Two late middle aged men are waiting for a train at Beverly Farms station on Boston’s North Shore. One of the men is wearing earbuds and holding an I-pod. His name is Ray Kurzweil, and he is singing along to a song by R.E.M. “It’s the end of the world as we know it, the end of the world as we know it, the end of the worlds as we know it – – and I feel fine. . . ”
“Not for long . . . ” the other man says. He is Alvin Toffler, futurist and writer of Future Shock.
“What do you mean?”
“There’s a great shock coming to our culture. It’s the era of transience. The shortening of the Man- Thing relationship. The things in our live once had permanence. A stone hammer, a good axe. These things lasted. Now everything is disposable.”
A small buzzing sound comes from the I-pad, Kurzweil holds up a finger to signal that he’d like to respond in a moment. He pulls some shrink wrapped pills from his pocket. It looks like there are about ten different colored capsules. From his coat pocket he pulls a small water-bottle. He ingests the pills and washes them down, then replies, “Sorry, my alarm rang,” he squints at Toffler through thick glasses, “You haven’t by any chance read my book, “Live Long Enough to Live Forever.”
“Claptrap, nonsense, worse than nonsense, lunacy.” Toffler says. A small white speck of spittle has appeared on his lower lip. “Hogwash. Drek!” Toffler pauses, wipes his lip with the back of his hand. “That’s Yiddish for – – -”
Kurzweil raises his hand, “Like I shouldn’t know, already . . .” a rabbinical lilt to the phrase.
“Even still. This stuff you write, augmented reality, the age of spiritual machines . . . Who on earth would want to live through that? It would be like going to sleep one night, and waking up the next morning on another planet, this, this, singularity you dream of.” Toffler has started waving his hands also. . . Dueling rabbis. . .
“I think it would be kind of cool. Did you catch my talk at Stanford – when I came as the female holograph?” Kurzweil grins. “Quite liberating, really, in a kind of kinky way.”
“Heaven help us, now you think you’re Hatsune Miku?” Toffler shakes his head.
“I’m surprised you’ve heard of her. Amazed, really. But you’re wrong. I built the avatar. I’m really an inventor at heart . . .”
“That’s the problem. There just too damn many of you out there now – inventing things. Everything’s speeded up, gotten crazy.”
“But that’s the beauty of it – we’re speeding up too. Our minds – our abilities. And soon we’ll have implants that–”
“I’m familiar with implants, Ray. For Chrissake I lived in LA for years – – ghastly, the horror . . . sagging plastic faces.”
“But Alvin, we can’t stop it. It’s evolution by other means. We’re not in control of it. We have to adapt.”
“Or what, Ray? They’ll get rid of us? These marvelous spiritual machines you’re inventing? These machines that can think on their own, dream even.”
“Yes, androids do dream of electric sheep, you know.”
“Then you must stop them, Ray. Turn off the juice. Unplug them. Wind up the cords. Put them away.”
“Bit late for that my friend. Survival of the fittest, and all. Adapt or perish.” Kurzweil says.
There’s a loud noise in the distance. The stainless steel train pulls up to the loading platform and the doors open with a mechanical hiss. Kurzwiel turns to Toffler, “Train’s leavin’ the station, Alvin. You gettin’ on board?”