Back to my authoring roots - 1995

I just found this piece of paper "Kari Kakkonen’s entry to Honeywell Futurist Competition in 1995." I think this is my first non-school fictive text. Man, did I anticipate Wi-Fi, 5G, Fast Internet, smartphones, Facebook, electric cars, business optimization, big data, increases in efficiency, and downshifting! Read and be amazed. 

Essay about Future:

Thoughts of a Net Repairs man on April 15th 2020, 06.15.20

Summary

The essay describes the future seen by a Finnish net repairs man Ville. As he is doing some routine work, he thinks about how the net - the global communication network - developed and affects everyday life.

He thinks about the physical structure and availability of the net. He considers the numerous uses of the net, the business opportunities, and threats. He notices some technologies created with the aid of the net. He wonders how good influence the net has had on the Finnish and the global society.

Essay

Thoughts of a Net Repairsman on April 15th 2020. 06.15.20

It had been an early wake-up call. The morning had started with an emergency call from the local bus station of Hyvinkää. During the night some drunk driver had crashed through the communication booth in front of the bus station and his car had taken away the whole booth including all the wirings to the national network. Unfortunately, the nerve centre of the block’s network had been under the telephone box and the entire block was out of the net temporarily and the employees were left only with their personal wrist interfaces. Of course, this created a huge sense of nausea and helplessness among the employees of the bus station. No wonder they wanted to have the connection to the net fixed immediately.

Ville still remembered how net had been just a fancy thing to talk about. It all had happened really fast. By the end of the last millennium all the Finnish companies, institutions and homes had been connected to the net. In the following ten years, the whole civilized world had achieved the same 100 % connection rate. During the last twenty years, the net had become so essential part of everyday Finnish life, that nobody could imagine working without it. Net took care of the whole range of communication. At any moment you could trust on getting the weather forecast or the latest news from the closest communication booth or via your wrist interface. The homes and offices - and communication booths alike - were linked together by fast permanent connections of optical cables. If you had a wrist interface as most people nowadays had, you could rely on the dense network of communication poles to get a contact to net anytime, anyplace.

The wrist interfaces had few similarities to their ancestors, portable telephones. They looked more like lengthy watches really, a bit of a screen and a few buttons. Actually, only experts like Ville called them wrist interfaces anymore. They looked like watches, so people called them watches. You could either use the trackball or voice guidance to move in the display of the watch. The display itself was very cleverly made. Actually, you didn't look at the surface of the watch. The picture seemed to be one meter behind the watch. It was a nice visual trick which enabled you to look at an area about 100 times larger than the actual surface of the watch. It was really handy for having impromptu audiovisual conversations with people anywhere in the world, checking your daily schedule or finding some library reference concerning the conversation you were in the middle of. But it was only a cheap, personal communication device. If you really wanted to be effective, you had to get inside and use a permanent connection. Not that they were so much faster than the personal interfaces, but you didn't have to look at your wrist all the time and other people could also look at the same display with you.

The speed was the name of the game. People had become almost addicted to fast-delivered information on almost any topic, whether it was the latest movie or the timetable of the next bus. The business was heavily dependent on the information. Sometimes it felt that the decision cycle had shortened to almost nothing. Say, you wanted to relax without the net and went to the bookstore to buy a good book. Right after showing your coded watch to the laser-reader of the cashier you could watch the news and hear that the sales of that particular book had just crossed one million units and the publishing company was planning a release of the next edition. Yeah, the business was fast and decisive. If you wanted to succeed in business, you had to get the needed information fast and keep your eyes open. Well, thanks to net that was possible. Of course, there still was one thing that was faster than the net. It was people. Characteristic for the succeeding companies was their integration of working place and net. Whenever it was geographically possible, these companies would have their employees at the same site. Personal communication and group work were most efficient when the employees were in the same quarters. Net communication was used for less frequent and long-distance contacts. According to many studies that kind of combination of different kinds of group work gave companies the leading edge. Besides personal contact kept people happy. It felt human. The net was just the ultimate tool, which made great response speed and flexibility possible.

Ville understood completely how horrifying it might be for the personnel of the bus station to be without a net connection. They just had to trust that the busses would get through the morning rush hour traffic on time and that there wouldn’t be too many extra passengers this morning. They couldn't get the normal second by second advancement reports which enabled the staff to optimize bus schedules and put more buses to the traffic. The bus service, as almost every business or activity, had been streamlined to the most effective form that instant information flow made possible. The buses were 15-person electricity run vans to be exact. They didn't have any specific routes, but each route was scheduled individually according to the bus orders from passengers. A passenger could use his own wrist interface or another communication terminal to order the bus to the nearest bus stop and the bus would be there in 5 minutes. The bus routes were approximated to be of standard length, so the travel time was always predictable. Most of the time the passenger number was steady and foreseeable, so the optimization was not really much of a task. The extra passenger orders were easily met by putting extra busses to the traffic. Ville liked the system and so did almost everyone. No more parking problems or waiting for busses that never came. If you were headed out of town or if you had the sudden urge to drive yourself, you could rent one of the rental cars for twice a bus fare. Not bad.

Ville missed the sound of a roaring engine. These electricity cars were so quiet that you heard only the tires. Well, you could always switch the motor voice simulation on. Still, somehow it was not quite the same. Voice simulation had been almost necessary when the transition from gasoline-fueled cars to electricity-powered cars had happened during the last ten years. With all that quietness and at the same time high speed, people didn’t at first realize how fast they were driving. There was a sudden increase in traffic accidents. Then this minor Finnish software company had this idea to simulate motor whine. In all those countless tests the car manufacturers ran, every car with the motor voice simulation software proved to be twice as safe and relaxing for the driver as the cars without it. This was really strange when you thought about this. The stress figures of the test drivers showed clearly that concentration was much easier and thus less stressful with the voice simulation switched on. You could hear the speed. Now that Finnish company has its software licensed for most of the car companies of the world. And it profits a lot. That company really made the extinction of gasoline-fueled cars possible. It wasn't the breakthroughs of accumulator technology nor the outstanding power transmitting technology that we can thank for our cleaner cities. No, the voice simulation was the final step to the appealing image that was essential to get drivers’ approval. The world is strange sometimes, isn't it?

