I am glad you are here with me at the end of all things. Ten years ago, I opened a blog called A World To Come. In the ancient days of 2006, before people had Snapchat and Instagram, they would start these personal weblogs where they wrote all sorts of stuff to share online. At the time I was using the Prophet handle, so the title was chosen based on that theme. Officially, I was looking for a way to learn HTML and CSS. I made the site mostly black and plastered space artworks in the title banner - not much has changed in that regard. Quickly I added lots of tiny cringeworthy posts about music and videogames and made superficial jokes about political news I barely understood.
Over the years the posts became sparser, but at least somewhat better. The general look went from gentle blue to gritty red to polished white, topics shifted away from videogames towards technology and recently history. The microfiction became less silly and more utilitarian, the policital commentary more informed. The biggest constant of course were music reviews, mostly of metal albums, but with occasional deviations strewn inbetween.
In 2012, the site was switched from German to English in the delusion that it was the language that limited interest. Personal blogs had gone out of fashion and the "blogosphere" had vanished, almost all sites that were active when I started had already stopped or slowly became derelict. Tweets were now dragged into mainstream news. A World To Come was also extended onto Twitter, where it was exactly as popular as in blog format (i.e. not), even though I learned to enjoy the shorter format as well.
In the last years writing was an occasional joy, but in the current format and with the inherent identity of the blog, the hobby from ten years ago feels like a relic from a bygone era. A different person than me started the site, and that person - thankfully - doesn't exist anymore. With the ten year mark coming up, as I announced earlier, I decided to put an end to A World To Come. Ten years is an immense timespan in Internet terms, and the site witnessed ISDN as much as smartphones. Google doesn't promote Blogger much anymore and Picasa is shutting down too, so the big anniversary seemed like the right time.
Some of my favourite posts included
In Correspondence with Dr. Stallman - THE Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU project replied to my e-mail about corporate IT and free software
Axis Mundi - the longest short story I've ever written, set in a near-future cyberpunk world where hackers and AIs populate the fragmented networks that were left in the meltdown of the internet of things
Escape Vehicle - my all-time favorite micro-fiction on here, with crystal prisons, space war, digitized minds and horrendous alien spiders
Worship Consumption - a hopefully poignant rant on consumerism and its place in society
I'd like to thank PhanThomas, Madse and Okami Itto for the constructive comments, Balthazzar for his contributions to a much earlier version of the site, and blogs like Sinnlos im Blog, pottCast, Tot zu Mittag or Darth Puma from the really early days for the sense of company.
So where do we go from here?
A World To Come will remain online at least for the rest of 2016. After that, I will delete the site and all the pictures that were uploaded to Picasa for it. Furthermore, I will eventually delete all accounts attached to the A World To Come identity. A World To Come will disappear from the Internet and no connection from anything new, whatever format it will take, will be made. I do not intend anyone to ever find me based on the AWtC ecosphere. You will not hear from me again. This persona will evaporate as completely as possible. Yours truly will create new accounts, and some of them might even be on platforms that allow the creation and distribution of content, but there's nothing definite yet.
And how about the rest of the universe? Let's finally do the name some justice and look at the world that awaits us in the future. For the last time, let's voyage to that undiscovered country.
In a world to come, as much as I love Science Fiction and the idea of humanity leaving the shore of the cosmic ocean to travel to the stars, I think it will be the same things that we've always struggled with that will keep on holding us back. The war between the rich and the poor will remain the most defining conflict of our time, and instead of finding better ways of living in peace and prosperity, we will find better ways to drown out reality and force our will upon others. We will have amazing technology in the hands of billions of people, and we'll use it for banal shit. I am convinced that humanity will never leave the solar system, will never colonize Mars or the Moons of Jupiter and will never establish a wide-scale, fully functional relationship with spaceship Earth. We are all stuck with each other on this tiny island in an infinite hostile ocean of darkness and radiation that almost instantly kills us, and we're slaughtering each other over whose imaginary friend is better or who gets to own which goods. No help will come from outside, yet we laugh at the suggestion that we can change the systems we created. The world population will keep growing and basic resources like clean drinking water will become the justification for immeasurable suffering. I genuinely expect that the last human being ever to live will die on Earth, either from starvation, dehydration or some form of poisoning. With him or her will go compassion, art, philosophy, engineering, and the wasted potential of a species of monkeys that learned how to make a pointy stick.
In a world to come, people will live under the yoke of mass surveillance and won't care because the biased media will keep them sedated. The infantilization of society will go on and a tiny portion of society will reign over people whose every requirement will entirely rely on computers that they have no understanding of. There won't be many humanoid robots around to serve as universal butlers, but single-purpose AIs will seamlessly move between the physical and the virtual world. Convenience will be the highest valued principle in the world and remain firmly in the moral-free hands of technology. Many people's jobs will become obsolete as more and more is automated, not just blue-collar jobs, but administrative and analytical positions as well. Banal full-life-simulation soap operas with 24/7 point of view cameras will be the new television or Youtube channel and identity will, to an even larger degree, be defined by the products we consume.
In a world to come, everything will be reminiscent of something prior. Innovation will be exhausted and every piece of art will instantly be linked to an older style or era, unless the knowledge about a genre or a style will be entirely lost and things only appear new because nobody can remember the original. The amount of data in the world will be unimaginably huge, but trades and skills will be forgotten and most people will work jobs where they only contribute a single step in a production cycle, alienating them from the product and the goal of the labor. Yet skilled trade will be shockingly rare, and for one plumber there'll be twenty psychiatrists or dance instructors.
In a world to come, the cultural identities of many nations will shift. When Indians start to approach the living standards of East Europeans or when the rural Chinese population approaches the living standards of urban Chinese, both Europe and the United States will be set back in the cultural hegemony they have established. The European Union will be severely shaken over and over again, and eventually become as uninvolved and useless as the UN.
In a world to come, we will get face to face with both our dreams and our nightmares, both our hopes and our fears. The peak of our knowledge and the pit of our ignorance will be further apart than ever. I would love to be proven wrong on my eternally pessimistic outlook. I would happily accept the revelation that in a thousand years, even the poorest people in the world will have clean water and enough to eat, that humans will embrace the cosmic perspective and realize how much we depend on each other and the fragile sphere we're all standing on, that Mars will have cities, that disease will come to an end, that we overcome hate and violence yet don't overpopulate. But I really wouldn't bet on it. Not in this order and its grip on our minds. Not as long as we gather power faster than wisdom. Maybe there will be a complicated multi-causal gradual collapse of our world order and a new dark age in which we forget what we've learning since the Enlightenment, and maybe a new Renaissance that will look back on the good parts of our current cultures and build something better out of it.
Most likely, everything in this last paragraph is plain wrong.
In my favourite book of all time, Foundation by Isaac Asimov, the science of psychohistory allows Hari Seldon to predict the future of mankind with mathematical precision. In reality, any attempt to really get an idea of what society will be like even fifty years in the future has been doomed to failure. Even an overwhelming genius like Asimov managed only to speculate on small aspects correctly, but missed the most significant changes that signify the age we live in. So what's the point of trying to figure out what the universe has in store for us? With a quote from the same Asimov, I release you back into the world of today to shape a tomorrow that proves me wrong.
"You don't need to predict the future. Just choose a future -- a good future, a useful future -- and make the kind of prediction that will alter human emotions and reactions in such a way that the future you predicted will be brought about. Better to make a good future than predict a bad one."