you want to, for however long you want to. The extreme abuse here being people who get lost in the Flashback world, and become drooling vegetables forever caught inside their own minds.
The future will be a new addiction playground, I’m afraid. And where cyber drugs fail to deliver, there will still be the good old narcotics.
Synthetic drugs are increasingly cheap to produce, and terrifyingly destructive to use. Just think of crystal meth or krokodil. Narcotics have been used in science-fiction to great effect (and with great importance too, just think of Dune’s Spice, and many others), and it’s only logical to assume they will play a role in our actual future as well.
How they will do it, and what they will become in another 500 years, only time and a sick imagination might tell…
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This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, April 2014.
In 2012, my J post was — Writing Is Your Job