Bus service was still mostly communal and that could be seen in some aspects. Of course, the ordering and optimizing system were standardized in every town area of Finland, especially in the biggest town area, the capital area reaching 50 kilometres to every direction from the Helsinki centre. Still, the communal companies seemed to do only what was required and nothing more. For instance, the communal bus stations didn't have a backup net connection, although the net was so essential to their bus service. Every privately own enterprise had a double or even triple backup connection to the net. Even most of the homes had double connections. But communal enterprises, no, of course, they had to spare with something. And that’s why Ville had to wake up at 6.00 AM to respond to an emergency call. Oh, son of a net! Well, Ville could repair the connection in a matter of minutes so the bus station would be out of net only for a total of 25 minutes. It felt good to know what you were doing.

Ville put on infrared goggles. Now he could see which optical chords were transmitting data and which were not. Some were blank and some emitted a beautiful spray of light. The repair operation was very simple, it was visual. The light used in modem optical cables had usually a frequency invisible to human beings for comfortability reasons. You didn't want all the world to glow around you. Though some companies used visible light in their optical cables as an advertisement. The flowing light - the visibly moving data - gave a company an image of speed and efficiency which was essential e.g., to communication business. Ville's employer - Capital Communication Company (CCC) was one of these communication companies. The headquarters of the CCC glowed for kilometres away. Even his own business cards had a bit of glowing optical cable around his name. It gave a nice touch.

All in all, Ville felt that people were lately much closer to each other, not only easy to reach but also kind of striving in the same direction. People had more information about the world. You always knew what was happening around the world. Since the use of the net was almost free, most of the people had personal friends on every continent, net friends at first and later real-life friends. You know you want to understand and help your friends in whatever they are doing. You also learn to take a wider perspective on your own life. All this information and friend business had actually widened to a big business offering people a variety of information, news and conferencing services. It was all free by principle. Some sponsor came into the picture whenever costs there encountered. And what kind of company wouldn’t want to be seen and heard on the net? Hey, everybody used it.

Finnish government had realized the huge potential of cooperation via net and had decided to start numerous competitions to promote the cooperation. The most innovative ways to make use of net friends received annual prizes. The media picked the idea up fast and started organizing the Annual Net Friend Awards Show, in which numerous prizes were given out. Anybody could participate just by being an active net user. Soon other governments followed the example. Five years ago, three big American net companies started a joint venture with United Nations. Nowadays the United Nations Universal Net Friend Gala was broadcasted through the net three times a year. Each Gala was held in a different corner of the world. The prescreened applicants for the Net Friends were brought physically to the Gala site, where they actually met in real life. The winners of different scenes received one-year funding for the friendship activity they had developed. Many new enterprises had started this way. If some friendship idea was too big for the friends they could choose one of the sponsors as their cooperation partners. Also, numerous other prizes were given out. Ville personally liked the scenes of Creative Friends the best. He and his net friend from Argentina were running for the prize with their idea of creative toys, combining the Finnish and Argentine way of thinking. The next Gala was two months away and Ville was beaming with enthusiasm. He thought that they really had the chance there. Maybe they could get a sponsorship from some big toy company and make a lot of money. Yes, the world was full of opportunities.

The net had become the way of living for many people. There were a lot of net addicts, who liked to spend also their free time on the net. Ville didn’t have any idea, how many people really made a living out of the net. It had to be a lot, then you thought that everybody took advantage of the net in the business life as well as their everyday lives. Net made all the routines so fast that people had more free time than ever in history. Or more time to work. Either way, you wanted. Well, Ville had long ago decided to follow the government's campaign ‘Reasonable net use’. Net helped to maintain a high standard of living. But what was the point of a higher standard of living if you didn’t have the time to enjoy it? So, what the campaign said was that you should use the net to make life a little bit better and then enjoy your life. Yeah, today Ville would repair the net connection and then go out to city park to enjoy the morning sun. Yeah, that sounded like a good idea.

The net was really often the key element for improvement. You could develop better and faster solutions to all sort of problems with a wide range of ideas from all over the world. Or then the net was directly a part of the solution. Like the bus service that Ville was just fixing and helping to work. The online ordering system of buses had provoked people not to use their private cars but order a bus. This led to diminished traffic amounts, and thus to a more comfortable environment. Nowadays the Helsinki City had a lot of pedestrian area since fewer roads were enough to accommodate all the buses and the few rental cars.

The repair work was almost ready. It had taken only ten minutes. Really simple these connections. The bus station and the rest of the block were back in the net. Of course, the communication booth would have to be reinstalled, but it wasn’t so urgent. A repair team would take care of that later in the morning. Now, he had time to go to the city park. Maybe he would dictate some ideas to his watch and compare them later with his Argentinean friend. Or right away. The easiness of it almost made Ville laugh aloud. Maybe he should be a congressman or president or something because he had all these ideas. On second thought that wouldn’t be so good, not really. The congressmen were only gathering ideas from all over the net and then doing something about them. The ideas were generated in minds of normal net users, like Ville. Ville felt happy the way he was. Ville liked to get ideas. This was the world of ideas and he was an essential part of it.

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