Future-technology guru Miles Threlfall beguiles trainees with his prophecies

Life As We Know It No.84: "By 2030 we certainly shan't be communicating in words."

Dj Taylor
Sunday 29 November 2015 15:48
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Illustration by Silje Eirin Aure
Illustration by Silje Eirin Aure

'My job this morning," Miles announces, as the PowerPoint apparatus whirrs into gear beside him, "is to take you on a journey to the kind of business landscape in which you'll be operating in, let us say, 2030." His audience, a couple of rows of accountancy trainees in their early twenties with pale, grim faces, stirs uneasily. Miles, 15 years older, though quite as youthful-looking, regards them with barely concealed disdain. Outside the rain is falling over the dome of St Paul's Cathedral. "Now," Miles hastens on, "one of the first things that might surprise you is that by this time – only a decade-and-a-half away, remember – we certainly shan't be communicating in words."

One or two of his listeners look slightly less bored at this. They are clever but impressionable young people, and techno-prophecy always beguiles them.

"No indeed," Miles continues. "In fact, my understanding, borne out by the latest research, is that we shall be interacting by way of video content and dictated messages. 'What about emails?' I can hear you ask. Well, these will still exist, but it's highly probable that they will be read out to you by the chip in your ear. Data retrieval? It should be perfectly possible by then to conserve a year's worth of the audit files of any FTSE company on a memory stick the size of a walnut."

And so it goes on. Somebody asks a question about transport, which allows Miles to describe an exciting new scheme for hover-concourses which his consultancy, BrightHorizonInc, has just found out about.

By now the late-afternoon twilight has begun to obscure St Paul's and the taxis are hooting in the street, and Miles, who back in 2001 very nearly stayed on at his university to research a PhD in Anglo-Saxon field settlement, takes the Tube back to his home in South Wimbledon.

Marie, who works in an antique shop on the Pimlico Road, has already returned.

"Children OK?" Miles enquires.

"So, so. Lucy wants a mobile phone."

"Well, she can't have one," Miles retorts, "she's only seven."

"Where are you off to tomorrow?"

"Manchester, I think."

After supper, he retires to his study with the London Review of Books to brood over his growing suspicion that, however convenient technology may be to the modern age, it is impossible to take it seriously.

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