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What Does the Future Hold? Just Gaze Into Your Computer

January 03, 2002|ROBERT BURNS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The new year just doesn't feel right. By 2002, shouldn't we have colonized the moon and be wearing unisex tunics and living in communities that look like the Getty Museum campus? Our car doesn't even fly.

But that's what some of the prognosticators of the last century saw, proving that doing the Nostradamus business is tricky at best.

So as we stumble into 2002, it may be time to take a look at what today's futurists see.

At The Book of Hope (www.thebookof hope.com) the future is warm and fuzzy, at least for some of us.

Take, for example, the Cryonic Alternative: "By 2050, billions of volunteers in starving Third World nations will opt to freeze to await a less populated and better future perhaps a millennium away." It might work. Many of the "volunteers" probably don't know what snow is.

And we won't notice the cold snap, anyway, because according to the book, we'll be too busy with Love-Bots: "By 2040, people in the developed world will make love to humanistic robots call Love-Bots more often than to the 'real thing.'"

The Love-Bots could bite back, though. Exit Mundi (www.xs4all.nl/~mke/exit mundi.htm), a collection of end-of-the-world scenarios, warns of the threat of robots killing off humans sometime around 2040 to 2050. Maybe they'll look like Arnold Schwarzenegger and, you know, time travel.

But if the Mayans are right, we won't even get to 2040. Exit Mundi points out that the Maya had a "long count" calendar, which runs from the beginning to the end of time, with, like, no refills. Time runs out on Dec. 21, 2012, so once again it will be time to party like it's 1999.

You don't have to rely on the Maya to pick an ending. Chris Nelson has assembled doomsday prophecies, past and present, at A Brief History of the Apocalypse (www.chrisnelson.net). From the rapture to "space brothers" landing, you can pick your favorite date and demise.

We were relieved to know that Sir Isaac Newton was wrong: "Even Sir Isaac Newton was bitten by the millennium bug. He predicted that Christ's Millennium would begin in the year 2000 in his book 'Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John.'"

More on the end can be found on "It's the End of the World as We Know It ... Again" at www.geocities.com/Athens/ Oracle/9941/index.html. With sections such as "A Doom Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" and "Exorcising Poor Last Judgment," we'll even forgive the irritating GeoCities ads.

If there is an apocalypse, surely someone will survive, right? Get tips at SurvivingTheApocalypse.com (www.surviving theapocalypse.com). You might want to plan on your own cave, because a majority of their readers don't seem to have a problem with cannibalism. According to a site poll, 36% would resort to cannibalism "only as utterly needed" but 38% got pretty excited about it, saying, "Yes, and enough to stay healthy."

But what about the end of pain, suffering and the beginning of unisex tunics? Some see the future as a "transhuman" world, but then it's hard to be a transvestite in a unisex tunic.

Transhumanist resources can be found at www.aleph.se/Trans, with links to put you on the path to transhumanism. Although if the Maya are right, it might be a waste of time.

At Paradise Engineering (www.paradise-engineering.com), the Hedonistic Imperative promises that "genetic engineering and nanotechnology will enable us to get rid of suffering in all sentient life." And if you can't, hey, just freeze it.

Trans or not, Utopia is the place to be. Read about the search for Utopia at the New York Public Library (www.nypl.org/utopia/homepage_qt.html) and then visit it at an imaginary island nation called Bergonia (www.bergonia.org), which demonstrates that even if you can build a paradise you may not be able to name it.

Whether they see total annihilation or complete bliss, prognosticators often wallow in absolutism. We're just thankful the future is not now.

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Robert Burns is graphics editor at The Times' Business section. He can be reached at robert.burns@latimes.com.

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