Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Our technological desires are forecast in fiction

I can't seem to get my LibraryThing widget to render properly with this template, so I'm just going to have to tell you that I'm reading a remarkable book called Killing Monsters: why children NEED fantasy, super-heroes, and make-believe violence. There are so many passages that I want share with out but I'm going to start out with just one:

What draws a child to any fantasy is its emotional power. No six-year old seizes a toy or TV show because he thinks it will improve him or feels it validates his taste or opinions. That's why Isaac Bashevis Singer said that "children are the only honest readers." Every toy marketer knows that no advertising will induce a child to want something that doesn't match up with the fantasies he already has. A little girl who already yearns for the power of glamour and the chamleonsque versatility of dress-up may have her fantasies focused and intensified by a Barbie commercial. But not even a thousand viewings of that commercial will make her macho brother want a Barbie. Either children connect with a fantasy at the profoundest emotional levels or they quickly toss it aside.

There are two reasons I wrote out this quote. First, I wanted to showcase what rare combination of common sense and emotional understanding that Gerard Jones brings to the subjects of children, violence, gender, media and desire.

And secondly, I want to borrow this idea that many of our decisions are made because they, often unconsciously, connect with an underlying desire or fantasy. For example, I would suggest that many people over the course of history has held the dream of a single, portable book being able to express the entire sum of the world's knowledge. Before it became manifest as Wikipedia, it existed and was expressed as the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

So in order to understand the future of our technology, perhaps we should read a little fantasy first. I personally hope that Jakob Nielsen is right and that In the Future, We'll All Be Harry Potter.

And now its time for my audacious prediction: I predict that in the future that our laptops will develop and evolve to become our dæmons/familiars.

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