One of the great debunking websites is something called the Quote Investigator. The site is characterized by excellent research, thorough citations and lot of interesting tidbits especially about quotes we think we know. It has been a couple of years since I saved this one, but it strikes me as especially relevant with a spate of the most recent news releases on wearable technology (spawned by the Apple Watch), and lots of tech reports on telepathic breakthroughs. Consensus, it would seem is that what Gibson actually said (though as QI states, it wasn’t always said in the same way) was,
“The future has arrived — it’s just not evenly distributed yet.”
Which is to say much of what we attribute to science fiction future, at least the near and not too far out fiction futures has probably already been done to some extent.
Also from QI:
“In July 1996 the Washington Post published a story discussing research on wearable computer systems. In the mid-1990s systems using bulky visors and head-mounted video cameras resulted in a Borg-like appearance. The journalist John Schwartz deployed an entertaining variant of the adage under investigation ’The future is already here, it’s just in beta testing, the high-tech world’s final smoothing-out of kinks before products and services go public.‘”1
So images like this TIME cover animation are very sci-fi in appearance but they are also right around the corner. As the cover says,
“The Apple Watch is just the start. How wearable tech will change your life—like it or not”.2
In my Copenhagen presentation earlier this year, I called this Technological Darwinism—the idea that technology will change our lives and we are powerless to stop it. Adapt or die.
The same QI article further surrounds the quotation with another Gibson remark from a USA Today Article in 1993,
“I’m not trying to predict the future. I’m trying to let us see the present.” (Ibid.)
This, as I have often stated, is also a prime rationale for design fiction. The other albeit a bit more difficult to achieve, is best said by Resnick,
“Scenarios work to enable agency in those who experience them by showing the breadth of possible futures and the inevitability of none.”3
So I will wrap this up by quoting my own quotes from the same Copenhagen paper,
And while society is in desperate need for a host of technological advancements, Evan Selinger of RIT reminds us that, “technology moves faster than politics, moves faster than policy, and often faster than ethics” 4
According to Allenby and Sarewitz
“… as technological evolution continues to outpace the grasp of human intent, we have little time to waste. These are the questions of our time…”5